The CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow pistol has been a tremendous success for Česká zbrojovka. It has raised the bar to soaring heights and for some time there have rumours that the product managers from Uherský Brod have set their hearts on a new sport pistol. Their ambition was to raise the bar even higher. However, as to how the Uherský Brod company wanted to achieve it remained a closely guarded secret for a long time. That is until the spring of 2016, when the new model the CZ Shadow 2, was introduced.
To beat the Shadow? Well, good luck to you, I thought to myself when I first heard about it. The CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow was created ten years ago by tuning the excellent CZ 75 SP-01 with much care and attention to detail to fulfil the needs of sports shooters as best as possible. To name just a few innovations: enhanced ergonomics, improved trigger and striker mechanism with exceptionally smooth operation, absent automatic firing pin block safety, extended magazine release, wide control surface for the ambidextrous manual safety, a second mainspring with different characteristics as a standard, foresight with optical fibre, extended rear sight, magazine well with a chamfered edge, etc.
The CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow is simply an excellent SA/DA all-steel 9x19 (9x21) calibre pistol. It has become a favourite for many elite shooters from the IPSC Production Division, the CZ Shooting team included. With this gun its members shot into the top positions of the most important national and international competitions. And what is more, the Shadow has been gathering brownie points on the service market too.
How to improve perfection
Why improve the Shadow? Well, that is quite clear. This model has been the best on the market in its category for a long time, but competition does not sleep. Though, to improve something already perfect is another thing.
When I became interested in the origins of the CZ Shadow 2, I learned that the development team first spent ages collecting and evaluating findings obtained from the use of the CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow. The CZ Shooting Team proved to be an invaluable source of information and advice. Its members have hundreds of thousands of spent cartridges from the Shadow 1 behind them, they represent the elite target audience and they have expressed great enthusiasm towards this task. After all, it’s no wonder, the new CZ Shadow 2 will be their ally (and possibly a winning one) in many competitions to come.
Therefore the main goal was finding the weaknesses in the Shadow 1. To be honest, in this case it was more about identifying design points and properties that would bring the pistol to another level. At the same time, it was necessary to bear in mind that the new Shadow 2 should remain affordable even to a fledgling shooter despite all the changes and improvements. And it has.
During the development of the CZ Shadow 2, Česká zbrojovka defined four areas critical for sport shooters. These are speed, accuracy, durability and customization. The company then tried to significantly improve the CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow in each of these areas.
By speed they mean the rate of fire and everything that goes with it. For the new CZ Shadow 2, the major step forward was the new shape of the frame. It is a variation on the tried and tested CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow, adapted at crucial points to allow the shooter's hand to get as close as possible to the barrel axis. It is mostly due to changes in the frame that the weight of an empty pistol increased to about 1.3 kg. Another part that deserves mentioning is the new shape of the roomy trigger guard with no sharp edges and a long textured front wall and just a one lateral groove on the standardized mounting rail on the front of the frame. Without a doubt, the Shadow 2 thus joins the ranks of sport pistols.
Česká zbrojovka claims that compared to the original Shadow, the new frame partially reduces the recoil, or in other words, the shooter perceives it as easier to manage. It also reduces the muzzle climb, especially after firing. Having tried out the new pistol briefly myself, I can safely say that the CZ Shadow 2 was a very pleasant shot. I am very curious to hear the comments of more active IPSC shooters after trying it out for longer.
The part that really distinguishes the Shadow 2 from the original Shadow is the slide. Česká zbrojovka spent a long time trying to tune it so that it would make drawing, cocking and aiming the weapon as fast as possible. The result is exactly that. Its final design with the cocking grooves in a different shape at the front and rear looks pretty good. I have seen myself how rapidly a top IPSC shooter can handle the CZ Shadow 2. What is more, the design also goes very well with the triangular hammer which has a large weight reducing hole.
A completely new innovation for this category of CZ pistols is the sporty looking pyramid checkering on the front and back of the grip, Česká zbrojovka has already used this type of design in its Tactical Sports line. On the Shadow 2, they have opted for a finer pattern which is just about acceptable during an extended shooting session without using gloves. More delicate hands might find the surface quite sharp but on the other hand, it offers a reliable grip even when sweating. The feeling of a good grip is further enhanced by the modern flat aluminium grip panels, anodized blue and with an inscription sporting a characteristic "handwritten" number two at the bottom. However, rubber grip panels are offered for shooters who prefer a wider grip for a fuller hand. The finishing touch is a laser etched inscription on left side of the slide – CZ SHADOW 2.
The basic accessories include three 19 cartridge magazines. Still, it is good to remember that Shadow 2 works perfectly well with the SP-01 magazines or even the CZ 75/85 ones with lower capacity as well. One cannot miss the large magazine release. The torx screw indicates that the release can be adjusted to the shooter’s preferences, which is crucial for rapid reloading.
The CZ Shadow 2 also boasts a tried and tested CZ 75 trigger mechanism, but definitely with adjustments. The result is a smoother operation, lower resistance (8-15 N in SA mode) and shorter trigger reset. I can confirm that all this has a positive effect on the speed and accuracy too. In fact, this solution is so original that Česká zbrojovka are considering taking out a patent for it.
Like the CZ 75 SP-01, the Shadow 2 can use the recoil springs and mainsprings of different resistance. If you happen to have springs set to the original Shadow, you can even use these on the Shadow 2 with similar results. However, the aim of the manufacturer is to deliver a pistol that will offer the best possible performance when it is taken brand new out of the box and used without further modifications.
Robots, Arcor and the configurator
When referring to accuracy, Česká zbrojovka meant two closely linked things: the accuracy of the pistol and the precision of the manufacturing process. Regarding the accuracy of the pistol, the potential of the new Shadow has risen slightly, with the 125 mm barrel and 180 mm sight line. In addition, there are new sights – the adjustable rear sight with an angled and textured viewing surface and the foresight with fibre optic. Nevertheless, the manufacture process for the CZ Shadow 2 is completely different to the original Shadow. This time, the Uherský Brod has used ultramodern robotic machining centres, reaching a completely different level of serial production without the usual marks.
I am sure there is no need to emphasize that more precise manufacturing positively reflects on the accuracy of the weapon. Consequently, it significantly increases the durability of the main parts, aided by the Arcor surface finish that Česká zbrojovka started using on its polymer pistols, the CZ P-07 and CZ P-09. This surface treatment is basically a ferritic salt bath nitriding process and the compound layer provides outstanding resistance to wear and corrosion. Arcor’s properties also reduce friction and stress and contribute to better operation and function of the whole weapon.
The CZ Shadow 2 may be customized with a configurator, an internet application that allows customers to customize their weapon to their hearts content. There is a wide selection of various safety mechanisms, grip panels, hammers, triggers, recoil springs or mainsprings. For the original Shadow you were even able to opt for the SA. We shall have to wait and see what will appear in the menu for its successor.
The CZ Shadow 2 enters the market with the slogan ‘Competition Ready’. This slogan conveys the fact that due to the factory settings, you can take your brand new pistol out of the box, enter a competition and win. It is also a play on words, in the sense that with this pistol, Česká zbrojovka is ready to take a stand and deal with its rivals. Those have so far focused on the CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow and I have got a funny feeling that the new CZ Shadow 2 will turn out to be a very unpleasant surprise for them.
The Uherský Brod factory have not just improved the crucial details but significantly redesigned the main parts too, taking full advantage of the possibilities opened up by the recent modernization of technology. The way I see it is that the mission was accomplished and the phenomenal CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow has been outdone. And I mean, quite dramatically. You see, the CZ Shadow 2 has already been through extensive testing by top IPSC shooters. They discovered that with the new pistol their time was better by three seconds in the same situation compared to the original Shadow!
Now, I do not want to force you to believe anything. Try it for yourself and you will see, but I am willing to bet that you will agree with me. And if you still find something you do not like, let Česká zbrojovka know. They evidently listen to their customers very carefully and the new CZ models are the proof.
CZ Shadow 2
- registered for use in the Production Division shooting under IPSC rules
- meets the legal standards of Canada and Australia with barrel length and magazine capacity
- on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the IPSC a special edition of the weapon will be introduced to the market
Author: David Pazdera