Author Topic: Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend  (Read 13440 times)

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Offline CM Rich

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Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend
« on: February 12, 2009, 10:07:24 PM »
Not too long ago, when a "CZ75" was thought of as an evil Commie gun that was rarely seen in America, there was a rumor about them. The rumor was that these pistols, particularly the earliest examples, were built from some sort of super tough, invincible steel, and they could withstand monumental abuse. I've heard and read a few theories as to why this was so. One such reason was psychological in nature- it was an "exotic" weapon, and so its owner(s) had to justify paying huge money for examples by exagerrating its merits.

There's a bit of truth there, I suppose. I mean, think about it; the price of a new CZ75 imported into America during the 70s and 80s was astronomical, often upwards of $1,000! Even during the vaunted Wondernine decade, that was a whole lotta money to pay for a gun that had little more than a cult following here in the States and Canada thanks to Col. Cooper. So, it stands to reason that some CZ75 owners felt the need to overstate the toughness of the gun to their friends and fellow enthusiasts. Not only was a CZ75 a very rare sight on the local range, but with a lack of general knowledge about them you could pretty much get away with anything short of God himself forging the frames.

Another rumor I heard had to do with the design of the pistol. Perhaps the greatest feature of the CZ75 is its use of the Petter inverse rail system, which was only seen on one such pistol before the 75- the legendary and ogle-worthy Sig P210. While both use the interesting and allegedly inherently more accurate inverse rail design, the Sig is a bit beefier, whereas the CZ75 had VERY thin rails during its first incarnation. This was supposedly offset by the tough metal CZ was to use for the model of 75.

In truth, the rumor was quite contrary. Supposedly, CZ had problems with the earliest of the CZ75s and their rails failing under heavy and sustained fire. Truthfully, I don't know if this was true or not, as I haven't read any hard evidence of this. However, its possible, as any mass produced item is bound to have some sort of hiccup to work out. The fact that only a handful of 75s made it out of the factory in 1975 does lend some credibility to this claim. 1976 was also a notably shallow year in production, though this can be argued with low demand for an unproven new pistol.

For some, that's where the rumor actually starts. Could it be that CZ found some sort of magical perfect blend of steel for the 75 after the first wave left the factory? Really, I don't think so. My next point would put a hole through that claim if it were true.

See, in 1980, that's when the first big design change came into effect. Due to outside influence (supposedly from the Swiss), the CZ75 changed from the short-rail design to the more famous 3/4 rail set up, and the rails themselves were beefed up. However, CZ themselves would admit to a fatal flaw at this point later on, as they decided to go to an outside contractor in Spain for the frame casting.

These Spainish casted frames, well, sucked. Not only was the Spainish firm very slow in completing orders, but the parts CZ got back from them were of inferior quality to the first generation's. That alone made people look back to the first generation with new appreciation.

It wasn't long before angry customers gave CZ an earful about their junky new CZ75s with their fancy new rail redesign. Fortunately, CZ was already working on the solution, and that came when CZ perfected its investment forging foundry within the factory's confines.

Once that was set up, the quality of metal vastly improved in short order. Such a massive improvement in such a short time also helped aid the CZ75's reputation here in the states, as very few of the Spanish frames made it over here, and so CZ didn't suffer as bad a hit here as it did with its military customers in Europe and Africa.

So, perhaps that begs the question, "which is better? The first generation or the post-Spanish second generation?"

Truthfully, I don't know. I can say that the first generation that I have does use a very high grade of steel, which can be witnessed when you tap the metal together and listen for a higher pitched ring, like glass. This indicates toughness in the metal's composition, but can also mean less flexibility, i.e. brittleness.

I have not heard of any stories of the 80s Pre-Bs failing. Small parts may break, but I have yet to hear of the older guns actually becoming unusable due to major parts completely failing. After 20+ years on many of these guns and countless rounds, that's a very good testament to their strength. These guns were built to last, and they still do. And believe it or not, but some of the original CZ75s are still in use in odd places as service pistols! They must have access to the motherlode of Pre-B spare parts, but if the frames, sldies, and barrels are still in working order after 30 years, then its very hard to deny their toughness.

Whether or not any particular version is better than the other is hard to say, because both have excellent reputations. The only low point were the Spanish frames, and CZ moved quickly to resolve that problem. So quickly, that without CZ acknowledging this fact, it might have been completely forgotten.

So, perhaps there's alot of truth to this so-called myth. CZ's a solid company, and maintainer of the world's largest small arms factory. They're so big, in fact, that they literally make their own metal, whereas most other small arms producers buy from outside sources, and some even get major parts forged or casted by outside contractors. This means that CZ has direct control over the quality of their own steel, and they're not going to get short-changed, nor will they short-change their customers.

And they're actually getting better. Perhaps the P-01, P-06, and SP-01, with their mysterious "better methods of manufacturing", according to CZ, should be more closely examined. Because, when a company like CZ says they can make even better metal, its nothing to sneeze at. Its quite possible that the steels used in today's CZs overshadows the old legend.

However, the Pre-Bs will always demand a certain amount of respect. Not only do they possess a shape many people find to be the most appealing thing CZ's ever come up with, but they have a level of toughness and stone-strong reliablity that should never be discounted. Even as spare parts and goodies continue to evaporate to the point where we're reaching the end someday in the future, many people, myself included, will continue to love and shoot these old guns beyond their expected service life.

And that, my friends, is the legend.


(I apologize in advance for any incorrect information that may have seeped into the above editorial. I do, however, stand by my research and opinion.)

Offline SDDLUP

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Re: Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2009, 03:05:04 PM »
Excellent post CM Rich! Thank you.

I too have heard of frame failures in the early short rail version. Rumor or fact I don't know, but I would lean towards it being true because it seems like there wouldn't be a reason to make up a story like that.

The Spanish cast frames are known to be of lesser quality, but I forget when they finally got the in-house casting facility up and running.

I had no idea CZ actually produced their own steel.

From the original and very elegant CZ75 to the current "CZ on steroids" the CZ75 SP-01 they are all great looking guns! You are correct though that the original will always hold a special place for CZ enthusiasts. The only unfortunate result of the shape of that pistol is that many people simply discount the CZ as a "cheap Hi-Power knock off"! If those people only knew how wrong they were!

The CZ75 line is quite honestly the pinnacle of DA/SA autopistol design. Small refinements in grip shape (SP-01, SHADOW, SA) have been an improvement in my mind, but the basic design remains unsurpassed.

Offline CM Rich

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Re: Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2009, 04:36:11 PM »
Thank you, SDDLUP.

I believe CZ only had the Spanish-cast frames for the 1980 model year. They may have even gotten through all of those before 1980 was up. If not, I'm almost positive that 1981 marked CZ's first full year as an in-house foundry.

The actual factory of CZ-UB is a wonderland of firearms production. There's an excellent article on the stands right now within the CZ-USA special that details the CZ history and provides you with one author's experience in his visit to the UB facility. I definately recommend picking it up. It also includes the 2009 product catalogue.

Offline Cliff47

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Re: Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2009, 05:05:53 PM »
The only reference to the "super steel" in the early CZ75 is in a Japanese manga book "Gunsmith Cats".  Presumably the rumor (or story) was that the Czech manufacturer had to go to a slightly "softer" steel to keep from replacing cutter heads so often.  For what it's worth, I consider the steel to be plenty hard enough. 

The move to the longer rails, was that there was some galling, and the longer frame/slide rails kept things lined up longer.  Again, the rumor/story is lost in the mists of CZ75dom.  The Spanish frames, nothing comes to mind, but that may have been a very short production run.  We all know tht if CZ has a fix, it hits the production line like RIGHT NOW.

The only features shared with the JMB-designed Hi-Power is 1) the lugs on the inside of the frame and top of barrel, 2) the cam cutout that drops the barrel during recoil, and the 3) double-stack magazine.  Ergonomics are very similar (to get the CZ grip, you need to change grip panels on the HP), but individual taste is the deciding factor.

The quote about "..people simply discount the CZ as a "cheap Hi-Power knock off"! If those people only knew how wrong they were!".  I heartily concur!!

Offline CM Rich

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Re: Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2009, 05:41:53 PM »
I will confess to being a very large fan of the Gunsmith Cats manga, which had originally led me to CZ to begin with. CZ should bestow an honorary saleman title to author Kenichi Sonoda for his work.

However, I have encountered the "super steel" legend on two seperate occassions in two seperate gun ranges, both by what I'd consider to be "old timers". Unless these older gentlemen have taken a fancy to crime-action Japanese manga on the side, it presents some sort of evidence that the legend has legs longer than the GSC manga. Afterall, the manga had to have picked it up somewhere, especially given its origin; gun-starved Japan.

The way I see it, these guys were actually around when CZs were a Com Bloc secret, so they may have been exposed to the murmerings way back in the day. They both had remarked that, upon seeing the short-rail, that they had never seen an original model in person before then.

A little while ago, I ran my own test, using a scene from Gunsmith Cats itself as inspiration. At one point, main-character Rally Vincent is explaining the legend of the old CZ75 to her friend, and she held in her hands a ruined example that had its muzzle cut off. She asks him to tap the slide of his 1911 against its own frame and listen to the noise. She then asked him to do the same with the old CZ, and he was shown to be suprised by the glass-like noise it produced.

I had been intregued by that scene since I first read it as a kid, and I longed for the day when I'd be able to confirm or deny it first hand. That day came last June, and within minutes of possessing the gun, I field stripped it and replicated the test.

There was no glass-like noise. It was definately a steel noise.

I was just a bit disappointed, but I knew that GSC was fiction, so I shrugged it off.

But later that summer, something changed my mind. I had the entire gun detail stripped during an unsuccessful attempt to refinish it myself. With the frame and slide completely void of pins, springs, and retaining screws, I tried the test again. This time, I heard the "glass".

It was pretty shocking, to say the least. I was so curious as to what it meant that I detail stripped my 75B for the sole reason of having a modern-day comparison. The 75B sounded different with it's lack of knick-knacks as well, but the sound was no where near as dramatic as the vintage model's transformation. It was a very strange event.

So, since then, I've been reluctant to completely dismiss the super steel legend as fabrication. There IS something different about the type of steel used in today's construction compared to the vintage models'. Whether or not its a good kind of different is up for debate, considering the fact that I feel that CZ has only improved since the days of the Spanish casting. As a whole, CZ seems to churn out less lemons and crappy products than some otehr manufacturers. Its a very impressive company. Our auto industry should take a few notes from the Czech playbook.

I urge any vintage CZ 75/85 owner to put this old myth up to the test. Lightly tap your slide against your frame, and compare the noise it makes to any other semi-auto you own, and pay close attention to the difference. You may find yourself pleasantly suprised!

I may also be re-attempting a refinish on the old girl in the coming months. If and when I do so, I will make an effort to video tape the "tap test" for everyone's consideration.

Offline Cliff47

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Re: Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2009, 05:00:06 PM »
I remembered the "tap test", but with what's left of my hearing, and the fact that I don't have one of the early pistols like you do, I don't detect the ring. 

Not knowing the grade of steel that was used in the early CZ75, versus what went into the production models that we find now, the steel seems more than hard enough. 

Offline lazyengineer

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Re: Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2009, 10:31:45 PM »

There IS something different about the type of steel used in today's construction compared to the vintage models'. Whether or not its a good kind of different is up for debate, considering the fact that I feel that CZ has only improved since the days of the Spanish casting.


You may be right.  I use a 1979 CZ75 for my fun 9mm and for IDPA.  I've shot it several thousand rounds, including several magazines of +P and of 147 gr police loads.  It had been shot God only knows how many times before I got it.  Yet the slide rails are crisp and square - freakisly so.  It's got a new hammer, new slide stop, new grip panels, most of the springs have been replaced, and I painted the sights with model glue to make them easier to see.  But the main components of this 1979 gun (slide/barrel/frame) are holding up remarkably well.

Prior to this, I had a CZ-75 Pre B (1985's I think, maybe 1989 - it was Serial Number J565x - I wonder where it is today?).  In several thousand rounds I noticed the slide rails lost a lot of their edge.   

Can't say anything about the glass sound though - haven't tested that.



Offline vidiot

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Re: Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2009, 02:13:01 PM »
I love this thread. Thanks for sharing the info. I haven't received my '78 yet but when I do, I'll hafta try the "test" and post my results.

I also ordered the book "CZ 75: Birth of a Legend" from the CZ-USA site. I wonder if anyone on here has it and if it's any good. I'm specifically interested in the production information for the early models. It was only $5.99 plus shipping.

Cheers,
-Craig

Offline CM Rich

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Re: Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2009, 06:47:51 PM »
I have that book, and while it's short, it is an excellent source of reference. It has a few neat pictures of the earliest prototypes, and goes into great depth describing the development of the gun and how it formed. It also makes mention of the Spanish frames, which is where I got that info from originally.

If you don't me spoiling it for you, here's what the production numbers are, according to the book:

1975- 54
1976- 18
1977- 2,000
1978- 6,047
1979- 6,650
1980- 9,000
1981- 13,000
1982- 22,000

It should be noted that 1975 and 1976 was mostly spent with the pistol being submitted for Czech export and proofing, as well as initial bug testing, so the real mass production didn't start until 1977. So excluding the first two years, the short-rail design was only around for three model years, yielding a scant 14,697 examples being made. Considering many of these pistols went on to be police pistols in various countries, as it was marketed as a service pistol instead of an enthusiats pistol due to the Com Bloc embargo, the original short-rail model really is a rarity here in the States.

Almost 1967 Shelby GT500 rare.

I do wish the book was a big longer, but for 6 bucks its well worth that money and more. I'd love to see CZ publish an even more in-depth hardcover book, with about as many development and technical pictures as possible.

Offline tekarra

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Re: Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2009, 08:31:43 AM »
I have the cZ book, while short, it is interesting.  Have you read "The CZ-75 Family" by J. M. Ramos?

Offline SDDLUP

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Re: Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2009, 11:02:52 PM »
The Ramos book is okay but lacks the development details found in the CZ book. And with all the CZ developments in the last ten years or so the Ramos book is thoroughly dated as it only details models through the original CZ85 and CZ85 COMBAT.

Clyde from Carolina

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Re: Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2009, 06:11:48 AM »
Just ordered a copy of "CZ 75: Birth of a Legend" from the CZ-USA site. Look forward to reading it.

Offline dalewelch

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Re: Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend
« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2009, 02:51:28 PM »

I looked for the book on the cz-usa site and couldn't find it. Anyone have a link?

Thanks,

Offline Karen

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Re: Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend
« Reply #13 on: August 09, 2009, 09:52:46 PM »
how do I identify a Spanish made CZ so I could avoid it? Were their markings on the frame?

Offline CM Rich

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Re: Thoughts on the old CZ75 "tough metal" legend
« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2009, 10:02:48 PM »
A good question.

I don't believe the Spanish cast frames had any distinctive markings. If they do, I'm not aware of them, but I wouldn't doubt it, either.

In any case, I don't think all of the 1980's frames were Spanish-cast. I believe only a relative handful were released before CZ caught on to what was happening. The best advice I can give you is to be careful of any gun dated 1980.

This would be the part where an actual owner of a 1980 model would step in...Anybody?

 

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