I review a lot of guns and I rarely review a loser. There’s a reason for this; I’ve been shooting for more than 40 years, and I have a pretty good track record for passing by the losers without the trouble of spending time with them. I’m occasionally surprised, but most of the guns I test are pretty good.
On the other side of this are the few guns that are simply surprisingly good. The CZ Czechmate is one of those guns. At SHOT Show, this January, I was looking for the gun I wanted to shoot in the Bianchi Cup this year. I’ve shot the Cup twice, once with a Metallic Class gun and once in Production. Iain Harrison offered me his 1911 race gun to try, just for fun on a plate range. I was amazed at its performance, and I decided then to try the 2013 Bianchi with an Open Class gun. I tried a couple of other guns and I’m committed to shooting the Czechmate.
As pistols go, the Czechmate is about as serious as you can go with an out-of-the-box competition gun. There are only a few companies that offer this type of gun, and the CZ is probably the lowest priced for what you get. It’s not as good as the guns the winners use; those guns probably would cost as much as three times the price of the Czechmate, and it’s not an inexpensive gun at just one cent less than $3,000. Having said this, for your $3K you get a lot more than just a gun.
The Czechmate comes in a suitcase box loaded with accessories. There are four magazines, three 20-round and one 27-round. There is an extra barrel and compensator that convert the gun from a standard 9mm pistol to a 9mm that can handle up-loaded ammunition that will meet major caliber requirements. There is a magazine loader, a C-More competition holographic sight and mount, a standard nonadjustable iron rear sight and a charging handle that replaces the rear sight that makes cycling the slide easy with the optic installed. There are also wrenches and spare parts, including a spare extractor.
This isn’t a perfect gun, but it is a very good gun that has qualities that make it a very good competition pistol. The slide runs on rails that are inside the frame, rather than on the inside of the slide. This reduces the mass of the slide, lowers the center of recoil and allows the side of the gun to be against a barricade without affecting the operation of the gun.
The gun is easy to cycle and operate with the optic installed because of the operating handle, which can be mounted for a right- or left-handed shooter. There is an ambidextrous safety and the magazine release can be converted to operate from the right side of the gun. The first reaction when handling this gun is that it’s a big gun. The Czechmate is all steel and, while the grip panels are thin, the grip is wider than any single stack gun I know of.
The grip angle is a departure from the standard 1911 angle, but it is comfortable and ergonomic. The magazine release is large and easy to find and with a large magazine well, inserting a magazine is easy. I would have liked to have seen witness holes to allow a quick check of how many rounds remained. In shooting tactical, 3-gun and action matches like the Bianchi, this is a great convenience factor, and every company who makes competitive, high capacity pistols should provide this useful option.
I like the shape of the Czechmate trigger. It’s a flat-faced trigger with an upturn at the very bottom to help the shooter interface with the same location on the trigger on every draw. The pull isn’t perfect for precision shooting. I’m an old rifle shooter so I’m really trigger sensitive; there’s just a bit of gritty feel in my test gun, not noticeable in fast shooting but there nonetheless. I shot the Czechmate with the drift adjustable metallic rear sight that comes on the gun, and I liked the sight. It’s nonadjustable, but there’s plenty of sight to allow for filing to the proper elevation with a specific load. The sight picture is an unencumbered blocky post and notch, exactly what I would want in a competition pistol.
The C-More sight and mount attaches to the frame with three conical flat head screws and would probably come very close to a complete return to zero if removed and replaced. It does take a little adjustment to handle finding the red dot, but once it’s found, this is a very fast sight and the standard among the guys who compete with optics. Adjustments are quite fine and getting it regulated wasn’t easy for a guy who’s used to clicks, but once it’s there, it’s there.
I didn’t shoot the Czechmate with the extended barrel and compensator. I was told that regular production 9mm ammunition wouldn’t cycle the gun with the compensator because of the additional weight. I did try some reduced loads for shooting plates, and the Czechmate ran them flawlessly.
Shooting the Czechmate goes as one would expect for a premium, top-of-the-line pistol. Recoil is easy to manage in the standard, noncompensated configuration with production 9mm ammunition. I tested it with Zero Bullet 124-grain hollow point loads I used in last year’s Bianchi Cup and, on the other side of the price point, PMCs Bronze 115-grain full metal jacket load. Accuracy was spectacular with both loads though the Zero had the advantage. I’m sure the Zero 124-grain was more accurate.
To generate those groups, I fired at 25 yards, prone, as one would shoot in the Practical and Barricade events at Bianchi. The Zero ammunition produced ragged hole groups with an occasional flyer. With PMC, the groups were more spread out but still impressive, indicating to me that the combination of Zero Bullet and Czechmate is beyond my capability for accuracy. I’d love to test this combination on a Ransom Rest, I’d be willing to bet the Zero/ Czechmate combination would shoot under an inch at 25 yards.
The only issue I had in practicing for Bianchi was that, when shooting prone or against the barricade, the meat of my right hand tended to push the safety on the right side up and into the safe position. I talked to Jason Morton at CZ USA, and they gave me the option of sending the gun back to them to remove it on the right side or giving me instructions on how to do it myself. There has not been a single malfunction or glitch in the operation of the Czechmate other than this peculiarity that relates to my very high grip.
The Czechmate is a specialized pistol, purpose built for the competitive shooter who doesn’t want to build a gun from scratch. It isn’t as good as the best of those guns, but I’m certain that it’s better than many of them right out of the box. It is a great way for a new practical shooter to get started because it includes everything you need and even provides an option for stepping up to 9mm major. It’s an exceptional gun and worth every penny of the $3,000 price tag.
This article appeared in the June 17, 2013 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.
Recommended Handgun Resources