BLUF: The CZ-83 is one of the few double-stack .380 autos on the market, making for a soft shooting pistol with higher than average capacity. The surplus models combine form and function for an effective range toy or concealed carry option.
I've always had an affinity for military surplus firearms. The first three rifles I purchased once I turned 18 were a Mosin Nagant, an SMLE No. 4 Mk. 1, and a Yugoslavian M48 Mauser. For years I was forced to walk away from amazing deals on milsurp pistols due to age restrictions, but that all changed once I turned 21.
I found this CZ-83 in a local gun shop in the rougher part of town. Immediately I was plunged into a debate with two employees over the caliber markings. One claimed that it was chambered for 9x18 Makarov, the other that it was some proprietary cartridge that nobody could find. Even with the power of Google, neither would change their stance, so I cut my losses, bought the gun and walked away.
The slide is marked with 9mm Browning, also known as 9x17, 9mm Short, 9mm Kurz, or as we know it in the USA, .380 ACP or .380 Auto. To the credit of one of the workers, the CZ-82 is nearly the exact same gun, being chambered for 9x18. There is also a model chambered for .32 ACP.
Building on Success
The CZ-83 is a Czech made double/single action, semi-automatic pistol. It uses a fixed barrel, traditional blowback method of operation, similar to the Walther PPK or Hi-Point C9.
The sights are a standard 3 dot configuration. Like most CZ pistols, the trigger is excellent, light-years ahead of its competitive milsurp options. After owning a Bulgarian Makarov and a West German Walther PP, I can safely say that the CZ-83 is by far the most pleasant to shoot.
Unique features for a gun of this era are the ambidextrous magazine release and ambidextrous safety. If you decide to carry the CZ-83 you can opt for either "cocked and locked" like with a 1911, or manually decock the pistol for an initial double action shot. The enlarged hammer spur will aid those opting for the latter, but be sure of your grip to avoid an accidental discharge.
The plastic grips are comfortable, but fairly slick, and are enlarged near the magazine release. If you are trying to keep your troops from accidentally dumping magazines throughout their day, this is a great feature. For everyone else, the thick grips will slow reloads and reduce concealability.
Time Tested Dependability
Despite having all original parts I have never had a malfunction using standard ball ammo. Brands include Blazer Brass, Magtech, Winchester Whitebox, Perfecta, PMC Bronze, Remington UMC, and some reloads from a local range. All projectiles were 95gr.
For defensive ammo, I fired Hornady Critical Defense, Lehigh Defense X-Treme Penetrator, and Speer Gold Dot 90. All projectiles were 90gr; the Gold Dot had noticeably higher recoil but not unmanageable.
I experienced one failure to feed on the last round in a magazine while using Gold Dot. I ejected the round, and it chambered perfectly the second time.
The effectiveness of .380 as a defensive round is a sensitive subject, but I remain a fan. Of course, we should carry as much gun as we can, but there are some who absolutely cannot handle the recoil of the 9x19. With the right load, .380 can live up to the coveted FBI ammunition protocols. The combination of proper ammo selection and the larger capacity of the CZ-83 can be a dream come true for some shooters.
For defensive firearms, I always recommend modern, new manufacture products. Surplus prices are always rising, and are not always the most economical option that they used to be; this is especially true when considering newer options from Ruger, EAA, Grand Power, and more. That being said, the CZ-83 has proved itself more than capable of standing among its peers. It may not be my first choice when I walk out the door, but I know the CZ-83 won't let me down if my moment comes.