Firearms

Range Report: The Remarkable CZ 75

CZ 75 B pistol left side

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.

CZ 75 B pistol left side
The CZ 75 B is a robust design with much to recommend.

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.

CZ 75 and CZ 75 B pistol
An early model CZ 75 variant is compared with the modern CZ 75 B in .40. The author feels the front sight installation is an advantage as well as the ambi safety. The hooked triggerguard is OK, the rowel hammer more compact.

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.

Cross section of Winchester PDX hollowpoint bullet
Winchester’s PDX hollowpoint is a well-designed bullet for personal defense.

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.

Front pistol sight
A wide front-post sight makes rapid sight acquisition possible.

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.

Accuracy Results

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
CZ 75 pistol with two boxes of Winchester PDX1 Defender ammunition
The Combination of Winchester ammunition and the CZ pistol is a happy one.

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]

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Comments (46)

  1. I recently bought a Cz 75B. Havent used it yet, but something is puzzling me. What I thought was the safety button, does absolutely nothing, except that I can move it up and down when the gun is cocked. Anybody understands what I’m talking about?

    1. Wolfgang,
      What are you expecting it to do? It is not a decocker; it is a manual safety. When it is in the upward position the sear is blocked from moving and the pistol will not fire. In the lower posirion the block is removed from the sear and a pull of the trigger will cause the hammer to fall, firing a round.

    2. Sorry, my mistake. It’s a DB, not a B, so it should have the decocker, right? If so, it won’t do anything when I cock the gun, then push the decocker down. Shouldn’t the hammer go down as well?

  2. I have also had my CZ 75 in 9 mm for 30 years
    It was my first gun and has thousands of rounds thru it
    The excellent trigger gets even better when well used
    As I have gotten older and my eyesight gets worse, it now wears a crimson trace laser grip
    That laser makes it possible to hit targets while running away and shooting one handed!
    I love my CZ 75
    It is a quality gun my children and likely grandchildren will shoot

  3. Don’t have a cz75 but grew up shooting them in west Texas, thats all my great uncle owned as far as handguns. I now own a czp07 a cz p09 in both .40 and 9mm. My p07 is in 9mm it is always on my side at home or away. I can’t believe how accurate this sidearm is a friend wanted to trade me two guns for it and I wouldn’t do it. I will eventually by a czp10 but will probably never retire my p07

  4. There’s a local range near me where you can switch out guns when renting. After 4 sessions of testing out every 9mm they had (various Glocks, SIGs, Berettas, a Ruger, smith & wesson M&P and a Springflied Armory XD), nothing shot more accurately than the CZ-75B. So that’s what I bought. Later I bought the CZ-75D Compact, for carry. Even thought it’s a smaller and lighter weight, I’m just as accurate with it.
    I highly recommend either of them.

    1. I think the CZ75 will be one of change from the CZ82. The 82 is a blowback with the 9X18 round. The 9mmx19 runs at much higher pressures, and pretty much mandates a delay, like the tilting barrel action, of the CZ75. With that complexity, the barrel moves with each firing of the pistol. With good tolerances, like the CZ75 has, accuracy isn’t diminished (at least not much). The CZ82 was also a military pistol, and the likelihood of close tolerances is less likely… hence, little benefit. The CZ75 is pretty hefty, and especially with some of the tweaking done on the competition models, you’ll find a stable platform with a good trigger, great ergonomics, and a big magazine capacity.

  5. I’ve owned my CZAR SP-O1 Shadow for about 15 years. It has digested many different loads to about 8,000 rounds to date. It is a tighter pistol than my Mark III High Power, which is more tolerant of variations reloads may have. Accuracy is the best of my automatics, partially because the fit-to-hand, inherent accuracy, weight, and good trigger. Springs to best suit different power loads are readily available. I have no experience with camberings but my 9mm with a Kadet 22 conversion.

  6. I purchased an original CZ75 in West Germany shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990. I was in the Army and purchased it at the Fulda rod and gun club. I always wondered why the safety could never be engaged when the hammer was down. Now I know. Thanks for the informative article. The pistol has performed flawlessly the last 26 years I have had it!

  7. I have a 9mm CZ75 Compact which is slightly smaller in length and height than the full size 75, but still gives a 15 round capacity. It is without a doubt the most accurate pistol I have ever owned or shot. Since my state allows open (no permit) carry or concealed carry (permitted – which I have) having it fully concealed or not is not an issue. For EDC I load Cor-Bon 100 grain Pow-R-Ball ammo. At close range where I would anticipate it being needed the ballistics are very similar to a .40.

  8. I have owned a CZ 75 p101 phantom (poly frame) most accurate 9mm I have, have shot the standard 75B and equally impressed with it. Have previously owned a CZ 40sw, Sig40sw, and Glock40sw, I should have stuck to the CZ, best of the lot. For ultimate range piece, I would recommend the steel frame 75b in single action only, don’t think you can beat it for accuracy reliability and price

  9. Proud owner of the .40 caliber 75B. The most accurate out of the box gun I have ever shot. As former law enforcement and SWAT experience I give this a 10 out of 10. Also being a larger frame weapon I carry concealed with no problems. A good holster will make the difference.

  10. These are great pistols. Quality Is first rate. Craftsmanship Is superior.
    They are hard to find, when they come up for sale they are gone very fast. There is a reason for this because they are that good.

  11. I have a CZ 2075 Rami in 9mm. It is a compact version of the 75. It still holds 14 rounds & is about the most accurate and dependable gun I own. I own about 8 handguns & 2 are 1911’s.

  12. I have the CZ 75 P-01 as my EDC. I can see where some may say it is too heavy, but it conceals well and with a good holster/belt combination the weight soon becomes moot. Even during the summer it is easy enough to conceal under a t-shirt. An extremely nice gun that has never had a single problem in over 2,500 rounds of hard range use.

  13. Just received a 10 round mag for the FIE TZ75 and it fits when you push it in but need a knife to pry it out! It has a plastic boot that I thought might be the problem but when separated it slides in no problem. Seller specified that it would fit the TZ but if I was in a combat situation I would be screwed when trying to change mags! Any ideas?

    1. Sir,

      All can be converted to .41 Action Express if that is the question.

      However– .41 AE ammo terribly hard to find.

  14. I have a tanfoglio witness in a slightly larger frame than the CZ75 and I have all nine caliber conversions for it. I carry it mostly in 45acp and I have more than 10k rounds through it, it was purchased new 25yrs ago. I purchased as a side arm alternative to the 1911 when I was a deputy sheriff. it has never failed me. easy, natural and quick to point and get on target. excellent gun finest handgun ever made in my opinion.

  15. I own a CZ 75 clone in EAA’ s B6P compact. Totally reliable, never failed even after 500 rounds. I use it for edc. Only issue is the lack of accessories specific to the model. Tends to accept accessories meant for the more popular witness, but for the price, you get a firearm on par with most if not all higher end firearms. Shame that many are not willing to consider makes that are not USA, but there may be missed diamonds in the rough. This may be one of them.

  16. I’m surprised nobody mentioned the FIE TZ75! I used to carry it but now switched to the more compact S&W Shield.

  17. I have a fairly old CZ75 as well as the CZ75 compact, which I had some gunsmithing done to it. The compact will take any CZ magazine, even aftermarket. This is not true of the full size 75, it will only take magazines made for the full size. I have not shot the full size very much, but the compact is one of the finest guns I’ve ever shot. I’ll put it up against any gun on the market. The negative is that it is just too heavy for EDC, except maybe for a short time. I gave it to my daughter and she uses it for a house gun. She and her husband shoot it once in a while and it is their favorite gun. It’s too bad this article didn’t mention the compact.

    1. Ross, —
      My usual carry setup if I am carrying the CZ-75 Compact (I don’t find it too heavy to carry) is with the compact magazine in the pistol and two full-sized mags in a double belt pouch as spares/backup. Being able to use full-size mags in the compact pistol makes for a very nice option.

    2. Yes, RJ, the CZ-75 Compact is steel-framed. There are other compact versions of the basic CZ-75 but they all have different names. If it is named “CZ-75 Compact” then it is steel-framed and with a manual safety.

    3. Thanks. It’s good to know that if you’re able to comfortably carry the Compact, then one of the other aluminum framed versions, such as the P-01 should be even easier to carry.

  18. Even though my WANAD Makarov has a decocker, I would no more rely on it being 100% functional than safely playing Russian Roulette with a semiauto pistol! However, my modern (21st Century) manufactured Turkish pistols have decockers that work – and I use them. For my 1911’s, it’s still the weak hand thumb between striker plate and hammer as I ease down the hammer with a round in the chamber. My 9mm carry piece is a striker-fired XD Mod.2, so no need to futz around with decockers.

  19. I have carried CZ pistols as a sidearm in a conflict or two, but not this version. CZ has made many great weapons. Don’t remember the designation, but my favorite was in 7.62 x 25. All of this decocking hubbub, though. I have never dropped a hammer, as I have sometimes said; dead tired, under combat stress, of half drunk. Did carry a Makarov once, used the decocker and surprise, surprise, the weapon discharged. Fortunately, I always point the muzzle towards the ground when lowering a hammer. So, no harm, no foul. Never used a decocker ever again.

    1. Col. Cooper had many such sayings. If don’t have them already a collection can be found on-line that is printable or downloadable. My favorite: “Owning a handgun doesn’t make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician.” The good Col. is very much missed.

    2. Col Cooper was also a product of his time, when many advances in firearm technology we take for granted now (like firing pin blocks) either didn’t exist or were in their early stages of development.

      You’re not going to have a ND dropping the hammer on most pistols designed with a decocker in the last 30-40 years, such as the Sig P-series, Beretta 92, or the CZ 75BD/P01/PCR.

  20. Sir,

    Your solution is the best possible. Control the hammer as it lowers- but you may add the weak side thumb under the hammer to help.

  21. MacII — you have the idea. I tend to place my off hand thumb between the hammer and the slide, guaranteeing that the hammer can not hit the firing pin while I hold the hammer back (I actually pull it back a little so that it is not held by the sear at all) and pull the trigger and then gently lower the hammer. That’s how it’s been done for over a hundred years. This is SOP for single-action pistols both autos like the 1911 and Browning Hi-Power as well as all revolvers that have a single-action mode, like the Colt Single-Action Army, earlier Colt cap and ball revolvers, Ruger Blackhawks, and the many DA/SA S&W revolvers. It’s not difficult at all.

    1. Bob Clevenger & Bob Campbell, — Gentlemen

      Thanks for the info. I did what seemed logical but wondered if there was not a better way. You have answered it fully. I appreciate it.
      I just hoped that there might be some safer way. I was concerned on lowering the hammer on a live round and hoped that there was something I did not know. I will continue and will do my best to continue to be safe. No accidents yet in over 50 years of shooting, but realize that I do not know everything and hope I am not too old to learn.

  22. I used a CZ at times in Iraq. It was a good gun.

    I really love my Jericho, which was based on the CZ but I think they made some improvements . . . personal opinion.

  23. I enjoyed reading the history of the CZ-75. I would have liked to seen you report on the later models too, like the SP-01, which has more weight at the muzzle for less flip through the addition of a rail. Also the models used by competitors including the BSA and the new Orange Tactical models.

  24. Yes, I have owned a CZ-75 Compact ever since they became widely available in the US. It is my most accurate and comfortable pistol to shoot. It has never failed to function in all the years I have owned it except for one time when I managed to break the firing pin with too much dry-firing. Replace pin and back in service.

  25. For those out there that like the CZ75D (decocker version), but want a comparable weapon in .45ACP, I would like to recommend the Sarsilmaz
    [Düzce, Turkey] SAR K2. It holds 14 rounds in its Mec-Gar magazine, plus one (1) in the chamber for a really great 15-round carry piece. It is built with internal rails – just like the CZ75, and has the same lowered bore axis. At less than $500, it is a great buy, and matches up against most any well-known top shelf pistol. The SAR K2 is manufactured for Turkey’s military and is exported to LEOs and other military organizations around the world. Turks make great firearms.

    1. Red,
      I have a K-2 and could not agree more. Great gun.
      Question for you and/or Bob. I have already written to Sarsilmaz and Tanfolio (also have a really dandy 10mm EAA Witness Compact) and not received any satisfactory reply. Like the CZ, and presumably copying that system, both have a double action mode for a first shot option but no decocker.
      Offering the double action mode encourages me to believe that they meant for the hammer to be lowered on a live round, with the option of triggering the first round double action and allowing carrying with a round under the hammer. But, without a decocker, is there any preferred method of lowering the hammer on the live round?
      No one I have read has addressed that specific question but several say to lower the hammer cautiously (well, dah). Is there a preferred method? If so, what is it? Can you describe it?
      At the moment, my solution, which hardly seems the best possible, is to grasp the hammer, pull the trigger (with a live round in the chamber — with the pistol pointed in a very safe direction, of course) and lower the hammer, slowly, on the live round.
      I have also whittled a popsicle stick to the exact width of the hammer channel or opening in the slide and I insert it between the hammer and the firing pin. The idea being the popsicle stick should absorb the energy of the falling hammer, if my grip slips, and spread the hammer’s energy across the frame and not all it to just depress the firing pin. But, it is clumsy and once in a great while, I am somewhere without my popsicle stick modification. So, I am very interested in a better method of lowering the hammer on a live round in my K-2 and my 10mm Compact. Help!
      Or, am I wrong assuming that the double action option is offered to encourage having a live round in the chamber and being able to trigger it off double action as a first round in a new magazine option? If that is the case, why the double action mode because you have to lower the hammer on a live round after each shot to be double action only.

    2. MacII, the thing with CZ 75 clones is that they all start as copies of the original cold war CZ 75 version. The communist secret service on one hand didn’t allow the factory/engineers to procure international patents for the gun (in order to keep it secret), but few years later the communist trade ministry allowed their export as Czechoslovakia badly needed hard currency. That led to situation when a number of manufacturers first started making copies of the design, and in the past 40 years also developed on the design.

      Meanwhile all the newer models and updates – including decocker or omega trigger – were dutifully patented. Therefore none of the cloners can deliver anything close to the CZ’s post 1990 improvements of the original design, unless they come with their own solutions – which most simply don’t.

      I am afraid that there is no help for you other than manually lowering the hammer with great care not to drop it fast on the round. Or getting a decocker model.

    3. Although I have CZ’s, Caniks, Sarsilmaz, I would put a Tanfoglio ( Mossad) of unknown age up against the whole bunch, Omega triggers and all!! CZ’s and others just rock!!

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