Com-Bloc Legend

Communists have never been renowned for the quality of their consumer products. Western cars like BMWs, Jaguars, Corvettes and Ferraris will reliably set your heart aflutter. Soviet-bloc designs like the East German Trabant? Well, not so much.

One gleaming exception to this rule was the Cold War-era Czech CZ-75 handgun.

CZ stands for Czech Armory in the native tongue and they first opened for business in 1936. CZ then produced aircraft machineguns, military pistols and small-bore rifles. When the Nazis occupied their country they were compelled to produce and repair small arms for their German overlords. (I own a wartime-vintage Czech-made P38. It is a thing of beauty). After the Nazis were forcibly evicted, CZ went back to producing weapons for the Czech military.

The CZ-75 was introduced the same year Beretta started building their Model 92 and it was a magnificent piece of kit. As Czechoslovakia found itself on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain, these superb combat handguns couldn’t be imported into the US through conventional channels.

However, there was still a way well-heeled handgun enthusiasts could get their mitts on one. Way back then, American military personnel stationed in Europe could order firearms for personal consumption through their local overseas rod and gun club. These organizations drew from a deeper well than did mainstream American importers, so the CZ-75 was on the menu. As a result, GIs could buy themselves a CZ-75, bring it home, and then sell it at an obscene profit. Thus was the American gun nerd’s circuitous introduction to legendary CZ quality and engineering.