We recently discussed the Czechoslovak Model (vzor) 22 semi-automatic pistol, the first handgun produced by the state arsenal at Brno, and showed a couple of pictures of an example in our collection. Fine and good, but let’s do like we did with the Praga of similar vintage and look in some depth at the vz. 22.
The look of this series of guns, which begins with some Mauser experimentals in 1903 and runs through many prototypes and the production M1910 and 1910/14 to the Czech vz. 22, 24 and 27 is a matter of taste; some people like them, and some think they look “blocky” and awkward. Of the series, the vz. 22 probably has the best lines.
This pistol is a very good condition, late example of the type. As all were, it is chambered for the Czechoslovak Naboj vz. 22, which is functionally the Browning 9 x 17 aka .380 ACP. This particular pistol was accepted by the Czechoslovak Army in 1923, and seems to have lived a mostly indoor life. The external finish is generally smooth, deep and beautiful, as befits a gun made in an arsenal created in the image of the Mauser-Werke, but internally there are signs of extensive handwork.
The parts all fit extremely well — too well for machine production only, circa 1920 — and all seem to be marked with full or partial serial numbers, which reminds us of the reports in the literature that these guns were hand-fitted and that the Czechoslovak authorities found the parts not to be interchangeable. (Without more vz. 22s on hand, unlikely considering what we paid Rock Island got for this one, we haven’t yet confirmed that the parts are not interchangeable).
The stocks are made of walnut and have shallow checkering (this is a good first-glance discriminator between the rare vz. 22 and the merely uncommon vz. 24). The finish is deep blue with some parts finished in a heat-straw finish, as was common on Mitteleuropäische pistols of the period. As on Lugers, probably the pistol that is most familiar to collectors and uses such a straw finish on trigger, safety, etc, the straw generally fades long before the blue goes. Our impression, which is subject to change as we see more examples, is that the CZ-Strakonice factory that took the project over (for vz. 24 production) later used fire blue instead. Both are beautiful but not well-wearing finishes.
More pictures after the jump!
Let’s start with some close-ups of the port side of the pistol. The diagonal finger grooves in the slide were used in the vz. 22, almost all vz. 24s, and a few early vz. 27s; later pistols have different groove arrangements. You have to look close to see that one of the grooves has a slight hole drilled in it for the benefit of the firing pin retaining pin. The fixed rear sight is fairly prominent, but is a v-notch, typical practice for the period.
The sideplate is a characteristic of Josef Nickl designs. The literature is unclear on whether the N in “9.mm.N” stands for Naboj or whether it stands for Nickl, as it does on some of the Mauser prototypes which are marked with a capital N despite not being intended for Czechoslovakia (or chambered in .380, the Czechoslovak preferred cartridge).
The next line of the legend is “Čs. st. zbrojovka, Brno.” This is an abbreviation for Československá statní zbrojovka, Brno, which translates “Czechoslovak state arms factory, (in the city of) Brno.” As arms-industry policy evolved in new Czechoslovakia, the company would be privatized as the familiar 20th Century trademark, Zbrojovka Brno. But by then it would be out of the pistol business.
The picture above also shows to good effect the fire finish on the trigger, and the Mauser-derived safety lever and safety-release button. The latter looks, to someone familiar with Browning designs, like it ought to be the magazine release. (It isn’t. We’ll show the mag release later). The safety controls are, as you can see, unmarked. Here’s the flip side of the same area:
Things to note in the picture above are, apart from the obvious finish on the trigger, are signs of handwork in the shape of the trigger guard join to the grip, the horizontal serrations on the takedown latch pin, and the military acceptance marking E (Czech two-tailed lion in circle) 23. Like their Austro-Hungarian antecedents, Czech and Czechoslovak pistols tend to be richly marked and clearly dated, which makes them rewarding for collectors.
Here’s another example of that Czechoslovak proclivity for marking. This is a typical Czechoslovak Republic unit mark, and it shows that this was pistol # 179 of the 10th “D” (for Dělostrelecky, “artillery”) Regiment. Judging from its condition, they must have spent much more time manhandling their Škoda field pieces than their handguns.
This proof mark is unidentified at press time:
We mentioned how the push button on the left of the grip is the safety release, not as it is on the 1911 or BHP (and many other pistols), the magazine release. The magazine release is a conventional design of the type we’ve come to think of as 20th Century European. Its one unusual feature is that it also serves to hold the pistol lanyard.
Some consideration suggests that this is less than an ideal location for the lanyard. If the pistol were left to drop — as well it might, in combat or training, or why have a lanyard? — the magazine might be released from its hold. It probably wouldn’t be dropped completely out of the gun, but it wouldn’t be secured in place, either.
Apologies for the not-too-great picture, but the resemblance of the barrel bushing to that of a 1911 or several other Browning designs is interesting. The barrel bushing of the vz 22, though, is an extensively hand-fitted, very tight fit.
That explains the serial numbering, perhaps.
The opposite end of the pistol (again, apologies for the cellphone focus) shows the slide asymmetry characteristic of Nickl designs, including the 1910, 1910/14, and 1934 Mauser 6.35 and 7.65 mm pistols (which were, unlike their hammer-wielding Czechoslovak cousins, striker-fired). Now, look back up at the picture of the nose of the pistol and note the asymmetry there. Few of the professional users of these pistols ever noticed that!
The vz. 22 is disassembled exactly like the vz. 24. Clear the weapon before disassembly: remove the magazine and clear the chamber; confirm clear by sight, touch and out loud. To take the pistol down for routine maintenance, press in on the serrated end of the takedown latch pin (on the right side of the pistol) in order to slide the takedown latch down:
Then the latch will slide out of the pistol frame to the left.
This typical Nickl design takedown latch deserves a closer look. It is spring-loaded to lock closed and is an assembly made up of three small parts. The latch slides vertically on the pin, once the pin is depressed to unlock it. Looking at the picture below, it appears that the inside of the latch was peened at some point, most likely to raise the metal an infinitesimal amount to make the latch fit “tight, but not too tight” while hand-fitting the parts. A lot of tool marks show on the interior here, and in other parts of the interior of the pistol. There is no real gain in polishing these invisible-from-outside parts, and in some cases, toolmarks may help by retaining lubricants. (Not, obviously, that toolmarks inside the takedown latch are used for this purpose).
With the takedown latch out, the entire slide and barrel assembly can slide forward off the frame. With tension off the recoil spring, the spring, the spring guide, and the locking/unlocking cam block are easily lifted off and separated. Note that the arrow that helps keep the cam block oriented properly is not just visible but tangible with fingers or thumb. The arrow seems to have been hand-cut.
The slide has a bit of 1911 to its design. A closer look, though, shows the very non-Browning locking lugs in the slide, as well as a curious machined-flat area, possibly for lightening, forward of the ejection port.
The top of the frame is pretty straightforward and simpler than its Colt contemporary. Like the Praga we checked out last week, the hammer shows signatures of a lot of firing, but the barrel doesn’t, suggesting that the gun’s been dry fired a lot.
The small piece of metal protruding into the magazine well is the ejector. We hope you’ve enjoyed this photo tour of an unusual and rare Czechoslovak firearm.
Please ask any questions in the comments. Let us know if you want to see something else.