CZ 75 Compact Review
A Classic Handgun Updated for Concealed Carry
Reviewed for M1911.ORG by Harwood Loomis
The M1911 Pistols Organization is, obviously, dedicated to the M1911 pistol designed by John M. Browning for the United States Ordnance Department, and its descendants and variants. That we are focused primarily on the 1911 platform, though, doesn’t mean we exist in a 1911-only vacuum and that we are blissfully unaware that there are other handguns in the world. Some of them are even pretty decent weapons, widely adopted around the world and with long service lives. One such is the CZ 75.
The designation CZ 75 stems from the name of the manufacturer (by Česká zbrojovka, which is a shortened version of the full name: Česká zbrojovka Uherský Brod) and the year the pistol was first introduced: 1975. Curiously, the CZ 75 was not developed or introduced as a military weapon for the Czech Republic. The pistol was commissioned and designed from the outset for the 9mm Parabellum cartridge. The Czech Republic being at the time within the sphere of the Warsaw Pact, its own military used the Soviet-standard 7.62 x 25mm Tokarev cartridge (and, later, the 9 x 18mm Makarov). Thus, the CZ 75 was developed for export and was not adopted by the parent country’s own armed forces until 1989, fifteen years after its introduction.
Like recognized iconic handguns such as the M1911 and the Browning Hi-Power, the original CZ 75 was (and is) an all-steel pistol. Like the Hi-Power (and unlike the M1911) it is a double stack pistol chambering the 9mm Parabellum cartridge. The original, full-size CZ 75 has been widely adopted around the world, as well as widely copied. Indeed, perhaps no other handgun besides the M1911 and the Browning Hi-Power has been as widely copied (both authorized and unauthorized) as the CZ 75. But, it is a large, heavy pistol. In size, with a height of 5½ inches, an overall length of just over 8 inches, and a barrel length of 4¾ inches, the full-size CZ 75 is almost exactly the same size as the M1911 and the Hi-Power, and in weight the CZ 75 falls between the Hi-Power and the M1911. In brief, it isn’t a small pistol. It is more suited to sport shooting (for which it is widely used in Europe) and for exposed carry for duty by uniformed personnel than for concealed carry. Certainly, some people do carry such full-sized pistols concealed, but many other people can’t or won’t or don’t.
With CZ now having a corporate presence in the United States (CZ-USA), where concealed carry of self-defense handguns is widespread and rapidly growing in acceptance, it was only natural for the company to look for a design more suited to concealed carry. In fact, as of the date of this article they offer several different pistols that are smaller than the original CZ 75. This review covers only one of those: the Compact version of the CZ 75. The relationship of the CZ 75 Compact to the original CZ 75 is essentially the same as the relationship of the Colt Combat Commander to the original M1911; mechanically it is the same pistol, but with a shorter slide and barrel, making it easier to conceal the pistol when carrying. Unlike the Colt Combat Commander, however, in developing the CZ 75 Compact CZ reduced the overall height as well as the length. The slide and barrel are ¾ of an inch shorter than the full-size pistol, the height has been reduced by approximately ½ inch, and the weight has been reduced by just under ½ pound.
To complete the perspective, we should point out that the full-size pistol is available in three basic variations. The CZ 75B is available in all steel or in stainless steel and is equipped with a manually-operated thumb safety. It is a “traditional double action, or DA/SA, pistol. The CZ 75SA is also all steel with a manual thumb safety, but operates in single action only. Lastly, the CZ 75BD is an all steel pistol operating as a traditional double action (DA/SA), but instead of a manual thumb safety it is equipped with a decocker.
The CZ 75 Compact, in contrast to the full-size pistol, offers only two basic variants. The CZ 75 Compact is an all steel pistol with a manual thumb safety, operating in traditional double action (DA/SA) mode. The CZ 75 D PCR Compact has a forged aluminum alloy frame and is equipped with a decocker rather than a thumb safety. The PCR also operates as a traditional double action (DA/SA) pistol. Our test pistol was the all-steel CZ 75 Compact with the manual thumb safety.
The CZ 75 Compact arrived in a utilitarian black plastic clamshell gun case. Along with the pistol was a spare magazine, and that was all. New CZ pistols ship with an owner’s manual, of course, but with the recent run on the market CZ (like most firearms manufacturers) has been hard pressed to keep up with demand. CZ USA had to scrounge to provide us with a pistol, and I’m fairly certain we were not the first to handle our test pistol. The fact that the manual went walkabout somewhere along the line is not at all surprising. We were grateful just to get a sample to test.
Field stripping a CZ 75 Compact proceeds exactly the same as field stripping a full-size CZ 75B, which is to say … very straightforwardly. Unlike the 1911, there is no take-down notch to be aligned. There is a take-down position for the slide, however, and this is clearly indicated by a small hash mark on the rear of the slide and a corresponding hash mark on the receiver. Simply line up the two marks, remove the slide stop lever, and remove the slide and barrel toward the front of the pistol.
Left side view, with take-down marks toward the rear
Close-up view showing take-down marks
Once the slide and barrel assembly have been removed from the receiver, the recoil spring and guide rod are removed together, then the chamber portion of the barrel is lifted away from the top of the slide and the barrel can be removed from the slide. That’s all there is to it.
Field strip completed
Like all CZ semi-automatic pistols, the slide and receiver are mated together differently than on most other semi-automatic pistols. On most pistols, the slide rails are wider than the receiver and the slide fits outside of the receiver at the interface. The interface could be loosely regarded as the slide being the female part and the receiver being the male part. This is reversed in CZ pistols. On the test pistol, as on every CZ pistol I have encountered (not that many, I admit), the slide fits inside the receiver … receiver female, slide male. Is this arrangement better or worse than the other? Who knows? This is the way CZ has been doing it for many years, and it works. Perhaps it’s just part of the CZ mystique.
The CZ 75 Compact (again, just like its big brother, the CZ 75B) is a locked breech, semi-automatic action but it does not utilize a 1911-type swinging link to accomplish unlocking. Instead, as devised by John Browning in his early design work on the FN Hi-Power, the underlug of the barrel has a cam-shaped slot that rides directly on the slide stop pin.
Barrel detail showing cam slot for link-down
Our test pistol was the all-steel version, with a manual thumb safety. The thumb safety is oriented the same as that of the 1911, with the pivot to the rear and the movement being up for SAFE and down for FIRE. On the CZ 75 Compact (as on all CZ pistols), the thumb safety is accompanied by a bright red dot inset into the surface of the receiver just above the safety paddle. The red dot is covered when the safety is in the SAFE position, and exposed when in the FIRE position.
The rear sight is a fairly conventional upright unit set in a dovetail. It consists of a square-bottomed notch with white dots on each side. The front sight is a simple blade with a white dot that is set into the slide rather than dovetailed, and retained with a pin.
The CZ 75 Compact is equipped with a passive firing pin block.
The pistol comes with a full-length guide rod. The grip portion of the receiver is contoured to fit the hand. Grip panels are checkered black plastic, retained by a single screw on each side.
Left side, showing contoured grip frame and full-length guide rod
In short, the CZ 75 Compact is a no-frills, high quality pistol that is nothing more nor less than a slightly smaller and lighter version of one of the world’s most widely used and service proven pistols. If the finish is unremarkable, it is uniform and has been shown to withstand heavy use. Being of traditional double action (DA/SA) operation, using the pistol holds no surprises for anyone with even a passing familiarity with semi-automatic handguns. (Except for shooters who know only modern, striker-fired pistols without manual safeties. The thumb safety might require some acclimatization for such people.)
Our standard testing protocol here at M1911.ORG has always been to test pistols of Commander (4¼-inch) length and larger at a distance of 75 feet (25 yards, or approximately 22.9 meters), and anything with a shorter barrel at a distance of 25 feet (7.6 meters). The basis for this is the generalization that, while full-size and Commander pistols may be used for target shooting as much as for self-defense carry, smaller/shorter pistols are more likely to be carried for self-defense, and most self-defense shootings occur at distances of less than 25 feet (actually, most occur at less than 21 feet). Accordingly, we conducted our accuracy tests at a distance of 25 feet, shooting from a seated position off a rest. For this test we faced an unusual problem: Ammunition. The author owns, shoots and carries primarily 1911s chambered in .45 Colt Automatic Pistol (ACP). The variety of 9mm ammunition on the shelves in the man cave was rather limited, and the test pistol arrived at a time when handgun ammunition of any type, in any moderately popular caliber, was simply non-existent. We finally accumulated what we felt was a sufficient cross-section od ammunition types and brands through a combination of scrounging, pleading, canvassing nearby gun shops, and Internet mail order. We ended up with limited quantities of six different types of ammunition, which we carefully used to fire multiple five-shot groups with each type. After discarding the worst shot from each group, we measured the group size for the best four out of each five shots. The table below reflects the best group for each type of ammunition, and also the average of the best three groups.
The protocol for this test was more or less reversed for this test due to the scarcity of ammunition. Usually, we prefer to shoot at least 100 or so rounds through each test pistol before embarking on accuracy testing. This is not done to “break in” the pistol but, rather, just to allow familiarization with a strange gun. In this instance, the available ammunition was so limited that we went directly to the accuracy testing in order to assure that we wouldn’t run out of one or more ammo types before we could get representative groups. Once we had concluded the accuracy portion of our testing, we used the remainder of the ammunition to just enjoy shooting the CZ 75 Compact … and it a very enjoyable pistol to shoot.
In fact, concerns about being able to get representative groups proved to be unfounded. The CZ 75 Compact shot well, and shot consistently. We had very little difficulty shooting repeated groups of consistent size. The table below summarizes the results:
Ammo Avg. Group (inches) Avg. Group (mm) Best Group (inches) Best Group (mm) Winchester USA 115-gr. FMJ 0.58" 15 0.50" 13 Hornady Critical Defense 115-gr. FTX (JHP) 0.79" 20 0.75" 19 Wilson Combat 115-gr. +P XTP (FMJ) 0.54" 14 0.38" 10 Federal American Eagle 115-gr. FMJ 0.54" 14 0.50" 13 Remington Golden Saber 124-gr. JHP 0.75" 19 0.63" 16 Remington Golden Saber 147-gr. JHP 0.88" 22 0.50" 13
Throughout our testing, we experienced no failures to feed and no failures to eject, with any of the different brands and types of ammunition.
Compared to a 1911, the CZ’s trigger felt somewhat revolver-like, which is understandable since it is a top-pivoted trigger. 1911 shooters typically are spoiled with regard to triggers, and even people who don’t much care for 1911s generally acknowledge that the 1911’s trigger is hard to equal. The trigger on the CZ 75 Compact was actually pretty good, although the comparatively long stroke took a bit of adjusting on the part of this 1911 shooter. Pull weight was 11½ pounds in double action mode and 5½ pounds in single action mode—about the same as many double action revolvers. In single action mode there was perceptible creep; nothing horrible and not so pronounced that it had a major impact on accuracy, but it wasn’t a 1911. (But, we knew that.)
The Bottom Line
We didn’t know what to expect when setting out to shoot and evaluate the CZ 75 Compact. We were familiar with CZ’s excellent reputation for durability and reliability, and the author knows several extremely avid CZ 75 owners who never miss an opportunity to sing the praises of both the gun and the company. However, other than having accepted an occasional offer to shoot an acquaintance’s CZ pistol, this was our first in-depth exposure to one of their modern offerings. (This disclaimer is somewhat hedged because the author owns a CZ 82 … but that’s an entirely different firearm from the CZ 75 family.)
We liked what we found. The CZ 75 Compact has a rock-solid feel that an old-timer such as the author appreciates, and that just can’t be replicated in polymer pistols. Workmanship is top notch, with no errant machine marks outside or under the hood, and the finish is uniform and even. The pistol didn’t hiccup once in the course of our testing.
The size is close to ideal for a defensive carry pistol. The overall dimensions fall very close to those of the Colt Officers ACP, but due to the 9mm chambering and double stack magazine the CZ 75 Compact holds 14 rounds compared to the Officers ACP’s 6 or 7 rounds. That’s a considerable amount of firepower in a small package. It isn’t exactly a pocket pistol, but it is a compact form factor that will conceal easily in either an outside waistband or inside waistband holster.
For those who might be hesitant about carrying a traditional double action pistol with a manual thumb safety, the CZ 75 Compact has several variants: The CZ 75 D PCR Compact (Decocker, alloy frame), CZ P-01 (Decocker, alloy frame, light rail), CZ P-06 (.40 S&W version of the P-01).
I liked the CZ 75 Compact. Not enough that I’m putting my 1911s up for sale, but well enough that the test pistol is not going to be returned to CZ USA. Instead, they will receive a small slip of colored paper with some numbers written on it and a bunch of strange, block-like numerals printed across the bottom.
To repeat what I write at the end of every review, we are especially grateful to Chris Dogolo, Mike Rubino, and Charlie Baker at Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range for their assistance and cooperation in allowing us the use of the range for testing. We could not bring you these reports without their invaluable help, advice, and general good will.
Please go to this thread on the M1911 Pistols Organization discussion forum to discuss this pistol and this review: http://forum.m1911.org/showthread.php?t=104697
CZ-75 Compact Caliber: 9 mm Parabellum Overall Length: 7.19” (182.6 mm) Overall Height: 4..88" (123.8 mm) Overall Width: 1.38" (34.9 mm) (at grip) … 1.00” (25.4 mm) (at frame) Barrel Length: 3.63" (92.1 mm) Sight Radius: 4.81" (122.2 mm) Sights: 3-dot, Combat-style (rear drift adjustable) Weight w/empty magazine: 32.0oz (.91 kg) Magazine Capacity: 14 rounds (10-round available where required by law) Grips: Checkered polymer Finish: Semi-gloss Black MSRP: $ 569.99
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