we’re going live without some of the photos. We’ll be inserting the photos Real Soon Now™. Trust us! Pictures are now “live.” Thanks for your patience. -Ed.)
Hey, this is a Czech bag, and it has a lot of pockets. Wonder what’s inside?
The Czechlands were the birthplace of the double-action autopistol, and have arguably produced such pistols for longer than any other nation in the world.
Many of these were, prior to 1975, small pocket pistols, but the small pocket pistols were not only important for the companies that made them and the general export strength of interwar Czechoslovakia, but also to the modernization and mechanization of the Czech manufacturers, including not only the major arsenals but also such firms as the Poldi steelworks at Kladno, the Škoda foundries at Pilsen, and many smaller parts manufacturers.1
Yay! Pocket pistols. From top down: Little Tom 6.35; Little Tom 7.65; 1946 CZ 45; 1939 CZ 36; Intratec Protec-25 n Box. Now, let’s dig into the details, a little bit.
The Little Tom — ca. 1908-1926
The first DA autopistol is illustrated by this 6.25 mm (.25 ACP) Alois Tomiška “Little Tom” pistol we’ve featured before. This was the first successful DA/SA pistol. Its original name in Czech was Tomašek, which is at once a play on the designer’s name, and also means “Little Tom.” Tomiška, who lived from 1867-1946, patented the Little Tom in 1909 (some sources say 1908) and produced a few in a Pilsen workshop before mass production began at the Wiener Waffenfabrik in Vienna (both Vienna and Pilsen were in the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to late 1918).2
This example was made in Vienna and proofed there in 1922. Note the safety (up is safe, down – here – is fire). No sights; brass mag loads through the top! The faint MADE IN AUSTRIA supplemental rollmark suggests it was exported, but to where?
According to the Vienna proof house records as reported by Mötz & Schuy, #26,854 may have been proofed on 22 Nov 1922. It was one of 8,426 6.35 mm Little Toms proofed that year (which also saw the first proof of 7.65 models). Vienna proofed over 26,000 6.35 mm Little Toms.
Some sources call it DAO, because, even though the slide leaves the hammer cocked, the trigger spring (which is also the recoil spring) returns the trigger all the way forward. The first pistol to have the DA/SA trigger of an autopistol behave like then-familiar DA/SA revolvers’ triggers was the Walther PP of 1929; by then, production of the Little Tom, which had taken place in Tomiška’s small shop in Pilsen but mostly at the Wiener Waffenfabrik in Vienna, was wound up.
A few Little Toms were made in .32. This rough-condition example is innocent of most marks and was sold (by Rock Island Auctions) as a possible Pilsen example.
Pretty rough condition (note the pitting on the frame forward of the trigger guard. Probably why it was filed down). Serial Nº 30941 no longer bears its proofs, but is probably one of only 1,686 7.65 mm Little Toms made and proofed in Vienna.
After close examination, we believe it to be a Wiener Waffenfabrik example, and the relative lack of markings is a consequence of the slide and frame being filed or stoned because of rust and pitting. It retains collector value only because of the extreme rarity of Little Tom .32 pistols. Note the condition of the slide serrations, which suggests someone’s been sanding or draw-filing away at this firearm. We haven’t tried hard to bring the proof marks back up.
Unlike the 6.35 model, this 7.65 Little Tom’s safety is labeled (down – here – is fire, and exposes an F for Feuer).
The trigger mechanism on this Little Tom is not working properly — a common condition on these pioneering guns.
The CZ 36
The next Czechoslovak DA .25 was a true DAO pistol, the CZ 36. A contemporary of the simple single-action striker-fired Dušek “Duo” pistol (and its variants) made in Opočno, the CZ 36 was rather more advanced with double-action lockwork. It was designed by the prolific Czech engineer, František Myška, starting in 1934. Here it is compared to the Little Tom:
The CZ 36 was made with an external safety on the left side of the frame forward of the grip, marked with a Z. A safety is somewhat redundant on a DAO gun, but the whole idea was new. On the pistol’s right side, the round axis pin integral to the safety is visible.
At some point in production, the safety was deleted. No one has explained why some pistols have the safety and some do not; earliest pistols all tend to have it, and with-safety is more common than without-safety on a CZ 36.
Production numbers are all over the place, with Berger guessing (and Buffaloe seconding him) at about 12,000. Most of these pistols were exported, but they were used by some police agencies (Czechoslovak and later, German), such as the Railway Police. This example, Nº 18615, was proofed with the Czech twin-tailed lion in 1939.
The European flap holster shown with our CZ 36 came with it, but without specific provenance as far as we know.
Most sources agree that the CZ 36 was discontinued after the German occupation, except for some assembly from pre-war parts, but the existence of small numbers of CZ 36 pistols with Nazi-era German proof marks and German wholesaler (Akah or Geco) markings challenges that conventional wisdom.
The CZ 45 and its Successors
After the war, Myška (according to some sources) and/or Jan Kratochvil (per Dolínek et al.) reworked the CZ 36 for manufacturing ease, producing the CZ 45.3
The CZ 45. This is an early model, proofed in 1946, and it retains some CZ 36 features.
Flip side of the CZ 45, showing the absence of the safety pivot pin.
(In parallel to the CZ 36 and 45, the simple Duo — later the “Z” — continued to be manufactured; but prior to 1946 that is because it was made by a different firm. The firms were nationalized and merged postwar).
All CZ 45s that we have observed were made without the safety of the early CZ 36, but it is reported that some were made with it. Modifications include a different barrel lug arrangement, and a different trigger mechanism. The original CZ 36 mechanism bears some traces of the Tomiška design, and the trigger bar only rides along one side of the magazine; the CZ 45 uses a yoke à la John Browning’s 1911. (This particular CZ 45, made in 1946, retains the CZ 36 style barrel lug and trigger bar). In both pistols, a magazine safety, activated by that same trigger bar, is incorporated.
The pistol was made by Česká Zbrojovka at the original Strakonice pistol factory originally set up for the vz. 24 contract. Later, production shifted to Uhersky Brod. (The UB plant was originally established in 1936 because Czechoslovak strategists considered the Strakonice plant too close to the threat of Nazi Germany).
The CZ 36 and CZ 45 were imported to the USA in small (36) and medium (45) quantities prior to the Gun Control Act of 1968, which both required import marks and banned further importation of compact pistols.
Cosmetic and production redesigns since have been named CZ 70 and CZ 92 for their years of introduction (not all sources mention the CZ 70; to add to confusion, a later version of the Duo/Z was called vz. 70, and so was the common CZ police pistol in .32/7.65 mm). These later pistols have never been legal for commercial importation to the United States.
The ZVI Kevin
The Kevin was the only pistol ever produced by the Czech firm Zbrojovka Všetin Indet (mercifully, for English speakers, abbreviated to ZVI). ZVI was primarily a producer of large caliber ammunition, and arms such as machine guns, automatic cannon, and AT rocket launchers, and so forth. It is (in its most common iteration) a .25-sized DAO .380 with an internal hammer and (standard) six-round magazine.
We have no idea why it is named Kevin. In Germany, the name Kevin has a connotation of roughneck thuggery! But we do not believe that connotation extends to Czech.
The pistol was introduced at the European trade show IWA 2007, and came to be made in many models, distinguished by chambering, grips and finish options — they were all the same basic gun. The standard chambering was .380 ACP (9 mm Browning Short, 9 x 17), but it was also available in 9 mm Makarov (9 x 18), and was made for export (we believe, to CIS nations) in “9mm PA,” a cartridge that fired a non-lethal rubber projectile.
There is no external safety. It is not necessary, as the Kevin has a revolver-like long and heavy (~10 lbs. new, may lose a pound after hundreds of rounds) trigger pull. Takedown is like many early Browning pistols, and the Little Tom and CZ’s mentioned above: after ensuring the pistol is clear, align the slide appropriately (unlike the older pistols, the Kevin has helpful witness marks), rotate the barrel out of engagement with the frame, and slide the slide off.
Barrel turned for disassembly (here on the CZ 45, but all these pistols save the Little Toms work like this).
The receiver is aluminum alloy and the barrel and slide steel. In some ways, Alois Tomiška would recognize it as a descendant of his own Little Tom, but it has a modern push-button mag release behind the trigger guard, and much better sights — fixed, to be sure — than any of the other pocket pistols mentioned here. It has several interesting features.
Unlike most .380s, it is not a straight blowback pistol, but a gas-retarded blowback. A pair of ports in the barrel forward of the chamber — in other words, where the pressure is max — vent forward against the surface of the slide, and into a sort of temporary gas chamber forward of the ejection port. The force against the breech face moving the slide rearward must overome this gas pressure as well as the simple inertia of the slide. This does make for a messy gun, especially when firing a lot of ammunition. (Like any powerful pocket pistol, it tends to enforce limits to shooting sessions. It’s just not fun to open that second box of ammo).
To keep the gas chamber and recoil spring from interfering with one another, the Kevin dispenses with the usual around-the-barrel recoil spring and uses instead two small-diameter recoil springs and guide-rod assemblies set into grooves in the frame, inside the slide — an arrangement reminiscent of the dual springs in the Walther P.38 and its immediate derivatives like the P4 and P5. Plastic recoil buffers distribute the impact of the slide on the frame.
The basic finishes were shiny “plating” or black, both of which were high-tech nickel-teflon paint, with grips of plastic or walnut. Fancier versions included gold-finished barrel, trigger, extractor and gold-color fill in the rollmarks; there was also a version with etched decoration that imitated engraving.
Several magazine capacities have been available, including a 9-round mag with a large plastic grip extension, which not only added firepower but also addressed the gun’s biggest strength and weakness, it’s extremely compact size. The 9-round mag was introduced in June, 2012.
Production of this pistol seemed to have ended with the 2013 bankruptcy of ZVI, which had nothing to do with the Kevin and everything to do with the Czech Republic rejecting the idea of renewing ammo contracts with ZVI, when it could get the rounds cheaper by importing them. However, there is some life on the Czech language side of the ZVI website this year, including an offering of a new magazine extension for the little Kevin, in February 2016. The pistol is small and smooth (there is no checkering or grooving on front or rear strap) and so anything that helps you hold it is welcome.
No ZVI Kevin has ever passed through normal ATF import channels as it cannot pass the Nazi-derived “sporting” test of the Gun Control Act of 1968. A copy was available in the US (see below).
What’s Missing Here?
We’ve listed all Czechoslovak and Czech double-action pocket pistols known to us at present, and welcome any word of omissions. While some would call the Walther-PP sized CZ 50 / 70 in .32 and even the very large CZ 82/83 pistols “pocket pistols,” these were, in the Czechoslovak context, police pistols normally carried openly in flap holsters, and in shoulder holsters when carried undercover. There are quite a few small Czechoslovak single-action pocket pistols, most of them made between the wars. Indeed, the Russian writer A.B. Zhuk, chronicles some models that are missing from most Czech-language sources!4 But he mentions no other double-action pistols than we do.
The American Cousins
Two of these pistols have “American cousins” — US-made auto pistols that are clones, or at least close or modified copies of their Czech forebears. The CZ 45 was cloned, more or less, as the Intratec Protec-25 and the ZVI Kevin appeared in the US as the Magnum Research Micro Desert Eagle.
The Micro Desert Eagle was a US-produced clone of the ZVI Kevin, legally licensed by ZVI or by the designer. It is no longer cataloged by Magnum Research. It was available in nickel, blued, or two-tone (nickel frame, blue slide and barrel) versions. The nickel version is most common. As in the Czech original, this finish is actually a form of high-tech paint and is extremely durable.
This image of the Micro Desert Eagle and Baby Browning is from the blog Gun Tales, where the pistol is reviewed. As you can see, it really is a .25-sized .380! It is also really a ringer for the ZVI version — parts do interchange.
Like the Kevin, the MDE is made of investment castings. In our opinion, the finish on the Czech gun is superior, but the same process is supposed to be used.
Again, like the Kevin, the MDE has a reputation for reliability and near-indifference to ammunition, although there are some defensive rounds with which it does not work reliably, and the would-be carrier is well-advised to check out the rounds he plans to carry for social work well in advance. Like the Kevin, it gets very dirty if fired a lot, but thanks to that modern finish, cleans up very nicely.
The Intratec Protec-25, conversely, was inexpensively made with a die-cast receiver, steel slide, and painted exterior. Many users have reported reliability problems, which are rare in a simple .25; but a ready solution is at hand. The pistol will usually function reliably if you replace the Intratec magazine with an original CZ 36/45 mag or a Mec-Gar replacement. As our present example is is new, in box, we haven’t fired it. (They’re only new once).
As you might have guessed, the “Protec” was both a play on the company name Intratec, and the word protection; it was intended to be part of a what they called the Pro “Tec” tor Series of small handguns, but the company didn’t survive to achieve those now-lost ambitions.
The Intratec had slightly different frame contours from the CZ 45. This modernized the styling, but may have been required by the manufacturing process. The similarities in the firearms are evident in this triple field-stripped view, but, the parts do not interchange.
Both the slide/receiver grooves and the barrel bed and lugs don’t mate properly. (In fact, the barrels do interchange between these CZs, but the slides don’t; each one is fitted to its own frame).
The original Intratec manual — if “manual” is the word for a single-sheet-of-paper fold out — suggests that the gun was available in three finishes, and also refers to a Protec-22 whose magazine held 10 .22 LR rounds. If such a variant was made, we’ve never seen one, but it was developed at least as far as parts numbers, SKUs, and manual entries. The gun — and the company that launched it — seems to have come and gone in the span of about three years. Today, it’s nothing but a sidebar to the Czech double-action pocket pistol story. We suppose someone could carry a Protec-25 or CZ-45 as a defensive gun, but why would you, when you can find a Desert Eagle or Kevin (depending on where you are in the world) for about the same money?
- Dolínek et al., p. 60.
- Dolínek et al., p. 32.
- Dolínek et al., pp. 102-103, 107.
- Zhuk, A.B. pp. 194-199.
Personal examination of examples of the named pistols.
“Angus”. Micro Desert Eagle .380acp. Gun Tales. Retrieved from: https://guntales.blogspot.com/2011/03/micro-desert-eagle-380acp.html (unfortunately this promising blog has not been updated in five years. Pity).
Berger, R.J.Know Your Czechoslovakian Pistols. Northridge, IL: Blacksmith Publications,1989.
Buffaloe, Ed. Two Czech 6.35mm Pistols. The Unblinking Eye, n.d.. Retrieved from: http://unblinkingeye.com/Guns/2CZ25s/2cz25s.html
Brown, James D. Cold War Pistols of Czechoslovakia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2009.
Dolínek, Vladímir, Karlicky, Vladímir, and Vácha, Pavel. Czech Firearms and Ammunition: History & Present. Prague: Radix, spol. sro., 1995.
“Lloyd in Vegas.” Poster at Jan V. Still Luger Bulletin Board, 24 Nov 2007. Retrieved from: http://luger.gunboards.com/showthread.php?12714-CZ-36-E-N-Geco-Trademark
Uncredited. ZVI Kevin Catalog. Prague: ZVI, Inc., 6 Jun 2008. Retrieved from: http://www.zvi.cz/download/KEVIN.pdf
Uncredited. Micro Desert Eagle, Nickel. Magnum Research, Kahr Firearms Group. Retrieved from: https://www.magnumresearch.com/Firearms/Magnum-Research-Micro-Desert-Eagle-Nickel.asp (The pistol is discontinued and this page is not discoverable through the website menus, but it comes up in a search as of press time).
Uncredited. Products – 9 mm pistol Kevin. Prague: ZVI, Inc., n.d. Retrieved from: http://www.zvi.cz/en/products/9-mm-pistol-kevin.html (The company is apparently defunct, but the website is undead at this writing).
Zhuk, A.B., Bobrov, N.N. (trans.), Walter, John (Ed.). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Handguns: Pistols and Revolvers of the World, 1870 to 1995. London: Greeenhill Books, 1995.