January 2017

Selective-Double-Action 9mm 3-Way Used-Handgun Shoot Out

January is usually a tough month for folks budget-wise, but the interest in buying good handguns doesn’t wane. So here are three less-expensive ways to get a solid, dependable pistol.

Taurus PT 92 AF 92B-17, the CZ 75 B Matte Stainless 91128, and the Action Arms ITM AT-84

Our test trio of used handguns chambered in 9mm Luger are similar in size and shape. From top are the Taurus PT 92 AF 92B-17, the CZ 75 B Matte Stainless 91128, and the Action Arms ITM AT-84. Both the Taurus and the CZ models are also available new. The Swiss-made AT-84 isn’t in current manufacture, but it’s easy to find models for sale on auction sites.

The selective-double-action handgun isn’t always well understood by the buying public. Yet, for many, this action represents the best combination of speed, readiness, and safety. The CZ 75 is easily the best known of the type, but other makers have offered selective-double-action-operation handguns. Recognizing the current popularity of the high-capacity 9mm handgun, our team went searching for good buys in this popular chambering. We wished to test the accuracy of a number of selective-double-action (SDA) handguns. With a long trigger press for combat use with the first shot and excellent accuracy potential in the single-action mode, we feel that these service-size handguns offer a good choice for many shooters. We tested the following handguns:

Action Arms ITM AT-84. This pistol is among the units assembled and finished in Switzerland from Tanfoglio parts. It is perhaps twenty years old. This pistol is similar to the modern CZ 75; however, it is a pre-B, in that there is no firing-pin block or drop safety. Modern magazines fit the AT-84, but AT-84 and pre-B CZ 75 magazines will not lock into the modern CZ75B. The original spur hammer is used on the AT-84. All in all, it offered a pleasant and perhaps retro appearance. This pistol isn’t offered in a current configuration, so you would have to roam the used-gun counters and the bowels of the internet to locate one. But they are out there in reasonable numbers.

CZ 75 B Matte Stainless 91128. We have previously tested a 75B, in the June 2016 issue, Model No. 01120 in 40 S&W. The ‘B’ designation indicates that the model is equipped with a firing-pin-block safety. That CZ 75B was finished in a black coating, and the pistol’s dust cover is thicker than on the 9mm, so some holsters, such as the tightly fitted Lobo Gunleather IWB, would require a significant break-in period before the handgun will properly fit a holster blocked for the 9mm CZ 75 B. The sights on that pistol were enameled with a green three-dot treatment. The paint was self luminous and glowed green for some time after being exposed to light. Raters were split on the CZ 75 B. All gave the pistol high marks for reliability. Accuracy was excellent, and the pistol was comfortable to fire. The lack of a decocking lever was a serious drawback to some, and it didn’t have an accessory rail. In the August 2008 issue, we tested a 75 B in 9mm, it also with a blued finish. We said of that B+ handgun: “The single-action CZ 75 B was one of the finer 9mms we’ve tried. It fit our hands well, pointed superbly, was reliable, comfortable and pleasant to shoot. The only flaw we found in this sample was a trigger that needed work. This gun had an ambidextrous safety that did not interfere with the shooting hand. The only control other than a two-position hammer (no half-cock position, and none needed) and the trigger was the slide lock, which was also the takedown lever.” A few months later, we looked at another 75 (B-), this one a 16-shot double-action pistol that “can be carried cocked and locked, which solves problems for some who are required to pack a DA pistol. The matte-black finish was well done, and the entire gun seemed to be built to last.” The accuracy of the CZ was about 2.5 inches for all shots fired, and we thought that was more than adequate. The CZ was notably heavier than the M&P, and that helped dampen recoil. There were no problems with the CZ whatsoever. It fed, fired, and ejected all our loads. We liked the fact that it could be fired with the magazine removed. The empties didn’t go far, but they all got out of the gun. Other than the poor trigger and its sharp edge, we liked this gun. It appeared to be very well made.” If buying used firearms isn’t your thing, this pistol is still being offered under the 91128 model number.

Taurus PT 92 AF 92B-17. We tested an early incarnation of this pistol in the June 1994 issue. We looked at a Taurus 92 AF 9mm, saying of it, “Overall, this Taurus’ trigger was satisfactory. The trigger itself was 3⁄8-inch wide and had a smooth face. In the single-action mode, the pull had almost a half-inch of take-up before breaking at 6 pounds. The long double-action pull had a full inch of travel. However, it released with only 10.5 pounds of pressure, making it easier to control than most. Bottom Line: The PT 92 performed satisfactorily so long as it was heavily lubricated, but eliminating the [tool] chatter marks on the slide rails seems a better option to us.”

Taurus PT 92 AF 92B-17, the CZ 75 B Matte Stainless 91128, and the Action Arms ITM AT-84

With the CZ-type pistols, the AT-84 on the left and the 75B Stainless in the center, we received two magazines (shown here with one in the guns and one extra). The Taurus PT 92 AF came with three extra magazines.

During testing we used three types of 9mm Luger ammunition. These included the Black Hills Ammunition 115-grain full metal jackets, Winchester’s 124-grain PDX +P, and the Federal 124-grain HST load. During the combat firing stage, we also used a handload with the Hornady 124-grain XTP and Titegroup powder at an average 1100 fps velocity. Each handgun was lubricated on the long bearing surfaces, and the magazines loaded with the practice handload to gauge combat firing. We fired 60 rounds, or about four magazines, during the combat-firing stage, per gun. Then we added 10 rounds of the Winchester +P load in offhand fire during the combat firing stage.

Black Hills Ammunition 115-grain full metal jackets; Winchester’s 124-grain PDX +P jacketed hollow points, and the 124-grain HST P9HST1 hollow points from Federal

All three loads used in testing and evaluation gave good results. From top are the Black Hills Ammunition 115-grain full metal jackets; Winchester’s 124-grain PDX +P jacketed hollow points, and the 124-grain HST P9HST1 hollow points from Federal.

Definition of Selective Double Action

This is a double-action-first-shot pistol with a safety that allows the hammer to be carried fully to the rear and safety on. The raters agreed that the intent was to allow the pistol to be placed on safe after the first shot had been fired, and that tactical movement could be done safely. You do not wish to decock a pistol during a gunfight, even when running to cover. Some of us prefer a manual safety to make a move. The safety of the CZ 75 cannot be placed On when the hammer is down. The hammer must be lowered by controlling the hammer as the trigger is pressed. The safety of the AT-84 clone tested may be placed on with the hammer down. The Taurus may also be placed on with the hammer down. However, the Taurus may be decocked by pressing down hard on the safety lever. These variations on the SDA theme would be explored.

9X19mm Luger Range Data

Black Hills Ammunition 9mm Luger 115-gr. Full Metal Jacket Taurus PT 92 AF CZ 75 B Matte Stainless Action Arms/ITM AT-84
Average velocity 1179 fps 1157 fps  1168 fps 
Muzzle energy 354 ft.-lbs.  341 ft.-lbs.  348 ft.-lbs. 
Smallest group 2.9 in.  2.1 in.  2.25 in. 
Largest group 3.45 in.  2.4 in.  2.6 in. 
Average group size 3.25 in.  2.25 in.  2.4 in. 
Federal HST P9HS12 9mm Luger 124-gr. Jacketed Hollow Point
Average velocity 1178 fps 1160 fps  1186 fps 
Muzzle energy 382 ft.-lbs.  370 ft.-lbs.  387 ft.-lbs. 
Smallest group 2.25 in.  1.9 in.  1.8 in. 
Largest group 2.8 in.  2.4 in.  2.5 in. 
Average group size 2.6 in.  2.1 in.  2.2 in. 
Winchester PDX +P 9mm Luger 124-gr. Jacketed Hollow Point
Average velocity 1225 fps  1199 fps  1210 fps 
Muzzle energy 413 ft.-lbs.  395 ft.-lbs.  403 ft.-lbs. 
Smallest group 3.6 in.  2 in.  2.4 in. 
Largest group 4.4 in.  2.4 in.  2.7 in.
Average group size 4 in.  2.3 in.  2.5 in. 
To collect accuracy data at 25 yards, we fired five-shot groups off a bench rest. We recorded muzzle velocities with a Competition Electronics Chrony Chronograph. The first sky screen was set 10 feet from the muzzle.
Ammunition suppliers: Black Hills Ammunition 115-grain FMJ, $12.75/20 rounds @ LuckyGunner.com; Winchester 124-grain PDX +P, $21.49/20 rounds @ MidwayUSA.com; Federal 124-grain HST P9HST, $24.87/20 @ AmmunitionDepot.com.

Taurus PT 92 AF 92B-17 9mm Luger, $360


Taurus PT 92 AF 92B-17 9mm Luger

The Taurus performed decently for the price, but we had reservations. We did not like the single malfunction. The previous owner had purchased Taiwan-made magazines, and these magazines, while appearing new, did not lock the pistol back on the last shot. Both used Taurus magazines did so. The trigger action was heavier than the CZ 75-type pistols. Accuracy was less than stellar, in fact, it was poor with some loads. For entry-level and recreational shooting, the pistol has merit. We believe that it is best to spend a little more money and get a much better handgun. 

ACTION Semi-auto, locked breech double action to single action
MAX WIDTH 1.6 in.
BARREL 5 in. long; blued steel, 1:9.84 in. right twist; 6 grooves
MAGAZINE (4) 17-rd. blued steel
SLIDE Blued steel
FRAME Aluminum, large
GRIPS Rubber
GRIP THICKNESS (max) 1.4 in.
SIGHTS Fixed, 1 front white dot
SAFETY Firing pin block, hammer decocker, manual lever
WARRANTY (used) None
TELEPHONE (305) 624-1115
MADE IN Brazil

Taurus PT 92 AF 92B-17 9mm Luger

Fired off hand, the Taurus was controllable. There wasn’t much muzzle flip with the Taurus.

The price above was for a used pistol from SCgunco.com. This handgun was found in the used section with a nice padded case and a total of four magazines. Accessories such as these often add to the value of a used handgun. The pistol had been cleaned and professionally lubricated. The PT 92 AF was only about $50 less than a new Taurus, but the two additional magazines and case swayed the buyer. The Taurus appeared as new.

The pistol was finished evenly in dark black. The Taurus is the only one of the pistols tested that featured a light rail. The pistol had ambidextrous safety levers. The Taurus featured the open-top slide and oscillating-wedge action familiar to generations of Beretta 92 shooters. Cocking serrations were adequate, even a little sharp. The plastic grips were nicely checkered. Grooves on both the front strap and the rear strap kept the pistol steady in the hand. The sights were service grade, with a white three-dot insert. The trigger action was fairly smooth, but heavy, at 15 pounds or so in the double-action mode. The single-action trigger broke at 5.5 pounds after considerable take up.

The significant difference in operation between the Taurus and the CZ pistols is that the 92 pistol incorporates a decocking option into the action. We all agreed that if you can keep the advantages of the SDA pistol and add a decocker, then that is a good thing. There was some concern that we might activate the decocker while firing. Some of the raters had experienced that error when firing earlier Taurus pistols. Evidently, Taurus has tightened the decocker because this did not occur during testing. We even put the finger on the safety during firing, using a 1911-style grip. We should note that one of the raters has used a Taurus PT 92 for years in his training classes because he can teach DA and SA trigger control and also proper manipulation of the safety and decocking. It is a versatile system.

Taurus PT 92 AF 92B-17 9mm Luger

the Taurus PT 92 AF is shown with its lever on Safe. The controls on all three guns were positive in operation, our testers said.

The PT 92 AF performed well. The long DA pull, we felt, was a bit harder than the other DA pulls. The single-action trigger had some take up, but once in the single-action mode, control was good. The Taurus exhibited little muzzle flip, even with +P loads. Combat accuracy testing showed the groups to be tightly centered. There was a single failure to extract during the benchrest accuracy part of the program. The cartridge following butted into the case that was still in the chamber. Since this did not occur with the handloads we feel this is a legitimate malfunction. The other two pistols tested did not malfunction.

The majority of the raters felt the CZ 75 was better in the hand and was smoother than the PT 92 AF. They were split on the felt recoil, but the PT 92 AF definitely exhibited little muzzle flip. During the combat evaluation, we were able to demonstrate center hits out to 7 yards in the DA mode. The groups were well centered, but not as tight as the CZ-derived pistols.

Fired from a solid benchrest, the PT 92 AF’s most accurate load was the Federal 124-grain HST with a 2.25-inch group and a 2.6-inch average. Just the same, the Taurus 9mm was the least accurate handgun tested. With the Winchester load, the stainless CZ75B fired a group almost exactly half the size of the Taurus PT 92 AF.

The Taurus manual describes operation of the pistol in various states. Some of the advice is obvious safety messaging. “The safety lever must be fully engaged or disengaged,” the manual said. “The firearm should not be operated with the lever in between the On and Off positions. Failure to make sure that the lever is all the way up or all the way down will result in damage to your firearm and can result in accidental death or serious injury.” We thought the safety operated positively, and during our shooting, we didn’t feel it stick in the halfway location.

Next, the manual said, “On some semi-automatic pistols, it is possible to lower the hammer to a ‘half-cock’ position. This position is the intercept notch. Do not use this intercept notch or half cock position as a safety device. Do not carry the firearm at any time in the half-cock position. It is not designed or suitable for that purpose. The ‘half cock’ or intercept notch serves only to prevent unintended firing in case of internal malfunction or in case your thumb slips off the hammer during manual cocking or decocking.”

Further: “To prevent accidental discharge, it is absolutely essential to use the manual safety. Never carry the pistol in the cocked or half-cocked position at any time.”

Taurus also discusses different states of the firearm, and how the company views the pistol’s suitability to be carried in those conditions. First, it offers a warning not to ever leave the pistol in Condition Zero, described as: Magazine full, round in the chamber, hammer [at] full cock, and safety off, that is, ready to fire. Underlining the danger, the manual further warns, “This is not a carry condition! The pistol is ready to fire in the single-action mode. WARNING: Never carry your pistol in condition zero. Injury or death may result.”

Taurus PT 92 AF 92B-17 9mm Luger

To disassemble the 92 AF, make sure the chamber is empty and remove the magazine. Press the disassembling latch release (arrow) and rotate the disassembling latch clockwise until it stops. Remove the slide-barrel assembly forward, the spring and recoil guide, and the barrel. Reassemble in opposite order — a simple process.

Then the manual describes other conditions. “The following describe the only three conditions in which you should carry your metal frame Taurus Pistol. While your pistol is safe to carry in all three conditions, they are ranked in order from most dangerous to least dangerous. You must decide which condition is best for your personal needs and skill level.”

Then, the manual defines Condition 1 as magazine full, round in the chamber, hammer at full cock, safety “on” or engaged so the pistol won’t fire. “Known as ‘cocked and locked’ the pistol is in its most ready condition,” according to the Taurus manual. “The pistol will fire when gripped in the hand, the manual safety is flipped “off” [set to Fire], and the trigger is pulled.”

Condition 2(a) is described as magazine full, round in the chamber, hammer down/decocked, and the manual safety “off” or ready to Fire. Condition 2(b) is magazine full, round in the chamber, hammer down/decocked, and manual safety “on,” or on Safe. The pistol will fire when gripped in the hand and the trigger is pulled, or the manual safety is off and the trigger is pulled. When using the decocking lever, the hammer falls to the intercept position.

Condition 3 has the magazine full, chamber empty, hammer down/decocked, and the manual safety “off,” or set to Fire. The pistol will fire when gripped in the hand, the slide is pulled to the rear and released, chambering a round, and the trigger is pulled. When using the decocking lever, the hammer falls to the intercept position.

Disassembly is straightforward. Remove the magazine by pressing the magazine-release button. Be sure that the chamber is empty. Press the disassembling latch release and rotate the disassembling latch clockwise until it stops. Pull the slide-barrel assembly forward. Press the locking block plunger and remove the spring and recoil guide. Slightly press the recoil spring guide. Lift and remove it carefully, then remove the barrel from the slide.

Our Team Said: The pistol has the advantages of a modern light rail and a decocker. We rated the Taurus PT 92 AF down a half grade on accuracy and another half grade for the malfunction.

CZ 75 B Matte Stainless 91128 9mm Luger, $500


CZ 75 B Matte Stainless 91128 9mm Luger

The CZ 75 exhibits superb fit and finish. Handling is better than the Taurus and at least equal to the AT-84. There is plenty of factory support for parts and magazines. We did give the AT-84 the nod for better sights, but the CZ 75 is more accurate. Overall, this is a handgun well worth its price.

ACTION Semi-auto, locked breech double action
MAGAZINE (2) 15-rd. blued steel
SLIDE Stainless steel
FRAME Stainless steel
GRIP THICKNESS (max) 1.4 in.
TRIGGER SPAN (SA) 2.75 in.
SAFETY Manual safety
WARRANTY (new) 5 year limited on internal parts; 1 year wood and finish
TELEPHONE (800) 955-4486

CZ 75 B Matte Stainless 91128 9mm Luger

The owner carries this pistol in a Wright Leatherworks Banshee IWB holster.

The price above was for a used pistol from SCgunco.com. There is a strong market for quality used handguns, and the $200 dollar break from a new CZ75B seemed attractive. The CZ75B stainless 9mm was easily the best fitted and finished of the pistols tested. The Beretta/Taurus drawbar and oscillating wedge seems dated compared to the clean CZ 75 design.

The CZ only allowed placing the gun on Safe when the hammer was cocked and pulled fully to the rear. The stainless CZ75B is no more combat capable a handgun than the blued-steel versions we have previously rated; however, this piece is more attractive and more corrosion resistant. The pistol is all steel, and of course heavier compared to the Taurus PT 92’s aluminum frame. The slide of the CZ rides inside the frame, the opposite of most pistols. This makes for a low bore axis. This also results in slightly more difficulty in racking the slide.

CZ 75 B Matte Stainless 91128 9mm Luger

The CZ 75B in fore position.

We should note the pistol was purchased with aftermarket grips. The owner had replaced the stock grips with a pair from Klinsky, whose workmanship is superb. There was no corresponding advantage in accuracy, we felt, but the grips set off the pistol well.

The CZ double-action press was about 12 pounds and very smooth. The single-action press was tight and broke at 4.5 pounds. The trigger action was the second best of the test. The magazines are durable all-steel units. We ordered one additional magazine from Brownells.com to make the test easier to conduct. So, we had a total of three CZ 75B magazines. The AT-84 has only a single cut in the magazine to meet the magazine latch, so those earlier CZ 75 magazines cannot be used in the CZ 75B, while the later-model magazines work in the earlier pistol.

CZ 75 B Matte Stainless 91128 9mm Luger

The AT-84 magazine, left, will not function in the CZ 75. The CZ 75 magazine does function in the AT-84.

The CZ’s breakdown isn’t particularly difficult, but it is more complicated that the simple takedown lever of the Taurus. The sights were fine, no better or worse than the Taurus.

After loading three magazines (and then reloading), we fired the CZ in the same combat course as the Taurus. We felt that the results were better using the CZ. The pistol’s trigger was faster and more controllable. Tactically, there may be little that could be done with any of these handguns that could not be done with the other, but we like the CZ 75 for combat shooting. Fast magazine changes were easily carried out. If you begin with a cocked-and-locked pistol among the three, the advantages of the CZ 75 trigger action are even more pronounced. A practiced shooter will perform better in combat drills with the CZ 75 pistol, we believe. The CZ 75 is more accurate, and this accuracy shows to a greater extent the longer the range. The best group with the CZ 75 pistol was fired with the Federal 124-grain HST with a solid 1.9-inch group fired at 25 yards. The average considerably beat the Taurus 9mm and slightly beat the AT-84.

Our Team Said: This is a Best Buy. The stainless CZ 75 pistol is the most expensive handgun tested, but at this price, we think it’s still a good buy. Caveat: The CZ 75 does not have an accessory rail for mounting a combat light. If this is important to you, then this isn’t the pistol you should buy.

Action Arms/ITM AT-84S 9mm Luger, $450 used


Action Arms/ITM AT-84S 9mm Luger

The AT-84 is as desirable as any other CZ 75 of the era, and the excellent sights make it a fine shooter. However, for a few more bucks, you get a better pistol with the modern CZ 75, which is tighter, more accurate, and is easier to get parts for. Just the same, the AT-84 is a good handgun to buy if you find a used one in good condition.

ACTION  Semi-auto, locked breech double action 
MAX WIDTH 1 in. 
BARREL  Steel 
MAGAZINE  (2) 15-rd. blued steel 
SLIDE  Stainless steel
FRAME  Steel 
GRIPS  Wood 
GRIP THICKNESS (max)  1.4 in. 
GRIP CIRCUMFERENCE (max)  5.6 in. 
SIGHTS  Fixed 
TRIGGER SPAN (SA)  2.75 in. 
SAFETY  Left side frame-mounted lever 
MADE IN  Switzerland 

Action Arms/ITM AT-84S 9mm Luger

Being a CZ clone, the AT-84 naturally features the same action as the CZ 75, with one difference. The AT-84 safety may be applied when the hammer is in the down position.

The AT-84 is supplied with nicely checkered grips. The sights are best described as a fixed target type. They are larger than the sights used on the CZ 75B or Taurus and are arguably the best of the match-up. The double-action trigger felt smoother than the CZ 75; perhaps it is because it has been in use longer. The single-action trigger was crisp and broke at a nice 4.25 pounds. It was tight, very tight; we liked it better than the CZ 75 trigger. The trigger guard was also contoured differently.

Action Arms/ITM AT-84S 9mm Luger

The controls were positive in operation. A side note: We use highly experienced raters to test these firearms, but we also solicit input from novice shooters. A beginner may find one handgun better than another for him, while the more experienced may just handle that trigger or grip and concentrate on reliability and accuracy. The inexperienced often have good input. One of our young raters is well over six feet tall and thin with long fingers. During the firing exercise, he let his support-hand thumb activate the slide lock of the AT-84. He was schooled in proper procedure before firing again and did not experience this with the CZ or PT 92, but this is a point worth considering. After some indoctrination, he was up and running with the AT-84. Modern handguns tend to have controls that lay closer to the frame.

Action Arms/ITM AT-84S 9mm Luger

The AT-84 lacks ambi controls.

In combat drills, the AT-84 did an excellent job. The results were better than the CZ 75B’s, based on the AT-84’s slightly tighter grouping. The good sights and trigger action paid off. Speed was excellent on all counts. In benchrest fire at 25 yards, the AT-84 turned in good results. The Federal 124-grain HST made a good show in this test, and the results of the HST and the Winchester 124-grain PDX were tied in this instance, with a best group for each of 1.8 inches and the Federal load slightly beating the PDX on the average. The average accuracy of the AT-84 beat the Taurus 92 AF and was very close to the CZ75B. In practical terms, there was little difference. We would have liked to have had the AT-84’s sights on the CZ 75 pistol.

Action Arms/ITM AT-84S 9mm Luger

The AT-84 in fire position.

Our Team Said: The AT-84 is an accurate handgun, and it proved reliable. After some debate, the CZ 75B was named the Best Buy, however, even though it cost more than the AT-84. Here is the logic. The CZ 75B is in production and has good support. Parts are plentiful. The CZ 75B has the advantage of a drop safety. The CZ 75B is more accurate despite the AT-84’s advantage of better sights and a better trigger. Just the same, for the money, we would buy the AT-84.

Written and photographed by R.K. Campbell, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.

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