Pat Cascio’s Product Review: Tristar L120 9mm CZ-75 (clone-esque)

For many years, I longed for an original CZ-75, but alas there weren’t very many in the USA back in the 1970s, and the few that could be found were high priced, to say the least. Then, we had the sorta clones, imported from Italy, including Tanfoglio and FIE. It was a hit or miss proposition whether you got one that worked, and they were a decocker model. I wanted a CZ-75 (clone-ish) that I could carry “cocked ‘n locked”. Then along came an almost dead-ringer for the CZ-75, imported from Switzerland, if I recall correctly! I don’t recall the exact price I paid, when I lived back in Colorado Springs, CO, but the gun was purchased at Long’s Drugs. I’m thinking I paid close to $500 for it. I loved it, until I shot it. No matter what I did, it wouldn’t function 100% with any ammo. It didn’t make any sense. The handgun was flawless in manufacture, but the thing wouldn’t function all of the time, no matter what I did to it.

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The Swiss CZ-75 clone was Swiss perfection. The grips were beautiful wood, and the finish was high-polished. It just looked like a high quality CZ-75 clone, and it was the only one I’ve ever seen. I never saw another one of these models, ever! I just wish I could have made it run, but run it wouldn’t! I’m a fair hand at gunsmithing, and no matter what I tried my prize wouldn’t run 100% for me. Since that time, I’ve owned quite a few CZ-75 clones and near clones; most worked, too. I didn’t care for the Tanfoglio models with the decocking lever. I wanted one so I could carry the gun cocked ‘n locked, like the original CZ-75.

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These days, there are quite a few different importers of CZ-75 clones, near clones, and clone-esqe handguns. I recently wheeled and dealed with my local gun shop for a brand new Tristar CZ-75 clone, made in Turkey (Canik 55). The “wheeling ‘n dealing” went on for two full days. There wasn’t anything “wrong” with the asking price at my local gun shop; as a matter of fact, they beat all other gun shops in most of Oregon on prices of most of their guns. The “problem” stems from the fact that they taught me to read the codes on the back of the price tags, so I know how much they have invested in their guns. (LOL!) In the end, I walked out of the gun shop with the Tristar L120 for $305 out the door. It was a steal of a deal, if you ask me.

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These days, I’m extremely impressed with the firearms coming out of Turkey, and that’s where the Tristar L120 is manufactured. The workmanship is second to none on their guns, and they make a lot of shotguns, too. The L120 is a dead ringer in all respects to the original CZ-75, and as a matter of fact it is much better made and a lot less money than the original . The model I picked up is the full-sized chrome-plated model with brushed chrome. It looks like a satin finish stainless steel. The chrome plating was flawless, too. Then add in the hard-checkered black rubber grips, and the gun is a real eye catcher, if you ask me.

The L120 comes with two 17-rd magazines, manufactured by Mec-Gar in Italy. These are some of the best mags to be had at any price. The original CZ-75 comes with a 15-rd mag. I like the Mec-Gar mags a lot, and they are every easy to load, too. Spares can be found just about any place; however, I picked up a few more spares from Midway USA for $24.99 each on sale! The average weight listed for the L120 is 1.75 lbs, but the gun actually weighs a bit more. The barrel is 4.7 inches long, and the gun is, of course, a 9mm , just like the original CZ-75.

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The front of the trigger guard is recurved. I can live without it, as the original is rounded. However, I don’t place my index finger of my off-hand around the front of the trigger guard anyway, so this feature is not important to me. The action is double-action/single-action. After you chamber a round, you can either apply the safety on the left side of the pistol and carry the gun cocked ‘n locked, or you can very carefully lower the hammer (don’t let it slip) and then carry the gun ready for first-shot double-action. The trigger pull is long for that first shot in the double-action mode, but it’s extremely smooth. I prefer to carry this gun cocked ‘n locked. Simply snip the safety down, and you’re ready for a super-nice single-action trigger pull.

The top of the slide has serrations front to rear, which is nice for cutting down on any glare in daylight. The front strap is also serrated, while the back strap is smooth. The safety is easy to snick off, but you have to shift the gun a bit to apply the safety. This is a big, full-sized handgun, and those with smaller hands probably won’t really like it. The double-action trigger pull is long, and your trigger finger probably won’t engage the trigger properly. Front and rear sights are outstanding and easy to see; the front has a white dot, and the rear has two white dots on either side of the rear sight opening. They’re fast to pick up. There is also a nice extended tang to protect the web of your shooting hand; this is something the original CZ-75 doesn’t have. BTW, the chrome finish is actually cerakote, which is tough and long-lasting stuff to be sure.

I will readily admit that there wasn’t anything I didn’t like about the Tristar L120 gun I bought. Nothing! I brought the L120 home, gave it a good cleaning, and lubed it up with Italian Gun Grease tactical lube– my favorite firearm’s lube, period!

I had a great assortment of 9mm on hand for testing, too. From Black Hills Ammunition, 115-gr JHP +P, 124-gr JHP +P, 115-gr Barnes all-copper hollow point, TAC-XP +P and their 115-gr FMJ ammo. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition, I had their 124-gr FMJ FN Penetrator +P+ round – hot! Barnes 115-gr all-copper hollow point TAC-XP +P+ load, 147-gr Hard Cast Outdoorsman load, and their 147-gr JHP +P+ load. This was a great assortment to run through my new toy.

I fired several hundred rounds of the above ammo, mixing various bullet weights, bullet designs, and different manufactures’ ammo through the L120. I had not a single problem. None. The gun perked along perfectly with the standard 115-gr FMJ ammo, up to the +P+ loads. It never gave a hint that it didn’t like any of the ammo. It was outstanding.

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For my accuracy testing, I rested a sleeping bag over the hood of my pickup and placed the target at 25-yards. No loads exceeded 4″ inches and most loads were in the 3″ range. The top winner was the Buffalo Bore Penetrator 124-gr FMJ-FN +P+ load. That surprised me. Most of the time, the hotter +P and +P+ loads don’t produce the best accuracy out of most handguns. Second place went to the Black Hills 124-gr JHP +P load. This is one of my favorite carry loads, to be sure.

As an aside, I believe one thing that makes the CZ style handguns so accurate is that the slide rails fit inside of the frame rails, instead of on the outside of the frame rails; there is no space between the slide and the frame on CZ-75 handguns. I’ve owned (own) handguns that cost two or three times as much as this Tristar L120 does, and some aren’t as accurate as the Tristar. What’s not to like here?

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The only problem with many new gun models, not that this is a new model handgun per se, is finding a good holster for it. I used a generic ballistic Nylon-type pancake holster from Blackhawk Products . The gun fit nicely and rode high and tight to my side.

Checking 100_6198href=”http://www.gungroker.com”>www.gungroker.com today, I found the Tristar L120 with prices from $329 up past $400, so I know I got a great deal on my sample when I walked out of the gun shop with it for only $305 plus two mags rather than just one, and a hard case, and a cleaning rod, and mag loader. This is one of those guns that you don’t mind throwing in your e-box in your vehicle and forgetting about it. For the price, you have a great handgun for emergency purposes, and with the Cerakote Chrome finish, it won’t easily rust either. Also, if you’re in the market for a nice bedside handgun for those things that go “bump” in the night, it’s hard to argue with a 9mm handgun that is 100% reliable, accurate, and can feed and fire anything you care to put through the barrel.

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These days, so many firearms pass through my hands for testing and for articles that I’m just to the point where it takes something really special to catch my attention. I’m a hard-worked stiff, and I have to always be careful how I spend my money. If something isn’t a great deal to my wallet, I’ll just pass on it. However, with this Tristar L120 at the price I paid for it and the outstanding performance it gave me, there’s nothing to not like about it. Additionally, they manufacture other firearms, including some compact models of the L120 and shotguns as well. I’m keeping an eye out for the compact C-100 models in 9mm, which would make a great concealed carry piece if you ask me.

– Senior Product Review Editor, Pat Cascio

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