The SP-01 line of CZ pistols is the pinnacle of evolution of the platform. I won’t hesitate to say the the CZ SP-01 pistols are among the best factory production models of any pistol available today. Not just the best at its price point, but best overall. For out of box performance, you’re going to be hard pressed to find better accuracy, handling, and reliability from a factory offering. Sure you can probably use custom modifications to build a more accurate and action-tuned pistol, but you’re going into $1,200-plus SIG and Beretta territory. There are also some aftermarket custom modified CZ SP-01s available, but for today’s review, I’m looking at the base model CZ SP-01 Tactical in 9mm.
A distinctive feature of the the CZ platform is how the slide rides within the frame instead of sliding over top of it. This reduces the amount of slide mass, and helps lower the bore axis, giving the hammer fired pistol a comparably low bore axis compared to many striker fired pistols.
The capacity is reasonable, with 17 rounds of 9mm sat in flush-fitting magazines and 19 rounds in factory-extended magazines.
There are a few miscellaneous features I want to mention before field stripping the pistol. The trigger guard is rounded off at the bottom for easier shooting with gloves. The long beavertail allows your hand to get more secure contact with the gun when gripping higher. There is checkering on the front of the frame. The magazine release is reversible for left-handed operation. The factory grips are stiff rubber. They have reliefs cut for your thumbs, they have just the right amount of texturing for secure gripping without being abrasive, and they are slightly rounded to fill my hand nicely on the the shooting hand, allowing for comfortable trigger reach even in double action and allowing for a straight-back finger pad squeeze. There are aftermarket options for replacement grips if you need a different size to fit your hands.
The first time you shoot this gun, you’ll develop an instant love affair. The gun has fantastic balance and stability from shot-to-shot, due largely to its heavy but well-distributed weight. Most polymer-framed pistols have recoil that feels like giving an enthusiastic high five; the CZ SP-01’s recoil feels, at its worst, like a friendly handshake. Even new shooters can find themselves becoming more proficient with every shot- you’ll reach new personal accuracy and speed benchmarks without even trying. This is a gun that you can shoot for hundreds of rounds on end without wearing out or getting sloppy, due to how well it handles. I do feel that it’s a little slower to get on target than similar-size polymer framed pistols, but once you get on target, it’s easy to stay on target.
For practical uses, you can’t ask for a more reliable pistol. The SP-01 was built using the manufacturing processes that allowed the compact P-01 to pass the 30,000 round Czech Police and NATO certification torture test.
The gun will cycle all factory loads right out of the box, and we have had no malfunctions with more than 500 rounds of economy-grade ammunition. However, since the gun is built using NATO specification pressure ammunition, and seeing how CZ’s primary market is law enforcement and military, the recoil spring in CZ pistols comes from the factory a little heavier than many other manufacturers’ recoil spring to deal with the higher power ammunition they shoot. As such, the force of the slide returning to battery when shooting economy grade ammunition is a little too aggressive, and if it were my personal gun, I would use a reduced power recoil spring for range sessions and competitions.
For most prospective owners, the primary reason to purchase this gun would be for home defense or as an out-of-the box tactical competition ready pistol. The gun’s size makes and weight make it too uncomfortable as a carry option. In the Czech Republic, a lot of law enforcement agencies still use full-size CZs as their duty weapon. In the United States, though, law enforcement favors lighter weight pistols, because you have so much more stuff to carry. Officers can find a better use for the extra 11 ounces a CZ would weigh over a Glock 17.
There is a very dedicated competition community that works on modifying the CZ platform, so there is no shortage of resources and parts available for tuning your gun’s performance. If you even think there is as little as 10% chance that you would tune the pistol’s action or do a trigger job, then I would buy the safety model instead of the decocker model, because there are more upgrade kits available for the safety model. In my P-09, I’ve already tuned the action with a Cajun Gun Works short reset kit, extended firing pin, and competition hammer, so it just goes to show that even the average enthusiast can perform CZ action upgrades with only a little research. However, I think this particular CZ will remain unmodified because it’s not my personal gun.
This gun is not going to be a perfect fit for everyone. Some shooters will dislike how the slide is more difficult to rack due to how thin it is. Some will dislike the weight. Some will simply have a preference for striker-fired pistols. However, there is very little this pistol cannot accomplish if the shooter is dedicated. The only limiting factor to this pistol's performance is the person squeezing the trigger.
9.0 out of 10
+Extremely well balanced and controllable
+High percentiles of accuracy and reliability
+Customization and upgrade options available
-Mediocre factory trigger