Unlike some of my fellow pistol enthusiast friends, I don’t often get excited over pistols that aren’t optics ready as I have a very strong bias for pistol mounted optics. There are a few reasons for this bias, but those reasons aren’t relevant. What is relevant is my inclination to think that pistols that aren’t optics ready must be immediately shipped off to be milled for an optic which is an additional time consuming expense that I would rather avoid. Because of that, it takes a great deal to get me excited about a pistol that isn’t ready to receive an optic. The CZ Custom A01-LD, which I’ll refer to as the A01 from here on out, is one of those rare exceptions.
The A01 isn’t a new gun. It’s been around for a good while, but it’s not one that many are familiar with. It was inspired by the Shadow, but built from the ground up by CZ Custom, who are considered by and large to be one of the top CZ armorers in the world. In my opinion, it is a remarkable 9mm, the reasons for which I will explain as we go on. At the same time, the A01 has some characteristics that limit its appeal, which will also be pointed out. In fact, I will begin with one of the limiting characteristics – its price.
The A01 is noticeably more expensive than the Shadow that inspired it by about a thousand dollars with an average street price just south of $2,500. For that price, one will get:
- A CZ-branded hard-sided foam-padded gun case,
- A CZ Custom sticker,
- A CZ Custom magnet,
- A manual,
- A safety mechanism and chamber warning card,
- A trigger weight and inspection test target,
- A cable lock,
- A nylon-bristled cleaning brush,
- A cleaning patch rod,
- A 9mm dummy round,
- A take down tool,
- Two (2) nineteen (19) round P-09 magazines,
- And the gun itself.
It’s a pretty solid range-ready package, but it’s not quite ready for competition use. I find that disappointing since I firmly believe the A01 is particularly well suited for USPSA’s Production Division which requires at least two more magazines in order to be viable. Given the price point, I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. Especially since that is one of the activities the Shadow it was inspired by excels at, but I digress.
Let’s walk the pistol from the muzzle to heel which begins with the crowned muzzle of the 4.925” match grade stainless steel bull barrel chambered for 9mm. The safety/warning card mentions that the CZ 75 chamber has been specifically designed for 115 grain ammunition. The barrel is as beautiful as it is accurate. It is exceptionally well fitted and has no noticeable play in it whatsoever. Under the barrel, contained within the slide and the frame is a full length guide rod and recoil spring.
Above the barrel, we have the slide, which has been CNC machined from 4140 bar stock, that has the stereotypical CZ look with the inverted rails. At the very front is a low mount CZ Custom high visibility red fiber optic front sight which is followed by highly functional front slide serrations on both sides of the slide. Next up as we continue towards the rear of the slide is the ejection port. Right behind the ejection port on the right side of the slide is the external extractor which is then followed by another set of highly functional slide serrations on both sides. On the top rearmost part of the slide is the low mount blacked out serrated notch rear sight.
The black serrated rear sight and high visibility fiber optic front sight combination is by far my favorite iron sight combination. It lends itself well for fast and precise shooting in a wide range of lighting conditions ranging from a cloudy day to clear blue skies. Additionally, the dovetail sight mounting system allows for the sights to be drifted for fine tuning the zero along the horizontal plane. Unfortunately, the rear sight isn’t adjustable which is a bit of a bummer. Additionally, fiber optic sights aren’t known for durability. While the filament is easy to replace, they have a notorious tendency to break at the worst moment possible. That said, I think the sight configuration is the right configuration for this pistol given the applications I think it is well suited for which we will get to soon enough.
It is worth noting that this pistol doesn’t include the firing pin block safety that is found on CZ 75 that have been designed for duty or defensive applications. The lack of this safety mechanism means that the A01-LD isn’t drop safe in all conditions. On the other hand, the lack of this safety mechanism allows the pistol to have a much better trigger pull which is another thing we will get to soon enough.
The CNC machined and blued frame the slide sits on top of is arguably the coup de grace, so to speak, of the A01. As I understand it, the “LD” of the namesake stands for “long dust cover”. The dust cover has a lot of material which makes the A01 front heavy and that weight up front does wonders to reduce muzzle rise during recoil which makes recoil recovery extremely expedient. That very same dust cover gives the A01 a distinctive unmistakable look that is very pleasing to the eye in my opinion.
Moving towards the back of the frame along the bottom of the dust cover we find the trigger guard. Unlike the vast majority of CZ 75 series pistols, the rounded trigger guard doesn’t have a flat front that is used by some folks to rest the support hands index finger. I’ve never made use of that feature on any pistol so it’s inconsequential to me. However, some folks may not like that. The trigger guard which features a very well executed undercut where it meets the stock surrounds the curved trigger which is borrowed from the CZ 75 series pistols.
The trigger reach on this largeish frame may present a challenge for some folks. Personally, I think it could benefit from a shorter trigger, which is an aftermarket option. Reach challenges aside, the trigger pull on this double-action/single-action pistol is arguably the best hinged trigger I’ve experienced to date without additional tuning. Neither 8 lbs double action nor the 3 lbs single action trigger pulls are the lightest I’ve felt, but they are far from the heaviest. However, the trigger pulls are incredibly smooth with very little play and almost no pre-engagement travel. The breaks are crips. The reset is short and very tactile. If I was to use one word to describe the trigger pulls, then that word would be refined.
On the left side of the frame just above the trigger is the slide stop. Behind the slide stop is the low profile ambidextrous safety which I found difficult to actuate given its rounded design. The stock features a deep beaver tail which accentuates the natural gripping angle that makes the pistol very intuitive to aim. The front and rear sides of the stock have extremely fine checkering which provide an excellent grip texture. The synthetic grip panels on the side of the sides of the stock also have a good texture. The grip panels in combination with the stock checkering aid in maintaining a solid and firm grip on the pistol which really doesn’t move under the gentle recoil profile of the pistol. That said, I do wish the grip panels had a slight palm swell to them which I believe would make maintaining a solid grip on the pistol even easier.
The A01 features an extended magazine thumb release button which is found just being the trigger guard on the left side of the pistol. It also features a skeletonized hammer and an internally cut magazine well. These final three touches are a few more little details that bring the whole package together on an exceptionally sophisticated pistol that is an absolute pleasure to shoot.
The recoil profile is gentle. The capacity is plentiful. The accuracy is discerning. Sure, the CZC A01-LD is not an economical pistol. I wouldn’t even describe it as practical. It’s rather large with an overall length of 8.6” and heavy with a weight of 51.2 oz. Given its size, cost, and not being drop safe in all conditions, it’s arguably a poor choice for defensive applications. However, it’s a lot of fun which makes it worth considering for recreational use. Additionally, I think it’s particularly well suited for competition in USPSA’s Production Division especially since it is listed in the production gun list. While owning one is conceivable for some enthusiasts, I would urge everyone to shoot one should the opportunity to do so present itself.