Inside the Gun Locker: CZP-01

Guys, I have to tell you up front, this article is going to be all about gushing praise on this handgun. The cats at Ceska Zbrojovka have made what could very well be the most perfect automatic handgun ever. I’ll have a couple items of criticism, but overall the thing is just about flawless.

Before we take a look at the P-01, let’s take a look at the gun’s origin.

In 1975 CZ came out with a new pistol design that took the world by storm. Since it’s introduction, it has served in Military, Police, Security and Special Operations all over the world. There have been more clones and variants of the CZ-75 than any other 9MM pistol ever made. More than the Beretta 92, more than the Hi Power, and more than the 1911. They have been imported into the USA under many names… too many to list: Uzi, Magnum Research, EAA, Springfield Armory… It’s so good, I know people who gnash their teeth wishing that John Moses Browning had designed it. Sorry guys. He didn’t. The CZ 75 and the P-01 are made in the Czech Republic by Ceska Zbrojovka and imported into the US by CZ-USA of Kansas City. A little note about the Czech Republic, as a nation and as a people they love and respect the United States and have stood by the USA as an active member of the “Coalition of the Willing”. Having come out from under the yoke of the Soviet Union, they take freedom very seriously. Also, Prague is a gorgeous city to visit — if you get the chance to go to Europe, be sure to take in the rich artistic and historical background there. While your there, if you come across one of the National Police, take a look at what is on his hip. You’ll see a P-01 there on duty.

A few years ago the Czech National Police decided they wanted a new sidearm. CZ stepped up to the plate and knocked out a home run. CZ went all out to build the best pistol possible. They took the classic 75 platform and ripped it apart looking for every way to improve it that they could. They even improved the very metallurgy. Once they did all that, they started doing an extremely brutal testing regiment. One that makes even a full size HK USP shudder and wince. Every time a problem came up, CZ fixed the design and started testing again. 3 years worth of testing. The result is the P-01. What could very well be the most perfect handgun ever made.

I say “most perfect” because its really not “perfect”. But it’s close. Very close. The first time I handled a P-01 I fell in love with it. Let me be honest about that. When I handled it, I was head over heels. It took me almost a full year to acquire one. The one I first handled had some custom wood grips that really looked good. When I got mine, I was just a little disappointed that it didn’t have pretty wood on it, but I knew in the back of my mind that it wouldn’t have them. The gun came to me brand spanking new in the box wrapped in plastic and smothered in a dark honey colored goo. Not a single human had touched the pistol since it was manufactured and a CZ employee boxed it up for me. After carefully wiping off the goo, I took a grip on it. Whoa. I was blown away. The grips are a soft rubber compound that are molded with a checked pattern. Not only does this provide a good hold on the gun… (even slimed up with goo residue) but the gun feels in my hand as if it was molded like a chunk of clay that I had just squeezed. The sights come up perfectly aligned when I raise the gun up to eye level while looking at a target. The gun interfaced with me flawlessly. I loved it even more than I remembered.

The outside: The finish is a powder coated affair that coats the metal parts in a perfectly smooth and uniform layer of a hard plastic type material. Very rugged, very handsome looking, and protects the metal like mad. I could find no defects in it cosmetically, but there is one little thing. I don’t need to mention the cheap looking Philips head grip screws, but I will. This is a cosmetic nit-pick. It’s not a problem or a flaw, but Philips head grip screws bug me. Those screws are getting replaced as this goes to print. A gun of this level should have some nicer looking screws. Especially if you want to dress up the gun with some custom wood grips by Hakan. Again, that’s just cosmetic considerations and have nothing to do with the gun’s actual performance or quality. I’m sure as grip screws go, these are the baddest Philips head screws going. A feature that a lot of folks will like is the light rail. If you want to clip a light to the gun, you can. The best choice according to P-01 owners is the Surefire M3. I’ll have to order one of those after I finish paying off this Christmas… maybe around next October.

The inside: When I pulled the slide back I noticed that the action was smooth, with no play in it. The machining was done well and I don’t see any tool marks. Then I noticed something. I even exclaimed out loud, “What is that thing! A plastic guide rod?” (insert sounds of a record scratching, tires screeching into a collision, and in the back ground, a little girl crying) It has a plastic guide rod. A plastic guide rod! Ladies and Gentlemen, please understand this is like taking delivery of a Mercedes-Benz, opening the doors, and finding inside the garish vinyl seats out of a Geo Metro – in the wrong color. What was CZ thinking? No, this just will not do.

Contact was made with Rob Ashby, aka 12Voltman on several gun forums, who runs the Jackash Custom Shop. Jackash Custom is one of those little specialty shops that is a must for anyone owning a CZ or looking for sweet 1911 grips. I went out to talk to him about his shop and his guide rods. I met him at a bird dog hunting competition where he was testing his shotgunning skills and the skills of his champion blood-lined English Pointer, Cooper. Rob makes his guide rods by hand out of high quality stainless steel. When I got mine, it was perfectly made, polished smooth and shiny. Before I replaced the plastic guide rod, I fired a hundred rounds through my gun. After firing I inspected the plastic rod and was surprised with what I saw. The rod was bent along the shaft in two places at two different angles. The flared end of the rod looked like it was chewed on or even slashed up by a little pixie with a switch-blade and a vendetta. While I am sure these bends and blemishes will not cause a failure or anything, twenty nine dollars is a small price to pay to take your gun from “almost” to “perfect”. If you have a CZ handgun, I strongly recommend a Jackash Custom FLGR replacement. If you have a P-01, PCR, CZ 75 Compact, or a CZ 97B — this is just about a requirement.

How does it shoot? Like a dream. Because the gun fits my hand so well, felt recoil is reduced to the point that it feels almost nonexistent. It’s there, but I don’t even notice it. What I did notice was the sound of the ejecting brass hitting the paint on the hood of my Bronco. I’ve got a little group of marks in my paint now where the brass was hitting. Very consistent ejection tells me the gun is fitted together very well. The trigger pull is good. Not perfect, but very very good.

The best I’ve felt out of the box in a long time. (The only better out of the box trigger pull on a production gun I’ve ever felt was on the CZ 97b that Rob now owns) Thanks to the gun’s recoil and good trigger, I was able to pop rapid double taps into my targets out to 15 yards with hits landing within just a couple inches from each other. That’s impressive to me. I’ve never been able to toss out double taps like that before… not at range. Not with my Beretta 92FS, not with my Springfield XD, not with my Glock 17. After shooting this thing I got to thinking, “Hey, I should get back into IDPA!” See, that’s one problem. This P-01 can quickly give one the impression that they are a much better shot than they might actually be. So be careful about that.

My gun arrived just as the AWB was sunsetting, so it came with two 10 round magazines. But don’t worry about that as there are plenty of higher capacity mags that will work with it. Remember last issue’s article about the Baby Eagles? The Compact’s mags work just fine in the P-01, so you can go to any shop that sells Witness Compact magazines and you’ll be fine. Online sources for 14 round mags abound with prices going from 12 to 26 bucks. If one finds a good price on .40 caliber Witness Compact mags, it is reported that they work well in the P-01 giving a 14 round capacity. For the purpose of this article, I’m sticking with the mags that came with the gun. However, all mags I’ve tested have all performed without trouble.

The P-01 is very reliable. CZ’s extensive testing paid off. I’ve yet to experience a jam with it. Not that it’s something I want to look forward to or anything, it’s just that this gun hasn’t jammed. Period. In the box with the P-01 was a “Mag Loader”. This is a small plastic widget that lets you load rounds into the magazine easier and helps give your thumb a break. I’ve never used a Mag Loader before, but after the relentless loading and reloading and loading of these mags… it got to the point that I was forced to at least give the Mag Loader a try. It did help and my thumb sends it’s thanks to CZ-USA for including it. In the case was also a bore brush, a little bag of snap caps, and a funny little tool. On one end of the tool is a screw driver for the grip screws, and the other end is a punch to help in field stripping the gun.

The P-01 is very accurate. In fact, I used it to cut some barbed wire at 15 yards. Okay, that was an accident… all three times. I swear. No worries, I repaired the fence in short order with the help of a Leatherman, but still. Bottle Caps on barbed wire do not make the best of targets. Make note of that.

Packing the P-01. The gun is compact in size, so it can carry very well concealed or out in the open. With its double stacked grip, I’ve still not had a problem with printing or anything that would compromise the concealment. Even under a simple untucked polo shirt. While being compact and easy to carry, it has a full sized gun feel to it. My pinky-finger doesn’t swing off the grip and the gun doesn’t give any hesitation about firing even the hottest of 9MM loadings. Few compact handguns give me this level of confidence and control. One feature of the P-01 that stands out is the funky looking control lever at the rear of the left side. That’s the decocker lever. This gun has no external safety or weird lever riding on the trigger, none of that jazz. It has an internal firing pin block set up like most guns, so it is perfectly safe. After you fire a round, and you want to make the gun “safe” you can depress the lever to decock the gun. As your thumb lets up on the lever, the hammer is lowered safely to a half cock position. This is the best way to carry the P-01. Some cats like the “Cocked and Locked” method of carry, but you can’t do that with the P-01. Not that this is a problem or handicap, this is the same system that SIG pistols use. If you don’t know what a SIG pistol is, look at the hip of most police officers in North America that are not using either Berettas or Glocks. This system works well and has for some time. If you are like me and have had a lot of experience with SIG pistols, and Variant 3 HK USP pistols, you’ll feel right at home here.

What’s groovy about the P-01’s decocker is the shape of the lever. It raises the lever up and out of the way of the shooter’s hands when one is taking even a very high shooting grip. It’s right there when needed and easily manipulated by the shooting hand, but you are not going to accidentally trip the decocker when you are firing under stress. I think this layout and design is just brilliant. As you can see in any photo of me shooting a handgun, I like the high grip. This puts the line of the bore lower in relationship to your grip and reduces muzzle flip. And the CZ 75 family of guns already has a low bore line. That’s why a rapid double tap yields such pleasing results for me.

The P-01 has been given the stamp of approval by NATO. It’s now classified with NATO stock number NSN 1005-16-000-8619. If you are the Commander of a NATO unit, just fill out the requisition forms accordingly. If you are not a NATO Commander, go find your local stocking CZ dealer in your area, ask to take a look at the P-01. I’m confident you will give it your stamp of approval as well. Even if it does come with vinyl seats from the factory.