August 2008

A Brace of Full-Size 9mms: Go With CZ’s 75 B Single Action

CZ’s outstanding 75 B SA needs trigger work, but it’s a great gun that we’d buy. Our test crew couldn’t work the otherwise excellent Taurus 24/7’s safety, which cost it two letter grades.

So ya wanna buy a 9mm handgun, eh, sport? Suffice to say, you’ve got a lot of choices. You might begin your search for, say, full-size autoloaders. Then narrow it down to action type, single or double. Factor in whatever aftermarket items you need or want, and finally look at how much you are willing to pay for the package. All that narrows the choices still more. If you insist on a single-action auto, or more specifically, if you insist on a gun you can carry cocked and locked with the same trigger pull for each and every shot, your choices in 9mm get pretty small. Two prominent choices are the Browning Hi-Power or one of its clones, and the CZ 75.

The CZ 75 B SA

The CZ 75 B SA, right, won our hearts even though it needs a trigger job. It held 16 rounds in its magazine, but the Taurus held all of 17. All the loose rounds shown will fit into each of the Taurus’s two mags. Both guns came with two magazines, and the CZ also came with a handy magazine-loading tool.

Lest we forget, several makers including Colt have issued 9mm versions of the1911 in various forms. Also, many of the DAO pistols will give you the same trigger pull every shot. Recently we tested the Charles Daly version of the Hi-Power against a Stoeger (Beretta) Cougar, and though we liked the Daly, it lost out to the Cougar because of its painful bite to the hand that feeds it, and because of a few other items Daly could have fixed, but didn’t. So we kept looking for better 9mms.

We had heard about the CZ 75 for many years. One of our group is good friends with the Colorado gunsmith Don Fisher, who has done extremely well in national-level IPSC competition with the CZ 75. Fisher went so far as to develop his own wildcat cartridge for the CZ 75, which made it "major" caliber, competing with the 45 ACP. The late Jeff Cooper also liked the CZ 75 but for its cartridge, Cooper preferring the 45, in which caliber the CZ is not made. And a certain editor of a magazine dedicated to testing guns indicated he might have a CZ 75 stashed somewhere. So if a gun has that level of fans, we thought it would be a good idea to run a CZ 75 through our mill—but not just any CZ 75. We chose the CZ 75 B SA ($576), the last two letters standing for Single Action. This CZ 75 has features of what ought to be intense interest to those who want to shoot in competition with "minor" caliber, and for home defenders alike, as you shall see.

We pitted the CZ against the Taurus 24/7 Pro ($452), a similar-size handgun with similar large capacity. We had a look at a Taurus 24/7 in 2004, and we thought it was time to see if there have been any changes. Another good comparison would be the new S&W M&P, and one is coming, but it didn’t arrive in time for this report. We tested with four types of ammunition. They were Black Hills 147-grain JHP Subsonic, Winchester USA BEB 115-grain TC, Fiocchi 115-grain JHP, and with Independent 115-grain ball. Let’s see what we found.

CZ 75 B SA 9mm, $576

The CZ comes in a plastic box with a trick catch. Once you have figured out the catch (press on the box inside the handle) it’s easy to open. Before that, it’s almost pry-bar time to get this catch

Ambidextrous Safety Levers of The CZ 75 B SA

The arrows point to the easily hit ambidextrous safety levers of the CZ 75 B SA. The levers are far enough forward that they don’t interfere with the shooter’s trigger-finger knuckle. Compare this with the obscure safety lever on the Taurus that we could not hit with our thumb.

undone. The gun’s finish is called "polycoat," which is a waterproof and corrosion-resistant polymer. It seems to be very durable, gives a non-glare, smooth black finish, and looks great. That’s the only finish available for this version of the CZ in either 9mm or 40 S&W, though other CZ 75s have glossy blued or satin-nickel options. The 40-caliber and all other finishes are extra-cost options. The factory website (czusa.com) has details.

Our test gun came with two 16-round magazines, a (wonderful!) loading-assist tool, cleaning rod, bristle brush, snap caps, and a four-shot target facsimile fired at 25 meters that indicated a spread of less than 4 inches, and impact less than an inch from the aim point. There was also a three-year warranty card numbered to the gun in the box.

The grip panels were checkered black plastic. We’d probably put wood on it if we owned it, for cosmetic reasons. The front and back straps are entirely smooth. We’d have liked checkering, but the shape of the grip was essentially perfect for all our test crew, and no one complained about any lack of traction on the gun. The front of the trigger guard was flattened and serrated for those who like to put a finger there. The curve of the guard let the shooter get a very high grip on the handle. Perhaps best of all this gun’s features was the extended tang that kept the hammer from biting the web of the hand. Browning take note!

The trigger was flattened in the middle, and its position at the break was identical to that of a 1911. The DA version of this gun has a curved trigger that breaks somewhat farther back in its travel. The DA version, by the way, may be carried cocked and locked. Thus the DA feature is simply an added attraction, along with a bit less weight.

The CZ’s fixed sights were excellent. The sight picture was as good as it gets, the picture presenting three light-green dots to the shooter. The front sight is pinned to the slide, and presumably there are different-height options. We couldn’t find any on the

CZ’s Slide and Frame

Align two marks on CZ’s slide and frame, tap the slide stop, and you get these parts very easily. There are some similar features to those of a 1911 here, but note that the slide runs inside the frame, not outside.

website , but any competent gunsmith could install a higher or lower front blade as needed. We didn’t need it. Our gun shot precisely where we aimed it, at 15 yards. The rear sight was dovetailed to the slide. Its front edge was a bit too sharp, but not a dagger.

The gun was slick and smooth on all the places that would catch on holsters or hands. The ejection port was large and smooth-edged. The top of the gun had a prominent serrated rib between the sights. Workmanship throughout was superb.

The CZ 75 is not a lightweight. Where DA CZ’s have a cut in the slide sides, near the muzzle, the SA version has the full slide width extended to the muzzle. This adds weight but reduces muzzle flip. The SA version has an ambidextrous safety, and its magazine drops free when you punch the release button. IPSC and other action shooters will appreciate all those items. This is the first ambi safety one of our picky testers could tolerate. The safety levers are set forward far enough that they don’t interfere with the strong-hand knuckle. And it’s easy to keep the thumb on top of the safety lever as you fire, because the slide is above the thumb and doesn’t drag on that digit.

At the range we opened the ball with 147-grain Black Hills, which gave about 2.5-inch groups. With the Winchester BEB we got our best accuracy with the CZ, groups averaging 1.5 inches at 15 yards. By this time we knew the creepy trigger was hurting us. The trigger pull averaged 6.6 pounds, and varied from 5.5 pounds up to nearly 7.0. Clearly something was not right, and the gun’s groups showed it. We had the gun go off several times before we were quite ready, as the varying trigger gave us fits. So that is the first, and as it turned out, only thing we’d look into on this gun.

Taurus PT 24/7 PRO 9mm, $452

The latest iteration of the 24/7 holds all of 17+1 shots in this "Pro" version. Many of the 24/7 versions have been discontinued, but this one is still listed on the company website (taurususa.com).

Its main features are a polymer frame, underlug for an accessory light, the ribbed rubber-overlay grip that we’ve liked so well in previous tests, superb fixed sights, and striker-fired "DAO" trigger. Though previous testers of this gun indicated a great fondness for the grip shape, it left our Idaho testers out in the cold, compared with the CZ’s handle. Like all recent Taurus handguns the 24/7 can be locked with a special key to prevent unauthorized use. It also had a loaded-round indicator in the form of a red area on the protruding extractor. It could be seen and felt.

Our test gun was all-matte-black. The slide was blued, the polymer frame was matte black, and the overlay rubber grips were flat black. Some variants have a stainless slide. Versions of the 24/7 are also available in 40 and 45 ACP. See the Taurus website for more information.

Takedown was easy enough. Unload the gun, lock the slide back, remove the magazine, turn the takedown lever 90 degrees until it points down, and then pry it completely out of the gun. Let the slide go forward, press the trigger, and remove the slide with barrel and springs toward the front. We found workmanship to be excellent inside and out.

The gun came with two magazines, though we wonder why anyone would want to carry 35 rounds along with the gun. (Are you that bad of a shot?) There was also a cleaning brush and an owner’s manual, but no magazine-loading helper. If you haven’t eaten your spinach regularly you might have a hard time getting all 17 rounds into the magazine. A magazine completely full of relatively light 115-grain bullets tipped the scale at over ten ounces. With 147-grainers a loaded mag weighs about 13 ounces.

Taurus

This double-concentric-spring unit in the Taurus is handy because it doesn’t come apart. It comes out easily for cleaning and goes back in with a slight push. We like this kind of engineering.

On the range we found the Taurus trigger was a little stiffer than that of the CZ. It broke at 6.8 pounds (8.0 for the full restroke). However, it was consistent, fairly clean, and once we got used to it, it worked well for us in both slow and rapid fire. We liked the fact that you could redrop the firing pin by another pull on the trigger if you had a round fail to fire. The single-action CZ does not let you do this. With the CZ you’d have to resort to the time-tried "tap-rack-bang" drill as practiced by 1911 shooters. Of course if the 24/7’s bad round doesn’t fire with the second drop of the firing pin you’ll have to do what the CZ owner has already done, perform that drill. On the range the 24/7 Pro never failed to go bang, nor did it give us any functional problems. We got very fine accuracy with three of our test loads. The gun indicated a distinct preference for types and weight of ammo, so a dedicated search would be in order to find the best ammunition.

Unfortunately, during our rapid-fire tests we had a huge problem that put all our test shooters off this gun for serious purposes. Not one of us could operate the thumb safety with the strong hand in the firing position. We all grabbed the gun with a firing grip, pointed it at the target, and—nothing happened. We found it impossible to swipe the safety off with the strong-hand thumb. Lefties were also out in the cold. We thought the safety was too far rearward and too small for serious use. None of us liked the idea of carrying the gun with a round in the chamber with the safety off, and that put us off this otherwise excellent handgun.

ACCURACY AND CHRONOGRAPH DATA

CZ 75 B SA 9MM

TAURUS 24-7 PRO 9MM

FOLLOW-UP: FNs DOUBLE-ACTION FNP-9 DAO

DEFENSE PISTOLS REPORT CARD