Americans sometime suffer from the "If we didn't invent it here we're not interested" syndrome. Not always, but just often enough it can get in the way of a good thing, and this is one of those times. We've covered CZ-USA pistols before in Police, and frankly were very impressed with their new PO-1 duty pistol. After having our minds opened with that experience, when the opportunity to test a brand new design from CZ appeared as if by magic, we grabbed it, especially since we had a small part in its final design.
But first, allow us to clear up some confusion concerning the "CZ" name. Established in 1936 in the small Moravian town of Uhersky Brod in then Czechoslovakia, today's CZ has undergone several make-overs before arriving where it is now as one of the leaders in firearm design and manufacture. Thanks to the Cold War and related politics, all gun makers in Czechoslovakia worked under the same umbrella of the "state" and all firearms had to bear the Czech "BRNO" mark, regardless of which maker or factory they originated from. Consequently, for decades, those of us outside the communist block generally assumed "BRNO" was the maker of a wide range of designs. Nothing was further from the truth. It was as if all the makes in the United States were sold under one label.
Throughout the Cold War, CZ made the CZ 52, CZ 75, and other pistols, along with the VZ 61 Skorpion sub-gun and rifles. In 1991, Czech weapons factories were "de-centralized" and began business on the free market. CZ "UB" (for Uhersky Brod) was the first to take that leap and promptly dominated the market in more than 60 countries. Also in 1991, CZUB established a permanent presence in the United States in the form of CZ-USA, a wholly-owned subsidiary of CZUB, specifically created to handle the American market.
To confuse things even more, over the years a wide range of firearms made in the Czech Republic have been imported into the U.S., all bearing the "CZ" moniker. However, many of these were not from CZUB. Think of the "CZ" label as simply saying "USA" and you'll get the idea. It would be as if Europeans started calling all guns made in the states "USA" brand. I'd imagine Colt would be a bit upset if they were called by the same name as S&W. Ditto for CZ-USA.
CZUB guns have been imported by Bauska, Action Arms, Magnum Research, and others over the years, but now, CZ-USA is the sole importer, working out of its facility in Kansas City, Kan., where it offers warranty service and a complete parts department. CZ-USA is only one "brand" of firearm made in the Czech Republic and others may say "CZ" on them, but have no relation to CZ-USA. So now you know.
A Good Idea
I was fortunate enough to tour the CZ Factory late last year and was able to examine some prototype handguns. Hiding on a table was a small, lightweight semi-auto with serious lines. I spoke with "Milan" from the factory, who smiled and said it was a gun called the RAMI, made for "deep cover and concealment."
It was in late prototype form, but I noticed it had no slide stop. Therein began a semi-spirited discussion where Milan tried to convince me it didn't need one and I tried to explain the peculiarities of the American market. Milan is an expert in design and function, and I confess he was right, but the realities of our market remained true. I left and crossed my Yankee fingers.
Two months ago I received a call from Alice Poluchova, president of CZ-USA, who happily announced the RAMI had passed import inspections and was now available for testing. "By the way," she said, "It's got a slide stop on it." It seems CZUB understood after all, and are to be commended for it.
The test gun is an early import and is roughly Colt Officer's ACP-sized (or a bit smaller). It shows the typical good fit, finish, and attention to detail of late-model CZUB products, but it felt just a bit "foreign" in the hand. A lifetime spent with 1911s and S&W revolvers creates muscle memories hard to break.
However, the RAMI felt comfortable, with a slightly "fat" grip, but one that still fit easily in my smallish hands. One of our testers did comment he'd like to see a magazine extension for the little finger, but that would compromise concealability. Either way, the gun is easy to hold and to control, even when firing hot .40 S&W ammo.[PAGEBREAK]
This is an off-duty or concealed carry pistol, not a uniform duty gun. While very new, there's no doubt all the major holster makers will come up with leather and synthetic CCW gear quickly. Some of the more generic "belt-slide" holsters will probably fit it now. The gun itself is of robust construction, with steel components (slide, action parts, etc.) and an alloy frame. The entire gun is finished in CZ's Black Polymer finish, which is basically a black powder coat (baked finish) applied over a "phosphate" or Parkerized base coating. The result is a tough, mil-spec finish with good wear potential. It's the same finish used on CZ 75 pistols and other CZUB arms.
Holding 8+1 in .40 S&W (10+1 in 9mm) the RAMI offers a fistful of power in either guise. From the factory, the RAMI comes in a plastic box with a spare mag, mag loading tool, lock, and other goodies, including cleaning gear and a comprehensive manual. The manual covers all aspects of the RAMI and is very well produced. It's a class act all around.
Sights are fixed, three-dot, and seem up to the task. Thankfully, CZ has elected to leave the trigger guard rounded, which not only is pleasing to the eye, but will make legions of holster-makers happier. The tang is an extended "beavertail" type and forward cocking serrations on the slide make "press-checks" simple and secure. Grips are black rubber and do the job just fine.
The action is where things get interesting. This pistol can be carried "cocked and locked" with the hammer back and the safety on, making the first shot a classic single-action one. It can also be carried with the hammer down, safety off, and the first shot is then double action. But in order to get that hammer down, you've got to pinch the hammer between your fingers, pull the trigger, and then gently lower it. No "de-cocker" here. Still, once you press that trigger and begin the hammer-down, you can release the trigger, re-engaging the firing pin safety. But we're all adults and there's no reason you can't do this safely (we've been doing it for a hundred years with the 1911), unless you're a certifiable idiot-and then you shouldn't have it to begin with, eh?
Take-down is easy. Put your thumb in the trigger guard (yeah, I know, make sure it's unloaded, etc., blah, blah), hold the slide with your fingers, and move it backwards about a "hair" to move it ever so slightly out of battery. A "hair" is less than "some" and more than a "tad" if you know what I mean. It isn't an exact science and it took us a few tries to get the hang of it. Use the base plate of the magazine to push out the slide stop, then the slide and barrel slip off the front, neat as a pinch. Oddly enough, it goes back together the same way, only in reverse. Imagine that.
Shooting was fun and predictable. We ran a quick 50 rounds of cheap, generic .40 through it just to make sure it ran. It did. We took the liberty of cleaning and oiling it prior to the range trip, but we're like that, and you should be, too. We ran a list of "who's who" of ammo makers from Winchester, Federal, CCI/Speer, and others through the RAMI, and it didn't find anything it was compelled to complain about. The feed ramp was nicely polished and as long as we held a firm grip and arm, all went well. Any smallish gun may stumble if you have a loosey-goosey grip so keep that arm and wrist firm so your autopistol can have something stable to recoil against.
As is usually the case in such things, it began to rain like the dickens as we started the test, so we didn't actually measure any groups-targets were wet and sorta pulpy. But, at an honest 15 yards (which was as far as I could get someone to run to post targets in the rain) you could have easily covered the groups with the bottom of a coffee cup. I think the little gun will do much better than that, but we were cold, wet, and, speaking of coffee cups, we were ready for some, so it's not the gun's fault.
The RAMI was fast-handling and sure-footed in the hand. Our test gun barked a bit and snapped some in .40 S&W (mostly with the stout loads) but with a 150-grain load at around 950 feet per second or so, the RAMI is a force to be reckoned with. And I reckon it will be hard to send this one back. Now, if I could just figure out what "RAMI" means.
Caliber: .40 S&W, 9mm
Weight: 25 ounces
Length: 6.6 inches
Height: 4.7 inches
Width: 1.3 inches
Barrel Length: 3.0 inches
Finish: Black polymer
Sights: Three-dot, fixed
MSRP: $559 (street price probably around $475)
Roy Huntington is the editor of American Handgunner and a long-time member of the Police Advisory Board.