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The CZ 97BD Standard
A Serious .45 ACP and the irrelevance of creative photography
By Joe D'Alessandro Editor | RealGuns.Com
 

 
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 "Sorry!".
 
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.
 
 
 

CZ 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 trigger guard.

But then the CZ 75 and CZ 97 differ in significant ways...

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 representation is conjecture, possibly supposition, as a CZ 97 is about the same size as a standard length government 1911 type firearm.

Weight & Measure CZ 97 1911
Height 5.37" 5.25"
Length 8.38" 8.50"
Grip Width 1.25" 1.31"
Grip Circumference 6.00" 5.75"
Trigger Reach - SA/DA 2.85"/3.15" 2.75"
Weight - ounces 38 38

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 tradeoffs.

Now that you are minutia dazed and glassy eyed...

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 ammo, but 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.

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