TriStar T-100 9mm Pistol
By R.K. Campbell

Among the greatest service pistols of all time is the CZ 75. Highly praised by knowledgeable shooters and military men, the CZ 75 has earned a reputation for reliability and accuracy with a nod toward the CZ as giving more pistol for the money than expected. While the CZ is built upon solid operating principles there is much that is original about the handgun.

The pistol that is the subject of this review is a Turkish produced version of the CZ 75. The pistol is in one manner of speaking a copy although the term clone is more popular. There is a large market for a pistol that is reasonably compact, easily carried, capable of defending both the person and the hearth, and one that doesn’t break the bank. The T-100, and its cousin the C-100, are serious competitors that outstrip most in the price range for quality and function. TriStar Sporting Arms has a long association with Turkish produced firearms and the T-100 is among the latest to be imported.

The T-100 features the Browning derived locked breech lockup with tilting barrel. The pistol locks and unlocks by using a barrel lug and an underlug angled camming surface. The pistol features a double action first shot trigger. The first shot is fired by a long press of the trigger. The action is heavy but quick. Once the pistol fires the slide recoils and the hammer is cocked for subsequent shots. The magazines hold fifteen rounds of 9mm Luger ammunition. The pistol is based upon the proven CZ 75 action. The slide design is distinctive and so is the S curved grip frame. Among the most noticeable features of the pistol is the CZ slide design. The slide actually runs inside the frame rather than outside in a manner that makes for excellent fit, good slide to frame interface, and which may be proven to enhance accuracy potential. The profile is narrower due to this design as well. The slide design makes grasping the slide for racking a bit more difficult but with acclimation the slide may be quickly manipulated. The slide is conveniently serrated at the rear for grasping while racking the slide. The modification to the original CZ 75 serration is pleasing and modern. The frame differs from the CZ 75 in a distinctly modern fashion. The pistol features high profile sights with white dot inserts. The rear sight is dovetailed in place and may be adjusted for windage. The front sight appears dovetailed in casual observation but is actually pinned in place. The T-100 is a compact version of the CZ 75 type with a short slide and 3.9 inch barrel. This is adequate for a good powder burn with high intensity 9mm ammunition. The recoil spring is braided or double wound in order to insure reliability in the short slide pistol. The frame is of aluminum alloy. This is an advantage for daily carry in a pistol this size, resulting in a significant weight savings. An aluminum frame pistol is lighter on the hip but exhibits more recoil compared to a steel framed pistol. With the 9mm Luger cartridge the trade off isn’t unpleasant. The pistol features a squared off trigger guard, which was once stylish and used for resting the forefinger on the trigger guard to aid control during firing. It comes off well in this configuration. Few shooters adopt this hold today but the outline is not unpleasant. The tang of the grip frame is comfortable when firing heavy loads and leads the hand into the grip as you draw the pistol. The grip panels are manufactured of a hard plastic material.

The operating mechanism of the pistol needs some explanation. The manual of arms calls for the pistol to be loaded by inserting a loaded magazine and racking the slide. An alternate action would be to lock the slide to the rear, insert a loaded magazine, and release the slide lock. Whichever means is used the hammer must be lowered by carefully pressing the trigger as the hammer is grasped and manually lowered. There is no decocking lever. Muzzle discipline and strict control are needed in handling. Alternately, the safety may be placed in the ON position with the hammer cocked and the pistol may be carried cocked and locked. Most shooters will carry the pistol hammer down and be prepared to fire the pistol with a long press of the trigger. The safety may be placed on with the hammer down. The safety is very tight and positive and may free up with use. Those carrying the pistol on safe definitely need to practice manipulating this safety. The double action pistol breaks at about fourteen pounds. There is some take up too slight to be called creep. After the pistol fires the slide recoils and subsequent shots are fired single action, with a short trigger press. The single action trigger is light and crisp at about four pounds with the modest backlash common to CZ type pistols. Those who prefer the double action first shot may still appreciate the manual safety and cocked and locked carry. Once the first shot is fired and you are engaging in tactical movement the pistol may be placed on safe without the necessity of lowering the hammer. The action of the T-100 is more tactical than technical based. This pistol is a combat pistol based upon a proven military design and it shows in the pistol’s performance.

The T-100 features the proven Browning magazine release, a well designed slide lock, and a comfortable S shaped grip that fits most hands well. The pistol also utilizes a positive firing pin block or drop safety. The firing pin is held in place until the trigger is pressed completely to the rear. This prevents the pistol from firing from inertia if the pistol is dropped on the muzzle. The firing pin is solidly locked in place. The T-100’s frame mounted safety is far handier than a slide mounted safety. The thumb safety is well engineered and positive in action, indenting with a solid click. The pistol is well made of good material and gives every indication of rivaling or equaling the original CZ 75. The standard finish is a baked on or painted finish that TriStar calls a polycoat. This finish should prove more durable than the generic matt blue and is evenly applied. The test pistol was supplied with an attractive chrome finish. This finish is sure to inhibit corrosion and gives the pistol a distinctive look.

The recoil spring is stout as it should be to control recoil energy in a short slide pistol firing 9mm Luger ammunition. Since +P and even +P+ loads are used for defense, the pistol is proofed for the powerful 9mm NATO round. The magazine springs are also strong. While some of the raters complained of the effort needed to load the last round into the magazine, the strong springs are a good feature. It is asking a lot for a magazine to feed from high compression fully loaded to almost no compression on the last round. The T-100 did so during a test period that included over four hundred rounds fired. This pistol is a business-like handgun with nothing polymer or extraneous about it. It is built to function and function for a long time. During the test period we were pleasantly surprised by the accuracy potential of the T-100. While five-inch groups for five rounds at 25 yards is an acceptable combat accuracy standard that will save your life, with some loads the T-100 averaged half that standard. Two and one half inches for a five shot group at 25 yards is excellent for a compact 9mm, let alone an economy priced pistol. The T-100 is definitely a best buy with this type of performance. The accuracy table shows the results with a half dozen loads. A few words on ammunition selection in the 9mm caliber are appropriate. I am going to borrow a few words from 21st Century Stopping Power by Captain Matthew Campbell, Paladin Press.

“Those going in harm’s way often prefer the 9mm, which may be expected to do the job required of it with good shot placement and proper bullet expansion. Some may say that the same basic requirement is true of all calibers, and that with proper shot placement the 9mm is as good a choice as any. Those who favor gunhandling control and marksmanship over a large caliber often follow this logic. With the 9mm they have a cartridge that will meet their expectations if they use basic skills. The combination of good penetration, excellent control and accuracy make for a credible choice.”

This author could not agree more with Captain Campbell. Among the loads tested that gave excellent results is the Winchester 124 grain +P. Offering a good balance of expansion and penetration, good accuracy, and excellent cartridge integrity, this load is a fine choice for personal defense. When it comes to personal defense you cannot take many chances and deploying a load with good primer seal, case mouth seal, extensive research and development and strict protocol in manufacture is inexpensive life insurance. Good leather is also necessary. You cannot deploy a holster that will not keep the pistol secure for concealed carry. The handgun must be in the same place for each draw.

UBB holsters (ubgholsters.com) is among a few makers offering top grade CZ holsters. High Noon (Highnoonholsters.com) offers an excellent selection of top grade but readily available holsters. K L Null (KLNullholster.com) offers top grade horsehide holsters with an enviable reputation. Be certain to state that the T-100 is a CZ compact clone with the ‘Baby Eagle’ type frame. Hammered Hides Leather (hammeredhidesleather.com) supplied a well made and versatile inside the waistband holster that proved a good proposition for concealing this pistol.

While this handgun is light, it is not the smallest pistol for concealed carry. On the other hand, it is accurate and effective than lighter guns and will give those who practice an edge in interpersonal combat. After an extensive test and evaluation period this pistol meets every expectation. While the modest price is attractive, this is a credible combat pistol based solely on merit regardless of price.

Accuracy results, 25 yards, average of three 5-shot groups of five shots each

TriStar T-100
Caliber: 9mm
Barrel length: 3.9 inches
Weight: 31 ounces empty
OAL: 7.2 inches
Action: Double action/single action
Magazine capacity: 15 rounds

This article first appeared in SmallArmsReview.com on May 17, 2013


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