To get this out of the way up front- no, The Everyday Marksman is not secretly sponsored by CZ. Neither am I. This sort-of-review is about a gun I received as a Christmas gift. No, Santa did not fill out the Form 4473. That would be a straw purchase and that is illegal.
Santa is many things, but he is not a felon.
I strongly recommend reading Matt’s article on the CZ P-07 before getting deep into the one you’re reading now. It covers CZ’s history and the evolution of the CZ product lines extremely well, which means I don’t need to rehash any of that here.
The SP-01 CZ Big Iron
The SP-01 is CZ’s full-size duty pistol version of the P-01. They share grip geometry, many internal components and the control layout is the same. The SP-01’s description of a “full sized” handgun is not messing around.
At 8.15 inches long with a 4.6 inch barrel, 5.79 inches tall and a weight of 40.7 ounces, the average polymer striker-fired handgun enthusiast might hear “Brick House” playing in their minds when they first hold an SP-01.
The beaver tail is more substantial on the SP-01 than the P-01 and the factory grip panels are the same grippy rubber with palm swells. They’re a tad scaled up in size to cover the larger grip area.
Like most CZ 75 series guns, the slide rides inside the frame. This leads to a shorter slide and a dubiously-important lower bore axis. For those who don’t know, the quick version is – bore axis height is the height of the barrel and slide over your hands. The idea is the greater that distance, the more mechanical advantage the slide has in recoil over your hands, making recoil feel stronger.
There’s a ton of literature out there on the topic saying it will make or break a handgun. My take is that won’t matter to all but the very tip top tier of shooters, and most of them only care in the context of beating the other very tip top shooters. Personally, I don’t worry about it but your experience may vary.
The 19-round magazines that came with my pistol are manufactured by Mec-Gar. The body themselves are 17-rounders, and CZ included a +2 extension base pad on them. If you aren’t familiar, Mec-Gar is a well-established quality manufacturer who does OEM for some of the biggest names in the industry.
For those in Occupied America, where one is arbitrarily restricted to certain magazine capacities by a cruel, tyrannical government- yes, they do smell like freedom.
Moving On: My History Here
This article is less of a run-of-the-mill review and more a guide to help shooters like me. A Double Action/Single Action (DA/SA) pistol is very different than the polymer framed striker fired guns I’m used to, and in a lot of important ways.
Learn from my struggles, dear reader. Point and laugh too, but also learn.
Let me establish where I’m coming from. The preponderance of my experience with handguns has been polymer framed striker fired guns. Of those, it’s been mostly Glocks, with one Sig P320 thrown in there.
For about a year I had an XD(m) but that was so long ago I’m not sure if it counts.
What experience I do have with DA/SA guns before now was military issue M9’s, and that was a lot more carrying than shooting. I’ve never owned a gun with basepad extensions on the mags, so reloading always meant flush fit mags going in the whole way. So far the learning curve has been steeper than one might think.
The Grippy Bits
People who don’t like the ergonomics of a Glock like to call them “Blocks” and for good reason. Where the Glock’s grip is squared off across the front strap, the CZ’s front strap is rounded. This makes the CZ’s grip fit my hands better, though someone with different shaped/size hands may have different results.
The reason behind this is that the second joint of my finger winds up in the middle of the front strap. A rounded front gives me more contact area. Is it a big deal? Probably not. There are lots of people who can outshoot me with either type of gun, but I feel like I’ve got a better grip on the CZ. The CZ isn’t as wide either.
While this isn’t going to change the goals of how you grip the gun regarding grip pressure, finger placement on the trigger, etc, it will change how you do those things a little.
Then of course, there’s the texture of the Glock’s grip versus the rubber panels and checkering on the metal of the SP-01.
*WARNING – 1 PARAGRAPH TANGENT AHEAD*
I took the SP-01 to the range a couple times, did a LOT of dry practice, and frankly the stock rubber grip panels annoyed me. I didn’t like the palmswell and while the rubber provided some stickiness and a decent enough grip, I wanted a more aggressive texture. On the advice of the Everyday Marksman discord members, I grabbed a set of Roughnecks from LOK Grips. I like those a LOT better and that’s what has stayed on the gun since.
Editor’s note from Matt: I’ve also run two sets of LOK grips on my CZ 75D PCR, a thin set of roughnecks and a standard thickness set of full checkers. They are great grips and highly recommended.
I may get my membership revoked in the CZ fan club, but I’d personally prefer more checkering on the front and back straps, like a Glock. It works, but I prefer an aggressive texture all over the place. For the Sig fans out there, I think the P-320’s grip texture is a little better than both of the other two. It feels like grip tape and gave me good purchase when shooting. No, the grip panels are not stock.
See this? That’s the safety on this SP-01. It only engages when the hammer is back and the manual says you should only use it when you’re between strings of fire and are just waiting a short period of time.
The CZ website says the safety allows for carrying the gun with the hammer back and safety engaged, like John Moses Browning’s World War 2 winning, T. Rex slaying 1911. The advantage is your first shot is Single Action, instead of Double. The downside for the Glock shooter is if you choose to carry the gun that way, you have to practice taking off the safety as part of the draw stroke.
The magazine eject buttons are close enough to the same there’s no real work to transition. They’re in about the same spot, you push them both in. Easy peezy lemon squeezie.
Where the Glockophile will get thrown for a loop is the takedown controls. The Glock’s controls are simple. Only you’ve unloaded and triple checked the gun is clear, point the gun in a safe direction and squeeze the trigger. Pull the slide back a little, hold the slide lock in the frame down, the slide goes forward and off the frame.
The CZ, on the other hand, has the advantage of not requiring you to pull the trigger. In fact, disassembly is easier with the hammer back. You still have to pull the slide back a little, but from there you have to remove the slide stop. The manual suggests using a magazine to press against the right side of the slide stop so it goes out of the left side.
This took way more force than I thought it would so don’t be afraid to put some stank on that stop. It doesn’t come out easily. THEN the slide can go forward and off the frame.
The stock sights on a Glock have been reviled for as long as I can remember being into guns. It’s practically an Olympic event to see who can hate them most. The ones that came stock on my G19 were the run of the mill white “U” shape rear with a white dot in front. Yes, I did change them out, but it’s because I put a red dot on it and wanted iron sights I could actually see if for whatever reason the red dot decides to give up the ghost. If I didn’t get that Glock MOS for the sole purpose of putting a dot on it, I wouldn’t have changed the sights at all.
The stock sights on the SP-01 are noticeably smaller than the Glock and Sig. The actual dots themselves are smaller, as are the rear notch and the actual front site blade. The upside of this is that it forces you to clean up your presentation so that the sights are lined up when they enter your line of sight. The downside is that you find out just how much slop was in your presentation and how much work you have to do to square that away. The sights are completely usable and can still be used at speed to make good hits.
Theoretically. I’m not there yet but people who can shoot well say so, so I’ll believe them.
This isn’t to say the sights on the SP-01 are bad, because they’re not. They’re not GI 1911 small to the point of being unusable. They’re not even hard to pick up when presenting the gun. They’re just something a Glock shooter will question their eyesight on the first couple times they sight in. As it turns out, I actually did need glasses, but that’s besides the point.
That Trigger Though
Another event in the Hate Glock Olympics is Trigger Loathing. I’m not going to defend the Glock trigger, as I’ve had the chance to shoot some really nice custom triggers on guns with a comma in the price tag. I didn’t own them, but I got the chance to shoot them. I can definitely tell the difference. I will also not jump on trigger hating bandwagon. Glock triggers are reliable, consistent, and not really all that awful.
They also improve with a “Miculek trigger job.” What, you ask, is that? I once heard an interview where Jerry Miculek said something along the lines of “the best trigger job you can give a gun is to shoot it a lot” and it’s what he said he did for his guns.
From a technical perspective it makes sense. Parts wear in based on friction points and they will polish each other over time, leading to a better trigger and lots of practice for you.
That said, the CZ’s trigger is hands down better than the Glocks and Sigs I’ve been comparing it to. Flat out, it’s just better. There’s very little take up, the break is crisp and out of the box everything is smoother. No, it’s not as good as a 2011 you can pay for a semester at Harvard with, but it’s good.
There is, of course, a down side.
One thing you won’t see discussed in gun reviews is trigger reach. While some people may call this “length of pull,” I tend to equate that term with the length of the stock of a long gun so I don’t like using it and I’m the one writing this article.
Trigger reach is the distance from the back of the frame to the front surface of the trigger. The further you have to reach, the more likely you are to not get proper placement of your finger, making it harder to manipulate the trigger properly and this is where the CZ SP-01 flounders.
The trigger reach on the SP-01 is a great deal further than on a Glock and could be problematic if you have small hands. Mine are somewhere in the realm of “medium” based on the size gloves I get and the trigger still messes me up on the double action trigger pull, when it is a longer and heavier one than the single action.
The trigger pull is where things get weird for a Glock shooter. In striker fired pistols, the trigger pull is the same every time. With a DA/SA, there are two very different and distinct trigger pulls. The first is the double action. That one is long and heavy, since you’re taking the hammer from all the way forward to all the way back. When the round goes off, the slide cycling cocks the hammer for you, leaving you with a shorter, easier trigger pull(that’s the Single Action) for the remainder of the shots. This is why in dry fire, every shot is double action. There’s no round going off to cycle the slide.
The striker fired trigger is somewhere in the middle between the CZ’s single action and double action trigger pulls in terms of weight and trigger reach. Not as light as the single action, not as heavy as the double. Let me be the first to warn you, that double action will mess you up, Glock shooter. I watched my sights wander all over the first several dry fire sessions. It has gotten better though, and if I can improve my grip and trigger pull, literally anyone can.
Dry Fire Considerations
The upside to an DA/SA gun is you don’t have to rack the slide in dry fire. Every pull of the trigger will be the longer, heavier double action since the slide isn’t cycling to push the hammer back into single action. This means you can practice that DA trigger with out needing to break and re-establish your grip every time.
You’ll need to manually cock the hammer or rack the slide if you want to practice the SA trigger pull though. In a way this works out, since the DA is the much steeper of the two learning curves.
The downside, at least specifically for this series of CZs, is that dry firing on an empty chamber isn’t good for the gun. There’s a firing pin retaining pin that said firing pin will bang against every time the hammer falls and hits it. This leads to that retaining pin’s early demise and your gun not working.
It is highly recommended you DO NOT use a spent case in the chamber. This will not give the firing pin any kind of cushion for the blow. One very good option is a Snap Cap, which is designed for this exact purpose. An alternative is putting a small rubber o-ring in the hammer channel on the back of the slide so the hammer doesn’t hit the firing pin at all. I bought a pack of different sized o-rings at a hardware store for less than three dollars since I was already there for something else.
Just have to remember to remove it before trying to actually make a round go off or else your gun will click instead of bang and you will be laughed at. Ask me how I know.
These two gun types are very different. A Glock 34 or a 17 might have been a better comparison, but I went with what I have and the Glock 19 is the most popular model ever so it’s statistically more likely you, dear reader, have a Glock 19. The differences are not insurmountable but there is a learning curve. I think it is absolutely worth it so have a SA/DA gun in your arsenal, if for no other reason it gives you something different to shoot