We first reported on the Chiappa 9x19mm NATO Kalashnikov Pistol last year on TFB, promising a review. This review will consist of the Chiappa Pistol with both Glock and CZ magazine inserts.
Because the firearm has just been imported into the United States, it didn’t come with a standard box or case specifically outfitted to it. I’m sure this will change once the pistol is available to the public and starts shipping to gun stores.
Built on a Romanian 7.62x39mm Kalashnikov receiver, Chiappa added a specially designed handguard that also serves as the magazine well holder for the magazine inserts. These inserts are interchangeable with each other, the two I tested being the CZ75 magazine insert, and the Glock 9x19mm double stack magazine insert (17,19,26). The design of the handguard/magazine well is ridiculously simple and rugged for disassembly and reassembly. This handguard latches onto two rivets that Chiappa added to the receiver and clicks into the standard magazine well of the Kalashnikov receiver. It locks into the rivets like a slotted “L”, pushing out and down to take down, and then up and back to become locked. Coming with the pistol is a small picatinny mounted hand-stop, mounted at the furtherest position on the six o’clock rail section.
However, my largest problem with it is that it uses the existing magazine release as is. For those not overly familiar with Kalashnikov platforms, this can easily lead to accidentally going for the traditional magazine release on the receiver, instead of the Chiappa magazine release on the left side of the handgard/magazine well. After several tries, the issue went away, but I don’t like something like disassembling the entire handguard/magazine well should be left up to a simple lever on the original magazine release. Instead there should be an extra step such as a plunger, or pin that is required to take the handguard off the pistol.
Above the handguard is the “Krinkov” style captive and folding link that the receiver cover is attached to. This portion has replaced the standard gas tube and rear sight with the swinging link and two picatinny rail sections located at the three and nine o’clock positions Because the Chiappa pistol is blowback operated, there isn’t a need for a functioning gas tube and instead it is really just used to help keep the now redundant operating arm of the bolt on track while going through the operating cycle. On top of the receiver cover is a section of picatinny rail. Supplied with the rifle is a standard AK picatinny mounted rear sight, mounted closest to the shooter on the rail. The receiver cover itself has been ordered for a pistol version of the Kalashnikov as evidenced by the shortened ejection port. There is no muzzle brake or compensator. Safety has an extended tab to aid with pushing it on or off safe.
At the rear of the Chiappa pistol is a sling mount that can swivel in either direction. Supplied with a cloth sling that is connected via a plastic latch. Honestly this is one of the poorer points of the design. First of all, the sling swivel itself appears to be poorly made and not rugged at all. Second, the plastic piece on the sling that is attached to it isn’t too much better off, and third, the sling isn’t long enough for an average sized person (five to six feet) to effectively extend the pistol out to a reasonable enough length to engage targets. I honestly think the swivel and sling combination should either be completely axed or should be replaced with a quality sling and reliable swivel.
Mounted to the top of the receiver cover is a picatinny rail in which optics can be placed. Attached to it is a simple picatinny mounted Kalashnikov sight height rear sight that cannot be adjusted for elevation or windage. This is done with the front sight and can be completed with a front sight adjustment tool.
At the heart of the Chiappa pistol is the magazine interchangeability. This was mentioned earlier in describing the handguard dimensions at the beginning of the review. Once the handguard is removed, the magazine well can be popped out from below. The fit is very tight and rightfully so because securing that magazine well is essential to smooth operation of the firearm. On hand we only had the CZ75 and Glock 9mm so I can’t report on the reliability of other magazine well adaptors. But from what we had, the CZ75 outperformed the Glock adaptor by a far margin. We couldn’t get through a Glock magazine within a FTF wherein the bolt would cycle to the rear, and it would somehow lock back behind the next round in the magazine. We did only use one Glock magazine for the test, not counting on the unreliability of it, and really should have brought more out. When looking at the magazine well of the Glock magazine it appears that the leaf spring that holds the magazine release button in place doesn’t have enough tension on it as the CZ one does. In addition it appears that the handguard portion where the magazine well is inserted is much tighter than the Glock magazine. The combination of these factors might have lead to the FTFs, or it could have been something else entirely.
However with the CZ75 magazine, the pistol worked flawlessly. The only issue we noticed was that when the bolt was either locked back (it can lock back only with the CZ75 mags, but will spring forward when the magazine is released) on an empty magazine, or if it cycled over the follower when empty, it seemed to slightly dig into the follower itself and take some of the plastic off of it. The two CZ75 magazines we received for the review were brand new and didn’t have these cuts on them beforehand. Over time, I suspect that either this digging of the CZ magazines will continue to a point where they will begin operating smoothly because the dimensions have been worn in, or it will be detrimental and cut the follower to bits over several hundred cyclings and lock backs on an empty magazine. What is more likely the cause of the problem is the bolt actually being stopped by the follower when empty. If Chiappa could somehow find that sweet spot where the CZ magazine well will allow the magazine to be inserted without locking back the bolt on the last round, this would easily solve this issue.
Ammunition used was Freedom Munitions reloads, Aguila, and Sellier & Bellot for all the testing. All were 124 Gr and loaded with FMJs. We only used Aguila for accuracy testing at 10 yards, producing better groups than I would have expected from a Kalashnikov 9x19mm at 10 yards, off-hand and standing. During shooting at steel plates, the pistol was fairly accurate and consistent in clanging steel, as long as I did my part, and compensated for the front sight’s settings. If I were to own the pistol, I’d certainly adjust the front sight to be point of aim/point of impact at 15 yards, but since it was a review gun, compensation was much easier. Apart from the accuracy, actually shooting the Chiappa was very simple, placing the sights on target much simpler compared to a standard handgun. However while in rapid fire, whatever hand is holding the pistol grip becomes fatigued very quickly, especially in the web of the hand.
When it comes to pistol caliber Kalashnikovs on the market, there are a wide variety out there at a number of price ranges and with a huge variety of options. What it really comes down to is what a purchaser is intending the pistol for. For a personal defense aspect with a high capacity 30 round CZ magazine, with a much more improved sling and sling swivel, I can easily see the Chiappa finding a welcome position as a vehicle firearm or even a bedside weapon with a light attached to the side picatinny rails. Why a person would want a pistol Kalashnikov as opposed to a typical slide operated semi-automatic handgun or revolver could possibly be because of similarity in weapon systems, or just an affection of working with the Kalashnikov action, and safety selector. We can’t see the Chiappa being used in many pistol caliber carbine matches and it certainly wouldn’t fit very well in any IDPA or USPSA competition. As a recreational “fun gun” it certainly does maintain a place for sure.
One thing that does need to be stated is that the Chiappa is probably one of the lowest price points MSRP ($425) for any pistol caliber Kalashnikov handgun on the market today. If one can look past the low quality sling swivel/sling and the Glock magazine issues, the firearm is a very reliable product for the what Chiappa is offering it for.
These are uploads of myself putting the Chiappa through its paces-
This is a video of the Glock magazine with a FTF-