M1911.ORG Looks at the CZ-40B

The Almost Colt

Reviewed by Harwood Loomis for M1911.ORG

Reading comments on various firearms-related Internet forums, I can’t help noticing how many people seem only too happy—overjoyed, even—to see Colt having financial problems. One of the recurring themes among these prophets of doom is that Colt only makes copies of historical handguns: 1911s and Single Action Armies. True, Colt recently reintroduced the Lightweight Mustang 380, and then followed up with an all-new polymer version of the Mustang, but there is truth to the notion that Colt hasn’t been at the forefront of handgun innovation in recent history. Colt bashers refer to recent Colt designs such as the American 2000 and the Double Eagle as examples of Colt designs that didn’t attract the interest of the marketplace. What I have not seen is any reference to the gun that almost became a Colt. In fact, for a very short time it did, but not in full production. We thought it would be interesting to explore that pistol, which was called the Z-40 by Colt. What was the Z-40, how did it come into being, what happened to it, and how good or bad was it? Let’s see.


The following quotation, setting out the history of the Z-40 project, was found on an Internet web site devoted to CZ pistols. It’s a capsule summary of how the Z-40 (and the CZ-40B, which is the same pistol) came into being: The quotation is apparently from a designer who works (or worked) for Česká Zbrojovka a.s. Uherský Brod—better known as CZ.

Quote Originally Posted by Milan Trkulia
[i]Beside myself, another two persons you know very well, were instrumental in Colt Z or CZ .40 B project. It was Ira Kay and Kerby Smith. …

Just remember, there was just one significant specification put forward by the Colt people - this pistol must bear exterior similarity with the the [sic[/]] Colt 1911. It was just a verbal request, nothing was written down or signed on this design matter. We just shook the hands. That was it! All another work was left on the CZ engineers. Shape of the pistol was designed by the Industrial Architect Vojtech Anderle (also author of CZ 100 design), and all interior mechanism works on Colt Z .40 was done by Radek Hauerland, who also worked with me later on CZ 2075 RAMI project. Your statement is absolutely correct, the Colt Z 40/CZ.40B pistol mechanism was fully adopted from CZ 75 line of pistols. After CZ/Colt deal collapse, pistol was made by CZ for an another customers, but in limited numbers.

When Radek Hauerland worked on trigger mechanism for COLT Z .40, he at the same time got ready SA/DA and Decocker versions of this pistols. Therefore it was easy to later produce all these trigger mechanism versions, and also the caliber conversion down from .40 to 9x19 was very easy to make. Beside the Colt Z.40 and CZ .40 B pistols, there was an another model based on COLT Z .40 design produced in 9 x 19 cal and called the CZ LE 9.

According to a friend who is an avid CZ aficionado, there is yet another pistol based on the Z-40 design: the current-production CZ 2075 Rami, a popular compact, double stack pistol that shows a number of “styling cues” to demonstrate its family lineage to the Z-40 design.


The CZ-40B is an all-metal pistol with an aluminum alloy receiver and a steel slide. It’s a large pistol that’s easy to hold, with all controls located in what any 1911 shooter would consider a “conventional” arrangement. The action is double-action/single-action, or “traditional double action.” This means that if the hammer is down, the first shot can be fired in double-action mode, without having to manually cock the hammer. Subsequent shots are all single action, as the action of the slide cocks the hammer. Our example had a manual thumb safety; there have been variants made using a decocker, which is not unusual for CZ. Coming from a background of shooting 1911s, I prefer a conventional thumb safety; other shooters often prefer to have a decocker to allow them to safely lower the hammer for carry. The version like the test pistol, with the manual thumb safety, can be carried with the hammer cocked and the thumb safety engaged, like a 1911, allowing all shots to be fired single action.

The CZ-40B is the full-size version of the model/series. There aren’t any larger pistols in the same style from CZ. The size is slightly smaller than a full-size, Government model 1911. In fact, it’s virtually identical in size to a Colt Commander, as shown in the following photograph. In the photo, we placed a “blue gun” model of a Colt Commander over the CZ-40B. The choice of the blue gun was both intentional and necessary. If we had used a real Commander, it would have been impossible to discern which part of which pistol is being viewed.

Size comparison of Colt Commander (blue) to CZ-40B


Like the venerable CZ-75B, the slide of the CZ-40B fits inside the frame rails rather than over the outside of the frame. Some advocates of this design claim it makes for a tighter slide-to-frame fit. Others disagree. I have no opinion on the issue. That’s the way CZ does things, and the CZ-40B is no exception. The receiver is aluminum alloy.

The standard sights on the CZ-40B (and on our test pistol) were self-luminescent night sights. These were not self-illuminating Tritium sights, but the older and simpler radium technology used to illuminate the faces of wrist watches. The sights do not glow unless they have been exposed for a period of time to bright light, after which the glow persists for up to a couple of hours, gradually dimming until no longer visible in the dark. Once the self-luminescence has dimmed, they appear to be simple three white dot sights.

The trigger is a top-pivoting trigger with a long take-up and a long pull in the default, double action mode. The CZ-40B was made in both a traditional double action (DA/SA) version and a version with a decocker. The pistol made available to M1911.org had the traditional thumb safety and operated as a traditional DA/SA pistol. The trigger pull in double action mode had a lot of creep and felt rather gritty. Friends who know CZs tell me that the grittiness will go away after some shooting, but the creep requires a trigger job to correct. In double action mode the trigger pull weighed in at 13-1/2 pounds. Combined with the long pull, this makes good accuracy difficult to achieve. In single action mode, the trigger had a much shorter travel (but still had a bit of creep) and required an even 5 pounds of pull. The pistol is equipped with a firing pin safety.

The thumb safety is single-sided and frame mounted. The shape is very different from that of a 1911 but the basic operation is the same: up for safe, down for fire. The frame has a dimple behind the safety paddle that’s filled in with bright red paint. The red dot is exposed when ready to fire, and covered when the pistol is on safe.

Safety engaged

Safety off—ready to fire

Field stripping isn’t difficult, but it did require reading the owners’ manual the first time. To my surprise, there’s a bit of a trick to reassembling the pistol after a field strip, and it wasn’t at all intuitive. It wasn’t difficult, just unexpected. It was probably the first time I’ve encountered a handgun that required the manual to reassemble. (Disclaimer: I have not attempted to field strip or reassemble a Ruger Mark III or 22/45.)

Field stripping is easy—once you know how

Everything about the pistol was good quality. The finish was uniform, with no machining or polishing marks telegraphing through the finish. Slide-to-frame fit was solid. The controls moved cleanly, with no “hitches” or bumps to get from one position to another.

Inside, the cam-slotted barrel underlug certainly looks like a CZ product, but the locking system is totally different from that of the CZ-75 Compact. The design may have been derived from the CZ-75B, but there doesn’t appear to be any parts interchange.

The CZ-40B fit nicely into a holster custom-made for a CZ-97B

How does it shoot?

To see how the CZ-40B shot, we took it to Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range in Guilford, Connecticut. This is an indoor, underground facility, which means there is never a problem with wind and the temperature remains fairly constant.

Due to both cost and shortages, procuring ammunition for pistol tests is a perpetual problem. M1911.ORG has been fortunate over the years in having received ammunition for testing from several manufacturers, including Armscor, Winchester, Hornady, and Wilson Combat. However, most of that has been in .45 Automatic, and the remainder has been 9mm. For .40 S&W we were entering uncharted territory, at a time when shelves were generally bare of handgun ammunition. In the end, we came up with ammunition by Winchester in both full metal jacket (flat point) and hollow-point, and Federal (also full metal jacket, flat point). We prefer to test with at least five or six different types of ammunition, but for this instance we had to settle for what we could get.

The accuracy portion of our evaluation was fired from a bench with a rest, indoors. In keeping with M1911.ORG’s standard test protocol, Commander-length pistols are shot for accuracy at a distance of 75 feet (25 yards, or 22.86 meters. (Pistols with barrels shorter than the Commander’s 4-1/4-inch barrel we regard as primarily concealed carry and self-defense weapons, and we test them at a distance of 25 feet because we feel that is a realistic distance for a potential self-defense incident.) As we have commented, the CZ-40B is virtually identical in size (and barrel length) to a Colt Commander, so we conducted the accuracy portion of our live fire testing at a distance of 75 feet, shooting from a seated position at a bench, over a rest.

The results won’t win any awards but, considering that the author is not accustomed to shooting the .40 S&W round, which is a bit “snappier” than .45 Automatic, the CZ-40B acquitted itself very satisfactorily. As one of the regular range rats at Chris’ sometimes comments, “Everything was well within minute of bad guy.”

AmmoBest Group (inches)Best Group (mm)
Winchester 180 gr. JHP
Federal 180 gr. FMJ-FP
Winchester USA 180 gr. FMJ-FP

After I had finished shooting off the bench, I reverted to plinking and I invited Chris Dogolo, the owner of the range, to try out the pistol. He had never seen or handled one, so he was only too happy to accept the invitation. At a distance of 25 feet and shooting two-handed, unsupported, I managed a respectable 10-shot group measuring 2 inches (excluding a called flyer). Chris, of course, proceeded to humiliate me by following that with a 10-shot group measuring 1.75 inches (again excluding a flyer).

Because the CZ-40B is so little known, possibly any information about it will be of interest to readers. Consequently, we were pleased to discover that a web site named “Steve’s Pages” includes a high-quality .PDF reproduction of the entire CZ-40B operating manual, with complete instructions, specifications, and an exploded parts diagram. The manual can be viewed here: http://www.stevespages.com/pdf/cz_40.pdf


Česká Zbrojovka CZ-40B
Caliber:.40 S&W
Overall Length:8.07" (205 mm)
Overall Height:5.55" (141 mm)
Overall Width:1.40" (35.5 mm)
Barrel Length:4.3" (111 mm)
Sight Radius:5.75" (146 mm)
Sights:White dot, Combat-style (non-adjustable)
Weight w/empty magazine:31.9oz (905 g)
Magazine Capacity:12 rounds
Grips:Hard rubber
Finish:Black polymer


First, of course, we wish to acknowledge and thank the M1911.ORG member who allowed us to use his personal pistol for this test.

As always, we want to acknowledge Chris Dogolo, owner of Chris’ Indoor Shooting Range, for his unfailing support and assistance in allowing us to conduct our testing at his range.

Please go to this thread on the M1911 Pistols Organization discussion forum to discuss this pistol and this review: http://forum.m1911.org/showthread.ph...320#post983320

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