The CZ 75 is a masterpiece in firearms design. It is one of the original wonder-nines, a term coined in the late 1970s. A wonder-nine is a pistol that is 9mm (of course, hence the “nine”), double-stack magazine (read: high capacity of 12 or more rounds), double-action trigger, and of polymer, stainless, or alloy construction for ease of maintenance. Remember, at the time most police departments still carried .357 revolvers with a 6-round capacity. It was a big deal to have a gun that carried, at a minimum, twice that. And the semi-auto that Americans were most familiar with — the 1911 — you had to have a cocked hammer to fire the first round because it was single-action only. The ability to carry the weapon on safe with the hammer down, take the weapon off safe, and fire it without manually cocking the hammer was also a big deal.
Unfortunately, the CZ 75 didn’t catch on in the U.S. upon it’s release, as it did elsewhere. Not many Americans got to handle one because it was born on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. Only a few got to hold it and shoot it, and most of them raved about it.
The pistol was designed in 1974 by CZ’s best weapon designers of the time, brothers Josef and František Koucký. Despite the Iron Curtain, it was actually designed with export to the West in mind, and it’s unfortunate that it was never exported to the U.S. It would have made a fine military side arm for someone, but of course that would never happen with any of the Warsaw Pact countries — Czechoslovakia included — because of the requirement to use the 9×18 Makarov. The CZ 75 was designed around the 9×19 Luger from the start, so it’s only hope for use as a service gun would have been with the west.
The CZ 75 is CZ’s flagship handgun. The centerpiece of all other new handgun production. It’s iconic. It’s a legend. It’s reached a status that few other handguns have reached. That category includes the 1911, Walther P38, Beretta 92FS, Walther PP/PPK, with the newest handgun to be added to that list being the Glock. It would have been possible to include the CZ 75 in the Cold War chapter in this book, because that’s when it was made, and for a long time it had that “Iron Curtain” aura in the West, because it was unobtainable. However, it fit best in the current production guns, because, chiefly it is current production. But also because at the time it was built, as I said in the previous paragraph, the Czechs built it to Western standards, Western tastes, and it was really built for sale on the Western market.
The 75 is an all-steel, locked-breech semi-automatic handgun. Two locking lugs are machined into the top of the barrel and, upon lock-up, fit into the matching recess in the slide. It uses the Browning design to unlock the barrel when the slide is pulled to the rear. It uses a selective double-action trigger, which means it can be carried cocked and locked (like the 1911) for a first-round single action pull, or it can be carried hammer down for a first round double action pull. The choice is yours.
The most notable feature of the CZ 75 is the slide rails fit inside of the lower frame assembly, and not the other way around. It’s generally the first thing people notice, and it does give it a bore axis much lower than any other hammer-fired handgun. This design was first seen in the SIG P210, designed in 1949, then the CZ 75. There are not many handguns that have been manufactured since then that incorporate this into their design — the Bren Ten is one that comes to mind — with exception of 19 different companies making clones and imitations.
I feel inclined to say something about those clones. There are some that are better than others, and I’ve even heard that some of the clones are pretty darn good. It’s unfortunate, though, that due to the communist system that the 75 was designed under, the design wasn’t patented. So, no one was paid for creating one of the most prolific handguns ever made — other than a communist worker’s salary — no one was compensated the design being used, and there are no royalties paid. Companies freely copied the design, and others poached design elements from the pistol and incorporated them into their own. It’s a shame, really, and for both the maker and the consumer. The consumer suffers, because since CZ had no control over the design, they also had no quality control over the products that were made by other companies. An example of this is Taurus, who makes a clone of the Beretta 92 FS. They have the license to do so, they paid for the license and rights to make it, and Beretta had control over the quality.
In general, I like the slide-inside-of-frame design of the 75, though it does have one drawback. When charging the slide to chamber a round, if you’re used to a large slab of slide to grasp, this only has a narrow bit of slide available for grasping, making it a little more difficult to rack the slide.