By Austin Knudsen
For those TTAG readers who have read any of my previous reviews on this site, you know I like to acquire and review affordable, “value” guns in order to find our readers the best bang for the buck. But for this article, I tread into new territory and make the following admission: I paid almost $900 for this pistol.
That’s a lot of money, especially when I typically buy, review, and use sub-$400 pistols. But that doesn’t mean the CZ Shadow 2 isn’t a tremendous value.
Anyone who has read anything about this pistol knows has a huge following on the USPSA circuit in the Production division. A couple of YouTubers whom I believe actually know what they are doing when evaluating pistols (Honest Outlaw and the Military Arms Channel specifically) give this pistol very high marks.
Now that I’ve owned mine for several months and have put several hundred rounds through it, I agree with them.
3-Gun Beginnings…or how my wife got me to switch pistol platforms
I started shooting 3-Gun a few years back and continue as often as my remote Montana locale allows. For all of that time, I used a GLOCK 34 for my 3-Gun pistol because, 1) I got a great buy on it, 2) I own other GLOCKs, 3) I shoot GLOCKs well, and 4) almost all of my squad mates also shoot GLOCK 34s, so magazines and parts were available at matches.
About three years ago, my wife started shooting 3-Gun as well and she absolutely REFUSED to shoot a GLOCK. She hates how they feel in her hand, hates the triggers, and couldn’t be convinced by anyone on our squad to get on the GLOCK bandwagon.
So, a few years ago while we were at the SHOT Show, we made a deal: if she could find THE pistol she wanted for 3-Gun, we’d buy it. We walked around SHOT for two full days, going to all of the handgun manufacturer booths and she handled every handgun she could.
She handled 2011s. She handled SIGs. She handled Walthers. She handled M&Ps. She handled XDs (a personal favorite of hers). But none of them was perfect. Then we wandered into the EAA booth. There she handled an EAA Witness Stock III, which is a CZ-75-based competition pistol built by Tanfoglio of Italy.
That’s when the clouds parted, angels sang and her eyes teared up. This was the ONE.
A few weeks later, we finally found one for sale, and per our deal, we purchased it. We got her all set up with a competition belt, holster and extra mags for our next 3-Gun match, the Montana Multigun match at Boulder, Montana.
We went and a funny thing happened: she kicked my ass with her new pistol. After shooting my GLOCK 34 on the first three stages, she challenged me to run one stage with her CZ-75 pattern Witness.
I did, and then a funny thing happened to me: the clouds parted, the angels sang, and I cleaned off a Texas star pistol target faster and easier than I ever had, with a pistol I had literally never shot before.
I came to the stunning realization that I had to work to shoot my GLOCK 34 accurately, but I didn’t with my wife’s new CZ-75 pattern EAA Witness Stock III. The steel plates just seemed to fall as gracefully as the pistol swung onto target. I needed one of my own.
Fast forward about a year and half. I receive word that a USPSA competitor in Montana is looking to sell his lightly used CZ Shadow 2. The CZ Shadow 2 is a near identical, feature-for-feature duplicate of the EAA/Tanfoglio Witness Stock III, except that it is an authentic CZ pistol, not an Italian replica. [Author’s note: Tanfoglio pistols are awesome and I’m not knocking them].
A phone call is made, a price is negotiated, and voila, I was the owner of said CZ Shadow 2, complete with six magazines.
For those unfamiliar, the CZ Shadow 2 is CZ’s ultimate competition pistol, designed with input from CZ’s professional shooter and guru, Angus Hobdell. The Shadow 2 is based on the CZ-75, a full size, all steel high-capacity 9mm pistol originally designed and built in Czechslovakia (now the Czech Republic) during the Cold War.
Due to its design and manufacture behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, the CZ-75 was largely unavailable to the American shooting market until the collapse of communism in eastern Europe.
Since then, the CZ-75 (and its many, many clones) has been steadily gaining popularity with U.S. shooters. It earned high praise from none other than Colonel Jeff Cooper, who liked everything about the pistol except its 9mm caliber. CZ pistols have always been a closet obsession of mine, but as a red-blooded American, I always felt slightly dirty lusting after a communist gun.
Today, however, the Czech Republic is as capitalist as it gets, and CZ is a quality manufacturer that keeps turning out excellent firearms. On top of that, CZ-USA has had facilities in the U.S. for years now to serve the American market.
The CZ Shadow 2 is a heavy, steel framed, competition-oriented version of the legendary CZ-75. Like its progenitor, the Shadow 2 is a double action/single action pistol. Unlike most DA/SA pistols, however, it has no de-cocking lever. Rather the CZ-75 was designed with a traditional thumb safety. I love this operating system as it is very versatile.
It allows the pistol to be carried in almost any configuration the shooter desires: including cocked and locked like a 1911 (which is my preference) or DA/SA, with the hammer down on a loaded chamber, requiring a double-action first shot. While the Shadow 2 is pure CZ-75, the CZ Custom Shop included some very important enhancements on the Shadow 2 like…
A full-length Picatinny rail dustcover, for added weight on the muzzle end to decrease muzzle flip (it also allows attachment of various lights or lasers)…
A deeper, higher grip cut and upswept beavertail on the grip frame for a deeper grip and better control of the pistol . . .
Aggressive checkering on the front and rear of the grip frame, and on the slim aluminum grips . . .
A squared-off trigger guard, with serrations on the front (CZ-USA’s pro shooter and president of CZ’s Custom Shop, Angus Hobdell, places his support hand index finger on the front of the trigger guard) . . .
An extended, adjustable magazine release . . .
A magazine well integral to the frame . . .
A redesigned competition hammer . . .
And a sleeker, straighter trigger, tuned for competitive/target shooting and fitted with an overtravel set screw.
Another CZ-75 idiosyncrasy is the fact that the slide rides inside the frame rails, which is a feature that distinguishes it from almost every other pistol design in the world. Fans of the feature claim that this lowers the bore axis — thereby reducing recoil and muzzle flip — and that it enhances the CZ-75’s reliability by better keeping out debris and dirt.
While both of these may be true, one thing is certainly true: the CZ-75’s slide-inside-the-frame-rails setup equals less slide surface area for the shooter to grasp and manipulate. This takes a little practice to get used to, and is further exacerbated on the Shadow 2.
As you can see, the CZ Custom Shop designers angled/beveled the sides of the Shadow 2’s slide almost completely down to the frame (to shave weight off an already heavy pistol), thereby removing even more real estate for the shooter to grasp the slide.
To alleviate this, CZ included deep, wide slide serrations, to give the shooter some purchase. Additionally, the rear sight has a nice front edge “shelf” for the shooter to hook on something and operate the slide.
Frankly, I consider the angled slide sides a minor issue, as I have no trouble operating the Shadow 2’s slide. However, shooters unfamiliar with the CZ-75 pistol may find the Shadow 2’s slide setup takes a little practice to get used to.
Actually operating the Shadow 2’s slide is a sublime experience. The slide glides on the frame rails as if it’s buttered. The machining, fitting, and build quality of the Shadow 2 is amazing, and as one of my shooting buddies said, “That thing runs like a sewing machine.”
On any target handgun, I prefer a narrow front sight and a square notch, black rear sight that allows plenty of light clearance on both sides of the front sight. This is exactly the setup that CZ delivered on the Shadow 2.
Big, blocky sights, while good for combat applications, are difficult to use for precise target shooting. The Shadow 2’s sights are perfectly suited for its intended role on the target or competition line.
The Shadow 2’s front sight is a pinned-in fiber optic (if you’ve never tried a fiber optic front, you owe it to yourself), and the rear is CZ’s proprietary adjustable rear sight. The rear face of the rear sight is serrated, and the shape of the rear sight is tapered on both top corners (see above picture), to follow the lines of the slide.
I love the trigger on the Shadow 2, and the quality and pull weight again reflects the Shadow 2’s intended role as a target pistol. The double action trigger pull is amazingly smooth, but since I never shoot the gun double action, I didn’t even bother to weigh it.
The single action trigger is one of the best I’ve fired on a semi-automatic pistol. It has just the slightest hint of creep before breaking crisply at a shade over 2 ½ pounds. You read that right: 42 ounces, according to my trigger scale.
The trigger reset is short and tactile. I’m a well-documented trigger snob, and have sent many-a firearm down the road for having a poor trigger. The reason? You can’t shoot good groups with a bad trigger. But the Shadow 2’s trigger is a joy, and makes it easy to realize every ounce of potential this pistol possesses.
One nice feature of the Shadow 2 is the ability to install either narrow “carry” ambidextrous thumb safeties, as shown in this company picture:
Picture courtesy www.cz-usa.com
or larger, left side “gas pedal,” competition/1911-style ambidextrous thumb safeties.
The Shadow 2 comes with both safeties: the narrow “carry-style” installed, and the “gas-pedal” in the box. As a dedicated 1911 man, I opted for the larger gas pedal-style safety, and thus had to switch out the narrow safety on my Shadow 2 when I got it.
Changing them out isn’t quite as simple as one would expect, and all the online forums recommended the same thing: get on YouTube and watch a video on how to do it first. It was good advice, and with a bit of video help, the swap took only a few minutes. In either case, safety operation is smooth and positive, with a good tactile “click” on and off safety.
The Shadow 2 is a large, heavy pistol, intended for target and competition. In other words, this a not a concealed carry piece. I suppose it could serve as a bed stand/home defense gun.
Since I’m going to use my Shadow 2 in 3 Gun competition, I ordered a Kydex competition holster from Red Hill Tactical . I had heard good things about RHT, and upon visiting their website, saw they specialize in competition rigs for CZs. On top of that, RHT holsters are quite competitively priced.
Red Hill Tactical offers double layer Kydex for heavy pistols like the Shadow 2, and it’s an option I’m glad I opted for. The holster fits perfectly, the build quality is excellent, and the double layer Kydex is heavy enough that the gun doesn’t flop around or pop out of retention while I’m running.
The author’s CZ Shadow 2 in his new Red Hill Tactical competition holster
Because this is a review, I have to be critical about something and here it is: the finish on the frame of the pistol. While the slide appears to have some sort of a blued or nitride finish, the finish on the Shadow 2 frame is a painted, baked-on finish (Polycoat, according to a few sources).
An action competition pistol like this comes in and out of a Kydex holster dozens of times over the course of a match, and the inside of that Kydex holster is not always clean.
As you can see in the below picture, the frame finish is wearing and scuffing from all of that holstering and unholstering. It hasn’t worn down to the bare steel, but it is something to note. Honestly, I bought this pistol to use, so I expect the finish to acquire a little personality.
So, how’d it shoot?
I had high hopes for the Shadow 2’s accuracy, and I’m thrilled to report that it didn’t disappoint me. For my testing, I fired four different full metal jacket target loads through the Shadow 2: PMC Bronze 115 grain, Blazer Brass 115 grain, American Eagle 147 grain flat point, and my own hand load of a 115 grain Rocky Mountain Reloading plated bullet pushed by 4.6 grains of Bullseye.
No hollow point, defensive ammunition was tested because I have no intention of ever using such ammo in this pistol. This is my gaming gun, pure and simple.
For each load tested, I fired a 5-shot group at exactly 25 yards while seated, off of a sandbag rest. A sixth loaded round was loaded in each magazine to maintain consistent pressure on the bottom of the chamber for all 5 papered shots (if you believe in such things).
The results, from best to worst:
Tie for first: Handload of Rocky Mountain Reloading 115 grain plated FMJ and 4.6 grains of Bullseye. My bulk reload pleasantly surprised me by putting up a 1 ½ inch 5-shot group at 25 yards.
Picture courtesy author
The other number one was Blazer Brass 115 grain FMJ. This one genuinely stunned me. I have tested this value (cheap) ammunition in almost 10 different 9mm pistols, and it has NEVER shot worth a damn in any of them.
In the Shadow 2, it tied for best group, with another 1 ½ inch group at 25 yards. If not for a lone slight flyer, this would’ve been a ¾” group. I will be buying another case of Blazer Brass.
Picture courtesy author
Next was PMC Bronze 115 grain FMJ. Normally a top performer in other pistols, this factory load put up a 1 ¾ inch group at 25 yards.
Picture courtesy author
Finally, American Eagle 147 grain FMJ flat point. This load put up a 2-inch group, but note the very tight 3-shot group, opened up by two distinct fliers.
Picture courtesy author
In the future, I’d like to try some 124 grain FMJs in the Shadow 2, as I didn’t have that bullet weight on hand.
I. Freaking. Love. This. Pistol.
The Shadow 2 is so comfortable, accurate, and intuitive to aim that honestly, shooting my plate racks at 20 yards with it is boring. I had been searching for a dedicated target 9mm that truly possessed target-level accuracy.
Not only did I find such accuracy in the CZ Shadow 2, it’s also a perfect fit for action pistol competition as well.
Specifications: CZ Shadow 2
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Capacity: 17 + 1
Barrel length: 4.89 inches
Overall length: 8.53 inches
Height: 5 ¾ inches from top of rear sight to bottom of the factory magazine
Weight: 46.5 ounces
MSRP: $1,349 blue or grey grip base model (about $1200 retail)
RATINGS (out of 5 stars):
Accuracy: * * * * *
The Shadow 2 fired 1 ½ inch groups at 25 yards with the cheapest ammo I had on hand, which includes my reload. With a little more time (and less coffee), I bet I can tighten those groups up more. In any case, phenomenal accuracy. ‘Nuff said.
Ergonomics: * * * * *
Aside from 1911s, nothing fits my hand better than CZ-75s. The controls are all right where I want them, and single action trigger is easy for my short, fat fingers to reach. The thin aluminum factory grips also make this high capacity pistol easy for me grasp. Some may surmise that the beveled slide slabs make operating the slide difficult, but that’s not my experience. Effective slide serrations and excellent machining make manipulating this pistol a breeze. LOVE the gas pedal right side thumb safety. I really dig the high, deep grip cut and beavertail, which anchors the pistol in the shooting hand and gets your grip as high up on the frame as possible for maximum control.
Trigger: * * * * *
Superlative. Sublime. A near-religious experience. And a factory single-action trigger tuned to 2 ½ pounds. What would a 2 ½ pound trigger on a 1911 cost you?
Reliability: * * * * *
Nary a hiccup yet.
Customization/accessories: * * * * *
The Shadow 2 was designed for competitive shooters, and competitive shooters are special unicorns. We like individuality. Different grips and sights are all possible with the Shadow 2. The Picatinny rail dustcover will accommodate any light, laser, or chainsaw bayonet you hang on it. Holsters will not be found at your local Sportsman’s Warehouse, but neither will a holster for any high-end dedicated competition pistol. The only thing the Shadow 2 does not have is an RMR cut, which I suspect is something that CZ will be remedying in newer versions.
Fit and finish: * * * * ½
The ONLY thing I can find to pick on the Shadow 2 about is the frame finish. While the slide is blued or nitride, the frame is some sort of baked-on finish. It has worn some, but it hasn’t gone to bare metal. It appears tough enough, which is important for a competition pistol that is coming in and out of a Kydex holster (which is often filthy inside with range dirt/sand/funk) a lot. I would actually argue that the Shadow 2’s baked-on finish is more practical for a competition-oriented pistol. BUT, the traditionalist in me actually prefers the look of a true blued finish pistol, like Tanfoglio did on the EAA Witness Stock III.
Overall: * * * * *
CZ has hit a home run with the Shadow 2. I like the Shadow 2 so much, I am seriously considering switching to a compact CZ-75 pistol for my everyday carry gun, just to have uniform operating platforms. The Shadow 2’s MSRP may seem like a lot, but for the features and performance it delivers compared to other similarly outfitted and performing pistols, I think it’s an absolute steal. If you have the means, it is highly recommended.