By Todd Burgreen
Quick… name a high capacity 9mm handgun - that is not polymer framed. For sure, choices get limited by the caveat at the end. Many may think of the Browning Hi-Power design, and rightfully so, others will come up with some of the Smith & Wesson offerings. Fewer still would name the pistol that served as the poster child for the “Wonder Nine” with its steel frame DA/SA design that is also capable of Condition One “cocked and locked” carry with a pedigree dating back to the mid-1970s from one of the largest firearms manufacturers in the world. The oft overlooked CZ 75 line of pistols is what we are referring to.
CZ-USA is the U.S. importer for the CZ Corporation based in the Czech Republic. The history of Ceska zbrojovka Uhersky Brod (CZ) dates back to 1936, when based on a political decision of the National Defense Council it was established as a branch plant of Ceska zbrojovka located in the town of Strakonice. In January 1937, production of military and civilian arms commenced. The first products were aircraft machine guns, military pistols and rifles. During the Nazi occupation the plant was forced to produce and repair military arms. Events leading up to and through WWII combined with the subsequent Cold War between West/East removed the CZ name from the U.S. market for the last half of the 20th Century. In 1990, production for the Czechoslovakian armed forces ceased with the newly available capacity turned to expanding production of arms for hunting and sporting purposes, as well as exports for police and military units.
None other than the late Jeff Cooper heralded the CZ 75 as the finest 9mm service pistol made. Few original CZ 75 pistols made their way to the U.S. during the Cold War; with the handful available from whatever means held onto tightly by the fortunate individuals so blessed as the CZ 75 commanded an artificially exorbitant price tag due to import restrictions. The end of the Cold War combined with rescinding of the ridiculous and misguided high capacity magazine led to the rebirth/re-emergence of the CZ “Wonder Nine.” Most will admit to the proclivity for carrying eight rounds of .45 ACP in the classic 1911 frame over ten rounds of 9mm. This opinion changes for many once the 9mm count get to 15+ rounds, especially as case studies and growing experience derived from Force-on-Force training drive data. Consideration of handguns chambered in 9mm becomes more feasible as capacity increases. 9mm handguns were redefined by the Glock 17 in terms of capacity and polymer construction. Many debate steel versus polymer advantages/disadvantage. This article is not getting into that debate, but rather focuses on the steel framed CZ75B.
The CZ 75’s soundness of design can be gauged by the number of clones made in its image: EAA Tanfoglia Witness, Swiss-made Sabre, Israeli Jericho, ArmaLite AR-24, etc. There is a lot to be fond of with the CZ 75 typified by steel frame, Browning recoil operated locked breech, DA/SA trigger with “cocked and locked capability, internal frame rails for slide travel, and 16-round capacity with even larger capacity mags available. The CZ 75 shares a lineage with the Sig 210 with the internal frame design. However, the CZ 75 is most often compared to the Browning Hi-Power. Certain characteristics are common to both, but the CZ 75 should be thought of as an evolution of the Hi-Power or next generation of high capacity 9mm. Truth be told, many arrive at the CZ 75 in the contemplation of purchasing a Hi-Power. Yes, features are comparable, but so are many of John Browning’s pistol design elements found in various handguns around the world.
Let’s go over the CZ 75’s salient characteristics and history. Developed in 1975 by the Koucky brothers - Josef and Frantisek - who worked for CZ, the CZ 75 was intended as a service pistol for the export market; it was chambered in 9mm which was not Soviet/Warsaw Pact caliber. The CZ 75 melds many features from weapons that preceded it, such as the above mentioned Browning Hi-Power and SIG 210. The CZ 75 is a steel framed short recoil operated locked breech pistol ala Browning’s system with camming-cut below the barrel. This serves to unlock and lower the barrel during the recoil cycle. The barrel locks into the slide via lugs in front of the ejection port. The slide moves along internal rails machined inside the frame. Proponents point to benefits derived from this such as smoother cycling and finer tolerances translating into better accuracy potential. The CZ 75 has an exposed hammer and manual safety that is configured to allow for Condition One carry even though it is Double/Single action semi-automatic; a distinguishing feature of the CZ 75 when it was first introduced. In the late 1980s the CZ 75 design was modified with an internal firing pin safety and squared trigger guard for easier access to the trigger, especially with gloves on. These models are designated CZ 75Bs. The CZ 75B has 4.7 inch barrel contributing an overall length slightly over 8 inches. The CZ 75B weighs 2.2 pounds and comes equipped with fixed three-dot sights. The CZ 75B has a grip design that seems to fit everyone’s hand. This combined with smooth double action trigger and manageable single action pull with minimal creep creates a handgun that is easy to shoot well. The CZ 75B’s frame safety is placed where anyone familiar with the 1911 will find familiar. It is more substantial than the minimal type found on its Hi-Power cousin.
Numerous models exist in the CZ-USA CZ 75 line-up beyond the standard CZ 75B; this is a reflection of the post-1990 end of the Cold War and CZ’s new mission to capture a segment of the U.S. handgun market. Models such as the CZ 75 SP-01 Tactical and the CZ 75 Stainless are prime examples. Both of these models are refined versions of the classic CZ 75. The SP-01 Tactical comes equipped with features such an accessory rail, tritium sights, ambidextrous safety, and 20-rd capacity magazines. The CZ 75 Stainless takes advantage of improvements in material for extra corrosion resistance. Another favorite CZ 75 nuance is the ability to switch out “uppers” to their Kadet .22 LR slide assembly for young shooters to enjoy or more experienced shooters the ability to train with basic CZ 75 set up with the much cheaper .22 LR ammunition.
The classic CZ 75B and a Kadet .22 LR adaptor that fit onto the 75Bs frame are the focus of this article. Many will find the CZ’s all metal construction preferable to the multitude of polymer framed handguns on the market. One concern with any handgun type with levers and manual safeties is that shooters will need more training time to familiarize themselves. Ideally, personal defense handguns should not be complicated by required manipulations that take away from their primary role: self defense. The CZ 75B offers the best of both worlds with its ability to be carried hammer down safety off employing the double action trigger when engaging a target. Do not underestimate the ability to configure the CZ 75B into Condition One carry and the resultant attraction this will have on many perspective purchasers. The 1911 charisma’s impact on the American shooter goes beyond what many can fathom. The kissing cousin similarity the CZ 75B shares with Browning Hi-Power will further sway others to consider the CZ 75B.
The 9mm CZ 75B was evaluated using Winchester, Black Hills Ammunition, Hornady, Federal and Wolf ammunition. The range T&E of the CZ 75B and .22 LR Kadet was conducted near Winchester, VA at the Echo Valley Training Center. 9mm loads fired ranged from 115gr to 147gr with both hollow points and FMJ bullet types tested. Approximately 550 rounds were fired while compiling this article. An ammunition can full of an assortment of steel, aluminum, and brass case 9mm loads that were consolidated from partially used boxes was purposely used. Magazines were loaded with these random loads and used for a majority of range time. T&E’s rarely consist of bench testing pistols for accuracy due to reliability and quick engagement of targets being more paramount in a self defense/service handgun. The CZ 75B was tested at the range first by verifying sight zero and then firing several magazines rapidly at various steel man targets. This quickly shows if any reliability issues exist. Honestly, if a defensive pistol is not at the very least reliable what good is it? Further testing consisted of strings of fire against steel plate racks and popper targets at 7, 15, and 25 yards. The sights were zeroed out of the box for 25 yards using the classic 6 o’clock hold.
Considering the CZ 75B primary role as a defensive handgun it was decided to evaluate it using drills experienced during training at firearms schools such as Suarez International’s Point Shooting Progressions, Tactical Response’s Fighting Pistol, and Storm Mountain’s Handgun III courses. The natural pointability of the CZ 75B was confirmed along with speed getting it into action. The CZ 75B’s beavertail frame settled the 75B naturally into your hand and provided a point of reference when drawing the pistol from a holster. The 75B was handled in numerous configurations such as hammer down on loaded chamber typical of DA/SA handguns, Condition One “cocked and locked,” empty chamber loaded magazine. Druthers for most would be swipe off the safety and benefit from the lighter shorter single-action trigger pull. The empty chamber drills illustrated the difference of the slide riding rails inside the frame versus externally. A couple of shooters went to grab the slide to rack it back to find they also had a handful of frame preventing smooth manipulation of the slide. This is a training issue and not a reflection of something wrong with the CZ 75B.
The real advantage of the CZ 75B became fully realized when used with the Kadet .22 LR adaptor. The Kadet mounts simply using the same procedures used for normal cleaning disassembly. The Kadet’s use of the existing 75B frame ensures trigger pull is the same between platforms. Along these same lines, the Kadet also assists in getting familiar with operational controls of the 75B during magazine changes or slide manipulations. The Kadet’s operating slide is within the overall frame found on the 75B; thus making it even lower in profile than the 75B’s. However, this was not a detriment as it reinforced a smaller grip method required to work the 75B’s slide. More of a two finger pinch and rip method is preferred with the CZ 75B due to the internal fitting of the rails compared to more of a full hand/palm over the top method affiliated with 1911s or Glocks. The ability to easily switch from the 9mm CZ 75B to .22 LR Kadet was appreciated for eliminating the need to buy two separate weapons for different roles. The CZ Kadet comes with adjustable sights that border on being labeled target sights. This is not a bad thing considering the CZ Kadet would be turned to for instructing less experienced shooters or refining existing sight picture/trigger press skills for more knowledgeable handgunners. Federal and Wolf .22 LR ammunition was used with the Kadet that comes with two 10-round magazines. Reliability was just as unrelenting with the CZ Kadet as it was with the 75B.
It was a pleasant experience revisiting a classic handgun in the form of the CZ 75B that performed at a level justifying its reputation. It is slightly ironic now to consider the CZ 75B one of the best values on the market. The end of the Cold War simplified importation thus allowing market forces to set price point. The CZ 75B is more than capable holding its own against any service/duty pistol on the market. The CZ Kadet .22 LR conversion only reinforces this viewpoint by adding flexibility to the CZ 75 system and stands in its own right as an effective understudy .22 caliber handgun.
SITES OF INTEREST
PO Box 171073
Kansas City, KS 66117
ATK/Federal Cartridge Company
900 Ehlen Drive
Anoka, MN 55303
Black Hills Ammunition
PO Box 3090
Rapid City, SD 57709
Echo Valley Training Center
Hornady Mfg. Inc.
3625 Old Potash Hwy
Grand Island, NE 68802
2438 Valley Ave
Winchester, VA 22601
427 N. Shamrock St
East Alton, IL 62024
PO Box 757
Placentia, CA 92871
|SUBSCRIBER COMMENT AREA|
Comments have not been generated for this article.