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20th Century Czech gun production

There were several different firms involved in handgun manufacture in Czechoslovaka, and they're easily confused.

1. The one in Prague
Praga Zbrojovka was founded in 1919, in Vrsovice (a quarter of Prague). The company made some military pistols in 1920, but was out of business by 1926, and its assets acquired by Zbrojovka Brno (ZB). Its only surviving trace is its trademark, a z inside a rifle bore, which is still used as the ZB trademark.
2. The one in Strakonice
Founded in 1919 as Jihoceska Zbrojovka, it moved from its first factory in Plzen to a new plant in Strakonice two years later. JZ had an early connection with Skoda, which is also based in Plzen. In 1922 Jihoceska Zbrojovka was renamed Ceska Zbrojovka, the famous CZ of the prewar years. Ceska Zbrojovka made all the handguns for the Czech military in that period - the Vz.22, Vz.24, Vz.27, and Vz.38. The guns often are marked "Praha" or "Prag" solely because CZ had offices in Prague - the guns were never manufactured there.

Because Strakonice is relatively close to the German border, CZ set up another factory in Uhersky Brod, in the eastern part of the country - about 45 miles east south-east of Brno. The new plant was ready by 1937, but production hadn't started before the Czech partition and occupation. During the German occupation the company was named Bohmische Waffenfabrik AG in Prag. During the American occupation the German name was dropped. After Communist nationalization in 1948, CZ was renamed Ceska Zbrojovka Narodi Rodnik, and the Uhersky Brod operation was separated from the home factory in Strakonice. Two years later, Strakonice discontinued the Vz.27 and started producing the Vz.50. In 1952, Vz.50 production was halted, and the factory switched to Vz.52 production, which continued until 1954. After that all pistol production at Strakonice ended, and the factory became Ceska Zavody Motocyklove.
3. The one in Uhersky Brod
Manufacture of the Vz.50 pistol, which had been interrupted in favor of Vz.52 production, was resumed at Uhersky Brod in the mid-1950s. Later specimens of the Vz.50 are marked with the Uhersky Brod address (unlike early samples, which have the Strakonice address). In 1965 the company seems to have been reorganized as a subsidiary of Zbrojovka Brno. In due course the Vz.50 was superceded by the Vz.70, which was little more than a mild cosmetic overhaul of its predecessor. The Vz.70 was, in its turn, superceded by the Vz.75. The company was absorbed into Agrozet Brno in 1983, then in 1988 reorganized as Ceská Zbrojovka Uherský Brod. In 1992 it was privatized as Ceská Zbrojovka a.s., Uherský Brod, and still operates under that name. This is the CZ which produces pistols today.

Ceská Zbrojovka a.s., Uherský Brod has a web site, at http://www.czub.cz.
4. The one in Brno
Ceskoslovenske Zavody na Vyroby Zbrani was founded in 1919 as a state arsenal, initially to refurbish German and Austrian rifles given to the country by the Allies. It soon began manufacturing Mannlicher M.95 and Mauser M.98 rifles. In 1920 it delivered some military pistols, but by 1923 its name had changed to Ceskoslovenska Zbrojovka Akciova Spolecnost, and it had dropped pistol manufacture to concentrate on rifles and machine guns. Sometime in the mid-1940s it became known as Zbrojovka Brno, or ZB.

Zbrojovka Brno, a.s., divize Strojirna had a web site - http://www.zbrojovka.com - at one time, but it seems to be dead as of March 2005.
Perhaps due to the constant blur of amalgamations and rearrangements of the communist era, Zbrojovka Brno (ZB) and Ceská Zbrojovka a.s., Uherský Brod (CZ) now both make long guns and handguns, although historically the Czech military's rifles were made by ZB, and its pistols by CZ.

The prewar CZ (the one at Strakonice) emblem of a z inscribed within a C seems to be dead. The current CZ (the one at Uhersky Brod) uses a small handgun outline inside a circle. ZB still uses its prewar emblem of a z inside a rifle bore.

Finally, a note on language. Some English-language writers render the name Brno as BRNO, assuming that such a string of letters must be an acronym, like FIAT (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino). Not so, though. The Slavic languages are notable for creative use of consonants. Brno (German Brünn) is the Czech Republic's second-largest city. Although the name's etymology is uncertain, it's not an acronym for anything.






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