Hands On: John McPhee Reviews The New CZ Polymer Handgun

  John-McPhee-CZ-09-Pic-17 John ‘Shrek’ McPhee, the Sheriff of Baghdad   John is a retired Army sergeant major and former 1st SFOD-D operator with special skills in reconnaissance. He has 21 years of US Army Special Operations experience and more than 8 years of private security consulting and firearms instruction. Eleven years of his military career were spent conducting thousands counter-insurgency operations where acute tactical accuracy, precision and surgical marksmanship was critical to mission success. John’s expertise and intimate knowledge of firearms and operational applications is based on real world lessons learned and experiences. He has tested weapons of all types for the Defense Industry Contractors and authored reviews for firearm developers to improve the quality of their products. He provides firearms training, close quarter tactics, and security consulting services for Department of Defense, law enforcement agencies, private security companies, and the everyday citizen.  

The CZ P-09

The first polymer frame pistol was Heckler & Koch VP70 9mm pistol. Polymer frame pistols have been in existence since the 1950’s; yet, these types of pistols did not gain popularity until the mid-1990’s. For over two decades, I have employed pistols in combat operations as a US Army Special Operations assaulter, sniper, and as a firearms instructor in my current shooting courses. My knowledge of pistols comes from more than 20 years of real world application and lessons learned. It is based on events in my occupation where mission success and my life depended on acute accuracy and failure was not an option. My passion for firearms drives me to understand the function, mechanics, ergonomics, and accuracy of every firearm I have used and owned. I have found that no one type or specific manufacture’s pistol is a “one size fits all” or a “turnkey” solution. The pistol you own should be based on your own requirements or “must have’s” that make you feel confident and comfortable for your intended use; whether it is for personal protection or as a service pistol. Historically, my “must have’s” have always been costly modifications to my pistol until I came across the CZ P-09. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to buy the new full-sized polymer frame pistol from CZ, the P-09. I was amazed with the CZ P-09’s deliverables.



CZ P-09 Features

  • 19+1 (15+1) round capacity
  • Polymer frame with light rail
  • Convertible controls, ambi safety or decocker
  • New Omega trigger system
  • Accurate cold hammer forged barrel
  • Firing pin block



To start, CZ has been known for its accuracy in all of its pistols. Personally, I tend to think that this accuracy comes from CZ’s quality barrel and the way the barrel locks up. I believe that the barrel in this P-09 is the same barrel as an SP-O1. In addition, it is most likely to be the same barrel that is in the legendary CZ 75. Although it might not be interchangeable from pistol to pistol, it is the same barrel manufactured on similar hammer forging machines. For practical accuracy (this is not arms room, this is not reading out of the manual, this is my practical use on the range), I have seen my 100-yard shots with a CZ pistol increase resulting in 5 out of 5 or 10 out of 10 successful shots; where, I might only hit 3 or 4 out of 5 with my other pistols. I trust that this phenomenon has to do with the beaten zone (grouping) of the pistol. For example, if a similar caliber pistol other than the CZ shoots a 12-inch group at 100 yards and a CZ shoots a 6-inch group at 100 yards, then the 6-inch group has a higher percentage of accuracy and more chance of hitting the target. I saw the same performance at 200 yards when I shot 5 out of 5 again. I believe that CZ P-09 is probably the most accurate polymer-framed production pistol produced today.



  John McPhee CZ 09 Pic 5 The CZ P-09 pistol just feels right in my hand. CZ’s pistol takes “human factor” attributes to a whole new level. The three main features going right for the P-09 that relates to ergonomics:  

  1. CZ uses a steel magazine allowing for more ergonomic flexibility of the P-09. This steel magazine is smaller than the traditional plastic magazines. It is more durable and supports a smaller grip. The plastic magazine has to be thicker and wider to show similar strength as its steel counterpart. Therefore, any pistol with a plastic magazine equates to a bigger grip. This happens to be the major complaint with any polymer magazine for pistols. Since CZ uses a metal magazine, the grip happens to be a bit smaller appealing to those with a smaller grip need
  2. The trigger guard is oversized for gloves. This feature on a pistol makes it free and easy to just pull the trigger because there is more room in the trigger guard, whether you use gloves or not.
  3. The last one is the actual checkering of the plastic. Every pistol has some type of grip with checkering or lines; basically something to help you grip the pistol. Otherwise, the pistol would be smooth and hard to hold. Normally, as soon as I get a pistol, I burn it with a soldering iron to add grippiness to the plastic. It’s my additional reassurance the pistol does not slip out of my hands. The design of the grip on the P-09 allows for me to maintain positive control of the pistol and mitigates my concern of losing my grip. The nicety for me is I don’t have to burn the grip at all to get the same desired end state I normally want for grip.



Unlike the most common polymer frame pistols, CZ P-09 comes with oversized controls. The first time I saw them, quite honestly, I did not know what to think. I will attest that your fingers know best. In my first ten minutes with this pistol, I did not miss hitting the slide lock on a reload. P-09 Slide Lock is big, it’s got good width, and it is easy to use. Normally, controls are very small and very hard to manipulate with a thumb or an index finger. To add to my frustration with small controls, I am a lefty, so when I hit a slide-lock, it happens with my left trigger finger and that is not easy to do with any little slide lock. The P-09’s oversized controls take left handed shooters like myself into consideration and it’s much appreciated. CZ P-09 comes standard with two controls. Each pistol is equipped with ambi decocker and ambi safety. The ambi safety levers are included in the box and are easily interchangeable with the decocker by the end user. The decocker is spring-loaded. As you pull the decocking level downward, it decocks the hammer to what they call half-cock or 10%, which means that the pistol is safe. Since the decocker is spring-loaded, when pulled down to decock the pistol, it springs back to where it was originally and thus ready to decock the pistol again if needed. This is the best kind of decocker. This type of decocker is better for you if you place the pistol in your pants, purse, or a bag. With the hammer forward, there is almost no chance that the pistol will go off in a concealed compartment. The second control is the ambi safety. The safety control allows you to keep the pistol in single action mode. The hammer goes to the rear when you charge the pistol, placing a round in the chamber, requiring you to manually place it on safe. This feature keeps the pistol always in single-action mode and requires you to manually place the pistol on safe. The safety control is great for a police officer or someone that carries a pistol in the line of duty. Best used if carried in an exposed holster (hip mounted, on belt), locked and cocked.   Action & Trigger CZ P-09 is a both double-action and single-action pistol. This means that it shoots in both double-action mode and in single-action mode. In double-action mode, it is you who keeps pulling the trigger all the way back until the pistol goes off. Once the pistol goes off, the slide comes to the rear, then goes forward to load another round, which pushes the hammer backwards. The second shot as well as the subsequent shots will be single action shots. I believe this it best double-action trigger I have ever used.   John-McPhee-CZ-09-Pic-8   I am very familiar with double action pistols with these style triggers from my time with the U.S. Army. However, I believe the poundages of trigger pull on duty pistols are much greater on other double-action pistol than the CZ P-09 duty pistol. In my practical application of the P-09 ( again this is not arms room, this is not reading out of the manual, this is my experience on the range), I have found that CZ P-09 in double action has a pretty clean 10-pound trigger. Additionally, in single-action mode, it has a nice 3-pound trigger. This is the cleanest double/single-action trigger I have shot in a long time.   Sights The sights on the P-09 are low-profile combat-style sights. Typically, when I get a pistol, the first thing I do is replace the stock sights with low-profile combat-style sights, similar to the stock sights on CZ’s P-09. The P-09 comes with 3-dot tritium sights. I’m a huge fan of tritium sights simply because they glow in the dark. They are great during low light shooting or black out operations. Personally, 3 dots get a little confusing for me, so I take a black paint marker to color over the 2-dot rear sight. This way I only have 1 dot at night. Here is the reason I prefer a 1-dot sight versus 3-dot sights: any dots or lines or different colors; I may not see those in a stressful situation and I may not be able to act upon those. However, if the only dot is in the center of the target, that bullet will more than likely go to center of the target. Again, it adds up to personal preference, mine is a 1-dot front sight. In addition to the tritium sights, I also like a thin front sight and a wide-notch rear sight. This just makes shooting a little quicker for me. This lends itself towards increased speed and proficiency at speed drills. I have found no issues with my speed because of the stock sights on the CZ P-09. An interesting observation during my practical application of the CZ P-09 on the range, I expected some speed adjustments because of sights, my draw time, my reloads; everything was the same as it was with my other pistols. Generally, it takes me two weeks to a month to master a new pistol, with the CZ P-09, it was as if I had used, trained, and owned the weapon for years.



  John-McPhee-CZ-09-Pic-11   The P-09 magazine is a 19 round magazine. In total, this pistol holds 19+1 rounds (1 in the chamber and 19 in the magazine). In combat, everybody says you should count your rounds. Yes, you should. Here is the deal: in the worst situation of your life, the last thing I would want to do is count my rounds and have to figure out how many rounds I shot in order for me to decide to reload or not. If it only takes me a second or so to reload, or if the number of rounds in my pistol is ever in question, then I am instantly swapping a magazine when its safe and convenient for me. Bottom line, more bullets in the gun are better for me.



Let’s talk about user-level maintenance. The P-09 breakdown of the pistol is very easy. Taking the pistol apart is simple to do as it comes with its own tool, the magazine. It begins by unloading the pistol and removing the magazine. As you are holding the pistol, there is a line on the left-hand side of the slide that needs to line up with a line on the back of the frame. You then line up those two lines with your right hand, hold them lined up, take the corner of the magazine and push the slide lock. After that, you just pull it the rest of the way out. What a genius design! This lends itself for ease of duty for the combat-style shooter that may not have a tool and that might have to get the pistol taken apart quick, fast, and in a hurry. Taking the slide off, in general, is super easy. Use the corner of the magazine, line up the lines on the slide of it and bam. The slide comes off.



The P-09 is a brand new pistol and when I started calling holster companies, no one really had a good holster for the P-09. I had to adapt and improvise. I decided to embark to my origins of shooting and what I knew through training in army special operations. I resorted to my go-to paddle holster, the Safariland 568. This is a multi-fit holster made of leather. This has been the staple holster for commandos in my line of work for at least 20 years. I really do not know the origins of the 568 but I took the 568 Safariland holster, loosened the screws just a bit, adjusted it to fit my P-09, and I was in business. Safariland is working on duty-style holsters for the P-09, as we speak. I am using my Safariland mufti-fit holster, no issues whatsoever. By far, 568 is one of the best holsters ever produced. I would recommend it to anybody who wears a paddle holster. The next thing I use with my P-09 is the Safariland’s 71-2-55 single mag pouch belt. This is a universal belt magazine pouch. The reason I use universal magazine pouches is its great utility and firearm diversity. Whether I’m shooting a Glock, a Sig, a Beretta, or a 1911, these magazine pouches fit every pistol and every situation I find myself in. Safariland is now manufacturing belt clip magazine pouches in addition to their belt loop model pouches. In the past, I would MacGyver the 744 belt clip onto a 71-2-55 single mag pouch belt. So the new model is an added bonus and convenience for me. You can laugh if you want, again it’s about personal preference. I prefer to use a multi-fit magazine pouch because I shoot several different pistols with several types of magazines, and it is just by far the most versatile pouch created. It’s well worth its weight in gold.



CZ does not believe that you should spend extra money after purchasing their pistol. Their belief is once you buy a CZ pistol, it should be a turnkey solution with little to no aftermarket modification required. Personally, I happen to be a frugal guy. I also have a lot of pistols with lots of different accessories and modifications. Considering today’s economic challenges, investing in a weapon becomes more of a bucket list or personal wish list item than a practical purchase. CZ’s pistols offer more than just accuracy, they give the biggest bang for the buck, making this capability attractive to gun owners.  

Specs:CZ P-09
Caliber:9mm, .40 S&W
Magazine Capacity:19 (15)
Weight:1.850 lbs
Overall Length:8.100 in
Barrel Length:4.530 in
Height:5.790 in
Width:1.460 in
Barrel:Cold Hammer Forged
Sights:Fixed low profile Tritium

  Overall The CZ P-09 proved to be very easy-shooting pistol. It’s solid all the way from accuracy of the barrel to its performance in austere situations that would normally malfunction most polymer pistols. It has a good, clean trigger. The accuracy is through the roof. I cannot give enough credit to the accuracy on this pistol. Right out of the box, I put a loaded magazine in it. I shot three rounds at 100 and hit, and I shot three rounds at 200 and hit. With my first six rounds out of the pistol; no oil, no maintenance, no nothing—no issues. I continued to load magazines and shoot. The P-09, so far, has been awesome in my first 1000 rounds. I have no complaints and my P-09 pistol has never seen a drop of oil by me. I probably won’t oil the pistol until about 8,000 rounds or until it needs it. I have yet to experience a malfunction. So, I will let you know in 8,000-10,000 round article on the CZ P-09, how this actually pans out.   John-McPhee-CZ-09-Pic-21 I did not use discretion on specific type of ammo I shot with intentionally. I shoot everything ranging from tall ammo, cheap steel-case ammo to very expensive ammo for my 9mm’s. I throw it all in one can and pay no attention to it. To date, I have not had any malfunctions caused by changing from one ammo type to another. The P-09 performance is unmatched compared to any other pistol I own with the same cheap ammo.   One nice feature of the P-09 I would highly recommend, especially to a new shooter, is using the decocker on the pistol instead of the safety. Here’s why: with the decocker, all you have to do is just that, after the shot, decock the pistol. With a safety, you have to take the pistol off safe to shoot and then back on safe afterwards. Personally, I’ve been rocking the decocker. I have also really enjoyed the safety on the P-09. It is easy to change and I do it myself. There is nothing hard about these pistols. It is made in a way that the user can choose a decocker and/or a safety themselves. The P-09 is the best bang for the buck. These pistols retail for around $500. I didn’t have to spend additional money on this pistol to put it to use. I have not done any modifications and I probably won’t do any modification on this pistol. This is due to the fact that it’s got sights that I like; it’s got a trigger that’s good, and the CZ strategy of, “We want to make a good pistol that you don’t have to spend money on.” I think it is genius. Lastly but not least, I give folks at CZ-USA an outstanding for customer service. Zero drama and hassle free should always be the embodiment of customer service and support. No one wants to deal with cumbersome and difficult customer service or hear Baloney Sandwiches from corporate representatives after they already took your money. I wish more companies in this industry did business like folks at CZ-USA. They are nice, easy to deal with, polite and are always on time. I could not have had a better experience dealing with the folks at CZ-USA.     Author and source: John McPhee, www.shootersmagazine.com, 6th January 2014

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