Developed behind the Iron Curtain in the 1970s, the Czech-made CZ-75 was one of the first harbingers of the “wonder-nine” movement, combining a high-capacity magazine with a double-action system of trigger operation. Although quite advanced for its day, the original design now dates back more than three decades.
As a result, CZ updated the manufacture and design of the platform. The result was the compact CZ P-01, a pistol that possessed improved ergonomics and metallurgy, benefiting from modernized manufacturing processes. Soon thereafter CZ developed the SP-01, a full-size pistol featuring the P-01’s positive attributes.
A new member of the SP-01 family, the 9 mm Luger-chambered Phantom, takes a different tack than its steel-frame sibling, featuring a polymer frame instead. The frame sports all the ergonomic upgrades of the SP-01 series, including an extended, sweeping beavertail to prevent hammer bite, a generous recess under the rear of the trigger guard to encourage the pistol to sit lower in the hand, and a full-length Picatinny accessory rail on its dustcover.
In addition to being 33 percent lighter than the steel-frame SP-01, the Phantom features one very significant upgrade—interchangeable backstraps. Two are included with the Phantom: a thicker arched unit and a thinner, flat-profile unit. Changing them requires driving out a crosspin at the base of the grip. It is important to note that this pin also retains the mainspring, so it is under a good deal of pressure.
Because it sports a lanyard ring just to the rear of the magazine well, the Phantom employs the SP-01 series’ extended magazine with an oversize, polymer baseplate. The total capacity of the lengthened magazine is 19 rounds. The purpose of this magazine configuration is to help prevent injury from the lanyard ring to the support hand when soundly seating magazines. The pistol will also accept standard flush-fitting, 16-round magazines.
Inside the Phantom’s polymer frame is a two-piece steel chassis. The forward portion houses the forward slide rails and the trigger mechanism while the rear portion houses the rear slide rails and the hammer group. As with the original CZ-75, the SP-01 Phantom’s frame wraps around the slide, making for a pistol with a very low profile slide and commensurately low bore axis.
The steel slide features a smooth and evenly applied black polycoat lacquer finish and a weight-saving scalloped profile that narrows toward the rear portion of the slide. The wider rear section features somewhat shallow-cut vertical grasping grooves for retracting the slide. Housed inside the slide is a 4½-inch barrel with an integral, polished feed ramp.
Its sights are three-dot, fixed units that illuminate when charged with an external light source. The rear sight is drift-adjustable and secured in place by a set screw. The front sight is removable and held in place by a pin. A grooved sighting plane runs along the entire top of the slide.
Operationally, the SP-01 is a traditional double-action, semi-automatic pistol, just like its predecessor, the CZ-75. When the hammer is down, the first shot of the pistol requires a long, relatively heavy pull that both cocks and releases the hammer. Subsequent shots are short, single-action pulls as the cycling of the slide cocks the hammer. To enhance safety, the Phantom features a spring-loaded firing pin block that is pushed clear of the firing pin when the trigger is pulled fully to the rear.
Unlike the original CZ-75, with its frame-mounted, sear-locking safety lever, the SP-01 Phantom instead employs a decocking lever located in the same position at the rear of the frame. A non-ambidextrous unit, the decocking lever features a grooved top and can be used to safely drop the hammer from its cocked position to the half-cock safety notch.
The rest of the user controls of the pistol are made up of the slide release lever and an extended magazine release button located just to the rear of the trigger guard. The SP-01 Phantom does not have a magazine safety, meaning the pistol can be fired with the magazine removed.
The Phantom we received for testing came packed in a hard plastic case inside a CZ-marked box with two magazines, two backstrap inserts, an owner’s manual and a cleaning kit. The fit and finish of the pistol were quite good. The coated finish on the slide was a deep black and evenly applied, and all controls worked positively.
We took the pistol to the range with a selection of Black Hills, Federal and Winchester ammunition and soon set to putting it through its paces. Through the course of a few hundred rounds, the pistol did not experience a single malfunction, although our testers did note an unsettling tendency for the slide lock to release when a loaded magazine was solidly seated home. We noted that the double-action trigger pull was a bit on the heavy side and that none of the magazines would accept more than 18 rounds.
Accuracy was excellent. Also, perceived recoil and muzzle flip were mild, another characteristic of CZ-75-based designs. During testing, we fitted out the accessory rail with a SureFire X300, which added a slight amount of additional weight to the front end, further reducing muzzle flip.
Through its enhanced ergonomics, modern materials and extremely impressive performance, the SP-01 Phantom builds on the strengths of the CZ-75 platform and adds a few of its own.