For Duty and for Defence

magazine: Přežít (Czech Republic), issue: May 2018,  author: Martin Staroň

Over the last century, Czech designers have given the world a lot of exceptional weapons.   The CZ 75 pistol, which belongs to the family of the “miraculous nines” became a living legend many years ago. Will its great-granddaughter, the CZ P-10 C, follow the same glorious path?

The predecessor of the current Česká zbrojovka Uherský Brod was established in 1936 with its primary mission being the manufacture of aircraft machine guns. This demanding production programme meant that the company was subsequently able to draw on their hard-earned experience in the manufacture of countless other weapons, which after the war began to enter service as well as civilian markets. From 1957, these weapons included defence, service and sport pistols.

THE PATH TO GLORY

            Due to its revolutionary design, the most famous and most commercially successful pistol was the legendary CZ 75. In its modified form, the CZ 75 continues to represent the flagship model of the company’s portfolio even at present. Over time, this classic weapon has served as a base for numerous other models derived from it, from subcompacts, compacts, tactical and sport pistols to IPSC specials. And what is more, each of these pistols has garnered its own acclaim.

            Another momentous point in the history of the company was the year 2006, when a new generation of Uherský Brod pistols emerged. They were equipped with a simplified trigger mechanism, the Omega. This type of trigger mechanism soon became an integral component of all the new CZ 75 pistols, as well as polymer frame models, such as the CZ P-07 and CZ P-09 service and defence pistols. However, over the last few years, Zbrojovka has also responded to the growing demand of the market for hammerless models. These do not have much in common with the original CZ 75 anymore, at least where the design elements are concerned. Though, as the company’s employees have pointed out, the nonmaterial side matters too. All the designers involved strived to create and build a weapon which would be at least as reliable and user-friendly, as the CZ 75 was for their predecessors.

REVOLUTIONARY THINKING

            So let us go back in time to 1968, the year the whole phenomenon of the CZ 75 was born. At the time, the Uherský Brod designers were limited only by the 9 mm Para calibre, which had been decided upon prior to starting work. Nevertheless, only one year later, the Ministry of Foreign Trade came up with new requirements. The new pistol was to also feature a double action trigger and striking mechanism and a large capacity magazine. As a matter of fact, the officials, who wanted the weapon to be primarily used for sport, unwittingly succeeded in making the company create a truly modern service pistol, although chiefly intended for the civilian markets.

            Some journalists even wrote that the concept of the CZ 75 was basically some kind of a patchwork of fine elements from other successful designs. The reality is, however, a lot more colourful. The weapon can rightly be considered the last developmental level of the Browning/Colt system, adding not only the best of the French and Swiss innovations but also a number of original features, such as the very stylish design.

WITH A LIGHT FINGER

            And it is true, the immense talent of the chief creator of the CZ 75, František Koucký (1904-1989), lay in his ability to take the already tried and tested solutions and incorporate them in a completely new concept. In the case of the CZ 75, the revolutionary feature was the “revolver mechanism”, the SA/DA (single action and double action) trigger and striking mechanism with an external hammer. This solution was used for example by Walther, a German company that used it on their PP and PPK models. But František Koucký came up with the idea to use the trigger as a single arm lever in the DA mode, thus achieving an advantageous one-way movement of the whole mechanism. Thanks to its second key element, a symmetrical trigger bar whose two arms hug the sides of the magazine well, Koucký managed to achieve smooth operation of the mechanism and transmission of forces while avoiding the risk of individual parts colliding.

            The whole concept of the trigger and firing mechanism offers a sophisticated and elegant solution. The benefits of pulling the trigger in the DA mode, when the hammer is in the forward position while pressure is exerted on the trigger with a finger, were in 1972 fittingly described by František Koucký himself: “Compared to other pistols, the force required to cock the hammer is considerably lower and the movement is very smooth indeed.” Although since then other solutions have been invented, we may safely say that regarding the SA/DA systems with an external hammer, the CZ 75 pistols have never met an equal rival yet.  And in 2008, CZ introduced a simplified trigger mechanism, the Omega.

            Moreover, the portfolio of these innovated “75s” soon became extended by smaller pistols, compacts as well as subcompacts. And at the other end of the spectrum, there are tactical models and several sport specials. Besides, the interest in the CZ 75 concept is as strong as ever even today, one example being the successful CZ 75 SP-01 model series of sport pistols. So we decided to try one model ourselves.

PHANTOM OF THE SHOOTING RANGE

            The CZ 75 SP-01 Phantom pistol in 9 mm calibre, weighing only 800 g, is one of the successors of the original 75. However, unlike other models from this family, this pistol does not have a mechanical safety but a decocker. This safety feature, located in an insert together with the striking mechanism, is secured in the plastic body of the weapon by pins.  The model we have tested was equipped with robust steel sights, both front and rear sights are accentuated with luminescent white dots.

            Once we started firing, we were able to feel the main difference between this model and the original CZ 75. The Phantom has a substantially narrower pistol grip, thereby offering a different feel and comfort. This is often endorsed by lighter-built users who can thus reach all the controls easily. There are several more features that add to the shooting comfort, such as interchangeable backstraps, a straight lower edge of the trigger guard and the distinctive beavertail. This is a protrusion, located below the hammer, which copies the contours of the shooter’s hand.

            The polymer frame is made of heavy-duty plastic, very pleasant to touch. However, because the weapon is therefore lighter, the muzzle climb is increased in comparison with its steel relatives. Nevertheless, during rapid firing which this weapon manages without any problems, this slightly negative aspect didn't really bother us. It is also worth mentioning that despite the Phantom being quite large, it is well suitable for everyday concealed carry, as it definitely won’t “pull your pants down”. We can therefore happily recommend this model to those of you who are still undecided. Especially those of you, who on the one hand prefer the internal arrangement or the attractive design of the CZ 75, but on the other hand would like to follow the current trends and give a polymer frame a go. Though if you really want to go hi-tech, do try your hand at the new CZ P-10 C, you might reconsider your conservative views pretty quickly.

A REMARKABLE RENDEZVOUS

            In January 2018, the CZ P-10 C was introduced on the market. It is the first taster of a larger family of weapons to come designed in such a way. That is one of the reasons this first model bears the letter “C” in its name, denoting compact dimensions. The company is already working on a full-size version, plus a shorter and lighter subcompact for defence purposes is expected to arrive as well. And our first impressions of the P-10?  If the saying that a good-looking weapon shoots well is true, then there is no need to be worried about purchasing this pistol. The design is pretty bold bordering on aggressive, probably due to the wide trigger guard and the slanted upper edges of the slide. Otherwise, the P-10 is fully comparable with polymer pistols of all renowned global brands.

            One aspect that immediately caught our interest was the extremely reliable grip, since the pistol grip was developed over a long period of time indeed. A specialized university department was involved with the designing of it, using a true biomechanical human model. Each CZ P-10 C model comes with three interchangeable backstraps, therefore every user can adjust the weapon to his or her preferences. Considering that we are talking about a compact model, the magazine capacity is surprisingly reasonable, holding up to 15 9 mm cartridges. And if that is not enough, there is a removable base plate for two extra cartridges.

DURABLE BUT LIGHT

            We were also very taken with the frame made with great precision from a durable glass fibre-reinforced polymer that is resistant to heat and mechanical damage. Plastic materials used on weapons today evolve constantly, therefore it really is not necessary to require metal framed pistols for use in extreme conditions. Many users will also appreciate the anti-slip design of the grip in the form of stippling. When gripped really hard, these little square protrusions dig into the hand which may be uncomfortable for some users. So if you don't wear gloves when shooting, you can expect a red imprint on your palms. But the P-10 C is based on the real needs of members of the police and armed forces who often handle their weapons under great stress, with greasy or dirty hands or while wearing gloves. And those are the times when the sharp stippling prevents the pistol slipping from one’s hand.  The front and rear cocking grooves follow a similar trend, as due to their incline and depth, they not only make operation of the slide easier but also give the pistol an unmistakable distinctive look.

            After all, the demands of today’s armed forces for high quality workmanship are constantly growing, which is reflected in the surgical precision of machining in the P-10. You will not find any marks on either the barrel or the slide, no compromises. We were able to verify that when we stripped the pistol and cleaned it. Moreover, the fitting is just superb, including the locking of the slide with no allowance. In this respect, some experts believe that the Czech weapon even surpasses for example the Austrian Glock.

STRAIGHT IN THE BULLSEYE 

            The original “75” as well as its modern clones, including the P-10 C, enable a quick aim towards a target. The slides of all the models mentioned above are just the right height, even when taking into account the optimum inclination of the pistol grip. During testing, we decided to first empty several magazines of the hammerless P-10 that operates with a double action trigger. This concept of course has its limits where accuracy is concerned, as the shooter cannot pre-cock the hammer and must overcome the full trigger pull weight.   And that is indeed very smooth as well as light because the pistol operates with a partially pre-cocked linear striker. As the story goes, some years ago this design feature brought about a small pistol revolution and made the Glock company, which was quite unknown at the time, one of the most successful firearms manufacturers in history.

            Nevertheless, quite a few pistols based on a concept without an external hammer can irk a shooter when he or she has to cope with a pretty long trigger travel. Some manufacturers present this as a safety feature, though in reality it is an inconvenience, as by vigorously pulling the trigger, one is bound to deflect the weapon off course. Luckily, you will not experience that with the P-10. The whole mechanism operates like clockwork and we experienced no stoppage after 200 rounds fired. And because the reset is around a nice 2 mm, rapid shooting is a piece of cake.

            The recoil is well-manageable, so the P-10 C is suitable as a defence weapon for less trained shooters and users of slighter build. An active Army member was also pleased with the easy de-cocking using the levers on both sides of the frame, a standard feature on service weapons today. The pistol doesn't jump around in front of the target and it takes but a moment to bring it onto the sight line. The three white dots on the basic sights are sufficiently transparent even in lower visibility, the rear sight is side-adjustable and the manufacturer is offering an option for users to change the front sight. In addition, the CZ P-10 is supplied with a high quality robust barrel to aid accuracy, which we think is a nice extra.

            When drawing the pistol from a concealed belt holster, there is no danger of the weapon getting caught in your clothes as there are no protrusions that cause problems. What is more, because the pistol is quite flat, there will be no big bulge. And if you like clever touches, you will definitely approve of the orange magazine follower. You will be able to see it through the large ejection port the moment you run out of cartridges and the slide will stop at the rearmost position. A shooter who has been trained in the basics of defence shooting and is therefore used to pulling his weapon closer to the body will therefore immediately identify a stoppage or an empty magazine.

            Then there are some users who prefer to have everything doubly or even triply insured. They will surely welcome the automatic striker block guaranteeing drop safety. Another safety feature is in the trigger blade but you won’t find a traditional manual safety.  The CZ P-10 C is intended for shooters who are used to carrying their weapons with a cartridge in the chamber.

REALITY IN A SOCIALIST STATE

            It is quite ironic that while the “75” received recognition from experts all over the world, not many were able to purchase it in its home country. Company materials tell us that in the mid 1980’s, the first supplies of this weapon were destined for shops in Brno. However, the official distribution in the Czechoslovak Socialist republic didn't actually begin until March 1985. And at that, the weapon was only available for purchase to a small class of politically reliable citizens who had to be prepared to pay even at that time a considerable sum of 3,500 crowns. The vast majority of common citizens could only dream of owning such a weapon. Therefore there were many who strived to lay their hands on parts and components secretly smuggled out of the factory by workers who now and again inexplicably “lost” them. These parts would then end up in the hands of ardent enthusiasts who would build their longed for models truly from scratch by hand. One was able to see such beauties on the black market as late as the 1990s, though in the new millennium these models have been replaced by pistols stolen chiefly from military warehouses located in Eastern Europe or the Balkans.

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