Among the more respected but misunderstood handguns is the Czech CZ 75 pistol. Revered by many, the CZ 75 is a proven, accurate, reliable handgun with much to recommend. The CZ 75 is often noted for its resemblance to the Browning Hi Power. Other than steel-frame construction and a high-capacity magazine, however, this comparison is misleading and even misinformed.
The CZ 75 has more in common with the Petter pistols such as the French 1935 service pistol and the SIG P210. The high-capacity magazine was not unique to the Hi Power by 1975, with the Smith & Wesson Model 59 and French PA 15 sporting a 15-round magazine. (The French pistol was similar to the Hi Power, although the PA 15 used a rotating barrel and, like the Hi Power the PA 15, was never adopted by the French military.)
The CZ 75 uses a double-action trigger bar that, unlike the Beretta 92’s Walther derived trigger bar, is internal. The CZ 75 has much to recommend on its own merits. It has mechanical advantages including excellent barrel-to-slide fit and quality manufacture. The balance or heft is also good, and the pistol feels nice in the hand. The CZ 75 isn’t a small pistol. It is 8 inches long with a 4.7-inch barrel, and it weighs 2.2 pounds.
The CZ 75 is a product of the Czech Republic. It was designed when Czechoslovakia was under communist control, quite a unique accomplishment. The pistol was not widely adopted elsewhere by the Com Bloc, as the Makarov and Tokarev were cheap and readily available. Russian special units including Spetsnaz used the pistol. Brothers Joseph and Frantisek Koucky did a credible job designing the pistol.
After the Berlin Wall fell, the pistol became increasingly more available and a commercial success. Czech police and military used it after grueling tests, with the police generally adopting a compact version. Original magazines hold 15 rounds and modern magazines hold 17 rounds, giving the CZ 75 9mm pistol an 18-round capacity. The CZ 75 B currently in production incorporates a positive firing-pin lock (drop safety) into the design.
The manual of arms of the original CZ 75 is interesting. (There are double-action-only and decocker versions to be discussed at another time.) The pistol is sometimes called a selective double action. The CZ 75 is loaded and made ready in the same manner as most handguns of the day. The proper sequence is to lock the slide to the rear, insert a loaded magazine, then drop the slide, chambering a cartridge. The hammer is manually lowered by controlling the hammer as the trigger is pressed.
There is a manual safety that, in the original configuration, could not be applied when the hammer was down. With the hammer cocked, the safety may be applied. Some would feel that this configuration invites cocked-and-locked carry, hammer to the rear and the safety on. The intent of the design is to allow the pistol to be placed on Safe during tactical movement.
With the pistol carried hammer down and ready to fire with a double-action trigger press, the hammer is cocked by the slide after the first shot for single-action fire. For safe movement, many designs would demand the pistol be decocked, resulting in the shooter having to execute the long double-action press or cock the hammer for accurate fire. The CZ 75 design allows the pistol to be quickly placed on Safe for tactical movement, then returned to single-action fire. It takes training and acclimation to master, but this is a good system.
The CZ 75 is often compared to the Browning Hi Power, and the pistol was designed to compete on the world market with the Hi Power, which was very popular at the time. The CZ 75 is at least as high in quality as the FN-produced handguns. (CZ 75 clones vary considerably in build quality, as may be expected.) The CZ 75 features a Browning-type lockup with an angled camming surface to allow the short-recoil tilting barrel to function properly. The ramped barrel has no feed issues with JHP ammunition. The tang is properly designed for comfortable firing. The CZ 75 grip is nearly as comfortable as the Hi Power, with a slightly larger profile.
Trigger reach in the double-action mode is long, and some shooters will have to cant the pistol in the grip in order to address the CZ 75 trigger. This isn’t uncommon with double-action first-shot pistols. In single-action mode, no one should have a problem with the CZ 75. Part of the reason the CZ 75 is an accurate handgun is the slide rail design. The slide runs inside the frame rather than the conventional arrangement of a slide on the frame rails. As a result, the slide rides low in the frame, yielding a low bore axis with less leverage for the muzzle to rise and better control in rapid fire. The Browning-type magazine release allows rapid dropping and changing of the magazine. The controls are ergonomic, the sights are good examples of battle sights, and overall there is nothing to fault in the design.
The Bigbore CZ
Like many 9mm handguns, the CZ 75 has been adapted to the popular .40 cartridge. The conversion does not always come out well. In the case of the CZ 75, the maker seems to have gotten the spring rates correct, and the overall result is a credible bigbore handgun that offers the handling of the original CZ and the wound ballistics of the .40-caliber cartridge in a neat package. Magazine capacity is reduced to 12 rounds. However, this is an acceptable trade-off for a handgun that offers good smash for the size.
The handling, size, weight and other characteristics of the CZ 75 are identical to the 9mm Luger versions. For the purposes of this test, the CZ 75 B was inspected and lubricated along the long bearing surfaces. Initial firing was accomplished with the Winchester 180-grain FMJ loading. This is the new “3-Gun” load. It’s an accurate load with a clean powder burn that has given excellent results in several .40-caliber handguns.
The pistol performed flawlessly in firing. Recoil isn’t markedly stronger than the 9mm. Drawing and firing at man-size targets at 5, 7, and 10 yards, good hits were realized with attention to the sights and the smooth, but long, double-action trigger. At ranges past 10 yards, the double-action trigger limits an accurate first shot, and like all DA pistols, the hammer should be cocked and a deliberate shot taken past 10 yards.
Load 15-yard group average, two five-shot groups averaged
|Winchester||180-grain FMJ 3-Gun||2.0 inches|
|Winchester||155-grain Silvertip||1.75 inches|
|Winchester||165-grain PDX||1.5 inches|
Note that the original Bren Ten was a 10mm handgun based on the CZ 75 pistol. While the Bren Ten is cool and a collector’s piece, I think that the CZ 75 .40 is a better alternative to the 1911 .45.
Switching to a proven personal defense loading, the magazines were stuffed with the Winchester 155-grain Silvertip. Clocking over 1,100 fps, this load offers a good balance of expansion and penetration. Recoil is greater than the practice loads but controllable by a trained shooter. Accuracy was good during personal defense drills. Benchrest accuracy isn’t a test of a combat handgun but always interesting.
Firing three different loads for accuracy at 15 yards in five-shot groups, the CZ 75 B .40 proved accurate. The best group of the day was with the Winchester 165-grain PDX, at a solid 1½ inches. The PDX uses a bonded-core bullet and offers less recoil and the Silvertip load. During the test program, there were no failures to feed, chamber, fire or eject. If you favor the CZ 75 platform but would like a more powerful cartridge without excess recoil, the CZ 75 in .40 caliber is a viable option with much to recommend.
The CZ 75 B is a formidable force—particularly when paired with the S&W .40. Do you own a CZ? How does it rank as a carry gun in your experience/opinion? Share your thoughts on the CZ 75 in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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