By Peter G. Kokalis
I frequently carried a CZ 75 in a Galco vertical shoulder rig during the war in El Salvador. I was serving at the time with the famed Atlacatl Immediate Reaction Battalion, the elite special forces unit of the Salvadoran army. The pistol was well known and always highly regarded in international mercenary circles, especially in Africa, where it was easy to obtain and reasonably priced. Placed in series production 40 years ago, the Czech-made CZ 75 was one of the very first large-capacity, double-action 9mm pistols. It remains one of the very best and retains immense popularity worldwide. As it was not initially available in the United States, I purchased my first one from Canada using an ATF Form 6 for firearms importation from a foreign country.
Manufactured by ˇCeská Zbrojovka Uherský Brod in the Czech Republic, all of the CZ 75-series pistols are now imported to the U.S. by CZ-USA.
Designed by Frantisek Koucky, the CZ 75 is a most successful blend of innovation and the best features of several other celebrated pistol designs. Chambered originally for the 9mm cartridge and now in .40 S&W as well, the CZ 75 was not engineered for the Czech military but rather for Western and Third World civilian, military and police markets. This is not really surprising, as the Czechs have been major arms merchants to the world since the inception of their nation in 1918. It was finally adopted by the armed forces after the Velvet Revolution, the period of transition away from Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia to a parliamentary republic in November and December 1989.
The CZ 75’s great popularity in Africa resulted in South African Vektor’s introduction of two pistols, the SP1 and SP2, which clearly copied the CZ 75’s distinctive grip-frame hump. The entire pistol was copied by Tanfoglio in Italy and ITM (Industrial Technology and Machines) in Switzerland as the AT84.
All of the CZ 75-series guns, with the exception of the Kadet .22LR model, are short-recoil operated with locking systems modified from the Browning Model 1935 (Hi Power) and the SIG P210. Two lugs on top of the barrel fit into corresponding recesses in the slide when the gun is in battery. A barrel bottom lug, which is integral with the hammer-forged barrel, is slotted and retained by the slide-stop pin. The Kadet .22LR conversion kit is blowback operated.
As the slide moves rearward, the barrel is forced downward and unlocked by the slide-stop pin. This is a theoretical improvement over the swinging link and pin used on the Colt M1911A1 pistol. The recoil spring and its polymer guide rod seat into a hollow below the barrel, and both the guide rod seat and the pinned, pivot-type extractor have been gleaned from the Hi Power.
The CZ 75’s hammer mechanism is a removable subassembly, a composite of those found in the Russian Tokarev TT-33 and Swiss SIG P210 pistols. The hammer’s retaining pin is exposed by a small hole in the left side of the frame. Only trained armorers should attempt disassembly of these components. As with the SIG P210, the CZ 75’s slide rides on rails machined inside the frame. This system reduces side play, provides a longer bearing surface and enhances the pistol’s inherent accuracy potential.
The CZ 75 and all of its derivatives can be carried either cocked-and-locked (a round in the chamber, hammer cocked, thumb safety engaged) or with the hammer down on a loaded chamber. The first round can be fired double action.
The double-action mechanism differs from most others. A wraparound trigger bar engages an L-shaped interrupter pinned to the hammer, connecting the two components. Pulling the trigger in double action pushes the trigger bar and interrupter to release the hammer at the end of the cycle, when the upper surface of the trigger bar is forced down by the sear housing’s shoulder.
All of the “B” models feature a firing-pin safety of the conventional type. A spring-loaded plunger in the slide must be pushed upward by a lever in the trigger mechanism, which rotates upward as the trigger is pivoted rearward, so the spring-loaded firing pin becomes free to travel forward. After the first round has been fired, the slide recocks the hammer and forces the disconnector to release its engagement with the lower portion of the sear. This allows the sear to pivot rearward to re-engage the full-cock notch. A unique, yet simple system, it provides the CZ 75-series pistols with a smooth double-action trigger-pull weight of 8½ to 9 pounds. Without tuning, the single-action drawstroke with a pull weight of about 4 pounds exhibits a noticeable amount of creep. There is also a half-cock notch. CZ 75-series triggers are smooth and nickel chromed.
The thumb safety is located in the proper place, on the left side of the frame above the grip panel. Of adequate size and shape, it can be activated only with the hammer at full cock, and doing so will not drop the hammer. Firing from the Weaver position with both thumbs over the lever, the safety is both easily deactivated and placed back on Safe after a firing sequence. The CZ 75 BD model has no manual safety but instead has a decocking lever (“D” designation) that safely lowers the hammer with a round in the chamber. There is also a CZ 75 DAO (double-action only), which has no external safety, no spur on the hammer and can be fired double-action only.
Original CZ 75 magazines hold 15 rounds and were cloned from the Browning Hi Power. The pistols are still provided with one 15-round magazine, a cleaning rod, a bore brush, a magazine loader and a rugged plastic carrying case. Abbreviated 13-round magazines for the CZ 75 Compact have an extended floorplate, curved slightly downward at the front to serve as a stop for the firing hand. CZ 97 B .45 ACP magazines hold 10 rounds. These single-position-feed, staggered-column, box-type magazines are of conventional configuration and can be effortlessly disassembled. They have a steel body and floorplate with a plastic follower.
The magazine catch/release button is located where it should be, immediately to the rear of the triggerguard on the frame’s left side. Magazines fall freely out of the magazine well on all CZ 75-series pistols.
The CZ 75 series’ high-profile fixed sights are excellent. The blade-type front sight carries a single white dot. The rear sight’s square notch can be drifted in its dovetail in the slide for adjustment of lateral zero. It has a white dot on each side of the notch. The rear sight’s exposed corners are well rounded to prevent snagging. The sight radius is 6.1 inches. The top of the slide on the entire CZ pistol series has longitudinal serrations running the full length.
The steel frames of these pistols are machine-finished investment castings, as are many of the other components. The slides are made from extruded, hammer-forged bar stock. The CZ 75 B weighs 2 pounds, 3 ounces with an empty magazine, and the CZ 97 B weighs 21/2 pounds.
Barrel length of CZ 75 B pistols is 4.7 inches. All CZ-series pistol barrels have six grooves with a right-hand twist. The rate of twist for 9mm barrels is 1:9.84 inches, and for .45 ACP, .40 S&W and .22LR it’s 1:16 inches. CZ 75 B pistols are available in .40 S&W with a beefed-up slide.
Several different finishes are available. The one I carried in El Salvador had a black oxide finish with blond, checkered wood grip panels. More common today is black polymer. This two-stage process employs a German polymer lacquer of Swiss design cured over the components, which are first treated with a Parkerized finish. The black polymer finish is chip-free and both wear and corrosion resistant. Currently, CZ 75 B pistols are provided with a ringed “combat hammer,” whereas the original 75s utilized a spur-type hammer.
Fit and finish of these pistols remains flawless. Exterior surfaces are polished until all milling marks are removed. All radiused surfaces exhibit perfect alignment. Everything fits together with just the right amount of tightness. The barrel’s rifling cuts and chamber dimensions have been fabricated to the closest possible tolerances. Barrel, slide and frame all carry the pistol’s serial number, in the European manner.
The human engineering applied to the design of these pistols is of the very highest order. The grip tang is exactly the right length to prevent the hammer from biting the web of your hand. The grip frame’s distinctive hump melts into the hand as though it were a custom-fitted prosthesis. The grip-to-frame angle is perfect; target acquisition is consequently swift and positive. Most important is the incredible simplicity of the design when compared with all too many of today’s pistols.
Equally impressive is the Kadet .22LR conversion kit. Introduced in 1993, the kit consists of three major groups: a 10-round magazine, a slide that contains the spring-loaded firing pin and the recoil spring with its steel guide rod, and the slide housing to which the barrel is fixed. The ejector is attached to the barrel group. The weight, when installed on a frame, duplicates that of the CZ 75 B/85 B pistols.
In my experience, .22LR conversion kits, whether they are for a pistol or shoulder-mounted firearm, usually provide only mediocre performance, principally because .22 rimfire ammunition produces more fouling than any other type. Installation of this kit on a CZ 75 B/85 B frame requires some minor fitting (described in detail in the operator’s manual) with a Swiss file and a stone. This is, without doubt, the most reliable and accurate .22 conversion kit I have ever tested. I fired more than 500 rounds of Remington high-velocity solids without a single stoppage. This is outstanding, but, equally important, the Kadet .22LR conversion kit is a real tackdriver. Its accuracy potential is far superior to the High Standard Supermatic Trophy pistol I used to shoot in competition 50 years ago.
The 9mm Parabellum CZ 75 B that I tested most recently held no surprises for me. This pistol remains one of the most reliable and accurate available. I employed Black Hills ammunition to run it through its paces: 124-grain FMJ and both 115-grain and 147-grain JHP rounds featuring Hornady’s superb XTP bullets. There were no stoppages of any kind, more than enough accuracy for the purposes intended and almost no perceived recoil, as you would expect from a steel frame, service-size, large-capacity 9mm. In addition to all of the above attributes, cost makes the CZ line exceedingly attractive: $612 for the company’s 75 B flagship and just $544 for the simplified Omega trigger model in 9mm.
During the last decade, a significant number of states have passed concealed carry legislation. As a consequence, the demand for service-size, large-magazine-capacity handguns outside of law enforcement circles has diminished somewhat. For this reason, CZ-USA introduced the CZ 2075 RAMI, a subcompact version of the CZ 75 designed specifically for concealed carry. It features a 3-inch barrel, an aluminum alloy frame and low-profile sights. Chambered for both the 9mm and .40 S&W cartridges, the single-position-feed, staggered-column magazines hold 10 and eight rounds, respectively. Extended-capacity magazines ship with the pistols.
The CZ 75’s features so impressed the late Jeff Cooper that many of them were incorporated into the ill-fated Bren Ten. While no longer produced, it remains an impressive, albeit controversial handgun. As its chief advocate, Col. Cooper, a frequent contributor to Guns & Ammo, was convinced that it was the ultimate fighting handgun and the only deserving replacement for the M1911.
While the Bren Ten borrowed some of the CZ 75’s characteristics, it was designed from the ground up to accommodate the 10mm Auto cartridge, which itself was developed by Col. Cooper. Adopted by the FBI in 1989, the cartridge was eventually dropped. FFV Norma AB of Amotfors, Sweden, first produced the cartridge for the Bren Ten pistol at the behest of Dornaus & Dixon.
Offered in a number of variants, all of which resembled the CZ 75, Bren Ten frames were made of stainless steel and the slides of carbon steel, the latter with either a black oxide or hard-chromed finish.
CZ 75 B 40th Anniversary Limited Edition
One of the most important firearms in history is being honored in 2015 with 1,000 pistols chambered in 9mm and presented in a leather-bound case. CZUB assigned its master engraver, Rene Ondra, to create a special design based on classic hand engraving completed in the Czech Republic with a hammer pushing the engraver’s tools. Controls, including the trigger, slide stop, manual safety, magazine release and hammer, are finished in a rainbow-colored titanium nitride for an attractive and long-lasting finish that contrasts with a gloss blue finish. Smooth, birds-eye maple grip panels complete the package, representing a functional work of art on a timeless design.