By Austin Knudsen
I recently reviewed the BUL Cherokee pistol, a full-size polymer framed CZ-75 pattern 9mm pistol manufactured in Israel. My review gun was imported into the U.S. in the early 2000s by Century Arms International, and was, to use some GLOCK-speak, the “Gen 1” version of the Cherokee. While doing some research for that article, I learned that BUL had since updated the Cherokee line in 2005, to what I’ll call the Gen 2 version.
The Gen 2 design is largely the same pistol, but now includes a Picatinny dustcover rail, redesigned grip with finger grooves, a squared trigger guard and a redesigned plastic magazine baseplate. The Gen 2’s slide, sights, barrel and internals all appear to be exactly the same as the Gen 1 (above). The only exception being the very front bottom corner of the full-size slide isn’t beveled on the Gen 2 (below) as it is on the Gen 1.
As part of the Gen 2 redesign, BUL also created the G-Cherokee line. This is the same pistol with an enlarged backstrap cavity behind the magazine well.
This enlarged cavity serves as an attachment point for a couple of accessories that BUL offers, including a buttstock attachment (above) and the wicked-cool CornerShot device (below). It’s a system that basically integrates a pistol and video camera into a hinged rifle stock to allow the operator to accurately fire a pistol around corners without exposing him/herself from cover.
It’s not terribly practical or economical for the typical shooter, but is likely quite popular with law enforcement in Israel.
Unfortunately, the Cherokee is no longer imported into the U.S. From my interwebz sleuthing, it also appears that most of the Cherokees that did make it into the U.S. were Gen 1s, and that the supply of these pistols has largely dried up.
Some internet sleuthing, though, revealed that International Firearms Corporation (IFC) of Midwest City, Oklahoma is importing BUL firearms, though they have no plans as of now to bring in the Cherokee unless, they say, “there is sufficient interest.”
The Cherokee is a well-designed, well-built pistol, but competes a U.S. market that’s saturated with well-designed, well-built polymer framed high capacity 9mm pistols. The Cherokee would likely compete most directly with CZ-USA’s several offerings, the Jericho 941/Baby Eagle and the very affordable Canik pistols, not to mention guns from GLOCK, Smith & Wesson, SIG, Springfield and more.
The G-Cherokee Compact
This is BUL’s version of the compact Cherokee with the enlarged backstrap for accessories. It has a noticeably larger grip than the standard Gen 2 Cherokee. BUL doesn’t actually make a compact frame for the “compact” Cherokees. They make only two styles of full size frame: standard and G (with the larger backstrap cavity). Both accept the same 17-round factory magazines.
Standard Cherokee grip length measures 2 ¼” . . .
while the G measures 2 ½ inches.
There’s nothing very compact about the G Cherokee Compact. In fact the only difference between the Compact and full-size Cherokee is the slide length, with the Compact measuring ¾-inch shorter. In 1911 nomenclature, you would call the Compact a commander Cherokee. In GLOCK-speak, it’s like putting a G19 slide on a G17 frame. In any case, this is still a fairly large pistol.
The G-frame grip/backstrap cavity is definitely noticeable, especially for those of us with shorter fingers. The difference in feel between the two for me is like night and day, and I prefer the standard frame size. However, the G frame grip is still pleasant enough to hold.
The backstrap is nicely checkered, the grip stippling is much improved over the Gen 1, and while finger grooves are usually a polarizing feature for many, these are in the right places…for my hand, at least.
The trigger guard is undercut nicely, allowing high grip, and there’s a well-executed beavertail on the frame to prevent the commander-style rowel hammer from biting.
The new Gen 2 squared trigger guard itself is an obvious GLOCK
knockoff inspiration, right down to the distinctive step-molded texturing on the front.
The G-Cherokee’s three-dot sights are the same as on the Gen 1: a front sight post milled integrally into the slide (not easily replaceable), and a Novak-style non-snag combat rear sight dovetailed into the slide and held in place by a set screw. These aren’t target sights, but they’re sharp and crisp enough that I was able to get a good sight picture when it came time for shooting.
The controls are pure CZ-75 (sorry lefties, the Cherokee line is not ambidextrous). It’s a double-action/single-action (DA/SA) system with a safety lever and no de-cocker. That means if you want to carry the gun in DA, you have to load the chamber and (very carefully) manually de-cock the hammer. Or, you can carry it as I do, in condition one: chamber loaded, hammer cocked (SA) and safety lever engaged. This is one of the major reasons I like the CZ-75 design so much: it doesn’t mandate that my first shot be double action.
Speaking of the trigger, this one is something of a mixed bag. The long double action pull is relatively smooth for a new gun, and will likely only improve with use. It isn’t rough or stage-y.
Strangely, the single action trigger is just OK. There are two distinct “stages” to the single action pull before it hits the “wall.” When it does, there’s still some creep before the trigger finally breaks.
Then there’s the pull weight in SA. My pull weight gauge maxes out at five pounds, and it took more than that to break the single action shot. It’s definitely manageable and I’ve handled much worse triggers in pistols with higher MSRPs.
Still, I’m a trigger snob, so I will nitpick. The trigger is the most important part of a gun’s accuracy accuracy, and I have very little time for firearms with poor triggers. Your gun may have the tightest tolerances, the best fitted barrel, the most precise sights, but if your trigger is garbage, you won’t be able to shoot it accurately. The G-Cherokee Compact’s trigger rates a solid rating of OK. Not fantastic, but certainly manageable.
So, how’d it shoot?
For accuracy testing, I picked six common factory loads: Blazer Brass 115 grain FMJ, PMC Bronze 115 grain FMJ, American Eagle 147 grain FMJ, Speer 124 grain +P Gold Dots, Federal 124 grain Hydra-Shok and Federal 147 grain Hydra-Shok. Groups were fired while seated from a sandbag rest, at 25 yards in 5-shot strings of fire. A sixth round was loaded in the magazine to maintain consistent pressure on the bottom of the barrel (if you believe in such things).
Group sizes were measured from center to center between the farthest two shots of the group.
First, the sights on the G-Cherokee Compact need adjusting. All loads consistently grouped six inches to the right.
That was easily adjusted with an Allen wrench, a brass punch and hammer. If this was my pistol, I would have loosened the set screw and hammered the rear sight to the left until it was dead on, but as it’s a loaner, I left it alone and fired it for groups as-is.
Here are the groups, from best to worst:
1. PMC Bronze 115 grain FMJ. This economic plinking load is a good performer in a few of my 9mm pistols, and put up a respectable 2 ½-inch 5 shot group, with 3 shots nearly touching.
2. Federal 124 grain Hydra-Shok JHP. This load put up a 3 inch group, again with 3 shots clustered nicely.
3. American Eagle 147 grain FMJ flat point. The G-Cherokee Compact showed it didn’t care much for heavy bullets, as this load put up a 3 ¾” group.
4. Federal 147 grain Hydra-Shok JHP. Again, a nearly identical spread measurement as the other 147 grain load, at a shade over 3 ¾ inches.
5. Speer 124 grain +P Gold Dot HP. Things really opened up with this load, which put up a nearly 5 inch group.
6. Bringing up the rear was the Blazer Brass 115 grain FMJ, with an over 6 inch group. Not a real shocker, as I’ve never found this load to be terribly accurate in any of my 9mms. I was lucky in that two of the shots barely hit the paper.
The conclusion: the G-Cherokee is more than capable of combat accuracy and didn’t seem to have any preference as to bullet weight — bot the best and worst groups were had from a 115 grain FMJ rounds. The Federal 124 grain Hydra-Shok showed some promise, with three tightly-clustered shots. No handholds were tested.
With it’s thicker backstrap, I much prefer the feel of the standard Cherokee, although the G-Cherokee isn’t so big as to cause problems. If you have larger hands, the difference will be even less. If you have short fingers, the G-Cherokee line is probably not your snifter of brandy.
I’m a fan of the “commander length” G-Cherokee Compact slide, but then I’ve always found compact CZ-75s as alluring as a tall redhead.
The G-Cherokee Compact’s accuracy didn’t overwhelm me, but it wasn’t underwhelming either. The pistol produced a couple of decent groups, certainly within combat accuracy standards (minute-of-bad-guy) at 25 yards.
The single-action trigger pull has more creep than I would have liked, and there were definitely a few times in the test group shooting where I found myself wondering if the thing was ever going to go off. I’d also take an emery cloth and smooth out the very bottom corners on the trigger, as they started to irritate my trigger finger after several strings of fire.
As I’ve come to expect with a CZ-75 pattern pistol, the controls are all in the right place and the ergonomics were excellent. Finger grooves are controversial, but for me, these were perfect. The Gen 2 stippling is vastly improved over the Gen 1’s, but not so abrasive as to irritate my delicate lawyer’s hands.
As far as holsters, I came up with bupkis. I have a pretty impressive collection of random holsters, but I didn’t have a single thing — leather or Kydex — that fit the G-Cherokee Compact. I know there are some Israeli retailers online that sell holsters for the Cherokee line, and, should you get your hands on one of these guns, that might be your only route, outside of a custom rig.
I hope IFC and BUL can figure out a marketing plan to get these guns into the U.S. It would compete nicely alongside the CZ P-07 and the Canik clones. Given a choice, I’d pick the standard size frame over the G-Cherokee, and I might just try swapping uppers between my two test pistols and make my own standard from Cherokee Compact before I have to send these back. Hmmm….
Specifications: BUL G-Cherokee Compact Pistol
Barrel length: 3.7 inches
Overall length: 7.7 inches
Width: 1.27 inches
Height: 5.5 inches
Weight: 25.7 inches
RATINGS (out of 5 stars):
Accuracy: * * 1/2
A little disappointing, especially after shooting the standard full-size Cherokee Gen2, which produced better groups.
Ergonomics: * * * *
One star off because the G grip frame is so much bigger in my hand than the standard grip frame. However, even the G frame feels pretty good. The stippling is excellent, a vast improvement over the Gen1 Cherokee. The finger grooves work well (for me). Like a CZ-75, the slide rides inside the frame rails so the slide sits down inside the frame. That means there’s less slide to grasp when your rack the pistol. No big deal, but worth noting and may require some practice.
Trigger: * * *
The double action trigger is long, like all DA/SA pistols, but relatively smooth. The 5+ pound single action trigger is a stagey, and there’s noticeable creep before it breaks. I’ve fired better, but I’ve also fired worse.
Reliability: * * * * *
No problems at all. Everything went bang and cycled the gun.
Customize this: * * *
It’s as customizable as any polymer frame pistol nowadays. Standard Picatinny rails allow for lights, lasers, or whatever other tactical widget you want to mount under the dustcover. While there are no aftermarket sights or replacement parts available in the U.S., it seems a unfair to ding the pistol for this as they aren’t even imported.
Overall: * * * 1/2
This is a decent, well-built, semi-compact “commander” size CZ-75. It functioned with all the ammo I put through it without fail. I found it to be comfortable (albeit a bit big for my hand in the G configuration), reliable, with a workable trigger, and updated features consumers expect today. It’s a little on the big side to compare directly with the GLOCK 19, but I think it could be competitive in a crowded market if it were imported. Here’s hoping.