guide to cz clones

What You Need To Know About CZ Clones

Some people want something a little different out of a handgun, which leads some people to the wonderful, wacky world of CZ clones. There are some great reasons to look into them, too. They offer some of the best ergonomics on the market, strong actions, good accuracy and in a great many cases, rugged reliability.

And a lot of them can give you all this for a relative bargain price, too.

Just about any person that's doing some gun shopping for a pistol can find something they want from one, including target shooters, handgun hunters, people who just want a nightstand gun or a pistol for concealed carry. Here is what you need to know about CZ clones.

What? A CZ Clone?

clone of a cz

Why is a CZ clone, or more accurately CZ 75 clones, a thing? Well, it's all fairly simple really.

Back in the day, when CZ (or more properly, Česká zbrojovka a.s. Uherský Brod; it means "Czech Arms Factory" which isn't exactly the most spectacular company name) was developing the CZ-75 pistol, they were deep inside the Iron Curtain. The former Czech Republic was a Soviet satellite state and as a result, didn't exactly benefit from the kind of respect for copyright that non-Soviet countries did.

When they developed the CZ-75, the company held a secret patent, which was how things worked in the USSR. Basically, the patent isn't official - on paper, your company's products and ideas are state property - but no one else was really allowed to make the same product.

That is, within the Soviet Union and its satellite states. Everywhere else? It's fair game.

The CZ-75 became a very popular pistol as it disseminated everywhere outside of the Czech Republic, and within a few years of its introduction, other companies reverse-engineered and otherwise came up with their own versions. It's not like anyone could sue them or anything!

The CZ-75 was introduced in 1975 (CZ's nomenclature formerly denoted the year of release; the 75 was in 1975, the 82 was from 1982 and so on) and within a few years, the first clones began to emerge. Various companies have been making them ever since.

Some Are Straight Copies Of The CZ 75, Others Are Derivatives

cz 75 derivatives

Thing about the CZ clones is that some are merely copies of the CZ 75, and others are derivatives, though the degree to which they are copied varies from brand to brand. You have different slide designs, polymer frames, a few with different controls, and a few other cosmetic alterations.

All, however, feature certain similarities.

First is the ergonomic grip angle. CZ pistols are known for a better feel in the hand than almost any other gun. The clones are known for this same virtue.

Second is that the slide rides within the frame rails, though the length depends on the clone pistol in question. Some, like the CZ 75, leave an inch or so of slide outside the rails; others are full-length.

The internals are all broadly the same. The 75 and its clones use the linkless locking cam barrel like the Hi Power, along with a guide rod and recoil spring assembly that can be a real pain to put back in after field stripping the pistol. The pistol is double-action, with usually about a 10-pound pull in double-action mode and a 4- to 6-pound pull in single-action mode.

Some have spur hammers, some are bobbed; it depends on the clone.

Lastly, the takedown procedure is broadly the same. The slide and the frame have takedown notches, which must be aligned. However, you don't get to hold them with a slide stop like a 1911 or a Hi Power; you have to hold the slide in place. To field-strip, you remove the slide release/slide link, then push the slide forward.

The controls are often similar as well. The original 75 has a frame-mounted manual safety which can only be engaged when the hammer is cocked, enabling cocked and locked carry. Most of the clones retain the safety, though most can be placed on safe in single or double-action mode.

However, some clones have different controls, such as the Magnum Research Baby Desert Eagle which has a slide-mounted decocking safety.

Again, the difference comes down to the clone in question.

The Best CZ 75 Clones Out There

cz 75 clones

The best CZ 75 clones are a matter of debate. Some people will naturally favor one or the other for various reasons. There have been a number of companies producing them and with varying quality. However, there are a few well-known producers that you should definitely check out if you're interested.

Tanfoglio produces the most diverse lineup, offering more than a dozen models of their Witness pistol ranging from competition guns, hunting handguns and pistols for the concealed carrier. They also offer a greater degree of caliber choices than CZ does, offering pistols (depending on model) in 9mm, .40 S&W, .380 Auto, .45 ACP, even 10mm and .38 Super. Tanfoglio's pistols are imported by European American Armory and range in price from the sub-$450 range to well over $1000 for their competition-grade pistols.

Tanfoglio also produces the MAP and MAPP pistols for Armscor.

A CZ clone that quickly found its way into a working role is the Magnum Research Baby Desert Eagle and the Israeli Weapons Industries' Jericho. These guns are known for their unique pseudo-triangular appearance, produced by a pronounced beveling on the slide. These guns were designed in Israel, but the guts were originally made by Tanfoglio.

Today, they are available in full-size and compact versions, with steel or polymer frames. They quickly became the service gun for Israeli military and police forces, so definitely a good choice of defensive pistol.

A higher-end CZ 75 clone that doesn't get much press but frequently gets high praise is those made by KRISS, formerly Sphinx, a Swiss firearms company. Formerly going under other model names, today they're billed as the KRISS Compact Alpha and KRISS Subcompact. The KRISS pistols cost more than most CZ pistols, but some insist that they are the only clones to exceed the quality of the parent. KRISS also has the foresight to install decocking levers instead of safeties, which some say is the only way to carry a DA pistol.

Two Turkish gun companies make CZ clones of very good quality at very competitive prices. Lesser known of the two is Sarsilmaz. Sarsilmaz has been producing the Kilinc 2000 for some years, an all-steel clone with design cues from the 75 and the Browning Hi Power. They also make polymer-framed versions, such as the SAR 9.

The other Turkish clone of high quality is the line of 75 clones made by Canik, otherwise known for their TP9 series of striker-fired pistols. The clones are imported by TriStar Sporting Arms. Canik's clones are the closest copies; some models even use CZ sights. Though the internals are different, Canik/TriStar's CZ clones closely resemble the CZ 75 and compact, CZ SP-01 and P-01, and even a Baby Desert Eagle clone.

Tanfoglio and KRISS pistols are held in the highest regard, though Canik and SAR pistols are cult favorites. They don't get a lot of press, but they're regarded as sleepers; shoot one and you'll wonder why people pay twice as much for different names.

Which is right for you? Depends on what you want from the gun! Nearly anyone can find something from the CZ clones, including a serious service pistol, a nightstand or safe gun, competition pistol - even a 10mm powerhouse for handgun hunting, and indeed, with options to fit nearly any budget.

Sam Hoober 

About The Author


Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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