CZ is short for Česká Zbrojovka, which simply means Bohemian Arms Factory, one of the largest and best known firearms manufacturers in the world. CZ gave Alice Poluchova her first, last and only job before she even got out of school, and both have benefited enormously.
Alice Poluchova was born in what was then the Soviet state of Czechoslovakia but is now the free Czech Republic. Her father was a university professor and engineer, her mother was in marketing, and Alice apparently took after both. She went to work for CZ as Export Sales Manager selling guns into North and South America while she was still working on her Master’s Degree from Silesian University. She excelled in both arenas, graduating with honors, and was soon boarding a plane for Kansas City to open the new American arm of the long-established Czech company as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.
“I was born in a Communist country,” Alice says, “so of course we weren’t allowed to own guns, we weren’t allowed to protect ourselves, there were no shooting sports, and hunting was forbidden. It was exactly the way the anti-gun people in the United States would like it to be here, and that makes me shudder.
“The Communist government was afraid that western capitalists would attack it at any time. So every child was required to undergo some training with government-owned airguns. Just this little taste of shooting and I was in love. What’s good about shooting is that you have to put your mind into it completely and focus totally.
“When the Czech Republic became a free and independent country in 1993, legislation was passed so that citizens could once again own firearms, and I became much more involved in real shooting. In 1996, the CZ factory sponsored the World IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation) Shoot in Brazil and I went there to show our guns. I just got totally fascinated by the sport of combat pistol shooting, and I started shooting competitively.”
While CZ makes some of the finest handguns in the world for competition as well as military, police and personal defense, that’s not all the company makes. The CZ line of rifles encompasses a range from the tiny .22 rimfire to the monster .505 Gibbs, for activities that include plinking, serious target shooting, varmint, small game and large, dangerous-game hunting, from tin cans and paper targets to African elephant and Cape buffalo. The company has also introduced a line of shotguns designed for every kind of bird hunting as well as skeet, trap and sporting clays competition. CZ doesn’t make a handgun, shotgun or rifle Alice Poluchova doesn’t shoot.
“It’s a good thing my husband likes all the shooting sports as well,” she says. “That’s what we spend most of our weekends doing. This year, because we’ve been sponsoring The Hunting University TV Show, I’ve done a lot of bird hunting.
“And then we’ve been to Africa twice. Professional Hunter Harry Claassens has been helping us out and consulting with us. On one safari in Zimbabwe for Cape buffalo Harry was along as a mentor and instructor, and on another safari in South Africa for plains game Harry was the PH. I got my buffalo with a CZ 550 Magnum American in .458 Lott, one of my favorite guns, loaded with 500-grain Hornady solids. It’s Harry’s fault that I fell in love with Africa and became addicted to African hunting.”
When Alice arrived in the U.S. in 1998, she expected to work six months, get the office up and running and then go home. It didn’t work out that way. “We fell in love with the country and its people and principles,” she says, “and we decided we weren’t going anywhere. We feel very blessed that we were given the opportunity to live here. To experience what the pioneers experienced, that you can grab your gun and go out and hunt. I’ve always loved the idea of The Great American Wild West and now I feel like I’m living it. I think it’s so important that the heritage lives.”
With Alice at the helm, CZ has increased its American presence enormously. More than 200,000 guns have been sold in the last five years, and every facet of the diverse CZ product line has expanded significantly. Dan Wesson Firearms, the highly respected American manufacturer of hunting revolvers and 1911-style semiautomatic pistols, has been acquired, skilled American workers have been employed, and American consumers have been delivered products perfectly matched to a wide variety of shooting sports. Alice is justifiably proud of the accomplishments she has helped bring about. At the same time, her shooting eye is fixed on the future.
“It feels good to build something,” she says. “When we started, most Americans had little idea what a CZ was or where it came from. That’s really changing. I’m very proud of the CZ heritage and I really believe our guns are superior. We have quite a big market share in varmint guns. And our big-bore rifles account for as much as 70 percent of the market in some African countries. Someday, if I stop in a little gunshop in a small town somewhere in Georgia, no larger than the town I grew up in, and ask, ‘Do you carry CZ?’ I want to be told, ‘Yes, we certainly do.’ That’s my dream, and I hope I will continue to live here to be part of it.”