When I worked for a living... yes, I really did work
for a living and within a corporate environment, there was a term
for advertising and product literature where the will of a marketing
department's creative folks took precedence over the presentation of
a product - "Art Director's Revenge". Some firearm publications host
really talented photographers whose images place a product artfully into
proper context, suggest product applications and set a strong tone
or mood that motivates people to buy. I know, because I often find
myself buying guns although I am not always sure why.
Unfortunately, I think some studios have such little
knowledge of firearms that they place
products into an absolutely foreign setting; multicolored light
pipes peeking out of revolver chambers, laser "flames" blasting from
barrels and purple colored gel filters casting multiple spot lights
on a pair of ear plugs as though each was a tiny rock star. I
believe we are one step away from seeing magazines portray fleeing
quarry with afterburners shooting out of their collective
butts or, better yet, game that is vaporized when struck with some
brand of bullet. Actually, I think that last one does happen...
always makes me want to wince a little and holler out to the game
This opening image is my concession to a gun that is
worthy of something other than my disemboweling of the rules of
grammar, my limited vocabulary and incessantly redundant use of
adjectives. The impression I want to leave is that the CZ 97 is not
another pretty Euro gun from the aloof French or hand waving and
over the top Italians (Sorry Mom & Dad). The CZ 97 comes from the
other Europe, the tough neighborhood Europe that has survived just
about everything, including being sat on by the old Soviet Union.
The CZ 97 is designed and built with that toughening experience as
an ingredient, which is why my image says, "The CZ 97 is
made of steel. It can be wiped down with an oily rag. It holds ten
rounds. I bought a new spot light".
It's based on the
CZ 75... sort of
The CZ 97BD is based on the CZ 75 design, however, it
is probably closest to the CZ 75 SP-01 model within the CZ 75
series. Both the CZ 75 and CZ 97 are
of a short recoil, locked breech, tipping barrel design. As a single/double action trigger firearm, both the
CZ 75 and CZ 97 offer the benefits of a light trigger pull
when the hammer is cocked by the cycling of the gun, while retaining the safety and surety of
being able to double strike a stubborn primer if a misfire occurs
and being able to carry the gun safely with a round in the gun's
chamber. Both the CZ 75 and CZ 97
incorporate a firing pin block, a system intended to prevent
accidental discharge, in the event the gun is dropped, by blocking
the firing pin unless the trigger has been fully depressed.
The pictured CZ 97 is a BD model, so it has a decocker
lever in place of a thumb safety. With a round in the chamber and
the hammer fully cocked, depressing the decocker lever safely lowers
the hammer to the half cocked position. Depressing the
double action trigger fully cocks then releases the hammer, causing the
gun to discharge. The CZ 97B non decocker version, like the CZ 75 SP-01, can
be placed on safe by engaging the thumb safety or, for the thrill
seekers in the crowd, by disengaging the safety and lowering the
hammer to the half cock position where the double action trigger
will function as previously described.
slides ride inside of the frame's rails rather than
wrapping over the outside of the frame, as is the case with other manufacturer's
designs. Both the CZ 97 and CZ 75 SP-01 have an extended frame dust
cover that exercises greater control over the slide's movement. I believe
this contributes significantly to the accuracy of these firearms. The CZ
75 SP-01's extended dust cover forms an accessory rail, while the CZ
97's does not, Frames on guns are scalloped about the
But then the CZ 75 and CZ 97 differ in significant
The CZ 75 SP-01 does not utilize a barrel bushing, while
a threaded bushing is used on the CZ 97. On a quick check, the barrel
measured 0.590" OD, the bushing 0.594" ID. The CZ 97
also has a steel recoil spring plug that is installed from the inside of the slide. The recoil spring rod is of poly
material on both models. The SP-01 utilizes a flat wire recoil spring, the
CZ 97 a more traditional single strand round coil. The factory spring is
rated at 13 lbs with aftermarket springs available in one pound
increments up to 22 lbs. The CZ 97's barrel, at 4.80", 0.10" longer than the CZ 75 SP-01.
I found it much easier to
shoot tight groups with the CZ 97 than it is with the CZ 75 SP-01,
although both guns are accurate. I
would attribute much of this to how the CZ 97 barrel is positioned when
the gun is in battery and how the motion of those parts is managed when
the gun is fired. The CZ 75 SP-01 has radial
locking lugs on the barrel that engage opposing slide recesses by
approximately 0.040". The timing of lock and unlock in this arrangement
is relatively critical, as is parts fitting and maintenance... not unlike the 1911 design.
Both the CZ 75 SP-01 and 1911 types have a slide stop that is relatively
anchored to the barrel. Where the 1911 is pinned at the barrel link, the
CZ 75 is trapped by a closed looped cam surface.
As seen below, the CZ 97 design discards the radial locking
lugs in favor of one large rectangular lug that is formed integral to the
barrel. The top surface of the lug rides against the smoothed inside
surface of the slide, the lower barrel lug rides in the tracks in the
frame. With this arrangement there is
no need for a hard or trapped connection between the slide stop and the
barrel, however, the slide stop still controls the up and down tilting
motion of the barrel during lock - unlock and also limits rearward
movement of the slide.
The CZ 97 is smaller than
it is. Yeah, I know that doesn't sound right...
Message board threads are rife, yes RIFE, with
comments about the CZ 97 being for people with big hands. Which kind of
conjures up some rather odd imagery. I suspect most of this
conjecture, possibly supposition, as a CZ 97 is about the same size as a
standard length government 1911 type firearm.
Weight & Measure
|Trigger Reach - SA/DA
|Weight - ounces
Where the 1911's frame is flat and its grips convex,
the CZ 97 is totally slab sided which makes room for the gun's
additional three round capacity. A nice gain with basically no
Now that you are minutia dazed and
The CZ 97 is sprung heavily enough to keep high
performance ammo casing from traveling no more than a couple of yards,
yet the slide racked with very little
effort. Slide serrations, fore and aft, are aptly placed. A 1911 set up
for high velocity loads often requires a cross bow's cocking lever and a sledge
hammer to rack the slide.
The CZ 97 always felt comfortable, balanced and secure in
my hand. The bold three dot Tritium sights put up a sight picture that
doesn't escape attention. The
little loaded chamber indicator pin, placed just aft of the ejection port,
is visible and handy.
During the course of live fire, the gun handled Winchester
Super X 185 grain, 1030 fps, target load 230 grain ammo at 856 fps and
Cor-Bon 185 grain HP loads that clocked 1211 fps. I think the flat heel
of the grip, compared to the very narrow protruding frame of a 1911,
really dampened hand slap. Feed was absolutely reliable, even with
magazines filled with mixed ammunition.
Even with pedestrian skills, the CZ 97
is easy to shoot well. It doesn't matter if the gun is loaded with wimpy wad cutter target loads, or 185 grain Cor-Bon heavy
duty stoppers. A big caliber gun, yet the CZ 97 is soft in recoil, all the way
through to 230 grain high performance ammo.
The sub 1" five shot group was shot at seven yards from a
two hand hold. Finger reach to the front of the trigger guard was
comfortable. The group was shot with Cor-Bon high velocity 185 grain
other ammo types shot as well. The gap between the two holes top
and three holes lower was caused by me shifting my grip while
familiarizing myself with the gun.
The double action trigger made my trigger finger feel like it was
going on a road trip; up and down resistance curves and leverage points.
Light creep from one end to the other, some no doubt because of the firing pin
safety mechanism. As soon as I learned to ignore it all and concentrate,
the trigger was a non-issue. Double action pull was 11 lbs 4 oz. Single
action averages 6 lbs 3 oz. If you shoot a Series 70 type 1911 with a
tuned trigger, the CZ 97 will take some practice to gain proficiency. If
you shoot a Glock, you'll think you are in trigger heaven. The important
factor here is the gun can really bullseye, which means the trigger feel
is just different, rather than bad.
Final ramblings... I promise
I would like to see greater availability of
aftermarket accessories; sights, grips, improved trigger parts. etc. for
the CZ 97. I'm not sure why CZ has elected to not use a common dovetail
for sight mounting as people like to buy guns they can personalize. That
said, the CZ 97 is a complete gun as delivered and Tritium sights are
not a bad choice for a standard feature on a defensive firearm.
I like the gun. In fact, I recommended it to a friend
of mine who is very picky so I wouldn't have to listen to him whine for
the next two years. He'll shoot the gun well, it won't break and he will
get all of the essentials including a spare magazine and hard case. Plus
it's a good value. With a list price of $779 for the B model and $874
for the BD, they can usually be found for $100 less at retailers.