When I was in a gun store waiting for an FFL transfer, I saw what I thought was a nice looking Browning Hi-Power in the case for a great price. I asked to look at it and the gun felt right. I checked the tag and it read, “CZ 75B”.
CZ 75: Cheap Czech Steel
I had no idea what pistol I was holding at the time, but it had a good heft and a natural point. I asked to see a nice FN Browning Hi-Power that was next to the CZ 75B, and it didn’t feel as good in my hands, and was almost twice the price. I bought the CZ 75B on a whim and my love for this cheap Czech pistol was sealed when I put five magazines of 124 gr. ball down range and it shot like a laser.
The CZ 75 is a high-capacity service pistol designed and built in the Czech Republic by CZUB, and currently imported by CZ USA. It’s a full sized pistol, 8” long with a 4.7” barrel and weighing 2.47 pounds (about the same weight as an M1911). The CZ 75 features a steel frame and slide. Standard capacity is 16 + 1 rounds, but there are magazines that can hold 20 rounds. The pistol is single action/double action, with a frame mounted safety, and has a manual of arms similar to an M1911 or Hi-Power, but with double action capability. It can be carried cocked and locked (condition one). The CZ 75B has a firing pin block, a feature added in the 1990s to prevent discharge on a hammer drop with the safety on. The pistol can be placed in half-cock, but this is only for manual decocking and field stripping, and is not a safety position, nor does it allow you to fully decock the pistol. There is a decocking version of the CZ 75, the CZ 75BD that has a decocking lever instead of a manual safety, which allows the pistol to operate like most service 9mms, with a double action first shot and single action follow up shots.
The basic design of the CZ 75 makes it easily mistakable for a Browning Hi-Power. The layout of the pistol are similar, as both use the linkless cam system of the Hi-Power. There are also details of the CZ 75 that are reminiscent of the M1911, like the recoil spring guide, which is short and uncaptured.
The CZ 75 also has a host of unique features that sets the pistol apart from other high capacity 9mm pistols. The CZ 75 grip fixes one of the major issues with the Browning Hi-Power; the Hi-Power’s tendency to bite the web of hand. When comparing grip profiles, the CZ 75 has a slightly more raked grip, with a rounder front strap and a generous tang. My only contention is that it should feature some checkering on the front strap, but it is very ergonomic and does not bite the user’s hand. Early CZ 75s had a spurred hammer that had the potential to cause hammer bite, but CZ 75Bs have a ring hammer.
The CZ 75 features internal slide rails, meaning the slide is held by the frame, the reverse of most semi-auto pistols. This provides a tighter slide to frame lock-up, which provides better mechanical accuracy. The pistol is packaged with a factory test target; mine showed five hits in a 3 inch group at 25 meters. While mechanical accuracy is excellent, practical accuracy ranges from acceptable to good. The weight versus recoil impulse of the 9mm round makes it a soft shooting handgun, but points of contention are the sights and trigger pull.
The factory sights are small, low profile service pistol sights, with a three dot pattern. My CZ 75B has dots painted with photo-luminescent paint, which absorb light and then radiate it back in low light. I’m not impressed with these “poor man’s night sights” in the dark or light, and plan on upgrading my personal weapon to some Trijicons with real tritium illumination (also Crimson Trace is available). The trigger pull on the CZ 75 is also long and stiff, even in single action. The addition of the firing pin block on the CZ 75B model worsened the trigger pull. There are aftermarket parts and smiths who can make the trigger a beautiful thing, but for a service pistol this is something I recommend against. I did a 5,000 round trigger job and find it to be quite serviceable now, or I have adapted to the pull. Either way, the trigger on a stock CZ 75 is not a match affair.
Another unique feature of the CZ 75 is the magazine brake spring. Inside the magazine well is a bowed flat spring that applies tension to the magazine body. If you press the magazine release on an empty mag, the tension from the spring will cause the magazine to drop approximately half way out. This allows you to retain the magazine by manually removing it and then replacing it with a full magazine. In dry training with the CZ 75B, I did not find the magazine brake to be a problem, but in live fire I hated it. I desperately wanted drop free mags. There are a couple solutions to this. One is to remove the the spring, flatten it, and replace it. Another is to purchase a flat spring (a blank filler really) and install it in the magazine well. I opted to go with installing a flat spring, and have been happy with drop free mags ever since.
The CZ 75 has gained popularity over the years and now has a host of variations, as well as additional calibers. The CZ 75B can be had in .40 S&W, with several finishes. There is the decocking model, the CZ 75BD, a compact model, and the CZ 85B, an ambidextrous version of the CZ 75. There is the CZ-97 in .45 ACP, in B and BD versions. There are also competition and tactical models, like the CZ 75 SP-01 and the CZ 75 Tactical Sport.
The parts I would stock up on would be the slide release lever (the barrel pivots on this part), recoil springs, extractor springs, guide rod, and as many magazines as I could afford. Factory magazines are outstanding, but MEC-GAR brand have also functioned 100% for me, and were at one time the factory magazine original equipment manufacturer.
The CZ 75 is an interesting pistol and certainly one that I enjoy. I keep it loaded, condition one, with Speer 124 gr. Gold Dots and keep a spare magazine in the case. I feel it’s a pistol I can trust. I certainly got a lot of gun for my money, and I think that’s what the CZ 75 represents, a good value. If you can find one used, you’re even better off. LTC Jeff Cooper called the CZ 75, “the worlds best service 9mm” or something similar, and used the design aesthetic as the basis for the Bren Ten. If you’re looking for a rugged service 9mm on a budget, I think that it would be hard to make a better choice.
All Photos by Mr. Smashy (See Mr. Smashy’s Flickr Gallery)
Also see (CZ 75 Family – The Ultimate Combat Handgun)