We strive to be a strong partner for our customers - An interview with the CEO of Česká zbrojovka a.s., Ing. Ladislav Britaňák, MBA
- Date: 3rd April 2019
- Company: Česká zbrojovka a.s.
Over the last few years, Česká zbrojovka a.s. has continuously shown excellent economic results. Has this trend followed since last year and what are the prospects for the next period?
You are right, the results of our company are excellent and the word continuous is certainly fitting. The last period that began in 2007 can truly be regarded as a period of constant growth, unhindered even by the global financial crisis, an extreme phenomenon such as it is.
Looking back to 2018, we continued the existing trend and showed record results with another year-on-year improvement. To be specific: we sold 380,000 guns, with about 90 percent of that accounting for export. Our company trades with around 100 countries, the largest export regions are Europe, Thailand, Canada and above all, the USA.
The US market has been of pivotal importance for CZ for a long time. In 2018, there were some changes concerning this region. Can you give us more details?
The US market became familiar with our company and products thanks to our subsidiary, CZ-USA, which was established there in 1997. Eight years later we bought Dan Wesson Firearms, the manufacturer of revolvers and the legendary Dan Wesson 1911 pistols. However, we knew that if we wanted to expand further on this market, we would have to look for new directions. We have therefore made the decision to manufacture our guns directly in the USA.
Last year our company made the first CZ gun at our Kansas City facility. Besides other things, this means that this gun may be offered and supplied to the US federal armed forces. It probably comes as no surprise that the model in question is our popular pistol, the P-10.
It is well-known that the Americans protect their market much more rigorously than other countries. Consequently, we had to meet the requirements of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that awards points to guns for key properties and parameters. If the given product doesn’t satisfy the requirements, it has no chance of being imported. One other important reason to transfer the production is also the Buy American Act. This Act stipulates the terms and conditions for supplying federal institutions. If we wish to supply our guns, more than half of the value of the gun must be manufactured in USA. For us, being on the US market is not just a prestigious matter, it also holds a great potential, hence, it makes sense to build a production capacity here too.
Traditionally, CZ has always been a significant exporter. However, experience has shown that selling is not enough anymore. How has this fact changed your company’s attitude towards the customer?
The superior quality of the latest CZ weapons is reflected in the expansion of the sales network to more than 100 countries worldwide, as well as the ever-growing list of references from our happy customers. Many of them opt to purchase from a comprehensive product portfolio because from the economical and logistic point of view, it makes more sense, as in addition to guns, such a portfolio will also include a range of accessories, all-inclusive services or targeted training.
I believe that we have put more emphasis on our customers being our partners and that we have also begun listening to them a lot more. Moreover, we strive to improve in the area of after-sales service and provide the utmost support for our customers. We want to hear about the problems they might be experiencing and discuss them clearly and openly.
We also seek further opportunities to conquer the foreign markets. One of the ways is cooperation with forces and services governmental departments that deal with defence industries. For example, in the second half of 2016 we opened a centre for the assembly and repairs of our pistols in the Peruvian firearms factory FAME in Lima.
In March 2018, we entered into a contract with a Hungarian state enterprise for the licenced production of the CZ P-07/09 pistols, CZ SCORPION submachine guns and CZ BREN 2 assault rifles.
Firearms for the Armed Forces constitute a significant portion of CZ’s production. What was the situation in this sector last year and what is expected in 2019?
In general, we can say that thanks to intensive modernization of the production and development facilities, CZ offers cutting-edge models in all sectors of its portfolio. In recent years there was a major breakthrough for our company in the fact that it has once again become the supplier for official armed forces for whom we currently produce firearms that have already become globally renowned: the CZ SCORPION EVO 3 A1, CZ BREN 2 assault rifles or CZ P-07/09 and CZ P-10 pistols. And our latest product, the CZ TSR sniper rifle seems to be heading the same way too.
Regarding other new products, I would like to especially mention the new CZ BREN 2 BR rifle. It is a cutting-edge individual automatic firearm combining the strong points of the successful CZ BREN 2 model series with the powerful 7.62×51 NATO cartridge. The result is a new generation light battle rifle, characterized by exceptional reliability, high accuracy, smooth ergonomics and easy control. In comparison with assault rifles in 5.56×45 NATO or 7.62×39 cal., the CZ BREN 2 BR boasts a considerably higher effective range and stronger effect at the target. And all this comes without any significant weight increase.
In 2018 we also introduced our new sniper rifle, the CZ TSR. It is a brand new, highly accurate rifle in 308 Win. calibre (7.62×51 NATO) for the Armed Forces and long-distance shooting. In the development of this model, we worked closely with elite police and military professionals. A completely new feature for the market is an original folding stock system that provides superb rigidity and strength when shooting as well as secure position during transport. In addition, this system also allows for an easy change of the folding direction.
Česká zbrojovka is inherently connected with the legendary CZ 75 pistols, produced in many variants. Are you bringing in another innovation for 2019? And what other new products in the pistol sector can your fans look forward to?
The famous name of the CZ 75 binds us to continue in this tradition by coming up with new models. The CZ 75 model series using the upgraded OMEGA trigger mechanism constitutes a stable element in our portfolio. At present, innovations in this series concern sport pistols, particularly the ORANGE models.
Our latest pistols – the CZ P-10 C OR and the CZ SHADOW 2 OR were introduced at the beginning of 2018. These models have been modified so as to enable the easy and at the same time sturdy attachment of small modern collimator sights. In addition, we have brought out three more versions of the third generation KADET rimfire adapters for CZ pistols.
Also, in 2019 we will introduce three more versions of the popular CZ P-10 models: full, semi-compact and subcompact. Another new model will be the CZ SHADOW 2 ORANGE. This model has been based on the CZ SHADOW 2, primarily a sport pistol, which currently occupies the podium in the Production Division at the most prestigious international IPSC events. The ORANGE version has been brought to perfection thanks to careful and well-proven gunsmithing adjustments and other improvements.
Firearms for sport shooting and hunting also continue to be a traditional and integral part of CZ’s portfolio. What new products did you introduce in 2018 and what are you planning for 2019?
In 2018, we brought out several new models: two new models inspired by the versatile CZ 557 VARMINT rifle for sport shooting and hunting, and the CZ 557 LUX II. model. Naturally, 2019 won’t miss out. In the first place, I would like to mention the CZ 457 family which constitutes the new ideal of a modern rimfire rifle in its price range. I am sure there is no need to remind our customers that regarding long firearms for rimfire cartridges, CZ traditionally belongs amongst the most significant manufacturers in the world. We belong to those who actually set new trends. Following in the footsteps of the famous CZ 452 and its successor, the CZ 455, we are launching a new generation of CZ rimfire rifles. The CZ 457 model series has once again elevated us to the absolute top. We firmly believe that at present, these rifles have no equal rival on the market!
The sport shooting sector does not just include pistols. What CZ guns can hobby shooters in particular look forward to?
I would like to point out especially two semi-automatic firearms for hobby shooting and sport: the CZ SCORPION EVO 3 S1 CARBINE and the CZ SCORPION EVO 3 S2 MICRO.
The first model is a highly accurate strictly semi-automatic carbine in 9×19 calibre, based on the proven design of the CZ SCORPION EVO 3 A1 submachine gun. Thanks to its properties, it is an ideal choice for modern shooting disciplines and hobby shooting.
The MICRO is a miniature version of the CZ SCORPION EVO 3 S1 semi-automatic model. This is a side result of our effort to create a small gun with a silencer for plain clothes security services, however, we believe that the semi-automatic Scorpion will also appeal to civilian shooters.
Lastly, please allow me one personal question. You have worked in Česká zbrojovka since July 2004. How has the company changed over that time in your opinion? Which models from the company’s vast range do you like the most and why?
I think that when I started, the company really was completely different. The only thing that has not changed is the potential of the superb products and the know-how. In those days, the potential was largely left unexploited, while since then we have managed to capitalize on it to a significant extent for the benefit of all involved. I would like both our existing and future customers to understand that they have a strong and reliable partner in us. This is one more change we have made every effort to bring about.
And as for your second question – I like all our products, particularly the latest ones. Nevertheless, there is one model that is especially important to me. It is a pistol that has been created by people working from both sides of the Atlantic and has already become truly legendary – the CZ 75 SP-01 SHADOW which started a new successful period of growth in our company.