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Posted:  5/12/2011 2:26 PM #27049

Joined: 4/13/2009
Posts: 149
Last Post: 12/1/2012
Subject: CZ-44 (VZ.44) series Czech Flare Gun; RV-85 Czech Flare Gun
I just received a pair of Czech flare pistols and a couple of the nice RV-85 Czech flare "rifles".  Not being able to find a lot of information about the pistols, I've collected what information I could.  Here are some highlights that might be of some interest to the casual collector:
CZ-44 Flare Pistol:
The pistol with the wooden grip is probably a vz.44, and the one I received was undated, with a 4-digit serial number (tgf. 65##).  I believe this model might have been manufactured anytime between 1944 and 1968. 
The most notable features of this model versus later updates are the smaller, wooden grips, and the barrel machined thinner forward of the hinge pin, presumably to reduce weight.
Some of the guns of this early model have had the end of the barrel reinforced (mine didn't), and I'm not sure why the Czechs felt that the reinforcement was needed.  However, the thinner barrel and need for reinforcement might be of some interest to anyone considering registering one of these as a Destructive Device: the thinner barrel (and older metal) on the VZ.44 might not hold up to much pressure. The barrel does not seem to be chromed, and will probably require immediate cleaning after firing to prevent corrosion.
Based on the known weakness of CZ-52 pistol firing pins, I would not recommend dry-firing these flare guns, as the firing pin may weaken and break, and be very difficult to replace.
The design is fairly simplistic, basic, and somewhat utilitarian compared to what you might have come to expect from Czech firearms:  there is no trigger guard, safety, or sights, and the finish is not very pretty.  But, like anything else I've seen from Czech gun manufacturers, the quality is pretty good on these: they seem to me like they are built to take a lot of punishment, and the moving parts fit together snugly and work smoothly; this tool does exactly what it needs to do, when it is needed to do so.

 CZ-44/67 or CZ-44/81 Flare Pistol:
Very similar to the VZ.44, this is an update to the earlier model.
The gun with the Bakelite grip is newer, probably a vz.44/67 (dated from the 1960's or 1970's), or possibly a vz.44/81 (if dated from the 1980's). My VZ.44/67 appears to have been made in 1968, and is stamped with a date and a 4-digit serial number (she68 XD 37##).
Improvements/Changes:  Apparently, the biggest changes in the '67 update were a heavier chrome-lined barrel, removable hinge pin (vs. riveted), and larger grips with better ergonomics. The "fit and finish" of the 44/67 appears in my case to be slightly rougher than the 44 model, but not by much.

(I have no idea how the 44/81 update differs from the 44/67, as I've only seen photos with no description, but the photos look almost identical to the vz.44/67 I have.)
The weld between the barrel and the hinge appears to be a bit rougher than the earlier model and the finish is different, but this gun feels, if anything, slightly sturdier than the older version.  Like the earlier model, there is no trigger guard, sights, or safety.
The heavier barrel is chrome-lined making it more corrosion-resistant and easier to clean, and, because it was not milled/machined narrower at the muzzle end, looks like it was easier to manufacture and probably capable of handling higher pressures than earlier models.  These updated models appear to be the best ones to shoot because of the newer manufacture, chrome lining, and heavier construction.

Loading and Firing the CZ-44:
  1. Push barrel catch under trigger forward, using its knurled foot.
  2. Open barrel fully by tipping muzzle downward, then release barrel catch gently.
  3. Insert cartridge into chamber, and slide it fully forward into bore.
  4. Close barrel.
  5. Note that there is NO safety.  Flare or smoke cartridge is fired with great force and fired flare or smoke round is dangerous and very hot, capable of causing burns and fires; respect flare guns as dangerous firearms, subject to the same safety rules that apply to "real" firearms.
    Expect "hit the broad side of the sky" accuracy, as there are no sights or rifling.
    To arm, aim in a safe direction, pull hammer back and down until cocked.
  6. A. To fire, simply pull trigger ("dry-firing" not recommended), or...
    B. ...To disarm, point in a safe direction, hold hammer securely with thumb, carefully pull trigger, and gently ease hammer down with thumb.
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Posted:  5/12/2011 3:39 PM #27050

Joined: 4/13/2009
Posts: 149
Last Post: 12/1/2012
The RV-85 flare "rifles" are a surprise and a real curiosity.
Reactions and speculation:
From an offhand glance, they somewhat resemble a VZ-58 or AK-47 assault rifle (or semi-auto equivalent.) On closer examination, there are surprises:
First, the most obvious thing is that these "rifles" are very heavy and very well-built, almost ridiculously heavy and tough for a mere flare gun.  It looks stronger than many shotguns I've seen.  The finish and polish of the metal and woodwork is very nice - better than the average military rifle.  This is pretty much the "Cadillac of surplus gas/flare guns".
Second, the sights are almost an absurdity: these are adjustable assault-rifle-style sights, apparently designed for direct fire rather than the indirect fire ladder sights you might see in the closest sane relative of this gun: a grenade launcher.  This gun was designed for more accuracy than would be needed for a simple flare or smoke signal gun.
Third, both of the examples I got came with nice, sturdy canvas covers, an extensive set of tools, spare small parts (springs and firing pin), documentation, and a paper test target used at the factory to demonstrate the accuracy of the gun.  The sorts of things that a collector would be quite happy to see, and you practically never see these sorts of things shipped with original military-style guns and equipment (actually, I've NEVER seen them shipped with a military surplus gun!)
My first reaction on seeing one of these in an ad was that it was merely a military surplus flare gun that would probably not have seen much use.  I was already familiar with Czech flares, and I would not expect that it would take much of  a gun to fire them: they don't have a lot of pressure behind them.
However, on closer inspection, there is more to these guns than meets the eye.  They were designed for accuracy and durability, and I have to conclude that they were used for more than just firing some light-duty flares.
The RV-85 is basically a single-shot, smooth-bore, 26.5mm gun, resembling a decent civilian shotgun, except for a military-style pistol grip.  The receiver and barrel are heavy-duty milled steel.  The sights resemble those seen on a military-style rifle (I would compare them loosely to those on an AK-47 or SKS.)  The action resembles that of a civilian single-shot break-barrel shotgun.  There is a safety, and on the left side of the receiver are two threaded holes that some have speculated might have been used for as yet unseen add-on sights of some sort (possibly M-203 -style quadrant sights for indirect fire?)
The chrome-lined barrel, ergonomic wood furniture, heavy milled components, rubber butt-pad, comfortable rifle sights, nice finish, and assorted accessories and tools suggest that this gun was produced by people who cared a lot about what they were doing, for people who were expected to treat the gun well and use it for purposes that require skill and precision.
There doesn't seem to be a lot of information out there yet about these guns.  I would have to imagine that the rank-and-file Czech military was not the primary customer for these guns, but instead police departments or special forces units.  These guns appear to be quite capable of firing the Czech aluminium-cased 26.5mm flares and smoke cartridges that have been on the US surplus market for quite a while and were used in military-surplus flare pistols (like the CZ-44), but there were apparently some special cartridges designed specifically for the RV-85: longer, partly of cardboard, with thick fluted rims (to prevent loading into pistols) and "penetrating" projectiles that were evidently intended to penetrate barricades and expel tear gas into a fortified room.  Based only on what I can see of the gun itself, I can't help but think the gun might have been intended for other purposes as well, and information about other types of crowd control (or perhaps even door-breaching) cartridges might turn up with future research.

 Condition and interest for collectors:
 Every example of this gun that I have seen has clearly been surplus with plenty of shelf-wear on the box, but otherwise in virtually new and unused condition; I would think it had never been fired after the factory test-fire in the 1980's.
The condition, fit, and finish are beautiful:  I would compare this favorably to my new-in-box VZ-61 Skorpion produced for the civilian market.
Both guns arrived in excellent condition as a complete set, including shoulder strap, canvas case, tool pouch, complete tool set, spare springs and firing pin, original documentation (in Czech), original test target and inspection log, and other excellent items.  The only thing missing might be the (hypothetical) secondary sight (or whatever screwed into the two holes in the receiver); whatever this was, might not have even been produced in any real numbers.
I take it that not very many RV-85's were produced, and the few original ones that make it to the U.S. may be the only ones we'll ever see, which could make this a great collector's item at a good price for the condition, collectability, workmanship, and quality of the gun and accessories.  Current prices seem like a bargain for collectors, and this gun might appeal a lot to collectors of European military surplus in general, and collectors of curios and relics, Czech militaria, and/or military surplus oddities in particular.
Of all the flare guns that might be registered with the BATFE and used as Destructive Devices, I would probably trust this one the most to safely stand up to the shock and pressure of a rimmed pistol, mid-range rifle, or light shotgun round; 26.5mm baton, tear gas, anti-personnel, and even grenade-type rounds seem like they would plausibly be safe to use in this gun.  (I would still have safety concerns, but nowhere near as many as I would for other flare guns.)
Unfortunately, surplus 26.5mm flares aren't as easy to find as they used to be.  As of this writing, they can cost $4-$6 or more a round even in bulk.  Adapters for common short 12-gauge flares can be obtained (shotgun shells shouldn't fit most of these adapters), and 26.5mm reloading supplies are becoming a little more common (to CYA, consult with the BATFE before attempting to purchase or build anything but flares or smoke rounds, though.)
 Still needed:
  • Manual and other materials translated to English (I intend to do this myself when I get more spare time to do the translating.)
  • More information about the mysterious two threaded holes in the receiver. 
  • More background on why this gun was made, what it was supposed to be used for, who the customers were expected to be, and why the majority of them were shipped to the US after decades of storage in new and unused condition.
  • More information about any specialized cartridges that the RV-85 would have used exclusively.
CTD's Curio & Relic Forum

Posted:  5/25/2011 7:11 PM #27142

Joined: 5/25/2011
Posts: 1
Last Post: 5/25/2011
G.P.F., I have an RV-85- IT'S A BLAST!!
I did some research- T.G.I. brought in about 600 of the RV-85'S in May, 2010. The word is- ONLY 3000-TOPS- were produced.
Only 2 places sell it in America, online- one place in the Czech Republic sells them  [THERE IS A GUY THERE- MAREK ZAK- THAT KNOWS ENGLISH- and he's always happy to answer questions.]
Don't bother to ask CZ AMERICA for any info- this model's info, never followed ,cz brno to America !
I have a link to identify the original ammo intended for the RV-85 and I've been assured there is plenty of 26.5 mm CZECH available. Good prices can be found at 2 sites !
Send me an email if my links don't work with this posting. THIS LINK SHOWS THE ORIGINAL AMMO USED BY CZECH POLICE AND MILITARY.
They were made for the CZECH POLICE/MILITARY [for crowd control ] and they are new, in the box, if it comes with the test target.
I've been told the CZECH POLICE MUSEUM may have more info .
I don't know what the 2 threaded holes are used for !
Send me any more info that you may find out- thanks !

Posted:  10/1/2011 2:41 PM #28432

Joined: 4/13/2009
Posts: 149
Last Post: 12/1/2012
Awesome, thank you for the information!
I think I'll spend some time translating the manual over the next couple months - I'd meant to get around to it sooner, but "real life" gets away from me sometimes.
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Posted:  10/5/2011 4:09 PM #28481

Joined: 4/13/2009
Posts: 149
Last Post: 12/1/2012
Logbook Translation:
Rough translation of the smaller of the two books that shipped with the RV-85 flare gun:
Record book for RV-85
[Serial Number is stamped in upper right-hand corner]

Title Page.
Record book for Weapon RV-85
Serial Number:  #### [Serial Number stamped here]

Page 1.
  1. Persons assigned to the handling and firing of the 26.5mm Handheld Launcher vz.85 are required to be thoroughly acquainted with the operation and maintenance of the weapon, including its technical description and instructions.
  2. The logbook should be kept with the weapon as part of the equipment.
  3. Records in the logbook should include:
    1. Movement of weapons, i.e., allocations to staff persons and organizations used in testing.
    2. Firing of the weapon, stating the exact number of rounds and type of ammunition used.
    3. All modifications and repairs.
  4. All records in the logbook must readable and precise.
  5. It is recommended that the upkeep of the logbook be the responsibility of the personnel assigned to the weapon.
  6. Data for which no specific section exists should be written on sheets marked with "Other Information".

Page 2.
Confirmation of Production

26.5 mm Hand launcher vz.85 Part No. #### is manufactured according to [patent?] drawing number 851000 and corresponds to the TP 27-05.1 - 07/87

The Manufacturer guarantees the storage life of 3 years when used in the operation of 1 year.  This guarantee is void if the weapon's service lifetime of 1500 rounds is exceeded.  The complete warranty conditions are listed in TP 27-05.1 - 07/87

Date of production: [stamp:  31 March 1988]
Stamp and signature of the Head of production: [Stamp:  300 ZB Production Department Dispatch] [Illegible signature]

Date of URJ acceptance:  [stamp:  31/III/1988]
Stamp and signature of the URJ: [Stamp:  485 TKZB Output Control] [illegible signature]

Date of ZVS [PSO?] Acceptance:  [stamp:  31/III/1988]
Stamp and signature of the ZVS:  [Stamp:  DEPUTY Military Administration FMNO-GMP uVVU General Engineering Factories in Brno] [illegible signature]

Page 3.
Data about the movement and storage of weapons
  • Record/Entry Number? [Por.č.]
  • Department or Organization
  • Date of Delivery
  • Date of Dispatch
  • Storage conditions
  • Signature and Stamp of responsible personnel

Page 4.
[same as Page 3.]
Page 5.
[same as Page 3.]
Page 6.
Record of Weapon Firing
  • Record/Entry Number (?) - [four hand-written entries: 1 / TK 3 / VS 4 / 2]
  • Date - [four hand-written entries 28.3.88 / 31.3.88 / 31.3.88 / 31.3.88]
  • Type of Use - [four hand-written entries - Illegible... ? Tested / (stielka treciu ? = Friction Lining?) / (stielka treciu ? = Friction Lining?) / Sight Tested?]
  • Number of Rounds - [four hand-written entries 2 / 3 / 3 / 4]
  • Ammunition Used - [four hand-written entries 26.5 PS-CS-TOR / 2.65 PS-CS-NH / 2.65 PS-CS-NH / 2.65 PS-CS-NH]
  • Organization Signature & Stamp [four illegible signitures]

Page 7.
Record of Weapon Firing
  • Record/Entry Number (?)
  • Date
  • Type of Use
  • Number of Rounds
  • Ammunition Used
  • Organization Signature & Stamp

Page 8.
[Same as Pages 6 & 7]
Page 9.
[Same as Pages 6 & 7]

Page 10.
Dates of inspections, function testing, and repair of weapon
  • Record/Entry Number (?)
  • Date
  • Type of Inspection, Examination, or Repair
  • Result
  • Organization Signature, Stamp
Page 11.
[Same as page 10]
Page 12.
[Same as page 10]

Page 13.
[Same as page 10]

Page 14.
Other Information
Page 15.
[Same as Page 14]

Page 16.
[Same as Page 14]

Page 17.
[Same as Page 14]

Page 18.
26.5 mm Handheld Launcher vz.85 Kit contains:
  • 1x 26.5 mm Handheld Launcher vz.85
  • 1x record book for weapon
  • 1x instruction manual
  • 1x folding 2-piece cleaning rod
  • 1x pull-through (?)
  • 1x horsehair brush
  • 1x wire spiral brush
  • 1x screwdriver 3.5x60 YORK
  • 1x screwdriver 6x80 YORK
  • 1x cartridge extractor
  • 1x canvas Case (for tools?)
  • 1x Carry Sling
  • 1x sighting target
  • Replacement parts:
    • 1x striker part number 851431
    • 1x main spring part number 851432
    • 1x clamping spring part number 851435
    • 1x shift spring part number 851442
    • 1x trigger spring part number 851525
Sighting Target Translation:

A rough translation of the writing on the large (about 3'x4') paper target:
Weapon Number:  #### [Serial Number written here]
Weapon Type:  _____
Weapon Caliber:  _____
Barrel:  _____
Bore:  _____

In Brno, on:  [no date, but presumably March 31, 1988, judging from the log book]

Powder Weight:  _____ Grams
Powder Type:  _____
Bullet Weight:  _____ Grams
Bullet Size:  _____

Accuracy:  ##%  ["Total Number of Matches:", 3% for this gun]

Arms factory in Brno, Brno National Company

[stamped & signed in the white space between the forms above; this looks like a form stamped onto the target as an afterthought]
  • Primary Rifleman (?): [stamp: (TK) 367 - M.Nemec] [illegible signature]
  • TK: [stamp:  485 TKZB Output Control] [illegible signature]
  • VS: [illegible signature]

Published Brno arms factory
Printing n.p. Brno

[Note:  Serial Number is also scrawled on back of target]
Most of these entries were blank on this target, except the serial number and accuracy, and a stamped and signed section listing what seems to be the shooting team in charge of sighting and testing the gun.
The target is printed with a large but typical bull's-eye, overlayed with a chest-sized box, and an outline of a large bird and large rabbit.  There is no indication of what range the launcher was tested from, but there are a handful of large holes pretty close to the bull's-eye, so the accuracy looks pretty good, and I have to suppress fits of laughter every time I try to imagine a distant shooter pegging unsuspecting rabbits with flares!
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