So, How Many CZ Clones Are There?

Short answer — beats us with a stick. And we’ve been studying this for a while. Here is a very preliminary, rough and incomplete hack at the problem in mindmap form. As you can see, there are several ways to look at it: are the guns copies, clones, or inspired? The taxonomy is complex. Even breaking it down by nationality is difficult, as company names come and go.

It all begins with the simple CZ-75…

This looks old, but it’s a limited production CZ-75B Retro. A model that’s not on the mindmap yet, but already discontinued in the CZ-UB catalog.

…but CZ-UB alone has produced a bewildering array of versions and variations. Only some of them are listed on this mindmap, along with only some of the known clones. There are two breakdowns here, both grossly incomplete. The first is by the pistol’s legality (although as I understand it, some “licenses” are disputed). The categories are CZ products, Licensed products, unlicensed “Clones,” and unlicensed and different firearms “inspired” by the CZ-75.

As a rule of thumb, the interchangeability of parts runs in about that order: from full interchangeability to none at all.

Clones existed almost as soon as the CZ became popular, because American trade laws made COMECON (the economic equivalent of the Warsaw Pact) products hard and expensive to import. The Italian Tanfoglio TZ-75 was probably the first common CZ-like pistol most American shooters got to handle; it started as a copy of the CZ with only cosmetic changes (and full interchangeability) but has evolved over the decades into a full line, often offering versions that CZ hadn’t built yet (if they ever built them). Tanfoglio was first with out-of-the-box race guns and with compact carry CZ clones. They went through several US importers; Jim Thompson tells the early clone history in this 1997 Gun Digest article. Tanfoglio also exported parts in white and provided the basis of many a new company’s or nation’s CZ clone line startup.

 

Another way to look at the many CZ clones is by nation of production. (That’s what the blue section of the chart tries to do; it should probably be broken into a separate chart). Even here it gets cloudy, as many of the smaller clone producers are actually using partly completed receivers and other parts from CZ (rarely) or Fratelli Tanfoglio (more often).

A nation can have two competing cloners, one cloning CZs and one the divergent Tanfoglios — Turkey is an example of this. (And yes, it’s not up to date on the chart.)

This came to mind recently with a new CZ clone entering the walled garden of the Russian market. EricB at The FireArm Blog has a good introduction to this CZ clone, which is meant to keep Russians shooting in competition in the face of international sanctions that has starved them of CZs and parts and service. The sanctions-busting pistol, called the SoRatnik, resembles the CZ SP-01 but is wholly made in Russia. The prototype is a nice-looking pistol:

And it’s supposed to be part-by-part compatible with the current CZs. A dissassembled view would seem to confirm that.

North Korea and China also clone the CZ, as well as Israel, Italy, South Africa, Turkey, and others. Even England produced two clones prior to the 1996 UK handgun ban.

We’ll keep adding to the chart, but we have a sinking feeling that new¬†manufacturers will ce coming on line, faster than we can keep track of them!

38 thoughts on “So, How Many CZ Clones Are There?

      1. Brad

        I hope I didn’t come across as sarcastic. Just trying to help. I’m impressed by your work.

        1. Hognose Post author

          No, Brad, I didn’t take your comment as critical at all, but as positive. I think I figured out how this graphic needs to be to work, though.

      1. Brad

        Makes sense. Judging by the pictures at the ARMSCOR website, some of the pistols themselves are branded Tanfoglio!

  1. LSWCHP

    I had a CZ-75B which I sold about 10 years ago. It was a great gun but a lot a lot of my mates bagged me for shooting something that wasn’t a 1911 chambered in .38 Super, which was the cool guy gun at the time. I didn’t sell it because they made fun of me, but because I needed to convert guns to money to pay bills at the time. I’ve always regretted selling it.

    Now, that same group of guys mostly shoots Tanfoglio 9mm, and I shoot an STI 1911 also in 9mm. Go figger.

    Ignoring the fact that my entire crew of shooting mates are complete arseholes who constantly make fun of me, I can confirm that the CZ-75 platform is superb, and the Tanfoglio clones are excellent in terms of build quality, reliability, ergonomics and accuracy. You wouldn’t make a mistake if you bought one. On the other hand, there is something ineffably sweet about a 1911, and the STI guys in Texas are masters at mixing soul and metal to produce something that comes alive in your hand.

    What the hell…my advice is to get an STI and a Tanfoglio and a CZ!

    NB…I don’t have any relationship with STI apart from being a happy customer.

    1. DSM

      I’ve a 1911 in 38 Super, it’s a great pistol and I love that round. I’ve wished more modern designs would adopt it but I think I’ll take a look at those CZs chambered for it.

  2. TRX

    CZ-75: cool

    SoRatnik: looks like someone went medieval on it with an Ugly Stick…

    It just goes to show there’s no design that’s safe from “improvement” by stylists…

    1. Steve

      The SoRatnik is a very close clone of a CZ SP01 Shadow – the ‘race gun’ version of the standard SP01 duty pity. CZ even offered a ‘Duo Tone’ model that looks just like the Ratnik. The only differences I can see are minor differences in slide serration and a lack of (mostly useless) frontstrap checkering.

  3. Jacobs

    This post made my day just by teaching me that the economic version of the Warsaw Pact was Comic-Con.

  4. Winston Smith

    Thanks for the chart! That helps me sort out a lot of things that were rattling around in my brain.

  5. Daniel E. Watters

    USPSA President Dave Stanford published an article on the history of Tanfoglio in the March/April 1993 issue of “Front Sight” magazine. (This issue can be found online.)

    BUL Transmark is supported by Tanfoglio. BUL is also the source of the current MRI Baby Desert Eagle III.

    MRI briefly imported the CZ-UB made pistols during the 1990s.

    If I remember correctly, ArmaLite’s CZ75 clone, the AR-24, was outsourced to Turkey.

  6. revjen45

    1) Early CZs have a lot of charm.
    2) Reply to LSWCHP above: I weep with you Bro. In the past I had to convert guns to fripperies like rent. I miss every gun I ever got rid of, even the ones I don’t remember.
    3) If indeed imitation is the sincerest form of flattery the CZ75 and the 1911 must be the best designed pistols ever made.

    1. Sommerbiwak

      I think outside the USA cZ75 Clones are more widespread.

      There are M1911 in 9 Para. is there a CZ75 clone in .45 ACP?

        1. Daniel E. Watters

          EAA has offered the Witness in .45 Auto since the early 1990s. Around 2005, EAA standardized on the “large frame” Witness pistols. That way you could swap calibers between .45 Auto, 10x25mm, and .38 Super, as well as shorter cartridges like the 9x19mm and .40 S&W. It appears that they don’t bother importing the dedicated 9x19mm/.40 S&W “small frames” any more, at least not in steel.

        1. DeusComedis

          That’s not ENTIRELY true. The CZ97 had the same action as the 75, but the barrel and lock-up are completely different. It has a completely uncovered chamber/barrel hood that locks into the top of the slide (a l√° all modern handgun designs) instead of the lugs of the 75/Browning designs. It also has a separate barrel bushing. The Witness .45 (and all other calibers) is just a scaled up 75B. What one prefers comes down to preference – though tanfolio does offer a more consistent econo system.

          I wonder where the Kriss/Sphinx SDP line would fall on your chart?

          1. Hognose Post author

            Great picture, DC. Thanks. The CZ 97 is like the SIG and Glock lockup.

            I don’t have the production history or models of Sphinx sorted out yet.

  7. Docduracoat

    I love my CZ85!
    It was my first gun, bought new in 1990
    It has been rugged, reliable and accurate, never malfunctioned once no matter what ammo I fed it
    Now that my eyes are getting older I added a crimson trace lasergrip and had to remove the ambi safety to install it
    I am always amazed that they are not more popular here in the U.S.
    Whenever I suggest to someone to buy a CZ 75, I am universally met with “what is that?”

    1. Stuart Clark

      I too love my CZ-85; bought in Germany in 1990. Thousands of rounds and never a complaint. Put rubber grips on it and removed the mag brake, and is now better than new.

  8. Kirk

    I will say that the pistol you have on the tree as the “ITM AT-84” was the biggest POS handgun I have ever owned. I think that thing may be one reason that Action Arms, the US importer, finally went under.

    I bought that gun thinking “Oh, cool… A Swiss-made CZ-75, marked “Solothurn”; what could go wrong?”.

    Turns out, just about everything. That POS went back to the importer not once, not twice, but three ‘effing times for issues relating to timing and basic function of the pistol. Third time it came back? I learned my lesson, took the fact that they’d given me a different pistol entirely as a sign, and took it down to trade off for my Glock 19. Which has functioned flawlessly since day one, and is still in my battery. I did warn the dealer I traded with that the AT-84 was a complete POS, and he was happy with it–At that point in the market, people were just happy to have a CZ-75 clone at any price, and he had buyers for them that simply didn’t care about little things like reliability or functioning.

    That said? My CZ-85 is a jewel. The clones I’ve shot and handled…? I dunno; the reliability has been spotty, compared to the original product.

    1. Hognose Post author

      There are generations of ITM, etc., and they vary widely in quality. The current, unrelated Sphinx is a very high quality gun.

      1. Kirk

        So they say… I’ve friend with actual experience with one of their $3,000.00 wunderwaffe, and he’s decidedly unhappy with the Sphinx product he has. I warned him about the gun, knowing that Sphinx was built on the ruins of the company that produced the AT-84, but he just had to have it. His experience with the gun was about like mine–First two-three years he owned it, it spent more time in transit for “warranty work” than it did shooting. Hasn’t left his safe in years, last time I talked to him.

        It does look gorgeous, though, sitting on that shelf.

        Not a fan. I’d rather have an actual CZ, or one of those newer Grand Power jobs from Slovakia. If I get my finances together, I’m going to give one of those Grand Powers a shot at a position in the family arsenal, in 10mm.

  9. Sommerbiwak

    Am I the only one thinking, that the soRatnik not marked in cyrillic letters is odd? It is for the russian market.

    1. Hognose Post author

      I thought the same thing. If I get a moment’s peace I may send an email to Max P. about it — I am informed that the pictures are his, not originally TFBs.

  10. archy

    ***Clones existed almost as soon as the CZ became popular, because American trade laws made COMECON (the economic equivalent of the Warsaw Pact) products hard and expensive to import. ***

    I’d be hard pressed to tell you where the divide between military support to fraternal Socialist Warsaw Pact members ended and economic export goods began, but Czech motorcycles [CZ/Jawa/Eso] trucks [Tatra] at least some aircraft [Zlin] and other industrial/mechanical goods were exported under the approval of the Czech trade export agency OMNIPOL, at least until the circa 1991 breakup of the USSR/CCCP. There is still an Omnipol a.s. company in Prague specializing in defense equipment, but whether or not this is a gov’t-to-private sector spinoff or some other arrangement, my recollection from the 1970s-80s was that the government was at least a partner in the firm back then, and probably a majority partner. Those were the days of Omnipol export Semtex and S&B ammo turning up in a lot of troubled areas, among other things. But Chapter 6 *here* would be a good place to start looking: https://books.google.com/books?id=z527exm0Y44C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

  11. archy

    ***Clones existed almost as soon as the CZ became popular, because American trade laws made COMECON (the economic equivalent of the Warsaw Pact) products hard and expensive to import. ***

    I’d be hard pressed to tell you where the divide between military support to fraternal Socialist Warsaw Pact members ended and economic export goods began, but Czech motorcycles [CZ/Jawa/Eso] trucks [Tatra] at least some aircraft [Zlin] and other industrial/mechanical goods were exported under the approval of the Czech trade export agency OMNIPOL, at least until the circa 1991 breakup of the USSR/CCCP. There is still an Omnipol a.s. company in Prague specializing in defense equipment, but whether or not this is a gov’t-to-private sector spinoff or some other arrangement, my recollection from the 1970s-80s was that the government was at least a partner in the firm back then, and probably a majority partner. Those were the days of Omnipol export Semtex and S&B ammo turning up in a lot of troubled areas, among other things. But Chapter 6 *here* would be a good place to start looking: https://books.google.com/books?id=z527exm0Y44C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

  12. archy

    The one honest-to-petunias former KGB guy I knew working ostensibly as a private detective in this country circa mid-1990’s carried a CZ-75. I suspect that was partly availability, but maybe familiarity with one in his previous governmental employment was a part of the choice. Or maybe he got a nice professional discount from CZ?

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