Have you ever been thinking about how would it look like if somebody combined a good old M1911 design with the more modern, and no less popular, CZ 75? Of course, there is already a gun like this – the amazing Dan Wesson DWX. However, what if I told you there was a completely different specimen, one that did not combine the grip of the CZ 75 and the crisp SAO trigger from J. M Browning’s masterpiece but in fact went the exact opposite direction? What if the grip angle of the 1911 and the mechanics of the CZ 75 were blended together? Well, let’s dive into this!
Back in the mid—1990’s Colt was looking for a new design that would pick up the threads of the good old M1911 which was starting to become obsolete for service purposes. Its low capacity, single-action-only trigger, and quite heavy all-steel construction, forced Colt to start looking for a more modern solution. After all, the US Army had replaced the M1911 with the Beretta M9 just one decade ago.
The development of a brand-new design is quite expensive and time-consuming though. So, what do you do? Indeed! You approach a manufacturer that already produces a modern gun and offer to partner with them. Colt, therefore, chose Česká Zbrojovka (CZ), which was still a rather mysterious firearms manufacturer for some US customers at that time. Many of them had heard of the CZ 75, with its impressive accuracy, ergonomics, and easy-to-shoot characteristics. However, not many had the opportunity to actually shoot it.
Since it was only a couple of years after the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, which led to the country’s independence from the Soviet Union, CZ did not have enough time to fully develop its sales channels overseas. The opportunity to work with such a renowned manufacturer as COLT, on the other hand, was very interesting for Czechs. The deal was therefore closed, and CZ immediately started working on the prototype.
The requirement was to take a top of the CZ 75 with its famous inverted slide rails design and the distinctive smooth trigger pull and combine it with a grip inspired especially from the angle perspective by the Colt 1911 to suit the preferences of the US customers. The new gun was supposed to have a 10 round magazine capacity. Due to the gun only holding 10 rounds, it was decided that they might as well chamber it for a bigger and hotter cartridge than the ordinary 9mm Luger. For this purpose, the emerging 40 S&W cartridge was chosen. A further requirement was to use a DAO trigger system, as the gun was meant to be used especially by Law Enforcement officers, many of whom were transitioning from double-action revolvers. Therefore, this gun would have been easier to use for them. The gun was supposed to use an alloy frame to reduce weight, and unlike the good old CZ 75, the new Colt Z 40 was using a simplified version of the Browning locked breech where the massive lug above the chamber locked into the cut-out section of the slide of the gun. This, after all, is a gold standard of the majority of 9 millimeters today.
The first prototype prepared by the CZ’s talented designer Radek Hauerland was presented to Colt in 1997 under the name CZUB 40 BROD. Later prototypes were supposed to be called “Colt 2011” but as we all know, this name was already taken by a different manufacturer so in the end the gun was named Colt Z 40. The two capital letters “C” and “Z” expressed cooperation between COLT and CZ, while the “40” referred to the caliber of the handgun.
After successfully passing exhausting testing which comprised of firing 11,000 rounds without any major issues the designer worked on reinforcing selected components to withstand the pressures of the hot 40 S&W cartridge.
In January 1998, the gun was ready for serial production, which was less than one year after the contract was signed between COLT, CZ and their subsidiary CZ-USA. Unfortunately, the partnership ended soon afterwards. It was at this time that the question was asked, “What can now be done with this concept?”.
CZ TAKES OVER
CZ decided that it would be a shame to ditch such a nice concept and reworked it under the name CZ 40. Between 2000 and 2001 the firearms were modified into several versions including the CZ 40B which was a SA/DA model with a frame-mounted safety, and a later model using the same decocker lever you can find on the CZ 75 handguns. Some of them still bore “Colt Z 40” markings, however. As the popularity of the 40 S&W in the US never surpassed the global popularity of 9mm Luger Česká Zbrojovka also created a version called the CZ LE 9 and chambered it in this cartridge which is no less popular even today. A compact model combining parts of the CZ 75 Compact was also created to offer an easy-to-carry version, especially for Police forces.
In the end, only 1,745 pieces of the DAO Colt Z 40s were produced between 1998 and 2001. The CZ versions were far more successful from this perspective, with over 15,000 guns of all versions produced. But that’s not it! CZ also came up with an idea to cut CZ LE 9 on both ends creating a – wait for it – yes – CZ 2075 RAMI. This model was an even more successful CCW handgun that was only recently discontinued and replaced by the more modern CZ P10S.
So, this is the story of early cooperation between CZ and Colt. Quite an interesting one isn’t it?