In a world where there’s always a new polymer-framed pistol being introduced, steel-framed pistols might seem a bit old school—but not obsolete, or the venerable Model 1911 would have been long gone by now. Besides, a gun made with steel will last several lifetimes, and that multigenerational longevity will never go out of style. CZ-USA has introduced several new, innovative products to the American market in recent years, including a few metal-framed pistols that improve on the time-honored and often-imitated design of the original CZ 75. One of these modernized renditions of the Czech classic is the SP-01 Tactical Urban Gray Suppressor-Ready, and I recently got my hands on this particular model for testing.
The CZ 75 SP-01 Tactical Urban Gray Suppressor-Ready is a full-sized, Czech-made pistol that uses a locked-breech design similar to that of the Browning Hi-Power. The pistol feeds from a double-column, single-feed magazine, and it ships with two 18-round magazines. The barrel is cold-hammer forged and features 5/8×24 threads at the muzzle that, paired with the slide’s high-profile sights, make the pistol “suppressor ready.” Every major handgun maker sells a pistol with a threaded barrel, but not many offer them equipped with suppressor-height sights. Including them on the SP-01 Tactical creates value because it saves you at least $100 for new night sights, plus the cost of installation.
The pistol has a cast-steel frame while the slide is made from a steel billet. All together, it’s 8.8 inches long, 6.1 inches tall and weighs 41.6 ounces unloaded. The pistol is also decked in CZ’s urban gray polycoat finish, which is a proprietary mix of gray and Flat Dark Earth powder-coat paint applied over a phosphate finish for added protection against the elements if the outer surface wears off.
The SP-01 Tactical is also a double-action/single- action (DA/SA) design with an ambidextrous “live-hammer” decocker. Of course, this means the first shot is in DA mode while successive rounds are fired in SA mode. Live-hammer decocking mechanisms let the trigger engage the hammer (and fire the pistol in DA mode) after the hammer is decocked. Sig Sauer pistols use live-hammer decockers. In contrast, “dead-hammer” decockers lower the hammer and also “safe” the weapon by disengaging the hammer from the trigger. The Beretta 92FS and Smith & Wesson Model 59 use dead-hammer decockers. Decocking the SP-01 Tactical drops the hammer to a half-cock notch, yet the pistol can still be fired in DA mode with a lighter trigger pull compared to firing with the hammer fully forward.
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Comfort and fit are significant factors in shooting a handgun well, and the original CZ 75 is well-known for having a grip frame that fits many shooters. The SP-01 Tactical incorporates a few improvements, including an extended beavertail, a grip that allows for a deeper hold, and partially checkered front- and backstraps. The grip panels are also better contoured to fit the hand, and they’re made of rubber, not plastic, for a better feel. The SP-01 Tactical is the only pistol in the new CZ 75 series that has a full-length frame with a dust-cover Picatinny rail, which puts a bit more weight in front to help reduce muzzle rise. That might be one reason why this model was chosen for competition by world champion shooters Adam Tyc and Angus Hobdell.
The SP-01 Tactical’s ergonomics are very good. The gun points well, and the slide and magazine releases were reachable even while wearing moderately thick gloves, though I would have preferred a slightly wider slide release lever to make reaching it with my thumb easier. The Rowell-type hammer has deep serrations and is readily cocked with the firing-hand thumb. The ambidextrous decocker can also be reached with the thumb of your firing hand. It’s easy to activate but requires a change of grip because the lever moves into contact with the trigger finger. However, It’s fair to say that you typically only decock a pistol after the fight is won, so maintaining your firing grip is not critically important after decocking before holstering.
The 18-round magazines loaded easily until the final two rounds, and fully loaded magazines could be inserted into the pistol with only moderate force with the slide locked. That’s important for tactical reloads and is not as universal a feature as you might expect. It’s almost impossible to load full magazines into some pistols with the slide forward.
Dead Air’s new Ghost-M is an interesting, versatile and well-made suppressor. Multi-caliber and modular, it can be used on various firearms, which saves a lot of NFA wait time and money compared to buying a suppressor for each gun. Dead Air makes 12 pistons and fixed mounts for the Ghost-M so buyers can use it on various pistols and carbines, with a full-auto rating for some cartridges. Modular designs where the unit’s length can be changed—longer for maximum sound suppression versus shorter to save space—have become more popular, as have multi-caliber suppressors, some with smaller end caps for use with smaller calibers.
The Ghost-M has a .45-caliber bore diameter and is rated for cartridges with pressures that don’t exceed that of the 10mm and subsonic 300 Blackout. Using the Ghost-M on calibers with diameters smaller than 0.45 inches is less efficient for sound reduction, and the company doesn’t yet make smaller-caliber end caps. However, the included rubber wipes partially solve this by acting as a caliber-specific end cap.
The Ghost-M has a standard length of 8.75 inches (12 ounces) and a shortened length of 6.2 inches (9.6 ounces). It features a 1.38-inch-diameter titanium tube, 17-4 stainless primary and end-cap baffles, and 7075-T6 aluminum secondary baffles. Disassembly for servicing is easy using a supplied wrench, though suppressors reduce sound better with some carbon buildup on the baffles. The manual says you can shoot up to 1,000 rounds before cleaning the baffles, and many sealed-unit cans (except those for rimfires) are never cleaned. The Ghost-M comes with a Nomex sleeve for removal when hot—something rarely included with pistol suppressors.
The Czech Connection
The SP-01 Tactical was easy to shoot well and is accurate for its intended use as a tactical sidearm or for action pistol competitions. The best five-round group—shot from a Caldwell rest at 25 yards—was 0.98 inches using Freedom Munitions’ new 124-grain FMJs, followed by 1.15 inches for Winchester’s 115-grain FMJs and 1.73 inches for Sig Sauer’s 124-grain JHPs. The Winchester groups tended to have four shots within 1.5 inches and then a flyer would spoil the group and increase the average.
Like all CZ firearms, the SP-01 Tactical comes from the factory with a five-round test target shot at 25 meters from a benchrest. CZ does this to validate the sights. Along with firing a high-pressure proof load (required in most of Europe), this is an important quality-control step that some makers don’t take.
The Sig load outperformed the others with an average group size of 1.98 inches. The Sig ammo’s average velocity was also 119 fps higher than the comparable-bullet-weight Freedom Munitions practice load, which is expected for defensive loads. It should be noted that the pistol would have performed better had lighting conditions been consistently overcast, because the bright sunlight reflected off the sights, making alignment difficult. Some loads shot 1.5 to 2.5 inches higher than the point of aim, but no windage adjustments were necessary. CZ sells replacement rear sights for changing elevation to sight-in various loads. The rear sight also drifts easily by loosening a setscrew if you need to adjust it.
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The trigger was good in both SA and DA modes, which contributed to its overall ease of shooting. The SA pull weight averaged 4.75 pounds according to a Lyman digital trigger pull gauge, with a break stage of just 2.1 pounds. The SA break didn’t have the sudden “snap” of a 1911, but it was smooth and a bit longer, with a release feeling like a gentle roll-off. The DA trigger pull weighed about 13 pounds but felt much lighter.
Though target and competitive shooting is typically done in SA mode, accurate DA fire is critical for defensive use because the first shot is the most important. Many shooters are driven to polymer-framed, striker-fired pistols with shorter, lighter triggers because they often pull the first shot low due to the longer, heavier DA trigger pull. Pulling a low shot is much less likely with the CZ, however, because its trigger travel is smooth and feels light, and the shape of the grip keeps the sights on target.
To see how easily the sights stayed true to aim, I fired one round in DA mode, decocked the hammer and repeated the drill. This exercise demonstrated that the SP-01 excels at DA fire, as bullets consistently hit the point of aim at 15 yards, even when firing moderately rapidly.
With the standard-length Ghost-M suppressor attached, the SP-01 Tactical is about 17.5 inches long and weighs 3.4 pounds. Still, the pistol didn’t seem ungainly because of its comfortable, well-shaped grip, and the Ghost-M is relatively light. I particularly liked the high-profile night sights because they were tall enough to provide an unobstructed sight picture while making it easier to rack the slide. Also, if one hand is incapacitated in a fight, the squared-off front sight works well for emergency racking by catching it on a hard surface.
I shot the Ghost-M dry with standard and short configurations. The gun and suppressor performed perfectly, even when I intentionally limp-wristed the pistol. More impressively, there wasn’t much of a point-of-impact shift in either configuration, even after removing and reinstalling the suppressor. That’s exceptional performance because most suppressors significantly change a firearm’s point of impact. Moreover, groups fired off-hand at 18 yards were significantly tighter on average when using the Ghost-M because it dampened recoil and helped add weight up front. Dead Air rates the Ghost-M’s dry, wipe-less sound reduction at 34.6 decibels for the standard configuration with 9mm ammo. That’s an impressive reduction, especially considering its larger bore diameter.
The SP-01 Tactical Urban Gray Suppressor-Ready is a considerably upgraded CZ 75 with features and a capacity that set it above an increasing field of pistols equipped with threaded barrels but not suppressor-height sights, requiring an additional investment. This pistol also shoots so well in DA mode that folks seeking the added safety of a DA/SA pistol—but who might have previously chosen a constant-trigger-pull pistol because of its “easier trigger”—should definitely give this CZ a look.
CZ 75 SP-01 Tactical Urban Gray Suppressor-Ready Specs
|Barrel: 5.21 inches|
|OA Length: 8.8 inches|
|Weight: 41.6 ounces (empty)|
|Sights: High tritium three-dot|
|Finish: Urban gray, black|
For more information, visit cz-usa.com.
This article was originally published in “Tactical Weapons” November/December 2017. To order a copy and subscribe, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.