Shadow Blue in the field
By Dennis Adler
Can grips and a mag funnel make a gun better? Grips, absolutely, the mag funnel depends on the level of stress you’re experiencing during a reload. For target shooting that’s not much, in competition shooting it’s a lot, in a firefight you definitely need any advantage the gun can provide, even being able to funnel in a fresh magazine without hitting the edge of the magazine well.
For Part 2 of the SP-01 Shadow review I am going to run a full drawing, shooting, reloading drill and see how smoothly the Shadow Blue handles. Granted, the standard black SP-01 Shadow runs smoothly, so the advantages of the narrower aluminum grips and magazine funnel are going to be incremental, but different. The greater emphasis with custom grips and accessories is usually aesthetics with practical functions. For competitive shooting, the functions part really weighs more heavily. The upgraded CZ scores high in that category.
Running the Shadow
This is going to be everything right up to the velocity test and accuracy. For target shooting with the CO2 model SP-01 as equipped, the differences in handling are just enough to make the $80 upgrades worthwhile if you are serious about getting the most out of this ASG CZ model. First we’ll start with the support gear, the ASG Strike Force Tactical Gear paddle holster, which I have paired with a Safariland rubberized single mag pouch with a belt mount that can be angled to position the magazine exactly where you want it for a quick reload. The pouch is accordion-like and can fit either a single or double stack magazine; it expands to accommodate the wide mags and is ideal for CO2 magazines. This is a competition belt mount for the Safariland, which is great for standing and quickly withdrawing the magazine, a little less practical for EDC. The combination makes for quick handling with the CZ model.
I have talked about the advantages of the Level 1 design of the Strike Systems injection molded paddle holster and it holds the CZ model firmly in place. When drawing the gun from the holster this type of Level 1 design reinforces good handling practices as it forces you to have your trigger finger aligned with the side of the holster (and this is in relation to the frame of the gun in the holster). Pressing in on the release paddle and drawing the gun lets your trigger finger fall exactly where it should (which is to say, not insider the triggerguard) until you are ready to engage the target. The magazine pouch is positioned for an off hand pull of the loaded magazine which is held in the pouch with the ammo (BBs) facing forward. When you pull the magazine with your offside hand you rotate it up and the magazine is facing the correct way for a direct feed into the magazine funnel (flared magwell) so you can slap it in and drop the slide. It is a very quick movement which I have tried to break down in the second photo sequence into four steps.
On to the aluminum grips, which make a slight difference in how you grasp the CZ, and this works in unison with the flared magwell. As shown in one of the photos, the average size medium-large hand (mine falls into that category) will get a full wrap around the grip frame. The checkered aluminum grip panels, combined with the checkering on the front and backstrap work to keep the gun firmly locked in your shooting hand. How this differs from the black rubberized grips that come standard on the SP-01 is in the “tackiness” of the hard rubber in the hand and there is also a slight give to it as you firm up your grasp. The aluminum grips feel a bit more solid in the hand and there is no raised thumb rest. We can debate the advantages of the thumb rest another day. But there is a little more to it than just the wraparound of the hand on the grips and grip frame. The flared magwell (magazine funnel) creates a shelf for the little finger to rest against. This is more stable than being just against the bottom of the grip frame at the height of the magazine base pad. There is no dispute about this. It is just a fact. Even if you have larger hands, this is going to offer more support for your little finger.
There is yet another advantage for target shooting with this grip and magwell combination, which is shown in the rear view photo. The side of the support hand gets an assist from the flared magwell which provides an angled rest when using a two-handed hold. This makes the pistol as solid in the hands as possible.
Drawing, firing, and reloading
If I had to rate the SP-01 CO2 model against any other competition-style model on the market, I would have to say, in terms of how it feels in the hand, balances, shoots and reloads, that it is very close to the Tanfoglio Gold Custom. Of course, the Gold Custom is designed for use with optics (and the Limited Custom is not currently available), so the CZ really falls nicely into the niche the Tanfoglio models have established. And that makes perfect sense; the Tanfoglio is a CZ 75 platform.
As the two blocks of photos illustrate the SP-01 handles and reloads quickly, and up to this point has delivered on everything a CZ 75 centerfire design promises. Saturday we will find out if it delivers on velocity and accuracy as well.