Zastava Yugoslav CZ-99 Review

The Zastava CZ-99 has an interesting history, and at first glance looks very much like a Sig, but once you get your hands on it you realize just how different it really is.

You can find surplus Yugloslavian CZ-99 pistols for very reasonable prices on Gunbroker and AIM Surplus. I found several being sold by CDI Sales in Kentucky on Gunbroker. They had a number of them available with varying amounts of their original finish but they had also taken a few of them and had them Cerakoted. I chose one with a FDE finish, with black plastic grips, barrel, and controls.

cz99_03As I understand it, the CZ-99 was actually developed for release in 1989 to replace the M57 Tokarev pistols used by Yugolsav military and police units. The unofficial story of the pistol's name is that it was originally labeled the CZ-89, but the prototypes prepared for the 1990 S.H.O.T. were engraved incorrectly with “CZ-99” on the slide. There was no time to change it, the pistol met with favorable reviews, and the name stuck.

With the outbreak of civil war in 1991, the acceptance of the CZ-99 in Yugoslavia was actually quite slow. Some 2500 pistols were imported into the US until a trade embargo in 1993 and the Kosovo War temporarily ended Zastava's access to the US market. Prior to the embargo, a number of police departments considered the CZ-99 for duty use, but none adopted it, probably because it's hard to find officers with hands the size of Shaquille O'Neal.

cz99_04The comparison to Sig is understandable at first glance. The slide is based on the Sig P226 and the aluminum alloy frame is based on the Walther P88, though as you can see it's not a copy of either one. The CZ-99 is an alloy-frame single-action/double-action pistol with a built-in de-cocker, ambidextrous controls, and a 15+1 capacity. The three-dot sights are dovetailed into the slide. The grip has a lanyard ring and the grip panels are checkered plastic with no contouring.

But it's basically a Sig with all the quality and refinements of Cold War, Eastern Bloc manufacturing. It is to guns what the Yugo is to cars. No frills, completely utilitarian.

It looks Sig-ish. The hammer is shorter, the trigger is not as curved. The de-cocker lever is in the same place. The slide lock lever…wait. Where's the slide lock lever?

cz99_05Those ingenious Serbs asked themselves “why have two levers when you can have one lever do the work of two?” So the de-cocker also serves as the slide lock, but it only works about half as well. It functions very similarly to the slide lock in the M&P Shield. The lever itself does not engage the slide, it pushes another piece of metal up into a cutout. This works for the Shield, but for the CZ-99 it's a mixed bag. I found that it works so long as an empty magazine is in place to hold the slide open. The follower in the magazine pushes up on the slide lock and holds it in place. When you drop the magazine, there's not enough tension to keep the lock engaged, and the slide slams closed.

This makes dis-assembly a challenge without an empty mag. If you can keep the slide locked back, you simply turn the dis-assembly lever 90 degrees and then the slide comes off the frame. Inside you will find an un-captured recoil spring wrapped around a hollow, tubular, aluminum guide rod. I don't know if it was cheaper to make the rod out of pot metal or if this was a weight-saving measure. Either way, it's odd. Unlike the Sig's coiled recoil spring, the Zastava uses a single coil. The slide is chunky. The walls are extremely thick and lacking any of the rounded, smooth edges you expect from Sig. Inside the slide, tooling marks are abundant.

cz99_06The grip is just humungous, and it takes some getting used to. If you have small hands, I would not recommend even trying. For someone with smallish hands, the grip of the CZ-99 will feel like you're trying to hold on to a two-by-four.

So, how does it shoot?

The Zastava CZ-99 shoots about like you would expect. The double-action trigger could not be more creepy. You're better off slapping the trigger than trying to stage it. By the time the trigger breaks, your hands are shaking so badly that you're lucky if you can muster minute-of-bad-guy accuracy. I never could predict when or where the break would happen.

The single-action trigger is much better. There's a little slack to take up, but the break is more predictable and crisp. Once in this mode, I found the accuracy to be solid, even in rapid fire. The weight keeps the muzzle down and the trigger is crisp and light. It's not a Sig trigger, but it's surprisingly good.

If you're a fan of surplus guns, particularly guns from countries that no longer exist, the Zastava CZ-99 is an inexpensive and interesting choice. It's got a few quirks, but it's a built like a tank, reliable, reasonably accurate and would make a good choice for the range, a truck gun, or just a conversation piece for your collection.

Just don't expect to get a Rolls Royce for the price of a Yugo.

Concealability: *
You've got to be kidding me.

Accuracy: ****

Reliability: ***
Built like a tank and runs like a champ.

Ease of Use: ***
An extremely un-complicated design.

Features: ****
Ambidextrous mag release and decocker/slide locks are a nice touch.

Trigger: **
The double action pull is just awful. Single-action is surprisingly good.

Ammo Capacity: ****
15+1 and will take any surplus or current production CZ-99 or EZ-9 mags

Weight: *
35 ounces unloaded.

Firepower: ****

Aesthetics: *
Inspired by the Sig P226, born in the country that gave us the Yugo.

Comfort: ***
Weight handles the recoil, but the grip is really thick.

2 Comments on "Zastava Yugoslav CZ-99 Review"

  1. I was the one and only law enforcement sales rep for the CZ-99 – and worked directly with Tom Deeby, who was the importer of this outstanding pistol…and you are correct, no police department purchased this pistol in the US. However, you overlooked the fact that, Deeby came out with one with slightly slimmer plastic grips, making it feel much better in the hand. The reason the CZ-99 was no longer allowed in the country, was a direct by my George Bush the First – he banned these guns!!! Put Tom Deeby out of business, he invested every red cent he had in the business…lost everything he had. I purchased many of the remaining, brand-new CZ-99s shortly after Deeby lost everything…they are outstanding handguns, and as stated, built like a tank, and extremely accurate – the barrels were made using machine gun barrel steel! The also came with night sights – standard!

  2. The Armed Lutheran | November 20, 2015 at 11:59 am |

    Just a final note on this gun: the slide lock issue I reported in this review appears to have been an issue with the fresh cerakote, not with the function of the slide-lock lever. Once I had run a couple hundred rounds through the gun I guess the finish in that notch in the slide roughed up a bit and now the lever locks in and holds with or without the magazine.

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