After Czechoslovakia became its own country following the end of WWI in 1918, it inherited many of the former Austro-Hungarian empire's arsenals.
Over time its armament factories expanded to two different works by 1924: Zbrojovka Brno (ZB), which was set up to make bolt-action Mauser style rifle and Ceska Zbrojovka (CZ) that would make pistols, machine guns and other arms. It was then that CZ took over the task of making a new pistol that would be used by the Czech military, police, and sold as export abroad. This gun would become known as the Vz24.
Based on the Jihoceska Zbrojovka work's earlier (and unsuccessful) Vz22 pistol, the new Vz.24 would be a semi-automatic that used a rotating barrel and a locked breech action. The Vz22 was overly complicated, taken from an experimental German design by a fellow named Josef Nickel, who was a Mauser engineer that made the nearly identical Mauser Model 1914 pistol. The Vz.24, while based on the same design was still complicated but was nonetheless improved. (Note the abbreviation Vz is Czech for "vzor" which means, "model")
(The Mauser 1914 was the basis for the Vz.22, then later the Vz.24 and you can recognize the resemblance)
The gun was small and compact, at just 6.1-inches overall with a 3.56-inch barrel. Loaded with an 8-round magazine the gun weighed in at 24-ounces. This was roughly the same dimensions as the "James Bond" Walther PP series pistol which came out five years after the Vz24 hit the shelves. The gun even had adjustable rear sights, which are rare for the time.
Chambered in 9x17mm Browning Short (what we would call .380ACP here in the states), it was much harder hitting than its earlier half-brother. As such most modern .380 loadings, especially factory FMJs, will work fine in these vintage guns. Be advised that the old school Czech 9x17mm loadings were a bit spicy compared to what we use today, so don't be surprised if you have failure to cycle properly with pipsqueak loads.
The field stripping procedure, courtesy of the Unblinking Eye is as follows:
- With magazine empty, retract the slide. The slide will lock open, relieving tension on the pin that retains it.
- On the right side, press in on the protruding end of the retaining pin. Slide the left side locking tab down, out of the frame, and pull the pin out from the left side.
- Hold the slide back with one hand and remove the magazine with the other.
- Ease the slide forward off the frame.
- Turn the barrel bushing approximately 30 and remove it from the slide.
- Remove the barrel through the front of the slide.
Adoption and use
These guns were made in pretty good numbers, with an estimated 180,000+ of these guns produced between 1924 when the model was completed until 1938 when Hitler's Germany occupied Czechoslovakia.
These guns saw hard use by the Czech and Slovak underground, the Czech police for generations, and even by the German and Italian military who captured large stocks of these reliable pistols during World War Two. The Germans even kept the line open under the Bormische Waffenfabrik concern during the war, sending stocks direct to their forces.
As such, these guns often were captured from their new 'owners' by US and Allied soldiers at the end of WWII, which led to a solid importation of these guns via returning GI's duffle bags in 1945. Others were liquidated when old stocks were sold off by European countries in the 1960s and found their way into the US complete with import marks before 1968, when they would have been cut off due to the Gun Control Act's point system.
Getting hot with one of these guns on the range today. Still running like a CZ.
Getting your own
(Note on the left hand of the slide for the familiar CZ logo, and the year of manufacture, in this case 1931)
With a finite number of these guns made, the last one produced in 1945, and large stocks destroyed over time, these guns are very collectable. They are easily confused with the later Vz27 pistol designed by Frantiek Myka which looks similar but is in .32ACP, as well as the earlier Vz22 and Mauser 1914 which will have different markings. Along the top of the slide of a Vz24 will say "CESKA ZBROJOVKA ASv PRAZE" and you will be able to find Czech lion markings as well. These guns in shootable condition go for $400-ish.
(The CESKA ZBROJOVKA ASv PRAZE scroll marks this as a CZ-made pre-1938 gun)
German made WWII guns will have "Tschechische Waffenfabrik" markings and will fetch more with collectors. Czech made guns that were pressed into service with the Nazis will have eagle Waffenamt proof marks. However these are often faked, so watch out.
(German accepted guns will have Waffenamt eagle proof marks such as these)
Due to their age and rarity of spare parts today, coupled with the complicated design, it's risky to shoot these guns much, not because they can't take it, but because if you break it you may not be able to get replacement parts for a repair.
Still, as long as you have one of these pieces inspected by a competent gunsmith, there is nothing wrong with putting in some target practice with one from time to time.
After all, it's a CZ.