Firearm History

CZ-USA 75: The Best 9mm Service Pistol?

Best 9mm Pistol

With modern performance and durability, it is surprising to young shooters that the CZ 75 was developed during the early 1970s.

The Ceska Zbrojovka Uherksy Brod (CZ) CZ 75 is the standout performer among the high-capacity 9mm handguns of its generation.

The Beretta 92 and SIG P226 were on the drawing board at the same time, but the CZ 75 was designed and executed under the Soviet Union’s umbrella, entering series production in 1975.

The pistol has been used by at least 22 countries’ armed forces and police. These organizations could have purchased cheaper pistols, but the CZ 75 was purchased based on merit.

The pistol is conspicuous for its excellent design and combat ability. Czechoslovakia previously developed the CZ 52 service pistol, an advanced design using a roller cam-locking action and firing the powerful Soviet 7.62x25mm Tokarev cartridge.

The CZ 52 was appreciated for its advanced design and excellent accuracy. Compared to the utilitarian Tokarev TT 33, the CZ 52 was quite an achievement.

Pre-war CZs had been workmanlike designs and the Czech pistols continued to evolve after the war, even under Soviet domination.

When the new breed of 9mm self-loaders was introduced combining double-action triggers and high-capacity magazines, beginning with the Smith and Wesson Model 59, two brothers designed a remarkable new pistol.

Josef and František Koucký were the most important designers behind the CZ 75 pistol.

Best 9mm Pistol, the CZ 75
Soviet military use of the CZ 75 reflects its combat ability.

Features of the CZ 75

The CZ 75 was a departure from the standard-issue of the Soviet Bloc. The Makarov 9x18mm pistol was little more than a pocket pistol, slightly more powerful than the .380 ACP as well as light and handy.

Considering the rugged reliability of the powerful Tokarev TT 33 and its excellent reputation, it seems odd the Soviets adopted the lightweight Makarov.

The CZ 75 9mm is a full-size battle pistol. While Soviet gear was utilitarian in fit and finish, the CZ 75 was as well-made as any handgun. Original pistols featured a lacquer finish.

The new pistol featured a fifteen-round magazine and double-action first-shot trigger.  The Soviets demanded solidarity in military gear, at least in caliber, and there were no issue 9mm handguns in the Soviet Bloc.

It is all the more surprising that the Czechs were able to produce this superior handgun and chamber it for the 9mm Luger cartridge.  Due to poor relations and trade restrictions, there was little hope of sales in the West when the pistol was introduced.

Just the same, development proceeded and the pistol received critical acclaim. The CZ 75 was based on proven principles and the Browning locked-breech action was used.

The pistol uses locking lugs to lock the barrel to the slide and angled camming surfaces to unlock the barrel after the slide recoils to the rear.

The pistol owes much to the Petter designs as the slide runs inside of the frame rather than outside of the frame.

While Beretta used the external drawbar borrowed from the Walther P38, the CZ 75 design uses a more modern internal drawbar, allowing for better leverage and a cleaner design.

The CZ 75 is often compared to the Browning High Power. In my opinion, the pistol owes more to the SIG P210 than the High Power and may stand on its own merits compared to any handgun.

As just one example, the recoil spring and guide are more similar to the 1911 than the High Power in design. The trigger action demands some explanation.

The CZ 75 is a double-action first-shot handgun. The trigger both cocks and drops the hammer. After the first shot is fired the slide cocks the hammer and subsequent shots are fired in the single-action mode.

The safety cannot be applied when the hammer is down. The long double-action trigger acts as a safety feature. The safety may be applied when the hammer is cocked.

While this would seem to invite cocked and locked carry, hammer to the rear, this isn’t the tactical doctrine of the CZ pistol. With most double-action handguns, the hammer must be decocked for safety during tactical movement.

With the CZ 75, the pistol may be placed on safe and then you may simply press the safety off if you need to fire again. Modern handguns often place the technical over the tactical, the CZ does not.

The CZ 75 is based upon sound tactical principles.

CZ 75 Sights
The CZ sights are combat relevant.

What Makes the CZ 75 the Best 9mm Pistol?

The CZ 75 proved to be a reliable handgun during rigorous military testing. The pistol endured firing tests as well as detailed disassembly and reassembly without failure.

When the pistol was finally available in the west, clones and copies actually appeared on the market first. Independent testing found the pistol reliable, accurate and effective.

The handgun impressed experts in combat shooting and engineering as well. The late Colonel Jeff Cooper declared the CZ 75 the finest 9mm service pistol yet manufactured.

He noted that the pistol was so good it was an embarrassment to the West. The Bren Ten, the first 10mm handgun, was based upon the CZ 75 handgun.

Many of the first CZ 75 pistols came to North America as a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the new independence of former Soviet satellite nations.

While Americans had experience with clones of the CZ 75, the copies were regarded as inexpensive shooters, not military-grade service pistols. The CZ 75 changed that.

The quality and design maturity of the CZ 75 was obvious to those with experience in handgun design and use. The pistol was not designed to sell cheaply but rather to deliver military-grade performance.

Just the same, the initial offering of the pistol in this country came at a very attractive price.

CZ 75 and CZ P-01
The P-01, right, is a compact version of the CZ 75 that many regard as the finest CZ pistol.

Variations of the CZ 75

There were a number of modifications of the CZ 75 after commercial production began. The spur hammer was changed to a rowel type.

Perhaps the most important modification was the addition of a firing pin block or drop safety to the original design. These pistols are marked CZ 75B.

An original CZ 75 is a relatively rare find today. An important modification is the CZ 85, a model featuring fully ambidextrous controls.

CZ also developed compact versions of the CZ 75. While some are simply CZ 75 pistols shortened in the slide and grip frame, others are more highly re-engineered. Among these is the CZ P-01.

This handgun was designed for European police use.  The desire for a lighter and more compact version of the CZ 75 led to the development of a pistol with a short slide and aluminum grip frame.

The P-01 features forward cocking serrations and a light rail. The P-01 is among the first CZ pistols to feature a decocker lever.

While the CZ 75B uses the original action, there are variants that offer a decocker as a result of consumer demand for this simpler system.

With the decocker, the hammer and trigger need never be pressed to lower the hammer, simply press the decock lever. Many that appreciate the CZ 75 family regard the P-01 as CZ’s finest service pistol.

Accuracy is often superior to the full-size CZ 75 pistol. Handling, balance and overall heft are excellent. A variant so different it is termed the CZ 2075, is referred to by an acronym of the engineer’s names.

The CZ RAMI was designed by Czech engineers Radek Hauerland and Milan Trkulja. They combined their talents to produce the gun that bears their name.  The RAMI is a superb, compact design.

CZ 75, CZ P-01, CZ RAMI
Left to right: RAMI, P-01, and CZ 75, various barrel lengths of the CZ pistol.

Among the claims to fame of the CZ 75 pistol is its use by the Soviet SPETSNAZ or Special Forces. The Soviet Special Forces, like our own, draw upon many diverse firearms and other weapons such as underwater guns.

When you consider what was available during the early 1980s, and even today, I am certain many Soviet soldiers felt confident with their CZ-produced sidearm.

For those collecting the original CZ 75, the pistol remains affordable as there are no rare variations, only some that are less common.

The finish of the early pistols isn’t as attractive as late model production and examples often go begging in the pawnshop. Yet they are excellent shooters with much to recommend for sport shooting or personal defense.

Just the same, the best bet is to purchase a new in the box CZ as they are affordable. The early CZ 75 pistols use a specific magazine. The modern CZ 75B features a different magazine.

There are also transitional pistols, such as the Swiss AT 84, that feature upgraded sights and the new magazine but not the firing pin block.

The pistol is durable, however, pay close attention to the recoil spring and be certain to replace it occasionally with a new unit. There are no instances of slide breakage or frame cracking in my files.

I often carry my original CZ 75 pistol when traveling. Its ease of shooting, good control and excellent accuracy make it a worthwhile companion. I carry the piece in a Wright Leather Works IWB holster.

Recently I compared the accuracy of this handgun using modern combat loads to a modern CZ P-01. As you can see, the CZ 75 is more than accurate enough for any reasonable chore.

The CZ 75 is an important part of military and commercial history. While it is valued by collectors, the original CZ 75 remains a viable service and defense pistol with excellent performance.

CZ 75 in Brown Leather Holster
The author’s CZ 75 often rides in this Wright Leather Works holster.

Ammunition and Accuracy Testing

To end things, let’s take a look at how the CZ 75 performed in comparison to similar handguns. These tests were with 25-yard groups, five shots and an average of two groups (measured in inches).

CZ 75

Ammo Group
Fiocchi 115 Grain FMJ 3.0
Fiocchi 124 Grain Extrema XTP 2.5
Hornady 147 Grain XTP 2.2

CZ P-01

Ammo Group
Fiocchi 123 Grain Combat 1.6
Hornady 124 Grain XTP 1.9
Hornady 135 Grain Critical Duty 2.0

CZ RAMI

Ammo Group
Fiocchi 115 Grain Extrema 2.75
Hornady 124 Grain FlexLok +P 2.5
Hornady 115 Grain Critical Defense 2.4
Fiocchi 147 Grain JHP 2.35

What’s your favorite 9mm pistol? Do you agree with this author’s assessment of the CZ 75? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (20)

  1. I bought my ’75 in 1989 at the Bitburg AB Rod and Gun club shop in Bitburg, Germany, while I was serving as an F-4G Phantom Phlyer at nearby Spangdahlem AB in the last days of the Cold War. The firearm was inexpensive ($379!), beautifully made, and although a bit heavy a superb fit for my big hands. At the time we still carried M-38 Colts in the cockpit (YGBSM!) but when we switched to the M-9 Baretta (92F) I immediately realized my CZ was a better weapon in every aspect. The finish on mine is matt “combat quality” – not very pretty – but other than that, it’s a fine shooter, accurate beyond my fair skill, and infallible in loading and firing everything I’ve pumped through it. I’m thrilled to own this little piece of history, especially one labeled “Made in Czechoslovakia”!

  2. Yes! Thank you for this article. My brother has CZ 75b’s in 9 and .40, and has tried to get me to shoot them for years. They are ugly, no sex appeal, I didn’t want to shoot them. Once I finally did they became my favorite semi auto of all time. I have been touting their accuracy ever since.

  3. I’ve been a shooter, and fan, of the CZ75 series of pistols now since my first purchase of a Springfield P9 clone in 1992. Since then I’ve purchased, and still own, my parkerized P9 in .40 S&W, EAA’s import version in both the blued and silvered versions in 9mm/.40 S&W/.45ACP and my CZ P01. In comparison to my Browning HI-Powers in 9mm/.40 S&W & Kimber 9mm I’ve found the pistols to have a wonderful trigger pull right out of the box, to be highly accurate and, although a bit heavy with a full 17-round magazine for all-day carry, the most reliable I have and are used as my everyday concealed carry – sometimes with 10-round mags to lessen the load. In comparison to the available market I’ve yet to find another pistol, Sig or otherwise, that I have more confidence in should I have to utilize one in my, or others, defense.

  4. I have always recognized CZ as a maker of fine pistols. I when I purchased my CZ82 I was so pleased with it that I replaced my Sig Sauer with it as my personal carry gun. I still carry it today.

  5. My father and I have matching 75b’s in matte stainless. I bought mine because it fit my hand so well, and he liked it so much that I gave him one for his birthday.
    Used it in a carry-permit safety course, where I got a lot of attention with my “old-school Iron Curtain gun”, and startled the instructor with my one-ragged-hole groups when most of the class were producing what looked like long-distance buckshot patterns.
    I did a lot of dry-fire back when it was my regular carry pistol, and the trigger return spring eventually broke. Wasn’t too hard to replace with a new one from CZ Custom.
    I eventually started carrying a more concealable gun in the sweltering climate of my current location, but the 75 remains my favorite non-22 shooter.

  6. My first CZ75 was an early production gun brought back from Lebanon in the 1980s (not imported). It was nicely blued, not painted, but it may have been an export piece. We were told the East Bloc troop carried the guns in condition 3 (hammer down on an empty chamber). The DA feature was supposed to be for repeat striking on hard primers of communist ammunition that failed to fire on the first attempt. I did not use hard primers so I never encountered this problem. I did not carry my gun cocked and locked (condition 1) because the safety was a bit weak and I am left handed. I would carry it hammer down on a loaded chamber (condition 2). Woe be to the man who let his fingers slip during this delicate operation.

  7. I have one of those clones, a TZ-75. I bought it used about 30 years ago and I love it. Over the years I’ve thought of getting a real CZ-75 but never cared for the prices. I’ve gotten another CZ clone in the form of an EAA Witness in 10 mm. Probably the closest I’ll ever get to owning a BREN TEN.

  8. I bought a CZ 75 D PCR last year and love it. I’m more accurate with it than any of my other pistols. That includes 2 S&W M&P pistols (9mm, .45) and a Beretta 84. I thought all of them are pretty accurate but my CZ is easily a point-and-shoot type weapon.
    The PCR is like the P01 except it has no rail. I don’t carry with a light or laser so I went with the PCR. It looks better to me also.

  9. Th CZ one of greats and with todays 9m/m exceptional.
    The CZ 9m/m was designed to firea higher pressure round, just as are specs for 124 NATO FMJ 9mm rounds are today, and I never personaly heard of any damage from firing todays 9mm+ rounds.
    Wish I had a CD in 762×25 as that round always has been looked down upon by many who never even fired it and iMHO, one of best pistol rounds ever, and only lacked for a quality big name to manufacture the weapons.

  10. I’ve been a fan of the CZ75 and its clones ever since I bought a Baby Eagle .40 S&W back in 1989 or 1990. Absolutely fell in love with the system and have continuously carried a CZ or clone since then. Several Baby Eagles both 9mm and .40, TriStars in 9mm, and for the past 5 years a CZ75 P-01. The P-01 is by far the best pistol I’ve ever owned. Light, reliable, and accurate. I would put the P-01 up against any pistol out there. It’s truly World Class. To those who have never held or fired a CZ75, you owe it to yourself to try one out. Find a friend that has one or a range that rents various firearms, and try it. I guarantee that you’ll like it!

  11. I beg to disagree with your assessment of this being the best 9mm pistol. The Browning Hi-Power and the Beretta 92 FS truly are the best ever made. Another very close contender in my opinion is the Walther P-38.

  12. During the 1980’s, inside West Berlin, Many of the American Forces purchased CZ75’s to use for recreational shooting. They sold for around $100 new. Initially, these pistols shot well but after about 1000 Rounds fired, got very sloppy. We simply stripped them for parts and bought another new CZ75.

  13. Hi I have the tressitu TZ99. It’s a heavy 9mm ambidextrous with decocker.
    I’m wondering how this pistol compares to the CZ.
    It’s very well made pistol and price was very inexpensive. Any info will help.

  14. I bought my first semi automatic pistol while stationed in Germany in 1985. The pistol was the CZ 75. I didn’t know it then, but I had just bought the best pistol in my collection. Upon my return to the States, the pistol sat in the drawer. Time and money was tight and I didn’t go to the range often. Besides, I was a poor shot. Years later with pistol training under my belt, the CZ shined. It shoots softly, it is well balanced, and accurate. This gun improved my shooting performance. I only have one complaint on this early version; it doesn’t fully eject the magazine. You have to manually extract it after pushing the mag release button. I love my CZ to this day. I Enjoyed your article and thank you.

  15. I agree with the author as I often do the CZ BRAND WILL DEFINITELY get the job done in self defense and competitive shooting I carry a 75 compact IWB and competitive shoot a 75 SP0-1 that has been polished by Cajun gun works I first shot a CZ while in service to our country overseas and was hooked from then on point and shoot and eventually become a great shot with this CZ brand another fine article with great fact points not sponsored crap thank you again.

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