CZ USA CZ 83 No. 91302 380 ACP, $522
The CZ 83, now available from CZ USA, located in Kansas City, Kansas (www.cz-usa.com), has been in the catalog in one form or another since 1982. That’s when the Czechoslovakian military received its 380-caliber pistols. The Model 83 appeared the following year for civilian sales. The CZ 83 is also available chambered for 32 ACP. The 380-caliber models come finished in blue steel or satin stainless. The satin-nickel slide on our CZ 83 was stamped Cal. 9 Browning Court. This is yet another name for 380 Auto. (Wikipedia lists as many as 10 different names for this cartridge.) The steel frame was also finished with a satin-nickel sheen, but other parts were glossy blue. These parts were the trigger guard and ambidextrous magazine release, the ambidextrous safety levers, the hammer, and the sights, front and rear. The grips were black plastic panels that left the backstrap exposed.
Our Model 83 arrived with two steel-bodied magazines that held 12 rounds of ammunition staggered side by side above a removable steel basepad that seated flush to the bottom of the frame. Other notable characteristics were the externally mounted extractor, rear only cocking serrations on the slide and a white dot front sight blade. The rear sight, also showing white dots, was dovetailed into the slide and fixed with a small vertical pin.
The CZ 83 was blowback operated, wherein the 3.8-inch-long barrel was fixed to the frame. Field stripping the pistol begins with an empty pistol, hammer down and safety off. Then, pull the trigger guard forward and down until it hinged away from the frame. Next, the hammer was pulled back to make it easier to move the slide. The slide was pulled to the rear until it was released from the frame rails. The slide was then slid forward over the muzzle and removed. So was the stout recoil spring that surrounded the fixed barrel. Reassembly meant applying the slide over the barrel, letting it forward and snapping the trigger guard upward into position. Unlike many other blowback pistols, the CZ 83 had a left-side lever that can be used to lock back the slide.
The trigger system offered both traditional double action (TDA) and single-action only (SAO) fire. Once the slide was moved to load the chamber, the safety could be applied with the hammer back for cocked and locked carry. Or, the hammer could be lowered for a first shot double action with single-action only shots to follow. Without a decocking lever in place the hammer needed to be lowered manually. This meant grasping the hammer and holding it back. Then, pressing the trigger until a click was heard. At this point the trigger was released but the hammer remained in our grasp. We gently lowered the hammer. Actually, once the click sounds and the trigger has been released there should be no danger of ignition. Thankfully, the hammer was properly shaped and large enough so that we didn’t feel our grip on the spur was ever in question. Plus, there was room for us to grasp the hammer with one finger wrapping partially around the hammer blocking the firing pin. We’re not sure the CZ 83 was actually meant to be carried with the hammer back at all times. Rather, the safety may best be applied at the conclusion of live fire for safe holstering. This would maintain a higher state of readiness should a safe situation take a turn for the worse.
In performing our action tests we decided to engage the target utilizing both the single-action only and traditional double-action options. For TDA fire we manually decocked the gun before every run. Fired in this manner elapsed times varied from 1.99 seconds to 2.23 seconds. The computed average elapsed time of 2.13 seconds was actually a few tenths of a second longer than we needed to guarantee all hits landing where they were supposed to. Stray hits were no more than about one-inch outside either the A or the B zones.
Firing our action test, single-action only proved to be considerably faster. Elapsed times ranged from 1.73 seconds to 2.10 seconds. Many strings of fire completed in about 1.9 seconds produced perfect shot placement. Shots from the bench were also fired single-action only. The Hornady Critical Defense ammunition printed five-shot groups measuring about 1.5 inches across on average. The PMC Bronze ammunition was less satisfying, averaging about 1.9 inches across for five shots measured center to center. But the Sellier & Bellot ammunition was stunning. We printed a one-hole group that, after deducting for one-half the bullet diameter at the top and one-half the bullet diameter at the bottom, measured about 0.5 inches across. Loaded into the CZ 83 the Sellier and Bellot 90-grain jacketed ammunition was the only round to exceed 1000 fps in our tests. As such, muzzle energy was also the greatest, measuring 208 ft.-lbs. on average.
The CZ 83 held 12+1 rounds, making it the only high-capacity pistol in the test. It transmitted the least recoil while producing the most power. The magazine release was partially blocked by the contour of the grips, but shooter comfort and bold sight index made this gun easier to shoot. We never felt in danger during the manual decocking process and both the double- and single-action triggers were among the best we’ve tried. The ambidextrous thumb safeties did not require that we change our shooting grip. Detent on each lever was of the correct strength in our opinion. There were no points of snag to spoil concealed carry, and its size and weight were most acceptable.
Our Team Said: Compact and efficient, the CZ 83 may be the best example of a traditional double-action pistol we’ve tested. Accommodations for safe, manual decocking were well prepared. 12+1 capacity and exceptional ergonomics provided the correct size grip and proper index to the thumb safeties as well as to the trigger. This is a great semiauto for those who desire low recoil.