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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
|Fiocchi 115 Grain FMJ||3.0|
|Fiocchi 124 Grain Extrema XTP||2.5|
|Hornady 147 Grain XTP||2.2|
|Fiocchi 123 Grain Combat||1.6|
|Hornady 124 Grain XTP||1.9|
|Hornady 135 Grain Critical Duty||2.0|
|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!