King of the Double Actions


Before polymer framed striker fired pistols came onto the scene in the early 1980′s, the world was enamored with the “Wonder 9” handgun concept.  Wonder 9′s were defined by their 9mm chambering and their accompanying double stacked magazines which allowed for up to 15+ rounds of ammo.  To be classified as a Wonder 9, the pistol also needed to feature a double action trigger mechanism.  Typically the Wonder 9 double action auto could be fired single action as well if the hammer were cocked to the rear either by firing the first shot double action or by manually cocking the hammer.
The Walter P-38 was one of the early double action 9mm services pistols.Wonder 9′s were so named because they were the right set of features necessary to get people to switch from their trusty revolvers to automatic pistols.  Police were the most stubborn in their acceptance of auto-loading handguns.  While many civilians were jumping on the Wonder 9 bandwagon in the early 80′s the police clung to their service revolvers throughout the decade — slowly accepting the fact the revolver was about to be relegated to the history books as the preferred fighting handgun of America’s men in blue.

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The evolution of the Wonder 9 began with a couple of notable handgun designs that each incorporated key components of the Wonder 9 recipe but none had all of the ingredients until the 1960′s.
During the Second World War the Germans developed the Walther P-38 9mm double action pistol.  It had many of the features that would find their way onto the future Wonder 9 pistols. It sported a double action / single action trigger and a slide mounted hammer drop safety.  The one feature it lacked was a double stacked magazine allowing it to hold more than (8) rounds.  The P-38 wasn’t the first service grade double action auto to come onto the scene, but it was one of the more prolific examples that continued on in service until well after WWII had ended.
In the 1920′s America’s most famous firearms designer, John Browning, began work on the Hi-Power 9mm pistol.  Unfortunately Mr. Browning died in 1926 and wasn’t able to complete the development of the handgun.  This responsibility passed on to Dieudonné Saive of Fabrique Nationale in Belgium.  The Hi-Power was a refinement of Brownings most notable design achievement, the 1911 service pistol.  The Hi-Power simplified and made more robust the locking mechanism that would go on to influence handguns until the modern age.  Most popular designs today including the Glock, Sig, M&P, XD, etc. all borrow from John Brownings work on the 1911.  This includes the CZ-75B.  The Hi-Powers contribution to the coming Wonder 9 movement was the 13 round double stack magazine that would become one of the pinnacle features of the modern 9mm pistol.
A number of companies came to market with double action 9mm pistols with double stacked magazines including Smith & Wessons entry, the Model 59.  The Model 59 came onto the market in the early 1970′s and was success for the historic gun maker.  The Model 59 was an evolution of the Model 39 which featured a singe stack magazine and was adopted by U.S. Special Operations forces in the 1960′s.
The pistol that rocked the world though didn’t come from the United States or even from one of her allies.  The design that lead the pack came from the Communist Warsaw Pact country of Czechoslovakia and it was named the CZ-75.  Today Czechoslovakia no longer exists, it’s now the Czech Republic but they continue to manufacture the famous CZ-75 as well as several pistols that have evolved from its time tested basic design.
The CZ-75 may have never caught on in the West had it not been for the writings of Col. Jeff Cooper.  Col. Cooper was a fan of the 1911 and the .45 ACP caliber, so it was a bit surprising to many when he started writing favorably about the CZ-75 in 9mm.  But the good Colonel realized early on that the CZ-75 had features, and more importantly ergonomics, unrivaled by contemporary designs.  Thanks to Col. Cooper the American gun buyer was hungry for the CZ-75 and its popularity quickly grew.  It’s also noteworthy to mention that Col. Cooper was behind the development of the now defunct Bren Ten which was based on the CZ-75 design and chambered in the powerful 10mm cartridge.
So what was it about the CZ-75 that piqued the interest of the die hard 1911 fan, Col. Cooper?
Overall the pistol feels very similar to the Browning Hi-Power, which has long been considered to be one of the most ergonomic handguns ever designed.  In combat and in the hands of countless civilians the CZ-75 has proven itself time and time again to be superbly reliable and accurate.The CZ-75 seemed to possess the perfect mix of features; double stack 9mm magazine, unmatched ergonomics, legendary reliability, double action trigger and all steel construction.  It also had something that other popular pistols of the era didn’t have — internal slide rails.  Typically the slide rides on top of the frame with the rails being machined on the outside of the handguns frame.  The CZ-75 reverses this and places the rails inside the frame.  This is said to increase the strength of the pistol.
In the 1990′s the original CZ-75 was replaced by the second generation pistol, the CZ-75B.  The B model had a few design changes but the most notable was the addition of a firing pin safety making loaded carry more safe as the pistol is far less likely to fire should it be dropped.  It also features a re-contoured trigger guard with serrations on the front.
The pistol featured in this article is a CZ-75B model.
While I believe the CZ-75B is the king of Wonder 9′s, it’s not without a few glitches — but no firearm is perfect in my experience.  The most annoying issue for me when using the CZ-75B is the lack of real estate on the slide.  Getting a good purchase on the slide for chambering a round or clearing a rare malfunction is challenging given the pipsqueak proportions of the serrated surface.
Another issue some users will find is that the slide stop is out of reach of their thumbs.  Granted, some will say you’re not supposed to use the slide stop as a slide release but the reality is most people do use it this way.  If you have modest sized hands you’ll likely find it’s impossible to reach the slide stop with your thumb unless you rotate the handgun in your grip.  But this is a relatively minor issue, which is easy for me to say since I have Yeti hands.
The final gotcha that many people have with the CZ-75B is the slide stop pin breaking at low round counts.  While I’ve never encountered this issue with the two pistols I’ve owned, a quick Google search for “CZ-75 slide stop breakage” will yield ample reading.
Disassembly is very similar to the Browning Hi-Power.  All that’s required is to remove the magazine, clear the pistol, pull the slide back to the take down notch and pop the slide stop pin out.  Now you can left the hammer go forward by pulling the trigger (I ride the hammer home with my thumb) and pulling the slide off the frame.  Removing the recoil spring, guide and barrel is all accomplished by pulling them up and out of the slide just like the Hi-Power or 1911.  It’s pretty simple.
Shooting the CZ-75B is a real pleasure.  I’ve found mine to be exceptionally accurate with a nice factory trigger that breaks right around 6lbs in single action mode.  The double action is a tad heavy as double actions tend to be, however the pull is rather short and it has a crisp release.  The sights on the basic model are a simple 3 dot arrangement but other sight options do exist including Tritium night sights.  The rear sight is dovetailed and the front sight is held in place by a roll pin.
The handgun features a frame mounted safety that allows for cocked and locked carry.  The safety does not act as a hammer drop safety, it’s only designed to prevent the trigger from being pulled while the hammer is cocked.  With the hammer at rest the double action trigger is your safety and the manual safety can not be engaged.
The CZ-75B is a classic handgun that even 38 years after its introduction is still one of the best 9mm service pistols on the market.  If you’re looking for a classic piece of Cold War history or a handgun for daily carry, you would be well served by a CZ-75B.The CZ-75B is a full sized, all steel, service handgun that tips the scales at 2lbs 3oz empty.  The current crop of handguns will ship with a 16 round 9mm magazine while older versions will have shipped with 15 round magazines.  You can find the handgun for a little over $500 new and considerably less on the used gun market.

 

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