The Awesome CZ 52


by R,K, Campbell

photography by R.K. Campbell

April 19, 2006




The Czech CZ 52 has the same racy modern look that was exhibited by the flying wing or the nuclear powered ship Savannah, a look distinct to the 1950s. And while the CZ 52 was largely unknown in this country until recently, it is a fascinating shooter that many of us enjoy using.  A great plus is the fact that the pistol is dirt cheap. Ammunition is finally available from a reliable resource, in the form of Winchester white box ammunition. During the past few months I have fired a recorded 1,000 rounds of the new offering with excellent results. While an import, Winchester has assured me the new offering is held to exacting standards. They are correct. The loads are very consistent, very accurate, and blistering fast.  But I am getting ahead of myself. Lets take a hard look at the pistol itself.

Czech armories have an excellent reputation for producing workmanlike, durable firearms. The Bren machinegun is one example of a Czech design, and the well known and respected CZ 75 pistol is another.  After the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia after World War Two, the Czechs were required to conform to Soviet standards as far as ammunition went.  While some satellite nations produced their own versions of the Tokarev, the Czechs produced something unique to chamber the 7.62mm Tokarev cartridge. The CZ 52 is a most interesting pistol with several good features. The pistol has an unwieldy shape, to be certain, and has to be carefully aimed since it has little of the feel and balance of, say, a Browning High Power. Still, when held in a proper two hand firing position the piece is quite manageable. But it is an astonishing pistol in other ways. The CZ 52 is a single action design that incorporates one of the first hammer drop safeties ever fitted. The safety is actuated or pressed completely upward to drop the hammer. This alleviates a concern in handling single action pistols. The pistol was designed to allow "cocked and locked" carry and of course it is recommended the piece be carried chamber empty. The sights are nothing to brag about, but as good as any from the era. The trigger is usually clean enough for a military pistol, breaking at around five pounds.

The most interesting aspect of the pistol is the delayed roller locking action. The design was previously used by Mauser and evolved into the CETME rifle and then the Heckler and Koch G 3.  The lock holds the action shut until a certain point in the pressure curve is reached, then the action releases the barrel to recoil, and the roller cams move in troughs to allow this movement.  This is accomplished by two rollers at one end of the barrel and a sliding cam. The cam is actuated by the recoil spring. An ingenious, elegant action, this type of firing action allows fine accuracy. While the pistol fires a powerful cartridge, it is the same cartridge used by the Soviet Tokarev. The CZ 52 is generally held to be stronger than the Tokarev, although it would take serious high end loads to prove this.  I have fired much the same ammunition in either with good results.  The Tokarev seems a bit more robust and reliable than the CZ 52 in fact, but that is an impression formed by firing only a half dozen examples of each. The Tokarev handles more quickly and has better combat sights, while the CZ pistol is considerably more accurate and has better safety features. There are those who believe the CZ 52 is the most accurate military pistol ever built. This is a bold statement, but when we consider the type of pistols usually adopted by the military, this is a fair statement. The CZ 52 is probably as accurate as even the vaunted SIG P 210. With good ammunition - a rarity until recently - the CZ may group five shots into a group of two inches or less at twenty five yards.  There are those who have stated the CZ 52 was designed to handle a special ‘hot’ Czech loading. I have fired quite a bit of Tokarev caliber ammunition, and most break 1,400 to 1,550 fps, with the current Winchester offering breaking 1545 fps and giving this shooter a two inch twenty five yard grouping. I have fired European surplus, sold as Bulgarian, that delivered a whopping 1,614 fps.  This load gives scant advantage in wound potential, however, as the same full metal jacket bullet is used in this load. Nevertheless, this is a hot cartridge that penetrates military web gear in a much better fashion than the 9mm Luger. Over the years, I obtained several boxes of original Russian ammunition, stamped 1943, from the Old Western Scrounger. These loads were consistent and accurate, but of course they are corrosive and required prompt cleaning. I also fired Chinese ball because it was cheap, and found it delivered poor accuracy and the POW bang POW POW bang common to this ammunition, with a standard deviation of as much as 134 fps!

I have modified a number of CZ 52 pistols with the high quality firing pins and other gear offered by  It is good to have a source for replacement parts and in some cases the action of the CZ pistol has been improved.  By the way, field stripping this pistol is simplicity itself. There are two projections in front of the trigger guard. Pull them downward and the slide is moved slightly forward, off the frame. That is disassembly!

I have tested a number of hand loads in this CZ, and the results have been most interesting. It is not everyday we find a pistol that can break 1,700 fps with a hollow point bullet of good construction. The pistol has the accuracy and power and there is no reason it cannot be a passing fair varmint or pest slayer. There is even a specialized personal defense load available for the CZ 52. I have used quite a bit of MagSafe ammunition over the years, and I have to state that quality control is at the highest point I have witnessed. It is difficult to achieve good accuracy from what is basically a handmade bullet, but the MagSafe loads have succeeded.  The 52 grain MagSafe achieves 2150 fps from the CZ 52, measured at fifteen feet from the muzzle. Accuracy is good for this type of load, under four inches for a five shot group at twenty five yards. While the CZ 52 is not my first choice for personal defense, a CZ 52 or Tokarev with this load would have to be respected! I have tested enough of this load to confirm that it is accurate and feeds reliably not only in my personal CZ 52 but a Polish Tokarev as well.

The CZ is a most interesting piece, well worth the modest cost as a recreational shooter. If you are bored with standard firearms, this is a piece that will amaze you with the velocity and performance available.

General Accuracy and Velocity

Ammunition Velocity 25-Yard Group
Winchester "white box" 1545 fps 2.0 inches
MagSafe 2150 fps 3.5 inches
Handload: 85-grain FMJ / 7.0 grains Accurate #5 1249 fps 4.0 inches
Handload: 90-grain Hornady XTP / 11.0 grains H-110* 1267 fps 3.0 inches
Handload: 90-grain Hornady XTP / 14.1 grains H-110** 1719 fps 2.5 inches

*A fine all around practice load that works the action of our personal CZ 52

**This load seems safe in our pistol but let caution be your guide. There are few established parameters for this pistol, and pressure signs with the roller cam may be difficult to read. But this load gives fine accuracy and the XTP bullet expands well, although it does not fragment - a neat trick.

RCBS loading gear all of the way.


R.K. Campbell

NOTE: All load data posted on this web site are for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor assume any responsibility for the use or misuse of this data. The data indicated were arrived at using specialized equipment under conditions not necessarily comparable to those encountered by the potential user of this data.  Always use data from respected loading manuals and begin working up loads at least 10% below the loads indicated in the source manual.

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Click pictures for a larger version.


The CZ 52 is a distinctive pistol, a good shooter and potentially a fine combat pistol.



The pistol exhibits clean lines and a purposeful design. Note the position of the safety and takedown lever.



The roller cam action of the CZ was quite revolutionary in its day, and most have survived with little wear



The take down levers of the CZ 52 are well designed, simple to use, and robust.



Now that a steady and reliable supply of ammunition is available for Soviet bloc pistols, including the 9 x 18 Makarov and 7.62 Tokarev, shooters of these inexpensive handguns can stock up on reliable ammunition.



The MagSafe loads are quite capable, reliable, and speedy. All we can ask in a defense cartridge.