|June - July 2004
Volume 39, Number
The Hornady Lock-N-Load AP five station press is shown with the CZ Model 85 Combat 9mm. Loading press photo by Stan Trzoniec. Pistol photo by Steve Gash.
The first Saturday in
June is almost an official holiday in my neck of the woods, because this is the day the
Ottawa (Kansas) Police Department puts on its annual Special Olympics Benefit pistol
match. Men in blue and civilians alike transport in from as far away as the Delta Quadrant
to compete for the numerous individual and team trophies. Entries are limited to the first
250, and it fills up fast. The affair is a marvel of efficiency, as each shooter fires a
minimum of 101 rounds, and everyones done a little after lunch, which is available
on the premises, by the way.
During breaks in the
action, there is always time to peruse the tables set up by numerous vendors covered with
must have guns and their accouterments. At the 2003 fete, I was drawn to the
CZ-USA table like matter to a black hole. Examples of most of the firms rifles and
pistols were present, along with affable Mike Eagleshield, CZs gunsmith, from the
companys nearby Kansas City, Kansas, headquarters. Mike answered all of our teams
questions, even if we didnt ask, and pretty soon each of us had picked out our next
Ive always wanted a (fill in the blank).
The show-stopper for
me was the CZ Model 85 Combat 9mm Luger. Mike had two examples on display one done
up in their black polycoat finish (think flat-black spray paint, and you get
the idea). Glossy blue is also available. The other specimen was covered with satin nickel
and was about as pretty as a kitten. The 85 Combats sported adjustable rear sights that
Mike said are made by Mec-Gar in Italy. While the sight looks dinky and frangible, I have
used Mec-Gar sights on several other pistols and found them to be rugged and reliable. The
utility of the ambidextrous safety and slide release was not lost on this southpaw either.
Best of all, the trigger pull was delightful, and the trigger even had an overtravel
screw. Since a member of our contingent is an FFL dealer, one was ordered on the spot.
When it arrived, I
replaced the stock 20-pound hammer spring with a 15-pound spring from Wolff Gunsprings
(no. 28915), and it made all the difference. The single-action trigger pull is now even
better at about 4 pounds, and the double-action pull is smooth throughout its course.
While I was at it, I replaced the factory 14-pound recoil spring with a slightly heavier
16-pound version from Wolff (no. 43016).
CZ stands for Ceska Zbrojovka, or Czech weapons factory,
and has been in operation in the Czech Republic since 1936. The firm was originally
founded as a subsidiary of Ceska Zbrojovka Strakonice in the city of Uhersky Brod. The
location was chosen so that its arms manufacturing plant was farther away from the German
border and Hitlers bombers. There was, after all, a war on. In 1938-1939, Germany
seized control of Czechoslovakia, and soon the once-proud country was geographically and
politically dissected. As Winston Churchill somberly observed of the occasion, ...
Czechoslovika recedes into the darkness.
The extensive line of
CZ pistols has its foundation in the famous Model 75. Designed and first produced in 1975,
the CZ 75 is widely regarded as one of the premier pistols available today. This
traditional double/single-action model has spawned a host of variants by CZ, including
compact, single action only, double action only (DAO) models, a decocker
version and two race guns for IPSC competition.
Another branch of the
Model 75 family tree is the Model 85, characterized by the addition of ambidextrous
controls (slide release and safety). The 85B comes with fixed sights and a firing pin
block safety. The 85 Combat loses this safety but sports the aforementioned adjustable
rear sight. When you press on the magazine release button, the magazine drops out like a
The 85 Combat is a
visually striking firearm. The satin-nickel finish emanates a soft, elegant luster that is
totally uniform overall. About the only aesthetic downside of the pistol are the grips.
Not only are they a shiny black plastic and downright slick, but the grip screws are
black-painted, Phillips-head items that would look right at home on a Yugo.
My pal Bob French, of Frenchs Gun Shop
in Denver, took one look at the grips and almost became ill. Upon regaining his composure,
he reached into the display case and handed me a set of sumptuously figured Hogue Coco
Bolo checkered grips (no. 75811) and commanded that I install them immediately. This
improved the appearance and handling of the pistol about 1,000 percent. But then the grip
screws really looked out of place. Fortunately,
Hogue sells elegant slotted grip screws for the CZ 75/85s, so that faux pas was soon
remedied, as well.
The 85 is a pleasant
handful, weighing in at 35.4 ounces. The slide and frame are constructed of steel, and the
slide rails are inside the frame, opposite of that on the Model 1911 pattern.
Slide-to-frame fit is very good, as is the barrel fit to the bushing. At first glance, it
appears the 85s slide is bushingless. However, the bushing is actually a
separate part that is held in place by the front sight pin, and the bushing can be easily
replaced, if necessary. The bore slugs a flat .355 inch, is smooth as silk and has
six-groove rifling with a one-in-9.75-inch twist over its 4.7 inch length.
The Model 85s
hammer has a half-cock notch, but this shouldnt be used as a safety
device. Since this is a traditional double-action pistol, it can be carried cocked-and-locked
like a Model 1911. The large and convenient ambidextrous safety levers are easy to use.
They work firmly but surely. A red dot on either side of the frame is visible when the
safety is off. A pivoting extractor is pinned to the slide. The hammer, safety
levers, slide stop levers and magazine release button are finished in a very pleasing
matte black (not poly coat). The magazine release button extends out a bit
from the left side of the frame, and its spring is pretty strong. This might bother some
left-handed shooters, but Im left-handed and habitually press the magazine release
with my left index finger, and I got along fine with it.
The sights follow the
familiar three-dot pattern and are easy to see. The rear notch has a generous .122 inch
wide notch through which one can easily see the .120-inch front blade over the sight
radius of 6.6 inches, and the rear sights click adjustments work well. All in all,
the sighting system is highly functional.
Disassembly of the 85
is straightforward. First, of course, make sure the pistol is unloaded, then remove the
magazine. At the backs of the left sides of the slide and frame are two witness marks.
Retract the slide approximately 5mm to line up these marks, and push out the slide stop
from the right side of the pistol. The pin on the left-side slide-stop lever extends
through the right-side slide-stop lever, and probably the easiest way to get it started is
to press its tip against a hard surface all the while keeping the marks aligned.
(The slide release lever on the right side of the frame remains in place.) If you have
cocked the hammer while doing this, gently lower it at this time. Then ease the slide
forward off the frame.
Next, remove the
recoil spring and its guide. Caution: This assembly can be launched into orbit if youre
not careful. Remove the barrel, and youre done. Reassemble in reverse order. Cocking
the hammer makes lining up the witness marks a little easier in reassembly.
The 9mm Luger needs
little introduction to seasoned handgunners. In service for over 100 years, it has carved
out a substantial nitch in the shooting world and recently has enjoyed increased
popularity for competition and concealed carry functions in the U.S.
The test handloads
were assembled on a new Redding T-7 Turret press (no. 67000) with my ancient RCBS
three-die set (no. 20515), but bullets were seated and crimped in separate operations.
Crimping was done with a Lee Carbide factory crimp die (no. 90860). Chronographing was
done with an Oehler Model 35P.
A total of 49 loads
was tested from a benchrest, and the pistol was field tested at a couple of
limited class matches, where it performed admirably. The load data for the handloads and
factory loads tested are shown in Table I. You will note that case brand is usually
identified as mixed. With my apologies to those who delight in punctilious
handloading, as far as Im concerned, lifes too short to sort a five-gallon
bucket of 9mm brass.
At the bench, it was
soon evident that the 85 was a shooter. First of all, it was reliable. In all of the
hundreds of test rounds fired, there was not a single bobble of any kind, and the heavier
recoil spring kept the empties in the same zip code.
As a baseline, I
rounded up and tested a goodly selection of factory loads. Some, like Winchesters
USA Brand 115-grain FMJ Q load was right on the heels of my best handloads.
This ammunition registered a relatively modest velocity of 1,169 fps and had a group
average of 1.14 inches the best of all factory loads. The new Winchester USA brand
Personal Protection ammunition was the least accurate factory load at 2.80
inches, but the gaping maw in this hollowpoint certainly looks businesslike.
The CCI 100-grain Frangible load was the
fastest factory load tested. At 1,213 fps, it had mild recoil and was acceptably accurate
at 2.09 inches. Higher velocities with this bullet weight are easily obtainable. The
100-grain Speer hollowpoint (HP) ahead of 4.5 grains of Titegroup clocked 1,246 fps and at
2.20 inches was almost as accurate as the 100-grain factory loads.
Not far behind the
100-grain loads were the 115-grain bullets, and this performance can also be improved upon
considerably by handloading. The average velocity of the six, 115-grain HP factory loads
tested was 1,172 fps, almost 100 fps slower than my best handload with the 115-grain Speer
Gold Dot hollowpoint over 6.1 grains of Vihtavuori N350 at 1,270 fps. This is of
significance in the quest for a more powerful defense load, as this extra velocity
increased the muzzle energy 18 percent to 412 foot-pounds (ft-lbs), turned in a great
group average of .91 inch and clinched top honors in the jacketed bullet category. The
Federal 124-grain full-metal-jacket (FMJ) factory load was also accurate, at 1.22 inches,
but a bit slower at 1,095 fps. Overall, all factory loads averaged 1.91 inches.
Probably the most
popular bullet weight in the 9mm is the 115 grainer, and the Model 85 certainly seemed to
prefer the Speer Gold Dot version, with an overall average of 1.24 inches. The 115-grain
Hornady XTP hollowpoint loaded with 4.5 grains of W-231 also makes a good, all-around
The 124-grain Hornady
XTP hollowpoint was close with a group average of 2.03 inches. Its best load was 7.6
grains of AAC-7 for a velocity of 1,134 fps that produced good groups of 1.46 inches.
Highest velocity (1,150 fps) was obtained with either 7.8 grains of AAC-7 or 4.2 grains of
Titegroup, but these groups were almost twice as large as with the best load.
The 147-grain Hornady
XTP was less accurate overall, at 2.55 inches, but with 4.5 grains of Longshot, it went
into 2.09 inches at 926 fps the best of the heavy bullet loads.
The story was similar
with cast bullets: as bullet weight increased, so did group sizes. Best overall was one of
my favorite 9mm cast bullets: the Bushwacker 122-grain flatnose. Over 3.7 grains of
Titegroup, most groups with this bullet were under an inch, velocity was 1,094 fps, power
factor was 133, recoil was light and cases werent launched into orbit a
perfect fit. Not to be overlooked, however, is the 122-grain FP and 3.6 grains of WSL at
1,032 fps with groups of 1.32 inches.
125-grain bullet was represented by both the roundnose and semiwadcutter (SWC) versions.
Top honors went to the former, but barely, and good loads were developed for each. The
roundnose bullet over 3.6 grains of WSL registered 1,024 fps and 1.32-inch groups. The
best combination with the SWC variety was 5.4 grains of Longshot. At 1,102 fps and groups
of 1.50 inches, it emerged as the pick of the 125-grain SWC litter.
The power factors of
most of the 122- and 125-grain loads are darn close to the minimum of 120 required for
IPSC minor or NRA Action Pistol competition, so it would behoove the
competitor to double-check the velocity of his
ammunition in his pistol before trundling to a
match. Dont forget to take the predicted low temperature on match day into account.
I tried a few loads
with the heavier 145-grain roundnose bullets, but the Model 85 didnt like them at
all. For example, 3.4 grains of the usually accurate Titegroup powder produced 1,001 fps.
While the power factor was ample at 145, the groups were unacceptably large at 3.43
No matter since
making major power factor is out of the question, all one has to strive for is accuracy,
and this the Model 85 has in spades. Of the 49 loads tested, 25 (51 percent) averaged
under 2 inches, and 16 (33 percent) went into 1.50 inches. Overall, cast bullets in the
122- to 125-grain weights averaged 2.21 inches. Jacketed handloads overall averaged 1.90
inches, with the factory loads clustering into 1.91 inches. The average of all 49 loads
tested was 2.03 inches.
While it is common
practice to rank accuracy by bullet, I have been asked several times to do the same for
powders. So, for those folks, Table II shows average group sizes by powder. Note that for
some powders, there are only a few groups; the statistician in me must caution you to view
this data with a jaundiced eye.
Nonetheless, of the 11
powders tested, Vihtavuoris N350, Alliants Power Pistol and Hodgdons
Longshot came out on top. Not far back, however, were three spherical propellants:
Winchesters 231 and Action Pistol, and Accurate Arms Companys AAC-7. The group
averages of these six powders were all under 2 inches, and Winchesters Super Lite
was close behind. Of course, all guns are different, but these results will get the
student of the 9mm off on the right foot.
The CZ Model 85 Combat did all one could ask
of a 9mm. It is well designed, well made, never hiccupped, is pleasingly accurate and is
aesthetically rewarding. It is a fine testament to its Czech heritage. If youre in
the market for a quality 9mm autoloader for plinking, carry or competition, do yourself a
favor and check out the CZ Model 85 Combat.