July 10, 2013

CZ MODEL 83 380 ACP, ~$550

We tested two 380 ACP handguns in the April 2013 issue. Here’s an excerpt of that report.

If you have a handgun for what some consider to be a sub-caliber round, it might be comforting to have lots of shots on hand, because you just might need them. Taking our tongues out of our cheeks now, the 380 can be an effective self-defense handgun cartridge, particularly with today’s hotter JHP loads — if you can find any. There are zillions of good used 380s out there, though in today’s market you might have the devil of a time finding one. We managed to acquire two, both slightly used, just like what you might have to consider in today’s super-tight gun market.

Our test pistols were a Beretta Model 84 ($600-$650) and a CZ Model 83 ($550 on up). Both were DA/SA pistols. Their size was about that of the two 40-cal pistols we tested recently here in Idaho, the S&W M&P 40 Compact and the Kahr CW40 (March 2013). Most of the small nines we’ve been testing are considerably smaller than these two 380s. We wouldn’t call either of them pocket guns. They’d fit a purse or a decent holster nicely, though. They both had fat grips, so they’ll bulge the concealment clothing somewhat more than a 45 auto.

These two guns were uncannily alike in some ways, though of completely different designs by two proud old makers. Although both were DA/SA guns, they could be carried cocked and locked. They had ambidextrous safeties and external hammers. They had staggered magazines that held 12 or 13 rounds. Their two-quick-shot, DA/SA feels were so much alike we could not tell a difference. Both were simple blowback actions, with enough mass to their slides that they didn’t require barrel-locking mechanisms. The slides simply reciprocate after each shot and the barrels never move. Both had metal frames, a breath of fresh air, we thought, in today’s plastic-dominated market.

Like the rest of the world, we currently have a shortage of common ammunition here in Idaho, so we had to test this pair of 380s with just one type of ammo, 95-grain FMJ, in two persuasions. Most of that fodder has about the same ballistics, so what we got is about what you’d expect from anything you might find of a similar nature. Cor-Bon makes hotter 380 JHP ammo, as does Federal and a few others, but none was available to our test team at this writing. Here’s what we found.

CZ Model 83 380 ACP, about $550

This model was discontinued in 2012, and its last listed price was $452. At first, we wondered why in the dickens CZ stopped making it, but we think we found out why when we opened it up. So far as we can tell, CZ-USA no longer offers any 380 pistols at all. We tested one of these in 2010 and it got our highest recommendation. This test gun was slightly used, and considerably older than the other one. It had modest bluing wear on the sides of the slide near the muzzle, and a few other signs of light wear. The all-steel frame gave this gun somewhat more weight than the Beretta.


A clean design was the Model 83 CZ. We liked this gun quite a lot, especially the honest machining inside it. CZ quit making it in 2012. Itís one of the nicest all-steel 380s weíve seen.

Though the CZ 83 had some smoothed-off checkering molded into its plastic grip panels, its grips were about as slick as those on the Beretta. The trigger guard bordered on huge, so this one might be the better choice if you like to shoot wearing heavy winter gloves. Although the CZ had a spur hammer, we didn’t find it any easier or harder to thumb cock than the other gun. Its sights were a little bigger and bolder than the Beretta’s. Again, the sights were all steel. The front blade was pinned in and could be replaced to change elevation to suit your best choice of ammo. Like the other gun’s sight, the rear was driftable for windage.

The CZ’s ambi safety could not be put on with the hammer down. Therefore, the CZ was always ready to shoot if you had a round in the chamber with the hammer down: Pull the gun and press the trigger. The Beretta’s safety could be put on with the hammer down: Pull the gun and wonder why it won’t shoot. The CZ’s hammer was rebounding, and could not reach the firing pin unless the trigger was fully back. Neither could the Beretta’s, though the Beretta had a half-cock position. We found the CZ’s safeties not as easy to use as those on the Beretta. They were stiff. The CZ’s magazine could be dropped either by using the index finger or the thumb. Thus it was ambidextrous. We found it easier to use the index finger because the grips bulged and blocked our thumb. The Beretta’s mag release can apparently be reversed if desired. The magazines of both guns dropped free when released.

Takedown of the CZ 83 is similar to that required for the Walther PPK. With the gun clear and the magazine out, the trigger guard is pulled forward and down until it clicks into the takedown position. Then the slide is pulled rearward, lifted, and eased forward off the frame. The recoil spring circles the barrel, like that of the PPK. The barrel is pinned to the receiver. A good look at the innards of this gun revealed good reasons for its discontinuance. There are a great many parts inside, all of ‘em machined. We suspect CZ was losing money on this one. The ejector, for instance, looks hefty enough to eject 50-caliber Browning rounds. It’s part of another piece that’s pinned into the gun, and was machined on all surfaces. It had its sharp edges all carefully deburred, apparently by hand. We did not see any investment castings in this gun. The safety levers and the slide stop, with their nicely serrated operating surfaces, were all machined. The magazine release was machined. The hammer and trigger, ditto.


Everything you can see, and lots that you canít, is well machined inside the CZ 83. We didnít see any stampings or castings anywhere. Thereís more machining on the ambi safety lever than in all of many modern handguns. Thatís probably why CZ stopped making it ó workmanship like this is expensive.

Though some parts may have started life as castings, we could not find any parting lines on any of the gun’s myriad parts. This was old-world gunmaking. The Beretta was made much the same way, but in the Cheetah we saw what could have been some castings, and that gun had nowhere near the number of parts contained within the CZ.

We were impressed by the intricacy of this design. It wasn’t beautifully finished inside, but the work was well done and extremely sturdy looking. If you compare it to a modern S&W M&P with all its stampings, the M&P parts look too small, yet we know they work very well. We suspect this overbuilt CZ will last a long time.

Although the recoil of these 380s must be judged to be relatively insignificant, on the range we found the recoil of the CZ to be sharper than that of the Beretta despite the CZ’s greater weight. The line of recoil is the same height above the hand. We cannot explain this, yet there it is. Like the Beretta, the CZ shot close enough to its sights that we could not complain.

Our Team Said: We got about the same degree of accuracy with the CZ as with the Beretta, groups on the order of 2.5 to 3 inches at 15 yards. There were no problems at all with the gun. It fed, fired, and ejected perfectly, though ejection was not all that far from the gun. Again, we had fun shooting it fast, so if you buy one of these, be sure to stock up on ammo (good luck with that) because we think you’ll like shooting it too. We downgraded it for the lack of traction on the grips. That might not be significant to you, but we guarantee when your hands are sweaty, you’ll wish for a better grip on the gun.

Comments (17)

"CZ-82" 1" groups @ 7 yards. 3" groups @ 25 yards. Great accuracy for defensive purposes. Not bad for a compact military service auto, with a heavy trigger. All steel (28oz.), solid design better control in rapid fire & 12 round capacity. Easily concealed with a IWB & 1 1/4" ParaCord belt. 9x18 probably will never come back,with 9x19 Alum. & Tupperware that's out now. But, I'll take all steel even if it's 9x18.

Posted by: SteHir | July 28, 2013 6:09 PM    Report this comment

Jessie, a very true statement! A friend of mine bought a surplus CZ82 (9x18 Makarov) that had been really abused and not taken care of. He got it for a song, but made it a project gun to restore. Using very good used parts and some new parts from CZ-USA, he now has a really nice pistol. He carefully polished the slide and frame and did a new Hot Blue on it and it is like a mirror deep black finish, the best that I have seen on any CZ. Only problem? He won't sell it to me! :(

Posted by: JPKirkpatrick | July 13, 2013 12:19 PM    Report this comment

I have owned or shot most of the pistols that have been made for the past 50 years. That being said I like the CZ 83 for the way it feels in my hand and with the right ammo it is a tack driver. It is very well made and should last just about forever with normal maintenance ( you will have to change the springs every so often but that is about all).

Posted by: jessie james 58 | July 13, 2013 5:38 AM    Report this comment

Our own experiences certainly temper our opinions about what works and what doesn't. As I noted in another post, above, when going to a gun fight, bring a gun.....any gun is better than none. For 21 years of my military career, I routinely carried an M1911 pistol. That said for the fifty years that I have been carrying concealed, I have gravitated to what I considered to be the most effective and fastest to get into action. Sometimes, it was a .380, but in more recent decades, as makers such as SIG Sauer provided good, solid DA/SA/DAK pistols, I have stayed with them.....usually in .357SIG or .45ACP.

Posted by: canovack | July 11, 2013 7:59 PM    Report this comment

Chris A., you said "Sure enough, one time my thumb lowering the hammer slipped and the pistol fired. A DA/SA needs to have a disconnector so you can safety drop the hammer."

If that happened to you? You need to get your CZ82 into a gunsmith, now! Because it DOES have a disconnector and rebounding hammer that prevents you from being able to cause the gun to fire WITHOUT having the trigger pulled back. It is impossible to do unless the firearm has been tampered with or incorrectly put back together. That is one of the main testing features that I use in my classes, to show that the sear can be released by pulling the trigger and holding the hammer back, finger off the trigger, let the hammer drop and IT WILL NOT FIRE!! Cannot fire as designed. If improperly reassembled or tampered with, you might be able to get it to malfunction. If it does fire, get it to a qualified gunsmith immediately!

Posted by: JPKirkpatrick | July 11, 2013 7:56 PM    Report this comment

I have over 45 years experience shooting handguns and 35 years concealed carry, both in the Military and as a LEO. I have many different pistols and revolvers at my disposal and I consistently carry either the CZ82 or CZ83 as my EDC pistol. To me, recoil is light using Hornady or Buffalo Bore +P+ ammo and have every confidence in it's performance. I extensively tested these two calibers (9x18 & 9x17), and they perform! This July 5th, the CZ83 saved my life! Can't say enough about that!

Posted by: JPKirkpatrick | July 11, 2013 7:45 PM    Report this comment

Yeah, wild romanian, we got the point..... 'Fact is, I made the same comment as regards my CZ75D Compact Model. It's the same size as the CZ83, but if fires a 9x19mm round instead of the underpowered .380.

Posted by: canovack | July 11, 2013 3:48 PM    Report this comment

The only excuse for a .380 is a small concealable handgun. When you get into a handgun of this large size you can buy one in 9mm that is the same size so it makes little or no sense to use this size .380.

Posted by: wild romanian | July 11, 2013 3:24 PM    Report this comment

I actually have a PPk and a PPKS. I just like them, I don't know why. Probably the same reason I like Angelina Jolie and Sophia Vergara. Hot here today. Come on October.

Posted by: Cecil B | July 11, 2013 3:22 PM    Report this comment

Hey, Cecil.....I once had a Walther PP in .22LR. It was one of my constant companions in Alaska back in 1967-68. Unfortunately it ended up with my ex-wife when we split back in 1981. The one thing that I used to be concerned with, on the PP, was that the slide was so close to the grip. In fact, on a few occasions, the web of my shooting hand got the skin scraped off during slide reciprocation. Maybe that's why I gave it to my ex.

Posted by: canovack | July 11, 2013 3:01 PM    Report this comment

Still like the "James Bond" Walther PPKS. I always feel "cool" when I carry it. It went well back in the days when I drove a Vette. LOL

Posted by: Cecil B | July 11, 2013 2:51 PM    Report this comment

Jpalmer, I share your enthusiasm with CZ firearms. I have a CZ52 chambered 7.62x25 Tokarev, and it's a real blast to shoot.....no pun intended. I also have a CZ75D Compact model, and it's just about the same size as the CZ83.....but it is chambered for 9x19, in my estimation a considerably better defense round than the .380.

Posted by: canovack | July 11, 2013 11:11 AM    Report this comment

I believe you would be hard pressed to find a better weapon than a CZ. I own a P-07Duty in 9mm and find it a great weapon. Great ergonomics and reliability. Fits my hand just as good as a full size 1911 in a compact frame. Can’t beat the price either under $500.00 if the CZ 83 is half the weapon that the P-07 is, don’t look too long at it, someone else will buy it out from under your gaze.

Posted by: jpalmer2 | July 11, 2013 11:04 AM    Report this comment

I've got a mil-surp CZ82, which is a CZ83, but in 9x18 Makarov (and about half the price of the CZ83). It's fun to shoot (though Gun Reports was right - it is tough to hold onto with steady hands). However, I see a major safety flaw in the design. It has no disconnector, so the only way to carry it hammer-down with a round in the chamber is to pull the trigger and gently lower the hammer on a live round. I tested this a couple times at the range with the pistol carefully pointed into the berm. Sure enough, one time my thumb lowering the hammer slipped and the pistol fired. A DA/SA needs to have a disconnector so you can safety drop the hammer.

Posted by: Chris A | July 11, 2013 10:41 AM    Report this comment

Carnovack, you know we're in agreement about Kahr PM9 and it isn't that much bigger than any popular 380's; but PM's trigger and accuracy much better than competitors! If a little 380 is wanted, Kahr is still the best!

Posted by: ordnance outsellers | July 11, 2013 9:45 AM    Report this comment

I like this pistol except for its recoil. It is very sharp, unlike any of the other .380 pistols I have. Also, it took me a while to figure out how to disassemble for cleaning when new.

Posted by: WHITHAM R | July 11, 2013 9:32 AM    Report this comment

While surplus arms such as the CZ83 can be some fairly decent pieces, in my own lexicon, I don't care to carry any piece less powerful than a full house 9x19mm pistol. .380ACP might be acceptable as a back-up piece, but even there, we have a plethora of smaller pistols such as the Ruger LCP and the North American Guardian .380 that are more concealable. Even then, my usual back-up piece is a Kahr PM9 rather than the .380. Of course, the first rule of gun fighting is.....Bring a gun, so any gun is better than none.

Posted by: canovack | July 10, 2013 8:42 PM    Report this comment

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