An Iron For Space Cowboys: The Jericho 941

Gun News

One of the most iconic CZ-75 copies out there, the Jericho 941 bridges the gap between old-school style and modern-day function.

There have been countless CZ-75 copies made over the years, but few have become as iconic as the Jericho 941. Finished in Israel using parts from the Italian Tanfoglio factory, this pistol quickly outgrew its intended role as a sidearm for Israeli government forces and became one of the most widespread wonder nine variants on the planet, even inspiring a plethora of clones itself. Its interesting history spans the tail end of the Cold War, touches the caliber-conversion craze of the ’90s and was finally immortalized in an iconic piece of media. Some variants are still in production today, making the Jericho 941 an option still worth considering for those who, like me, refuse to abandon DA/SA handguns.

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Development And History

A copy of the Czech CZ-75, the Jericho 941 is mechanically identical. Magazines are interchangeable between the two in their original 9mm configurations as well as a few other small internal components. Named after the ancient city in the West Bank, the Jericho 941 was developed by Israeli Military Industries in 1990 to satisfy the requirement for a new Israeli sidearm for government forces. Israel is known for having used a hodgepodge of different small arms since their formation, evidenced by the wide variety of Israeli surplus handguns that have been sold on the U.S. market. All those Hi Powers, CZs and Sigs you’ve seen for sale were likely surplus, a response to the proliferation of new Jericho pistols through their Israeli military.

Jericho’s Italian Roots

Despite having “Made In Israel” emblazoned on their frames, Jericho 941 parts are actually manufactured in Italy at the Tanfoglio factory where TZ-75 clones of the CZ-75 had already been made for several years. The original Czech pistol was already well-proven and well-liked, and many Israelis were familiar with the design having used other variants in the past. The exact details are foggy, but apparently, the Israeli government required their new sidearm to have some amount of Israeli origin as well. IMI satisfied this by assembling and finishing the guns in Israel, only using Tanfoglio to supply the prefabricated components. The contract went off without a hitch and the Jericho 941 entered service with Israeli military, police and other government forces in 1990.

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A silver Jericho 941 F in service with the Israeli Border Police. Photo: Wikipedia.

941 Design Points

While the Jericho 941 is mechanically identical to the CZ-75, some minor differences do affect handling. The most apparent change was the pistol’s outward appearance, abandoning the CZ’s sleek, Hi Power-inspired profile for one that was more aesthetically similar to the IMI Desert Eagle. This change not only affected the gun’s looks but the addition of a significant amount of material resulted in a gun that was over a half-pound heavier as well. While this may not be appreciated by those who have to carry one all day, it made the gun much better at absorbing recoil. This may not be a big deal when shooting 9mm, but there were other calibers available that likely made this change necessary. The Jericho 941 also features polygonal rifling rather than the traditional style found on CZs.

Besides that, at their core, the Jericho 941 and CZ-75 are both DA/SA wonder nines that utilize a Browning tilting-barrel, linkless cam short-recoil action, derived from the Hi Power. They both also use the unique “internal rail” system that has the pistol’s slide riding inside of the frame rather than outside of it. While this change has the advantage of reducing bore offset to reduce recoil and improve accuracy, it also reduces the amount of space one can grab on the slide. Some find the slide too small to comfortably grab while others find the tradeoff worth it. Really, it’s an issue of personal preference.

Jericho 941 Varients

Like the original CZ, the Jericho 941 has had several different variants manufactured over the years with changes to the caliber, size, style of safety and frame material. The Jericho has also undergone several name changes since it was first imported in 1990, including the Uzi Eagle and the Baby Desert Eagle.

The original iteration of the Jericho 941 was an all-steel service pistol with a 4.4-inch barrel and a slide-mounted safety/decocker. This version came to be known as the Jericho 941 R, but shortly afterward the 941 F was introduced, the only difference being the omission of the decocker feature and moving the safety to the frame. Since then, versions have been made in both semi-compact and compact configurations with both a steel and a polymer frame, with chambering options ranging from 9mm to .40 S&W to .45 ACP. Later generations also saw the edition of Picatinny rails. Both steel-framed and polymer-framed versions of the most modern variants are still made by and imported from IWI (formerly IMI).

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A modern, polymer-framed Jericho 941.

There was one more chambering available as well, but it was only offered with some original Jericho 941 R models in the 1990s, and many shooters today have never heard of it. Called .41 Action Express, or .41 AE, this round was similar in concept to .40 S&W but ultimately lost the battle of using upsized cartridges in 9mm-sized guns. It used a rebated, 9mm-sized rim that allowed for converting a 9mm handgun to .41 AE with only a swap of the barrel, magazine and guide rod/recoil spring. Jerichos were originally available as kits that came with the standard 9mm variant pistol as well as all the necessary accessories to convert it to .41 AE. Today, these kits can fetch a pretty penny on the used market, mostly attracting buyers who appreciate them for their interesting history, but another kind of collector exists as well.

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.41 Action Express (left) Vs. 9x19mm (right). Photo: Wikipedia.

Jericho 941’s Cultural Legacy

Much to the chagrin of those who appreciate old-school Jerichos for their history or functionality, recent years have seen an uncommon explosion of another kind of collector—the anime fan. Specifically, fans of the 1998 classic known as Cowboy Bebop. Following a crew of bounty hunters across the solar system in a neo-noir, jazz-filled, dystopian future, this show became a cult classic that is still appreciated as a timeless piece of media by many who don’t even normally watch Japanese cartoons. Heavily influenced by both Western themes and John Woo movies, the show is filled with shootouts featuring iconic firearms that are animated in excruciating detail. The show’s main character, Spike Spiegal, prominently carries and uses an original model Jericho 941 R in all 26 episodes.

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Spike’s Jericho 941 R from Cowboy Bebop. Notice the K.B.I. import mark. Photo: IMFDB

The show’s animators displayed a level of care and attention to detail that is rarely seen anywhere else, even going so far as to include historically accurate import marks on the side of the Jericho’s frame. Because of this, fans of the show have been buying up every 941 R they could find for several years now, leading to an inflation of their price on the used market. If you happen across an old Jericho 941 with the slide-mounted safety, no rail and a K.B.I. import mark, know that some Bebop fan out there will likely pay big bucks for it purely because it’s accurate to the model used in the show.

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Disassembled “Baby Desert Eagle” 941 R with a magazine signed by Cowboy Bebop’s creator.

For those who’d like their own Jericho 941 but have no interest in Cowboy Bebop, worry not, because there are plenty of models with no connection to famous media that are still priced fairly and are just as functional (arguably more so).

If you’ve only just heard about Cowboy Bebop due to its recent Netflix adaption, don’t let their embarrassingly bad retelling have any sway over the reputation of the original. Anime isn’t for everybody, but if there’s one out there that can be appreciated by gun guys, it’s Cowboy Bebop. Regardless of what you think of its unlikely source of fame, Jerichos are still some of the sweetest, softest-shooting wonder nines around, and they continue to be an excellent choice for those looking for a DA/SA 9mm handgun. But because original full-size steel models weigh in at over two pounds, one thing’s for certain if you buy one:
YOU’RE GONNA CARRY THAT WEIGHT.

To see the current Jericho 941 models offered by IWI, please visit iwi.us.


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