Continuing on with testing all-metal firearms, as requested by many of our readers, here’s one of my favorite double-stack 9mm handguns. The CZ-85B is simply an upgraded model of the original CZ-75. For many years, the CZ-75 was hard to come by in the USA, because it was produced in the Czech Republic when it was behind the “Iron Curtain”. The few CZ-75 handguns that were in the USA were very hard to come by and expensive, very expensive!
Because of the scarcity of the original CZ-75, a number of near-clones of this gun appeared. One of the most recognized, coming from Italy, was imported by several different companies into the U.S. However, some were a serious hit or miss proposition, and I owned many. They had feeding problems as well as extraction problems, and most were guns you sure didn’t want to bet your life on. That was then, and this is now. One major importer– European American Armory– is bringing in some outstanding CZ-type handguns. However, like many gun owners who longed for the real thing, I wanted the original.
CZ-USA.com is the importer of the original CZ-75 and, of course, the subject of this article is the improved version or updated version– the CZ-85B. The CZ-75 is used by many military forces around the world; it is “that” reliable. Well over a million of the original CZ-75 models have been produced since their inception in 1975!
The CZ-85B is an all-steel handgun, frame and slide. Of course, that turns off a lot of people because everyone is into polymer framed guns these days. While I own my share of polymer framed handguns, I sure would never turn my nose up at a great all-steel manufactured gun like the CZ-85B and to be sure the grand 1911 handgun that has been around for well over a hundred years.
We have a black polycoat finish on the CZ frame and slide. It isn’t highly polished; it has a little bit of a dull look to it, and I have no problem with this. However, you can see some tooling marks inside the frame and slide, but they are only cosmetic. They do not affect how the gun functions. For all intents and purposes, the gun just screams “military” to my mind. I like it! The 9mm version, which I have, holds 16 rounds in the magazine, while the original CZ-75 held 15 rounds. However, there are outstanding after-market magazines from Mec-Gar that hold 17 rounds and have a nice slam pad on the bottom of the magazine for a sure reload, and they are easier to load than the original mags. The gun comes with two mags.
We have the popular 3-dot white sights on the slide, which are very fast to pick up, even if the sights are a little bit small for my liking. The top of the slide also has serrations running along the top of it. BTW, the “B” designation means that the gun has a firing pin safety, which I can take or leave. Given my druthers, I’d rather not have it. The trigger pull is Double-Action/Single Action. When you chamber a round, the hammer is cocked; you can then either apply the frame-mounted safety and carry it cocked ‘n locked, like the 1911, or carefully, very carefully, lower the hammer by holding it between your thumb and index finger, while pulling the trigger. Then the gun will fire with a long but very smooth, double-action trigger pull. I much prefer the cocked ‘n locked carry method.
On some of the clone-like versions, there was a slide-mounted decocker/safety, but some also had the frame-mounted safety. One bad thing with many of the clones was that the trigger pull was long and heavy if you elected to fire from the double-action trigger pull. On the CZ-85B, the trigger design is outstanding, and my trigger finger had no problems reaching the trigger in the double-action mode. Still, my preferred method is carrying the gun cocked ‘n locked; snip off the frame mounted safety ala’ the 1911 and you have a short trigger pull.
CZ-75/85 guns are known for outstanding accuracy, and this comes via two things; the 4.6-inch hammer forged barrel, of course, contributes to this. But then we have the way the slide and frame fit together. Unlike other semi-auto handguns, where the slide rides over the rails on the frame, the CZ slide rides inside the rails on the frame. The slide fits snuggly inside those rails, and the slide on the CZ guns also sits lower inside the frame. It doesn’t stick up high at all, which is good and bad. It makes for a cleaner looking package overall, but it also doesn’t give you a lot of frame to grasp when chambering a round from the slide forward; however, it’s not a deal breaker at all.
The double-action trigger pull is rightfully famous on the CZ-75/85. It is one of the smoothest out of any of similar types of handguns. We are talking long but a super-smooth trigger pull. The single-action trigger pull is fairly crisp, too, not as crisp as a 1911 is, but it is crisper than other similar hammer-fired handguns.
The CZ-85B is slightly different in a few other ways, compared to the original CZ-75. The frame-mounted safety is ambidextrous; it can be found on the opposite side of the frame, along with the ambi slide release. This is nice. The grips that come on the gun are checkered hard black plastic; however, there are a number of grip makers that can set you up with G-10 or wood grips. I liked the military-looking plastic grips. The magazine release was very positive and easy to reach for quick mag changes, too.
One thing that you might notice on the CZ is that the ejection port seems rather smallish compared let’s say to the ejection port on a 1911. I had no problems with fired brass cleanly ejecting, and even loaded rounds ejected without any problems, from the chamber.
CZ claims on their website that the CZ-75B is used by more governments, militaries, police, and security agencies than any other pistol in the world. Perhaps that’s so, but they also claim it is possibly the perfect pistol.
As to the trigger pull weight, it was next to impossible for me to get an accurate pull weight in the double-action, but it was around 12-13 lbs and very smooth. The single-action pull weight was a little over 5 lbs and fairly crisp, too. Sometimes we make too much ado about nothing, when it comes to trigger pull weight if you ask me. More often than not, when using a gun for self defense, we pay no attention to the pull weight of the trigger; we concentrate on the sights. Still, a nice trigger pull does contribute to better accuracy.
The gun weighs 2.2 lbs, and for many that might seem like carrying a tank on their hip because we are used to the polymer framed guns that everyone is making. Personally, the added weight of the steel frame really keeps recoil down quite a bit. This is not a bad thing for fast followup shots, if you ask me. The gun’s overall length is 8.1 inches, and it is 5.4 inches high and 1.4 inches wide. It’s right up there with the 1911 in most respects.
So, after singing the praises of the CZ-85B, how did the gun actually shoot? Well, I usually keep a very accurate round count during my testing; however, the CZ was so much fun to shoot that I lost count. I know I fired well over 700 rounds through the gun and maybe even a lot more with zero malfunctions of any type. For my shooting, I had some Black Hills Ammunition 115-gr JHP +P, 124-gr JHP +P, 115-gr FMJ, 115-gr EXP HP, and 124-gr JHP loads. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I had their 147-gr Heavy sub-sonic JHP load, 147-gr Outdoorsman Hard Cast FN +P load, 115-gr Barnes TAC XP, all copper hollow point +P+, and the identical 95-gr Barnes load.
While I’ve never found the recoil of a 9mm handgun objectionable, the all-steel CZ-85B made it just that much more pleasurable to fire and fast, very fast, followup shots were easy to pull off. Accuracy testing was done at a distance of 25 yards, using a rolled-up sleeping bag as a rest, over the hood of my pickup truck. If I did my part, I was getting groups under 2.5 inches, again if I did my part, which wasn’t all of the time. Some groups were around three inches or a tad larger. The best ammo of the day for accuracy was the Black Hills 124-gr JHP load with the Buffalo Bore 147-gr Heavy Sub-sonic JHP load on the heels of the Black Hills load.
There wasn’t anything I didn’t love about the CZ-85B, nothing! I did much prefer the Mec-Gar magazines over the mags that came with the gun, though. I like that extended slam pad on the bottom of the mag. The gun feels just great in the hand, too, as it balances nicely. I’d have no problem taking this pistol into combat, a hostage rescue, or for everyday carry, even if it is a little bit on the heavy side, at least compared to polymer framed 9mm handguns. Additionally, the gun can also be had in .40 S&W, if you prefer.
Full retail is $612 on this model. That’s not too bad. My cost was $549 at my local gun shop, so shop around. To be sure, they are a bit hard to come by. Once you pick one up, it will be hard to put it back down.
– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio