By Nick Frollini
As a relatively recent (c. 2013) convert to Gun Culture 2.0 (sorry, Mom), I have found myself searching high and low for The One True EDC Gun. It’s a search known to many gun owners; this firearm is too small, this firearm is too big, this firearm doesn’t fit my hand, and so on and so forth. Of course, we eventually learn that carrying a gun involves compromises: capacity, sight radius, caliber, weight, comfort. And yet some of us keep searching….
In Search Of…
I’d made my way through several of the striker-fired 9mm pistols (Ruger SR9C, S&W Shield, Glock 19, then a Glock 26 and Glock 43 in quick succession, then back to a Glock 19, and then down to a Springfield XD-S) and even entered the DA/SA world with a Sig P225-A1, but I still felt a bit like Goldilocks searching for a bowl of porridge that was “just right”.
Complicating my search was a decision to explore appendix carry (yes, yes, I know), which meant that what I really wanted was a lightweight, easy to conceal, relatively high capacity, 9mm firearm with a hammer that could be thumbed down during reholstering to provide an extra layer of security (no, that’s not an excuse for bad pistol handling, just an acceptance of the fact that stuff happens).
I was ready to compromise yet again by going back to my Glock 19, this time with a Glock Gadget striker block from Tau Development, when I had a chance to try a friend’s CZ P-01 at the range right after Christmas.
Enter The CZ 75
Now, I was familiar with the CZ brand – I own a P-07 and a delightfully fun Scorpion Evo Carbine – but I had never fired a CZ 75 variant before picking up my friend’s P-01. In a word: Wow.
The ergonomics were amazing, the recoil was non-existent, the DA/SA trigger was quite nice, and the stock sights were a flaming pile of luminescent garbage. I was sold, mostly. But I knew two things: 1) I was going to purchase a gun in this family of firearms, and 2) I was going to have it worked on by a competent gunsmith to (at the very least) replace those awful sights. (I suck at installing sights. Seriously. My OCD demands that things be perfectly centered and that can be challenging, even with a good sight pusher and a set of digital calipers).
After a bit of research, I didn’t purchase the P-01 but, rather, its “slightly better for concealed carry because it lacks a rail” brother the CZ 75D PCR Compact from the masters of CZ gunsmithing at Cajun Gun Works.
The PCR is, more or less, an alloy-framed version of the venerable CZ 75D Compact, a 9mm recoil-operated DA/SA pistol with a standard capacity of 14+1 in a double stack magazine. The alloy frame reduces the weight by a quarter-pound over its all-steel forefather.
The firearm has a 3.75” cold hammer forged barrel, a safety stop on the hammer, a firing pin block safety, and a loaded chamber indicator on top of the serrated-to-reduce-glare steel slide which provides a visual and tactile reminder of the camber’s status. This is useful because, as with most CZ pistols, the “slide rides inside the frame” construction – which makes for an exceptionally low bore axis and a high degree of accuracy – means that it can be a bit challenging to do a press check, even with the nicely made forward cocking serrations.
And it’s not just the slide that is classic CZ. The ergonomics on this pistol are incredible. The backstrap curves gracefully up to a pronounced beavertail that enables you to comfortably get a high grip on the firearm.
The stock grips are a stippled rubber that are nice and fill the hand well, although I quickly replaced mine with a slightly thinner set of G10 grips from VZ Grips. (I also changed out the wood screws that CZ uses to attach the grips to the frame – seriously, they look like they came from aisle 17 of the local Home Depot).
All of this is to say that while the PCR weighs 27.5 oz unloaded – about four ounces more than an unloaded Glock 19 – it somehow feels lighter in the hand. It’s comfortable to hold, points very naturally, and is a dream to shoot. Fit and finish are terrific.
For spec geeks, the firearm has an overall length of just under 7.25”, a height of just more than 5”, and a width of 1.38 inches. Controls are not particularly friendly for southpaws, but you already knew that.
The firearm is finished in CZ’s black polycoat, which gives it a nice, satin-like look. While it ships with two 14-round beautifully blued steel magazines (which look to be made by Mec-Gar), it can use larger CZ 75 16-round magazines without issue. MSRP is $599.
Field stripping the pistol is as you would expect for a CZ: drop the magazine and check the chamber, retract the slide to the point at which the alignment marks on the slide and frame meet (pro-tip, putting the hammer at half-cock makes this considerably easier); flip the firearm over; using your third hand press out the takedown/slide-stop pin with the underside of a magazine; allow the slide to move forward; remove the recoil spring (which is not captive); lift out the barrel. Done and done.
N.B.: It came to me wet and I’ve run it wet, so you’ll forgive the copious amounts of grease on the rails in the photo.
Now, the PCR isn’t all sunshine and rainbows out of the box. As I alluded to earlier, the stock sights are atrocious. We’re talking almost as bad as the dovetail protectors that Gaston ships with his pistols, although these are at least made out of steel.
For reasons known only to the “Police Czech Republic” – the organization for which the gun was originally produced and from which its name was derived– the rear sight sits forward on the slide. While this reduces the sight radius a bit, it’s aesthetically just…odd.
The stock sights are steel, snag-free (no emergency manipulations with that rear sight), and feature a standard 3-dot configuration, painted with awful, terrible, no good luminous green paint.
An odd curve at the bottom of the rear sight creates a “shelf” below the dots and is distracting as all get out. [See TTAG’s excellent review of the P-01 if you doubt me]. I knew from firing my friend’s stock P-01 (which is the same gun with a rail at the front), that I was going to hate them… And then there are those grip screws.
I mentioned at the start of this article that I purchased my PCR from Cajun Gun Works (CGW). This conveyed the advantage of availability (the PCR, like several popular CZ pistols, can be hard to find on store shelves) and of ordering the gun customized to my liking.
To their credit, CGW requires you to call them to place an order for a firearm. While you can order many of their custom springs, triggers, and other parts on their website, they want to talk to you to discuss your firearm and make sure that you are getting what you want. I spent about 20 minutes on the phone with David (one of the owners) to talk about my PCR.
I ended up adding their “Defensive Carry Package” – which replaces quite a few of the internals, polishes them up nicely, and includes a trigger tuning; a set of PCR-specific night sights developed for CGW by Dawson Precision; and a stainless steel guide rod to add a bit of weight up front.
All in, the firearm with the custom work cost just over $1k and took about ten weeks to ship from the time I placed the order. So what did that get me (other than a bunch of extra parts neatly wrapped when CGW sent the PCR to my FFL)?
Well…it got me a firearm with the nicest DA/trigger that I have ever used. The CGW trigger work resulted in a silky smooth 7.4 lb. DA pull with almost no slack, and a crisp, 1911-like 3.6 lb. SA pull with no over-travel to speak of and a tactile/audible reset on the order of 3 or 4 mm.
I’ll go out on a limb here and say that as good as the Sig Sauer P229 Legion trigger is as compared to a stock P229, the CGW trigger work in the PCR makes it that much better than the trigger in the Legion. Not even kidding. It’s jaw-droppingly good.
The Dawson Precision night sights are also terrific. They are three-dot, tritium sights, but the front vial has a larger white outline and is slightly bigger overall than the rear vials which, combined with a generous notch in the back, makes for quick sight acquisition. The rear slight is serrated to reduce glare. They are a bit sleeker than the stock sights (still no emergency manipulations) and look terrific.
At the Range
The PCR performed wonderfully at the range. It ate every brand, weight, and type of ammunition that I fed it without issue or malfunction. While I am not an experienced or competitive shooter, I managed on the order of sub-2” groups at 7 yards; that’s as close to a tack driver as I’m ever going to get.
Recoil was all but non-existent (thanks to the low bore-axis), so getting the sights back on target was fairly effortless, and the exceptionally good trigger made follow-on shots easy. The controls were all right where they should be and easy to operate, at least if you’re right-handed.
While the PCR is dovetailed for standard CZ 75 sights, the slide has an odd cut out below the stock rear sight which means that sights not specifically made for the firearm may look a bit out of place.
A handful of firms, including CGW, are offering custom PCR-specific sights in a variety of configurations, but it’s still a niche product – so if you have a favorite “must have” set of sights, you may not be able to find them for this firearm.
I should also take a moment and talk about holsters…because who purchases a new firearm and doesn’t immediately order a couple of holsters that will eventually end up in the “drawer of misfit holsters” later?
The PCR is more-or-less a CZ 75D Compact…but the slide profile is ever-so-slightly different. This means that kydex holsters made for a CZ 75D probably won’t fit, but leather holsters probably will.
Kydex holsters made for the CZ P-01 will also probably fit (with just a bit of extra space up front). Luckily, a number of holster manufacturers support the PCR, including Werkz, JW Custom, StealthGear USA, and Cook’s Holsters – so you have options – despite the fact that some manufacturers (I’m looking at you T-Rex Arms) don’t support this firearm.
I’ve settled (mostly) on an AIWB rig from Werkz, slightly customized with parts from HolsterCo, and have an OWB holster from StealthGear (which only recently announced PCR support) on the way.
Ratings (out of five stars):
Reliability: * * * * *
100% flawless operation with everything from cheap range ball ammunition to defensive rounds with odd geometries. It just works.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
The CZ 75 is renowned for its ergonomics, and the PCR is no exception. While the backstrap is fixed, the lines work well for shooters with varying hand sizes and the replacable grips mean you can get as much purchase on the firearm as you like. The low bore-axis makes shooting a breeze.
Accuracy: * * * * *
The gun shoots better than I do, which I know isn’t saying all that much, but with an excellent trigger and terrific sights, it’s easy for even an inexperienced shooter to impress at the range.
Aftermarket Support: * *
Here’s where the gun falls a bit short. Grips are plentiful (if it fits a CZ 75 Compact, it fits the PCR). Holsters are…less plentiful. Sight options are paltry. At least you can get Mec-Gar magazines easily and inexpensively.
Price: * * * stock, * * as configured
At an MSRP of $599 – and a street price a little bit less – the PCR is an excellent option for a defensive carry gun, if you can find it. The stock sights are mediocre (OK, they’re lousy), but otherwise it’s good to go out of the box, although there are many other good options for the same money or less. With respect to the work that I had CGW do, while the stock trigger is perfectly serviceable, I’m very glad that I spent the extra money on the upgrades. Still, at $1k for the total package, it definitely won’t be for everyone.
Overall Rating: * * * *
The Cajunized CZ PCR is, for me at least, the ideal EDC firearm. It is lightweight, very easy to carry (with the added layer of safety afforded by a DA/SA system), has a terrific trigger and great sights, and has been 100% reliable in my testing. It wasn’t cheap, but given the number of carry guns I’ve purchased and sold (generally at a loss) before it, I wish I’d discovered it sooner. Net-net: my search for The One True EDC Gun is over. For now . . .