I thought that it might be helpful to have a short general reference article on the history of CZ, terminology used by CZ and this forum, and any other things that might be generally useful to know about CZ pistols. This is basically the "Cliff Notes" version of the Overview of Ceska Zbrojovka History article at http://czechpistols82792.yuku.com?topic=16482. I have also included material to aid in identifying and distinguishing CZ 75/85 series pistols.
CZ / CZ-UB: Ceska Zbrojovka is a firearms manufacturer located in Uhersky Brod, a medium-sized city in the SE of the Czech Republic (Moravia). The name means "Czech Weapons Factory." Other manufacturers also use the abbreviation CZ, such as Arms Moravia. This is because: 1) CZ is also the universal abbreviation for the Czech Republic. 2) Ceska Zbrojovka has an international reputation for quality small arms. CZ-UB is the official abbreviation for the company, and this is sometimes used to clarify that the parent company is meant, rather than CZ-USA. CZ-UB dates its inception as 1936, when it reorganized and moved to Uhersky Brod in Moravia. Earlier companies bearing the name Ceska Zbrojovka and Ceskoslovenska Zbrojovka had been located at Strakonice and Prague. A quick look at a map will reveal that these cities were in Bohemia (the NW portion of the Czech Republic) and too close to Germany for comfort, hence the move to Moravia in the late 1930s.
CZ-USA: CZ-USA is the official name of Ceska Zbrojovka's subsidiary in the United States. CZ-USA serves as an importer, distributor, warranty service center, etc. CZ-USA does not manufacture arms. Originally incorporated in 1991, CZ-USA did not become the sole importer of CZ-UB products until 1997. CZ-USA was originally located in Oakhurst, California. CZ-USA moved to its current location of Kansas City, Kansas in 1998.
CZ and BRNO: Today, Ceska Zbrojovka is the largest and most recognized Czech arms manufacturer. Before WWII, Zbrojovka Brno was definitely better known, since CZ-UB was not founded until the interwar period. Zbrojovka Brno was a separate company located in the large city of Brno, which is the traditional capital of Moravia, or the eastern portion of the Czech lands. Zbrojovka Brno ("Weapons Factory of Brno") was and is renowned for rifles based on the Mauser action. During the period of communist control, the production of arms, ammunition, and related materials was controlled by a central state planning agency/management group. Since Brno had greater name recognition outside of Czechoslovakia, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Czechoslovak Proof Authority decided "any firearm exported will bear the BRNO markings." From what I can tell, this practice was not always consistent after the CZ-UB pistols gained worldwide attention. As of late 2007, CZ-UB plans to purchase the financially troubled Zbrojovka Brno enterprise.
Vzor / vz: "Vzor" is the Czech word for "model." Before WWII, Ceska Zbrojovka used the "vzor + year of introduction" designation for all arms, consistent with Czech military nomenclature. During the communist period, all manufacturers and the Czech military continued to use this system. (For example, see the vz-52 service pistol and vz-58 assault rifle.) Thus, CZ's most famous pistol was often called the "vz-75" outside Czechoslovakia, which is not technically correct. In other words, the Czechoslovakian military did not adopt the CZ 75 as an issue sidearm in 1975. Many reference books are consistent with the use of "vzor," and they only use this term for arms actually issued by the Czechoslovakian and Czech militaries. Other sources use "vzor" indiscriminately or for all pistols manufactured before 1991. This has been somewhat confused by the CZ-UB practice of using "CZ" in place of "vz" in its model names and markings on exported guns.
Model Numbers (i.e. CZ 27, CZ 52, CZ 75, etc.): The numbers that CZ-UB uses for the various models actually mean something. In general, the two-digit number in a CZ-UB model is the year that the design was introduced. Do not confuse this with the year of manufacture. For example, your CZ 50 (a.k.a. vz-50) pistol was not necessarily made in 1950, but that design was introduced in that year. CZ-UB used this system very consistently with other military small arms (i.e. the vz-58 7.62x39 assault rifle), but it has not with sporting long guns. They have been amazingly consistent with their pistols until very recently. The CZ 97B may prove to be the last model to follow this convention. For example, the CZ 100 and 101 were not designed in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Although the CZ P-01 design was completed in 2001, this model also seems to depart from the traditional "year of introduction" convention.
Model Letters (i.e. CZ 85B, CZ 75B SA, CZ 75BD, etc.): The letters used by CZ-UB have definite meanings and are generally used to distinguish the 75B series variants. As will be discussed below, "B" models have the firing pin block safety; this applies to all models, not just the 75B series. "D" signifies that the model has a decocker, rather than the usual manual safety. "SA" means single-action only. "DAO" means double-action only. At the CZ Forum, people occasionally use the designation "85C" for the 85 Combat model, but CZ-UB does not use this as an official designation.
Type A / Type B / "Transitional" = This is probably the single most confusing aspect of CZ pistols. This distinction only affects the 75/85 series and refers to its evolution over time. By "75/85 series," I mean the CZ 75, CZ 75B, CZ 85, CZ 85B, and variants. The photo immediately below should aid in identification; pictured (from top to bottom) are a Type B CZ 75 (CZ 75B), a Transitional CZ 75, and a true Type A CZ 75.
In 1975, the CZ 75 design was introduced. Actual serial production of this model began in 1977. It is safe to say that this is the most famous CZ pistol. Originally chambered in 9x19mm caliber (a.k.a. 9mm Parabellum, 9mm Luger, etc.), the CZ 75 was eventually also made available in 9x21mm caliber (aka 9mm IMI). These pistols are distinct from current-production CZ 75Bs in several respects. They did not have an automatic internal firing pin block safety device. They had spur hammers, rather than the current rounded style. They had a rounded, rather than square, trigger guard. The original CZ 75 design had some internal improvements in the firing pin system from 1977-1979 and added a half-cock notch in 1979. The external appearance changed from the flat "short-rail" design to the current design in 1980. At any rate, this design is now known as "Type A." True Type A CZ 75s were made from 1977-1992, and "Transitional" models were made from 1993-1994 (see below). Relatively few Type A pistols were imported into the U.S. through normal channels prior to 1991.
In 1986, roughly in the middle of Type A CZ 75 production, CZ introduced the CZ 85. This model is an updated version of the CZ 75 with ambidextrous safety and slide stop. Some of the minor changes in Type A CZ 75s coincided with the introduction of the CZ 85 in 1986. For example, the top of the slides obtained their now familiar ribbing, which reduces glare, and the fixed sights were changed to a more modern design. Unlike the CZ 75, the CZ 85 came in three distinct versions: 1) Standard (adjustable trigger, fixed sights, and round trigger guard); 2) Lux (adjustable trigger, adjustable sights, and round trigger guard); and 3) Combat (adjustable trigger, adjustable sights, and reshaped trigger guard). The original version of the CZ 85 Combat also had the modernized external controls associated with the Type B, but the reshaped trigger guard was more of a spur shape than the Type B square trigger guard. Type A CZ 85s were made from 1986 to 1994. Type A CZ 85s are much rarer than Type A CZ 75s, since they were produced in lower quantity for fewer years. They seem particularly rare in the U.S.
In 1995, the Type B models were introduced. These are also called the "B series," etc. Both the CZ 75B and CZ 85B replaced the earlier models. Since 1995, only the standard CZ 85B and CZ 85 Combat models have been produced. Type B 75/85 series pistols have the automatic internal firing pin block, a square trigger guard, modernized external controls, and a rounded hammer. The current CZ 85 Combat resembles a Type B frame, but lacks its true defining characteristic: the automatic internal firing pin block safety. The B series also marked the debut of most 75 series variants. That is, there is no Type A CZ 75 in .40 S&W, with a decocker instead of a manual safety, etc. CZ-USA has only imported Type B 75/85 series pistols, with the exception of the 85 Combat. These are by far the more common handguns in the U.S.
"Transitional" models require some explanation as well. In a strict chronological order, these preceded the Type B, but I thought it would be clearer to discuss this last. Essentially, these are handguns produced with a Type A slide on what appears to be a Type B frame. A "transitional" does not have a Type B frame in the strictest sense, since it lacks the firing pin block lever (part no. 14 in current CZ manuals). In other words, these models have a square trigger guard and rounded hammer like a Type B, but they have the slide and external controls of a Type A. Some CZF members have also found versions with the modernized external controls associated with the Type B. (Official CZ-UB photos of the CZ 75B prototype actually depict a true Type B with the spur hammer in place of the rounded style, so I am now officially confused.) "Transitional" models were produced in 1993 and 1994. There are also transitional CZ 85s, but identification gets very complicated, as the 85 Lux and 85 Combat models were the basis of the Type B pistols. Transitional pistols are comparatively rare (due to the short time they were produced), but Magnum Research and Action Arms imported these models in some quantity, so they are not particularly rare in the U.S.
Further Notes on Type A / Type B Identification:At the CZ Forum, we often use the term "pre-B" or "75 Classics" to refer to both Type A and transitional models. For the sake of clarification, let me point out that CZ-UB does not use these terms. Since CZ-USA has never played any role in importing or distributing pre-B pistols, they obviously don't use this term either.
You can identify a Type B pistol with the automatic internal firing pin block safety by inspecting the rear of the slide. A pistol with a roll pin visible in or near the cocking serrations (part no. 57 in the current CZ manuals) is a Type B. Type A pistols will not have parts nos. 14 & 57, as depicted in the current CZ manuals.
There are both Type A and Type B versions of the 75 Compact and the 75 Semi-Compact, but you will need to verify by means of the visual inspection outlined above. Markings on these pistols are not consistent, because the 75 Semi-Compact was originally marketed as the "Compact" before the smaller frame version was introduced. (The Semi-Compact is a compact slide on a full size 75 frame.) This is confusing in that almost all Type A compact slides, whether found on a Compact or Semi-Compact, are marked " 75 Compact." There also appear to have been "transitional" versions of the Compact and Semi-Compact imported into the U.S. in very small numbers, both of which are typically marked as "75 Compact." The Type B CZ 75 Semi-Compact was imported by CZ-USA in small numbers, but it is now discontinued. The Type A CZ 75 Semi-Compact is so rare in the U.S. that it does not appear to have been imported through normal channels.
Lastly, the CZ-75 Retro was a limited production Type B pistol with a rounded trigger guard and spur hammer; its resemblances to a Type A are purely superficial. For example, the Retro model has parts nos. 14 & 57 just like a conventional CZ-75B.