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Review: TriStar C-100 Is Reliable and Inexpensive

by James Tarr   |  July 25th, 2012 20

The C-100 is imported from Turkey by TriStar, and is an inexpensive clone of the CZ-75 Compact with a lightweight frame.

When I first started carrying a gun regularly, I was of the opinion that if it wasn’t a .45 ACP, it was crap. Only idiots would carry a 9mm when such a thing as the .45 ACP was available. “Big heavy bullets let in a lot of air and let out a lot of blood” is a quote that I think comes from Elmer Keith, and I lived it.


And why carry anything other than a single action 1911? The trigger design of John Browning’s biggest success provides the shortest, lightest, crispest trigger pull of any other pistol on the market designed for self-defense.


Well….I’m a lot older now. While I still believe that the .45 ACP sets the handgun cartridge self-defense performance standard against which all others should be judged, and the single action 1911 trigger is the easiest to shoot fast and accurately, I have realized that bullet placement is much more important than caliber, and the gun you have on you is the best one in the world if something happens.


While smaller than a full-size CZ-75, the grip of the C-100 is big enough for just about everybody to get all their fingers on. It is not, however, a pocket gun but rather a medium-small belt gun.

My moderated position on carry guns has been recently reinforced by two events in the media. The first occurred in early July when two thugs, one armed with a pistol, the other with a baseball bat, entered an internet café in Florida with the attempt to rob the patrons. 71-year-old Samuel Williams was there with his wife, and as soon as the wildly waving gun of the one perpetrator was not pointing at him, Williams drew what is reported as being a .380 semi-auto, advanced, and started shooting.


Say what you want about the lack of stopping power of the .380, I consider his pistol to have effectively stopped two criminals with one shot, because as soon as Williams fired the first shot both the armed robbers realized they had urgent business elsewhere and fell over each other running out of there.


The second incident was the tragic Aurora, Colorado, movie theater mass shooting. If even one theater patron had been armed with even a .22 short, the body count may have been much lower. We’ll never know.


Any gun, as long as it is reliable, is a good gun to have on you. I know many shooters and gun writers who are very snobby when it comes to inexpensive guns, but my opinion is that as long as “Brand X” is reliable, every other concern is secondary. A lot of people carry inexpensive guns, and inexpensive guns have saved a lot of lives.


I just had an opportunity to test a C-100, imported by TriStar Arms from Turkey. This is an inexpensive compact CZ-75 clone with a 13+1 capacity in 9mm. What’s the most (and perhaps only) important question?—was it reliable. Yes.

Offered in all blue, all chromed, or this two-tone version, the C-100 from TriStar holds 13+1 rounds of 9mm and comes complete with 2 magazines.

The gun was completely reliable, reasonably accurate and comfortable to shoot, and I could end this article right here and fill the remaining space with pictures just so you know what it looks like, because once shooters get past the reliability issue, looks become important, as do features such as specific sights, magazine capacity, safeties, etc.


For those of you still reading, here’s the lowdown on the C-100. This pistol is based on the proven CZ-75 design. It seems like every European gun manufacturer makes a CZ-75 clone. If this seems weird to you, remember that we have the same thing going on in this country with the 1911.


The full-size original CZ-75 had a 15+1 capacity and a 4 3/4-inch barrel. The C-100 is a compact version of that design with a 13+1 capacity and a 3.9” barrel. Reportedly it has a steel alloy frame, but it feels so light I had to double-check with the manufacturer that it didn’t have an aluminum frame. With the top end off the frame only weighs 9 ounces. The whole gun empty tips the scales at 23 ounces.


The CZ design has stayed popular because of the very comfortable grip, and the fact that it has such a low bore that it’s comfortable to shoot. Not only that, the pistol has a manual safety which allows the pistol to be carried cocked and locked—chamber loaded, hammer back, safety on, just like a 1911.

Between the size of the grip and the low bore, the C-100 was comfortable to shoot and more than accurate enough.

The thumb safety of the C-100 was stiff and small enough that deactivating it under stress might be a bit iffy, but the beauty of the CZ design is that it is a DA/SA auto, and those of you who prefer a double-action first shot over carrying a gun with a cocked hammer can do so.


Trigger pull was heavy—12 pounds double action and 4 3/4 lbs single action. The DA trigger pull is not long, and breaks a little sooner than you’re expecting, but if you have small hands the reach to the trigger might be a bit of a stretch. The trigger is wide and serrated.


The frame of the C-100 is long enough for most people to get their whole hand on the gun. I don’t consider this a pocket gun by any means, but rather a medium to small belt gun. The grips are checkered black plastic. Because it has a large grip, and a low bore, the C-100 is comfortable to shoot even with full-power ammunition.


The top of the slide is serrated, and the pistol comes with 3-dot sights. The dots were light green instead of white, and on a hunch I hit the dots with a flashlight and then headed into a windowless room—yep, they were luminous paint, and glow for a while (pretty brightly) after being hit with bright light. The matte chroming on the slide of my pistol was functional, but not that pretty, but the frame was very cleanly made with no marks on the outside and minimal machining marks inside.


The C-100 is supplied with two magazines made by Mec-Gar. Mec-Gar makes magazines for more gun companies than you would believe, they are a huge OEM supplier to major gun companies, so I wasn’t surprised when they were reliable. The C-100 takes standard Compact CZ magazines so you shouldn’t have trouble tracking more down.


TriStar offers three versions of the C-100: an all blued version, an all-hardchromed version, and a two-tone model (which is what I had). MSRPs range from $429 to $449, which means you’ll probably see them for sale under $400. Not a bad deal at all for a proven, reliable design.



Type: DA/SA 9mm
Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 13+1
Barrel: 3.95”
Overall length: 7.0”
Height: 5.0”
Weight: 23 oz.
Finish: blued frame, hardchromed slide (as tested)
Sights: 3 luminous dots
Trigger: 12 lbs DA, 4 ¾ lbs SA (as tested)
Accessories: 2 13-round magazines, bore brush, case
Price: $439.00 (as tested)
Distributor: TriStar Arms; 816-421-1400


TriStar Arms C-100

115-gr. Hornady FTX,   AVG. VEL: 1108,  SD: 9,   GROUP (in.): 2.7
115-Black Hills JHP,    AVG. VEL: 1090,   SD: 16, GROUP (in.): 2.8
115-gr. Wolf FMJ,         AVG. VEL: 1136,     SD: 26, GROUP (in.): 2.9
125-gr. Hornady HAP,  AVG VEL: 1078,    SD: 8,  GROUP (in.): 2.7
Accuracy results are the averages of four five-shot groups at 25 yards from a sandbag rest. Velocities are averages of 10 shots measured with an Oehler Model 35P chronograph 12 feet from the muzzle.

  • strayer99

    looks like another incarnation of the cz…
    remains to be seen if it is as reliable as the cz.

    • Friar203

      Did you even read the article, Captain Obvious?

  • Doug

    Yeah really dude. Read the article first is always best. Yes it is a clone of the CZ-75. Reliablity I suspect would be about the same given the mostly identical design. May have to get one and fine out for myself though.

  • mrlizzzard

    I bought one,metal frame for the money hard to beat.

  • Joseph holloway

    I just fit the Stingray-C which appears to be identical. My gun has a stainless barrel and the whole gun is black. I didn't even want another handgun but while buying a Chinese mosin I was playing with it and I had to go back and buy it of course. We put 50 rounds through it last night. Very accurate and it fits my hand perfect. I tried the real cz75 mag 15 rounder and it locked right in just sticking out a bit. $395 and this pistol is golden. I like my 45 XD but 26 rounds of 9mm HP is nasty as well. If you don't want to she'll out a grand for a real CZ get this pistol.


      I can get a CZ-75B for $469.

  • Mouse

    After seeing a few glowing reviews of the Tristar C-100, I saw one on sale at Academy for $300 and decided to try it out. I have only put 100 rounds through it, but was really impressed with the feel and accuracy. All I did before shooting it was take it down to make sure it was oiled well (boy, was it ever). Unless something changes, this is my new favorite handgun. That honor previously belonged to my Ruger SR9, but the Tristar feels like a better made pistol and is accurate as all get-out.

  • Mouse

    BTW, taking the C-100 down was a new experience for me, having to hold the notches on the frame and slide in alignment, while pushing out the take-down pin/slide lock. It took me a few tries to master that process. I guess CZ owners all know how to do this. Interestingly, the magazines that came with my Tristar hold 15 rounds, not 13, and I shot all 15 out of it at the range with no issues. 15+1 is better than 13+1 any day, and this is great pistol. Also, I cannot believe how light the alloy frame is.

  • Tex

    To mouse. Finally i had been reading article after article i thought my tri star came out defective because my clips hold 15+1 so far it has been very reliable no miss fires or jams knock on wood am wondering were i can get a cw holster that fits or if anybody knows were i can get a tac laser for this gun?


    I saw the 'steel alloy' spec on the Tristar website also. Because of the weight, figured that can't be right. A magnet won't stick to the frame so if it's 'steel alloy' it's some newfangled kind of non-ferrous 'steel alloy' (AKA aluminum). I'm fine with the aluminum, but for the importer (and the writer) to not know this raises my eyebrows. Full size CZ mags fit. Compact TZ-75 (Tanfoglio) mags don't (too short). Desantis makes a multi-fit IWB clip on holster that works OK. Little bit loose, about 1/2" too long. If your gut doesn't hang over too far, and you're reasonably long in the waist, IWB works OK. Any CZ (or probably Browning HP) Yaqui slide style should work. A real bargain at any rate.

  • DrStoooopid

    The C-100 is now shipping with 15 round magazines. I bought one from Academy last week for $299. (15rd Mec-Gars)

    Make the clerk check before you complete the purchase, so you're sure you're getting 15rd magazines. Last 2 rounds are pretty tight, but they're definitely 15rd'ers)

  • RonWolf

    I just bought C-100 last night @ Academy, $299, my question is what holster will work with it?

  • Joseph Holloway

    The GunMate IWB holster fits my CZ clone perfectly I found it in Sheels for 9.99.
    Large Frame Pistol Up to 4" #21310 Size 10 Right Hand Only The material is a black super thin stretchy Poly affair The clip that attaches to your belt will never slip off. It is a chore to remove it The gun fits SNUGLY It is very comfortable I have wore it for over a week now concealed with a jacket and also with just a LEO black synthetic polo/T-Shirt if I am in a warm room. January in North Dakota usually warrants warm dress . This holster reminds me of my leather Galco that I carry my XDS in The nice thing about the leather is that the gun will form fit to the holster as time goes on. That will never happen with the Gunmate BUT the Gunmate will fit many more guns because of the stretch material I doubt I will bother looking any further for a better holster

  • Bayman

    I have several 9mm's that I use in Action Pistol competition… While I prefer the XDm or Glock type action, my CZ-75B is always a pleasure to shoot. It fits my hand great, and recoil is very easy with its lower bore center. The only reason I don't shoot it more, is the fraction of a second it takes to flip the safety off, vs the "no thinking required" Glock/XDm actioin… anyway, the C-100 looks like an exact clone, and should be a great gun.

  • Frank Pope

    The manual says the magazines are 13 rounds. The magazines and experience say otherwise. It holds 15 rounds.

  • Rhino

    I just went to Academy, and the c-100 now has a full size ( little longer barrel and frame) that says it holds 17+1 they want $349 for it and I'm going to get one. The CZ-75 is to Europe what the 1911 is to us. The full size looks like a winner, and 3/4" of barrel never hurts accuracy, and I'm 6'4" so it won't bother me carrying it. I'll let ya know how it works out.

  • Buck Master

    C100 @ Academy 329.99-all on Academy gft cards.

  • Frank

    People, CZ doesn’t make the best of their design, just like Colt doesn’t either. Do not look past these guns if you like the design of them. They are awesome, more refined than CZ and Cerakoted so the coating is very very durable.

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