The little pistol that could

Not long ago I tested the CZ P-01, a DA/SA semi-automatic pistol with a decocking action in 9mm. This is the compact alloy frame version of the CZ 75 pistol, with an improved alloy frame, M3 rail and checkered rubber grips. The CZ-P-01 is the NATO SPEC pistol adopted by the Czech National Police, which excelled the U.S. Army 15,000 round MRBF (Mean Rounds Between Failure) test. The P-01 is the only NATO SPEC pistol available to the public.

I did not fire 15,000 rounds for this article, but my +P load test had a 0-percent failure rate after depleting my 9mm stocks.

I did stack up a lot of compelling arguments as to why we like CZ 75s and why the P-01 is one of the best variations of the CZ 75.


All of the parts of the P-01 are interchangeable with the P-06, which is a P-01 in a .40 S&W version. This is a testament to the manufacturing consistency, as no fitting is required to make a complete caliber change. Although my P-01 turned out to be the most spartan handgun I have handled in a while, it had features that made it a better choice in a firefight than most of the guns I own.

I also tested the CZ 75 Kadet Adapter, which turns most guns in the CZ-USA model line into a .22 LR trainer. It wasn’t necessarily designed for this model CZ 75 Compact, but only because the magazines are a little long for the grips. If someone hadn’t pointed this out, I wouldn’t have known. This product allowed me to shoot boxes upon boxes of .22 LR bullets, and I strongly recommend that it be part of the law enforcement training package.

The CZ 75 is one of the most recognized and used service pistols in the world. Built by Ceska Zbrojovka, it is distributed in the United States by CZ-USA. The CZ 75 design has its roots in a company that has been in the small arms industry since 1936. When the CZ-75 design made it to the United States in the mid 1970s, competitive shooters snatched them up, adding to the pistol’s mystique. I snatched one up years later, and used it in police academy.

Accuracy counts

The P-01 has a short recoil operated handgun with a cam action that tilts the barrel down when it unlocks. The feed ramp is integral with the cam and the barrel barely tilts to unlock the action, compared to many other pistol designs. This is a reliable design. Less movement, less wear.

Several design attributes make all CZ 75s inherently accurate. The cam action of the locking mechanism allows the barrel lugs to mate with the recesses in the slide with little variance, positioning the barrel in relation to the sights consistently. The frame rails are on the outside of the slide and run nearly its entire length. While some tilt barrel designs have to allow a lot of pivot area at the front of the barrel to ensure reliability, the CZ 75 doesn’t need a lot of barrel play, which explains why this kind of gun dominated pistol competitions for many years.

Rail detail

The fact that the rails ride outside the slide gives the P-01 a little more “meat” where one would like a working gun to be durable. The contour at the web of the hand makes it virtually impossible to suffer “slide bite” at the web or the thumbs. Even short thumbs like mine can access the slide release and the magazine release, which, incidentally, is reversible.

The downside of a slide that is surrounded by frame is when users like me do misfire drills. I reach over the top, close to the body. There is less slide to pinch with the fingers; it’s worse with meatier fingers. It takes practice.

This gun’s utility rail differs from the original design and adds to the aesthetically pleasing lines. The best part of the CZ 75 design is something that was likely part deliberate, part luck. Almost anyone who shoots one, fits one — large or small. Most owners will tell you, “It just fits my hand.” It has a lot to do with the grip angle and the beavertail. It also has to do with the beveled area surrounding the trigger. This is the most compelling reason why we like CZ 75s.


The alloy frame has a matte black polycoat finish, consistent with the gun’s utilitarian philosophy. This is a working gun. It wasn’t deigned to be showcased, it was meant to be fired. I did not expect to see this, but the inside of the frame is unfinished. It didn’t affect the operation or utility of the gun, especially since the hardness of the alloy rivals a steel frame. However, I felt like I my gun was “undressed” when field stripped. I would have coated the inside.


Other reasons why we like the CZ 75 include things that have improved over the years, while retaining the basic design. My P-01 has a beveled magazine well where I insert double stacked magazines. These magazines are tapered and I can find the mag well anytime, anywhere. The magazines literally shot out of the well when I hit the mag release. This is one of two guns I have shot where I do not need to rotate my grip to drop the magazine — this says a lot for a gun that is suitable for duty or off duty.

My P-01 has an alloy frame and steel slide and a frame mounted decocker. CZ-USA carries several different versions, which have different variants of the basic action. I like the ones with the frame-mounted SA/DA safety that allow it to be carried, cocked and locked the best. The one on the P-01 has a DA/SA decocker and a firing pin safety, that is ideal for law enforcement. In my tests, I found it easy to make safe and operate, even with a gloved hand.

I liked the rubber grips and the smooth face of the trigger. It is also readily apparent that the design soaks up recoil, despite the alloy frame. The axis of the bore is close to the hand, and the gun is top-heavy from the steel in the slide.

The decocker is easily found with the shooting thumb, even in repeated drills which end in decocoking and reholstering. It was a little sharp after a day of shooting. I would have radiused the edges a little more.

The decocker drops the hammer to the safety notch position, where the hammer hovers over — but never touches — the firing pin. This gives the trigger a long takeup and a fairly short throw, because it fires from half cock position. This gun was good for rapid-fire shooting, and my tests showed that the gun could not be fooled into dropping the firing pin without a deliberate trigger pull.

This gun liked +P loads. I used Hornady, Winchester and Remington cartridges. I am generally satisfied when the gun can do sub 4-inch groups. P-01 was above average, turning in several sub 3-inch groups, and even let me a have a couple groups where the holes were touching. Regardless, the P-01 gave consistent accuracy, even against the 9mm I routinely carry.

The CZ 75 Kadet Adapter gave similar groups with similar point of aim, but I shot it at 7 to 15 yards rapid fire. The Kadet Adapter has adjustable sights, but they offer the same sight picture as the CZ 75 Compact.

Field research

I went to the range with a brick (500 rounds) of .22 LR bullets and mixed it up between 9mm and .22 LR. I didn’t finish the brick, but I walked away smiling. After all, I buy .22 LR cartridges a case at a time. The advantage of using the Kadet Adapter is obvious: trigger time. One can shoot a cheaper, lighter recoil bullet using the same frame and trigger pull. If I were training troops, I would do dozens of run throughs of a learning activity with a sub caliber, then qualify with the combat caliber.

The P-01 slide release has to be pushed from the opposite side while the gun is pushed slightly out of battery for disassembly. Most users have to be shown how to do this the first time. The same users complain about the fact that when they take “their gun” apart, the disassembly stuff stays with the frame. This part is easily replaced, costs next to nothing and adds to the simplicity of the design — another reason why we like CZ 75s.

Actually, the P-01 is quite simple for armorers and gunsmiths. Having done routine maintenance on a fleet of firearms before, I can understand why this gun was picked for an entire Czech national police agency.

The P-01 reinforced why I like CZ 75s. If a combat situation requires me to have a handgun suitable for fighting my way to my carbine, a P-01 improves my odds.


Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer who teaches at Hartnell College in Salinas, Calif.