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The Gun Safe

CZ 52 — Cold War Czechoslovakian Pistol Engineering at its Finest 

CZ 52
Czechoslovakian ČZ vzor 52 semiautomatic pistol chambered in 7.62x25 mm Tokarev cartridge

Though Communism is an evil and often laughable system, you gotta give the devil his due. Certain Communist countries produced some quality weapons during the Cold War. This is not only true of the Soviet Union, which gave us the AK-47 assault rifle, the SKS semiauto carbine, and the Makarov pistol, but also of the former Czechoslovakia. That now-defunct country once produced fine rifles such as the vz. 58, submachine guns like the vz. 61 “Skorpion,” and pistols such as the iconic CZ-75 and the subject of this article, the CZ-52. 

CZ 52 Early History and Specifications 

As might be guessed from the gun’s alphanumeric designation, the CZ 52 was designed and went into production in 1952. It only remained in production until 1954, but in those short years, an impressive 200,000 pistols were built. As a testament to the quality of the pistol, it lasted for 30 years as the standard-issue sidearm of the Czechoslovakian army until it was replaced by the CZ 82.  

The CZ 52 is a single action semi-automatic pistol that features a roller-locked design that was unique for a pistol. (Of course, the World War-II era MG 42 machine gun used this design, as did post-war West German small arms such as the Heckler & Koch G3 battle rifle and the MP5 submachine gun.) The CZ 52 has an overall length of 8.3 inches, a barrel length of 4.7 inches, and a weight of 2.09 pounds. Standard magazine capacity is 8+1 rounds. 

7.62x25mm Tokarev Cartridge History & Specifications 

As noted by the CZ-Guru website, “CZ 52 was originally designed for 9×19mm Parabellum caliber, however under the political pressures from the side of [the] government it had to be redesigned for Soviet standard.” Hence the 7.62x25mm cartridge, which actually dates back to 1930. A similar rationale was applied to the 9x18mm Makarov cartridge, i.e., one that was not compatible with the guns of NATO militaries.  

Out of the 52’s barrel, the 7.62x25mm Tokarev round generates a muzzle velocity of 1,640 feet per second with an 85-grain full metal jacket round, generating 697 Joules (514 foot-pounds) of muzzle energy with an effective firing range of 50 meters.   

Personal Shooting Impressions 

I got to try out a CZ 52 at Belleville Shooting Range — nowadays known as Metro Shooting Supplies — in Belleville, Illinois, sometime around 2004.

In retrospect, the experience was akin to shooting the 5.7mm FN Five-seveN, — a smallbore cartridge that produced little felt recoil, but with a muzzle report and flash that were akin to shooting a centerfire rifle caliber. 

I only test-fired the gun out to 21 feet, but the accuracy was more than satisfactory at that distance, and the reliability of the piece was flawless. While I didn’t field-strip the pistol, I was able to appreciate the intricate workmanship that went into it.  

It would not be a prime choice for a CCW piece, due to its relative bulk, or for home defense, due to the comparative scarcity of the caliber. Still, I sure as heck wouldn’t mind owning a CZ 52 just for the coolness factor of its historical significance and collectability.  

Want Your Own? 

The website lists one at $650, while Guns International lists several, with a starting price of $400. True Gun Value states that “A CZ 52 pistol is currently worth an average price of $400.76 new and $382.42 used. The 12 month average price is $428.81 new and $434.39 used.

Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.  

Written By

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, Federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments worked in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany, and the Pentagon).