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In the late 1980s the police and the military of a country known at that time as Yugoslavia (full name: Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) had been looking to replace the aging handgun models in use at that time, such as the Zastava M57 and Mod.70.

The firearms factory that had supplied firearms to both the police and the military of former Yugoslavia was "Crvena Zastava" (renamed to "Zastava Oružje" - Zastava Arms). Crvena Zastava had been a primary supplier of firearms for military, police and the civilian market and have had a great tradition in firearms manufacture since 1853.

Development team at Crvena Zastava, led by Bozidar "Zida" Blagojevic had been given a challenge to complete the design of this new gun and move to the prototype stage in a very short time period of only 5 to 6 months. Accepting this challenge, the engineering team had completed the technical documentation in only 90 days, and by the end of 1989 the design had been finalized.

The team moved to the prototype stage. The prototype had been completed just in time for the 1990 Las Vegas S.H.O.T. Show where it was presentred for the first time to the public. Taking the feedback regarding the design, Zastava had made some changes to the original design and introduced the second, much-improved prototype at the IWA show in Nurenberg, Germany.

This modified prototype received positive feedback and Zastava had produced further two prototype units which were shipped in August 1990 to USA for further testing. As tests results were positive it had been decided to move to mass production by early 1991. The total investment of $2 million USD went into modernizing the manufacturing line with state of the art CNC machines.

With assembly line modernized, everything was set for mass production by early 1991 as planned.

CZ 99 cutaway presentation model

CZ 89 or CZ 99?

The naming convention of the CZ 99 is only partly intuitive. The easy part is the acronym "CZ". It stands for the name of the factory: "Crvena Zastava".
But why number a gun designed in 1989 with a number "99"? This was a mystery until an unofficial story came out of Zastava to help explain this curiosity. The story was that a new gun was supposed to be named CZ 89. The completed prototype was handed down to Zastava's engraver with a work order. When the prototype was returned just in time to make the shipping cut-off date for the Jan. 1990 Las Vegas S.H.O.T. show, the prototype had "CZ 99" engraved on the slide instead of the "CZ 89".
It had never been completely clarified whether the engraver had mistakenly engraved "99" instead of "89" or if the work order had an error in it, but either way, there was no time to correct the mistake and the new gun was going to the public as the CZ 99.

Design and Features

CZ 99 was and still is a true modern firearm that incorporated many new technologies of its time in the design and even more in the production. Zastava had opted for a completely computerized CAD/CAM process in CZ 99. What that means is that by feeding the computerized patterns into any CAD/CAM capable machine (not necessarily in a firearms factory) one can make an entire CZ 99 - or any part for it, just about anywhere in the world. While this is how the manufacture is done today, 17 years ago it was not so usual.

Design of the CZ 99 was based on Swiss/German SIG Sauer P226 (one of the finest handguns ever created), although it did differ from P226 in many respects. The frame design was influenced by the Walther P 88. However, the CZ 99 is not a copy of either, but rather borrows from both and adapts many solutions differently. For example, the slide of SIG P226 used to be stamped and pressed from two separate pieces at the time, while CZ 99 slide was machined from one solid block of steel.

CZ 99

Overall length of the CZ 99 is 190mm, height 140mm, and the barrel length is 108mm. Gun weighs 970 grams in 9mm and 960 grams in .40 S&W. Its standard magazine capacity is 15 rounds in 9mm and 11 in .40S&W. Aftermarket magazines increase capacity to 18 and 13 rounds respectively in the magazines of same length.

Barrel is made from the same material used in the M-84 machine gun and is hard-chromed. In the tests done in the USA in 1991/1992 it was found that it dissipated heat rather well. While this is not a concern with handguns nearly as much as it is with the machine guns, the ability to dissipate heat rapidly makes barrel capable of lasting longer due to a shorther expansion/contraction cycle.

One of the initial issues with the gun was the too-rigid feeding ramp design sometimes causing feeding issues with certain brands of hollow-point bullets. While the problem was resolved before the mass production, the first series of guns, intended for the US market also had the feeding ramp hand-polished.

Parts exposed to high dynamic loads such as hammer, firing pin and unlocking insert (a.k.a. locking block) are made of the military ordnance steel.

Frame is an aluminum alloy and thus not only durable, but more importantly - very light. Some people had found the grip to be a bit too thick for people with smaller hands, but overall the gun is very user-friendly regardless whether you are a left-handed or a right-handed shooter because a slide catch/decocker handle as well as the magazine release button can be easily manipulated by both.

Overall, the gun had a tight slide-to-frame fit and a very accurate barrel, both contributing to a great accuracy. It had been subjected to standard military tests in various (mud/ice/water/sand/...) test environments. It was tested for accuracy, reliability and sturdiness of design. It passed all the tests with flying colors.

In the United States, there were some 51 police departments that had contacted the distributor in USA (Nationwide Sports) expressing interest in obtaining CZ 99 for their officers.
Valencia (New Mexico) Police Department had an opportunity to test the CZ 99 and had recommended adopting it for use by their officers. They found the CZ 99 to be a modern and durable gun. It handled well various ammunition loads in variety of test environments. Valencia, NM. PD testers had found it to prefer hot, light bullet loads for accuracy. A couple of makes ran close to 2 inches center-to-center at 25 yards. Nonetheless, even the heavier 147gr. loads stayed well inside 4 inches at 25 yards. ["Newcomers from the East" by Whit Collins. "Law & Order", Sept. 1992.]

In use

After passing all the police and military tests it was accepted as the service pistol for the Yugoslav Army (Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija - JNA) and the police. However, the political and economical situation in former Yugoslavia was in such state that the funds for introduction of the new gun into service to replace old designs were not as readily available as it had been promised. That plus the outbreak of civil war in the former Yugoslavia in June 1991. made this replacement process very slow.

Member of the "72. Specijalna Brigada" of the Army of Serbia (left) and the "Vojna Policija" (right) armed with a CZ 99

Meanwhile, CZ 99 was also made available to the American public. The TD Arms company had imported and marketed this gun with a great deal of success. It retailed at $275 ($300 for the one with wood grips). CZ 99 was on the US market only for a couple of years because the trade embargo due to the escalating civil war in former Yugoslavia which came into effect in 1993.

CZ 99 handguns imported into USA
Matte blue with synthetic grips 500
Commercial blue with synthetic grips 750
Military "painted" finish with synthetic grips 1000
Matte blue finish with wood grips 115
High polish blue with wood grips 115
Military "painted" finish with wood grips 2
.40 S&W caliber testing prototypes (not sold commercially) 55
Total 2537

It is known that the FBI had tested this gun, and from what I read (not sure if the information is accurate or not) they test fired several thousand rounds of ammunition from one CZ 99 without any stoppages. As mentioned before, in USA before the importation of CZ 99 ended in the USA, there had been some 51 police departments across the USA that had contacted the US importer and distributor expressing interest in obtaining the CZ 99.

CZ 99 Compact-G

As the first CZ 99 production models came off the assembly line the Zastava engineers had started working on the compact version of CZ 99.

The compact version differed from the full size version only in slide length. Frame was the same on both versions. The slide was shortened by 8mm. Barrel received the same reduction, leaving it 100mm long (3.94"), compared with 108mm(4.25") of the full size version. Slide shape forward of the breech opening was also changed.

First customers of the CZ 99 Compact-G were the Israelis. Deliveries to Israel started around the time the UN sanctions on Yugoslavia came into effect. That left a number of compacts on the production lines and Israelis without their compacts, so the deal had been arranged to license Israel to produce CZ 99 Compact-G at home. KSN Industries of Israel had taken over the production at thier facility in Israel while the compacts that were on the production line at the time UN sanctions went into effect had been sold at home.

CZ 99 Compact G

CZ 99 S

CZ 99S is a standard CZ 99 with an external safety. Safety is slide mounted and in the safe position it blocks the firing mechanism and the back of the firing pin to prevent the gun from discharging.

CZ 99S

Foreign Production of CZ 99: "Golan" and "TZ-99"

Israel and South Africa expressed interest in CZ 99 and both had purchased a manufacturing license from Crvena Zastava, allowing them to mass-produce the CZ 99 under license.

Israeli company "KSN Industries Ltd." had purchased a license and the plans to the CZ 99 Compact G. The name Israeli company had given their copy was "Golan". The initial appearance of Golan had caused some confusion among firearms journalists, some of which had written articles stating that the Golan seemed to be "based on CZ 99", apparently not knowing that the Golan is a direct licensed manufacture of a CZ 99 Compact G by KSN Industries. Golan also appeared on the USA market briefly, and is currently exported to South America.

KSN Industries Golan - A CZ 99 Compact G manufactured under license in Israel

Meanwhile, the South African company "Tressitu" had also obtained manufacturing rights for the CZ 99 and after receiving the plans from Crvena Zastava they started the manufacture of their licensed copy of CZ 99. Tressitu's name for it: TZ-99. Unfortunately, Tressitu went out of business not long after the start of the manufacture, and the stocks of produced TZ-99s were left in the warehouse in South Africa for several years. Finally, an American importer had imported certain quantities of TZ-99 into the USA some time in 2001.

Tressitu TZ-99 - A CZ 99 manufactured under license in South Africa

Future of CZ 99

CZ 99 is a standard issue sidaarm to the Army of Serbia and a service pistol of Serbian police. As such it is still in production.
It is doubtful there will be any new versions of the CZ 99 as the development had ceised once the CZ 999 (second generation of CZ 99) and the CZ 999 Scorpion (third generation of CZ 99) were introduced. The future of CZ 99 now lies in CZ 999, CZ 999 Scorpion and the recently introduced CZ 05.
However, the production of CZ 99 continues and so does the demand for it. In late January 2008. it had been announced by Radio-Television of Serbia (RTS) that the long-lasting cooperation between Zastava Arms and the Iraq is likely to continue in the future: Iraqi forces had expressed interest in acquiring 18000 service pistols of the CZ 99 type for Iraqi Army. Out of the 18000 pistols, 3000 will be a specially engraved presentation pistols and 15000 will be the service pistols for the officers of the Iraqi Army.

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