Browning/FN Hi Power and CZ-75: Are They Related?
Not infrequent discussions on various firearm sites suggest that the Hi Power and the CZ-75 are relatives. Some opine that the latter is a descendent of the former. Let's take a look at these two pistols and see where they share common traits and where they don't in order to see just how true their being "family" is…or is not.
Both the Hi Power and the CZ-75 are popular 9mm (and .40) handguns. Both have their fans and detractors, but how much are they alike and where do their designs differ? (Shown is a Browning Mk III and a Pre-B CZ-75. (The right-side extended thumb safety lever has been removed on the Hi Power.)
As most readers here already know, the Hi Power was John M. Browning's last known pistol design and that he passed before it reached finalization. Building upon Browning's foundation design, Dieudonne J. Saive (also a talented gun designer at FN) refined the original striker-fired pistol into the external hammer, single-action, recoil-operated, locked-breech pistol now known for generations. It has undergone some changes along the way, such has ring to spur hammer, internal to external extractor, and sights, but it is for all practical purposes the same gun.
The Hi Power was born of two fathers, John M. Browning and Dieudonne J. Saive after first being "conceived" about 1926.
Likewise, the CZ-75's earliest versions hit the ground during 1975-76, fifty years after the Hi Power was a sparkle in the eye of John Browning, but it, too, had two fathers. They were the brothers, Josef and Frantisek Koucky. A parallel continues. A large firearm manufacturer also employed both of these men. Where Browning and Saive were at FN, the Koucky brothers were with CZ in Czechoslovakia.
So far, the story sort of sounds like the "parallel world" thing sometimes shown in science fiction stories doesn't it?
Other similarities between the Hi Power and the CZ-75:
Both are chambered for 9mm. (Later versions of both are also chambered in .40 S&W.)
Both were conceptualized for military use.
Both are similar in size & weight, with the CZ being slightly larger.
Both have a 1:10 twist.
Both utilize barrels with locking lugs, which is straight from John M. Browning.
Both are recoil operated.
Both have the mainspring below the barrel.
Neither uses a detachable barrel bushing.
Both pistols' grip panels are secured with one screw each.
Both have external hammers.
Both have thumb safeties.
Both are capable of cocked-and-locked carry.
Both use detachable double-stack magazines.
Both use external pivoting spring-loaded extractors, although the early Hi Powers used an internal one.
Both use pivoting triggers.
Both have a relatively few number of internal parts compared to some other designs.
Both guns have lightening cuts on the front of the slide. (Later versions of the CZ-75 do not.)
Both guns (CZ-75 Pre-B) use a slide stop retaining plate to secure the firing pin and spring.
Both guns use a push-button magazine release located at the rear of the trigger guard.
Both guns originally came with ring hammers. (The Hi Power and CZ-75 were produced with spur hammers for a number of years. CZ went back to an abbreviated ring hammer. The Hi Power used the old factory ring hammer in the Practical model.)
Both use a one-piece feed ramp.
Both have been copied and used outside of their respective nations of origin.
So far it would seem that the Hi Power and the CZ-75 are like peas in a pod, but let's take a look at differences.
The original Hi Power is single-action only. The hammer must be cocked before the first shot can be fired.
The original CZ-75's were selective double-action. In other words, only pressing the trigger could fire the first shot. If desired the shooter could manually cock the CZ's hammer and apply the thumb safety so that each shot, first to last, could be fired single-action. (Currently there are versions of the CZ that are DAO and one that is strictly single-action.)
The original (and subsequent) CZ-75 pistols have a magazine "brake" consisting of a leaf spring in the rear of the magazine well. The Hi Power does not although its sear spring is located there.
The CZ-75 does not have a magazine disconnect. The Hi Power does.
The bottom lug on the Hi Power barrel is open on one side and uses a cam, which is pressed into the frame.
The bottom lug on the CZ-75 is closed and cams on the slide release lever's shaft.
The recoil spring guide in the Hi Power is internally spring-loaded and holds the slide release in place.
The recoil spring guide in the original CZ-75's is short like the Hi Power but is not spring-loaded and does not hold the slide release in the gun.
The CZ-75 and Hi Power magazine release buttons are retained by different methods.
The thumb safety on the Hi Power has an internal spring-loaded detent to tension it.
The thumb safety on the CZ-75 does not. Pre-B versions use a separate piece beneath the safety to tension it.
The Hi Power slide rides outside the frame.
The CZ-75 slide rides inside the frame.
The internal parts on the Hi Power and CZ-75 do not interchange and are entirely different.
Parallels continue. Neither pistol originally had an internal firing pin block. Now, both do. This was first incorporated by FN on the Hi Power in the latter runs of the Mk II pistol and by CZ with the introduction of their "B-Series". (FN did produce Mk III pistols without the internal firing pin block, at least at one time for the Israelis, but all NIB Hi Powers sold in the US are actually the Mk IIIS version, the "S" standing for the firing pin block.)
But is one descended form the other? In my opinion, the Koucky brothers did not copy the Hi Power. They definitely appear to have used the advances made by Mr. Browning with regard to locking lugs and magazine release location. I am not convinced that the CZ-75's external appearance was intended to be similar to that of the Hi Power.
Most handgun makers were utilizing John Browning's method of locking the breech to the barrel for higher-pressure cartridges. It worked and was simple in design. We can look at semiautomatic handguns from Star, Llama, Smith & Wesson, SIG-Neuhausen and others and see the same thing and before thoughts of the CZ-75 entered its designers' brains.
Mr. Browning came up with the idea to be sure and it was so good that we can say that the world's pistol makers adopted it in droves. By the time that the Josef and Frantisek Koucky came along with their gun fifty years later, this was "old hat." To this day, Browning's system is retained by most major handgun manufacturers albeit with some modification in some cases. (Glock and SIG-Sauer come to mind immediately.)
If we want to say that the CZ-75 is descended from the Hi Power, the same must be said with regard to the SIG P-210. The CZ-75's slide rides inside the frame, as does the P-210's. It preceded the CZ-75 by decades. It may also be "descended" from the Star A, B, and P series of single-action handguns if we are looking at the way in which the thumb safeties are tensioned. All of these use a spring-tensioned piece below the safety to do it (and all are damned easy to lose during detail stripping!)
I think that the Koucky brothers were fine enough handgun designers to not have to copy the Hi Power or make a thinly veiled copy. Their gun stands on its own merits. (Perhaps this is another parallel for the Hi Power is still regarded highly by more than a few users.)
Instead of a double-action in which the hammer is pulled rearward and released, the CZ-75's trigger-bar arrangement essentially uses a pushing motion. This results in a pretty smooth trigger out of the box, particularly in some of the Pre-B versions. Because of its double-action capability, CZ-75 internals will necessarily be more complicated than the Hi Power's, but the system does seem to work and the design does not seem to require constant detail stripping to be reliable. It is more complicated to detail strip than the Hi Power.
The Browning Hi Power and the CZ-75 are similar in some ways, but not in others, but in my view the most important similarity they share is this:
Both are very popular firearms. Both have proven themselves more than adequately accurate for their originally intended purposes. Both have reputations for reliability and fans of either will say that they just have that "special feel."
The Browning Hi Power as well as most automatics that followed were definitely influenced by the genius of John M. Browning to be sure, but neither the Hi Power nor the CZ-75 were entirely spawned from his genius. In my opinion, Mr. Saive made some very fine changes to the Hi Power and the two Czech brothers are to be commended for their use of a proven system as well as their other CZ-75 design features.
I do not see the CZ-75 as "Son of Hi Power." (Perhaps a second or third cousin.) Neither do I see this belief as a slam against the CZ. Both designs have proven themselves to be very fine pistols in their own, separate rights.