Czech commercial pistols

The Praga-Known as Praga Mod. 1921, this 6.35 mm. pistol is of the vestpocket type and was designed by Vaclav Holek for A. Nowotny who built the factory known as „Zbrojovka Praga" in 1918. Advertisements printed in 1922 state that the pistol was made in Vrsovice, a suburb of Prague. The pistols will be found to be marked ZBROJOVKA PRAGA/ PRAHA/PATENT CAL. 6.35.

Specimen No. 2599 (the earliest seen by the author) bears the date (on the barrel) 13-10-21, Specimen No. 3724 bears the date 18-10-21 and No. 6409 is dated 22-12-21. Specimen No. 1910 has been reported by Wandrus* but no date is shown.

*Czech Automatic Pistols by Harry Wandrus and John Griebl (privately printed).

The Praga is a curious gun in shape, particularly as to the forward end of the slide, which gives the gun the appearance of „an oversized can opener." The pistol was designed for one-hand operation, which was accomplished by the provision of a cocking groove located on the top of the slide near the muzzle. Retraction of the slide with the index finger in this groove loads and cocks the weapon and also brings the folded trigger into proper position for shooting. Obviously the arm has no trigger guard. The pistol is of the blowback type and the fired shells are ejected through a port in the right side of the slide. Although specimens of this freak gun are not uncommon it is safe to say that the production was not large, particularly as the plant closed down in 1926.

The Fox-This was a small pocket pistol of 6.35 mm. caliber, designed by Alois Tomiska in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia. In the years 1919-1921 it was hand made by Jihoceska Zbrojovka s.s. no. (South Bohemian Arsenal). Specimens so made will bear the monogram ZJ on hard rubber grips. The arm had a folding trigger and, of course, no trigger guard.

CZ Mod. 1922-Jihoceska Zbrojovka was joined by the Hubertus firm and became Ceska Zbrojovka, A.S. This firm introduced more modern methods and produced machine-made pistols with interchangeable parts. The Fox pistol was subjected to considerable alteration and emerged as the 6.35 mm. CZ Mod. 1922; production continued until 1936. The front and rear sights of the Fox were replaced by an aiming groove and the folding trigger gave way to the conventional type of trigger and guard. As in the Fox, the rear end of the slide, carrying the finger grip serrations, is smaller in diameter than the rest of the slide. Both pistols have a thumb-operated safety lever at the rear end of the frame, below the serrations. The pistol was attractive in appearance, had good balance and a mechanical safety but no grip safety.

Specimen No. 2140, examined by the author, is marked CESKA ZBROJOVKA AKC. SPOL. V PRAZE, indicating that it was made at the Prague factory. It has wood grip pieces, rather than the more common hard rubber grip pieces shown in factory advertising, and these carry the familiar CZ monogram. This pistol is dated „8.23" (presumably indicating manufacture in August 1923) and bears the official markings of the Prague Proof House. Literature printed in English indicates that this pistol was intended for export trade as well as sale in Czechoslovakia.

CZ Mod. 1936-This 6.35 mm. pistol, also intended for the commercial trade, was designed by Frantissek Myska and it replaced the Mod. 1922. As it was introduced at an inauspicious time, shortly before World War II, it is not likely that the production was large. Specimens seen by the author are all numbered in the 20,000 to 27,000 range.

This is a double-action pistol with some good features. When the magazine is withdrawn (by releasing it with the catch at the bottom of the grip) both the trigger and hammer are disconnected, making it impossible to fire the arm. In addition, there is a thumb-operated slide safety (mounted on the frame) which locks the slide to prevent firing and, by placing the catch in another notch, the slide is held back in position for disassembly. Retracting and releasing the slide puts a cartridge in the chamber but does not cock the arm because of the double-action feature. Pulling the trigger both cocks and discharges the pistol. The barrel has two lugs and these serve to distinguish it from some of the other Czech pistols; and it is the only 6.35 mm. Czech pistol to have a safety lever on the left side of the body, just above the trigger (Fig. 147).

Model 1936 pistols are marked, on the left side of the slide, CESKA ZBROJOVKA AKC. SPOL. V PRAZE, and carry the usual CZ monogram on the hard rubber grip pieces.

CZ Mod. 1945-The 6.35 mm. Mod. 1936, originally designed by Frantisek MyskA, was redesigned and simplified by Jan Kratchovil. It retains many of the features of the previous model including much the same appearance. The mechanical safety on the slide was omitted, as it was not considered necessary because of the double-action system. The safety on the 1936 model served another purpose, however, as it was used to lock the slide in position for disassembly; a feature unfortunately missing in the 1945 version. The barrel has only one lug, whereas Mod. 36 has two. A magazine disconnector prevents accidental discharge when the magazine is out and a cartridge is in the chamber.

All Mod. 1945 pistols bear the inscription (on the left side of the slide), CESKA ZBROJOVKA-NARODNI PODNIK STRAKONICE, and on the frame below will be found the words MADE IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA, below which will be a proof mark and the date of manufacture. Numerous specimens examined by the author range in serial numbers from 50,118 (dated 47) to 110,787 (dated 1949).

The DUO-The DUO is a 6.35 mm. pistol originally made by Frantissek Dusek, Opocno (Bohemia), Czechoslovakia, about 1926. It is striker fired; the barrel has three lugs, a thumb operated safety mounted on the rear of the frame by means of which the slide can be locked, and also a magazine safety.

Pistols made before the German occupation in 1939 were marked AUTOMAT PISTOLS „DUO" CAL. 6.35 F. DUSEK, OPOCNO, while pistols made during the German occupation were marked AUTOMAT PISTOLS „DUO" CAL. 6.35 F. DUSEK, OPOTSCHNO. Dusek was allowed to operate under his own name in that period, the only change being the use of German spelling for the name of the town in which the plant was located.

At the close of the war, apparently prior to 1950, the manufacture of this pistol was taken over by Ceska Zbrojovka-Narodni Podnik (the factory having been „nationalized"), and pistols dated 1950 will be found to carry the inscription z AUT. PISTOLS R 6.35 mm. MADE IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA on the slide. The letter „R" in this inscription stands for the Czech word „raze," which means caliber. The date and proof mark will also be on the left side of the slide and the serial number will be found on the right side of the slide, both as usual for the DUO type pistols. Because of the presence of the letter Z on the slide and the presence of a new monogram on the grips containing the letter Z, these pistols are sometimes referred to as the „Z" pistols.

No data as to the total production of these pistols are available. Specimens with serial numbers as low as 9071 (a pre-war pistol) have been seen, indicating that probably the serial numbering started at 1. At what point in numbering the Germans took over is not known, however specimens 74,557 to 117,951 are known (from their markings) to have been made during the occupation. Specimens Nos. 163,795 and 165,795 (dated 1948) and bearing Czech markings seem to indicate that resumption of the manufacture of this pistol actually started in 1948 (the year of „nationalization") rather than the usually accepted date of 1950. As far as is known this pistol is still in production.

The Mars-The name Mars has been used by pistol manufacturers in several countries, for arms which bear no resemblance to each other. The Mars pistols made in Czechoslovakia were made by Kohout & Spol. (i.e., Kohout and Co.), in Kdyne, and usually are so marked.

The 6.35 mm. Mars was copied from the 1906 Mod. of the Browning and does not have much to distinguish it. It was made without a grip safety, without notches in the slide for engagement of the thumb operated safety which is located on the frame behind the left grip piece, and with a grip that was much narrower at the bottom than at the top. Such a grip is undesirable as it does not furnish a good hold.

The left side of this pistol will be found to be marked MARS 6.35 KOHOUT & SPOL. KDYNE.

No information as to when this pistol originated or how many were made is at hand. Known specimens bear serial numbers up to ca. 20,000, but the 7.65 Mars may have been numbered in the same series. Manufacture ceased in 1945.

The 7.65 mm. Mars, also a low-priced pistol, is a striker-fired copy of the F.N. Browning Mod. 1910 and was made without grip safety and without notches in the lower edge of the left slide to hold the slide in open position for take-down.

The markings on the slides were not uniform. On specimen Serial No. 8457 (dated 1939) the inscription on the left side of the slide reads „Automat. pistole MARS cal. 7.65," whereas on specimen Serial No. 9341 (dated 1941) the inscription reads „MARS 7.65 KOHOUT & SPOL. KDYNE." The two specimens are alike in all respects, except that No. 8457 has plain wood grip pieces while No. 9341 has fluted wood grip pieces. Since a 1942 specimen has the number 10,356, and as production is known to have ceased in 1945, the total production could not have been great.

Slavia-This 6.35 mm. pistol, of the Browning type with no unusual features, was made by Antonin Vilimec of Kdyne (Bohemia), Czechoslovakia. Specimens Nos. 1440, 2031, and 15,028 show grip pieces which have parallel sides whereas those on specimen No. 70,510 are broader at the top and cover more of the grip frame. Otherwise the specimens appear to be alike. These pistols no doubt date from some time in the 1920's, as No. 70,510 is dated 1931. Specimens of this pistol are uncommon in this country.

The left side of the slide bears the simple inscription ,SLAVIA" together with the date and the Prague proof mark. The serial number is also on the left side, at the forward end of the frame.

Production of this pistol ceased in 1939, at the time of the German occupation, and has not been resumed.

The Niva-Little is known about this 6.35 mm. modification of the F.N. Browning Mod. 1906. It is said to have been made by Posumavska Zbrojovka (owned by Kohout & Spol. of Kdyne).

The PZK-This is also a pocket pistol of the 1906 Browning type. This pistol, like the Niva, was made in very limited quantity by Kohout & Spol.

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