By Austin Knudsen

My search for quality, affordable self-defense handguns for the budget-minded shooter continues. This time, my quest lead me to the BUL Cherokee, a full-size 9mm Parabellum/Luger semi-auto pistol assembled in Israel.

I’m a fan of Israeli weapons. I figure a country that’s been surrounded by enemies bent on its destruction since its founding ought to know a thing or two about building small arms. I’m also a huge fan of the venerable, reliable CZ-75 design.

I remember the first time I fired a CZ-75 variant. A buddy in college had purchased a Magnum Research Baby Eagle 9mm (another Israeli CZ-75-based pistol). Despite decades-long admiration, I never owned a CZ-75. Until recently.

The CZ-75 design is almost as ubiquitous as the John Moses Browning’s 1911 (I said almost). Besides the original Czech CZ — imported into the U.S. by CZ-USA — there’s the Italian Tanfoglio, the IWI Jericho 941 (formerly imported by Magnum Research as the Baby Eagle, and before that imported as… the Jericho 941… my head hurts), Canik of Turkey’s Tristar clones, and the high-end Swiss Sphinx. Armalite got in on the CZ-75 game for a while with the AR24.

About a year ago, I acquired a well-used full size polymer-framed BUL Cherokee manufactured by BUL Transmark in Tel Aviv. I should say, a Tanfoglio/EAA Witness clone (a clone of a clone?). The handgun looks so much like an older-style polymer framed Witness, I suspect BUL contracted with Tanfoglio to manufacture the Cherokee’s frames (and slides?). Anyway, my Cherokee’s not winning any beauty contests.

At some point in its life, the slide, sights and some of the controls were refinished in OD green, and some of that has chipped away. I got two magazines with the pistol, one factory 16-rounder and one aftermarket (manufacturer unknown) 15-rounder.

I changed out the butter-soft, worn recoil spring for a new Wolff spring. It’s fitted with 3-dot combat sights. The Novak-style snag-free rear sight was probably drift adjustable at one point; due to the aftermarket finish over top of it, is probably set for good. The fixed front sight is permanently milled out of the slide, with a white-painted dot.

The grip frame is lightly checkered on the front and back straps, while the side panels have mixed cobblestone and checkered texture. It’s certainly not as aggressively grippy as a skateboard-taped GLOCK, and my sweaty mitts wouldn’t mind seeing a little more grippy checkering on the Cherokee. The frame sports a beavertail, which protects my fat hand from hammer bite.

I’ve been shooting long enough that I won’t abide a poor trigger. I’ve sent new, otherwise well-built guns down the road because of crappy bangswitches that I can’t remedy myself (FNS, I’m looking at you).

The Cherokee has a very smooth, non-stagey double action trigger pull. I couldn’t measure the DA pull weight; it maxed out my scale before it broke (the DA trigger pull is a non-issue for me, but more about that later). The single action trigger breaks at just under 4½ pounds, with a bit of creep.

The SA trigger is good enough that, the first time I fired the gun, I had no trouble spinning my MGM Targets Spinner over center at 20 yards without a miss. That requires some marksmanship, smooth transitioning and a gun with a decent trigger.  I can’t usually spin the Spinner right away with an unfamiliar gun (I’m looking at you again, FNS).

And when I press down on the Cherokee’s barrel hood with the slide in battery, there is absolutely no movement. This is another test I conduct on all semi-auto pistols to determine how well the slide is fitted to the barrel, which can be a pretty good indicator of accuracy.

The CZ-75 design is unique; the slide rides inside the frame rails. That allows for a low bore axis, which in turn means less muzzle flip.

On the downside, because the slide sits down inside the frame so much, there’s less area to grasp and operate the slide. Those who use the hand-over slide racking technique take note: you need to practice with the Cherokee.

Some maintain that the slide-inside-frame-rails design keeps dirt and debris out of the gun better than the traditional setup, thereby increasing reliability in adverse conditions. There has been some recent anecdotal evidence of this on the Military Arms Channel’s YouTube video testing of the CZ P07.

My Cherokee is apparently of 2000-2005 manufacture; it lacks the dustcover, Picatinny rail and finger grooved grip post 2005 manufactured Cherokees possess.

Thanks to short, fat fingers, I’ve always struggled with high-capacity, double action/single action pistols. Most grips are too big for adequate control and I struggle reaching the trigger for that first double-action pull.  Not so with the Cherokee.

This is the best-fitting high-capacity 9mm pistol I’ve ever held. And I say that as a dude with a serious man-crush on the Springfield Armory XD, and who has learned to tolerate GLOCKs, especially after a little custom grip work. BUL managed to make a 16-round polymer grip slim and trim, like it was made for me.

The first double action shot is still a stretch, but only if I choose to carry the gun in DA/SA mode. One of the of real advantages of the CZ-75 design is that it can be carried either DA/SA — hammer down on a loaded chamber, first shot is fired double action, subsequent shots fired single action . . .

Pistol in double action mode

or in Condition One like a 1911 — chamber loaded, hammer cocked, thumb safety engaged, all shots fired single action once safety disengaged).

Pistol on single action mode

Since I don’t carry or fire the gun double action, problem solved. I carry the Cherokee cocked and locked, as God intended a pistol to be carried.

For my first time on the firing line with the Cherokee, I filled a magazine with 115 grain FMJ reloads and stepped out in front of my MGM Spinner. At 20 yards, I didn’t miss a shot. Talk about a “natural shooting pistol” . . .

For accuracy testing, I fired seven different loads in the Cherokee, from range fodder to self-defense loads. I shot them seated, gun resting on a sandbag, at exactly 25 yards. A sixth round was loaded in each magazine, to keep consistent pressure on the bottom of the barrel from the magazine for each 5-round string of fire (if you believe such things make a difference). Each load is listed below with the corresponding picture.

Blazer Brass 115 grain FMJ

 

PMC Bronze 115 grain FMJ

 

Federal 124 grain Hydra-Shock HP

 

Winchester 147 grain HP

 

Remington 124 grain HP

 

Handload: 115 grain Rocky Mountain Reloading plated BULlet with 5 grains of Bullseye

Note the shot directly above the circled 5-shot group was a sixth shot fired — out of frustration. Hence, I didn’t include it in the original five-shot group. The flyer was the second shot in the string, and wasn’t caused by a discernible shooter error.

Discounting the flyer and including the sixth shot, these handloads put up a pretty decent five-shot group, hovering around two inches at 25 yards. HOWEVER, I still can’t account for the flyer.

Handload: 124 grain lead round nose BULlet with 5 grains of Bullseye

The Cherokee isn’t going to win any accuracy contests. Granted, this gun was well used when I bought it; I have no idea how many rounds it’s fired or how or even if it was maintained. Given a little more time for load development, maybe I could improve the results. It’s certainly minute of bad guy.

Those big, coarse, worn sights are biggest hindrance to accurate slow fire. All the edges and corners on the front and rear sights are worn smooth and rounded. The front sight is too thick and coarse for accurate slow fire, and unfortunately it’s integrally machined out of the slide, so it can’t easily be replaced (although it could be filed narrower…hmm).

The Cherokee was perfectly reliable. I put as many different kinds of 9mm ammo through it as I had on hand, several hundred rounds’ worth, without incident.

I even tried about 50 rounds of 115 grain FMJ reloads whose cases weren’t properly sized, creating a slight bulge in the bottom of the case. These bum loads refuse to chamber in several of my other 9mm pistols. They chambered and functioned perfectly in the Cherokee. It appears BUL designed the Cherokee with a generous chamber to handle whatever varied ammunition it might come across on the battlefield.

Cherokee pistols are getting hard to find in the U.S. When they can be found on the used market, they’re a helluva buy. New Cherokees sold in the $350 to $420 range, depending on the retailer. I’ve seen used examples for sale for under $200. It’s no wonder the supply’s dried up.

The Cherokee gives its owner a lot of proven CZ-75 goodness for not a lot of coin. Here’s hoping BUL finds an importer again. I’d love to test out a new model Cherokee. (Note: the readily available EAA Witness P (polymer) line is a near-exact facsimile of the Cherokee.) If it’s as reliable and ergonomically sound as its predecessor, it’s bound to be a hell of a gun.

Specifications: BUL Cherokee

Caliber: 9mm
Action: DA/SA tilt barrel
Capacity: 16+1
Height: 5.5″
Length: 8.25″
Barrel Length: 4.4″
Weight: 25.4 oz.
Price: Cheap…when you can find one

Ratings (out of 5 stars):

Accuracy: * * 1/2
A little disappointing, but I mostly blame the large, worn sights on my used pistol. A few loads showed some promise and put up roughly two-inch groups at 25 yards, which isn’t half bad. Overall, no better than what I would consider combat accuracy.

Ergonomics: * * * * *
Like it was made for me. I don’t accidentally engage the slide stop with my thumbs-up shooting grip, and the thumb safety is in the right place to be easily swept off. With its CZ-75 lineage, the slide rides low so there’s not as much real estate to grasp and rack. No big deal with a little practice.

Trigger:  * * * 1/2
Double action is long, as with most DA/SA pistols, but it isn’t rough or stagey. Single action breaks cleanly at just under 4 ½ pounds, but there’s noticeable creep before it does so.

Reliability: * * * * *
This Cherokee digested everything I can throw at it, including some improperly sized handloads that makes my other 9mms choke.

Customize This: *
No rails, no replaceable grip panels, no aftermarket sights and no sign of replacement parts this side of the Straits of Gibraltar. There may be some part interchangeability with the Tanfoglio/EAA Witness, but no promises. If you’re looking for something to put your signature on, this isn’t it. CZ-75 holsters aren’t too tough to find. A BLACKHAWK! Serpa for a SIG229 works just fine in a pinch.

Overall: * * * 1/2
BUL designed the Cherokee to function in all conditions with all types of ammo. That it does. Although it’s no tack driver, it’s a well-built, reliable pistol that doesn’t cost much coin.

38 Responses to Gun Review: BUL Cherokee 9mm Pistol

  1. Interesting for a gun I don’t think I’ve ever seen in the flesh. I have NO PROBLEM it being Made in Israel…actually a +.

  2. Looks like the EAA Witness Polymer 9, which I have and at $250 is one heck of a bargain gun. I bought mine as a beater gun and ended up really liking it.

    • How are those polymer Witness’? I’ve got a 10mm full sized original model. Accuracy wasn’t the best in those as is. But not that bad either.

      • I saw one in .38 Super on Gobroker and regret not picking it up. Any ideas if these were made in other calibers?

    • Do you like the trigger? Austin said this BUL’s DA trigger was smooth, but my Witness Polymer 9 was really stacky. Still, I wish I hadn’t sold it. It was an amazingly accurate gun.

  3. Austin Knudsen, Your remark on the FNS trigger is accurate. I was about ready to trade my FNS in on something with a better trigger, but decided to give it a final chance. After I fired the first 500 rounds through the pistol, I decided to give the FNS one more chance and while firing the next 200 rounds, the trigger actually smoothed out and became quite pleasant. Gone was the “crunching a handful of corn flakes” feel. I actually enjoy shooting the FNS now and it is my daily carry pistol. Results may vary, but the FNS seemed to have an extended break in period in my case. Just a thought.

    • On the down side: you may have to shoot another 700 rounds to “untrain” your muscle memory of the gritty (or whatever) trigger.

      I don’t see any reason why handgun manufacturers cannot ship their handguns with nice (not necessarily fantastic) stock triggers. What would it take besides an extra few cents for slightly better, finer, or slower machining of the critical trigger components and a couple extra dollars for a 2 minute smoothing/polishing operation on one or two of those components? Who would balk at an extra $5 for a handgun with a nice stock trigger? No one that I know.

    • The FNS went down the road. The FNS trigger is hellishly complicated, no aftermarket replacement parts, and no one works on them due to the complexity. Plus spare mags are ridiculously expensive. At the end of the day, it didn’t do anything my Glock didn’t already do.

  4. Here we have another example of, what, 54 different polymer framed semi-auto pistols (not including caliber, capacity, barrel length, or “generation” variations) on the market? Or more?

    When there are this many different models of the same thing on the market, it tells me that they are exceedingly easy to design and manufacture. And that tells me that they are exceedingly easy to make in “unauthorized” (e.g. black market) workshops. Can someone please tell me again how civilian disarmament laws are going to stop criminal enterprises from simply making their own pistols?

  5. “That allows for a low bore axis, which in turn means less muzzle flip, as on SIG P series pistols.”
    other than the p210 specifically? sig’s are quality, but low bore axis isn’t one.

    the israeli origin is a plus for me. these are polymer cz clones without the omega trigger of the p07/ 9’s.
    check the wiki for cz75. there are more clones than any article ever lists.
    our friends in illinois made a p9 variant.

  6. Why not just buy a CZ 75?
    Buds has them for $289 to $399 used
    I see them new for $573 with free shipping at Buds
    Why buy some unknown company’s clone when the original maker is available used for cheap?

  7. This.
    This is what I like to see. Reviews of the cheap, sometimes used guns the commoner-on-a-budget needs to settle for because the >$900 premium pieces the other gun writers get to play with are simply out of the realm of possibility when the mortgage is due.
    Checking my lotto numbers the other day(I got two!) I had the brief fantasy of spending an early retirement prowling pawn shops and gun shows finding the cheapest, crummiest, most obscure throw-down guns I could get for always less than $300 and writing reviews of those. Sounds like fun. Time to go buy another lotto ticket.

    • Assuming that your Lotto tickets are $2 each and you purchase one ticket every weekday, you could use that money to purchase between one and two handguns per year at the $300 or less price point.

      Alternatively, assuming that you work five days per week right now, you could work an extra three Saturdays a year (assuming 8 hours and $15 per hour) and use that money to purchase a handgun under $300.

      I’ll bet most people who love handguns, work five days a week, and have minimal income would be happy to work an extra three Saturday’s a year to add one additional handgun to their collection every year.

      • I explained the same logic to my wife when I got caught bringing home a “new” $350 pistol; and her response was, “you can save money for that, but not the new bathroom faucets & shower heads I pointed out (six months ago while you were at work)??”.

        A few days later, the PS3 she got me for Christmas had disappeared while I was putting in overtime for said fixtures, and all new bathroom chrome (still in packaging) was conspicuously sitting in it’s place.

    • If I had the $$$, and ‘straw purchase’ wasn’t a thing, I’d buy you some just to hear the reviews. Then you could sell them and get something you liked better.

    • Pretty sure the SAR9s are built in Turkey by Sarsilmaz, not in Italy. But yes, another polymer framed CZ-75 clone.

      • Correct. They are a Turkish CZ-75 clone. But don;t think Turkish guns are bad, we own two Turkish 1911’s and they are excellent guns. Accurate and reliable.

    • Why, do you have something against Israel? The Israelis make excellent equipment and weapons, all of which have been consistently combat tested, as opposed to testing done on a range and a with lot of internet “expert” reviews.

    • EAA,SAR & Cherokee all look exactly alike & all are reliable & ergonomically sound. My wife bought a EAA witness p9 in 9mm, 3 yrs ago and put a light on it. That is her bedside, go to gun, she shoots it better than any of our other guns & it’s also one of my favorites. The pistol was $299.00 brand new & is close to shooting as good as my CZ P09 & CZ P01

  8. Fun review Dan, and it’s nice to see something besides the big names like Springfield and M&Ps (not that I dislike either). As for Israeli guns, I love my old Jericho. It’s an Israeli police trade-in and is old enough that it’s stamped IMI instead of IWI. Israeli equipment is high quality, well designed, accurate under combat conditions (face it, you will not be standing still or sitting using a bench rest while being shot at; trust me, I’ve been there), and reliable. I’ve made trips into Israel and the West Bank on security contracts and my plates and sidearm are both Israeli. The CZ-75 is a solid template, and I’ve had Jericho guns in both polymer and steel frames. I go with the polymer simply for the weight reduction. When you carry a lot of equipment every day, a pound can make a big difference after 12 hours on your feet. I would love to try out a Cherokee and will watch for one.

  9. I have the EAA Witness, 9mm in the lock box of my truck. Best budget gun I’ve ever owned. So the clone of a clone? Gets a head nod from me. If you want an auto, can’t be beat legally. I think it’s a great age to be a gunner. The CZ lines are as optimum as the 1911 guns.

  10. Mr. Zimmerman, I will say that has got to be one of the best, honest, common sense and enjoyable review I think I have ever read. I have followed this site sparingly and finally took the time to read a review and it was yours. I believe this is the first review of yours I have read and I felt like you and I were sitting and just shooting the s**t about a gun.

    Many authors I find are either, making money from the gun company and many come with a huge ego that blares through their writings. When you said “fat little fingers” I really started to digest your material closer as I felt hey that’s me! You explained your thoughts and actions that came through to me as talking to me, not above or below as I find many a written author does.

    Thank you so very much, it was a refreshing read on an article I most likely would not have read. Now I am going to scramble through the site and see if your others reviews run along these lines, I hope they do!

    Bob G.

    • Thanks, Bob. Actually, I wrote the article, although Dan did edit and publish it here. But I appreciate your comments; a no-BS, conversational article is exactly what I’m going for. I have a few others on the site, and have a few more in the pipeline. Thanks again!

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