I’m a 1911 shooter. I’ve shot a 2011 or 1911 in competition for the last five years, and I love the gun. Recently I decided to shoot for a USPSA Grand Master classification in Production division (where 1911s are specifically not allowed), which set me looking for a good 9mm factory pistol. I’m not a fan of shooting Glocks (simply because I don’t like the grip), and thought I’d found a good solution with a Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Pro Series.
I ran a few classifiers with it and was mostly happy (the only upgrade I added was an Apex Competition AEK trigger kit) until I shot it for groups on paper at 20 yards. I’m no NRA Bullseye shooter, but I know I can shoot a group tighter than 10″ at 20 yards. Unfortunately my M&P can’t. The M&P has a history of accuracy problems, apparently mine is one of the bad ones.
With a USPSA Area Championship two weeks away, I borrowed a buddy’s CZ Custom Accu-Shadow to shoot the match with. I loved that gun (so much so that I have a Shadow on the way from Automatic Accuracy), shot well with it, and had a very hard time returning it. But the Accu-Shadow is a very expensive (retail is $1850) custom shop model and there’s a fairly long waiting list for them. In addition, the average non-competition shooter likely won’t see the benefit of a custom Shadow or Accu-Shadow. This review is about an often overlooked middle ground between finicky 1911s and simple 9mm polymer guns like the Glock or M&P. It falls into the class of guns that may not be perfect for any one role, but is really, really good at most of them.
The 75B Ω
I picked up this 75 B “Omega” off the prize table at the Hard as Hell MultiGun last year. A local shop, Red Rock Defense, donated it as part of their sponsorship (thanks!). Since then I’ve put probably 1000 rounds through it with a whopping total of one malfunction.
The “Omega” is a unique variant of the CZ-75B, with a simplified trigger system similar CZ’s P-09 polymer pistol. Complete disassembly of the pistol and armorer-level maintenance is easier, but unfortunately the trigger travel can’t be reduced as much as the standard 75B (and will likely never approach that of the Shadow). It takes standard CZ-75 magazines and ships with two 16-round flush-fit mags (but works with the slightly extended “SP-01″ 18 rounders as well)
Controls on the Omega function just like the standard 75B, and although it is a DA/SA pistol, there is no de-cocker. To put the gun into double action, you must manually lower the hammer by grasping it, pointing the gun in a safe direction, pulling the trigger and gently lowering it. This can be slightly unnerving at first, but it’s easy to get used to. The pistol can also be carried cocked with the thumb safety engaged, like a 1911. The safety detent isn’t super-loose, but still looser than I’d prefer for SA carry. The thumb safety is single-sided, NOT ambidextrous like the standard 75B.
Left: VZ Tactical Diamonds, Right, CZ standard contour rubber grips (on an SP-01)
The standard grips on the Omega are a checkered plastic that actually fit my hand very well. The checkering certainly provides more traction than a standard M&P grip, but not quite as grippy as I’d like for a competition or duty gun. My competition Shadow will wear a pair of VZ Diamondback grips, but since this Omega more of an all-around gun, I slapped a set of VZ Tactical Diamonds on. These grips are a lot slimmer than the standard ones (almost too slim for my hands) and aren’t abusive for IWB carry. They take the grip down from 1.4″ wide to 1.2″ wide, or about as wide as a single-stack 1911 (but with a 16 round magazine inside the CZ).
The double action trigger pull on the Omega weighed in at just over 10 lbs. It’s rather heavy, but at least it’s not gritty. The single action weighs in right at 3.5 lbs and feels much like a polished Glock trigger with a 3lb connecter. In double-action, the trigger pull is about an inch long and consistent throughout, with a negligible amount of overtravel. With the hammer cocked, the trigger must travel about half an inch before the hammer drops. The break is very smooth and there is a “predictable wall” at about 0.38″. My biggest gripe about Omega’s trigger pull is the reset:
The Omega trigger bears the sharp curve of the standard CZ-75. Note the marks on the trigger guard indicating (front to rear:) DA trigger at rest, SA trigger at rest, “predictable wall”, SA reset point (red mark) and trigger break point)
The trigger needs to be let out 0.314″ before it resets. Compared to a Glock which resets at about a tenth of an inch, the reset on the Omega feels like it’s about two miles long. Cajun Gunworks makes a “Short Reset” kit for the Omega that supposedly reduces the reset by up to 50%. I might try it sometime, but for now I think I’ll stick with CZ factory parts. Replacing the mainspring with a lighter one would also lighten the DA trigger significantly and THAT’s definitely on my to-do list. I might also replace the standard hammer with a P-09 hammer as that’s known to smooth out the DA trigger pull.
You might also notice the sharp curved shape of the trigger (the standard profile for a 75B). I can put up with it even though it ain’t my preference, but many serious CZ shooters can’t stand it. On a standard 75B, simply replacing the trigger with an 85 Combat trigger. Unfortunately the Omega will not accept standard 75B triggers, so unless you want to anneal and re-bend the stock trigger (and make it illegal for USPSA/IPSC Production), you’re stuck with it.
The 75 Ω comes with fixed steel 3-dot sights with a dull green sight paint instead of the white that comes on most guns. The front sight is 0.125″ wide and the rear notch is .130″ wide. The rear sight can be drifted for windage if need be, but was sighted-in out of the box (at least on my gun with four types of ammo). It accepts standard CZ75 sights, since this is an all-around gun I will likely swap over the factory night sights from my SP-01 (then install a CZ Custom fiber optic front and Tactical rear sight on that gun). It’s important to note that installing a CZ75 front sight requires that the new sight be drilled for the roll pin using a no. 47 drill.
I tested the Omega for accuracy firing 5-shot slow-fire groups standing at 20 yards. No Ransom Rest was used, and these groups do reflect a little bit of human error, however I didn’t want to waste time and ammo chasing tiny little cloverleaf groups.
As you can see, the hotter Winchester Ranger 147gr JHP shot slightly high, at 20 yards. The Atlanta Arms 115gr re-man was point-of-aim, point-of-impact at 20 yards and shot a 4.5″ group. Federal American Eagle 115 had similar performance, but unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of that target. Each of these groups could be tighter (if I could shoot better), but a factory gun shooting 4.5” isn’t half bad (especially considering my M&P shoots groups twice that size). It should also be noted that the CZ shoots plated bullets such as the 115gr Berry’s (used in Atlanta Arm’s Re-man line) without any drama; this isn’t always the case in some recent production handguns (basically the M&P).
Testing at Speed
Having not much experience with DA/SA guns, my first concern was the 10 lb initial trigger pull in DA mode. It’s my conclusion, however, that a shooter with sound fundamentals can easily master the DA trigger pull, as long as they are able to pull the trigger straight to the rear. I have a neat little target and drill I made up to get used to the DA pull when I was practicing to shoot a Level II USPSA match with the aforementioned Accu-Shadow. I’ve since repeated it with the Omega, and it works like a charm (for me at least). I’ll post the drill separately at a later date.
I also did a bunch of draws to a 6″ plate on an MGM Plate Rack at 10 yards, starting both Double Action and Single Action. I took the average of my 5 best draws to see which was faster. All draws were done from a Tac-Tech-Cal “Competition-Style” Holster, mounted to a Safariland ELS belt at the 3:00 position (legal placement for IDPA and USPSA Production).
For the DA draws, I did NOT use the technique known as the “21-inch Trigger Press” (where you start “prepping” the trigger before the gun is at eye level) as I believe it is unsafe and contradicts Rule #3 of the 4 Rules of Firearms Safety. I also started with the manual safety engaged on the SA draws, as that is the safest (and only USPSA-legal) carry condition in SA. The safety is easily disengaged and does not slow the draw.
You might notice that the SA draw time is actually 0.01 of a second slower than my DA draw time. That’s not because a DA draw is technically faster (or easier to do fast), it just shows that for me, there’s negligible time difference between a double- or single-action draw. Hits were easy to make both SA and DA, as long as I actually put the sights on the target.
I did notice that when I pushed the speed up a little, I had a tendency to grab a bit too high on the tang of the grip during the draw. As a result, the web of my hand spilled over the tang and was pinched between the hammer and frame (a malady known as “hammer bite”). This is another reason I might switch to the even-less-obtrusive P09 hammer.
Because of the rounded hammer on the CZ, this kind of hammer bite is just a mildly uncomfortable pinch (not like the awful, biting pain caused by a GI 1911 with the standard grip safety and spur hammer).
Just for kicks, I decided to try a strong-hand only reload using the rear sight to charge the gun. The rear sight is not a “battle hook” design, simply a rather tall wedge that grabs onto edges as well or better than some 10-8 1911 sights I’ve used. They grab equally well onto a belt, pocket, or convenient table. Note that at no time during these manipulations did I point the gun at myself. Use caution when attempting any fancy one-handed techniques like this.
The Omega, like all CZs, has a very low “bore-axis”, meaning that the barrel sits lower in the gun relative to the shooter’s hand. What that translates to, in simple talk, is that the gun has less tendency to flip, as the recoil energy has less leverage over the shooter’s grip. Unfortunately I didn’t record split times with the CZ versus a more standard 9mm such as a G17 or M&P, so all I can tell you is that it’s subjectively a “flatter-recoiling” gun than any of my polymer 9s. The fact that it’s a bit heavier than a polymer gun (35oz vs. 22 oz for a G17) helps soak up a bit of recoil, and the smaller slide probably contributes a bit too (less mass coming to the rear during recoil).
The reason behind the 75’s low bore axis is that the slide rail channels are within the frame, not the slide. As you can see in the above photo, the rails themselves are on the slide, this arrangement being the opposite of most handguns nowadays (in fact I think the only pistols made this way are CZs, CZ clones, and the SIG P210). That means that the grasping surface of the slide is significantly smaller than a regular pistol. It takes a bit of getting used to, and complicates things like rapid loading (such as in an unloaded start USPSA stage) and malfunction clearances.
I fired around 1000 rounds through this gun, out of the box, with no cleaning or lubrication. Of those, around 985 were 9mm FMJ of various weights and profiles (mostly round nose with some flat points mixed in). Most of the FMJ was also reloaded, either Atlanta Arms 115gr Re-man or my own 147gr USPSA loads. 15 were Winchester Ranger JHP, fired exclusively for groups. No malfunctions. were experienced with the Rangers, my reloads, or the AA Re-man. One round of American Eagle 115gr factory ammo failed to fully chamber, causing this malfunction:
This round was very well stuck and required the slide be racked quite violently in order to extract. Upon examination, the case had quite a ding in it’s mouth:
Because the bullet itself was not deformed, I’m inclined to believe this round was jacked-up when it left the factory. This isn’t a slam on American Eagle ammo as I’ve shot quite a bit of it over the years and it’s usually been quite consistent. Every manufacturer is going to have a lemon slip through now and then, the important part is to inspect any ammo you’re putting into your gun for a serious purpose (competitive or combative).
Field stripping a 75B is just as simple as a modern polymer Wünderpistol, and all the key lubrication points can be easily accessed with the gun field stripped (even those inside the trigger mechanism). While I’ve only got 1000 rounds through mine, it seems as though complete disassembly and deep-cleaning should only be necessary about every 3000 rounds. Armorer-level complete disassembly and replacement of wear items (basically the extractor spring, mainspring, firing pin and firing pin spring) are very easy, and all the parts seem to be drop-in fits.
Can it be a Service Pistol?
Wikipedia lists five country’s armed forces using the CZ-75B as their primary service pistol. Of course, it’s Wikipedia and it lists Delta Force as a user of the CZ so…take that for what it’s worth. However based on my sample of three guns, the 75 seems to feed, extract and eject almost all FMJ ammo very well, and from the (admittedly very, very small) amount of JHP I’ve shot through it, it seems to do as well with Duty/Carry ammo.
As a general-issue sidearm for a unit or agency, I’d hesitate to pick a non-decock CZ. I’ve seen what happens when a large group of cops handles firearms together…not all cops are “gun guys”, and having them lower the hammer into DA mode by pulling the trigger seems like a bad idea. If department policy allowed (or required) “condition one” carry, I’d be less hesitant. As a department-wide issue pistol, the Omega has a couple things going for it:
- Due to the simplified trigger system, armorer-level maintenance is very simple.
- The Omega is the cheapest 75 available, and
- Out-of-the-box performance seems to mirror a standard 75B.
On the other hand, it does have some considerable drawbacks:
- It doesn’t come with factory night-sights
- It lacks a light rail for weapon-mounted lights and laser systems
- There aren’t any grip-integrated laser systems (such as a Crimson Trace lasergrip) available yet.
The lack of rail and lasergrips can be a deal-breaker for some LEOs and responsible armed citizens, depending on how you train to shoot at night (I personally prefer lasers after I saw how big a difference they make at the Midnight 3 Gun).
CZ does make better options for duty pistols, perhaps the SP-01 as it comes with factory-installed night sights and has a 1913 rail up front for mounting of lights and/or lasers. It’s also a heavy beast of a gun, weighing in at almost 2.5 lbs. For carry or duty, a P-09 or P-07 could be just the ticket as they’re polymer framed featherweights (at just 29 oz for the P-09) and also sport a rail in the front. In a 9mm P-09, you also get 19 rounds of 9mm onboard in a single flush-fit magazine. Oh, and it has a decocking lever, too…
Since the CZ’s following among serious shooters in the U.S. is mainly sports shooters, finding a “duty” style retention holster for a 75B is a bit difficult. Basically your options are either the Blade-Tech or a Blade-Tech. Blade-Tech also sells their WRS retention system as a component for other holster manufacturers (or DIY Kydex-folders), who’ll make you a duty holster for pretty much anything you want. I’ve had Jim at Tac-Tech-Cal build me a 3-Gun holster using the WRS and while I still prefer Safariland’s ALS, the WRS certainly does the job. I know several experienced LEO’s who carry their duty firearm in a WRS holster. (Side note: I used one of Jim’s WRS retention holsters and a bone-stock borrowed P-09 to win our club’s Tuesday Night Steel this week).
Concealment holsters aren’t difficult to find, especially if you’re willing to trust a small kydex maker like Tac-Tech-Cal, or wait forever for a Raven. If you don’t mind carrying a full-size gun, a non-railed 75B like the Omega is very unobtrusive (especially with slimmer grips), even if it is a bit heavier than a polymer gun.
Is it competitive in USPSA/IPSC Production/IDPA SSP?
Lately it seems as though the metal DA/SA guns have been making a splash in USPSA Production Division, with the likes of Eric Grauffel and Ben Stoeger using Tanfoglio Stock IIs (a larger-framed Italian CZ clone) to win and place second at the last two USPSA Nationals. The DA/SA guns are the best option for the international IPSC Production Division, which requires a 5lb initial trigger pull in order to be legal (thus handicapping striker-fired guns with a heavier trigger throughout the course of fire). However, if you’re looking for a good base for a Production-legal DA/SA race gun, I’d steer clear of the Omega because:
- The trigger system can’t be tuned as well as a CZ “Shadow”-type pistol, Tanfoglio, or even a standard CZ-75B model
- Several of the parts you’d use to tune the trigger (namely the Cajun Short Reset Kit) are legal in USPSA Production Division and IDPA SSP, but illegal in IPSC Production (this may not be an issue for the average shooter as most Americans don’t shoot IPSC except at World Shoot).
- The gun is significantly lighter than the SP-01 or Tanfo Stock II models. While some prefer a lighter pistol because it speeds target-to-target transitions (especially in Steel Challenge competition), a heavy gun tends to recoil slightly less.
That’s not to say the Omega is a horrible gun for Production division, just that it isn’t technically optimal. As is often the case in the shooting sports, it’s not the arrow, it’s the indian that makes the big difference. I borrowed a buddy’s USPSA-legal Omega with a P-09 hammer, lightened mainspring, fiber-optic sights and Cajun Short Reset kit to throw down a 100% classifier once (actually, the last one I needed to make GM).
Conclusion and planned modifications
While the Omega might not be the perfect pistol for competition or duty, it succeeds at being a very good pistol for those who don’t care for the ubiquitous striker-fired polymer gun, and don’t want to pay out the nose for a double-stack 1911. It has enough going for it to be a very good carry pistol, acceptable duty pistol, and pretty alright competition gun. I like it because I took it out of the box and was able to run with it without any real drama. My M&P won’t shoot a group. Standard Glocks tend to make me bleed. A good 2011 costs around $2000 or more. But this little $475 Czech DA/SA fits me fine, shoots a pretty good group, and has worked 100% when fed in-spec ammo.
What am I going to change?
- I’m going to lighten the double-action trigger up, to make it just a bit easier on the first shot. I’ll put a 15# mainspring in (since I’m pretty sure the factory 20# spring could set off a round without a primer, 15# should set off any primer I use), polish some parts and likely install a P-09 hammer depending on how well the other modifications go. I’d be happy if I can get the DA trigger down under 8 lbs.
- I’m putting the factory night sights from my SP-01 onto this gun. The SP-01 will be a competition gun and if I need to shoot it at night, I’ll put a RailMaster Pro on it. The Omega doesn’t have a rail, so the night sights are the best option for what little low-light shooting I do.
- If I can figure out how, I’d like to make the thumb safety detent a little stiffer, just so I feel a little better loaning this gun to someone running it single-action only. I might play with the detent plunger geometry and/or try and find a heavier spring (although none are made specifically for the Omega).
And that’s it. None of this is super-difficult either, just some fine sandpaper, hand tools, and about $80 in parts. Considering how picky I am about pistols, that’s not a whole lot.
What am I going to use the gun for?
It’ll probably end up as one of the primary guns I use to teach shooters with as a TPC Level II instructor. It fits most people’s hands very well and it isn’t too heavy for anyone to be able to shoot it. In single-action, it’s not hard to shoot well. It doesn’t flip a whole lot. It works. With relatively inexpensive, reliable 16 & 19 round mags, it holds plenty of bullets. And unlike a custom 1911 it isn’t so specialized or expensive that more “tactically-minded” shooters blow it off as a competition toy.