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Preview – Shadow of the Empire

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The Force Is strong With CZ’s Updated SP-01

Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

The Empire Strikes Back is better than Star Wars. Hear me out before you start shaking your fist at this magazine. The sequel cannot exist without the original, but sequels are tricky. Most of the time they act as reminders as to why the original was so good — case in point, almost every ’90s horror movie with a number in its title.
The biggest challenge with making a sequel is living up to the expectations of the original. There are a select few that move in a different direction and are able to stand on their own, hence the opening statement. The same can be said with many things in life. Each generation tries to better the last. Some fail miserably, yet others create their own way even when the odds are stacked against them. Take a look at CZ and its evolution.

A quick history lesson: Ceskáslovenská Zbrojovka (Czechoslovak State Armament Works), more commonly known as CZ, has a very complicated past. The company has transformed from a communist government-owned entity to the privately owned company it is today. Along the way, it changed names and even directions, but its involvement in firearms has always remained constant.

The most popular handgun CZ ever created (and still makes) is the CZ-75. It's a double/single action “wonder” 9mm, now average by today’s standards, but imagine how ahead of the time it was in 1975. It was developed smack dab in the middle of the Cold War when communism was not very popular in the West, as college students hadn't yet discovered Bernie Sanders. The communist system created a big problem for CZ — they weren't able to patent the design of the CZ-75 internationally.

Along came the vultures, or opportunists depending on which side you're on. With the design being “free” to the world a lot of clones were made, some good and others not so much (cue the Star Wars reference again). The CZ-75 became very popular around the world; presumably the only compensation received by the designer was an extra ration of vodka or maybe a “da, comrade,” the commie version of ’atta boy.

cz-shadow-2-parts cz-shadow-sights

Let’s get back to the task at hand. It seems the creator has been fighting to reclaim the identity of its creation. One can only imagine the struggle in trying to fend off the wolves with a product that’s already yours. Forty years of hard work with the CZ-75 have resulted in the latest iteration. The CZ Shadow 2 is basically a made-for-competition version of the 75. This is definitely a strong blow for CZ in the fight against the dark side.

There are specific parameters that need to be adhered to in practical shooting competitions. This is especially true in the “production” division of IPSC.  As the name implies the gun has to be a mass-produced product, not a one-off custom speed blaster. In the last decade CZ has established itself as a major player in this division, specifically with their CZ-75 SP-01 Shadow. But now they've taken it a step further and built a handgun to fall exactly within the IPSC guidelines. The Shadow 2 spent two years in research and development to get the most gun that’ll fit in the box (i.e. IPSC's size constraints).

Technical Stuff
The Shadow 2 has come to be through the input of CZ’s European shooting team. The shooters gave their ideas of what they want in a handgun, taking the SP-01 Shadow and adding in some places and subtracting in others. The overall length of the gun grew by about ½ inch, adding to a longer sight radius. This supposedly makes the gun easier to shoot accurately, but unless the barrel is long enough to touch the target it won’t help some shooters.

The width of the slide is actually thinner than the predecessor. This isn’t a good thing for the CZ design, as the slide fits inside the frame, not the other way around. This usually meant less meat to grab on to when racking the slide. The Shadow 2 is thinner yet, but the slide's overall profile results in more surface area. This, along with aggressive slide serrations, makes it easier to manipulate versus any other 75 variant.

The fact that weight is taken out of the slide helps with shootability. The goal is to get the gun to shoot flat and be able to return to target quicker. The lighter the reciprocating mass of the slide the less the gun moves around when a shot is taken. This, along with the low bore axis of the slide, amplifies the flatness exponentially.


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