Gun of the Week #16: Czechoslovakian CZ-52 Military Surplus Pistol


My CZ-52

Freddy’s Note:
Every week I feature a gun from my collection. This week it is a semiautomatic CZ-52.  This is one of the 7 guns that I own that use the 7.62 X 25 caliber round. The rest of them are all Tokerevs, This one is a different gun and a different design.  Many of the people that I know that work in the security business like this guns because of the round.  The 7.62 x 25 round can piece many models of body armour. I just liked the look of the gun.  I bought it a few years ago from Collectable Arms and Ammo for $365. It was the Russian’s owner’s personal gun.  It does have quite a muzzle flash. You can see all the previous gun of the week posts here.

The CZ 52  (also known by the Czechoslovakian military designations vz. 52, for “model of 1952”, and CZ 482) is a semi-automatic pistol designed by two brothers, Jan and Jaroslav Kratochvíl, in the early 1950s for the Czechoslovakian military. Around 200,000 vz. 52s were made by Česká Zbrojovka in Strakonice from 1952 to 1954. The vz. 52 replaced the 7.65 mm Browning caliber (.32 ACP) Vz.50, which had acquired a reputation for unreliability and was underpowered for its role as a military service sidearm. After 30 years of military service, the vz. 52 was eventually replaced by the 9×18mm Makarov caliber vz. 82. Cz-USA began importation into the US market in January 1998 with the designation CZ 52.


The CZ 52 pistol is a roller-locked short recoil-operated, detachable box magazine-fed, single-action, semi-automatic pistol chambered for the 7.62×25mm Tokarev cartridge (the gun was originally designed for 9 mm Luger caliber but due to political pressures had to be redesigned for the Soviet then standard pistol cartridge). It weighs approximately two pounds unloaded. Military models feature either a parkerized finish or a gray oxide coating, while some CZ 52s were arsenal reblued in the 1970s. These re-finished guns are usually marked as such.
The CZ 52 has a deep (front-to-back) but slim (side-to-side) grip, as well as a low “hump” which meets the web of the hand at the rear of the grip. These ergonomics cause the barrel and slide to sit rather high above the grip, resulting in very strong felt recoil. The CZ 52 is also well known for its very sharp report and great amount of muzzle flash. Due to its muzzle energy, higher pressure FMJ ammunition fired from the CZ 52 pistol will penetrate even NIJ II rated ballistic vests, or the PASGT helmet.

The CZ 52’s operating controls consist of a single-action trigger, an external hammer, a magazine catch located at the heel of the grip frame, and a combination de-cock/safety lever located on the left rear side of the receiver aft of the left grip panel. The manual safety blocks movement of the sear, which prevents the hammer from releasing and firing a round. A second safety, in the form of a spring-loaded firing pin block, prevents the pistol from firing unless the trigger is pulled fully to the rear; this feature renders the pistol “drop safe”. However, if the firing pin block spring has become worn, the pistol may be rendered unsafe in the event of a muzzle down drop, or in the case of other internals being worn, it may be drop safe only when “cocked and locked”, for instance. Care should be taken when handling firearms of uncertain origin, and only a competent gunsmith should be relied upon to verify the safety mechanisms of surplus guns are intact. Because the sear must overcome the additional spring pressure of the firing pin block, an inherent feature of the CZ 52 is its unusually heavy trigger pull, often in the 8-10 pounds range. The hammer is of the rebounding type, meaning that it does not contact the firing pin while in its uncocked position, and cannot do so unless the trigger is pulled, another safety feature.


The CZ 52 utilizes a fairly uncommon short recoil operating system in which two vertical rollers are used to lock the barrel and slide together, via a cam block. This is similar to the system used in the German MG 42 machine gun, which itself hearkens back to a Polish patent of the 1930s. This arrangement results in an unusually strong lockup which, conventional wisdom holds, allowed the Czechs to load ammunition for it to higher pressure levels (and therefore, higher velocity and energy) than compatible ammunition manufactured in other Warsaw Pact countries. This oft recited “fact” is, however, debatable. The bottom of the CZ 52 chamber measures 0.058″, whereas the supposedly weaker TT33 Tokarev pistol measures 0.125″ at the bottom of the chamber.

While in battery (meaning the hammer is cocked, a round is chambered, and the pistol is ready to fire), 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. After traveling rearward a short distance (about 0.16″ or 4 mm), the rollers are allowed to disengage from the slide via recesses in the cam block. At this point, the slide is free to continue rearward, cocking the hammer, extracting the spent case from the barrel’s 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, again collecting a fresh cartridge from the magazine and inserting it into the chamber along the way.

When the magazine is empty, its follower presses against a catch, holding the slide open. The magazine catch is located at the heel of the pistol grip. It is pulled toward the backstrap, releasing the magazine from its well. A potential problem arises in that there is now minimal pressure on the magazine spring and the magazine catch is also under constant pressure from the mainspring, forcing it into contact with the rear of the magazine. This means that magazines do not drop free and occasionally take a few seconds to remove from the pistol. Releasing the slide catch is done by removing the empty magazine (or inserting a loaded one), then retracting the slide and releasing it. There is no thumb-operated lever to release the slide (though an aftermarket slide release lever is available).


Surplus 7.62×25mm Tokarev ammo from China, Russia, Austria, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic as well as current commercial ammo produced by Sellier & Bellot all measured 42,000 c.u.p. at the lab at Accurate Arms in 2000 by ballistician Ted Curtis. He measured the surplus Soviet ammunition averaging 31,000 c.u.p.

The Czech ammunition was manufactured for use in the CZ52s, while the other countries were manufacturing ammunition used in Tokarevs. Accurate Arms then sold load data in 2000 listing 42,000 c.u.p. loads for CZ52s. By 2004 Johan Loubser Ballistic Lab manager at Accurate Powders reduced the loads to less than 2400 bar or 34,809 psi, and those reduced loads were made complementary from AA on their web site. While the 86 gr AA#9 load is said by AA to be reduced from 41,300 c.u.p. to 33,851 psi, Quickload software calculates that AA’s loads went from 57,158 psi down to 28,551 psi. Loads by Sierra at 90 gr AA#7 specifically for the CZ52 remain at 22,385 psi as calculated by Quickload.

By the late 1990s, after the popularity of the surplus CZ 52 had started to increase, hollow-point ammunition in 7.62×25mm became available from custom shops. The pistol proved capable of handling extremely “hot” loadings, and many shops sell custom or hand-loaded ammunition.

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