CZ 97B, .45 ACP – LARGE AND IN CHARGE

We all have our favorite calibers, and for me the .45 ACP cartridge has been my favorite since I first fired one many, many years ago. Over the years I discovered other pistol platforms that also fired the .45 ACP and since have acquired Springfield XD/XDM and Glock pistols in that caliber. It was not until recently that an opportunity to discover another platform came before me – the CZ.

Having several CZ 75 pistols in 9mm subsequentially led to a search of a .45 ACP version, a bigger brother, if you will. In fact, the CZ 97 B is considered the big-bore brother to the CZ 75 B and is the first CZ pistol produced in .45 ACP. It is operationally identical to the 75 B (SA/DA, firing pin block safety and magazine brake).

The CZ 97B evaded me for quite a few years. I began looking for the CZ 97B right after I procured a CZ 75B Omega, but the supply was dry, as the CZ 97B (or BD) seems to go out the dealer’s door as fast as they come in. In fact, when I ordered this one, from Midway USA, it was the last one – and I hope they saved the best for last.

So it is that I bring to you, with great Élan, my review of the CZ 97B.

A General Look

The CZ 97B is a semiautomatic, mechanically locked, recoil operated pistol intended for service use. It is a large pistol with a 10+1 capacity.

Originally, the CZ 97B came equipped with wood grips, like that shown below. However, in 2013 aluminum grip panels replaced the wood grips (as in the lead-in image), which made the grip of the CZ 97B thinner to accommodate those with smaller hands.

Early Example of the CZ 97B with Wood Grip Panels

Personally, I prefer the wood grip panels over the aluminum panels. More on that later.

Specifications for the CZ 97B are shown below. Note that I have added some specifications that will be covered in the article.

Specifications

Product Name CZ 97 B – .45 ACP
SKU 01411
Firearm Type Handgun
MSRP $729.00
Chambering .45 ACP
Magazine Capacity 10
Magazine Type Staggered
Frame Steel
Grips Thin Aluminum
Trigger Mech DA/SA
Double-Action (DA) 11 pounds 11.1 ounces
Single-Action (SA) 5 pounds 11.8 ounces
Sights Fiber Optic Front, two luminescent dot rear
Barrel Cold Hammer Forged
Barrel Length 4.65 inches
Weight  
Unloaded (with magazine) 2 pounds 9.4 ounces (32.587 ounces)
Loaded 3 pounds 1.5 ounces (48.09 ounces) (10+1 rounds of Sig Sauer V-Crown 230-grain JHP)
Overall Length 8.3 inches
Height 5.9 inches
Width (widest point) 1.4 inches
Width (grip) 1.152 inches
Safety Manual Safety, Safety Stop on Hammer, Firing Pin Block Safety, Loaded Chamber Indicator

The first thing to note from the specifications is that the width of 1.4 inches and is a 0.1 inch less difference as the total width of a Rock Island Armory FS 1911, as measured at the ambidextrous safety levers, which is 1.5 inches as specified by the manufacturer. The grip width, with the provided aluminum grip panels, is slightly less than a 1911 with Hogue Rubber Finger-Groove Wraparound grip panels (1.1520 vs. 1.285 inches). The total height of the CZ-97B is; however, taller than a 1911.

The second thing that you might notice on the pistol itself is the full frame, which is flat all the way to the muzzle like that found on the CZ 75 SP-01. The full frame adds a bit of weight, which helps in managing the recoil of the .45 ACP cartridge. The 3 pounds 1.5 ounces (48.09 ounces) (10+1 rounds of Sig Sauer V-Crown 230-grain JHP) of total weight places the CZ 97B right up there with the all-steel Government Model 1911 (approximate 45.92 ounces loaded to 8 cartridges), but with a 2-round advantage. And tactical types, no rail is provided – sorry!

One might ask why only ten rounds?  Originally, this was the result of the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act or Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) of 1994.  However, because so many states ban magazines over ten rounds, the capacity of the CZ 97 remains at ten rounds to satisfy those state’s requirements. So why bother with a CZ 97 when there are larger capacity .45 ACP firearms in the market today, such as the Glock 21 and 41, and Springfield Armory XD and XDM series of firearms. The answer to that is fully understood by lovers of the CZ pistols, where non CZ aficionados would not understand. You might say that it is the same as those who prefer a 1911 pistol with a seven or eight round capacity over a larger capacity firearm of more ‘modern’ times.

So, look further at the CZ 97B and see why so many (including myself) are enamored by the CZ line of pistols.

Styling, Fit n’ Finish

The craftsmanship, fit and finish of the pistols is excellent. The form of the pistol is impeccable, and even as large as the pistol is, it fits in the hand like it belongs there. The styling, except for the flat frame, is reminiscent  of the CZ 75. Note that no rail is present, which is fine with me.

Like its smaller brothers, the full-length rail is internal and provide a bit lower bore axis than other pistols.

In the later models, as with this one, front slide serrations were added to assist in retracting the slide, which some claim is too short and needs to be taller for effective grasping of the slide. It does; however, present a low profile and does contribute to the overall accuracy of the pistol. Once you are used to the slide, working it does not present an issue.

Slide n’ Sights

The front sight is fiber while the rear sight is a two-dot luminescent sight. Note that if you wish night sights, those are available on the CZ 97BD (de-cocker) version.

The top of the slide contains a tactile and visual pop-up round chambered indicator. A feature that is also found on some CZ 75 pistols. The top of the slide also contains serrations for reducing glare.

The 4.65 inch hammer forged barrel provides enough length for the .45 ACP bullet to travel through while providing a good degree of velocity, and a full-length (polymer) guide rod keeps the recoil spring in-line. The big part here is the barrel bushing, which is a screw-in type of bushing that is held in place by the guide rod bushing. I will go through this a bit more in the disassembly/assembly portion of this write-up.

The ejection port opening is massive and allows the spent shells to find their way free of the pistol with no interference. More on this in the At the Range section of this article. The external extractor, which seems small for the size of the pistol, does its job extremely well.

The slide is stamped with the CZ logo and CZ 97B along with CAL. 45 Auto on the left side of the slide, and along with the disassembly/assembly alignment mark. The right side of the slide is stamped with the year of manufacture (19 for 2019, in this case), proof marks, and serial number, which is also stamped on the barrel. All stamping (roll marking?) is well done.

Frame

The Slide Stop is oversized yet well-blended into the pistol. The slide stop is followed by an oversized frame-mounted safety lever, also well-blended into the frame, which allows the trigger to be disconnected when in safe mode and allows the pistol to be carried in “Condition 1” cocked n’ locked as you would with a 1911. The pistol is, of course, double- and single-action. The same care when lowering the hammer on the CZ 97B must be taken as you would lowering the hammer on a 1911. More on that later.

The grip is what you might expect – near perfect in angle for the hand, and there is a lot to grip. The aluminum grip panels are well textured as is the front strap and back strap of the pistol. For some, the size (girth) of the grip may be too large for those with small, or even medium-sized hands. If you can hold a Glock G21 (or G41) or a Beretta 92FS, you will not have a problem with the grip. It must be noted that the grip width of the CZ75 is greater than the CZ 97, but the grip reach is greater than the CZ 75 due to the .45 ACP ammunition it houses. The one thing that makes the grip is the grip angle and contouring.

The rear strap could be summed up as being reminiscent to the 1911A1 – only exaggerated. The gentle slope of the back strap follows the contour of the hand very nicely and is nicely serrated. The front strap has a flare at the bottom that blends in perfectly with the base pad of the magazine. There is no worry about a “hanging pinky” on this firearm. The front strap also has vertical serrations. The aluminum grip panels are thin cut, and some say are much better than the thicker wood grips that came on the early models of the pistol, as they allow more of the hand to wrap around the grip. I cannot draw a comparison between the aluminum and wood grip panels, as I do not have a set of wood grip panels for this pistol – yet.

The steel frame is slightly undercut at the rear of the trigger guard, and the upswept beavertail grip helps lower the bore axis for less muzzle flip. The beavertail frame helps avoid hammer bite, too. The front of the trigger guard is squared off and grooved. The CZ 97 B sports a full dust cover, which gives the pistol an all-business look that is slightly intimidating. The full dust cover also gives the pistol more heft. The front and rear grip straps have vertical serrations that assist in keeping the pistol in a secure grip under rapid fire. It is easy to hang onto the CZ 97 B.

The pistol comes with two 10-round magazines with base pads. The magazine release button, located on the left side only, is positive and easily reached and pressed, if your hands are large; otherwise, it takes a shift in the grip to reach it. The magazines eject forcibly and lock up precisely. The number of cartridges can be checked through the inspection holes in the sides of the magazine. Do not try to exceed the magazine capacity – doing so can cause a feeding failure (according to CZ-USA). Finding magazines for the CZ 97 can be difficult as they are in great demand. Magazines are also expensive with somewhere close to $44 when they are in stock.

The right side of the frame contains the stampings; CZ-USA, KANSAS CITY, KANSAS, and the serial number. The stamping on the left side of the frame consists only of the disassembly/assembly alignment marks.

We All Have Triggers…

…and the CZ 97B is no exception. As with all double-action/single-action (DA/SA) pistols, there is that transition between double-action and single-action modes of operation.

The trigger shoe is nicely curved and wide so that the trigger finger is well within the center of the trigger.

When in double-action mode, the trigger pull is a long but clean 11 pound 12.1 ounce before let-off. In single-action mode there is a bit of free-travel to overcome before resistance is felt. Once resistance is felt, only 11.8 pounds of pull is required before the hammer falls. Reset is long, but that is to be expected in a DA/SA pistol and that can be trained through.

If the hammer is placed in the safety notch (1/4 cock), the free travel before resistance is felt is lessened over resting the hammer against the trigger block. The safety notch (1/4-cock) hammer position is where I prefer to carry the pistol over the “Condition 1” hammer position. As with most CZ pistols there is no “stacking’ of the trigger. The point at which the trigger breaks is more of a feel of where the trigger finger is at in the trigger pull stroke. With a lot of trigger time under the belt, a “staging’ point can be sensed when operating in double-action mode, but it is doable.

The trigger guard is rounded for use with gloves and has a serrated front for those who like to stick support hand trigger fingers on it.

To “B” or not to “B”

The “B” in the model designates that the pistol is equipped with a firing pin block, which is as indicated by the Firing Pin Roll Pin within the rear slide serrations, and which is a firing pin stop and prevents firing pin over-travel. While I have not heard of any issues dry firing the CZ 97B, I am taking my cue from issues reported by operators of the CZ 75 pistols; whereas, some roll pins have been damaged from dry firing (Springfield Armory striker fired pistol have a similar issue). I keep A-Zoom Snap Caps around for every caliber of firearm that I have, including rifles and shotguns. I have become accustomed to having a snap cap in any firearm that I intend to dry fire, to include revolvers, rifles, shotguns, etc. The CZ 97B is no exception. Using snap caps when dry firing a pistol, or any firearm for that matter, is just a good habit to get into (in my humble opinion).

De-cocking the Hammer

De-cocking the hammer is a manual effort. If you have worked with a 1911 pistol, then de-cocking the CZ-97 will be familiar to you.

To de-cock the pistol:

  1. Grasp the grip.
  2. POINT IN A SAFE DIRECTION.
  3. Two methods are available:
    1. With thumb and forefinger pressed on the grooved area (thumb piece) of the hammer, pull and then release the trigger and then release the hammer slowly until it rests on the Safety Stop 1/4-cock position(I explain this ‘Safety Stop’ later). The pistol is now in double-action mode. If a live round has been chambered, the pistol is safe to carry with safety on or off, with the latter preferred (Condition 2).
    1. With thumb and forefinger pressed on the grooved area (thumb piece) of the hammer, pull and hold the trigger and release the hammer slowly until it rests on the action. The pistol is now also in double-action mode. If a live round has been chambered, the pistol is safe to carry with safety on or off, with the latter preferred (Condition 2). Note that using method b results in a longer trigger pull than when using method a.

To carry in “Condition 1” (Cocked and Locked):

  1. With a loaded magazine inserted, pull the slide rearward and release to chamber a cartridge. The hammer is now in the cocked position and ready to fire.
  2. Press the safety lever upward until the red dot is hidden from view. The pistol is now in “Condition 1” and is safe to carry.

It must be noted that when the hammer is down, the safety lever cannot be engaged. Only when the hammer is fully cocked can the safety be engaged. The safety lever operates in the same fashion as that found on the 1911 pistol; swipe down to fire.

Safety Stop on the Hammer

A half-cock safety notch is on the hammer to prevent it from striking the firing pin when the hammer is manually cocked, and a thumb could slip. When the hammer is on the safety stop, it is not leaning against the firing pin stop, but its position is further back.

Range Prepping

Any pistol, especially when new and out of the box, should undergo a thorough inspection, cleaning, and lubricating prior to shooting for the first time. The CZ 97B is no different from other pistols in that respect.

Initially, and like the standard CZ 75, the CZ 97B is partially disassembled in the same manner, which is a bit different from what you may be used to. Once partially disassembled, things take a different turn due to the barrel bushing setup.

Slide and Frame Alignment Marks

Removing the Slide Stop Assembly

  1. Remove the magazine. The pistol must not be disassembled with the magazine inserted!
  2. Put the safety to “OFF” position to release the movement of the slide.
  3. MAKE SURE THAT THERE IS NO CARTRIDGE IN THE CHAMBER!
  4. Retract the hammer slightly back and then release it, until it stops on half-cock
  5. (safety) notch position. In this state the handling which follows will be easier.
  6. Put your left thumb through the trigger guard and with the other fingers grasp the top of the front part of the slide firmly). Push the slide slightly back until the two vertical lines on the rear part of the frame and slide are in line with each other.
  7. KEEPING THE LINES ALIGNED push (tap) the slide stop from the right hand side of the weapon. Remove the slide stop. The magazine base or non-marring tool can be used to facilitate this operation.
  8. Pull the slide and the barrel forward off the frame.
  9. Remove the (non-captive) recoil spring and guide. As always, be mindful and wear eye protection when removing spring assemblies of any sort.
  10. Remove the recoil spring housing.
  11. Screw the barrel bushing off the barrel in the counter-clockwise direction.
  12. Remove the barrel from the slide.

I am assuming that you have cleaned pistols before, so I am not going to go through cleaning and lubricating methods with you, as you no doubt have a method of your own. If you are unsure as to how to thoroughly clean a CZ 75 series pistol, which also applies to the CZ 97 series pistols, then watching this video or this video may help you.

Some care must be taken when installing the grips, should you remove them for whatever reason. The grip panel mounting screws are fastened directly into the frame; therefore, over-tightening is not advised – unless you just like your gunsmith and want to visit him on occasion.

To assemble the pistol:

Re-assembly Note

Ensure the barrel bushing is properly aligned with the recoil spring housing. Screw the bushing all the way in and then back it off to the first notch in the bushing. Recoil spring housing must be engaged into the notch in the bushing, as shown below.

Properly Aligned Barrel Bushing

  1. Insert the barrel into the slide.
  2. Screw the barrel bushing onto the barrel (clockwise).
  3. Insert the recoil spring housing into the slide.
  4. Align the barrel bushing with the guide rod bushing (see, Re-assembly Note).
  5. Install the recoil spring and guide.
  6. Push the slide onto the frame.
  7. Put your left thumb through the trigger guard and with the other fingers grasp the top of the front part of the slide firmly). Push the slide slightly back until the two vertical lines on the rear part of the frame and slide are in line with each other.
  8. Install the Slide Stop from the left side of the frame. Ensure the Slide Stop fully engages the detent. When new, this may take the help of tapping the Slide Stop with a non-marring tool (I use a wooden dowel).
  9. Release the slide.
  10. Perform a function check.

Now that the pistol is together again, it is range time (at least for me).

At the Range

The size and weight of the CZ 97B works toward reducing felt recoil and muzzle flip, if I do my part and grip the pistol properly.

Initial testing meant posting a silhouette target at seven yards for estimating zero function and then run some Mozambique for  play time. Initial ammunition was Sellier & Bellot 230-grain FMJ (853 fps @ muzzle). I also had some 230-grain FMJ from Georgia Ammo (830 fps @ muzzle). For defense ammunition testing, my usual Sig Sauer V-Crown 230-grain (830 fps @ muzzle) was also fired.

The Sellier & Bellot 230-grain FMJ (853 fps @ muzzle) was, obviously, the hotter of the three and the CZ 97B handled it with aplomb.

The manufacturer states that for the CZ 97 pistol the use of ammunition with the revolver wadcutter type of bullet particularly LSWC (Lead Semi-Wadcutter) is not advisable. Use of these cartridges can cause a failure when feeding the cartridge from magazine into the chamber. With that said, one FTF occurred, but I do not believe that it was a fault of the pistol, as it was rechambered and fired.

When shooting, I found the grip to be more like a 1911A1, only larger, with the back strap arch tucking nicely into the hand. I prefer a more rounded gripping area, or grip panels with a palm swell, over the flat-sided aluminum grip panels. The wood panel upgrade helped my hand fit the pistol (see UPGRADES).

The grip surface is large. If you have held or fired a Beretta 92/M9, the grip width is similar but with a longer length. For some it would be too large, but for me it is near perfect.

Accuracy is excellent with the sights being POI. The rear photo-luminescent sights are clear to my eyes and worked well with their faint light green coloring, while the front red fiber sight sets a contrast with the rear sights and picks up very well in daylight and range lighting.

Felt recoil is negligible; feeling a bit more like a 9mm rather than a .45 ACP. The 3 pounds 1.5 ounces (48.09 ounces) of weight with 10+1 rounds of Sig Sauer V-Crown 230-grain JHP is a solid factor regarding felt recoil.

The Concealment Factor

I am not going to tell you that the CZ 97 is an easy pistol to conceal. It is a full-size service pistol with a full size grip, which is the hardest part to conceal. With that said, can you effectively conceal the CZ 97B?

Concealing the CZ 97B has its challenges, but it can be done. Some consideration must be given to your size, your clothing, the weather, etc. I carried the CZ 97B for a week in an IWB holster intended for the Glock G41 and it was a perfect fit. The “Cumberland” holster from Simply Rugged also houses the Beretta 92FS, the Beretta M9, the CZ 75 and several Glock pistols.

The height of the CZ 97B is 5.9 inches, which is 0.4 inches taller than a standard Government Model 1911 pistol. And, you will have a significant amount of weight on your hip (3 pounds 1.5 ounces (48.09 ounces) with 10+1 rounds of Sig Sauer V-Crown 230-grain JHP). The CZ 97 would not be a summer carry, at least not IWB. However, in the colder months with layers of clothing, the CZ 97B was no more difficult to conceal IWB than was my 1911, a Beretta 92/M9, or a Springfield Armory XDm 5.25.

Alien Gear does not make a holster for the CZ 97. However, there are Hybrid holster available at Crossbreed Holsters, and a leather holster available at Southern Trapper,  Kydex holsters from Vetter Holsters, hybrid holster from White Hat Holsters, a variety of holsters from Craft Holsters to include leather IWB, OWB, and shoulder holster systems, and a wide array of OWB and IWB holsters at Savoy Leather. A more thorough search may reveal other holster sources.

Upgrades

Only one upgrade, in my mind, was necessary and that to replace the aluminum grip panels. While some say that the grip of the CZ 97 is like the 1911 with the thin aluminum grip panels, my hand disagreed. My hand also ordered a set of wood grips from Grips4U.com that is more to my hand’s liking. What may be surprising is that the thin aluminum grip panels are more flat-sided than I prefer. Even with a 1911, I prefer a more rounded grip that fills the hand.  The standard thin aluminum grip panels of the CZ 97B just did not fill my hand as I like. The wood grip panels, while smoother, are checkered where it matters, fills my hand better, and that means that I have more confidence in my grip that equates to better control of the pistol. The dark walnut wood really accents the CZ 97B.

So, What Do I Think?

The CZ 97 is a classic design that was modeled after the CZ 75, which Jeff Cooper claimed to be the most perfect pistol in its class. The CZ 97B carried on the CZ tradition of manufacturing some of the best pistols in the world and I have long been convinced that the quality of workmanship and the care given in producing a firearm will bring people into the fold. I know that it did with me.

There are clones of the CZ 97, like the EAA Witness, but it is not a CZ, although I do believe it to be comparable. If you want pretty, go with the EAA Witness, as it is offered in bright and shiny versions and even some with rails. But if you want a service pistol that is time and battle tested throughout the world, the CZ 97 (B or BD model) just may be the pearl in the oyster.

The CZ 97B shoots well, is accurate (more than I), it is reliable, and it is large and in charge. If you like a full-size classic pistol in a .45 ACP caliber, and prefer a DA/SA pistol over a striker-fired or single-action pistol, then the CZ 97 just might be the pistol to look at. Also, if you prefer a de-cocking system, the CZ 97BD is the version you need. I prefer the “de-cocker” version, but one was not available at the time; However, when one is available and the bank account can support it, well…

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About Taurian

Taurian is an Oath Keeper, veteran, former LEO and Defensive Tactics Instructor. Until retirement, Taurian had over forty-seven years of experience as a Technical Writer and Training Program Developer. After leaving home at the age of ten without any shoes, Taurian continues on with many years devoted to the keeping and bearing of arms.

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