CZ82 and CZ83 Pistols

CZ83 (380ACP, left) and CZ82 (9x18Mak, right) with their full combat loads of 12+1.

CZ83 (380ACP, left) and CZ82 (9x18Mak, right) with their full combat loads of 12+1.

My familiarity with 9×18 began with a Makarov pistol in the late 1990s. Cheap surplus ammunition and low cost pistol combination were irresistible to me, and I ended up with a gun that was stone-cold reliable, shot what seemed like a decent defensive round accurately, and was smaller than my other centerfire pistol, Glock 17. The pistol eventually got sold when the novelty and the price wore off. The recoil of the blowback design, heel magazine release, looooong and heavy double action trigger, and the stiff safety all made it less than ideal for my use, and the Makarov was happily replaced by more expensive but far more useful Kahr P9. The only other relatively common 9×18 pistol was the Polish P64, a truly wretched lump of bad trigger and sharp edges that amplified felt recoil.

While I’ve seen photos of CZ82 in CZ-USA catalog of 2000, the pistol wasn’t readily available to buy or even to try out at the range. On paper, it looked pretty good: 12+1 capacity, cocked and locked capability along with double action, button magazine release, and decent sights. A similar CZ83 model was available in 380ACP (12+1) and 32ACP (15+1), the latter catching my interest as a possible pistol for the recoil-sensitive. While all of these guns are blowback designs, their thick grips should have helped to absorb the recoil. Although they look heavier, CZ83 weighs the same and CZ82 is only a couple of ounces more than the single-stack Makarov. Recently, I had a chance to take the 380 and the 9×18 models to the range to try them side-by-side.

The ergonomics are pretty decent, but the imperfect fit of the grip panels and the resulting seams on the back were felt on recoil. The kick was less than with Makarov but not by enough to make it comfortable. Sights are clear in good light, all-black on the 9×18 and black with three white dots on the 380. The pistols are easy to hold steady until the trigger pull begins. Instead of the expected single action mode, the gun has what appears to be a lighter double action mode: the excessively heavy trigger moves the already cocked hammer even further back, from where it releases to fire. While this almost guarantees no light primer strikes, this isn’t conducive to accurate fire. At best, I could get two inch groups at 7 yards with either gun, while firing the same 380 ammunition through Browning 1911-380 produced 1/2 inch group with overlapping holes. The same 9×18 ammunition fired through Bulgarian Makarov also produced 1/2 inch groups, so the culprits were the pair of CZs.

OATH Tango (380, 75gr), HPR hollow point (380, 95gr) and Silver Bear hollow point (9x18, 94gr).

Recovered bullets: OATH Tango (380, 75gr, expanded to 0.96″), HPR hollow point (380, 90gr, expanded to 0.44″) and Silver Bear hollow point (9×18, 94gr, no expansion).

Velocity measurements, 380ACP:

Velocity measurements, 9x18Mak:

  • PPU 95gr JHP 954fps
  • PPU FMJ 95gr 946fps
  • Silver Bear JHP 94gr 962fps

Although 9×18 in its canonical milsurp form is supposed to be hotter than 380ACP, the numbers show the two to be roughly even in power. The initial bullet diameters are quite similar, .355″ (380) to .365″ (9×18). Expanded diameters favor 380, as neither Silver Bear nor PPU opened up. Hornady makes two expanding 9×18 loads, which are reputed to work better. Since the energy levels involved are limited, the nearly inch-wide Tango penetrated only 4 inches, with the BB-sized nose cap reaching 6.25″. HPR hollow point, while expanding far less dramatically, reached 10.75″ mark before bouncing back, with the bullet resting at the 9″ mark. To me, that seems like the best compromise of expansion and penetration. Strangely, another test of this ammunition done with a shorter barrel gave lower muzzle velocity, same expansion, and penetration exceeding 12″. I am not sure how that worked out, unless my re-melted gel was denser and out of calibration. Given that OATH Tango produced 7″ of penetration when tested in fresh gel, I suspect that my numbers would have to be scaled up proportionally.

Neither of the 9×18 “expanding” bullets actually opened up, with penetration around 12″. All 380 and 9×18 ball rounds penetrated more than 16″ and were not recovered.

Although felt recoil was about the same with all 95 grain bullets, 90gr HPR load and both of the OATH loads, the 90gr non-expanding Halo and the 75gr expanding Tango) were easier to shoot. One possible reason why Silver Bear gave more of a jolt may have been the hardness of its bi-metal jacket, requiring higher pressure at the same velocity to engrave on the rifling.

Overall, I would favor the 380ACP variant due to better availability of quality ammunition. In picking between CZ82/83 and more modern locked breech guns, I would choose either a smaller 380 (such as Browning 1911-380 or G42 or Sig P238) or similarly sized 9×19 (such as CZ Rami), which hold similar amount of more powerful ammunition and show better accuracy with less kick. While I wouldn’t feel poorly armed with either 82 or 83, full-size blowback service pistols are best reserved for range use when better options are available for carry.

I want more stuff like this!

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