Sure, .22 LR has been a bit hard to come by over the last couple of years. That’s a change from the norm, of course, where .22 LR was the choice for inexpensive practice. While owning dedicated .22 firearms is great — great for collecting, for fun, for plinking, hunting, and target shooting — .22 conversion kits are often the best option for legitimate practice. That is, for the purpose of gaining familiarity with a primary, centerfire firearm but doing so with inexpensive ammo. At the very pinnacle of the conversion kit game is CZ’s Kadet Adapter for CZ 75-based pistols. . .
Actually, not only isn’t that hyperbole, but it’s likely a bit of an understatement. The Kadet Adapter isn’t just a great conversion kit, it’s so dang good that, compared even against complete firearms, it makes for one of the best .22 LR pistols available. Why? I’m glad you asked.
Right off the bat, we all want a reliable last round hold open feature. Many rimfire pistols don’t actually lock back on empty at all, but the Kadet Adapter checks it off the list. It comes with its own slide stop, which provides for this functionality in nearly every CZ 75 frame variant in both 9mm and .40 S&W, full-size and compact. The standard, centerfire slide stops can still be used — and have to be used on a couple of models — but typically don’t lock the slide back on empty.
As you can see above, only a portion of the “slide” reciprocates. I am of the opinion that this is the proper way to design a semi-automatic, .22 LR pistol. The real classics — the best, most reliable rimfire pistols that have proven the test of time — like the S&W Model 41, Colt Woodsman, Browning Buckmark, Ruger Mark series, and basically all Olympic style rimfire pistols, operate with some variation of this concept. It allows for something that you will not find in a .22 where the whole slide reciprocates. Steel.
It’s all machined from solid steel. Solid, forged steel, that is. Just like slide of the real-deal CZ 75. Same quality steel, same durable polycoat finish, same full-length slide rails. Were the entire slide to reciprocate, steel would simply be too heavy. .22 LR doesn’t have the oomph to cycle a steel slide and cock a hammer or striker that has enough spring power to reliably ignite rimfire ammo while also overcoming a recoil spring strong enough to return the slide with enough force to reliably strip the next round from the magazine and chamber it.
The fanciest of conversion kits or complete pistols with entire slides that cycle will employ an aluminum slide. Most use cast zinc alloy. Although neither is as durable or reliable long-term as steel, the real issue is reliability. Well, some of that is due to the durability, as the manufacturer must ensure that the slide doesn’t get battered at its full rearwards travel or upon slamming back into battery. Typically the compromise is a pistol that runs on high-powered .22 LR ammo but isn’t reliable at all with standard, target, or weak ammo. Often a soft recoil spring is used to prevent a violent return to battery, which can mean feeding problems, and an excessively stiff hammer spring is used to slow the slide’s rearward motion down, which can have negative consequences to the trigger pull. It also may be harder to optimize the mass of the slide itself, ending up with something a bit too heavy or possibly even too light but without an easy solution for that.
Using steel and a tiny slide or even an internal bolt, the mass can be tuned to perfection…
…and there is little concern for the impact at either end of the slide’s travel. As I’ve owned my Kadet Adapter since early 2011 and have at least a couple thousand rounds through it, I can confidently say that it holds up over time and that it reliably cycles pretty much every .22 LR load out there from the lightest target loads to the hottest hyper velocity rounds.
But wait, there’re more! The all-steel CZ Kadet Adapter upper weighs about the same amount as an all-steel CZ 75 upper. In fact, the Kadet comes in at 16.95 oz and my SP-01 9mm slide weighs 16.16 oz. For valid practice and training, this makes a huge difference.
The kit comes with what you see below, in addition to a bronze bore brush and a slotted plastic rod for cleaning patches, all in a plastic CZ gun case. The magazines are actual CZ 75, 10-round, steel magazines, modified to feed .22 LR.An insert is spot welded inside of the magazine body, which single stacks the .22 rounds and provides a pretty sweet, key hole-shaped channel for the anti-tilt follower.
Again on the practice and training front, the magazines look and feel like the real thing. They fit in the same magazine holsters as the real thing. They insert and eject just like the real thing. No surprise, of course, as they actually are the real thing.
Out of the box, the Kadet Adapter comes with quality target sights installed. The rear is a blade style sight, easily adjustable for both windage and elevation.
Both front and rear sights are steel, in a standard 3-dot configuration. The dots are small in diameter, painted in a bright, slightly green color that stands out nicely.
As is the case with nearly every .22 LR on the market, the barrel is fixed. It is cold hammer forged like the rest of CZ’s barrels, and it’s exceedingly accurate. I used a LaserMax UNI-MAX laser mounted on my SP-01 frame’s accessory rail and a sandbag rest to help me shoot the following groups at 25 yards in an indoor range.
- Federal American Eagle “Suppressor” 45 grain: 0.50″
- CCI Blazer bulk 40 grain: 1.00″
- CCI Mini-Mag 40 grain: 1.11″
- Federal Target Grade 40 grain: 0.94″
- Remington Subsonic 38 grain: 1.25″
- Winchester 555 bulk 36 grain: 2.18″
- This is labeled in the photo as number 1.1. I chose the most accurate ammo and did a group with the ACC Element 2 suppressor attached. All others were shot unsuppressed. So this is AmEag “Suppressor” turning in a 0.72″ group thanks to a flyer in what was otherwise a single hole. No surprise, as this ammo is loaded extremely consistently. Velocity testing has repeatedly shown the smallest standard deviation of any .22 LR I’ve chronographed thus far.
You know, the absolutely amazing trigger on this gun was also a big help when it came to turning in decent 5-shot groups, and that brings us to…
The Best Part
Valid practice/training meets value. When I take the 45 seconds to install the Kadet Adapter atop my SP-01, I’m still shooting my SP-01. The hours of tuning and hundreds of dollars that I’ve put into trigger and sear, hammer, grip panels, safeties, and other parts? None of that changes. Weight, balance, grip — keeping these three variables the same means drawing from a holster and transitioning between targets feels the same — trigger, battery of arms (controls & operation), competition holster, and magazine holsters are all identical. Sights would be the same if I chose to make it so.
Obviously, yes, shooting .22 LR is different from shooting 9mm or .40 S&W. Sure, it’s hard to find .22 for 4 cents a round these days, but it’s still significantly cheaper than centerfire ammo. If you’re in the camp that thinks the reduced recoil invalidates the practice, I’m going to disagree entirely. Just as dry firing is critical to learning and ingraining proper trigger pull fundamentals and muscle memory, shooting .22 offers much of the same benefit. By eliminating or greatly reducing the flinch and recoil compensation that plagues many shooters, one can achieve quality practice that drives home good shooting habits. With less fatigue (and more rounds per dollar), range sessions can be longer before fundamentals start to degrade.
There’s also a convenience factor, as the Kadet Adapter isn’t a firearm. Order it online and it ships right to your door.
The Worst Part
It’s expensive. On the CZ-USA web store, as I write this, the Kadet Adapter runs $431.10. Although they used to distribute these to various retailers, that is no longer the case. They are only available direct from CZ-USA. This makes finding a deal more difficult, although CZ-USA does have a few web store sales each year (I’m on the e-mail list, and get one maybe as often as quarterly, usually announcing a sale event).
On the bright side, availability is better than ever before. Finding these things in stock anywhere used to be a heck of an ordeal, but that has changed. Finding a used one for sale was and still is practically impossible, though.
The thin slide — the part that actually cycles — doesn’t leave a lot of real estate to grab. This would be a massive point of contention on a self defense gun, but on a .22 it doesn’t matter much. With no locking mechanism and a fairly gentle recoil spring, it’s still very easy to rack that slide (especially with the hammer cocked). It’s just a matter of pinching the correct part of the upper. This is the only place where equal practice and training breaks down, although in competition I drop the slide with the slide stop lever instead of slingshotting it, so for that purpose the function is the same. Clearing a malfunction, though, may require a different grip on the slide from one’s norm.
It should also be mentioned that, due to how much harder it is to sufficiently dent the rim of a .22 LR round than to dent a centerfire primer, the Kadet Adapter may suffer light strikes if used on a modified CZ in which the owner has replaced the factory mainspring (hammer spring) with a lighter one. This is a popular modification to reduce the weight of the double action trigger pull and, while you can reduce the power of that spring quite a bit and still reliably ignite standard, centerfire primers, rimfire primers need a harder hit. A heavier hammer can help accommodate (I ran a lighter mainspring with a Shadow hammer for a while, and the Kadet Adapter worked fine). As the mainspring weight makes no difference to a tuned single action pull, when I converted my SP-01 to single-action-only quite some time ago I went back to the factory mainspring and it dents .22 LR rims with authority.
There’s a short rail nub on either side near the front of the part of the Kadet Adapter that doesn’t reciprocate. They’re intentionally oversized — both in vertical height and in width (perpendicular to bore) — and should not fit in the rails of a CZ 75 frame without some filing. This is to ensure a snug fit so the adapter doesn’t wiggle on the frame. As I recall, I spent about 20 minutes going very slowly with a fine hand file until it fit smoothly but snugly onto the SP-01 frame.
This may lead to obvious concerns about a Kadet Adapter being “married” to a specific frame, but in my experience CZ frames don’t vary a whole lot anyway. I’ve used my Adapter on three different frames and the fit was completely acceptable, although slightly snugger than on my SP-01, and I’ve swapped slides around on a half dozen frames — even between steel and aluminum frames — and the rails meshed fine.
The rear of the Adapter, by the way, is fixed into the frame by the slide stop. The barrel precisely fits into the frame’s recoil lug, and the slide stop goes through it with close tolerances.
The CZ Kadet Adapter is not only the best .22 LR conversion kit on the market, it makes for one of the very best .22 LR pistols on the market. It feeds, fires, and ejects a wider range of ammo than any other semi-auto .22 — rifle or pistol — I have ever shot, and does it more reliably than any other semi-auto .22 I have shot. It does this accurately, and it’s built to last. CZ may expect you to plunk down a good chunk of change for it, but if you already own a CZ 75, especially one you’ve put money and work into or otherwise use for self defense, competition, etc, it’s likely worth it. There are few other .22 LR pistols that can hold a candle to it for the price, and the Kadet Adapter ships right to your door.
For the record, the Kadet Adapter is not available with a threaded barrel. Tornado Technologies extended and threaded the Kadet Adapter as well as my 9mm SP-01 barrel. Both were done flawlessly.
Specifications: CZ Kadet Adapter
Caliber: .22 LR
Fits On: Basically any metal frame CZ 75 or 85 pistol (plus the polymer-framed SP-01 Phantom). No 97, no 83, no Tactical Sports or IPSC
Barrel Length: 4.72″
Overall Length: 8.1″
Weight: 16.95 oz
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Accuracy: * * * * *
Mechanical accuracy exceeds my ability to take full advantage of it.
Build Quality: * * * * *
The modern .22 pistol market is full of pot metal toys. The Kadet Adapter is machined from forged steel, with a cold hammer forged barrel, tool steel firing pin, and steel sights. It’s built to last. In fact, I had a little flooding issue in the basement recently, and it turned out my Kadet Adapter was completely wet for about 5 weeks. The thread protector suffered surface rust (not a CZ part), and the screw head for the rear sight’s windage adjustment has a touch of surface rust. She’s otherwise spotless. CZ’s polycoat isn’t the most modern or sexy coating out there, but it’s durable and it kept my Kadet rust-free.
Reliability: * * * * *
The single most reliable semi-auto .22 LR I have encountered.
Value: * * * *
It’s expensive. But it’s top quality. If you have a CZ 75/85 series pistol, especially a modified one or one that’s used for self defense or competition, the ability to shoot .22 through it is great for inexpensive practice.
Overall: * * * * *
It more than holds its own not only as a rimfire conversion kit, but as a .22 in general.
Video review from two years ago: