This feature appears in the November ‘16 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.
If you are trying to shake a fine double-stack pistol habit, we have bad news—the CZ P-09.
Yes, it’s black, and polymer. And yes, it’s double action and from a former Soviet bloc country. But no, it doesn’t use esoteric or hard-to-find Russian ammunition, and it absolutely will not remind you of a Lada, Yugo or other substandard technology malingering from decades behind the Iron Curtain.
Any reminder should instead be that CZ knows an awful lot about good firearm design, and that should be no surprise: They’ve been at it since the 1930s, with an essentially unbroken string of successes from Day One. What may surprise you is that those designs were—are—so good that they stemmed the proffered tide of Soviet AKs, Makarovs, etc. that came with Communism in 1948. (“Thank you,” said the Czechs, “we’re good,” and quite apparently got away with it.) If doubts persist, we note that those same designs proved worth stealing and widely copying elsewhere: Only the “Velvet Revolution” curtailed the Communist era and those shenanigans in 1989.
Ergo, and in the form of the CZ P-09, the real thing is happily available. As a double-stack, double/single action 9 mm CZ, it traces a lineage inescapably back to the all-steel CZ-75, one of the original “wonder 9s” that appeared from several manufacturers in the 1970s and early 80s. The reliability and innovation of the CZ-75 impressed even die-hard 1911 fan Col. Jeff Cooper at the time. But make no mistake: The P-09 is a thoroughly modern inheritor of that CZ excellence.
At the range, the P-09 proved a thorough if slightly unexpected pleasure.For openers, the CZ-75’s steel frame is swapped for polymer, dropping 3 ounces but adding three rounds (wherever 19-round standard magazines are permitted, that is, though short capacity 10s are available too). Another CZ hallmark graces both: Internal rails give contaminants a long course for getting inside either pistol to foul the reciprocation of the slide. Both use a button-style mag release on the left, but screw-attached grip panels didn’t make the jump to the P-09. Frame-mounted controls are much the same on both old and new; the decocker is ambidextrous, the slide release is not. Forward of an ample, squared trigger guard, the frame has a generous rail for light/laser accessories.
The CZ-75 was noted for an almost dainty, Browning High Power-like taper toward the front of the slide, but this is gone on the P-09. Manipulation surface seems to have driven slide design instead, and we’ll verify it works well via the slightly forward-angled cocking serrations cut both in front and to the rear of the ejection port. Especially if you prefer to manipulate the slide from below, the forward cuts intersect a secant bevel that tapers from muzzle to ejection port and seems perfect for making this method of hand cycling easier than most any we know. Dovetailed sights and a deeply relieved ejection port round out the slide.
At the range, the P-09 proved a thorough if slightly unexpected pleasure. Much as we admired individual features and CZ execution, we aren’t generally fans of DA/SA trigger systems, believing as we do that the safety benefits are somewhat overstated, and training difficulties understated. But the smooth front end and decisive finish of the Omega trigger system were much as promised, and we shortly found even the heavier press first shots coming with pace and very pleasing accuracy.
We don’t lay this off entirely on the trigger system, however. While the grip may look “vanilla,” our largish but not especially fleshy hands enjoyed particularly complete contact without exciting any temptation to over-grip the P-09. This allowed us to run the trigger in either mode without overt accommodation. We think another healthy bit of CZ heritage helps here—a low bore line coupled with well-tuned slide mass and recoil spring rate.
Now that we’ve put ourselves on the spot, our favorite thing about the CZ P-09 is a little hard to quantify. Quite naturally, it’s nice to see a company and a country make good after so long under a cruel boot, so that pleases our liberty impulse. It’s also good to see hard and innovative work over a long period rewarded; that tickles our sense of tradition. And it’s good to see a sound, useful product that the average person might hope to afford, use and enjoy; a value, perhaps?
Ammunition ranging from 100-grain speedsters through factory standards to soft-shooting minor loads based on 165-grain “heavies” all fed and functioned without complaint.And all wrapped up in the Second Amendment? Yeah, that’s it.
NUTS AND BOLTS:
We had a rare opportunity to test the P-09 in two different configurations. The first was typical—completely stock, just as any other shooter would likely receive their pistol. In this state, the major features were just as promised: The cold hammer-forged barrel did provide better-than-usual accuracy (our suppressor-ready length probably helped velocity too), and the Omega DA/SA trigger ran better than mere numbers—8.9 and 4.5 pounds, respectively—would normally indicate. Ammunition ranging from 100-grain speedsters through factory standards to soft-shooting minor loads based on 165-grain “heavies” all fed and functioned without complaint.The real fun started when a negotiation with CZ USA and the CZ Custom Shop routed our sample to Arizona for modification to the second, competition-oriented configuration. Under the careful eyes of long-time CZ ace Angus Hobdell and friend of America’s 1st Freedom Stuart Wong, what came back from Mesa was a noticeably better pistol—all the more impressive considering how good it was before. DA press was now a hair over 7 pounds, and SA a smidge under 3.25. Gone too were the three-dot sights, replaced by a CZ red fiber front and HTac rear. Need we say the pistol was even easier to shoot with confidence? In fact, it was enough so that a local Steel Challenge match beckoned, and only our shortcomings are to blame for a fourth-place finish. The CZ P-09 was, again, sterling.