Two ex-Yugoslavian Pistol Families

While most people associated CZ with the Česká Zbrojovka, specifically, these days, with CZ-UB (as the original CZ trademarks have traveled around a little), occasionally you’ll see a CZ that is not a CZ. One of these is the CZ-99 (and its successor, the CZ-999). These pistols were not produced by a Czech firm at all, but by the former Yugoslav firm Zastava Arms (formerly Cervena Zastava) in Kragujevac, Serbia.

The CZ-99 was intended to be the Model 1989 of the Yugoslav Army. Instead, soon after production began, the country went out of business. According to legend, the gun got the CZ-99 moniker in the United States because of a typo on an ATF form (99 for 89) and hopes of exploiting the public’s goodwill towards the CZ-75 and its successors.

Only a handful were imported before a 2003 embargo on Serbian goods, but the Serbian sanctions have since been lifted and exportation to the USA resumed.

It has a modified SIG manual of arms. Modified in that it has no manual safety, and the slide stop and decocker functions are combines. A single catch works as slide stop and (when the slide is forward) decocker.

The CZ-99 has been replaced, and its successor, available now, is the CZ-999. It retains the CZ-99’s modified SIG manual of arms.

The pistol is available in 9mm and .40 S&W calibers, and (internationally, at least) in several different sizes. The latest variant is the EZ, in EZ9 and EZ40 models for those two calibers and in three sizes from concealment to service pistol. It appears to be the same as the C999, with the addition of a light rail.

Zastava in Kragujevac was long Yugoslavia’s and then Serbia’s state armory, and makes all calibers and types of small arms. According to Zastava’s website, its products are imported by Century to the United States, but none of Zastava’s pistols are listed in Century’s 2016 catalog.

Slovenia != Serbia, Rex != Zastava

A pistol that is sometimes identified as a CZ-99 derivative, but seems to be a closer copy of the SIG P22x series, is the Rex Zero One. The Rex is made by Arex, a Slovenian defense company that is, as far as we know, unrelated to Zastava’s pistol. Here, the imitation of the SIG operating system is more exact. There is a slide-mounted safety which is the one ambi control (the mag release is reportedly reversible). Instead of the ambidextrous slide stop/decocker lever, used on the CZ-99 and its derivatives, the Rex has this lever on the left side only.

While it looks like a SIG, it isn’t. It’s its own thing. To the best of our knowledge, no SIG parts interchange. The Rex appears to be well-made. It sells at a similar price point to other alloy-framed SA/DA pistols from Europe, although availability of spares is nil at this time.

These are all fairly unusual pistols in the USA at this time. Despite their rarity, collector interest is just about nil. These are potential carry guns if priced reasonably, you can get sufficient magazines, and you can make yours fit a SIG holster or have a custom holster made. These things are enough of a pain in the neck that you start to see why someone might throw in the odd-gun towel and get a Glock, when you can get spare mags and holsters seemingly everywhere.

9 thoughts on “Two ex-Yugoslavian Pistol Families

  1. Bert

    They have not quit doing QC and like, actually, FIRING these before boxing and shipping out? Ima’ goin’ a look at the gun show this morning…

    Got 6 different CZ rifles so far, from .22LR through 6.5×55. You get a lot for your money from CZ in Zastava- It’s time to look at CZ hand guns. Forgive me John M., I am contemplating apostasy.

    1. Kirk

      Zastava has always put out a really good product; I first had something of theirs in my hands circa 1974-ish, when a friend of my stepdad’s showed up with a Zastava hunting rifle that was Mauser-based. I think it may have been an Interarms import, or he somehow got his hands on it in the Old Country, and imported it himself. That was a beautifully made gun, accurate as hell, and just head and shoulders above anything I’d ever seen except an FN Mauser we later had stolen from us. The bluing on those guns was incredible–You’d look into it, and it was like looking into a deep, placid pool of night. The craftsmen at Zastava really knew their stuff, and those rifles showed it. I think Herters and Interarms both brought some in, back in the antedeluvian days of yore; you don’t see them on the retail market much, because the owners would rather sell you a child than one of them.

      1. LSWCHP

        I have a Zastava bolt gun in 6.5×55 on a 98 action. It’s a fantastic piece of old world craftsmanship. The blueing is superb, the action is slick and it shoots better than me. It was half the price of a Sako and it does the job just as well. I won’t be selling it.

        If anybody is looking for a working gun to carry in the field Zastava’s value for money can’t be beat.

    2. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

      I tell anyone who will listen: CZ is the last company mass-producing quality walnut+blued steel rifles any more.

      There really isn’t anyone else who gives the classic gun buyer as much value for their money as CZ – regardless of whether it is a .22LR or a dangerous game rifle, CZ’s offerings are, IMO, head and shoulders above the other mass-produced rifles in tolerances, finish and workmanship. For anyone wanting to buy a quality .22LR bolt gun at under $1K, my answer now is always CZ. I like my Annie and Win52B, but the CZ-45x rifles are really quite good, and at a good price point.

      Sadly, most young American shooters are now obsessed with semi-autos of middling to low quality – and their marksmanship shows it.

      1. Hognose Post author

        I visited my favorite transfer dealer today to pick up a transfer Brno Mannlicher 95 that’s been in his possession for 6+ weeks. (We both get busy). His latest personal suppressor host was on his table — a CZ P-01 with CGW trigger and VZ grips, identical in all but color to mine. Turns out, he liked mine enough to clone it, except with an extended threaded barrel. Earlier in the day, I pitched in and hopefully helped a salesman in another shop close a deal with a customer looking at another P-01. The other dealership I was in today had no CZs at all, but then, it was the SIG Academy Pro Shop. (The Legion is nice if you’re a SIG driver).

        I have one of CZ’s .22 rifles and it is quite unlike the usual bolt-action Remchesters, although it does have some concessions to price point like a stamped trigger guard. It’s tangibly higher quality than American .22s. I got it in a package deal with some other guns, and thought I’d flip it, but it’s too nice to trade. I believe it’s a ZK457 but I’d have to check the scrollmark.

  2. Aljosa

    Just to add my 2 cents – the Arex company isn’t affiliated with Crvena Zastava. They began as a supplier of webbing equipment and blank ammo for the Slovenian Armed Forces, and expanded into firearms with the Rex being their first and so far only design. They also designed an upgrade package for the Zastava M70 AK clones, called the AKB15, but so far it is not yet clear if the design is intended for the civilian market on for possible goverment contracts, the latter being quite plausible, as the SAF is switiching from the FN F2000S back to the M70 series for training due to 5.56 ammo shortage. Also, the Slovenian Special Police are begining to issue the Rex as their standard sidearm, rumors are that the same is happening in the military special forces.
    Aside from that, Arex still makes the plate carriers and pouches, backpacks, sleeping and biouvac sacks for use in the SAF.
    I also recomend you to check out a Slovenian design from the late 80’s / early 90’s, the MGV 176, a more or less direct clone of the American 180 .22 SMG – the Slovenian Territorial Defense used them in the 1991 war for independance.

  3. James

    Military Arms Channel has done quite a bit of testing on the Rex Zero One.So far it looks like an outstanding pistol, having outperformed every other pistol in his reliability testing.

  4. Bart Noir

    I got to handle a REX pistol a month or so back, and was impressed. At my suggestion, the gunshop employee who owned it slipped in a SIG magazine and it seemed to work. So he put some test firing, using SIG magazines, on his priority list.

    OBTW, the REX has a frame mounted safety, not slide mounted. It is in the location which SIG uses for the slide release lever, and the REX decocker doubles as a slide release. Nifty!

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