Among shooting enthusiasts, there are a variety of niche firearms that serve as good excuses to acquire additional weapons. One of these is the “stash” handgun. You know, the glove box/downstairs/garage/”wherever you want to leave a ready weapon” gun. Among the key features of the stash gun are reliability, weather resistance, and cost.
Recently my father was asking for a recommendation on just such a pistol. He wanted reasonable effectiveness in caliber and enough capacity to provide more comfort than the pocket pistol he was using in that role.
By chance I stopped into the local outfitters and ran into a nearly unused CZ 82 in 9x18mm Makarov on the shelf. I had handled one years ago and was impressed by the feel and layout of the controls. Through casual research, I had learned of its reputation for quality, accuracy and reliability. The price on this particular specimen was double-take worthy, and after a little dickering back and forth, I was out the door with pistol, holster, two 12-round magazines, lanyard, and cleaning rod for $210.
Century Arms has recently imported quite a few of the 82s and prices seem to be holding in the $200-250 range. Without giving away the ending too much, this is undoubtedly the most gun I have ever gotten for that little!
The CZ 82 was the Czechoslovakian service and police pistol from 1983 into the 1990s. It is typically Eastern European ugly in form, but is a high-quality rendition of the double-action/single-action (DA/SA) blowback midsize in function.
The piece is immediately familiar in operation to the fixed-barrel Walther PP series, with the same trigger-guard takedown. At 28 ounces empty, the Czech is portable yet solid enough to counter recoil. The bore axis and recoil spring surrounding the fixed barrel provide a unique recoil impulse that comes back fast but has very little muzzle rise.
Recently imported, surplus Czech CZ 82 is a 13-shot 9x18mm Makarov service pistol that is available for peanuts.
The pistol has a grip shape and angle that seem to agree with a wide variety of shooters. The double-column magazine provides a hand-filling purchase still slim enough that a five-foot-nothing female took a liking to it immediately.
The mag release is in the familiar location behind the trigger guard and is also releasable from either side. In my hands, the release was actually more natural from the trigger finger side. The ambidextrous thumb safety allows cocked-and-locked carry and is very well-placed and comfortable. The slide lock is also fairly large and placed well for the shooter’s thumb to actuate for those who use that technique.
The trigger is wide and smooth. The double-action pull is buttery smooth, with less stacking than in many contemporary designs. It is just light enough that even relatively inexperienced shooters whom I’ve seen flub SIG and Beretta DA triggers were able to stroke it without taking the sights off target.
The single-action is a little different in that it has ¼ inch of take up and nearly 3/16 inch of movement under uniform resistance to the break. The hammer actually moves slightly to the rear as it is released. To the 1911-spoiled, what was just described sounds terrible, but the smooth rolling break was incredibly useable and easy to hit with.
In switching back and forth between DA/SA and SA with the thumb safety engaged, both modes were very good examples of their type. This is a little unusual because some pistols that have both capabilities in theory are better suited to one or the other in practice. On this pistol, it would come down to the shooter’s experience and inclination.
Controls are well laid out for most shooters. Slide release and thumb safety fall easily under shooter’s thumb but are placed where they are not accidentally engaged with a high thumb grip.
The finish is some sort of sprayed/baked-on thing that has the elegance of black automotive primer. Challenging that further are Century’s import marks, which are engraved onto the slide through the finish, along with the occasional chip here and there. This is not a pretty pistol. However, the steel parts all seem to be very well-made in a way that does not exist in popular pistols many times more expensive these days.
The 9mm Makarov is ballistically very similar to the .380 ACP, so there are plenty of hardcore “need to start with .40” guys who will look elsewhere. However, I’m acquainted with more than a few salty Afghans who carry the Makarov with complete confidence. Another interesting bit is that the ballistics—nominal 95-grain ball at about 1,000 feet-per-second—are a near match for the Old West favorite Colt’s 1851 .36 Navy.
In practical use, there are few high-performance loads available for the 9x18mm, but there is a thought that ball is the ticket in order to ensure penetration to the good stuff. For those looking to upgrade, Buffalo Bore makes two +P loads, one a hard-cast 115-grain Lead Flat Nose at 1,000 fps and the other an aggressive 95-grain JHP at 1,125 fps, providing both the penetration and expansion camps an option. Recoil with either load was not significantly different than with standard ball.
Blowback-operated pistol worked well as a single action with ambidextrious thumb safety, as well as a DA/SA auto.
Looking down the 3.8-inch barrel, there are no traditional lands and grooves. The rifling is polygonal and you have to look close to even see the spirals. But it works very well. Standing groups at 25 yards were directly centered on the sights and consistently put ball and the +P Buffalo Bore loads into 2.5-inch or smaller clusters. The 95-grain JHPs put the best four of one group into a little over 1½ inches, and then I lost discipline. These are standing—I would expect benched groups to cut a ragged hole in the X ring.
The pistol is eminently shootable—in fact, it outshot a lot of my favored handguns. As a general test, I shot through the USMC pistol qualification with it, which is a pretty good quick gauge of what a pistol can do in the hands. There are 15 slow fire shots at 25 yards, singles and pairs under time pressure at seven yards, and sustained fire with two reloads at 15 yards.
CZ 82’s polygonal rifled barrel threw all loads directly to the sights and tight, as this pistol qual target with 40 rounds shows. Groups at 25 yards ran as little as two inches standing.
The Czechoslovakian-Mak posted a 387/400, with the whole qual able to be covered with a fist minus one flyer (345 is the starting point for pistol expert). There are more than a few service pistols that would be very difficult with, and very few pistols in either the CZ’s size or price range where that would even be possible.
In pushing the CZ 82 against a 5×8-inch index card at seven yards for as many hits as possible within two seconds, the pistol consistently centered five holes with one or two additional just off the card.
Perhaps more importantly in a pistol that is left readily accessible to the fighting-age population in a household, the CZ was very easy for the less experienced to manipulate and shoot. One retiree with arthritic hands who had not fired a pistol in many years was able to pick up the surplus Czech and score a magazine of solid “A” and “C” zone hits on his first attempt. The pistol points very well and the manageable recoil was a big plus.
Both DA and SA trigger pulls were quite good. Wide, smooth trigger made hitting easy.
The pistol has so much going for it that I was curious what options existed if a budget-conscious CCW holder wanted to actually carry it.
The included holster was serviceable but uninspired for anything other than field carry, so in looking around, I found slim pickings available in holsters. It would seem counterintuitive to go the custom Kydex® or leather route with a budget surplus pistol, and there are very few mass-market holsters for the CZ suitable to concealed carry.
I did rustle to the bottom of my holster box and found an old El Paso Saddlery pancake holster for an S&W 469 that worked really well for the CZ, to include fitting the thumb break. A little searching in the cast-off box at the pawn or gun store would likely yield similar results for those thinking of carrying the 82.
WHO’S IT FOR?
This is one of those rare truly good deals. Almost any shooter could find a use for a high-quality moderate-capacity pistol at this price. They probably won’t last long, but this pistol is almost ideally suited to stash gun use.
Dedicated holsters are uncommon, but a little searching may yield a workable solution from a more popular platform for concealed or trail carry.
Look around at the $200 price point and see what you find that you’d be comfortable choosing to fight with. Not much. In fact, aside from this surplus opportunity, my comfort level starts at used specimens of service pistols that are double the cost, which is impractical for many to justify the expense of an additional pistol. Not everyone’s family situation allows stashing pistols to be a responsible (or legal) option.
The light recoil and exceptional accuracy make the CZ a winner for a plinker. Ammo in 9x18mm may not be available on every shelf, but it is readily available through web vendors and is actually slightly more economical per round than .380.
As a trail gun against scumbags and aggressive dogs, it would shine pretty well.
The potential consumer who jumps out most of all is the concerned citizen who is apprehensive due to current events and trends and wants to own a pistol, but is simply not willing or able to invest in a higher-end service pistol. The CZ 82 represents a great way to easily get them into a quality, reliable handgun.
It may sit in the closet unused, but if needed, it’s a legitimate pistol … and there’s another handgun owner when Election Day rolls around.
Century International Arms
Buffalo Bore Ammunition