Czech CZ-52 Pistol Video

The CZ-52 really isn’t a forgotten weapons yet, but it is a pretty interesting gun mechanically, and well worth taking a look at. About 200,000 of them were made in Czechoslovakia from 1952 to 1954, and they served as that country’s standard military sidearm for several decades (which the rest of the Warsaw Pact bloc used the TT33 Tokarev pistol). Czechoslovakia has a long and outstanding tradition of arms design and manufacture, and they kept it going through the Cold War, developing and issuing the vz52 and vz58 rifles and the vz59 light machine gun, as well as the 52 pistol.

The CZ-52 looks like a pretty ungainly weapon, but don’t let that prevent you from giving it a chance. The grip angle is not to many peoples’ liking, but I find it to be a pretty comfortable pistol to shoot. The bore axis is relatively high and causes more muzzle jump than one would like, but the wide grip does a good job of distributing recoil energy and preventing shooter fatigue. Its single-action trigger gives a good break, and it is one of few single-action designs to incorporate a decocker as well as a manual safety (a feature I neglected to mention in the video, whoops).

Mechanically, the CZ-52 is a recoil operated, roller locked design. This is the same concept as the MG-42 machine gun, and not the roller-delayed blowback of the HK-91 family of rifles and the HK P9 pistols. It is a reliable, durable, and overall very effective design for a service pistol. You can still find CZ-52 pistols available today in the $250-$275 range, and they are an excellent deal for that price.


  1. I’ve always wanted one but never got around to it. These were plentiful in Phoenix when I lived there 8 years ago. I used to own a Makarov and the CZ-52 was popular with the same crowd so I read a lot about the 52.

    I thing I did read was that the CZ-52 firing pins are brittle (maybe you mention this in the video, I have not yet watched it) and can break with dry firing. Machined firing pin replacements are available. I remember that 9mm barrels were available as well.

    • Yes, the original CZ-52 firing pins were machined cast iron and the working end was shaped something akin to a church-and-steeple. The base of the pin part took all the force when dry-firing and became work hardened and would snap off.

      So, conventional wisdom is to never dry-fire a CZ-52, or only dry-fire with a snap-cap in place. There are replacement stainless steel firing pins available that don’t have these problems.

  2. One of the very first pistols I bought with my then new C&R License…Still have itAmazed at how the prices have risen oin these things – also have two Maks – an early EG (looks like it weas made by S&W) and a Bulgie..HAD a C&R Russkie military Mak but lost it after my stroke in ’02…a bud has TWO CZ52 arnmorer’s kits – COMPLETE.

    CB in FL

  3. My CZ52 is in 9mm parabellum. They were so cheap that some dealers changed the barrel to 9mm in order to sell them. At the time, they were going for $99!

  4. Nice and informative piece of gun-journalism! I happen to own one of these, merely as keepsake. Knowing bit of history of this design I’d like to add to what was already said.

    This gun was originally designed shortly after WWII for 9mm Parabellum, but as Ian correctly points out, was converted to common WP pistol caliber afterwards. This conversion does not suit to pistol’s concept very well. For one – it hinders ergonomy since Tok. round is much longer than Para and consequently in led to longer grip. The second – the shot seem to be quite handful for otherwise slick and light pistol. The next thing to watch for is different pressure levels of 7.6×25 cartridges. Some of them are loaded hotter since they are destined to drive heavier SMG’s actions (vz.24 and vz.26). This does not mean it is dangerous to shoot it in that combination, it just wears gun faster. If using original (surplus) or other specifically pistol destined ammo, you should be fine.

    There is one amart option if you manage to get hand on 9mm Para barrel for this gun. In that case you can use the rest of the gun as is and enjoy it to its fullest in comfort. As I understand it, the source for 9mm barrels dried out and I am not sure if anyone makes them in this continent.

    On ballance it surprises me that Ian likes the overall feel of it; CzechoSlovak troop were not that keen on it and the new gun issued in eighties in form of vz.82 (in Makarov’s caliber) was much better received.

  5. I own several of these and I think they’re great guns. I don’t shoot them as often as I’d like due to the relative expense of shooting Tokarev. (It ain’t eight cents a pop anymore.) I actually kind of like the ergonomics, and find the recoil sharp but very managable. My biggest complaints would be the heel-style mag release and the long, gritty trigger, both of which seem fairly typical for European military pistols. I’m a big fan of 7.62 Tok pistols in terms of ballistics and I wish it wasn’t such an obsolete caliber. I’d love to see a modern pistol with contemporary features sporting a 7.62 Tok chambering.

    I often hear about how these guns are unsafe when the roller recesses wear out, any truth to that?

    • I never read of ‘unsave’ in full meaning of the word, but the side walls of slide may deform partially (swell) under excessive a prolonged load. That state would be, if it happens, good indicator to stop using the pistol. This is NOT my own experience, just recollecting what I have read. One source close to ‘real source’ might be ; there is also version in English.

      Your idea of pistol in 7.62 Tok is interesting; I believe part of T33 and its Chinese version also Zastava made several models. As of all new design, I’d be doubtfull that a maker would take on it. Most shooters want ‘stopping power’ of bigger bores.

  6. I also own and shoot one of these. Picked it up years ago during my “roller-lock design” collecting period. Interesting history and they still tend to be a bargin by the prices I see.

  7. Czechpoint-USA ( ) is a very good and reliable source for both unissued and lightly used original military vz.52 pistols, as well as multiple versions of the vz.58 rifle in 7.62mm x 39 and 5.56mm x 45 calibers. All the vz.58’s are made by CSA ( Czech Small Arms ), the successor to D-Technik S.A., so the vz.58 that you will be getting is the very best available. Additionally, Czechpoint carries the vz.61 Skorpion in a semi-automatic version for the U.S. market and the excellent Alfa-Proj revolver made in the Czech Republic. BTW, the vz.52’s are C & R eligible for those who might be interested.

    • I meant to write “vzor 52” pistol. This is the abbreviation for the original designation, “7.62mm Samonabijeci Pistole vzor 52”, which we nowadays generally refer to as “CZ-52”.

    • Yep, the Vz.61 is also available as an SBR which might be of more interest in this crowd. A good class III dealer who pairs them up with decent suppressors (the factory can is not imported, but it’s not really state of the art — never was!) is Gun Point in the Tampa area. I have not bought a Skorp from them but I have had a buying experience that tells me Felix and the guys stand behind their customers 100%. Because of the light cartridge the Vz 61 is a joy to shoot. The 9mm version, not so much.

      And yeah, “vzor” is the Czech word for “model.” (The Slovak word, too, as it happens. Different languages, mutually intelligible, slightly more different than US and UK English). The Slovaks, however, were not great gun designers. The Czechs were, even in the era of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A few Bohemian and Moravian river towns were the equivalent of the Connecticut River Valley in the US for gun manufacture.

      • I must admire yours and Earl’s knowledge of linquistics and demography in general; you are right on. Most people in NA do not care for such ‘detail’ and I cannot blame them for that – country is just too small and relatively insignificant.

        The gun making status in interwar Czechoslovakia and after WWII had a significant jump-start over their German and Austrian (plus Hungarian) neighbours. The reason of course were severe restrictions imposed by peace treaties. Czechs jumped into opportunity and apparently have done quite allright. Slovak part of the country was after WWII primarily oriented on heavy weaponry such as tanks and artillery production.

  8. I loved how accurate mine was, but it was very finnicky about ammo. I learned later that mine was the exception to the rule. I’d actually like to pick up another one of these at some point….

  9. I bought mine over 20 years ago. The only problem with it is the cheap chinese ammo that was available. I read that this pistol is regulated to fire the same ammo as the Czech sub-machine gun ammo, which is hotter than the chinese or the Russian ammo. I had several jams. But, when it fired, I was surprised and pleased how accurate it was. Every shot went right where I intended. And, I think it’s pretty…

    • That’s because you might be such a good shot! Besides, I believe that the straight in-line recoil concept is conducive to accuracy. Looking at fast video you can observe that ball is some time out of barrel when whip occurs.

      In light of latter I wonder why more makers did not attempt to utilise this phenomenon; that is part of those who adopted rotary locking which is also known to promote accuracy.

  10. The prices on these have NOT gone up in reality. I bought my first one maybe 25-30 years ago and was very glad to find it for only $1200! Was impossible to imagine then that they, like so many other rarities of the time would ever flood in. I still clearly shooting the Czech surplus SMG ammo out of it and having nearly basketball sized muzzle flashes at dusk.

  11. The Czech version of the 7.62mm x 25 cartridge, known as the 7.62mm naboj vzor 48, while dimensionally similar to the standard Tokarev 7.62mm x 25, is definitely more powerful and generates higher chamber pressures, enough to push an 86-grain bullet to more than 1600 ft/second. The vzor 52 ( CZ-52 ) pistol will safely fire both types, but it is not recommended that the Czech cartridge be used in a Tokarev TT-33 or other pistol specifically rated for the less-powerful Tokarev cartridge.

    Incidentally, the vzor 52 was designed by Jan and Jaroslav Kratchovil at the then-new CZ factory at Uhersky Brod between 1948 and 1951. It was actually originally intended to utilize the 9mm x 19 Parabellum cartridge, but CZ Engineer Jiri Cermak ( of vz.58 assault rifle fame ) decided that it should be modified to fire the 7.62mm x 25 instead.

    From what I have been able to find out, the roller-locking system used in the vzor 52 was based upon Mauser’s 1910 patent as developed by Edward Stecke prior to the Second World War.

    • Actually, it is more likely that eng.Cermak was just tasked to do what he did. There was some unease among designers of the period to go into 7.62 Tok and 9mm Para was more prefered. The concept with tilt barrel and in 9mm Para was later used in CZ75.

      When comes to roller-lock patent, I have read several times that as applied on MG42 it was actually originally Polish idea (and rightfully patented). Perhaps Keith, the resident patent expert can put some light on it.

      • Your are confusing rollers and rollers, if I may say so. The vz 52 pistol is a recoil operated weapon like the MG 42. The difference is that vz 52 rollers are acting radially, while the MG 42 roller do the locking with their top and bottom ends. The radial force is only used for moving them in and out of the locked position.
        If you look at Stecke’s patent, it is a delayed blowback design like G3 and MP5. The barrel is fixed. He uses kidney-shaped levers. If you say kidney-shape and rollers are the same, then OK. But do not forget that the principle is much older.
        What I would like to point out is that Stecke’s design is a delayed blowback and as such can not be the origin of the recoil operated MG 42. I am sorry to say that Chinn in his book is in error on the Stecke patent.

        • I am in agreement with you on this. After first time looking at detail of Stecke’s conception it is clear to me this is NOT grandpa of MG42, and definitely not the vz.52 pistol. It’s always best to evaluate the facts first.

  12. I wish I’d gotten one of these back when they were really cheap; I used to see them for half the price they sell for now.

    But I did get a CZ-82 and a Polish Tokarev back then, and I’m pretty happy with both of them.

  13. Vz52 may be accepted as the last design of Czech’s in bringing innovations at the
    handgun field, as They went to traditional afterwards with samples like Cz75 and

    Vz52(Model 52) is a derivation of blowback operating Vz50, and Even its trigger
    lockwork was said, was the same as DA/SA kind like its origin, but changed
    thereafter by thought that was not necessary. It dublicates the safety/decocker
    latch which was the first in known production pistols with Vz50, and also the
    inertial firing pin(no return spring)with passive safety block.

    Borrowed features of Vz52, are the roller locking feature from MG 42, and recoil
    spring around the barrel with a receiver connected ring from Japan Nambu 94 and
    also the ugliest shape of the same as may be accepted second to it in the World.

    Vz52 may accepted is a pistol needing highest grade of materials and workmanship
    to work dependably, but made on nearly bottom level of quality to provide such a

  14. Earl beat me to it, but according to documents I have there was no special subgun ammo in the CSLA (Czechoslovak People’s Army). Also, when the rest of the Warsaw Pact went to the 9 x 18 round, the Czechs really didn’t. They did issue 9 x 18 guns to police and senior officers, but the 52 remained as a combat pistol through the eighties at least.

    I have a 1975 edition of the NCO’s Handbook, which I believe to be the last edition before the Velvet Revolution reoriented the Czechs westward (actually, left the Czechs display their pre-existing westward orientation). The SMGs have been deleted and were no longer in use even by the People’s Militia at the time I studied the CSLA. The basic small arms (“noc’ni zbran’e”) in the handbook are the Vz 58, Vz 59 GPMG, Vz 52, and the F1 frag grenade. That’s it.

    No sniper rifle, no Skorpion (it was a police and secret-police weapon). They do cover the Panc’erovka AT weapon, an RPG cousin.

    Of those weapons, the only standard one was the badly outdated Russian-designed F1.

    Czechs were extremely proud of their domestic arms industry, which produced tanks and aircraft superior to those built in Russia, even when they were building to Russian designs (like the T-55 tank or MiG-21 fighter).

    The best Czech “weapons” deal is probably still the L-39 jet trainer, widely available in the USA for less than the cost of a new Cirrus…maintenance is expensive though, and the FAA is trying to take all the fun out of flying them.

    • At time I served in CSLA in late sixties, the standard small arms were: vz.52 pistol(same Ian has tested), vz.58 rifle in either solid butt or folding stock versions, vz.59 universal MG and mentioned ‘pancerovka’ – the AT weapon od domestic design, not related to RPG. This was Land-engineer support units.

      In units of mechanized infantry the equipment was same with addition of sniper rifle in 7.62x54R caliber based on Mosin but Czech designed and made. Operators were trained to shoot them with point accuracy to 800m. Vz.61 Skorpion was carried by air-crews, tank-crews, radar and redio operators and by special reconnaisance units.

      There was nothing in place related to 9×18 Makarov at the time. However, that caliber came in form of vz.82 service pistol, much later. (I am not 100% sure, but it is possible that Red Army officers in time of ’68 invasion already carried Makarovs.)

  15. A search on “Free Patents Online” shows that, the
    principle of locking levers on both sides actuated
    by recoiling movable barrel was originated by Paul
    Mauser and his company engineers registered by
    various US Patents published within the first decade
    of Twentieth Century. The Mauser Company had even
    some patents using same locking mechanism with fixed
    barrel through an inertialy acting delocker block.
    MG 42 creators simply changed the lockers from fixed
    rotating axis levers to movably axis rollers which
    might be accepted as a lever in different form.

    Same source also shows that, the originator of Delay
    blowback operation based on “Momentum sharing under
    partialy accerelated mass” was Pal Dedai Kiraly with
    a registered US Patent published in 1913 to the
    name, “Paul von Kiraly”. This also included all
    essentials of known “Roller Delay Mechanism” which
    so said as pioneered by Vorgrimler who, also simply
    changed the fixed rotating axis of delay levers to
    moving kind shaped as rollers.

    Though Roller Delay mechanism contains a fixed barrel
    and solely slow opening beechbolt but no certain lock
    effect, Mauser’s fixed barrel construction, if got
    changed from lever to roller type, can provide a
    truly locked breech, but dubious working conditions.

  16. Note that the bullet is .30 caliber. Some references list a diameter of .307 but my lot of bullets measured .3075 to .308. I doubt if most guns can tell the difference between .307 and .308 unless you are bench rest shooting in which case you aren’t going to be using an 86 grain .30 caliber bullet.

    Years ago I had a “tuna can” of the old commie ammo that had about 50% bad primers. I pulled the bullets with a collet puller and used them to develop a plinking load for my single shot 30-30. I used a powder similar to SR-4756 and worked up using a chronograph until I got a clean powder burn at which time the velocity was around 2200 fps. Accuracy was acceptable with 50 yard groups of around one inch.

    The FMJ bullet at that fairly low velocity would probably make a good turkey load in those states that allow turkey hunting with a rifle.

  17. I bought a CZ-52 a couple of years ago after a friend who owned one recommended it to me. I bought a couple of new magazines for it and was checking how the mag was feeding ammo and as I was cycling ammo through it I happened to push the safety lever slightly up (in the ‘safe’ position’) with my thumb and the hammer fell. I was fortunate that my right index finger was in the way and managed to keep the hammer from hitting the firing pin with full force and after I got the magazine out and the round out of the chamber I noticed that the primer actually had been hit by the firing pin because of the dimple in the primer. I told my friend about what happened and asked if his pistol did the same thing. A couple of days later he said that his did the exact same thing, that if the safety was ‘on’ that if you pushed it up towards ‘safe’ the hammer also dropped. I sent mine back to an expert gunsmith in Indiana named Claude Harrington, who specializes in CZ pistols, ( to see if he could fix the safety problem and he replied that it was a very common problem because the Czechs used a lot of ‘investment cast’ small parts in the guns and parts were extremely hard to get. A couple of weeks ago I was on snooping around and found a fellow back east that had a complete unused armorer’s kit for sale, which has virtually everything but the barrel, slide, frame, and fire control group in it. It has all of the various pins. springs, hammer strut, sear, etc. that I need to fix my gun. I’m going to send it back to Mr. Harrington in a few days and hope that it can be fixed with what I send him.

  18. I just purchased a cz52 ,made in 53 took it to the range ,shot 150 rds,no problems at all,really like the pistol. I will definitely buy another.

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