The CZ-75 is a legendary handgun design. It is to Eastern Europe what the 1911 is to the west in many ways. The iconic design and silhouette became the ubiquitous standard image of “handgun” on the other side of the iron curtain like the Browning classic Gov’t model did over here. And like the 1911 it has proven itself worthy in combat, law enforcement, and competition. The gun takes the “75” from the year it was introduced -1975. Even I was still too young to own one back then. If you imagine an American GI looking over a barbed wire covered wall past a heavily guarded checkpoint during the cold war, and an Eastern Bloc communist soldier gazing back… the American would have had a Gov’t issued M1911 on his hip, his adversary – the CZ-75.
In the past decades, the CZ-75 has become a respected and highly prized handgun. Jeff Cooper found the design and function to be exemplary and insisted on it as the foundation for the Bren Ten, a short-lived 10mm pistol that was ahead of its time. Today, the CZ brand is one of the most recognized in the world of firearms and is respected as top quality with combat reliability. Those are qualities that competitive shooters flock to, and the CZ-75 has built a large group of devotees that will shoot nothing else. A well-tuned CZ in the hands of a top shooter is a sight to behold. And like all areas of competition, potential and popularity breed innovation. To address the desires and the perceived market for an out-of-the-box CZ capable of match-grade performance, the CZ-75 SP-01 Shadow was born. The Shadow provided many of the specifications that gunsmiths were tuning for shooters, or that shooters were modifying for themselves. Lighter recoil spring, a smoother tuned trigger, and removal of the firing pin safety block were changes that made the gun feel better and meet pro shooter expectations. Elements like front slide serrations, and extended beavertail, undercut trigger guard and heavy full-length dustcover with accessory rail made the pistol fully range ready for a competitor and tactical user alike. And still, shooters being shooters — there were after-market modifications being made.
In the USPSA Production Division, CZ claims its pistols are now used by twice as many top-level competitors than any other maker. Don’t let any gun maker try to tell you they don’t covet the accolades of the pros. And so, it was time to start incorporating, even more, changes into the production model.
SHADOW 2 – WHAT’S NEW
The CZ engineers took the best features of the original Shadow and improved on them based on what customers wanted. More than two years were spent on the changes, and we’re now seeing the results of their efforts in the Shadow 2. With a higher beavertail and undercut trigger guard, the shooter’s hand is higher which lowers the bore axis even more. The contoured slide and increased weight at the dust cover also helps keep the muzzle down. This is a heavy handgun. The 9mm round is just no match for the nearly 3 lbs. of heft. Unfortunately, neither is the IDPA weight limit – the Shadow 2 is over the 43 ounce maximum for the sport.
The Shadow 2’s swappable mag release has an adjustable, extended button with three settings to allow shooters to set it at the angle most comfortable for them. Best of all, new trigger components give Shadow 2 a smooth double-action and crisp, clean single-action while drastically reducing trigger reset.
A nitride finish coats the entire pistol, with a polycoat shell on top of that. The thin aluminum grips have healthy and attractive checkering in an interesting curved pattern to compliment the fine front and backstrap checkering of the pistol itself. Sitting atop the slide is a set of target sights — fiber optic on front and a serrated, black HAJO rear (click adjustable for elevation, drift adjustable for windage).
If you’re one of those people that believe that a firearm can be a beautiful thing, and I hope you are, then you’re going to want to give yourself a minute when you open the box for the first time. The Shadow 2 is a strikingly attractive handgun. My sample arrived in all black, but there are options for grips and frame color if basic black is too formal for you.
In the lockable box, the pistol lies in a custom cut foam insert, and near it are two more magazines (one in the pistol makes a total of three provided). There are also some parts included for those ready to start customizing their new gun immediately. A set of buffers to replace the one already installed on the guide rod/recoil spring is included. A set of Allen wrenches, and an alternate ambidextrous safety switch. The latter is the most important, as the ambidextrous safety that is installed at the factory sits very flush to the frame of the gun. It functions very nicely, but this writer could not operate it without significant grip change. No thumb-swipe operation is possible, at least not for me. However, the alternate safety provided does include a generously sized shelf for operation and as a thumb rest – but only for right-handed shooters. Lefties will find they are still stuck with the same control on the right side of the gun.
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SHOOTING THE SHADOW 2
Handling a handgun at the counter at the gun shop and even doing dry fire exercises is one thing, but they always feel different in live fire. I try not to over-obsess about how a trigger feels or even grip angle and control placement too much until I get it to the range. I have reversed a hasty opinion for or against something on more than one occasion. Putting several hundred rounds through the Shadow 2 over multiple range sessions re-affirmed some of the things I liked or didn’t about the gun before shooting it — and brought a couple of things to my attention that just dry handling didn’t. I’ll start with my gripes.
Grip angle, or should I say “angles”, because the backstrap of the Shadow 2 has a very pronounced dogleg bend. Even at first glance, I thought this was a risky move by CZ because hands come in all sizes – but that bend is one size and in one place. My hands are small-ish, and I found that the peak of that bend was a bit irritating. I actually got a blister from a day shooting it. Might not be so bad if it was smooth steel, but the wonderful 25-lines per inch (LPI) checkering on the backstrap stops right at the bend and can be an irritant. Gripe number two – still grip related, is the choice to put black aluminum grip panels on a black steel gun. It looks beautiful, for sure. I have a black truck and a black muscle car, so I get it. But, it was quite warm during courses of fire as it was sitting in the hot sun. And that was after keeping it covered between uses. Conversely, because aluminum transfers almost all its heat or cold nearly immediately, grabbing thing cold with a bare hand in January is going to be equally painful. Can we get some G10s? Okay, so a couple of grip gripes … let’s move on.
Every other ergonomic aspect of the Shadow 2 is perfection. All controls are well located, intuitive and easy to operate with little or no change to the shooter’s grip. This is especially true of the magazine release, decidedly my favorite element of the gun. It is large, steel, checkered, adjustable, and sticks up nice and high. And you don’t need orangutan thumbs to dump your magazine without shifting your grip. I experimented with the adjustable angles but found I preferred it in the center position as originally set. But choices are good, and people of different hand size or method of reloading may prefer it differently. It is also reversible, for left-handed shooters. Speaking of south-paws, the only truly ambidextrous control on the pistol is the safety switch. The factory-installed safety is a snag-free version that is flat to the frame. The downside is that it is difficult to operate with a swipe of the thumb. CZ packs an alternate set with the gun, and it is user swappable (assuming that said user has some degree of mechanical skill). The alternate safety has a 1911-style “shelf” that is nicely designed and has a bend that makes for a good thumb rest. The bad news for the lefties is that the enhanced safety switch is only on the left side of the gun – for right handers. The right side remains the same flat control.
The heft of 46 ½ ounces of handgun does a great deal to help manage the recoil of the 9mm Luger cartridge, and the CZ Shadow 2 balances that weight nicely. The full-length dust cover puts a lot of the weight out in front to help reduce muzzle rise. The high grip provided by the raised beavertail and undercut trigger guard put the shooter’s hand closer to the bore axis, and although a potential turn-off for some shooters, the more aggressive upper grip angle will cant the shooter’s wrist and create a straight line to the forearm – strengthening the stance. All of these things combine to make a pistol that is adept at keeping sights on target during aggressive firing cadence, but would mean little if there wasn’t a suitable trigger to allow smooth rapid fire. Perhaps the best element of all on the Shadow 2 is the trigger itself. My Lyman digital gauge tells me that the double action break requires just 9 ¾ lbs., and the single action is an even 4 lbs. of resistance. What those numbers can’t tell you is the crispness of the break and the silky smooth action leading up to it. Thankfully, we need gun writers to report such nuances! The polished face of the trigger allows the finger to slide along its curve as the angle changes without the shooter feeling resistance or friction. This reduces the likelihood that the trigger finger will pull the pistol at the instant of the break – meaning better accuracy. And if my 7- and 10-yard off-hand shooting sessions can be an example, I will attest to that. This handgun will make you look good!
I rested the pistol at 25 yards and fired five shot groups from several brands and types of ammunition, and the results were impressive. During the tests, I was aware that the thin front sight and small but bright red fiber optic tube helped me to “aim small”. Able to aim better and hold more consistently, I was able to produce consistently good groups.
I shot five different loads from four manufacturers from a “V” rest at 25 yards. Everything from Aguila ball ammo to SIG Sauer and Speer top shelf defense ammo. While the Shadow 2 shot everything well and printed great groups across the board, it was simply in love with Freedom Munitions 115 plated round nose. Five rounds made a group of just 1.25 inches and the best three shot group was an amazing all-holes-touching 0.371 inch – less than 3/8 inch.
When it came time to just let the Shadow 2 loose and have some fun, the smooth trigger and short reset make it easy to do triple-taps or full mag dumps with ease. It’s one thing to shoot a handgun rapidly because you can move the trigger fast – but with the Shadow 2 I was able to run the gun at near full-auto speeds and did not miss paper. USPSA shooters – are you paying attention? My complaints with the grip dogleg were minimal while actually shooting the pistol. The sight picture is excellent, and the front sight falls quickly back into the notch with every shot.
JUST MY OPINION
CZ designed the Shadow 2 specifically for competition shooters, and even more specifically, for USPSA or Steel Challenge shooters. The pistol will be adept at either of those sports. But you needn’t be a competitor to appreciate the performance of this handgun. I think it is a shame that CZ didn’t find a way to remove 3 ½ ounces from this gun to make it IDPA legal, but perhaps it is the sport – not the tool, that needs to re-assess the legitimacy of those numbers. My dislike of the crooked backstrap is not quite strong enough to prevent me from wanting this gun. It is less noticeable when fully engaged in shooting, and dare I even admit that it might be helping my performance. What I do have a problem with is the temperature transfer properties of the aluminum grips. They are beautiful and feel wonderful (at room temperature) so it pains me to dislike them – but a more thermally neutral material (like wood, even) would make the shooter much more comfortable in extreme heat or cold. Maybe we are expected to wear gloves – which is why there is such a large opening in the front end of the trigger guard for the gloved finger.
During multiple range sessions and hundreds of rounds of every type of ammo, I experienced zero failures or even hiccups of any kind. Not only does the Shadow 2 feed, fire, and eject everything you give it – but it makes tight groups doing it! My advice to those on the hunt for a new match gun is to be certain the CZ Shadow 2 is on your list (sorry, IDPA guys and gals, not you). Out of the box, it is far superior to most every non-customized pistol on the market. When you consider the quality of materials and workmanship, reliability and accuracy, included extras and general shootability of the Shadow 2, you might find that the list price of $1,299 is not at all bad. But hold one first. That dogleg handle is certain to be a love-it or hate-it factor for many.
For more information about the CZ Shadow 2, click here.
For more information about Freedom Munitions, click here.
To go with GunsAmerica writers behind the scenes in Freedom Munitions factory, click here.
To purchase a Shadow 2 on GunsAmerica, click here.