Thursday, August 10, 2006

More Articles By Stephen Camp

A Critical Look at the CZ-75

The CZ-75 and its "off-spring" have caught on with shooters not only in the US, but also wherever handgunners have any choice in their personal sidearm. This all steel recoil-operated, locked breech, semiautomatic handgun was originally brought out in 9x19mm and that's the caliber we'll be looking at in this article. Pre-Ban magazines are conventional double-stack and holds 15 rounds of ammunition. The pistol has fixed sights in normal trim and is conventionally rifled with a 1:10 twist in its 4.72" barrel.

This conventional double-action/single-action pistol also has a frame mounted thumb safety of ample size that allows for "Condition One" (cocked and locked) carry which is very popular among many serious carriers. The pistol is 8" long and came with black plastic grips, a generous tang, and a hammer with an equally generous spur. The thumb safety, magazine release button, and slide stop lever are not ambidextrous on the CZ-75 as a rule, but at least one exception to this exists in a transitional model when the gun was evolving from the earlier version to the CZ-75B. This work focuses on a Pre-B CZ-75, but whenever possible, I will make comparisons to the CZ-75B, the model sold today. Not discussed will be the CZ-85, 97, nor other versions, but they do have much in common with the CZ-75.

This 2.2-lb. pistol was apparently brought out for sale beyond the Iron Curtain as 9x19mm was not used by communist regimes in Europe. Because of unpleasantness between communist countries and the United States, we could not get the pistol in this country except on a sporadic basis and importation was an "on again-off again" type affair. Some paid pretty hefty prices for an example of the gun that Jeff Cooper had dubbed the "world's best service nine." Its appeal was rivaled by its scarcity! (Mercifully, this has reversed in recent years and the CZ-75B and CZ handguns in general represent "best buys" in my opinion.)

The pistol used for this report is a Pre-B pistol, but is not one of the earliest with the shorter slide rails and crude ring hammers. It does have the customary half-cock notch although some of the earliest pistols did not. Slide rails measure approximately 5.5."

In the Pre-B pistols, the fixed sights tended toward the past. In other words, they were smallish and hard to see, particularly if you're in a hurry. The rear sight on any CZ-75 is relatively high for the short front sight. (Current CZ-75B pistols have fixed sights that are easier to see at speed than the Pre-B.)

The recoil spring guide in the Pre-B is steel and not a "full length" type affair. It's similar to the standard GI recoil spring guide found in the 1911 and unlike the Browning Hi Power, it does not apply downward tensioning of the slide stop lever. While the slide stop lever shaft passes through the rear of the Browning Hi Power spring guide, the CZ's does not. It's more like that found on the 1911.

These two CZ-75 pistols are Pre-B versions. The one on the left has had Novak fixed sights added and the barrel and some internal parts hard chromed. The one on the right is practically stock, although it has been refinished. Note the smallish front sight on that CZ compared to the other. CZ-75B pistols have solved the "small sight" problem on their current pistols. Both of these guns have spur hammers, which have been bobbed to prevent hammer bite. In the rear of the magazine well is a bowed flatspring. This is often called a "magazine brake" and does prevent the magazine dropping free when released. It's easily removed, the bow removed, and magazines will then fall free. Some folks just remove the brake, but this is a mistake as some have found out when quickly loading their CZ's. A raised portion of the frame normally behind the brake can damage the rear top of the magazine.

For this report, I'll provide shooting results from both of these pistols.

The CZ-75 uses a one-piece feed ramp and the pistol offers very good chamber support.

CZ-75 barrels do not come hard chromed. Armalloy of Ft. Worth, Texas, did this one.

Note the wide ramp and the very good chamber support. "Kabooms" with the CZ are very unlikely. Note the protrusion at the top of the barrel ala Browning Hi Power.

The factory standard for the 9mm CZ-75 recoil spring is 14-lbs. with a 20-lb. mainspring compared to a 17-lb. recoil spring for the 9mm Browning Hi Power and 32-lb. mainspring. The 5" Colt 1911 in 9mm uses a 14-lb. recoil spring and a 23-lb. factory standard set for the mainspring. Thus, the factory CZ-75 requires the cartridge to provide enough momentum to overcome at least 34 pounds compared to 49 and 37 for the Hi Power and 1911, respectively. I find this interesting, as the Hi Power slide would come closer to the weight of the CZ than would the more massive 1911. Be that as it may, the CZ has proven to be an extremely durable 9mm service pistol.

At this point, it should be mentioned that there have been several complaints concerning the breaking of the slide stop in some CZ-75B 9mm pistols. Mike Eagleshield, gunsmith at CZ-USA, has stated that the 14-lb. recoil springs frequently were not and sometimes closer to 10 or 12! He recommended at least a 14-lb. Wolff conventional recoil spring and perhaps up to about 16 pounds. I use a Wolff conventional 18-lb. recoil spring in my CZ-75 pistols as well as a shock buffer from Buffer Technologies. (Wolff can be found at and Buffer Technologies at if interested.) Some report ejection problems with the 18-lb. spring so it might be better to go with something in the 16-lb. range if you primarily shoot standard pressure ammunition. My pistols work fine with the 18-lb. spring, but have been used quite a lot might be slicked up enough that I don't get the ejection problems mentioned by others. Most standard pressure loads eject the hulls about 4' to the right with the hotter stuff going about twice that distance.

The CZ-75 pistols do not have removable barrel bushings and the guns are internally more complex than either the 1911 or the Hi Power, but the 44- part design seems to be a reliable one as I've owned and shot these pistols since the early '80's with zero small parts breakage or reliability issues…with one exception. One the CZ having the original fixed sights, a certain "hot" handload would routinely fail to feed. To cut to the chase, replacing the factory magazine spring with a Wolff +10% spring solved the problem. With that change, the problem went away and has not reappeared. If you're experiencing any such problems, that might be the cure for you as well.

Internally the CZ-75 is more complex than the single-action automatic preferred by many, including myself. You can also see tool marks here and there. Be that as it may, the pistols have been around about a quarter of a century and seem to be having no problems. They would be more difficult to detail strip in the field than a few, but if that's not a major concern, I believe that arguments against the pistol are more theoretical than practical.

The CZ-75 has internal slide rails, just the reverse of the majority of semiautomatics on the market today. In other words, the slide is contained within the frame rather than riding outside it. Frame to slide to is not nearly so tight as on the Hi Power, 1911, or practically any quality automatic you can name, but the CZ-75B pistols do seem tighter in the examples I've seen than the Pre-B pistols.

The frame to slide fit as shown at the front of the frame and dust cover is not very tight by most standards, but the slide to barrel fit is extremely tight. How much the former contributes to inherent mechanical accuracy is unknown to me, but unless your shooting is done from a Ransom rest, the CZ-75 will prove to be a very accurate shooter. Groups I've seen fired from a mechanical rest where there's no adjustment between shots via the sights have been larger than with several other makes of 9mm pistol.

Here's the slide to frame fit from the rear. The sharp-eyed will notice that the long curved hammer spur has been trimmed a bit to prevent hammer bite. This is not a concern on the CZ-75B pistols as they come with a ring hammer.

Some have opined that the CZ-75 is a poorly made handgun because the internal finish is rough. I respectfully disagree. They are rough internally, but this has never caused me any problems and the CZ-75 pistols I've shot have consistently had long, but smooth double-action trigger pulls and very usable single-action trigger pulls. Because of their design, even in single-action, pressing the trigger will cam the hammer back a very small distance before releasing it. Mercifully, this pistol does not come with a magazine "safety" and the single-action trigger pull is almost always considerably lighter than the Hi Power's out of the box. The CZ trigger pull is somewhat "mushy," but the gun will "shoot," but don't expect to have a crisp single-action trigger pull like that of a 1911 or a tuned Hi Power.

I have consistently found these pistols to be accurate. They will not match the SIG P-210 nor the FN Competition or a target-grade custom 1911, but like the Hi Power, they will be capable of accuracy that is beyond most shooters, particularly under field conditions or if under the stress of a gun fight.

This 15 yard slow fire target was fired with the CZ-75 with Novak fixed sights.

So was this one. It was extremely hot when these groups were fired and I wasn't for sure if the first group fired with the Remington UMC was me or the ammo. It was me as the second group at the lower right shows.

Using Fiocchi's 123-grain FMJTC round, the CZ did plenty good enough for me at 25 yards. The group was fired seated and using a rest.

In slow fire, the CZ-75 with the small factory sights did not prove unsatisfactory. This 15 yard group consists of a full magazine of 115-grain Fiocchi FMJ. I have never noted any instances of "first round flyer" with any CZ-75 I've ever fired in either 9mm or .40 S&W.

This group was done in rapid-fire using the smallish sights. This is tougher than with more easily seen sights such as the Novaks on a different CZ or those from the factory on the current CZ-75B's.

I did pull one using the CZ with the better sights. That was me and not the pistol, of course. This group was 8-sets of controlled pairs from 10 yards. Like most pistols having double stack magazines and a wide front grip strap, the gun can become slippery with sweaty hands. This is the bane of any such pistol not having stippling, checkering, or something to provide secure purchase with wet hands. Unfortunately, my CZ-75 pistols do have smooth front grip straps.

I have found the CZ-75 to be extremely reliable with the vast majority of JHP ammunition I've tried in them. Here are the average velocities, extreme spreads, and standard deviations for several factory loads. Measurements were taken with the pistol's muzzle being approximately 10' from the chronograph screens and figures are based on 10-shot strings.

Ammunition: ` Average Velocity (ft/sec)

Aguila 65-grain IQ 1492

Extreme Spread: 24

Std. Deviation: 12

Corbon 100-grain PowRball +P 1431

Extreme Spread: 50

Std. Deviation: 24

PMP 115-grain FMJ 1076

Extreme Spread: 42

Std. Deviation: 14

Remington 115-grain UMC FMJ 1186

Extreme Spread: 38

Std. Deviation: 11

Fiocchi 115-grain FMJ 1132

Extreme Spread: 73

Std. Deviation: 24

Federal 115-grain JHP 1151

Extreme Spread: 43

Std. Deviation: 15

Fiocchi 123-grain FMJTC "Combat" 1061

Extreme Spread: 61

Std. Deviation: 21

Federal 124-grain Nyclad HP 1162

Extreme Spread: 27

Std. Deviation: 12

Hornady 124-grain CQ (XTP) JHP 1153

Extreme Spread: 52

Std. Deviation: 19

Triton 125-grain Hi Vel JHP +P 1266

Extreme Spread: 69

Std. Deviation: 25

Corbon 125-grain JHP +P 1194

Extreme Spread: 17

Std. Deviation: 8

Winchester RA9TA 127-grain +P+ 1285

Extreme Spread: 70

Std. Deviation: 29

I was somewhat surprised with the sub-1200 ft/sec with the Corbon 125-grain JHP as it normally exceeds 1200 ft/sec from both my CZ and Browning pistols. Note the extreme uniformity in the load. I was also taken back by the better consistency shown in the PMP ammunition. This recent stuff has normally grouped poorly in other 9mm pistols. The figures are from ammo having the same lot number. I reckon I'll just shoot it in my CZ 9mm pistols.

For those interested, there is information on this site concerning other JHP ammo when fired into water. There are better sites for detailed analysis of such things, but I went ahead and fired the Hornady CQ 124-grain into water from the CZ as well as Corbon's PowRball.

Here's what happened:

Fired into water from the CZ-75 shown, the Corbon PowRball impacted at an average velocity of 1431 ft/sec. The bullet weighed 77.4 grains and the expanded slug measured 0.65x0.66." The jacket fragmented and not one piece could be found. The weight of the PowRball includes the small lead fragment shown to the left of the bullet. The standard pressure and heavier Hornady impacted at approx. 1153 ft/sec. The recovered bullet including the small fragment weighed 120.1 grains and measured 0.52x0.54."

In short, I've had extremely positive results with the CZ-75 pistols I have owned and shot over the long-term and have no problems at all in recommending them to others with but one caveat: Test any handgun before relying on it for any serious purpose.

Main differences between the CZ-75 and 75B include an internal firing pin safety on the latter, as well as some cosmetic changes like the B's hooked trigger guard as well as thumb safety lever and slide stop. There is also a slightly different contour on the trigger face and has been mentioned the B has sights that are easier to pick up at speed.

As there have been some breakage complaints of the roll pin that retains the B's firing pin rather than the traditional retaining plate, I would use a snap cap if dry firing the CZ-75B or any other CZ handgun with a "B" designation.

The shape of this Pre-B thumb safety lever has been changed in the B version, as has the slide release lever. The B's also have ring hammers. The slide serrations on the Pre-B are vertical while they're angled slightly forward on the new guns.

The CZ-75 pistols be they "B" or not are world class service pistols in my experience and opinion. That they can be purchased easier and less expensively these days than in the past is a good thing as far as I 'm concerned. If you like doing lots of shooting, there are certainly many fine 9mm semiautomatics from which to choose. If I could not use a Browning Hi Power, I would use a CZ-75.

The CZ-75 remains a real favorite in my collection of 9mm handguns. This one's taken a javelina or two and I would not be afraid to use it for serious matters, either.