Back in the 1960s and ’70S, if you wanted a reliable high-capacity 9mm, one of the few choices was the CZ 75, with its distinctive humpbacked grip. The late Jeff Cooper loved the way the pistol felt in the hand, and he styled the grip of his legendary Bren Ten after it.
The 75’s design remained unchanged for many years until Angus Hobdell became the first professional shooter to use a CZ in competition. He used a standard CZ 75 at first, with good results, but shortly thereafter the CZ 75 SP-01 was introduced, and he began competing with that.
The main visible difference was the thick dustcover with its tactical rails on the SP-01, adding a lot of weight to the gun exactly where it would do the most good in reducing felt recoil and muzzle flip. Many competitive shooters naturally assumed CZ had altered the pistol to Angus’ specifications. Not so.
“The people who think I designed it just don’t know how European companies work,” Angus explained. “They take two years to do anything. The only reason the SP-01 exists is that a Special Forces unit wanted CZ 75s with a tactical rail on the front and was willing to buy 750 units.”
While the SP-01 is a result of the spec-ops community and not a professional shooter, the same cannot be said for the CZ SP-01 Shadow. It was adapted from the original according to input from Team CZ shooters Angus Hobdell and Adam Tyc, as well as suggestions from law enforcement, military and police worldwide.
|Manufacturer:||CZ-USA Custom Shop, (480) 969-1311|
|Model:||CZ 75 SP-01 Shadow|
|Barrel Length:||4.7 inches|
|Overall Length:||8.1 inches|
|Sights:||red fiber-optic front; fixed no-snag rear|
|Stocks:||synthetic (as tested); other styles available|
|Trigger:||double-action, 8.5 lb.; single-action, 3.5 lb.|
|Safety:||manual thumb safety; safety stop on hammer|
The Shadow is available only through CZ Custom, which is the factory custom shop for CZ products in the States and is run by Hobdell. The pistol features, among other things, new sights and an improved trigger pull over the SP-01. The latter is due to a lighter hammer spring and removal of the firing pin block safety. In fact, the CZ SP-01 Shadow has one of the nicest double-action trigger pulls I’ve ever felt on a factory gun.
Some makers over-spring guns to work clean or dirty with any kind of ammo for the life of the gun. The competition-inspired SP-01 Shadow is actually a pleasure to shoot, with a long, smooth 8 1⁄2-pound double-action pull that won’t give you carpal tunnel syndrome. The single-action pull broke at 3 1⁄2 pounds with just a little bit of creep.
I shot the Shadow at several local USPSA matches and learned pretty quickly why it is the winningest gun in IPSC Standard Division around the world: The pistol is reliable, has an extended mag release, low recoil (due in part to the checkered front- and backstrap) and excellent sights.
The pistol was perfectly reliable with every kind of ammo except CCI Blazer. The CZ had some extraction issues with the aluminum cases of the Blazer, but I have yet to find a pistol that doesn’t, to one degree or another. The aluminum just tends to stick in chambers more than brass or steel. It’s great for practice; I just avoid it when there’s a timer involved.
The provided grips on the Shadow are black rubber with a slightly tacky feel that provide a good grip. The CZ’s grip is not large (even with the thicker rubber grips it’s only slightly larger than a Glock 17), but many competition shooters prefer harder and/or smaller grip panels, so CZ Custom offers thin and thick aluminum grip panels—either smooth, checkered or with grip tape inlays.
While the changes to and, in my opinion, improvement of the SP-01 with the Shadow are inspired in part by competition shooters, that is not to say the Shadow is not suited to real-world use. The SP-01 was, remember, originally designed at the behest of a special forces unit.
While it is not a small pistol, it weighs no more than a standard 1911, is a time-tested and reliable design, holds 19+1 rounds, can mount a flashlight and can be carried cocked and locked. What’s not to like?
CZ 75 SP-01 SHADOW
|Load||Bullet Weight (grs.)||Avg. Velocity (fps)||Standard Deviation (fps)||Avg. Accuracy(ins.)|
|CCI Blazer FMJ||115||1,182||12||2.7|
|Black Hills FMJ||124||1,160||15||3.1|
|Notes:Accuracy results are averages of five five-shot groups at 25 yards off a sandbag rest. Velocities are averages of three shots measured on an F-1 Alpha chronograph set 12 feet from the muzzle. Abbreviations: FMJ, full metal jacket; JHP, jacketed hollowpoint.|