Colt Z40 Pistol #1 at RIA

However, after only 800 had been sold, Colt backed out of the deal and dropped the Z40 from its catalog. Why? Because they had happened to use a Z40 as the base gun for a model “smart gun”, and the public reaction was overwhelmingly negative. In the aftermath, Colt management threw out the Z40 as the proverbial baby in the bathwater, simply because it had been tarnished by the PR of the smart gun debacle.

CZ, for its part, made a few tweaks to the design (primarily replacing the DA-only lockwork with the DA/SA system for the CZ-75) and released it on their own as the CZ-40. This particular gun at Rock Island is in fact serial number 1 of the Colt Z40


  1. Apparently some nitwits out there claim that smart-guns are “a governmental attempt to control everybody.”

    Disclaimer: the following is only a supposition, please try to be humane in responding to this post.

    Smart guns were made to counter the old “steal the home-owner’s weapon (or policeman’s weapon) and kill him with it” that seemed to pop up now and then. But once the concept of electronically guarded man-portable firepower went public, the extreme right wing believed it was a trick to get everyone to buy guns that could be deactivated by government-owned remote control and thus pave the way for a dictatorship.

    With the ruckus of “get your remote control out of my gun safe” messing up the PR situation, Colt foresaw that it could be hit in the style of “Smart-guns are evil, so anything that looks like a smart-gun is evil.” And thus the Z40 was discontinued because of a cosmetic similarity to a non-existent weapon whose purpose was misunderstood.

    Did I flub anything?

    • Modifications to only allow a revolver to fire when the firer was wearing a magnetic ring were around a couple decades ago–the Magna-Trigger is still available today.

      At the time (when Colt got the above idea) the ideology from the left in the US was that ownership was not protected by constitution, and that they were really only for target shooting or hunting. It is one thing for someone to accuse politicians of trying to start something down the slippery slope, but it is simply stating facts when the politicians themselves say that they want to go down the slippery slope. From 1992 to 1994 it was a one-party government, and they went to work. Surplus M-1 collector grade Garands were turned to scrap metal. The major gun companies were threatened with the loss of contracts if they did not restrict what they were selling to the public. And that was one problem with Colt: small pistols (like the Mustang) did sell well, but it was politically incorrect to sell them. The silliness got to the point that the military was no longer allowed to sell surplus tents (e.g., to boy scout troops) lest it encourage the “gun culture.”

      I think that when one has politicians, whose stated ideology is to ban everything, expressed enthusiasm for a “safety” concept, it called for concern. As I remember it, the push was not for mechanical devices (i.e., the Magna-Trigger), rather it was for electronic “smart” devices (either biometric or radio signals). The big question was why there was such enthusiasm for electronics when mechanical devices were already available? The overriding concern, was that they would be built such that signals could be broadcast to deactivate them. That would work for electronic “smart” guns, not for Magna-Trigger guns or other magnetic / mechanical guns. That exposed the concept as not being about safety, but about the ability for someone with a remote control to turn off all the guns in an area. That goes against the concept of having a right to firearms to resist government tyranny when said government could deactivate all guns by flipping a switch, and has the practical issue of criminals duplicating the deactivation signals and making self-defense a moot point. The reality would have been that bypassing the electronics would have become a cottage industry (take off left grip panel, remove the small electric solenoid, replace panel, etc.)

      Ian is correct, there is a law in NJ to ban the sell of anything but “smart guns” when they should hit the market. Other states have taken the opposite route, of banning the sale of smart guns (to cut down the potential sales market, to discourage the development of them them).

      The other issue is that guns are supposed to last indefinitely and be passed down from father to son. There are a lot of 40, 50, even 100 year old guns still in use. Now how long does the typical circuit board remain reliable? The Remington Etronix never caught on, even though it was about electric primers (which used a trigger with no sear), and not a smart gun per se. It was a good idea, doing away with sears to allow for better accuracy, but the public probably looked at it, saw the huge circuit board that the electronics used, and questioned how long it would be until just one of those components on it went kaput?

      • “The Remington Etronix never caught on, even though it was about electric primers (which used a trigger with no sear), and not a smart gun per se. It was a good idea, doing away with sears to allow for better accuracy”
        Luftwaffe during World War II used electric primer cartridge:
        for MG151/20 auto-cannon for easier synchronization with propeller

        • “MG151/20 auto-cannon”
          Now you can think: wait this is MG i.e. machine gun or auto-cannon? Explanation is easy: for Luftwaffe every airplane gun below 30mm in caliber was machine gun (hence MG 151 and MG FF), unlike VVS RKKA which consider anything 20mm and bigger as cannon.

      • Black helicopter thinking at it’s finest, of course. Any cursory engineering analysis could determine if an electronic gun lock was even capable of accepting a remote signal.

        Anti-gun liberals are driven by ignorance and fear, not malice. And they’re the last people in the world who would have a need to remotely disable your firearms – what, is the New World Order going to forcibly gay marry you?

        • All the “electronic gun locks” I’ve heard about are not capable of accepting remote control signals. They are biometric locks, which can detect palm prints (or something else usually genetic) of any user. If the user isn’t the one programmed into the lock, the gun refuses to allow the hammer to hit the firing pin (see the idiot who stole Bond’s issued PPK in Skyfall). I’m not for smart-guns because they are way too complex for their own good.

          • The German-made Armatix uses an RFID signal from a bracelet that the user is supposed to wear. At $1,800 for a .22 caliber pistol, it is a bit steep, and that is a complaint against “smart guns”, the cost is several times the cost of an entry-level handgun. I used to work at a company that went to biometrics for time clocks, and even when there was no real limit on the size of the equipment and all the power it wanted was available the technology was iffy. A few of the 400 employees could not get it work when the sensitivity was turned up.

            If a gun is stolen, it would be a quick trip to YouTube to see what wire to snip or jumper, or what gizmo to remove to deactivate it. Hackers would have them figured out in, oh, about 20 minutes. So it would do little to prevent criminals from using stolen guns in subsequent crimes. If a person is concerned about children in a home accidentally shooting a gun, well, go with a hammerless revolver that small children can not fire at all, or go find an HK P7 that has the cocking grip. Regarding someone taking a gun from someone else, if it was done at close range (as in a struggle for the gun), the RFID detector would check and say, yep, the RFID tag is in range, fire away. If a gun is detecting an RFID signal, it is detecting a signal. It would then be off to the slippery slope for politicians to propose that kill signals had to be built in, to disable guns around “gun free zones”, then shopping centers, then public places, the city limits, etc. When the same politicians are saying that they would confiscate them door to door if they could, planting the seeds for a gradual means to incrementally disable them would be the next best thing.

            Given that policemen are more likely to be shot with their own gun than with an “assault weapon”, one would think that they would be first in line for the technology. They aren’t, for a reason.

    • Smart gun= Stupid legislation. Yep just make it too expensive for the average joe to afford. Make everybody retrofit noncompliant firearms or turn them in for destruction. See it doesn’t affect your rights unless you don’t have a disposable income. Anyway I’m happy that Colt decided to flush the smart gun. It was just a captive import for them anyway. They lost my respect and support in the 90s.

  2. I ran across one of the Z40s at the local stocking dealer right after Colt 86’d the project. I distinctly remember that its DAO trigger was rough as a cob, long and draggy, with a mushy letoff. Even my S&W Sigma .40 had a better pull, and that’s saying something because its pull made a late-wartime P.38’s feel silky-smooth by comparison.

    OH, BTW, CD, quite few politicians on the left wanted exactly what you regard as ridiculous. They were very put out by the GAO telling them that it was beyond the techne available. 😉



    • Politicians make the worst engineers. Biometric locks for the gun safe are at least feasible and will prevent naughty kids from accessing the ammunition (I hope)… The best safety catch is one’s own mind. And only a moron will put a remotely-controlled security lock on a gun.

      • I never understand one thing: why this or that cartridge is declared “evil”. Most common example is .50 Browning (when similar 12.7×108 is considered “fine”).

  3. Howdy Ian,

    Another great video, thanks for choosing this relatively mundane gun with a fascinating history.

    I watched this video with my CZ-40B beside me and it turned to me and declared: “Dad, you’re only my adopted father; THERE’S my REAL father”!!

    Regards from Prescott Valley,

  4. I examined a Colt 2000 that a friend had for sale. Besides a long, creepy trigger pull,if you squeezed the trigger slowly it would not fire. You had to pull it through quickly in order for it to release the striker. I didn’t buy it.

  5. The whole concept of a “smart” gun is pure insanity. Who hasn’t had a computer crash when they needed it to function?

    • Good gracious me! You may as well have described what happens with power outages when I need to update my company’s database.

      • And they are clearly not. Some police departments have their revolvers tethered to the holsters so that only the officers can draw and use the weapons. Bad guys trying to swipe the guns would have no luck, because nobody wants a stolen gun with 130 pounds of policeman attached. This is a simpler solution than making biometrically locked pistols… Or am I wrong?

        • It’s years since I’ve seen a cop that slim, even the shorter female only ones are closer that figure in kilograms than in pounds.

          A lanyard certainly makes sense, even if its just to stop the buggers from dropping and losing or breaking tax victim funded property.

      • “the military”
        That system would require delivering batteries to it and:
        – give marginal vantage over existing fire-arms (as they don’t enhace rate-of-either, accuracy and anything)
        – give serious drawback for unit with supply chain cutted-off
        and very important:
        – Nuclear ElectroMagnetic Pulse (NEMP) will render not screened electronic system useless

        Notice example of Bazooka AT launcher – early version (Rocket Launcher M1, Rocket Launcher M9) has battery-powered ignition which was replaced by magneto in later models (Rocket Launcher M9A1 and following)

  6. For decades, it’s seemed as though if Colt didn’t make bad decisions, it wouldn’t make any at decisions all…

    • They went through a period of confusion, to put it mildly. It was making money on small pistols (like the Mustang and the Detective) and on the AR rifles. That was just as CCW started taking off in places like Florida a few years earlier, and the market for small pistols was exploding and they had two good ones. They were the only ones making AR’s, and by dropping the bayonet lug and flash hider and by changing the name they kept on selling them after the 1994 “crime” bill, and if I recall correctly, what they were being sold for in 1994 was the same or more than what mid-market AR’s go for today. There were so many 20 and 30 round magazines already in circulation that they remained affordable up to when the law expired, so the ban on large magazines was mostly irrelevant for that gun. The problem is that the management of the company did not want to “be that kind of company”, and did not exploit their market niche on the AR’s and concealable pistols, or at least held their noses while they milked the cash cow just enough to keep going.

      They could have cleaned up after 1994 with the new-found popularity of the 1911 (if limited to ten rounds, why not 8 of a serious caliber?), but they kept cranking them out with WWII era tooling and did not see what the problem was with a lot of them basically being kits that needed to immediately go to a gunsmith to have anything reliable. Kimber, and then everyone else, upped the quality control and features and cleaned up the market. About ten years later the AR market exploded, and once again Colt, that had pioneered the design for years, was just another company making the same thing.

      The poor decisions went way back. Post WWII, it did not reintroduce the single action army, not until Ruger made single actions to serve the people who were watching all those westerns on their new black and white TV’s and had to have one. A relatively new company named, Ruger, and a new company named Great Western are rushing into the market–think it might be a good idea to dust off the forging dies and start making them again? The sport of quick draw was everywhere, even Sammy Davis Jr was into it.

      Colt shared the police revolver market for years with S&W, but unlike S&W, Colt made no serious effort to hold onto any market share as police units switched to self loaders. Part of the problem being that the union had gone on strike from 1987 to 1990 and in that time the police revolver market was long gone. Ironically, the 10mm gun that was put in the FBI trials was a Colt Delta Elite that an agent privately owned, and they liked the cartridge so the FBI went to S&W to make a gun around it.

      Ian is right about the hit on credibility that the “gun writing” industry took. They were all in agreement that the All American was the best thing since sliced bread, I remember the gushing write ups. That was pre-internet era, but eventually the truth got out.

      • “antipathy”
        I once hear that it lead to that COLT revolvers cylinders rotates in one direction when S&W in opposite (IIRC in context of S&W New Century) I doubt that it was caused by antipathy between these two manufacturers, I suspect that there is more important cause but I don’t know it – does anybody of you know it?

        In Colt parlance COLT POCKET POSITIVE fire not 32 S&W Long but 32 POLICE CTG.

        • Maybe it was patent issues? Colt was notoriously known of been anal about any competitor copy their guns… even small feature or minute screw similar was an invitation for a lawsuit.

        • The cylinder rotations probably have to do with which side of the revolver the side plate is on, it is easier to assemble everything when the “hand” that rotates the cylinder is on the side the side plate is on. Smiths have the side plate on the right, Colts on the left. The right and left side plate for each of the companies may have something to do with the design of their cylinder releases. I doubt that the two companies intentionally went with different rotations, their lock work is really different and the way that Smiths lock up the ejector rod is different as well.

  7. Ian, you said “…can see it’s basically a Browning…” Um, not me. I’d heard about this lineage, but do know any apecifics. Tell me more. Thanks. By the way, my carry pistol is a CZ, the CZ P01. fine weapons these.

  8. fantastic story. gunlaw-weapons always make me smile, because of the ingenuity of people to find some way around the law in question. i am looking at you sig brace!!!

  9. Colt has been their own worst enemy for quite some time. Although I like my 6920, I am suspicious of anything they have turned out since the 80’s.

  10. Being considerably north of 70, I remember the so-called “smart guns” and the nifty little rings and personally would not have one in my house unless it was on display alongside a sign saying “Stupid Ideas1” But I remember a friend who did have one. He was a certified Gun Geek who, if he heard that there was a new whiz-bang pistol with marshmallow grips, he would rush out and buy one. So of course he just had to have this new gun that only he could fire. And being the miscredente that I am, I joined into the group who chided him unmercifully. About four months later I rolled up on him making a traffic stop (did I fail to mention that he was a cop ,,, sorry ‘bout that) with two rather burley dudes in the car who towered over him like two pit bulls over a terrier. As I came to a stop one got out and decked him. The perp then grabbed his shiny new gun and was trying to get the stupid thing to shoot while my friend, still on the ground, went into his jeans pocket and came out with a tiny Browning .25 auto and put five slung into the center of the dude’s chest while I was still unlimbering my 870 pump. He then calmly grabbed his smart gun out of the deceased’ hand and put three more slugs from it into the center mass of the second perp who was climbing out of their car with a sawed-off shotgun in his hand. I still would not have one except for my freak-gun display, but it certainly saved his bacon that day.

    • [maniacal laughter] That’s how you use a “smart gun!” It’s a TRAP! Never steal a policeman’s gun! It might not work in a bad guy’s hand! Just remember to make sure those bad guys don’t live long enough to tell anybody who owns what…

  11. Yes, overly long and probably boring but:
    Personally falling somewhere on the Evolutionary Ladder between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon, I have always adopted the mantra of, “If Some is good; More is better and Too Much is JUST RIGHT!” So I always use a .44 or .45 cal pistol because I do not own a .50 and I use a shotgun where a .25 probably would do (eventhough I keep a .25 handy for “Just In Case” situations. But being relatively primitive, I lean toward mechanical actions instead of smart guns and bullets and if they made high-powered Atlatls I probably would own a cave full of them as well. But at least in this one case the Smart Gun saved an officer’s life when it functioned just as planned and designed. But as a graduate in Political Science and Political Philosophy (plus a fer others) I do NOT trust our government and still always remember the Declaration of Independence came prior to the Constitution and it says, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.” And that, My Friends, is exactly what the Second Amendment is really all about. Read “The Federalist Papers” sometime.

  12. Superb narrative, very informative. So far I thought this gun was made as shared venture. With this approach to business, no wonder Colt has nothing to sell.

    The idea of “smart” gun seemed all but evaporated. They are all (well most are) smart; are they not? You pull the trigger, shot comes out – and that’s smart 🙂

  13. Wait, how do you figure that the CZ-75 is “basically a copy” of a browning hi power? Okay, the barrels lock up to the slides in the same way, but that’s the only similarity I can see besides them both being pistols. The actual firing mechanisms are wildly different.

    • I don’t know that I would agree with Ian’s assertion that the CZ-75 is “basically a copy” of the P-35; however I would go so far as to say that the CZ borrowed very heavily from the famous FN Hi Power.

      I don’t need to go into detail as I think everyone on this gun forum knows as much about guns as I do and many know much, much more.

      • What aspects would you say it borrowed heavily from the Hi Power? The linkless barrel with grooves in the slide to lock with grooves in the barrel I’ll give you. Beyond that, any similarities are purely cosmetic IMO. The contour of the slide forward of the dust cover looks similar, as does the general shape of the grip. But otherwise, I feel I must be missing something.

        • The borrowing is rather more heavily on SIG’s 1935 take on Petter’s ideas, than on FN’s 1935 take on JMB’s ideas.

          • Came here to find /someone/ as on the ball as Keith. The CZ is not particularly related to the High Power. Either it’s a straight derivation of the SACM / Petter 1935A or the SIG 210. As is the Star M28, and a handful of more obscure guns. And why do we say that?
            – Inverted slide rails
            – Close cam path (see bottom of this page
            Neither of which the High Power has.

            The Stars even use the fire control group as module thing (though differently executed).

            Agree with Kurt below we need someone to get a 1935A, a P210, a CZ, a High Power, and a few other guns (I like the Stars!) and compare the locking mechanism and so on to get that history out there.

  14. Ian,
    I distinctly heard you refer to the CZ75 and thereby the CZ/Colt Z40 as a “Browning Hi-Power Clone”.

    Please do grab a Browning Hi-Power and have a good look at it.

    For YEARS I’ve heard gun-store morons calling the CZ-75 a Hi-Power clone. You, Sir, are not a moron. I’d love for you to get a better education on the differences between these two very internally different pistols.

    Overall, I really do enjoy your videos, and wish I had a chance to see half of the fantastic weapons you get to handle! Keep up the good work!

  15. Shockingly low priced serial number 1 (and 2), and you can even buy a box of ammo for it and go shooting, take that Mr. Mondragon.

  16. I recently came upon one of these serial numbered as 886 (A0886). I read many publications stating that they only made 800 of them…#1 being A0001. Did they skip a few number in the sequence…or were there more of thse released than just 800? Can anyone help with an explanation- Thx-

  17. By way of a coda, CZ got the last laugh here since after bone headed management asset stripping and excessive debt reduced Colt to bankruptcy in 2021 CZ bought the remains and now owns the Colt name, trademarks, tooling and remaining patents.

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