The CZ 75 Compact


by R.K. Campbell

photography by R.K. Campbell

January 3rd, 2007




Over the years, a handful of pistols have earned my trust as far as combat ability and reliability are concerned.  The three autopistols I place the most stock in are the Colt 1911, the Browning High Power, and the CZ 75. There are clones and variations on each that range from poor to excellent quality.  The originals remain excellent choices, and there are quite a few variations available. Among the best buys are the CZ 75 types, offering an uncommon combination of value and performance. It is unusual that the CZ pistols are often available for less dollars than their clones, although the original is arguably the most proven. The CZ 75 is offered in double action variants, a single action only pistol, and as a double action only as well. The two variants of the double action each feature a frame mounted lever, one of which is a true safety, allowing cocked and locked carry, and the other a decocker only.  There are those who will prefer one over the other.  European police dictate the piece be carried hammer down and place great value on the decocking operation.  It should be remembered that the Baby Eagle, a high quality CZ variant, was developed with a decocker for Israeli use as opposed to the original CZ type safety.  Both are available for those who prefer one over the other.

The manual of arms of the two types is as follows:

Original CZ Decocker type
Load Load
Manually lower the hammer or Place the safety on safe for cocked and locked carry Decock
Holster Holster
Draw Draw
Take safety off if the piece is carried cocked and locked Fire

Either type has its adherents.  The original CZ cannot be placed on safe with the hammer down, the long double action pull is seen as sufficient safety.  Even a double action fan would admit there is much utility in the original type safety. When moving from one firing position to the other, or during combat movement, the pistol may quickly be placed on safe without decocking. After all, the tactical doctrine of the DA pistol has always been a long double action first shot for safety and after the first shot you are in a gunfight! Just the same, either type works well. Overall, for civilian concealed carry, the decocker variants are probably preferred. A variant of the CZ recently adopted by Czechoslovakian police forces has proven quite popular in America. This piece features a decocker and is chambered in 9mm Luger caliber. This pistol has gone through tremendous military and police testing, firing thousands of rounds without malfunctions. Moreover, during the selection process the test pistols were disassembled thousands of times and detail stripped and reassembled hundreds of times.  The piece is proven more so than practically any other modern 9mm pistol.

Naturally, the reputation of this pistol reflects well on the CZ line. As a rule full size pistols are more reliable than compact pistols, due to differences in slide velocity and recoil spring technology. For a compact pistol to exhibit such a showing is remarkable. It is important to note that my test pistol differs in two important particulars from the European test pistols. My example is a .40 caliber pistol and the CZ 75 Compact used in this test features the original cocked and locked type safety. I prefer this action and I strongly prefer defense calibers that begin with a 4. The .40 Smith and Wesson is a good defense cartridge. For most of the last century, police were issued the .38 and later the 9mm for several reasons. Foremost is the fact that training was never available in sufficient amounts, and non-interested personnel simply could not handle a caliber larger than these small bores. Superior training, time, and investment in human resources allowed some agencies to adequately train officers armed with .357, .44, and .45 caliber handguns, but these were rare agencies. The .40 caliber changed this situation.

Experienced trainers know that handguns over 35 ounces become a burden toward the end of a shift, and many who recommended heavier handguns were not street cops. The .40 is light enough, as it can be chambered in modified 9mm frame handguns. Yet, the cartridge is controllable with practice but offers considerably improved wound potential. The .40 has been a success story. Civilian shooters may prefer the 9mm or the .45 but cops overwhelmingly have voted for the .40.  The .40 is not my favorite cartridge, but one I respect.  I have deployed the .40 professionally and taken game with the cartridge.  The single whitetail deer I have taken with the .40 was immediately taken down, four legs in the air, with a single round. The .40 performed remarkably well.

Like most makers of 9mm caliber handguns, CZ adopted their pistol to the .40 Smith and Wesson cartridge. The CZ .40 caliber pistols are appropriately strengthened for the additional pressure and momentum of the .40 Smith and Wesson. The .40 is a high pressure cartridge, unlike the low pressure .45, which is in common with the 9mm, but the .40 is also a high momentum round. Some pistols converted to the .40 have been less than successful. The CZ has proven reliable.

While we find the test program the 9mm pistol was subjected to laudable, a similar program should be given the .40 caliber version as it is a new pistol for all intents and purposes. My example is a well balanced pistol, weighing in at about 36 ounces. This is a pistol similar in concept to the SIG P 229, a pistol that is about the perfect size for constant wear on a duty belt but at the same time very reliable, accurate, and capable. For some time I have used the 1911 for personal defense and little of anything else, not being one to buzz about like a honeybee in a clover patch in search of the perfect handgun.  The 1911 has been in my hands often and never let me down. Just the same, I am not blind to change, and the CZ 75 compact is by any measure an excellent pistol. I embarked upon a field test of the CZ 75 compact that left me impressed.  A field test is a curious activity necessary for the health and livelihood of gun writers.  I am not concerned with running a combat course as much as with quickly hitting with a combat pistol at moderate range, but the CZ 75 will do either. This is as good a pistol as any of its size. Overall the Baby Eagle versions of the CZ have a more comfortable grip, but I am certain some hand sizes will be more comfortable with the CZ. That is why we have so many handguns, to satisfy everyone. Of one thing I became certain, the CZ is more accurate than I can hold.

After much time in the game, trainers and writers alike fall guilty to misconceptions, and some have a more acute case than others.  The CZ is a type popular with many shooters whatever anyone’s opinion of the ideal fighting pistol. And those choosing this pistol are well able to defend themselves.

I began with 500 handloads. These are put up in Starline brass. This is first class brass, used by many of our top makers such as Black Hills and Cor Bon. I used a moderate charge of Titegroup and the Rainier Ballistics 155 grain bullet, producing 950 feet per second. Results have been good. The bulk of these loads were fired in familiarization and in combat drills. At seven yards, a full magazine would cut one ragged hole. The piece shows excellent hit probability at all ranges. It is no mean feat to stay on a man size target at fifty yards with this pistol. Recoil is clearly more abrupt than with a similar size 9mm pistol, but considering the horsepower we are handling, reasonable. The piece is controllable. No one able to master the 9mm should have difficulty with this well balanced handgun.

I field stripped and cleaned the piece after five hundred rounds, finding a minimum of powder ash. The Rainier bullet left little if any copper wash in the barrel. Next, I settled in to full power factory ammunition. This included the Speer Gold Dot 155 grain jacketed hollow point, the Federal American Eagle 165 grain full metal jacket bullet, and the Speer 165 grain Gold Dot.  The American Eagle load is designed as a practice load for the increasingly popular 165 grain weight and it performs in that capacity well. I also had on hand the Fiocchi 170 grain Major, a special loading designed for competition to insure the .40 makes ‘Major’.

All fed, chambered, fired and ejected normally. As may be expected, the Fiocchi Major and the 155 grain Gold Dot load produced the greatest recoil. The Gold Dot bullet is loaded hotter than many in this weight and as a rule gives excellent results in any test.  The balance of expansion and penetration is ideal. I found hit probability good when using these loads, and long range accuracy improved over my handloads. Here are the results of a slow fire session. The pistol was carefully bench rested off a solid rest, and I took my time in firing five round groups. I fired three with each loading and took the average for results. However, I have to state that the CZ handed the author one brilliant 1.75 inch group with the Federal 165 grain practice load. As I said, the pistol is more accurate than I can hold.

25 yard accuracy

Loading Average 5-shot group
Federal 165 grain American Eagle 2.0 inches
Speer 155 grain Gold Dot 2.5 inches
Speer 165 grain Gold Dot 1.9 inches
Fiocchi 170 grain Major 2.25 inches
Handloads (Handloads use Starline Brass/RCBS dies)  
155 grain Rainier bullet 2.5 inches
Speer 180 grain JHP/Titegroup/950 fps 2.0 inches

The accuracy, handling and reliability of this handgun cannot be faulted. When held in the hand, it feels like a gun, not a plastic hairdryer. The pistol has an impeccable lineage and its performance does not belie that heritage.

R.K. Campbell

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Click pictures for a larger version.


The CZ Compact is well balanced, of pleasing proportion, practically ideal as an all around carry gun.



The safety cannot be placed on when the hammer is at rest. The red dot denotes fire the piece, if ready.



When the hammer is cocked the CZ’s safety may be placed in the on position.



The author did not test the CZ with a combat light, but in the fashion of many modern pistols the CZ is light capable.



The slide runs in the frame of this modern CZ in proven CZ/SIG/Petter fashion. This pistol is considerably beefed up from the 9mm pistols.



The American Eagle line from Federal in an inexpensive training option that often proves to be match grade accurate.



The Speer Gold Dot 155 grain load is the author’s preferred loading in the compact CZ. Accuracy was good, recoil not objectionable, and the Gold Dot is noted for expansion.