The CZ P01: Excellence in Action
By Robert Campbell

Today we often see CNC enabled designs that are nothing short of outstanding. A good example of an excellent new design comparable to any other service pistol in the world is the CZ P 01. The P 01 is a variant of the CZ 75 pistol but is a very advanced handgun. Most are familiar with the famous Czech produced 9mm CZ 75 service pistol with a reputation for reliability and accuracy. The P 01 variant is an answer to requirements from the Czech National Police. The stringent requirements were a daunting proposition to any maker, so much so many makers who were contacted simply did not reply to the circular. In essence, the police wanted a handgun with the same accuracy and reliability as the CZ 75 but they did not wish to use a full size handgun. European police have a tradition of compact sidearms, but the Czech police would not settle for a light .32 or .380 caliber. The compact design would involve more than simply shortening the CZ 75, but rather redesigning certain aspects of the handgun. While downsizing is not particularly difficult, the process has not always gone perfectly. The Czech police put an earnest spin on the competition, with a set of requirements so rigid that there was little competition for the prize in terms of numbers, but the required performance was of a severe standard. The CZ pistol went through 36 months of test and evaluation and development. The published requirements included some of the following:

  • 1,350 disassemblies and reassembly,
  • 150 detail disassemblies (to the pins and small parts),
  • 4,000 dry fire actions,
  • 3,000 decocker activations,
  • 54 1.5 meter drops for safety testing.
  • The pistol must be frozen to subzero temperatures, fired dry, and subjected to firing without any type of lubrication. The service life of the pistol was set at a minimum of 15,000 rounds.

During the test period the new handgun proved to be among the most reliable of handguns with only a total of seven stoppages in firing 15,000 rounds of full power 9mm Luger ammunition. Remember that these rounds were fired during the most difficult of trails.

The major difference between the CZ 75 and the P 01 is the shortened frame and slide of the P 01, accompanied by a shortened grip frame. Mechanically, the pistol uses the proven double action first shot trigger mechanism of the CZ 75. The trigger action on our test pistol broke at about 11 pounds while the single action press is a crisp five pounds, with the modest backlash typical of the type.

The main difference in this pistol and the CZ 75 is the decocker action. The original CZ 75 uses a safety that allows cocked and locked carry but makes no provision for decocking the action. Police agencies as a rule demand a decocker of some type for use with double action pistols. The P 01 uses a frame mounted decocker of excellent design. Unlike the usual slide mounted decocker, this device falls under the thumb readily. When the hammer is at full cock, a press of the thumb activates the decocker. The hammer falls but not completely - stopping in a kind of semi half-cock position. This is a superior system to the pistols that allow the hammer to strike the firing pin on decocking. The pistol also incorporates a positive firing pin block or drop safety.

The slide features forward cocking serrations. The utility of these serrations are more aspirational than operational but they harm nothing. The grip frame fits most hands well and is serrated on the front strap for control. The frame appears monolithic compared to the original CZ 75, retaining good balance despite light weight. The rubber grips are not impressive but certainly get the job done and are well fitted to the frame. The double column magazine holds fourteen rounds of 9mm Luger ammunition, giving the pistol a full fifteen rounds for duty use. The trigger guard is squared at the front, a dated feature in some ways but perfectly suited to hard use. The design may be superior if the pistol is used as a blunt impact weapon. If you need to.

The slide rides low in the frame, giving the CZ P 01 a low bore axis. This is among the few double action pistols with a true low bore axis and is a considerable advantage. There is little leverage for the muzzle to rise in recoil. The slide is reversed from most, running inside the slide resulting in a theoretical advantage in accuracy as the long bearing surfaces retain more contact during firing. The frame features a light rail and any modern tactical worth its salt must be delivered with a rail for mounting a combat light or ancillary laser. The test pistol is finished in a tactical green enamel and the finish seems durable enough after several hundred presentations from a leather holster and firing several thousand rounds of ammunition over a period of several months.

The P 01 is well balanced, with a smooth trigger action and good combat sights. The sights are not the embryonic type once found on service handguns and while not target grade they are quite serviceable. With a short slide and resulting short sight radius, minimal movement is less noticeable than with a full length service pistol. As such, care must be taken in properly aligning the sights.

Overall, the firing tests were impressive. We fired over 3,000 thousand rounds of ammunition, including ball, lead bullet handloads, service loads, and even +P and +P+ law enforcement loads with good results. We believe the P 01 is a great service pistol, an admirable spear carrier for a reputable company.

Accuracy results
25 yards from a benchrest. Group in inches from center to center of furthest spaced bullet hole.

Winchester 115 gr. USA ball   3.8 inches
Winchester 124 gr. NATO   2.0 inches
Winchester 147 gr. SXT   2.8 inches
Fiocchi 115 gr. XTP   2.5 inches
Fiocchi 123 grain Combat FMJ   2.0 inches
115 gr. Sierra JHP/WW 231/1200 fps   3.0 inches
Oregon Trail 125 gr. RNL/WW 231/1050 fps   4.5 inches
IMI/Uzi 9mm 115 gr. JHP (*)   3.4 inches
PMC 124 gr. Starfire*   5.0 inches
Egyptian 124 gr. Ball**   5.8 inches

*Two failures to feed due to bullet being moved into case.
**Several failures of primers to fire despite deep indent in primer

CZ P 01 Specifications

Manufacturer:   Ceska Zbrojovkas (commonly referred to as CZ)
NATO stock number:   NSN-1005-16-000-8619
Overall length:   184mm (7.2 in.)
Height:   137mm (5.4 in.)
Width:   37mm (1.46 in.)
Weight empty:   800 grams (27 oz.)
Frame:   Light alloy
Barrel length:   92.5mm (3.6 in.)
Sight radius:   135mm (5.3 in.)

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V13N12 (September 2010)
and was posted online on March 9, 2012


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