The CZ-75: The Hipster Wonder Nine
The CZ-75 and related pistols have a cult following. While it's never achieved the same sort of mainstream traction as the plastic striker guns, there are many who swear by it.
We, of course, are referring to gun hipsters. However, you shouldn't wave off the platform as just being the craft IPA of the pistol world. The CZ-75 has proven itself as a combat pistol, both in military and police service, and is also a mainstay in pistol competitions as a number of world championships in multiple shooting sports have been won with CZ 75 pistols or their derivatives.
It's also one of the most widely cloned pistols in existence, second only to 1911 pistols and Glocks. Why is that?
Genesis Of The CZ-75
The CZ-75 was the brainchild of two brothers, Frantisek and Josef Koucky, the top engineers at the time at Ceska Zbrojovka Uhersky Brod, aka CZUB, aka CZ.
Much of CZ's post-war output was within the confines of what they were mandated to make by Moscow, as then-Czechoslovakia (the Velvet Divorce came later) was part of the USSR. (In Soviet Russia, party is looking for you!) Granted, Soviet Bloc arms design wasn't quite "just make what we tell you;" Soviet satellite states could design their own arms so long as they used Soviet standard cartridges (7.62x39mm, 7.62x54R, 9x18mm Makarov) and were encouraged to make a similar gun.
In the early 70s, Frantisek was set to retire but was enticed back into working with the prospect of designing a 9mm pistol.
At the time, the USSR mandated service pistols be chambered in 9mm Makarov, so it wasn't a gun for the military. Since the Kouckys had free reign, they set about designing the best pistol they could think of.
They started by copying a number of elements from the Browning Hi Power, including a similar grip design, Browning's linkless cam locking barrel design, and a very similar looking slide.
Looks pretty similar, doesn't it? However, they also made some key changes.
First, they changed the trigger mechanism to a hinged trigger actuating a trigger bar that wrapped around the magazine, effectively a hybrid of the Hi Power and 1911 trigger systems. The firing mechanism was changed to a double-action system. The frame-mounted manual safety was retained but moved forward, giving the operator the choice of carrying in Condition One (cocked and locked) if desired or manually decocking the pistol to double-action.
The frame was redesigned for the slide to ride inside the frame rails, making lockup tighter and therefore giving the pistol great potential for accuracy despite - and this is a key idea here - relatively inexpensive production methods.
Remember, this was all done behind the Iron Curtain; hand-fit pistols weren't really a thing when you're supposed to be suppressing capitalist decadence, comrade.
The gun was something of a secret, as it couldn't really be sold internationally and couldn't be patented (there was a secret patent; we'll get to that later) and didn't really get exposed to anyone outside Czechoslovakia until sport shooters starting turning up with them in international competitions.
The Clone Wars: The CZ 75 Gets Copied
Since a typical patent couldn't be secured for the CZ 75, the Koucky brothers had to settle for a secret patent. The way that worked was nobody else in Czechoslovakia could make the same gun. However, if anyone else got a hold of one outside of the country and copied it, they couldn't do anything about it.
And copy they did, hence CZ pistols are some of the most widely copied guns out there.
Within a decade, clones began to emerge in various countries, such as those by Tanfoglio in Italy (the Witness family of pistols) IWI's Jericho pistols, based on the CZ 75 but made with parts from Tanfoglio, the Bren Ten by Dornaus and Dixon, and others over the years.
Why would they, though?
Because the CZ-75, and this is why there are so many clones and derivatives, are ergonomically excellent, accurate and reliable.
By the way, folks, that's part of why polymer-frame striker-fired pistols, 1911 pistols, and AR-style rifles are so proliferate in the industry. Since the R&D is mostly done for you, you can get a gun into production quicker and with a lower price tag.
How The CZ 75 Got So Darned Popular
So, what is it that makes the 40-year old design of the CZ 75 so darned popular?
First is the ergonomics.
The generous backstrap allows a natural high, tight shooting grip with far less potential for hammer bite than guns of the era such as GI-spec 1911 pistols and the Browning Hi Power, which is notorious for "biting" the hand of the shooter.
The grip has a pleasant palmswell on the back of the grip, similar to the Hi Power, S&W 39 and 59, Beretta 92 and many other pistols. It fits the lower bout of the hand very comfortably. This, combined with the natural high tight grip, makes it a very natural pointing pistol. Most people find they just point with it naturally, as if the gun were an extension of the hand.
Some people like to talk about the bore axis, which - if you actually measure it - is not actually remarkable, even among guns of the time, so that's a nonstarter.
However, the tight lock-up also gives the gun a smooth cycling action. If cared for correctly (key idea right there!) CZ 75 pistols are reliable, accurate, and fairly soft shooting. It's an excellent target pistol - which legions of sport shooters can attest to - and has served in a law enforcement and military capacity without issue. It - and its clones - are proven pistol systems for any purpose.
Living With A CZ-75
Alright, so we understand what the gist of what the CZ 75 is all about. What is the gun like to live with?
Fairly easy, though not without some complications and also it depends on exactly what model you have or intend to buy.
For starters, there are about a dozen iterations of the CZ-75 that CZ makes, and then there are all the clones out there. There's the standard pistols, which is a service pistol, then you have the competition models, the tactical models, and four different compact variants. So part of it comes down to WHICH CZ 75 you're talking about!
We'll start with the basics, the things that apply to all iterations of the gun.
First, you have to learn how to manipulate the slide. One of the chief complaints is the lack of grippable real estate, as more than half the slide is below the frame. There are some tricks - a popular one is to pinch the slide and punch the gun forward - but it's something the user has to contend with.
Takedown is not complicated, but isn't necessarily always easy. The takedown pin has to be helped. I find the baseplate of a magazine works pretty well to pop it out, or some other object that acts as a punch.
Another key component of owning a CZ 75 is that lubrication is essential. There's a lot of metal on metal contact, so this gun needs to be run wet for best results. Granted, that's not hard; give it a spritz of your favorite lubrication every week or two and you're good to go. Make sure you're getting the frame rails.
If you're that doofus that rarely ever cleans and lubricates their firearms...it probably isn't the pistol for you. While cleaning every range session isn't the most necessary,
If you get a model with a manual safety, you need to learn to carry cocked and locked or be ready to learn how to safely lower the hammer manually. (Use two hands. NEVER one. And keep it pointed in a safe direction while being DARN careful.) Granted, there are decocker models too, so you don't HAVE to live with that if you don't want to.
CZ 75 As A Concealed Carry Gun
Again, for concealed carry...it depends on which CZ 75 you have in mind. The compact varians are pretty widely held to be excellent; the full-size variants range from "can be lived with" to "you're demented," depending, again, on the model.
On the plus side, the slide and frame is actually rather slim, which actually bodes well for use as a carry gun. The frame is about 1.1 inches wide, so it's actually more svelte than modern polymer frame pistols. The additional width comes partially from the controls, but mostly from the grips. This is true for the full-size and compact pistols.
Thin panel grips cut overall width to about 1.25 inches in many cases, about as slim as Gen 4 and previous Glock pistols, so they're a popular upgrade.
As to compact vs full size, the compact variants have a 3.75-inch barrel. Overall dimensions are - near as makes no difference - the same as a Glock 19, though slightly wider with the factory grips.
As to the compact pistols, there are the standard models - the Compact and the PCR model - which are essentially just a chopped 75, and P-01 models, have a railed frame for use with a light. Practical, and tactical. Basically, these are the "Goldilocks" models which are large enough to be easy to run and shoot accurately, but compact and light enough for easy carrying.
As to the full-size guns, the closer to the standard CZ-75, the easier it will be for concealed carry purposes. Again, some folks do like a full-size. There are a few models with a full-length rail - such as the SP-01 - but they are heavy, at 40 oz unloaded vs 35 oz for the standard models. This much is up to you; some people don't mind a bit heavier gun, and others want to reduce weight wherever possible.
Obviously, a good CZ 75 holster...is needed, as is a good gun belt.
However, there are some drawbacks. Aftermarket support in terms of sights is...you can't say "nonexistent" but is certainly lacking compared to other makes and models of handgun. Optics are...problematic. You need either to have your slide prepped by a smith or to install a dovetail-mounted adapter plate, which does away with co-witness capabilities.
Overall, the CZ 75 and its variants are among the most tested pistol systems out there. It was heavily based on sound design elements and was and continues to be widely copied. Either a '75 or a clone can be used for literally everything you could use a pistol for and, not only that, HAS been used for that purpose.
It's a stone cold classic. Cry gun hipster all you want; it's still a great pistol.