For Americans, Ceska Zbrojovka Uhersky Brod's CZ 75 had been the most desired handgun produced behind the Iron Curtain. It had earned the praise of none other than M1911 devotee Jeff Cooper, who declared it the best double-action pistol design in the world, owing, perhaps, to the fact that it could be carried "cocked & locked." Numerous copies of the CZ 75 were manufactured in Western Europe and marketed in the United States before the genuine article became available here—through CZ-USA. CZ has since expanded the line to include models with ambidextrous controls, shortened slides and frames, decockers and double-action-only (DAO) triggers.
The CZ 75 P-01, differs markedly in a number of ways from the original, yet should be equally appealing to American shooters. The CZ 75 P-01 is a short recoil-operated, aluminum alloy-framed, double-action (DA) pistol equipped with a decocker. It was created at the behest of the Czech national police, which presented CZ with a daunting protocol for the pistol's performance.
The test included such requirements as firing without failure following 4,000 dry firings and 3,000 decockings. Moreover, it had to endure 1,350 field strippings and 150 detail strippings. Further, to demonstrate the interchangeability of parts, any number of P-01 pistols could be randomly selected, disassembled, their parts mixed and the guns reassembled with no failures permitted.
Safety was evinced by the guns being dropped from a variety of angles onto concrete from a height of 1.5 meters (54 times) and 3 meters (five times) with no failures (a failure being a discharge). The guns were then required to fire without being serviced. The necessary durability was proven by having the pistols fire after being frozen for 24 hours at 32 degrees F, and again after being heated for 24 hours at 126 degrees F. The guns also had to tolerate immersion in mud, sand and combinations thereof even after being stripped of oil. Finally, the pistols had to have a service life of 15,000 rounds.
Obviously, a pistol of reasonable size and competitive price that could meet such standards would be highly attractive to the U.S. market. The people at CZ-USA thought so, too. A company official declared the P-01 "the most reliable and accurate pistol the company has ever made."
A first glance, the P-01 simply resembles a chopped (shortened barrel/slide and frame) CZ 75, but there are subtle and significant differences. The new gun has both rear and forward serrations on the slide for better purchase. The trigger guard is recurved and horizontally grooved for those who place their off-hand forefingers there. The sights are of a low-profile, snag-free contour similar to the popular Novak design. The hammer rowel is round, like that of a Colt Commander, which reduces hammer bite on the web of the shooting hand. Further, the magazine release button has been enlarged for faster, surer engagement. Additionally, there is an M-3-type accessory rail built into the frame ahead of the trigger guard of production pistols. The grip panels, previously made of hard plastic, are now made of soft, checkered rubber. The compact gun also has a lanyard loop, a retention device useful for uniformed personnel, but of little value to civilians. The last, but likely most important, obvious difference between the P-01 and the original CZ 75 is the absence of the safety lever and the presence of the decocker.
As with traditional DA pistols, the P-01 has a long, relatively heavy first trigger pull that both cocks the hammer and releases it. All subsequent shots are single action (SA) with the energy from the fired round cycling the action and cocking the hammer. The transition from the DA to the SA trigger pull is problematic for some, but can be overcome with practice. The trigger on the new CZ is on par with other triggers of this type on other brands of guns. The decocker is a nice feature that allows the shooter to safely lower the hammer of a cocked pistol without having to touch the hammer or trigger. It is a simple system that appeals to consumers who seek an added margin of safety as well as to law enforcement agencies looking to avoid both complicated training and liability risks. A loaded-chamber indicator is another positive safety feature of the P-01.
CZ 75s, with their deeply sculpted backstraps and slim grip panels, have always fit well into the hands of most shooters and the P-01 is no exception. This is particularly impressive given the fact that CZ 75s have a double-stack magazine design. There is nothing about the feel of this small gun's grip frame to indicate it is a compact model. The only complaint as to ergonomics was that the extreme forward position of the trigger in the double-action mode made reach difficult for those with medium to small hands. Otherwise, the controls—including the frame-mounted safety—are quite good; well-located and easy to manipulate.
The aluminum alloy frame is a big plus for the P-01. It makes little sense to make a gun that is compact, but heavy. The frame is mated to a steel slide and both are coated with a thick layer of a durable polymer finish.
We were quite impressed with the CZ 75 P-01. Despite being designed specifically for law enforcement, it has practically all the features anyone would want in a DA carry gun: reliability, accuracy, a decent chambering, firepower, light weight, compactness, durability and good ergonomics. It should be on the short list of anyone looking for a DA carry gun.