Ceská Zbrojovka is a well-known arms manufacturer from the Czech Republic that’s been going since 1936 – but one of its more modern creations is the CZ 75 pistol. Its roots go back to the mid-1970s, with the contemporary CZ 75 P-07 Duty version – a polymer frame semi-auto with a steel slide – popular with the old Eastern Bloc countries and some US security forces. As a firearm it’s available in a variety of calibres and cartridge sizes, the 9mm 9×19 being a popular choice.
I recount this because two pistols I’ve been testing recently are CO2-powered air pistols shaped in a similar style to the CZ 75, and which are licensed to use the name. However, these are made in Taiwan for Action Sport Games (ASG), a Danish Company. The ASGs’ build quality is great, and the attention to authentic detail impressive; I’ve studied pictures of the real thing and you can barely tell the two apart. The front of the frame even has ‘Made in Czech Republic’ moulded into it. And like the CZ 75, the top slide of the CO2 version is metal and the frame largely polymer – and the grip sports a moulded-in pattern which is very tactile in the hand.
Aside from the cosmetic differences of the test pistols – one’s got a brushed steel finish on the slide and the other’s all black – I’m testing a pair to assess the differences of the action options. The all-black variant is a double-action model, whereas its shinier sibling incorporates the rather realistic blowback system.
Blowback CO2 pistols mimic the machinations of a real firearm, where the recoil of the shot sends the slide rearwards, expelling the spent cartridge, recocking the hammer and stripping the next round from the magazine as the slide returns under spring power. The CO2 version is essentially recoilless so, on firing, a small quantity of gas is diverted to force the slide back and recock the hammer – and the next round is made ready by the subsequent trigger pull. Suffice to say, the operation of the slide is lightning quick and the ‘kick’ it gives does make shooting the pistol pretty cool.
Of course, using CO2 for ‘blowback’ will compromise either the shot count per bulb or muzzle energy, depending on how the gun’s valve is set up, and I found the slide struggled to come back with enough force to cock the hammer after just three magazines’ worth of shots in quick succession. To be fair, with 20 BBs per magazine, that is an impressive 60 shots from a standard 12g capsule. Additionally, if you allow the gun to regain (warm) ambient temperature and manually cock the hammer, you can still fire off a few more rounds.
The blowback model has a sticker on it saying ‘Max 2 Joule’ – translating to roughly 300fps with a five-grain .177 BB. Clearly some of the gas was being used to cock the action because the non-blowback model carried the sticker ‘Max 3 Joule’. Over the speed meter, this gun produced 339fps – around 1.75J – and was able to return 100 shots per capsule with sensible use. That’s cheap shooting.
Asking around the dealers, I’m told early batches had an issue with the foresight falling out of the dovetail in the frame – but on both my pistols, this area was absolutely rock solid, so I suspect the factory sorted this problem a while back. Anyway, while we’re on the subject of opens, the low-bore sight picture offered by the CZ 75 is very good indeed. It follows the firearm format of post-and-notch sights, with the rearsight’s ‘U’ highlighted in white that matches with the white spot foresight – simple but effective.
The rearsight is adjustable for windage only (via hex key), though I found the sights were pretty much ‘on’ straight out of the box, and I was splattering Coke cans end-on over my six-yard garden range with each shot.
Accuracy wise, you must remember these are BB guns, not renowned for their precision shooting – and these pistols have smoothbore barrels to ‘steer’ the steel .177 BBs. Pure plinkers, then – and it’s all about ripping cans apart in the back yard, rather than grouping inside the 10-ring of a scoring card. As plinkers, though, both guns admirably satisfy their brief.
Outwardly, the double-action ‘non-blowback’ model looks the same as its sibling – but the hammer is cycled with each squeeze of the trigger, as on a double-action revolver. You can pull the hammer back with your thumb to fire the gun in single-action mode – and, indeed, you can manually cycle the slide to cock the hammer; serrations along the slide assist in doing so. However, because this pistol’s BB feed works upon the initial action of the trigger being squeezed, you can find the BB rolls down the barrel and falls out of the end before you’ve actually ‘dropped’ the hammer with a complete trigger pull. This was something I experienced with the blowback gun, too.
Used in single-action mode, I also found the trigger a little imprecise – so against your better judgement, it’s probably best to stick with double- action mode and live with the extra trigger pressure it requires. If you’re positive in cycling the trigger, you’ll soon get to grips with it – and let’s not forget this is a BB gun, not a paper-puncher, so accuracy isn’t the be-all and end-all.
ASG supplied me with a set of Venture 3 safety glasses in amber – a colour that, they tell me, helps improve contrast. Mine certainly did. Naturally, their main purpose is stopping eye injury and I’d say safety specs are essential when shooting BB guns. Steel BBs don’t really deform on impact and are notorious for bounce-backs. Therefore, a ‘soft’ backstop is also appropriate – you don’t want to be shooting steel BBs into a rock-hard piece of mahogany, that’s for sure.
You may be surprised at how quickly you’ll empty a mag on these pistols – and replenishing them follows the firearm format. Press the button on the left side of the grip to drop out the magazine into your waiting palm – all very slick. Like many CO2 pistols, the capsule is located in the handle and, to gain access, you press the small button on the grip to pop it off at the rear. The piercing screw – which you turn to ‘break’ a fresh new capsule – is revealed once the magazine’s out. It’s a very clever design that works well. Unlike many other guns, the unattractive piercing screw head is nicely secreted – and I certainly take my hat off to the designer for this.
I’ve already mentioned that both models pay homage to their firearm cousin by way of authentic details – and there’s also a working slide release catch on the left-hand side of the frame. Both models allow the slide to lock back in the rear position and the blowback model will do this automatically once the magazine is empty, as per the real firearm.
There’s also a safety catch toward the rear of the frame, again authentically placed, though it’s functional only on the left; the right-side safety detail is a moulded-in dummy.
A real bonus of the CZ 75 Duty model is the Picatinny-style accessory rail under the front of the frame, on which accessories, like a laser or flashlight, can be fitted – and the CO2 model sports the same system. Those Coke cans won’t go away just because the light‘s gone a bit dark, you know…
So… the 64-million dollar question: would I buy one, and which one? Well, if I wanted a BB clone of a CZ 75 (or near offer), then yes. If the blowback model gave a crisp single-action trigger pull, that would be my choice – but it doesn’t, and as cool as the ‘recoiling’ blowback system is, I might be more tempted by the greater shots-per-charge capacity of the non-blowback version. That also costs a little less and, theoretically, has fewer parts to go wrong, though it’s a close call. I had a whole load of fun with both these BB gas guns – and that is, after all, what plinking should be all about.