Touch of gray: CZ'S Urban Grey lineup takes some already great pistols to a whole new level.
The hot new products for firearms of all types are suppressors. Not only are they fun, but also they protect your hearing and make your gun club or shooting range less of a point of contention with its neighbors. However, besides the cost and paperwork details, there are two other things you have to consider when you want to mount a suppressor on a pistol: You need a threaded barrel, and you need higher sights.
The extended, threaded barrel is best when the threads are a tight fit to the suppressor mount and are concentric to the bore axis. For quite a while, this meant sourcing an extended barrel, then finding a gunsmith who could fit it, thread it and get it back to you. The sights? No one made suppressor-specific sights, so your gunsmith had to make them custom for your pistol. Adding a suppressor could (and did) get expensive.
Well, CZ-USA has come to the rescue. And the company has done it in style, with an array of models to pick from. Called the Urban Grey line, they comprise five of CZ's exemplary pistols, classic and current, and they come suppressor-ready right out of the box. They are the CZ 75B, P-01, CZ 75 SP-01, P-07 and P-09.
Each has an extended match barrel threaded for a suppressor, complete with a thread protector installed. You won't always be using a suppressor, and when you aren't, having a thread protector is just smart. CZ went above and beyond on the thread protector. Not only do w the protector and the barrel each have a solid bearing shoulder for them to properly tighten, but also the front face of the protector is notched so you can tighten it with a screwdriver. When it is installed, it also acts as a crown protector.
They come with ambidextrous safeties, either hammer-dropping decockers or the CZ "you get to choose" design. The classic CZ design originated the frame-mounted safety lever where you could have the hammer down and fire the first shot double action, or you could cock the hammer and apply the safety before holstering, like a 1911.
If you want a decocker, CZ offers that option as well, and in a design that lets you swap the parts with no hassle.
To allow you to properly aim over the suppressor tube, CZ installs taller sights, front and rear, on each pistol of the Urban Grey line, and they have tritium inserts for low-light use.
And then the best part: the Urban Grey. On the polymer-framed pistols, the polymer is dyed CZ's Urban Grey. On the metal-framed models, the frame and the slide are given a polycoat finish in Urban Grey.
The color is listed as Urban Grey, and it is a custom CZ mixture of gray and flat dark earth. The color shifts, slightly and subtly, in differing light. It's hardly noticeable to the human eye, but in taking photos with a digital camera--which doesn't have the automatic color correction our brains have--I found it interesting how the color changed. It also shows the powder residue of shooting a bit more than other, darker, colors, but since the finish is so easy to clean with a simple wipe, this isn't an issue for me.
To wring them out, I traveled to the range with 10 different 9mm loads and four different suppressors, with the intention of trying every combination possible. That proved to be a herculean task, so I satisfied myself with a full magazine of each load through each pistol and then put a couple of hundred rounds of four loads each through each pistol, with one suppressor dedicated to each pistol. It still ended up generating a couple of gallons of empty 9mm brass by the time I was done.
CZ 75B Omega
The CZ 75 was for many years the unicorn pistol. Made behind the then Iron Curtain, it was (and still is) a high-cap 9mm traditional double-action/single-action pistol with the sexiest grip shape since the Hi Power. All-steel, it shrugged off the hottest 9mm ammo made then (or since) and was perhaps the only 9mm pistol it was socially acceptable to lust after. After all, if Jeff Cooper liked it, it had to be good, right?
Well, it was good regardless of his stance on the matter, and the new Omega design makes it even better. The Omega trigger design makes it a snap to strip the trigger mechanism and replace the thumb safety with a decocking lever.
As a steel-framed pistol, it has a set of near-indestructible plastic grips, and if you just have to have wood, you can swap the plastic for dead tree grips.
CZ P-01 Omega
The P-01 is an evolution of the CZ 75. To make the admittedly large 75 easier to carry in a duty holster or concealed, CZ trimmed the slide and frame. It also changed the frame material from steel to aluminum. This pares 12 ounces off the empty weight of the P-01, compared to the original 75. As a final step designers improved the ergonomics of the grip shape to make it more controllable and comfortable.
For its compact size and lighter weight, the P-01 does not give up in capacity. The magazine still holds 16 rounds, and the P-01 can use the longer magazines of the original CZ 75 frame, so you can get 18 rounds on the reload.
CZ 75 SP-01 Tactical
The SP-01 is the P-01 built as a full-size handgun, featuring the same ergonomics and manufacturing advances found on the latter. Basically, CZ took the already brilliant ergonomics of the CZ 75 grip and fussed over the curves and angles to make it even better. It has a full-length frame, complete with accessory rail that adds heft to the pistol in the best place--forward of your hands and below the bore.
While developed as a duty sidearm, it's also found a niche in competition circles. At the IPSC World Shoot in 2005 my friend Angus Hobdell placed third in production with his SP-01--behind teammate Adam Tyc, who finished first with an SP-01.
The SP-01 Tactical that arrived here had the decocking lever installed. Other than safely dropping the hammer, it did not change either the excellent single-action or the smooth and even double-action trigger pull.
The most compact of the two polymer-framed Urban Grey pistols, the P-07 has a replaceable backstrap to accommodate different hand sizes.
It has the Omega trigger system, so you can easily change from a traditional thumb safety to a decocker without tools.
The slide has a nitride finish for added hardness, durability and corrosion resistance. The barrel, as with all of the CZ line, is made with an integral feed ramp, for an utterly reliable feed cycle and additional case support.
The frame is molded from a super-tough polymer, with the Urban Grey color as an integral part of the mix. It isn't going to wear off.
CZ dehorned the P-07, and as an additional part of the frame molding, designers added a non-slip set of stripes on the frame, ahead of the slide stop, as a tactile indication for your trigger finger when it is out of register. The frame also has a molded-in Picatinny rail on the front.
The P-09 is a full-size, polymerframe pistol. The frame and slide, like the P-07, are polymer-dyed Urban Grey and nitrided for durability. However, the barrel is three-quarters of an inch longer, wringing more velocity out of 9mm ammo. And the longer sight radius makes it easier to shoot accurately, quickly, or both. The longer frame accommodates a longer magazine, and with its Plus 2 base pad it holds 21 rounds in the magazine, plus one in the chamber. That's almost half a box of ammo in one magazine.
Both the P-07 and the P-09 have the new and improved CZ trigger shape, which makes long practice sessions even easier than they had been before.
Each of the Urban Grey line comes in a lockable CZ case, with a pair of magazines, a firearms lock, owner's manual and cleaning rod.
The shooting experience was uneventful insofar as there were no malfunctions with any ammo, in any of the pistols, with or without a suppressor mounted (I tested four suppressors from Gemtech and Thompson Machine).
What was interesting was the opportunity to compare classic and modern pistol designs side by side. The CZ 75, P-01 and SP-01 Tactical were all as expected--a joy to shoot. The grip shape is everything we thought back before the Berlin Wall came down and still ranks as one of the most comfortable ever designed.
One aspect of pistol suppressors that can be a surprise is that in order for their extra weight to not induce malfunctions, they have to have what is known as a booster. This stores energy and then delivers it back into the recoil cycle. As a result, you can add a bunch of weight to a pistol and yet it kicks even harder.
Two of the combos changed that. The P-01, as a compact carry pistol, got the Poseidon suppressor. The Poseidon, as a compact and lightweight suppressor, does not need a booster. As a result, it actually decreased felt recoil by a small amount and still worked just fine.
The P-09 first had a run with the Gemtech Multi-Mount. On the first shot the recoil was so soft I thought it hadn't cycled. It had. Was it the Gemtech? I tried the P-09 with the others, and it was super-soft in recoil with all of them.
The geometry of the P-07/P-09 design works to soak up recoil a great deal better than the classic CZ-75 design does. And it still functions 100 percent. This poses a dilemma. Do you go with the sexy grip of the CZ 75, with steel to deal with recoil, or do you go with polymer and geometry?
And then there's the matter of accuracy. I've spent more than one afternoon plinking on 100-yard plates with my Reagan-era CZ 75. CZ knows how to make accurate pistols. The Urban Grey CZ 75 was no slouch in that department, but the P-09 was almost scary. With a couple of the loads, and any of the suppressors mounted, I was able to put almost all the shots out of a magazine onto one of our 100-yard gongs from off-hand. Slapping steel, without the need for earmuffs, at that distance, was sheer fun.
As a final complication, none of the Urban Grey line hits your wallet particularly hard. In this era of $1,000 pistols, the most expensive of the Urban Grey line has a suggested retail that is the cost of one box of ammo over seven hundred dollars.
Whichever you choose, you can't go wrong. And the Urban Grey? I grew up in the antediluvian era of blued steel and walnut, and a lot of the colors of modern finishes just don't do much for me.
But this Urban Grey, either in the applied finish on the metal frames or the dyed-in-the-polymer frames of the P-07/P-09, is something I can get to like a lot. And as accurate as these pistols are, it's easy to show off on the range.
Suppressor makers are shifting in their designs and manufacturing.
The classic design is known as a "baffle stack" design. Here, a fistful of individual cones, the baffles, are stacked inside the tube, and the ends screwed on to assemble the suppressor. The Gemtech Multi-Mount is this design.
The Gemtech GM-9 and the Thompson Machine ISIS-2 represent a newer design known as a "monocore." Monocores have the baffles machined as one piece, and that piece goes into and out of the tube as a single unit. A monocore is easier to clean, and there are no problems with misaligned assembly. Further, because the monocore is a single, machined bare of metal, it's far less fragile than individual baffles.
They all require a booster, a Nielsen device, at the rear mount to offset the weight that the tube and baffles add to the pistol.
The Thompson Machine Poseidon is a compact monocore that uses a "wipe," a disk of neoprene on the front end, to control gas release. The light weight means it does not need a booster, but the wipe wears as bullets pass through it, and in order to maintain the decibel decrease, you have to regularly replace worn wipes.
CZ-USA URBAN GREY COMPARISON 75 SP-01 75B OMEGA P-01 OMEGA TACTICAL Action DA/SA DA/SA DA/SA Capacity (+1) 18 16 18 Barrel (in.) 5.2 4.5 5.2 OAL/Width/Height (in.) 8.8/1.4/6.1 8.0/1.4/5.7 8.8/1.5/6.1 Weight (oz.) 39 30 42 Frame steel aluminum steel Swappable Safety/Decock yes yes no Price $636 $653 $723 P-07 P-09 Action DA/SA DA/SA Capacity (+1) 17 21 Barrel (in.) 4.5 5.2 OAL/Width/Height (in.) 7.9/1.5/5.8 8.8/1.5/6.3 Weight (oz.) 28 30 Frame polymer polymer Swappable Safety/Decock yes yes Price $537 $629 Notes: All are chambered to 9mm Luger. Capacities are not legal in all states. "Swappable safety/decock" denotes whether pistol ships with both a decocker and a manual safety.