When I got to the range to begin testing this CZ 75 SP-01 Tactical, the words of Gene Wilder’s character, The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles rang in my ears – “what’s a dazzling urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?”. The good news is that this pistol performs equally well in either environment. And if you are too young to know that movie reference then you owe yourself a treat – and you’ll thank me later. So, whether your list is a bucket list, a wish list, or simply a shopping list – this is a Czech you just have to make on it.
The Czech-made CZ 75 was introduced to the world in 1975 (hence the name). It was slow to reach the shores of the U.S. but was an immediate success in Europe with military and police. Its popularity over the years has become global, and it is likely the most copied and cloned handgun ever made. This is due in part to its magnificent design and perhaps in larger part due to patent problems that made it fair game. The cult following for the Czech sidearm in America was born when Jeff Cooper, a known 1911 snob who had little use for anything else, was so impressed by it that he chose to design his famous Bren Ten pistol on that platform, rather than the 1911. The Bren Ten didn’t really work out for Cooper – but the reputation of the CZ 75 had been cast. To this day, and for good reason, it is still considered one of the best handguns ever designed. In recent years, it has enjoyed a revival in popularity among competition shooters because of its fantastic reliability, simple and easily maintained design, very low bore axis which makes it extremely flat shooting, and its fantastic ergonomics.
The one missing element that many tacticians will be quick to point out is the lack of a mounting cut for a slide-mounted electronic sight (red-dot). CZ has been slow to offer this as a factory option, but that is changing with the recent variant of the Shadow 2 which is optic-ready. Whether that option will be a future reality for the CZ 75 P-01 is not known.
What makes the SP-01 Tactical, “tactical”?
When compared to the standard model SP-01, this variant is clearly made for a variety of configurations and practical scenarios – or – tactics. Starting with the obvious extended and threaded barrel, which has 1/2×28 threads and a steel thread protector. This makes the handgun suppressor ready when combined with its extra-high steel sights that contain Tritium® dots in a conventional combat configuration. A subtle change to the Tactical variant is that the 1913 Picatinny rail that is integral to the dust cover is more enhanced than that found on the standard model. Its three cross-channels are a more traditional mil-spec setup and should accommodate any pic-rail accessory. The sawtooth serrations toward the front of the slide assist the user with running the action or press-checking the gun.
There is no manual safety on this pistol. It has been replaced with a de-cocking-only lever that is ambidextrous. This gives the user a new carry option: half-cocked (insert your own joke here). When the hammer is dropped safely via the de-cocking lever, it does not return to its full forward position, but to an approximate halfway point. The trigger shoe returns fully forward, but for the first half of its stroke, there is almost no resistance. From the resistance point to the break, the pull weight is reduced by over a pound, according to my measurements with the Lyman digital gauge (this is demonstrated in the video). And then, of course, there is the Urban Grey coating.
CZ 75 AT HEART
Beneath all the tactical accouterments is the strong and steady beat of the CZ 75 heart. One of the most respected handguns in the world. The iconic “inside-out” design of the slide to frame rails puts the slide rails inside the frame – not outside like other designs. This significantly lowers the center of gravity of the pistol and flattens the reciprocating energy to reduce muzzle rise during recoil. Less muzzle lift usually means less felt recoil and always means faster target re-acquisition. This is why the CZ 75 became so popular in the run-and-gun sports. The single-action trigger breaks consistently at around 4 ½ pounds, with a short and tactile reset. Once you develop a little muscle memory for riding the reset and break of the trigger, you can make three or four holes in the A-zone on the target in the blink of an eye.
But although the CZ 75 SP-01 is a competitor’s dream, make no mistake – this handgun is rooted in service use. The gun is built to mil-spec and is on the hip of many soldiers and law enforcement officers worldwide. To achieve that status, a handgun must be above all else – reliable and durable. The all-steel construction and time-proven internals help ensure that. In my experience, CZ’s just don’t fail. I don’t think I have ever personally experienced a malfunction with a CZ handgun, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone else have one.
Shooting the CZ 75 SP-01 Tactical
Range trips with this SP-01 Tactical were nothing short of fun. The only thing that prevented me from putting 1000 rounds through this gun during the testing was the post-apocalyptic ammo prices and general shortage thereof. Even so, several hundred rounds went down range – each and every one a joy. My philosophy about accuracy testing handguns is not too different from that of my GunsAmerica colleague, Clay Martin – just about every gun I shoot is capable of better performance than I can manage with it. But I get it, people like to see the results. I think the true revelation of accuracy testing handguns – whether rested or offhand – is learning how well I am able to shoot that specific gun. And while your results may vary, I think it’s a good indication of how the ergonomics, sights, and trigger work together to allow the shooter to perform at his or her best. With that concept in mind, I shot a total of eight groups with the SP-01 Tactical. I shot mostly top-quality ammunition, self-defense rounds that are known performers, but I included common ball ammo and also shot a group with my personal handloads just for fun. After all – a large market for this pistol is the action pistol competitor – and the vast majority of match shooters roll their own.
The CZ SP-01 Tactical produced as consistent a batch of groups as I think I’ve ever shot. All the groups were very close in size and placement on the targets, and there was not a bad group in the bunch. Every gun will favor one or two loads over others for many reasons, but those variations are often more dramatic. The ‘worst’ group I shot with the CZ is better than the best group I’ve shot with many other handguns. The Federal HST load took top honors in measured results, with the SIG Sauer Elite Performance V-Crown in a tight second. However, the SIG ammo produced the closest group to point of aim of them all. I’m a so-so shooter, so I would love to see what this pistol can do in the hands of a real pro.
Off-hand shooting was equally rewarding, with steel plates ringing and swinging with ease. High suppressor sights seem odd when you don’t have a suppressor on the gun, but these sights provide a clear and precise picture and are quick to acquire. With the Tritium® dots, they provide a great combat sight picture day or night. The main component of a handgun when it comes to its “shootiness” is the trigger. The CZ 75 trigger is among the best factory triggers. I’ll confess that the fully extended double-action position is about a millimeter too far out for ideal comfort with my medium hands, but quite manageable. The single-action reset position is in the “just right” zone, and while there is a wee bit of take-up before the break, it is short and the break is crisp. I found it an easy trigger to “learn” and start doing triple taps with ease in a short time.
Great sights and a wonderful trigger wouldn’t be much use if they were attached to a block of wood. The ergonomics of the CZ 75 SP-01 Tactical are top-notch. The shape of the frame itself, the grip angle, and the generous beavertail are legendary CZ. To that, they have added the rubber checkered grips that have swells and valleys in all the right places and even have a perfectly placed thumb rest. The grip of the rubber to the hand is excellent and is assisted by checkering on the front strap and backstrap. It’s the whole package.
Maintaining the SP-01 Tactical is as simple as any CZ 75. The fieldstrip consists of lining up two hash marks near the back left of the slide and removing the locking pin. Barrel, recoil spring and guide rod are removed easily, once the thread protector has been taken off the front of the barrel, and re-assembly is a simple reversal of that process.
Just My Opinion
The CZ 75 began its life as a European sidearm for military and police use and continues to serve that purpose today, making it one of the longest-lasting pistols in continuous issue. It is probably the most copied and cloned handgun, perhaps second only to the 1911. That is no accident. The design of the CZ 75 was and remains distinctive and extremely practical. It is a platform that lends itself well to many calibers and styles of use and has become a customizer’s dream. This SP-01 Tactical model has been on the market now for a few years, and I think it is as fresh and relevant today as the day it was introduced. And even if you don’t put a suppressor on the pistol, you still gain the advantage of additional barrel length and enhanced accuracy and balance. This pistol is beautiful and rugged all at the same time, and the polycoat Urban Grey finish looks like it is extremely durable. As a potential match gun, it could be the best-kept secret out there. The trigger is out-of-the-box ready to shoot matches, the sight picture is fast acquisition and precise. The weight is substantial enough to provide balance and recoil resistance, yet meets weight requirements for all the shooting sports. The ergonomics of the handgun make it feel like it was custom fit to you, and the price point (should be well under $700 at the counter) puts it in easy reach. Oh, and did I mention that it doesn’t malfunction?