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CZ-75 look-alikes: TZ-75, TA-90; these new Italian 9mm pistols are near-duplicates of the justly famous Czech autoloader.

* Few handguns of the Communist bloc--aside from a small number of specialized target pistols--have excited much enthusiasm among Free World aficionados of the one-hand gun. Their cartridges were of limited popularity or unavailable. The Nagant revolvers were feeble in power and archaic in design; Tokarevs, crude; Makarovs, clones of the Walther PP. The post-war Soviet Stechkin was too big for its cartridge, and selective-fire machine pistols were out of fashion. The Czech VZ/52 with its roller locking system seemed unduly complex and offered no advantages over the military pistols of the West.

In 1975 this situation changed dramatically with the advent of the Czech CZ-75. This was a 15-shot auto pistol (16 with one up the spout) of the most advanced design, and it chambered the West's favorite pistol and SMG cartridge--the 9mm Parabellum. It was made with all the careful craftsmanship for which the Czech arms industry is justly famous. (The very word "pistol" may come from the Bohemian word for "pipe"--pistala.) Among its features were a Browning-type barrel and slide lockup, internal slide rails (a la Petter designs like the SIG 210s), and a double-action lockwork design that permitted a smooth, light pull. Unlike previous large-caliber DA autos, it did not feature a hammer-drop safety and instead used a sear blocking style like the Colt 1911 or Browning Hi-Power.

It was this latter feature that especially commended this auto to that eminent pundit of pistolcraft, Jeff Cooper. He liked the fact that this design permitted capable pistoleros to carry the piece cocked-and-locked ("Condition One") in accordance with his preferred technique, yet military and police agencies that felt ill at ease with this practice could utilize the double-action feature. Cooper's background of combat competition had led him to disapprove of the hammer-drop safeties of DA autos like the Walter P-38 or the S&W M-39/59 series, since every time the user engaged the safety to move with gun in hand, he was forced to revert to the heavy DA pull and the disconcerting transition to the light pull for the second shot.

Although Cooper has never been known for his advocacy of the 9mm cartridge, he felt that the above-mentioned feature, coupled with the CZ-75's high magazine capacity, splendid workmanship and overall sound design, made it the best 9mm pistol available. Since that time many excellent high-firepower DA 9mm pistol designs have hit the market; some of these may well equal the CZ-75, but it's hard to see how any of them significantly surpasses it in any major respect.

So impressed was Col. Cooper with the CZ-75 design, that he made it the basis for his .40-caliber "dream gun" that the firm of Dornaus & Dixon has brought into being in the new "Bren Ten" auto, which is a slightly modified CZ-75 design.

At this point you may be wondering why, if the CZ-75 pistol is so good, it hasn't been a hot item at your local gun store. The answer is quite simple. Uncle Sam, not wishing to encourage the arms industries of Soviet bloc nations, slaps a very high tariff on any such guns entering the USA, and this makes these pistols so prohibitively expensive here that no importer has brought them in any quantities; thus, CZ-75s remain very rare items.

Now, however, American pistolmen who fancy a CZ-75 but shudder at the prospect of paying a thousand bucks or so for the original can obtain a very modestly priced near-duplicate made by the Italian company of Fratelli Tanfoglio of Brescia. This pistol comes to America wearing two different aliases. The reason for this is that it is imported by two rival firms. When the Tanfoglio is imported by Firearms Import and Export Corp. (FIE), P.O. Box 4866, Dept. GA, Hialeah Lakes, Hialeah, FL 33014, it is designated as the TX-75. However, when Excam Inc., 44840 East 11th Ave., Dept. GA, Hialeah, FL 33013, brings in the Tanfoglio, it is called the TA-90. This matter seems to cause some confusion, so let me repeat, the TX-75 and TA-90 are one and the same pistol offered by two different importers. The only real differences are in the names stamped on the left side of the slide and the boxes they're packaged in.

For our shooting evaluations, we obtained both a TA-90 from Excam and a TZ-75 from FIE. Differences were negligible--the sort you expect in different production runs of any model. Thus, the blueing was a little better on the TA-90 while the TZ-75 had only a slightly lighter trigger pull.

The one major difference between the original CZ-75 and the Tanfoglio 9mm is that the latter has a hammer-drop safety. may be somewhat controversial. Earlier we stated that some authorities like Cooper favor a sear-blocking safety that leaves the piece cocked-and-locked. On the other hand, if you wish to carry the CZ-75 hammer-down on a live round ("Condition Two"), you must lower the hammer by down with your thumb. If the thumb slips, the gun may go off--and this has happened many times with 1911s, P-35s and other autos being placed in Condition Two. This cannot happen with the firing pin-retracting, hammer-dropping safety of the Tanfoglio. In short, the original CZ-75 may be slightly more efficient in the hands of the very highly trained, but the Tanfoglio will be somewhat safer for use by the rest of us.

Actually, both FIE and Excam in their literature accompanying the pistols emphatically recommend carrying these pistols only with an empty chamber ("Condition Three"). Makes you wonder why a pistol to be carried in Condition Three needs a double-action feature at all, but all firearms manufacturers and importers are playing it extremely cautious these days, given our litigation-crazed society's mania for liability suits.

Another very minor difference between the Tanfoglio and the CZ-75 is that the triggerguard of the Italian pistol is squared for the benefit of shooters who favor the "finger-forward" two-hand hold.

The fit and finish of these Tanfoglio pistols compare very well with the Czech gun. Slide and barrel play is minimal. The gun is of all-steel construction, with all parts highly polished and finished in a rich blue-black except for the trigger, which is left bright, and the barrel, which is decorative chromed.

The stocks are handsomely figured Italian walnut. These are uncheckered. The smooth stocks coupled with the large, smooth front strap give the grip a slightly slippery feel, and I, for one, would prefer checkering or stippling on both surfaces for a more positive grasp. Pachmayr-type rubber grips will no doubt become available for these pistols if they attain the popularity they deserve, and they too would afford a very firm grip. The handle is somewhat slimmer and fits in the hand more naturally than those of many large-capacity 9mms, which often have a cumbersome, "boxy" feel to them.

Offsetting to some degree the comfortable grip is the fact that, when the hammer is at rest (i.e., when the pistol is ready to be fired in the double-action mode), trigger reached is excessively long. This is equally true of the Czech original. I have fairly large hands, and when the pistol is properly positioned--with the barrel as an extension of the forearm--I can barely engage the trigger with the tip of my finger. Men with small hands or stubby fingers and most women will be handicapped when attempting to fire this pistol double-action.

The single-action trigger pull is quite clean breaking after a considerable takeup. Actual weights of pull are probably the lightest I have ever encountered on service-style autos. The TA-90's trigger broke at only 3 pounds, the TZ-75's at a mere 2-1/2 pounds. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of overtravel after the trigger breaks, which I found somewhat disconcerting. A fair amount of overtravel seems characteristic of the Czech pistol too, but it was more pronounced in the Italian copies. From what I hear, the designers of the CZ-based Bren Ten are also also working to correct this problem on their pistols, so it must to some extent be inherent in this design. The double-action pull is the smoothest and lightest I have ever tried on a service auto--it's much like cycling the DA pull on a fine, custom-tuned revolver.

The sights are excellent. The rear is a square notch type with a highly visible white outline pattern while the front sight face has a yellow groove running its length vertically. Although I generally prefer plain black sights, I found this set-up did work very well. The sights are large and visible--great for a quick pick-up--without being unduly bulky or obtrusive. In short, they seem like ideal sights for a combat auto. The rear sight appears to be drift-adjustable for windage, but happily I found that the pistols shot very close to point of aim for me with many loads when I used a six o'clock hold.

Fieldstripping the Tanfoglio is identical to the CZ-75. First, make absolutely sure the pistol is completely empty and remove the magazine. Apply the safety. Retract the slide until the two little takedown marks on the left rear of the slide and frame are aligned and push out the slide stop from the right. The best way to do this, I found, is to grip the pistol in your right hand while you hook your left thumb through the triggerguard and your left index finger around the top front of the slide. The slide can then be pushed back by the left index finger until it is in alignment for dismounting while the right index finger pushes out the slide stop. with the slide stop removed, the slide can be slid off the front of the frame; the recoil spring and guide and then the barrel can be plucked from the bottom of the slide. This completes fieldstripping.

The magazines for the Tanfoglio auto pistol are fully interchangeable with those of the Czech CZ-75, by the way.

In our shooting sessions we found functional reliability to be excellent. Both guns handled Federal and PMC FMJs, Hornady/Froniter truncated cones and hollow points, Winchester Silvertips, and Pro Load lead round noses and FMJs with nearly perfect results. The only malfunction encountered with this ammo was one failure to completely eject Winchester Silvertips. This occurred with the TZ-75. We also had some extraction failures with one group of off-brnad commercial reloads that used some imported brass that was evidently too soft, as we discovered in several different guns. This was extractor and ejector, incidentally, are both hefty parts that look as if they will give long and trouble-free service.

Shooting for accuracy off the benchrest was conducted under such miserable conditions that I doublt if our results are indicative of the true capabilities of these pistols. The wind was bitter cold at the Petersen Ranch and gusting with such gale force that the target frames were buffeted about to such extent that they almost presented moving targets. The shooters on the G&A team were being blown about pretty badly too. Most groups we printed averaged about 3-1/2 inches at 25 yards--about par for a service-grade 9mm Parabellum--but I did manage to fire one group with Federal 123-grain FMJs that ran just under 2 inches with three shots cutting into a cloverleaf. Other loads that gave superior accuracy were the Winchester 115-grain Silvertips and Hornady/Froniter's 124-grain truncated cone-style FMJs. Neither pistol displayed a market edge in accuracy although on occasion each had a preference for different loads. I feel sure that under calmer conditions we would have had better results in the accuracy department.

In fast combat work, the 9mm cartridge was easy to control in these big, 35-ounce pistols. I had no trouble peppering the X-ring of the combat silhouette, but I did find the Tanfoglio's combination of a very light trigger pull and considerable overtravel quite different from the autos I was used to, and this resulted in the gun going off a bit before I wanted it to a couple of times.

The only black spot in our shooting sessions was just as we had nearly finished firing, the front sight of the TZ-75 broke off. I discussed with problem with representatives of FIE and Excam, who told me that this had been a fairly common problem with the very early production guns. (The TZ-75 we used had a somewhat lower serial number than the TA-90.) As a result of these complaints, Tanfoglio has gone to an improved method of staking the front sight which should make these problems a thing of the past. Actually, this happens to quite a few auto pistols on occasion; although I have never personally experienced it, I gather that many a front sight has gone a-flying from our own tried-and-true Government Model.

In conclusion, the Tanfoglio 9mms seem to be well executed, beautifully finished near-duplicates of a proven, highly acclaimed design. Now that the minor problem of front sight breakage has been corrected, it's hard to see how these reliable, accurate service autos can be faulted. A real plus is that they are very reasonably priced. Excam's suggested retail is only $299.99, FIE's slightly higher. (Actual retail prices of all guns vary considerably based on sales volume, supply and demand, etc.) Considering that many imported 9mm autos are selling in the vicinity of $600 and up, this makes these Tanfoglios a truly excellent buy. It's hard to see how any pistol at any price could deliver much more than they do, and this certainly makes them worthy Free World counterparts of the much-praised CZ-75 of Czechoslovakia.
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Title Annotation:evaluation
Author:Libourel, Jan
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Mar 1, 1985
Words:2266
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