Curious Relics #029: The CZ52 – A Roller-Locked Handgun
Welcome, if you are a newcomer to this fun bi-weekly segment of AllOutdoor.com! The last time around I covered the plastic plinking Remington Nylon 66 in its entirety throughout three separate parts. Part One, Two, and Three can be found at their respective links. Today we are jumping into the only common roller-locked handgun, the CZ52. This pistol has a history of being reliable and a really big reason 7.62×25 Tokarev has stuck around. Let’s dive right into the rabbit hole!
Welcome to our recurring series of “Curious Relics.” Here, we want to share all of our experiences, knowledge, misadventures, and passion for older firearms that one might categorize as a Curio & Relic – any firearm that is at least 50 years old according to the ATF. Hopefully along the way you can garner a greater appreciation for older firearms like we do, and simultaneously you can teach us things as well through sharing your own expertise and thoughts in the Comments. Understanding the firearms of old, their importance, and their development which lead to many of the arms we now cherish today is incredibly fascinating and we hope you enjoy what we have to share, too!
History Abridged: CZ52
To understand the reasoning behind the CZ52’s introduction into Czech soldiers’ hands we first need to look at post World War II Czechoslovakia under a magnifying glass. Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Germans early during World War II and in their fight to get it all back along with the assistance of Allied Forces, the Czechoslovakian armory became a melting pot of weaponry. They had standard-issue weapons for their military, but after the war, they had acquired and indoctrinated all sorts of foreign weaponry. Things like the German Luger, P38, K98, and several machine guns. Then, it branches out further to Russian firearms and so on. This had a way of un-standardizing their military small arms and this fact did not sit well with the post World War II government of Czechoslovakia.
So, the military challenged itself to re-standardize and update its small arms inventory. They wanted to wipe the slate clean and make it so every branch of the Czechoslovakian military and even to some extent the police had access to the same set of weaponry. This meant a set rifle, pistol, submachinegun, etc. So, where does that leave our pistol today?
At of the end of World War II, the Czechoslovakian military’s standard-issue pistol was still the VZ27 (Vz meaning vzor or model, but commonly referred to as the CZ27 nowadays). This reputable, but arguably relic by then was a straight blowback 32 ACP. Even though it had proven itself for that long the Czechoslovakian military required change. This resulted in playing around with what would become the VZ50. The VZ50 was inspired by Walther-designed handguns of the time such as the PP and PPK. This meant it was yet another straight blowback 32 ACP handgun. The similarities between this new handgun and the current service pistol was not enough to sway anyone to re-tool and produce this gun for the military. The Czechoslovakian government wanted something different altogether.
A different operating system and cartridge later, and we arrive at our handgun today. The CZ52 is born and when it was initially designed it was manufactured to be in 9×19 (9mm). It was promptly changed to 7.62×25 Tokarev after Russia insisted that Czechoslovakia use the same handgun/submachinegun cartridge as them. This is a curious thing since not long after these talks happened Russia would adopt the Makarov pistol in 9×18 Makarov. The swap from 9mm to 7.62×25 was a fair one if only for the reliable feeding and performance of the speed demon bottlenecked cartridge that was 7.62 Tokarev. Much later after surplus CZ52 handguns made their way into the United States there would be aftermarket drop-in 9mm barrels. These such barrels have dried up today, unfortunately.
The CZ52 needed to be a different operating system than straight blowback if it was gonna handle the peppy 7.62 Tokarev cartridge. This led to it being the only roller-locked pistol that I know of off-hand. Rollerlocked guns (like the HK MP5 or the MG42) use a set of literal rollers to delay blowback. When the firearm is fired, the pressure applied to the rollers is so much so that they are forced to stay locked and when the pressures become safe the rollers begin to unlock and thus cycle the firearm. Very simple and interesting! The downside of roller-locked firearms is that the portion most likely to wear out is usually the roller itself and also in some guns the rollers can peen an impression of themselves into the receiver of a firearm, although this doesn’t really happen with these handguns.
The CZ52 was a roller-locked pistol with a detachable box magazine holding eight rounds of 7.62×25 Tokarev. The magazine was a heel release style and the butt of the gun also featured a lanyard loop. The roughly 33-ounce handgun would normally be issued with a smooth leather holster (sometimes pigskin), a cleaning rod, lanyard, and one extra magazine which would fit in an extra pouch on the holster.
After its introduction in 1952, the CZ52 served in the Czech military for a good thirty years before being replaced by the CZ82 chambered for 9×18 Makarov. The CZ52 would be kept on hand and used in training until the new CZ82 was able to completely fill the space that would be left by the old CZ52. In the late 1990s, these handguns would be exported and imported in mass quantities as surplus which is why they are somewhat readily available today. Their replacement is even more so available on the surplus market at the moment.
End of Part One: CZ52
That is all for today folks! This wholesome handgun has quite the chunk of history behind it and I can’t wait to head out to the range with it soon to get that portion of our future articles done. Thank you all for sticking with us and our Curious Relics segment here at AllOutdoor for over a year!! Have the happiest of holidays and a happy new year! See you soon and take care.
In closing, I hope our Curious Relics segment informed as well as entertained. This all was written in hopes of continued firearm appreciation and preservation. We did not just realize how guns were supposed to look and function. It was a long and tedious process that has shaped the world we live in. So, I put it to you! Is there a firearm out there that you feel does not get much notoriety? What should our next Curious Relics topic cover? As always, let us know all of your thoughts in the Comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.