Since 1936 Ceska Zbrojovka (CZ) has been known as a maker of well-designed and highly functional firearms. Indeed, the company's pistols are so well designed that its classic CZ 52 was a mainstay of the Czech military for 23 years from 1952 to 1975 when it was replaced by the CZ 75 and has only recently been taken off the rolls of service duty in many countries around the world. CZ's reputation remains solid to this day with the continuing development of the CZ 75 line.
Back during the Cold War, CZ's guns were shrouded in mystery and became unlikely collector's items. Spoken of in hushed tones, the Com-bloc CZ 75 was essentially unknown to most shooters in the States. And with good reason. There were only a rare handful of samples available.
But then some handgunning pundits proclaimed the CZ 75 as the "perfect" high-cap "wundernine" design. They fell in love with the Czech pistol, touting its Browning Hi-Power-esque grip profile and slender slide, which reminded many of the justly famous SiG P-210 pistol, as a combination of the best of both worlds. This, combined with its double-action function and the ability to carry it cocked and locked, like the beloved 1911, rapidly made the CZ 75 attractive to many shooters.
Yet, the very fact they couldn't get one made the CZ 75 more desirable beyond its inherent value. The CZ 75 is a fine handgun that's beautifully machined and blued, but it's basically a military pistol, with correspondingly rough and gritty trigger pulls and average accuracy. It was never worth the $1,500 to $2,000 that collectors paid for it back when Ronald Reagan was in the Oval Office.
As time passed and the Berlin wall came tumbling down, CZ pistols became commonly available in the United States. Today, the original CZ 75 design has morphed into a series of pistols, each meeting certain needs, from competition to law enforcement and military applications.
CZ builds the basic design, in many forms, for more than 60 countries to meet their military, police and sporting needs. And why not? The CZ 75 is a solidly performing design that has been proven again and again in the real world.
But as popular as it is, the CZ 75 is beginning to show its age. So a few years ago, the Czech National Police asked a variety of gunmakers for a new model to meet its needs. The CNP wanted a design that offered a high level of comfort and ergonomics based on the solid CZ 75 operating system. It chose the CZ P-01.
Called a "Generation 3" pistol, the CZ P-01 fulfills the Czech Police's needs for a lightweight, compact pistol that delivers the accuracy and durability of a full-size, full-weight pistol. It's also as tough as a railroad spike. One of the reasons CZ won the contract is that the CNP had a tough list of requirements and, indeed, many companies simply declined to even attempt to meet them.
After some three years of development and testing, the P-01 was accepted. But just to put things into perspective, let's take a look at what standards it had to meet.
The gun had to withstand 4,000 dry-firings, 3,000 de-cockings, 1,350 operator-level disassemblies and reassemblies, 150 complete disassemblies all the way down to pins and springs, 54 drops of 1.5 meters onto concrete, a 3-meter drop test, and a 24-hour freezing test. If that wasn't enough, the National Police also required that the gun fire after being stripped of all lubrication and submerged in mud and sand. Finally, the CNP required that the service life of its new duty pistol exceed 15,000 rounds of +P 9mm ammo. They must have been impressed with the CZ P-01. Testing revealed that it can survive more than 30,000 rounds of 9mm ball ammo.
Another astounding aspect of the National Police test was the reliability requirement protocol of 98.8 percent, a 0.2 percent failure rate. This equals 20 stoppages per 10,000 rounds or 500 "mean rounds between failures" (MRBF). During testing, the average number of stoppages was only seven per 15,000 rounds, or a 0.05 percent failure rate. This translates to an MRBF of 2,142 rounds. That's about five times the minimum acceptable rate for the U.S. Army, which is set at 495 rounds for 9mm pistols with 115-grain ball ammo.
To sum it all up, the CZ P-01 is a highly reliable, rugged pistol, despite it's small size and alloy frame.[PAGEBREAK]
CZ's P-01 is an elegantly designed handgun whose curves and angles seem to blend in a business-like, yet appealing manner. The authoritative black finish is a matte polycoat, applied over a classic phosphate base. While it may wear on the edges, I would have to assume it would be more than adequate for duty use, considering the abuse it was subjected to during testing.
The controls are conventionally placed, with the magazine release in the normal position on the grip frame behind the trigger. It also sports a somewhat extended slide release and a de-cocker. Unlike the CZ 75, the P-01 has no conventional safety and cannot be carried "cocked and locked."
There are some nice design touches in the ergonomics of the weapon. Its grips are checkered rubber, there's a nifty lanyard loop, and the grip frame is grooved on the rear and front strap to enhance your grip. These vertical grooves "flow" into your fingers and palm when you squeeze the pistol, and I think they function better than checkering.
An integral light rail is also part of the package and it fits all the standard models of weapon lights. The rail allows easy removal of the lights from the handgun, letting an officer use a standard duty holster and affix the light when needed. Also, the "beavertail" extension is long enough to safeguard the web of your hand when shooting and the sights are a bold, three-dot type. Tritium is available.
The CZ P-01's trigger is nicely curved and smooth, as all good double-action triggers should be and the front of the trigger guard is squared slightly and grooved for the pointer finger of the off-hand. Although, in today's world, that grip mode is becoming rapidly obsolete.
Forward serrations on the slide are largely for aesthetics only because the construction of the slide runs inside of the frame (like the P-210). This helps to keep things tidy and also helps to lower the slide to the hand, which, in turn, helps to soften the perception of recoil. It also has a tendency to aid functionality due to the recoil being more directly supported by the shooting arm. Plus, it looks cool.
Other features include a forged, aircraft aluminum alloy frame, hammer-forged barrel, and firing pin block. The magazines appear to be very well constructed and are of 13-round capacity. Also, we believe the longer mags from the CZ 75 series guns will fit the new P-01.
Finally, the best feature about the CZ P-01 is the price. It sells for around $575 at full retail. Surprisingly affordable for such a well-equipped and comfortable gun.
On the Range
Range testing was limited due to time constraints. However, since I've had experience with the CZ 75 series and Springfield's P-9, I knew what to expect from the P-01.
It fed perfectly, partially due to the integral feed ramp on the barrel and the robust recoil spring, which ensures positive delivery of the next round from the magazine. Recoil was soft and manageable, due primarily to the excellent grips, the grip profile, and because of the low position of the slide in the frame. In short, the P-01 was a real pleasure to shoot.
However, trigger pull was a bit of a disappointment. The double-action pull was very long (common with DA/SA autos), and it was fairly gritty. This, too, is common on military-style autos, and there's no doubt a good pistolsmith would be able to slick up this obviously high-quality system. Single action was also on the long side and gritty. Let-off was unexpected but not due to a crisp break. It just sort of "slid along until it went off," and again, a good 'smith can fix this in a jiffy.
Accuracy was on par with what you would expect. The trigger pull made it a bit harder than I would have liked, but 3.5-inch groups at 25 yards were possible, with some a bit bigger. That's great accuracy for a duty pistol, and the 50-yard gong rang hard while it was hit again and again off-hand.
I had two failures to feed initially with some weird truncated 9mm ball (it had a very flat point), but the little P-01 overcame that and then trucked along nicely with everything else. A brand-new gun often has a few bugs before it gets broken in.
In short? This is a very impressive pistol, and the reasonable price belies the inherent quality that is obvious to anyone who picks it up. The compact CZ P-01 may be a very good answer for those agencies looking for one gun to equip both uniformed duty officers and off-duty and/or plainclothes personnel.
Barrel Length: 3.8 inches
Overall Length: 7.2 inches
Sight Radius: 5.3 inches
Height: 5.3 inches
Width: 1.4 inches
Weight: 27 ounces
Finish: Black, polycoat
Sights: Fixed three-dot
Capacity: 13 rounds
Action: DA/SA de-cocker
Safeties: Firing pin block, safety notch on hammer,
Price: Approx. $575 full retail
Roy Huntington is a retired officer, a long-time member of the Police Advisory Board, and the editor of American Handgunner magazine.