Durable All-Steel CZ-75B: One Man’s Favorite Pistol
by Jim Williamson
In today’s world, there is no dearth of 9mm pistols. The market is virtually glutted with designs, some modern, some classic, some, well, unfortunate. One of the best is surely that of the big Uhersky Brod factory of Ceska Zbrojovka (CZ). Conceived by one or both of two brothers whose last name was Koucky, the gun appeared in 1975, being modified by early 1980 to extend the slide rails and receiver forward about 1-inch. This probably afforded added stability and longer life to the gun, and certainly improved the looks.
The CZ-75 is an evolved design, consisting of elements already present on other guns. But it blends those elements in such a way as to provide them in a format not previously achieved.
The long slide rails, with the slide riding within the receiver, comes from Petter’s M1935-A French service pistol and the resultant SIG-P-210, a legend in itself.
The added support given to the cycling slide is said to result in enhanced accuracy, and probably helps the gun to achieve its reputation of extraordinary durability. I’ve talked with knowledgeable people who say they’ve seen this model exceed 90,000 rounds of firing without major repair or replacement of major parts.
The double-action trigger for the first shot is usually attributed in successful form to Walther. If a first strike fails to fire the primer of a chambered cartridge, a second trigger pull will often fire it. Some modern autos do not re-set the mechanism if a first trigger pull fails, and the ability to just pull the trigger again is obvious. This can be a lifesaving feature!
Like early examples of the Beretta M-92 and the Taurus equivalent, the CZ-75, once cocked, can be safely carried in cocked-and-locked mode. (Hammer back and safety on.) The rub is that one has to use great care in lowering the hammer on a live round in the chamber. The same is true of the Colt Government Model, the Browning Hi-Power, and others. (The CZ-75BD does allow using a different safety to lower the hammer, but it doesn’t provide for the cocked-and-locked carry that some prefer.)
The nominally 16-shot magazine was surely inspired by the Browning Hi-Power, and is again available after the sunsetting of the “crime” law enacted through the vigor of President Clinton, no friend of gunowners. The majority of CZ-75s now in the US probably were sold with the 10-round magazines required from 1994 until the expiration of that odious law in 2004. Aftermarket replacement magazines by CZ and by Mec-Gar will fit these guns, but check with the manufacturer to be sure that your particular gun will accept the magazines that you want to buy.
Very minor changes in specs have evidently made some magazines a poor match for some guns, depending on just when they were made. I wouldn’t buy at a gun show, unless I knew precisely which spare mags fit my own gun. Also, most CZs not intended specifically for action match shooting have a “magazine brake” that keeps the magazine from dropping fully free. It will come out enough to be easily removed, but won’t drop out for a maximum speed reload. This bothers me only slightly more than the possibility that Donald Duck will be elected President.
In the real world, such “speed reloads” are not commonly needed, especially in a few occasions. But he did this with enough time that the “brake” on the CZ wouldn’t have mattered. (He was shooting at people, not “action match” targets.)
The grip frame of the CZ-75B seems to have been arrived at after carefully examining the old Remington M-51 auto or a Star pistol with similar handle shape. Several Star models, most obviously the Model S and Super S, have grips very like that on the old Remington .380, and the guns are a wonderful fit in most human hands.
This is a good place to address the rumor that Star, now defunct, had a hand in designing the CZ-75, and may have furnished castings to CZ for final machining and assembly. I frankly don’t know, but a CZ official told another American gun writer that there is nothing to this story. However, it is true that Star’s Model 28, 30, 30S, and M-31 models were designed by someone who had taken a good look at the CZ-75. I believe the steels are different, but both guns have a reputation for durability.
The CZ has also been copied by Tanfoglio (Italy), Jericho (Israel), and ITM (Switzerland). The British Sterling (no, not the submachinegun) was also inspired by the CZ. It seems never to have entered production, probably due to the passage of draconian UK handgun laws.
In any event, the grip of the CZ-75 feels terrific in most reasonably large hands. If it’s a bit too thick for an individual owner, Hogue’s (PO Box 1138, Dept. GWK, Paso Robles, CA 93447; phone: 800-438-4747; on-line: www.getgrip.com) wooden grips are thinner than CZ factory grips, and the Czech firm is about to offer their own thinner cocobolo stocks. CZ usually supplies plastic grip plates that are thinner than their rubber panels.
I obtained a set of their rubber ones, and found them difficult to fit on the gun, because one panel had the screw hole drilled at an angle! I enlarged the hole slightly with a slim screwdriver and got them on the gun, but prefer the slimmer plastic panels. Someone with a larger hand might prefer the rubber grips.
Early CZs had the area around the slide-grasping grooves “dished” or recessed. This improved the appearance, say some, and did contribute to a solid grip on the relatively small area of the slide available for the hand, as some of that area normally accessible on other autos is enclosed within the frame.
Newer examples have the slide grooves cut conventionally, with no recess, but the grooves are still the traditional style, with much more class than the crude appearance of most “modern” wondernines that too often look like something turned out in Germany in the Spring of 1945 as “volkssturm pistolen.” The CZ-75 looks like a quality traditional auto pistol, not something designed for cheap mass production.
Both “spur” and “round” hammers have been used. The spur type looks a bit crude to me, and I much prefer the present rounded form, very like that on the old Mauser C-96 or on the Colt Commander. This seems to be the only hammer now in production.
The grip screws have Phillips head screws, but they can be turned by the small screwdriver on a Swiss Army knife. I did find the screws difficult to “locate” in the holes, and fastening them takes more effort than it should.
The CZ’s empty weight is 33.6 ounces, quite reasonable for an all-steel 9mm pistol. The gun’s legendary durability certainly makes that weight all the more tolerable.
It is important to mention that recent CZ chambers aren’t polished bright. In fact, their dull grayness as seen through the opening in the slide will encourage many to get out the Flitz or Simichrome polish and shine them up. Don’t! That appearance is the result of a heat treatment intended to harden that area and extend the life of the barrel.
Most CZ-75s on the US market have a baked-on Polycoat finish that is said to be much more durable than conventional bluing. It can chip, so be reasonably careful with it. It has a satin black look. Not as pretty as a good blue job, but is more practical for most real world use. If one doesn’t like the Polycoat, regular bluing and satin nickel are finish options.
I am delighted to say that I have just received confirmation from CZ-USA (PO Box 171073, Dept. GWK, Kansas City, KS 66117; phone: 800-955-4486; on-line: www.CZ-USA.com) that they have stocks of the new stainless version on hand, and that your dealer can order them at any time. It is wonderful to see a stainless gun of this type, for it is surely the most viable for a sidearm that sees daily use in the real world, in all sorts of weather. If a dealer tells you that the CZ-75 isn’t made in stainless, he’s either behind on the news, or is trying to sell you what he has in stock.
There is a single-action version of the gun for action pistol competition, if that’s what you need a 9mm for, and the CZ-85 offers ambidextrous controls. A CZ-85 Combat model lacks the magazine brake that keeps the magazine from dropping free on the standard gun, and some prefer that feature. In the real world, the need for a maximum speed reload is less likely than on the match circuit. It isn’t something that troubles me.
One should note that the design is available in .40 S&W caliber. The .40 hasn’t been noted for spectacular accuracy, but the CZ version does better than most in tests that I’ve read, and is certainly the gun I’d try if I wanted a .40.