One Gun’s Creation Story

These days, and for most of the last century, most of the guns we know and love are the creation of a team, even when they’re generally shaped by the eye and hand of one designer. And the designer usually works for somebody — the concept is often given to the designer by non-design, non-engineer business people or representatives of end users.

Recently, we came across the Creation Story of the relatively common (about 650,000 made) CZ-27 pistol. We have known for a long time that it was a simplified version of the Josef Nickl-designed CZ-22/24 (again, fingering one designer is a simplification: remember, teams). And we knew that the main designer responsible for the changes to the firearm was František Myška (FRON-ti-shek MISH-ka). We believed the gun to be created to be a simpler, blowback pistol in 7.65mm (.32 ACP) for police use.

The story is told various ways by various credible writers. Here’s Max Popenker’s world.guns.ru:

The CZ-27 pistol was developed in around 1926 by Czech arms designer Frantisek Myska in an attempt to produce simplified version of the CZ Vz.24 pistol, chambered for less powerful 7.65×17 SR Browning ammunition (also known as .32 ACP) and suited for police and security use. It was put into production in 1927, at arms factory in Praha.

Max is generally correct there. (The pistol was made in Strakonice, not Praga (Prague), but the prewar ones are marked Praha and wartime ones, in German, Prag; that’s where corporate HQ was, even though the production line was in Strakonice, even though that wasn’t ever marked on a CZ-27 until after the war! Like in the example above. That is our one quibble with Max’s description, that, and the understated production figures. OK, two quibbles).

But Czech gunwriter Jiří Fencl, in a new-ish book on Great Czechoslovak Gun Designers, broke it down with much greater precision. Here’s a rough, on-the-fly translation of the story of the creation of the CZ-27 — as told by the designer himself!

František Myška later remembered, “In the course of the manufacture of the pistol vz. 24, one of the then-directors of the company names Beneš came to me (he was known for often happily engaging with the designers) and requested: ‘Mr. Myška, you’re a gunsmith. Could our ‘twenty-four’ be converted to the 7.65 mm cartridge?'”

“I immediately took paper and pencil, and began to draw. In recognition and consideration of the low-powered cartridge, the locking mechanism was not needed, and instead the barrel fixed in place with a pin below. The barrel chambered for 7.65mm. That also led to a smaller grip (smaller magazine). And the Pistol vzor 27 came into the world,” he concluded his tale.

Very well done.  And the workshops were able to produce the Pistol CZ model 17 continuously from the year 1927 until the year 1950.

Less well-known are the variants of this pistol adapted for a sound suppressor, and a small-caliber training version for the .22 LR cartridge.

Indeed they are less well-known! We saw a silencer version (without its original silencer) cross the auction block last year, the only one in memory; and we’ve only even seen one .22 version.

Of the major variants, the most common are the German occupation guns, which are marked in the German language (naturally), and the least common the prewar pistol. The postwar pistol is also rare, but not so rare as the 1927-37 original. The postwar pistol seen here bears different markings from prewar guns; instead of CZ being “A.S.” (roughly, “incorporated”), it’s a “Narodní Podník” (“National Enterprise,” the Communist-era organization).

One collector’s website offers photos of some examples of this firearm from throughout its history: there are prewar and postwar Czechoslovak variants, and two different wartime German variants, all of which differ only in small details, finish, and especially markings. The example shown here is from our collection and is a postwar pistol, dated 1947 (by the “47” in front of the takedown catch above); it was replaced in 1950-51 by the vz. 50 pistol, which continued to be numbered in the same series.

9 thoughts on “One Gun’s Creation Story

    1. Hognose Post author

      You should see the Mauser 1910/1914/1934 that are its German cousins and launching point. They’re like three of the Lee sisters: Ug, Home and Ghast.

      1. Kirk

        [shrug]

        Different design aesthetic, is all. I think there’s a grammar to a lot of these things, which we tend to conceive of as being not at all amenable to discussion in those terms. The mentality of a designer tends to go off of what they have already been exposed to, and what is common around them; things that don’t yet have a thoroughly “conventionalized” appearance as of yet tend to be idiosyncratic in appearance and overall design; once there is a consensus, then convention is determined.

        You can kind of discern the way this works, by looking at the pre-CZ-75 designs: Many of those designs are clean-sheet, tabula rasa ones, in terms of their contiguity with the rest of the industry. With the CZ-75, the design aesthetic is more conventional–You can see the continuity between the Browning Hi-Power and a bunch of other contributors in the design. I presume that CZ did this deliberately, in order to encourage more sales internationally, especially since the CZ-75 was never adopted by them until the Wall came down.

        This kind of stuff gets really nebulous, after a bit–The design of the AK-47 is a classic point of argument, because while you can see the unique bits in its design, there are also literally dozens of antecedent contributors to the whole of it.

        Military equipment design has a whole separate language to itself–You can see the stylistic continuity between the various Soviet tanks and armored vehicles, practically creating a design aesthetic that is distinct and unique for the many years of the Soviet empire’s existence. Ask a Russian to describe what a tank “looks like”, and they’re going to respond with a list of design cues you can probably apply to everything from a T-34 to a T-72. And, those cues are going to be entirely different from the ones a guy raised on the M-60, Leopard I, and Chieftain are going to reel off for you.

        1. Hognose Post author

          CZ-75 was explicitly designed for export sales. It was followed by the CZ-82 for internal use, sticking to the Soviet-dictated demand that they use Soviet chamberings. The CZ-83 was an export version of the 82 for Browning cartridges (.32 and .380 ACP, aka 7.65 x 17 SR and 9 mm x 17).

          You’re right, though, there’s a big “founder effect” in gun design. Look at Berettas where the open-slide ejection of 1915 or 19 was still used up until the end of the 20th Century.

          1. John M.

            Hold on. I’m quietly wondering what the heck my Nano would look like if it had been designed with the open-slide motif.

            -John M.

  1. LSWCHP

    So do we have an ETA on the Czech guns book? I’ve got money here that I’m busting to hand over to you for my copy…

    And those numbers…wowza! Around 25000 guns per year over a 23 year production span. The Czechs really *did* have a big small arms industry back then.

    1. Hognose Post author

      They went into overdrive during the war. About 18,000 were made in the 11-12 years before the Germans took over the plant, and all the rest but 80k or so (the sources disagree) over the next 6 years.

  2. Martin

    Hummm, smaller grip and smaller magazine? Not really. I own CZ-24 and can happily use “CZ-27” magazines and grips. Basically the frame of the pistol has been almost unchanged from CZ-24 to 27, and I can use many other spare parts like ejector, extractor, firing pin, various springs and all the parts from the trigger assembly.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I’ll have to compare them. I have vz. 22 and 24 as well as this CZ-27 (still looking for a prewar one). It’s true that the later CZ-24s (the second run made around 1937 as the leaders of the Republic rearmed, worried about Germany) had plastic grips that look the same as these.

      But I’m quoting Fencl, who’s quoting Myška. (Source is Slavní Českoslovenští Zbranarí (excuse absence of r-haček character, keyboard being difficult) by Fencl, Praha: Mlada Fronta, 2013. p. 198. So I could have botched the translation to English but maybe not (in that sentence, anyway. There’s a couple others I’m not confident about). Very good book by the way, I ordered it from a GunBroker seller in Poland but have since realized I could have saved money by ordering it from Kosmas.cz like I’ve done with other Czech books. (The downside is shipping from Kosmas to the USA is very cheap, but incredibly slow).

      ETA: It’s possible that Myška’s memory is off, or that he’s just comparing it to the versions of the ’24 that he worked up for foreign buyers with a bigger grip and 9-shot magazine, which might have been what he was working on or had just finished working on when Beneš brought him the 7.65 idea.

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