A Combat Pistol Classic

By Jerry Catania

Photo By Jonathan Marmand

The CZ vz. 52 was only manufactured for two years, but still attracts
interest from surplus aficionados a world away.

It’s easy to understand how the CZ vz. 52 got its name. Designed by Jan and Jaroslav Kratochivl and manufactured by Ceska Zbrojovka in Strakonice, Czechoslovakia, this semi-auto was quickly shortened by the clever Czechs to CZ vzor 52 (this model of 1952 was later shortened again to CZ vz. 52). While only manufactured for two years, 200,000 units were produced for the military. All had a Parkerized finish or gray oxide coating. Originally designed in 9mm Parabellum, it was redesigned for the Soviet 7.62×25 cartridge as part of the Warsaw Pact. The vz. 52 remained in service with the Czech military for 30 years.

The vz. 52 is a roller-locked, recoil-operated, all-steel SA semi-automatic pistol with a 4.7″ barrel, an overall length of 8.3″ and a weight of 2.09 pounds. The 8-shot magazine is not drop free and the magazine release is located on the heel of the grip next to the lanyard ring. Although the slide locks open after the last round is fired, there is no slide release lever. After manually pulling the empty magazine out, the shooter loads a new charged magazine into the pistol, and using both hands, retracts the slide and sling-shots an unfired round into the chamber. At least it’s ambidextrous!

The SA vz. 52 uses a manual safety/de-cocker mechanism. In the lowered position, the gun can be fired. Raised up to the first detent, it becomes cocked-and-locked. Pushed up once more, the pistol is de-cocked. The vz. 52 has a spring-loaded firing pin block, preventing an accidental discharge if the pistol is dropped. However, dry-firing easily breaks the cast firing pin, making the practice unsuitable.

The heart of the beast is the roller-locking operating system in which a pair of vertical rollers locks the barrel and slide together via a cam block. While in battery, the recoil spring, positioned coaxially around the barrel, provides the pressure necessary to lock the barrel and slide together via the rollers. When a shot is fired, the barrel and slide recoil together while the cam block is held stationary by a lug in the receiver, providing an extremely tight lock-up.

After traveling rearward a short distance (about 0.16″), the rollers are allowed to disengage from the slide via recesses in the cam block. The slide is now free to continue rearward, cocking the hammer, extracting the spent case from the chamber and ejecting it clear of the pistol. After reaching the end of its stroke, the slide is returned to battery by the compressed recoil spring, collecting a fresh cartridge from the magazine and chambering it.

As you can see, the takedown lever on this field-stripped vz. 52 is located
at the upper front part of the trigger guard. It operates similar to a Glock,
but much easier to manipulate.

The CZ in “cocked-and-locked” mode. If you depress the safety, the red
fire indicator would be exposed — enabling the pistol to be fired.

The slide is captured on the frame, from going past this particular point when firing.
With this notch, the slide can be lifted straight up from the frame during field stripping.

The 7.62X25 Tokarev Cartridge

This cartridge is a Soviet-enhanced version of the 7.63×25 Mauser cartridge used in the 1896 “Broomhandle” Mauser. Although externally identical, the Tokarev cartridge offers increased velocity along with increased pressures, much like a +P version of the 9×19 cartridge. While the 7.63×25 Mauser cartridge can be fired in the vz. 52, the 7.62×25 Tokarev cartridge should never be fired in a Broomhandle Mauser. The cartridge was also used in various WWII sub-machine guns, such as the PPSh-41. The diameter of the Tokarev bullet is .308 or .308″, while the Mauser is .311″.

The basic cartridge fires an 85-gr full metal jacket (FMJ) bullet at a muzzle velocity of 1400-1700 fps. Armor-piercing and incendiary projectiles have been produced by various militaries and power levels have been varied as well. Steel-cored as well as steel-jacketed bullets have been produced at various times. The Czechs produced — according to legend — the hottest version of the caliber for use in the stronger vz. 52 pistol.

Unfortunately, this particular load was not available for testing. Tests by Ballistician Ted Curtis at Accurate Arms have revealed surplus ammo made in Czechoslovakia for the vz. 52 averaged 42,000 CUP’s, while the same ammo made in the Soviet Union for the Tokarev TT-33 pistol averaged 31,000 CUP’s.

Data in handloading manuals can vary greatly, and some, like Accurate Powders, have downgraded their ballistics out of fear of the supposedly “weaker” Tokarev pistols. Since most of these are old and worn-out, such caution is probably well advised. There are a few specialty loading companies offering hollowpoint loads with very high advertised velocities; but again, none were available for testing at the time of this writing.

However, even in the standard commercial FMJ loads, the 7.62×25 is a sizzler. The bullet exhibits a very early yaw in water-filled containers, causing an explosive effect not ordinarily seen in ball-type ammunition. In addition, the 7.62×25 cartridge will penetrate and defeat National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Threat Level I, II-A and II vests — which ordinarily stop .45 ACP, .40 S&W, most .357 Magnum loads and all versions of the 9mm, including NATO, +P, and +P+! This cartridge will also zip through the standard GI PASGT Kevlar Helmet, something none of those previously-mentioned cartridges are capable of doing.

In short: The 7.62×25 is one Hot Momma.

The “Heart of the Beast”: The roller-locking mechanism of the vz. 52.
Note the recoil spring wrapping around the barrel like many blow-back pistols.

The magazine release is located at the heel of the grip, next to
the ingenious lanyard ring — which swivels fore-and-aft.

The vz. 52 and a supporting cast of accessories.

Hard To Load, Easy To Shoot

My sample vz. 52 came from Czechpoint USA, a company specializing in dealing Czech military and commercial small arms and parts. They have very reasonable prices and, at the time of this writing, brand-new unissued CZ vz. 52 pistols. They also have the excellent vz. 58 rifles — not from Century — and several unique revolvers. My pistol was unissued, with an immaculate mirror-like bore, and had a Parkerized finish. It also came with two mags, a holster, a well-written and illustrated color manual, cleaning rod, and — wait for it — a lanyard! Gotta love that.

I enlisted the aid of one of my gorgeous daughters to help me evaluate the vz. 52. My impression of the pistol is it’s hard to load but easy to shoot. Despite it’s somewhat clumsy feel, it’s a natural pointer — just like all CZ pistols. The heavy SA trigger (weighing-in at over 8 pounds) made shooting the vz. 52 with any degree of consistent accuracy a bit difficult. Still, the pistol, once managed, produced respectable results.

Czechpoint offers a replacement firing pin on their website, which lightens the pull down to under 4 pounds. It comes complete with a lifetime guarantee against firing pin breakage, too. The stock trigger did smooth up after shooting a few hundred rounds.

Out of the box, it shot wide to the left, but a little judicious manipulation of the rear sight soon got it shooting to point of aim. Elevation was perfect (luckily), but the heavy trigger gave it — or me — a predisposition to shoot low. My daughter had no trouble controlling the vz. 52 and was able to perforate some targets at very high speeds. We both thought recoil was real light, with muzzle flip virtually non-existent. It was fun plinking at targets out of the range of .40s and .45s.

The CZ vz. 52 is a solid, accurate, powerful handgun. However, as a tactical pistol, it’s tiny sights, magazine release location, necessity of a two-handed slide release and non drop-free magazines become liabilities. While it would make a suitable home-defense weapon, it’s best as a fun plinking pistol. If you can manage the trigger, it could serve as an excellent small game hunting handgun as well.

The two commercial loads tested: The wimpy Wolf hollowpoint and the smokin’ hot Winchester FMJ.

For comparison (L-R): 9mm NATO; 7.62×25 Wolf HP; 7.62×25 Winchester Ball; .45 ACP.

Chronograph Results
Load Muzzle Velocity
Winchester 85-gr. FMJ 1,579 fps
Polish 1950’s MILSURP 85-gr. FMJ 1,533 fps
Wolf 85-gr. JHP 1,369 fps

Note the lack of muzzle rise on the vz. 52.

Out of the box, the vz. 52 shot to the left. After adjusting the rear sight (check out the Insider Tips video link page on the home page on how to do this!) the gun shot point of aim.

For more info: www.americanhandgunner.com/product-index and click on the company name.

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