A battle of equals
By Dennis Adler
A battle among equals is the best comparison and no two blowback action CO2 pistols are better matched than the CZ75-based Tanfoglio Gold Custom and the fully equipped CZ75 SP-01 Shadow Blue. There is one obvious advantage to the Tanfoglio; it comes this way right out of the box. The disadvantage is that it has to stay this way! The Shadow begins as a traditional blowback action DA/SA semi-auto that embodies almost every desirable feature one could ask for in a CO2 pistol. What it lacks is a windage and elevation adjustable rear sight that would make it an ideal target pistol instead of a straightforward counterpart to a 9mm duty pistol.
And then the blues start playing
Depending upon your budget you can get fairly well invested in the SP-01 Shadow Blue, or orange or red, if you like, as all three competition colors are offered for the anodized alloy Shadow accessories. I prefer blue. If you add up the money, the fully equipped Shadow will set you back about $279 plus tax and shipping for everything you see here except the optics. An equally equipped Tanfoglio Gold Custom, which has been around for awhile, sells for about $75 plus sales tax and shipping. In this respect, they are equals. But the Tanfoglio serves only one purpose, has only one look, the Shadow has many capabilities from a basic hands-on CZ75 training gun to a customized, optics-equipped target pistol. There is even an available SAO Shadow Blue target trigger for the Shadow if you want to make it exactly like a Gold Custom which uses the competition SAO trigger design based on the 9mm model. But you give up the DA/SA capability for the SP-01 as a training gun, and the SA trigger pull on the Shadow is almost equal to the Gold Custom.
Let’s begin with trigger pull. The Tanfoglio has always averaged around 2 pounds 7.2 ounces and as low as 2 pounds 3.9 ounces. The SA trigger pull on the Shadow is an average of 2 pounds, 0.4 ounces with a 0.375 inch take up, compared to the Tanfoglio SAO trigger’s 0.375 inch take up, so again pretty much equals. There is a difference in the feel of triggers and moreover in trigger shape; the SP-01’s traditional CZ crescent-shape vs. the more vertical Tanfoglio SAO target trigger. How much will this affect accuracy? Depends on the person pulling the trigger, the internal quality of the individual airgun’s firing mechanism, and of course, shooting .177 caliber steel BBs through a smoothbore barrel.
In terms of size and weight, the SP-01 (empty with magazine inserted) and the optics rail mounted, weighs 43.0 ounces. The Tanfoglio Gold Custom (empty with magazine inserted) and the optics rail, weighs 48.1 ounces. In overall length the Tanfoglio, with its ported muzzle break, stretches 10.0 inches, the Shadow 8.125 inches. The two guns have equivalent grip sizes and height to the top of the optics rail and grip widths of 1.125 inches, respectively.
Velocity and accuracy with optics
Optics won’t change velocity but how close are these two CZ-based CO2 models in fps? The Shadow clocks an average of 319 fps. The Tanfoglio has consistently sent .177 caliber steel BBs downrange at an average of 328 fps. The Tanfoglio gains a small advantage with its longer 5-inch barrel vs. the CZ’s internal smoothbore barrel length of 4.25 inches.
Weight and balance are about as even as possible for two similar handguns with optics (especially with the same optic) so it will come down to trigger pull and the shooting skill, the latter as variable as the wind. What is great about both CZ-based models is that they are ambidextrous so right and left-handed shooters go to the range with no handicap.
I shot one series of tests with the high-priced Styrka S3, which I was able to sight in with Umarex Precision steel BBs in half a dozen shots. I fired 10-shot groups using a 10-meter target at 21 feet rather than throwing steel into a big red center dot on a Shoot-N-C. It’s a smaller bullseye, too. My best 10-shot group measured 0.81 inches with a best five at 0.56 inches with three overlapping split in the 8 ring at 9 o’clock.
Using the Walther MRS (same as a CenterPoint 32mm reflex sight), which was already sighted in for the Tanfoglio Gold Custom, I needed five shots to readjust POA, after which the MRS delivered 10 rounds into 0.935 inches with the Shadow Blue. The best 5-shot group covered 0.56 inches.
To keep everything both even and more affordable, I didn’t shoot the Tanfoglio with the Styrka S3 and switched the MRS back to the Gold Custom. I pulled everything left (because I didn’t reset the windage and elevation!) but my groups were tight placing a best 10 rounds at 0.685 inches with a best five-shot spread over 0.437 inches. The Gold Custom is still the gold standard, but the Shadow Blue with equal equipment can give it a run for its money and then switch back to a tactical training gun. I guess that’s something.