CZ 75 SP-01 Phantom: More than You’ll ever Need, but Why Not?
CZ stands for Ceska Zbrojovka, which should have accents over the “c,” and both “a’s” and which translates to “Czech Armory.” It was founded back in 1936 in what was then known as the Czechoslovak Republic and before that as Bohemia, and you know about that country because as a child you read Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story, A Scandal in Bohemia.
The Czech Republic, as it is called now, is an eastern European land that speaks a western Slavic language, and it has as bloody a past as all the Baltic and eastern European nations. Different tribes and different peoples swept through none too gently in pre- and early-historical times: the Romans briefly called it their own, followed by various Germanic tribes, who were followed in turn by various Slavic tribes. During the Middle Ages, any number of ruthless dukes and kings with sometimes strong and sometimes tenuous attachments to a plethora of European countries proclaimed themselves rulers. The Holy Roman Empire, the Hapsburg dynasty, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, all played keep-away with that part of the world. More recently, different modern countries have claimed its territory, in part because of differing population groups (primarily German, Hungarian and Polish), so you can see why, after several thousand years of fairly continuous warfare, the Czech people might know a thing or two about fighting and making weapons.
Nineteen-thirty-six was a bad year to found a gun company in that neck of the woods, what with Adolph Hitler strutting around flexing his moustache and abusing his vocal cords and no one, Great Britain’s Neville Chamberlain least of all, daring to stand up to him. Hitler used the so-called “Munich Agreement” of 1938 to annex the primarily German-speaking part of the Czechoslovak Republic, and promptly occupied most of the rest. Poland annexed some, and Hungary helped itself to another portion. No one bothered to consult the Czech people.
Fortunately, what is now known as the Czech Republic escaped the worst of the Nazi’s malignancy, with the result that there are still some magically beautiful cities and towns nestled in what a friend of mine—who has been there—calls some of the most beautiful country he has ever seen.
According to Robb Manning, author of The Gun Digest Book of CZ Firearms, guns have been made in that neck of the woods since the 1370’s. Also according to him, the Czechs were some of the first arms manufacturers to standardize parts for mass production, starting shortly after World War One.
Living in a mineral-rich land, the Czech people today make and export a surprising number of products for such a small area (about the size of South Carolina, with roughly twice the population), including Brno Rifles and Shotguns (Brno is a subsidiary of CZ), electronics, exquisite porcelain and crystal, automobiles, and a bunch of other stuff including one of the finest beers made anywhere in the world, Pilsner Urquell, to be enjoyed only after all the guns are cleaned and put away.
Internationally, CZ firearms are, according to CZ-USA, carried by more law enforcement and military units than any other firearms manufacturer, and that might explain why it is not always easy to get your hands on some models in this country. They are imported to America, and CZ-USA ( http://cz-usa.com ), based in Kansas City, KS, offers a full line-up of their products, but either because of small import numbers, or due to high demand, or both, you may have trouble finding the model you want in your local gun store. At least, I’ve been trying to get my hands on a sub-compact 2075 RAMI BD for several years and the only one I have ever actually laid eyes upon was the personal sidearm of a gun store employee I happened to run into at a gun show who wasn’t about to let it go.
That “full line-up” carried by CZ-USA includes a dazzling number of products: military-and-law-enforcement-only weapons; high-end and highly customized models of the M1911, including “race” or competition versions; large format pistols down to sub-compact carry guns; a single massive .357 revolver; and hunting rifles and shotguns in both semi-auto and O/U.
If you ever meet anyone who owns a CZ firearm (and your luck is bound to run out someday) prepare to be cornered like the bridegroom’s guest in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and be told what you’re missing, how superior they are to all other firearms, and to be regaled with technical and anecdotal data until your ears are numb. CZ aficionados are…devoted. That’s word I was groping for. There’s a good reason for that. The simplest way to explain it is to paraphrase a friend of mine, a retired range instructor for the California Highway Patrol who has forgotten more about guns than I’ll ever know. His assessment of CZ?
“The CZ 75 is the finest semi-auto pistol made.” Period. End of sentence.
Hard to argue with that.
CZ-USA recently sent me their CZ 75 SP-01 Phantom to test, something I was greatly looking forward to. Remember A Christmas Story? Remember Ralphie tearing open the package that held his coveted Red Ryder BB gun? That was me opening the case with the CZ 75 SP-01 Phantom. And like Ralphie, I was not disappointed. It is a beautifully designed and made tool.
The original 75, CZ’s flagship handgun, was designed in 1974, introduced in 1975 and put into production in 1976, but because of the iron curtain it was unavailable and largely unknown in the West. Still offered, over one million of the original model have been produced and at least that many more rip-offs of varying degrees of quality in other countries.
The primary difference between the original 75 and the later 75 SP-01, is a firing-pin-safety block; secondary are some subtle improvements, primarily to the frame: an extended beavertail and a Picatinny rail. Competitors and enthusiasts claim the firing-pin-block safety does not allow the trigger to be made as smooth and crisp, but I was very impressed with the trigger on the Phantom. Men and women in the military or law enforcement for whom the gun was intended, who carry the gun daily under demanding circumstances, doubtless prefer the additional safety feature.
At a glance, the 75 looks similar to a Browning Hi-Power and it does use some Browning features, but the designers of the 75 happily stole from other makers as well. The side rails, for example, fit inside the lower half of the frame, resulting in a lower bore axis, a feature stolen from the SIG P210
The CZ 75 SP-01 Phantom is a variant of the SP-01 Tactical, which was intended for military and anti-terrorist use, though it seems now to have been co-opted by competitive shooters. The Phantom is essentially the exact same thing only with a polymer frame that weighs 29.4 ounces, slightly over eleven ounces less than the redoubtable 40.5 ounce all-steel Tactical. You can see why the Phantom is the current sidearm of the Czech Army: mere ounces may sound insignificant, but those who carry or have carried a sidearm daily will understand and appreciate the absence of that extra weight. The Phantom also has different grips and a checkered front strap, interchangeable backstraps for different hand sizes, a slightly more squared off trigger guard, and a longer Picatinny rail. Both guns have a lanyard loop and de-cocking lever.
The Phantom comes in 9mm only, with two 18+1 magazines, and if you—like me—have small hands that do not like fat, double-stack magazines, you can rejoice: the ergonomics of the CZ 75 are more reminiscent of an M1911 than anything I can think of, with an almost comparably narrow grip. The trigger mechanism is DA/SA, and the initial DA pull is deliberately both long and robust (approximately 12-15 pounds; my Timney scale only goes to ten pounds), negating the need for a safety, but also exceptionally smooth. The five-pound (by my scale) SA pull is clean, crisp and precise. Reset is clear and distinctly felt.
Since the Phantom is considered a carry gun, the very first rounds I shot through it were double-taps—or as it’s called in more politically correct circles, “controlled pairs”—at fifteen yards. I opted to do that partly because it’s a quick way to get a feel for the gun (meaning how my eyes are able to follow the front sight, how much recoil there is, how much muzzle flip, what the trigger pull is like, is it sensitive to a weak hand or “limp wrist,” are there any mechanical issues, how distinct the reset is, and so on) and partly because I’m trying to improve my shooting, specifically my ability to accurately and quickly fire controlled pairs and I need all the practice I can get.
What I was not prepared for was the accuracy of the thing. Holy moly, baby, it is an accurate handgun! A 4.6-inch barrel helps, but I’ve shot handguns with longer barrels that weren’t as shooter friendly, and it is that ergonomic factor, as much as the excellent manufacturing, that makes it so good. Very few, if any, shooters ever live up to the accuracy potential of their handguns, and unless you’re good enough to compete in the Bianchi Cup or an IPSC tournament, you’re not likely to ever shoot up to the level of this pistol.
Realistically, despite its light weight, its size precludes it as a concealed carry gun, at least for those of us who wear normal clothes. On the other hand, as a home defense weapon, it is about as perfect as a gun can be. Not only is it comfortable, but more importantly it is fun to shoot and if you’re having fun, you’ll practice.
The only negative thing I can say about the Phantom is that the light weight does mean there is a certain amount of muzzle flip, especially with heavier bullet weights. I suspect that the young men and women of the Czech Army are considerably less sensitive to this than a decrepit old wreck with arthritic hands, but it is something to be aware of.
There are four paramount qualities to keep in mind when considering any firearm, especially a firearm intended for personal defense: ergonomics, reliability, accuracy, and price.
The ergonomics of the CZ SP-01 Phantom are as close to an M1911 as it is possible for any double-stack 9mm to get, let alone a “wonder nine” capable of holding 18+1. That’s another way of saying they are close to perfection as it is possible for a handgun to get, not that I have a fondness for the M1911 or anything like that.
Most handgun malfunctions come early on during the break-in process or are the result of bad ammo. I put six- or seven-hundred rounds of at least four different brands of ammo with different bullet weights (mostly 115- and 125-grain) and different bullet configurations (mostly full metal jacket, but some hollow point) through the Phantom without ever bothering to clean it and never had a single malfunction.
As for accuracy, you will never shoot up to the level of this gun, but beyond that, it is worth reiterating how exceptionally accurate it is. Using my shooting bag as a make-shift rest, at 25-yards I got a 2&¾-inch group. If I can do that, you can do better.
The MSRP for the Phantom is $636.00. It is worth more.
Do you need a pistol as accurate as the CZ 75 SP-01? Oh, please. I don’t need a Lebeau Courally shotgun either, but when I win the Super Lotto, just try and stop me.