ArmaLite has long been known for its innovative and trendsetting rifle designs. Now, for the first time in its storied existence, there is a pistol that wears the ArmaLite name.
Mark Westrom, a retired Army ordnance colonel and president of ArmaLite, announced recently that he had reached an agreement with Turkish arms manufacturer Sarsilmaz to produce a semi-auto pistol, the AR-24, which closely resembles the famed CZ-75.
Manufactured to ArmaLite’s specifications, the new pistol line will appeal to officers looking for high capacity and double-action capability. Initially offered in two models—a full-size pistol and a compact model—the guns are currently available in 9mm and 40 S&W. A .45 ACP model is in development.
The CZ-75 design has a number of features that make it a popular choice for service and off-duty use. It gives the user the choice of carrying the gun cocked and locked (hammer cocked and thumb safety engaged) like a 1911 .45 pistol, so that all shots are fired single action. Carrying the gun with the hammer down, thumb safety engaged or unengaged, the first shot will be fired in the double-action mode. All subsequent shots will be fired single action. ArmaLite’s rendition of the CZ-75 possesses a 15 + 1 capacity for the full-size model and 13 + 1 for the compact.
Westrom says he first became aware of Sarsilmaz when he attended the Biennial Military Expo. “They’re interested in manufacturing our rifles under license to sell them to the Turkish Ministry of Defense. I was impressed by their facility and manufacturing capabilities.”
There are many different manufacturers of CZ-75 clones. They are made in countries like Italy, the Philippines, Israel, the Czech Republic, and South Africa. But the AR-24 line is different from the CZ clones; it’s a quality gun.
Westrom says he’s had a love affair with the CZ-75 since the 1980s when he was a GI in Germany and bought one through the base Rod and Gun Club. “They were rough guns,” Westrom says. “They featured what could be best called socialist quality levels. Most of the frames and slides exhibited rather coarse machine work and polishing that rounded exterior surfaces. Nonetheless, it was a fine pistol design.”
At one time it was hard to get a CZ-75 in the United States and collectors paid a premium for the guns. Today, the CZ-75 is readily available.
“When the Iron Curtain fell, the lower priced CZ-75s entered the U.S. But no forged models were available,” Westrom says, explaining why his company was interested in the design. “This left ArmaLite with the opportunity to take the all forged and highly machined pistols and modify them to appeal to American tastes. We aren’t positioning these guns against the Czech, Philippine, Italian, or Israeli guns. We’re positioning them against Beretta and SIG, top quality but with a steel frame instead of aluminum. It’s more expensive to produce, but nothing feels like a handful of steel.”
After talking to Westrom, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on an AR-24. The company sent me both an AR-24 and an AR-24K.
One of the things that impresses me about these two test samples is their flawless cosmetics. I’ve seen a lot of these clones over the years and it is not unusual to see heavy machine marks, uneven polishing, and wavy lines on the same gun. The ArmaLite guns don’t have this problem. Their slides and frame flats are sharp, and the polishing is very even. Transitions from flat surfaces to rounded are crisp and uncompromised.
Westrom invited me to pull the slides off of the frames and wipe the oil clean from the parts. What I found was a surface totally devoid of machine marks. “Compare that to the competition,” he said.
Sarsilmaz finishes the pistols with a tough manganese phosphate finish and then applies a thermally cured epoxy finish over it for a handsome, matte black non-reflective finish that provides superior corrosion resistance.