“Competition Breeds Excellence” is more than a fanciful quote. To the guys at CZ Custom in Mesa, Arizona, those three words fuel the fire of creativity and drive them to build better and better handguns. It also has the founder of the company, Angus Hobdell, traveling to IPSC matches the world over to prove it’s more than a motto.
Innovation and Excellence
I am most fortunate to have for review the latest brilliant innovation from CZC, the CZ-75 Bull Shadow. My sample gun (a pre-production unit) was shipped to me only one day before I took it to compete in a steel challenge match. While I enjoy the challenge of competing with guns I have never fired before, when that start timer sounds, it can be nerve-wracking for any manufacturer whose confidence in their guns is less than 100%. It is well known that I “show and tell” what happened like it happened, and not every gun performs well.
- Type: Hammer-fired pistol
- Cartridge: 9mm
- Capacity: 15+1 rds.
- Trigger: 3.5 lbs. (SA); 7 lbs. (DA)
- Overall Length: 8.5 in.
- Barrel Length: 4.8 in.
- Weight: 40 oz.
- Width: 1.6 in.
- MSRP: $1,495 –$1,650
- Manufacturer: CZ USA
However, the CZC Bull Shadow is, in my mind, the perfect blend of CZ USA technology and CZ Custom know-how. These two entities have combined what is arguably the most ergonomic frame ever created with the first use of a Bull Barrel in a CZ handgun! I am a CZ-75 fan and while I started shooting IPSC/USPSA with an Ithaca 1911A1 (before these games had divisions by gun type) within a year or so I had moved on to my first of many CZ-75 “clones.” I put many, many rounds through Springfield P-9s and Tanfoglio parts kit guns; I always loved the “feel” yet suffered from the lack of reliability.
That was decades ago. But today, with CZ-USA and more importantly CZ Custom on the scene, one can now have it all: reliability, accuracy, an incredibly smooth trigger and that oh-so-wonderful ergonomic connection between hand and handgun inherent in the CZ-75 grip frame.
If you only take away one lesson from this article, take this one statement to heart: this CZ Custom Bull Shadow is one of the top 3 handguns I have reviewed. Considering that I have tested and reviewed over 30 handguns in the competitive arena alone, that statement is not proffered lightly.
The 4-1-1 on Bull Barrels
What is a bull barrel and why might you want one? Custom pistolsmiths have been tweaking and tuning competition handguns since we have had handgun competitions! Bullseye, Bowling Pins, Metallic Silhouette, Bianchi Cup, IPSC or IDPA or USPSA – each and every discipline has its devotees and its custom hardware. And in all of them oversized, match-grade, heavy weighted, hand fitted “Bull Barrels” have been employed. Check the photos to see the difference between a stock CZ-75 barrel and is Bull Shadow counterpart. Now that is putting the “bull” in bull barrel.
The benefits observed in using bull barrels in self-loading “Browning style” tilting barrel handguns is due to their weight. Not only is there more weight at the muzzle-end of the gun where it can reduce muzzle lift, there is also greater initial mass that must be overcome during the recoil cycle. Increasing that mass reduces recoil as some of the energy must be used to move the combined weight of the heavy bull barrel and slide.
My particular sample gun was built by CZC’s Master Maker (aka Head Gunsmith), and a man of many talents, Eric Zinn. Zinn’s attention to detail even in this rushed-to-me project was evident in his most excellent fit of the Bull Barrel and truly superior trigger work. Fitting a bull barrel is more labor intensive than a “traditional” unit and the fire control components more complex. For Zinn to make this all come together in near perfection in just a few hours is simply amazing! Oh…and he is also the man who shot, signed and provided the enclosed test target that I show in the video.
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From Box to Match
Let’s do some shooting! Unless a deadline is pressing I try to shoot review guns twice through a match and that generally nets me 300+ rounds in actual competition. The event I competed with this pistol required more than 400 rounds to complete. Not quite satiated at the end of the match I continued to pour another couple hundred through it later that day.
I shoot these guns right out of the box with nothing more than a field strip, bore check and lubing. Any mechanical device can fail and guns are no exception. While I was delighted with the 3.5-pound, single-action trigger, I was concerned that the wonderfully smooth 7.5-pound, double-action trigger would not be able to reliably ignite factory ammo primers. Many competition shooters rely on the easier to light Federal primers in their own reloads when running DA trigger pulls in this weight class. Despite my pre-match concern, however, I am happy to report that this CZ Custom Bull Shadow never failed to go bang on my asking.
A Few Issues
Not everything was perfect with this pre-production CZC Bull Shadow. During accuracy testing, I found that the beautiful set of fixed sights were regulated to place bullets 6 inches above the aiming point at 25 yards. Perhaps that accounted for one or two of my misses at the match, but it was sure apparent when I was holding hard on one bull during accuracy testing and hitting the one above it. The other less-than-perfect item was noticed during field stripping. The recoil spring guide rod bushing is fit so tight in the slide that it must be pressed or tapped out. That unnecessarily complicates the takedown process and can lead to frustration. I immediately shared these issues with the good guys in Mesa, Arizona, and was assured that these two issues will be resolved well before release. These are set to be released in January 2018.
That said, overall I am quite impressed with this masterfully assembled yet rushed to me pre-production gun bearing a brand new USA made slide and barrel. Not only did it run flawlessly over the course of 700 rounds fired, it demonstrated superior accuracy as well! I shot a total of 50 rounds for accuracy at 25 yards off of a pair of sandbags. Those 50 rounds were comprised of 10 rounds of each of five kinds of ammunition. The average of all 50 shots was 1.68 inches. I wish I would have had time before the deadline for this article to take this fine shooter out to 50 yards, where I am sure it would shine. And I don’t say that about many handguns.
Beyond this innovative competition pistol, the CZ Custom shop builds many guns built for use by us good guys that carry daily. Compact CZs of all stripes, 1911 and Browning Hi Powers just to name a few. Each built with the care and knowledge that any one of their creations could be called upon to defend life and limb. Looking for something unique? Something with a personal flair? Perhaps a gift or something to show-off to your gun buddies? CZ Custom has you covered as all manner of high-end artistry is available.
This gun was meant to be used, and while it was pretty enough to be the “queen of the gunsafe.” It was lubed, loaded and ridden to two match wins. Then I continued to hammer it both before and after my accuracy testing. So as you check out the photos, remember they are “post-Patrick” and I added those competition character enhancements myself.
The CZ Custom Bull Shadow is in my mind a USPSA Production Division masterpiece. It is truly a pleasure to shoot, wicked accurate and the trigger is outstanding. Over the course of the 700 rounds downrange it never even hinted at a malfunction. Thank you, CZ Custom Shop for “lending” me this beautiful ballistic tool … but you ain’t getting this one back. I just paid the invoice in FULL.
To learn more about Federal ammunition, click here.
For more information about CZ USA Custom shop, click here.
To purchase a CZ Shadow 75 on GunsAmerica, click here.