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Wizard of Oz: Zev Tech’s OZ-9 Compact Pistol

Zev Tech's OZ-9 Compact Offers a Modular Solution for Your Carry Pistol

Photos by Niccole Elizabeth

As the aftermarket for defensive pistols continues to evolve at exponential rates, stock pistols are more blank slate than finished product for savvy consumers. In response, equally savvy manufacturers are becoming more aggressive with their out-of-the-box offerings. Frame texturing, slide cuts, optics mounts, and grip chops — formerly the purview of artisan gunsmiths — are now available as built-in, OEM features. But the universal problem with pistol modifications of any kind is that they become permanent fixtures to the gun. In most cases, undoing or redoing a particular change to a frame or slide is all but impossible. Many a shooter has spent hard-earned coin on a suite of upgrades only to sell or trade away the prized custom blaster after their needs or wants change along the way.


Zev Technologies has been a staple brand in the Glock aftermarket for longer than most. Last year, its years of experience in aftermarket upgrades culminated in the release of its first original pistol offering — the OZ-9. Succinctly named, the Original Zev 9mm might look like any number of customized factory guns found elsewhere in the market. But the OZ-9 is much more than a cut-up version of Herr Gaston’s Austrian brainchild. Recently, Zev released the more carry-friendly OZ-9 compact.

UNDER THE HOOD

The most prominent feature of the OZ-9 series is what Zev calls the internal steel receiver. This is a drop-in, all-metal chassis that includes a Picatinny accessory rail, frame rails, and housing for trigger internals. The internal receiver on our test sample came finished in black Diamond Like Carbon (DLC). DLC is a physical vapor deposition (PVD) surface coating that offers increased dry lubricity and hardness, making it a popular option for firearms components that see a heavy degree of mechanical wear and tear. Zev offers several lengths of slide, barrel, and frame for this system. Best of all, the chassis is removable from the frame by knocking out a single pin just above the end of the trigger guard. That’s the good news.

The catch is that the OZ-9 and OZ-9C use two slightly different-sized internal receivers, making parts compatibility a little dicey right now. We traded several emails and phone calls with Zev to make sure we got this right. At time of writing, here’s what we know: the OZ-9 specs are based on Zev’s Gen 3 products. The full-size OZ-9 chassis will accept Zev’s Z17 and Z34 slides and barrels, but the OZ-9C will not. Both the full-sized and compact receivers will accept Zev OZ-9 grip frames. The trigger and internals on both receivers were modeled on Zev’s Gen 3 parts, except for the mag release which is Gen 4 style.

By the time you read this, the gun industry will be ramping up for SHOT Show 2020. Zev Technologies is aware of the gaps in modularity and assures us that a number of additional OZ-9 series components will be released to supplement what’s already available.

The OZ-9C’s grip frame offers trigger guard undercuts, a magwell and front strap relief cut as standard fare.

For those considering the OZ-9 as a foundation for franken-builds, Zev advises, “We designed both the OZ-9 and OZ-9C to work with only ZEV parts. We understand that people are going to try and mix and match, but we don’t recommend or warranty that.” So tinker to the extent of whatever loss your wallet can handle, and do so at your own risk.

BODY WORK

Our complete OZ-9C showed up in a beefy, safety red Pelican case with custom-cut foam. Popping the latches, our test gun arrived with two Magpul GL-9-15 magazines. Despite receiving the compact model, the foam was clearly cut to accommodate larger models and longer magazines. Good news for anybody who decides to swap components to build a bigger pistol down the road. The slide, also finished in black DLC, was Zev’s duty-oriented version, with front-end cocking serrations, no windows and pre-cut for a Trijicon RMR — or anything that shares its mounting footprint. If optics aren’t your style, the iron sights come configured with a plain, black serrated rear and red fiber optic front. The dimple-fluted barrel has a slightly recessed crown and is paired with a stainless steel guide rod.


The grip module includes all the features we’d ask for in pistol frame, and one that we hadn’t seen before. The grip angle is straight, no palm humps here. Front and back strap are textured from bottom edge to about halfway up the grip. On the backside, the area where the web of your hand sits is smooth. On the front side, the concept of the traditional trigger guard undercut is expanded some. Said undercut scoops out material along the bottom of the trigger guard, but also along the grip’s front strap, where the middle finger sits. This creates a sort-of-but-not-really finger groove. This scoop, combined with the built-in extended beavertail, allows for the highest possible grip on the gun.

Even those used to being plagued by slide bite have little to fear behind the OZ-9C. The most unique feature of this frame are the pinched-in sections high on either side of the grip. This shallow concave area of the grip creates a natural pocket for the meat of your palm to lock into. Our test gun came equipped with a low-profile mag well, but this is easliy removed by knocking out a single pin for better concealability or hand fit.

RANGE TIME

We ran our test gun with a whole slew of ammunition: Winchester white box, Magtech, Hornady XTP and steel-case HAP, Speer Gold Dot G2 and Blackwater Ammo. The latter isn’t yet for sale commercially, but we were able to get our hands on some, which features a unique two-part case. With no prior cleaning or lubrication, and very little care for what we fed it, the OZ-9C ran without a hitch in our range tests. Accuracy and reliability were boringly consistent. It might seem anticlimactic to get to the range portion of the story and not have much to say. But the reality is that black, 9mm, striker-fired carry pistols have commonly accepted performance standards in today’s marketplace. The OZ-9C meets or exceeds all expectation for a carry gun of its weight class. But it does so with a notable degree of finesse and refinement, offering a well-thought-out package that improves on every aspect of the compact handgun experience from ergonomics to modularity to trigger press.


Speaking of which, the OZ-9C’s trigger is what you’d expect from a company with years of experience honing competition-grade parts. Having said that, this is definitely an all-purpose trigger that could easily pull double duty in a carry holster and race rig. After about a quarter inch of smooth pre-travel, the trigger stacks firmly before the bottom drops out right around the 4-pound mark. It’s not a hard wall like some other duty and defensive trigger, but it doesn’t roll over quite as easily as an open-division go-fast trigger. The flat-faced trigger shoe is designed so that, at the break point, it’s almost perfectly vertical, and there isn’t a lick of over travel. The reset is a little longer than we’d like, but it’s crisp and audible.

LOOSE ROUNDS

The burning question remains, is the OZ-9 “worth it?” At nearly $1,700 retail, there’s some sticker shock to get over. Then again, maybe not. Is that price tag any worse than buying a stock pistol and dumping four-figures’ worth of frame, slide, and trigger work into it after-the-fact? You’ll have to decide that one for yourself, but the element of modularity adds an interesting twist. In this case, the mythical one gun is actually capable of being a couple of guns, at the push of a pin. If you have the need (or want) to change grip frames, colors, and configuration, the Zev OZ-9 might offer the plug-and-play edge you’ve been searching for.


Visit ZEV online here.


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