Meet the CZ-75: Back in the heady days of the Cold War — for those of us here old enough to remember those days, it paradoxically seems like it was forever ago yet just yesterday at the same time — Czechoslovakia was a single Communist Bloc country as opposed to the two separate, freedom-loving democratic states of the Czech Republic AKA Czechia and Slovakia that we know and love today.
The sufferings of the Czech and Slovak peoples alike under the Communist jackboot were genuinely horrific and godawful, but there was one silver lining behind that cloud of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic: the CZ-75 9mm double-action (DA) semiautomatic pistol. (Hey, even a broken clock is right twice , eh?)
When it debuted, the CZ-75 established an overnight reputation for excellence, and it became like Unobtainium, and the Holy Grail all rolled into one for Western gun enthusiasts (ditto for the Soviet Makarov pistol to some extent).
Then thankfully, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Warsaw Pact along with it, which not only meant millions of newly-freed people in Central and Eastern Europe, but also now meant the enigmatic Czech pistol would finally be arriving upon American shores in large numbers and as affordable prices.
Let’s take a closer look now at the CZ-75.
Czechs and Balances
The CZ-75, as the alphanumeric designation indicates, was designed in 1975 (by happy coincidence, also the year that Yours Truly was born). The designers were the brothers Josef and František Koucký, and the manufacturer was — and still is — the Česká zbrojovka engineering company in the city of Uherský Brod. The pistol was among the earliest of the so-called “Wondernines,” i.e. high-capacity DA 9mm autopistols.
The difference was, that this one actually earned the praise of no less than the late great Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper — “the father of modern combat handgunning” —and one of his best-known disciples, the late great (again) Chuck Taylor. Jeff and Chuck —a U.S. Marine Corps WWII veteran and Army Special Forces Vietnam War veteran respectively — alike were known for their dyed-in-the-wool advocacy of the M1911-A1 .45 ACP single-action (SA) autopistol, and tended to look down their nose at 9mm pistols, especially those with DA lockwork. However, in the case of this Czech gun, these two hardcore .45 buffs heaped praise upon it, deeming it the finest 9mm service pistol made; Chuck Taylor’s “only regret was that it had to be made in a Communist country.”
Among the reasons that Colonel Cooper and Captain Taylor liked the CZ-75 so much were its remarkably slim ergonomics for a Wondernine and the fact that it could be carried “cocked-and-locked” like their preferred SA autos, thanks to the frame-mounted thumb safety that was moved down into the firing position. By contrast, most DA autos extant that time, like the Walther P-38/P-1 and the Smith & Wesson Model 59, employed a slide-mounted hammer-decocking safety level which was moved upward into the firing position, and therefore considered less instinctive and more ergonomically awkward in the stress of a high-speed competitive match or real-world combat situation.
Another interesting and comparatively uncommon feature of the CZ-75 is the slide rides inside the frame rails rather than atop them the way most semiautomatic pistol slides do. In theory, this promotes greater accuracy, and in practice, that approach seems to be borne out of the SIG P210, which is considered by many authorities to be the most accurate 9mm pistol in the world (though same folks claim that title actually belongs to either the Walther P-88 or the Heckler & Koch P9S, both of which are now unfortunately out of production).
Personal Shooting Impressions
I first fired a CZ-75 in the summer of 1992, just before my senior year of high school, at the dear ol’ Los Angeles Gun Club in Downtown L.A, California. To say that I had a positive first impression would be a major understatement; this was the first case of “love at first shot” (so to speak) with a pistol since I’d first fired the Beretta 92F three years earlier. (And I do mean “love” in the strictly platonic sense of the word, lest any smartass hoplophobes out there starting throwing Dr. Joyce Brothers jokes my way.)
I was blown away (lousy pun intended) by the gun’s smoothness, shooting comfort, and practical accuracy. I thought to myself, “Whoa, I gotta get me one of these!” Well, sure enough, I did…
…25 years later. (“Life happens,” as the saying goes. I purchased a CZ-75B variant in December 2017 as a Christmas present to myself from the Pro-Tek Guns shop in Kilgore, Texas. The “B” variant differs from the original CZ-75 insofar that this newer version has a passive firing pin block safety in the slide and a different sear cage assembly to operate the pin block; this is to reduce the likelihood of an unintentional discharge in case the pistol is dropped. This additional safety feature makes for a slightly heavier SA trigger, but the SA trigger is still plenty crisp, and the DA trigger is delightfully smooth.
The CZ-USA website proclaims that “CZ 75 B is used by more governments, militaries, police and security agencies than any other pistol in the world.” I’m not sure how true that claim is vis-a-vis the Glock brand, but it certainly is popular around the globe.
I have fired roughly 1,500 rounds through my CZ-75B, as carerrwise I have been a little busy, but don’t let that make you believe for one second that is some sort of negative against this gun. No, sir.
Anyway, to partially make up for lost time, I took my beloved CZ for a range session recently at the top-notch Silver Eagle Group (SEG) indoor shooting facility in Ashburn, Virginia. Using Turkish-made Ozkursan 124 Grain full metal jacket (FMJ AKA “hardball”) Brass Coated Steel Case ammo and the ICE QT paper target, I divvied up the range test as follows: 25 headshots at 21 feet, 25 center torso shots at 50 feet, and 25 more headshots at 75 feet. (I was hoping to do an additional 25 rounds’ worth of center torso shots at 150 feet, but alas, the long-distance lanes were unavailable due to Sunday afternoon crowds).
Those first 25 rounds were spot-on perfect, with a delightfully tight group. At 50 feet, all rounds were in the kill zone, though roughly half the rounds strayed slightly outside the 5x tiebreaker scoring ring. At 75 feet, my first 10 rounds went high noticeably left, so for the remains 15 shots, I took “Kentucky windage” and adjusted to a 5 o’clock hold on the head of the target, thus producing more reliable results.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Like I mentioned, the smoothness and slickness. Accurate and reliable. Comfortable ergonomics. Fun.
Cons: While definitely more than sufficiently accurate for combat and competition alike, in my experience, the CZ-75 is not entirely as accurate as my beloved Beretta 92FS or my tack-driving Glock 21SF .45 ACP.
Accessories, especially concealment holsters, can be hard to come by. And whilst the pistol has delightfully slim ergonomics for a full-sized double-stack autopistol, it’s still a bit on the large side for CCW purposes, although that can be mitigated by either heavy winter clothes or a baggy Hawaiian-style shirt (is that a redundancy?), depending on what weather conditions dictate.
Those minor shortcomings aside, I definitely recommend the CZ-75 for self-defense, competition, and casual range fun alike.
Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.
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