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The czech automaticke plstole VZOR 30 over engineered and under powered: it's been ridiculed by arms experts for 70 years, but Scarlata-found this odd Czech shot better than he expected.

The craftsmen of Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) have a tradition of small arms production dating back to the 17th century. While subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire since 1526, the Czechs and Slovaks were considered the most "westernized- of 10 the Slavic peoples and stubbornly retained their culture, Ilanguage and traditions despite efforts by their Hapsburg rulers to "Germanize" them.

During World War 1 tens of thousands of Czech and Slovaks defected to the Allied side and fought the Central Powers (see "Guns of the Czech Legion," (3/20/04, 4/20/04). The famed Skoda Works were located near the city of Plzeti and, after independence in 1918, Skoda's trained workforce and facilities enabled it to establish a modern arms industry which made the new nation a major player in the international arms market.

In 1919 the Jihodeska Zbrojovka (South Bohemian Arms Factory) merged with the Hubertus Engineering firm to form the Ceska Zbrojovka (Bohemian Arms Factory), better known as CZ.

Their first product was the Autornaticke Pistole vzor 22 (Automatic Pistol Model 22) which, despite being chambered for the low pressure 9mm Browning Short (.380 ACP), utilized a rotating barrel system similar to the one used in the Steyr Repetierpistole M.12., as modified by a former Mauserwerke employee, Josef Nickl, to lock the breech. The Czech army adopted the vzor 22 somewhat hesitantly and small numbers were also sold to Poland and Lithuania.

Two years later, the Czechoslovak army adopted the product-improved Automaticke Pistole vzor 24, which was still chambered for the 9mm Browning Short and used the Nickl locking system. Production continued through 1939, with approximately 196,000 units leaving the factory.' In Czechoslovak service, the 9mm Browning Short was known as the 9inin naboj vzor 22, and consisted of a rimless case 17mm long loaded with a 95-grain FMJ bullet that Was propelled to approximately 950 fps.

Three years later, CZ introduced what would become one of its most popular products, the Automaticke Pisto-le vzor 27. Designed by Frantitek Myska, this pistol utilized a simple blowback operating system and was chainbered for the .32 ACP (Czech designation 7,65mm naboj vzor 27). It was adopted by the Czechoslovak 1 army and police forces around the world.

During the German occupation (1938-1945) production of the vzor 27 continued as the Pistole 27(t) and was one of the most widely used non-German pistols in Wehrmacht service. (2)

Post-war production of the vzor 27 continued until 1951 for police and commercial sale, with over a half million pistols eventually leaving the factory. Besides Czechoslovakia and Germany, known pre and postwar users of the vzor 27 included Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Poland, Pakistan and Venezuela.

In April 1936, the Czech Military Technical Aviation Institute approached Ceska Zbrojovka about the possibilities of designing a new pistol. Among i the features desired were simplicity, ruggedness, and a double-action trigger mechanism.

FrantiCek Myska had been working on a new design that utilized a double-action only trigger mechanism based upon a pistol designed by Alois Tomiska in 1931.3 Early models, sometime referred to as the vzor 37, were produced in both 9mm nitboj vzor 22 and 9mm Parabellum, the latter using a variation of the Nicki rotating barrel system to lock the breech. But the Czech army was enamored of the 9mm naboj vzor 22, even chambering a submachine gun, the Samopal vzor 38, for this lackluster round.

A test lot of 25 pistols were delivered for trials in January 1938. They were found acceptable, although the trials board requested that CZ lighten their rather heavy triggers. With specter of war with Nazi Germany, the Czech armed forces were anxious to obtain new weapons, and in June 1938, the Ministry of Defense placed an order with CZ for 41,000 pistols that received the designation Automaticke Pistole vzor 38.

The vzor 38 is an odd-looking pistol with a rather slim slide sitting atop a large, square frame. Rushing a catch on the left side of the frame allows you to pivot the slide up and pull it off the barrel, the latter being attached to the frame by a hinge at its milz7le end.

This hinged slide/barrel unit gave the pistol its nick-name--the Nutcracker Gun. The recoil spring is located in the frame under the barrel, where a lug at its front end engages a recess in the slide.

A sideplate on the left of the frame can be removed, exposing the internal mechanism for cleaning and/or repairs. The one-piece plastic grips are retained by two screws.

The trigger mechanism was very simple in operation. A trigger stroke pulls forward a drawbar, the hooked end of which engages a lug on the bottom of the hammer, rotating it to the rear. As the drawbar moves forward, its angled upper edge bears on an opposing angle on the frame until, at the end of the stroke, it is pushed down enough to release the hammer, allowing it to move forward to strike the firing pin and fire the cartridge.

As the slide moves to the rear, an external extractor on the right side of frame pulls thcspent cartridge case from the barrel where it impacts a fixed ejector located at the rear of the magazine well throwing it clear of the pistol. The recoil spring then pulls the slide forward, stripping the next round out of the magazine and chambering it as the slide goes into battery.

A single-column eight-round magazine is retained by a heel-type catch and a large lanyard ring adorns the bottom of the grip frame. There is no slide stop, but when empty, the magazine follower holds the slide to the rear. Removing the magazine allows the slide to run forward. The large, rowel-type hammer is smooth and cannot be manually cocked. '

Constructed from milled steel, the vzor 38 has an unloaded weight of 32.5 ounces, on1S-t seven less than a 1911 pistol. Why this was felt necessary on a pistol tiring such a rather lackluster cartridge is not known, possibly it was just a case of over-engineering.

CZ also produced some pistols with a Walther-type DA/SA trigger mecha-nism, ribbed hammer and an external safety lever (see below).

Production began at CZ in late 1938 but it appears that only a few hundred pistols were delivered to the Czech army although a large quantity of components were completed before the country was occupied by the German Wehrmacht on March 15. 1939.

As was their practice in most occupied countries, the Germans continued production of handguns, rifles and machine guns at CZ (which they renamed Botunische Waffenthbrik AG): among them the vzor 27 and vzor 38 pistols, the latter being referred to as the Pistole 39(t).

It would appear that most, if not all of the German Pistolen 39(t) were assembled from the stockpile of parts found at the CZ factory. They were issued to the Weh-rmacht, Reich Labor Service Units (Reichsarbeitsdienst) of Organization Todt, and the Luftwaffe. It is estimated that the Germans received approximately 44,000 Pistolen 39(t).

In 1939 Bulgaria placed an order for 1,000 vzor 38 pistols. The Bulgarian contract guns were known as the Semiautomatic Pistol CZ37 and it appears that several hundred--ordered by the Sofia Police--were equipped with a DA/SA trigger and manual safety on the left side of the frame. (5)

The Germans sold Finland 1731 pistols designated the 9mm Pist/39 Tseklcilainen. These will be found stamped them with "SA' for Suomen Armeija (Finnish Army) and were used by the Finns during the Continuation War (1941-1944) against the USSR and for several years afterwards. The Finns also purchased 3,300 vzor 24 pistols which were known as the 9mm Pist/23Tsekkilainen. (6)

After World War II a fair number of vzor 38/Pistole 39(t) were brought home by souvenir-hungry American GIs, and from what I've ascertained from various Internet collectors forums, it appears that today the pistol is more commonly encountered in the USA than in Europe.

My fellow 'collectorof oddities, Tim Hawkins, provided me with a vzor 38 from his collection to photograph and test-fire for this report. It was in very good condition with a bit of handling/holster wear and a mirror bright bore.

On the right side of the frame it bore the CZ emblem and the army acceptance mark "Er the rampant lion crest of Czechoslovakia and "39" which indicates the date it was accepted by the Czech army. The left side of the slide is marked with the serial number (which is repeated on the frame) and "CESKA ZBROJOVKA AKC. SPOL. V PRAZE." The DAO trigger was rather heavy but had a stage-free stroke.

I test fired the vzor 38 for accuracy at 15 yards from an MTM K-Zone shooting rest ... and was surprised from the get-go. I had assumed that the heavy trigger would preclude my producing any decent groups and I was wrong! I fired four 5-shot groups that ran. from 1.75 to 2.5 inches, all printing to point of aim. The Czechs have always been known for producing high quality, accurate firearms and the vzor 38 lived up to that reputation, and then some.

I then ran file vzor 38 through a series of offhand drills at 7 yards, firing the pistol with both supported and unsupported (one handed) grips.

Having cut my shooting teeth on double-action revolvers, the vzor 38's trigger was second nature to me. Despite appearing butt heavy, the pistol displayed good balance and rather decent ergonomics, while its weight and hand-filling grips kept the recoil to a minimum, allowing fast follow-up shots. Lastly it proved to be a naturally pointing handgun which went a long way towards counterbalancing the tiny sights.

Of the 40 rounds I sent downrange, only two impacted outside of the target's 9 and 10 rings which I consider more than adequate accuracy from an issue military pistol.

A couple of fellow club members sauntered over to see what "...that magazine writer guywas shooting, and so I offered to let them try their hands at the vzor 38. While they both found the trigger pull rather heavy, both were able to repeat my performance on combat targets at moderate ranges. By the end of the day we had run in excess of 300 rounds of Winchester .380 ACP through the Czech pistol without a single malfunction.

Other than the heavy trigger pull, to which I had no trouble adapting, my only other negative comment concerns the heel mounted magazine catch and the fact that the pistol did not have a slide stop. This meant that empty magazines had to be dragged out of the grip against Nifti the pressure of the recoil spring, no easy task, especially when wearing gloves.

While I found much to admire about the vzor 38, others in my field have differing opinions of it. According to Hogg and Weeks, "This is a terrible weapon and there seems to be no good reason for its existence; it is clumsy to hold and point and the lockwork is double-action only, so that accurate shooting is out of the question. It scores in only one respect as it is perhaps one of the easiest pistols to strip and clean, since the simple release of a catch allows the barrel and slide to hinge up at the muzzle so that the slide can be pulled from the barrel. The pistol is of good manufacture, well finished in good material." (7)

In conclusion I found the vzor 38 to be a well made, reliable, accurate pistol with a very simple operating drill--all very desirable characteristics for a combat handgun. But these were counterbalanced by it being chambered for an anemic cartridge. I believe that CZ made a mistake by not perfecting Frantitek Myska's 9mm Parabellum pistol. Now that might have been a military pistol to reckon with!

SPECIFICATIONS

AUTOMATICKE PISTOLE VZOR 38

Caliber: 9mm nalcoj vzor 22

Overall length: 8.1 inches

Barrel length: 4.75 inches

Weight (unloaded): 32.5 ounces

Magazine capacity: 8

Sights: Front--Blade Rear--V-notch

Grips: Plastic

(1.) Brown, James D. Cold War Pistols of Czechoslovakia. Schiffer Military History. 2009. Page 14.

(2.) (t) for "tscheehoslowakei."

(3.) www2.rediscov.comis pring/VFPCG I exe?IDCFile = s pring/DETAILS. EDCSPECIF1C = 13916.DATABASE = objects

(4.) http://www.freeexistence.orgivz38.html

(5.) http://lugergunboards.com/showthread.php? 1447-CZ39-Bulgarian&highlight = vzor+38

(6.) Palokangas, Markku. Military Small Arms in Finland 1918-1988'--Volume 3, Suomen Asehistoriallisen Seuran, 1991. pages 109-110 & 138-139.

(7.) www2.rediscov.comispring/VFF'COI.exe? IDCFile=/spring/DETAILS. IDC, SPECIF1C = 1391 &DATABASE= objec ts

Text & photos by: Paul Scarlata
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Author:Scarlata, Paul
Publication:Shotgun News
Date:Jun 20, 2014
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