I’m back reviewing another CZ platform pistol, the SP-01 Tactical. This one is not my personal firearm. It belongs to my dad, and he has great taste, seeing as it was not only his first pistol purchase, but overall firearm purchase as well. In Maryland, it’s a longer process to get a pistol. We have to take a handgun qualification course and get fingerprinted before purchasing the pistol. My dad saw it worthwhile to get his Handgun Qualification License (HQL) just so he could get this pistol, which shows just how much allure the CZ SP-01 has.
The CZ platform of firearms is not as mainstream in the US market because it got a slow start. It was developed as the CZ 75 in 1975, when the Czech Republic was still CZECHOSLOVAKIA, a Warsaw pact country. The CZ 75 didn’t become widely available in the United States until 1993. However, because of the looseness of Czechoslovakian international patent laws, the tooling and design are very widely copied by many manufacturers, such as Tanfoglio pistols imported by EAA, the Israeli Defense Forces Jericho, and many Turkish variants, like the Sarsilmaz SAR K2 in 45 ACP I’ve reviewed previously. The design has become somewhat open source, much like the 1911 or AR-15 firearms platforms.
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.
Although the trend for modern firearms design uses more polymer and aluminum alloys, the CZ SP-01 tactical has a full-size precision investment- cast steel frame, which contributes to its substantial but still manageable weight of about 37.5 ounces without the magazine. The full length length accessory rail gives the gun an uncompromising heavy-duty silhouette. The gun’s finish is what CZ calls polycoat, which is a base layer of parkerizing with a top layer electrostatically-applied of polymer. This finish provides fantastic corrosion resistance and many long-time owners of CZ’s polycoat finished pistols have come away impressed with its durability through hard use. The slide is machined from forgings, and the barrel is cold-hammer forged, providing enough strength for a lifetime of shooting for the average enthusiast.
The action uses the ubiquitous Browning short-recoil linkless cam. There is a manual safety model available, but the tactical model comes with a decocker instead of a manual safety. Decocking brings the pistol into “half-cocked” instead of a full double action. As tested by other reviewers with a trigger pull-gauge, the trigger pull in true double action is about 11.6 pounds, half cock a little more than 10 pounds, and single action about 5.6 pounds, which is not an optimal target or competition gun trigger pull weight but fantastic for defensive purposes. However, other trigger characteristics are less-than favorable. There is uncomfortable initial takeup/ pre-travel, creep before the break, and mild overtravel. A redeeming aspect of the factory trigger is the reset produces all but unnoticeable takeup for the second pull.
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.
Disassembly of the pistol is easy. Move the slide back so that the two witness marks on the frame and slide align, and push the slide stop from the ejection port side so that it comes out of the frame on the opposite side. Then just pull the slide forward, remove the recoil spring, and your field strip is complete. The factory sights are 3-dot night sights, and they come installed sighted in for point-of-aim point-of-impact at 25 yards. There are aftermarket sights available if the factory sights don’t float your boat. The long slide enclosing the 4.6 inch long barrel gives impressive sight radius. The SP-01 factory models do come with the firing pin block, but you can get it to run without the block with some custom modifications. The guide rod is polymer, but you can buy an aftermarket steel rod.
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.
The gun is going to be more accurate than most shooters, myself included, can shoot. The slide-within-rail design promotes consistent lockup for shot-to-shot consistency. The gun will be in the higher percentiles of accurate performance for all practical purposes, except for maybe 50 and 100 yard bullseye matches, where $1,000-plus custom race guns and revolvers dominate.
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