I have to admit that when I first heard about the CZ Shadow 2 Compact, I didn’t get it. At all. I wondered why anyone would want to get their hands on a smaller competition pistol, given that it is the compact version of the Shadow 2 which dominates USPSA competitions in Carry Optics (CO) and Production divisions. The idea of willingly opting for a shorter sight radius, lighter frame, and lower capacity was asinine. Of course, I hadn’t considered the new Shadow 2 Compact, as the high performance defensive carry tool it has been marketed at. And when I did, my initial reaction to imagining this pistol in that context wasn’t positive at all. However, the more I thought about it and discussed the possibility and viability of the Shadow 2 Compact in a defensive carry role my curiosity grew. In fact, my curiosity grew so much that I broke one of my rules – wait a good while after a new gun hits the market before buying it to make sure all the design and manufacturing flaws are worked out if present. And so here we are.
Let’s take a look at the Shadow 2 Compact itself before getting into how it handles and discussing my current opinion of potential applications.
The CZ Shadow 2 Compact
As of writing, the CZ Shadow 2 Compact is almost unobtanium. It is flying off the shelves and retailers can’t keep them in stock. In my hunt for one, I subscribed at least half a dozen in stock notifications which I received plenty of. However, most of the time the Shadow 2 Compact was already sold out some the time between the time the notification hit the inbox and the time that I noticed it, openned, and clicked on the link. As one might expect, the high demand and short supply is driving up prices which I’ve seen as low as $1,300 and as high as $2,050 with a current average of about $1,800 for a pistol that is speculated to have an MSRP of $1,200 (CZ hasn’t published the MSRP for this pistol yet).
What does one get for roughly $1,800? The package includes:
- A CZ-branded hard-sided foam-padded case,
- A manual,
- A warranty registration card,
- A cable lock,
- A nylon-bristled cleaning brush,
- A cleaning patch rod,
- A set of three Torx wrenches that can be used to adjust the sights or remove the optic plate cover,
- Two (2) fifteen (15) round magazines,
- The gun itself.
The 30 oz pistol has an overall length of 7.5”, an overall height of 5.4”, and measures 1.38” at its widest point. That puts the Shadow 2 Compact in the Glock 19 size category which is compact enough to carry and conceal effectively. It’s certainly hefty compared to a Glock 19 or similar polymer-framed pistol. However, it’s about what one would expect from a metal-framed gun and can be carried comfortably enough given a quality holster and sturdy enough belt.
On the business end of the pistol we find the muzzle of the 4” cold hammer forged barrel that’s chambered for 9mm.
Above the barrel we find the slide, which looks identical to the slide on the Shadow 2 albeit a little shorter. It has the signature rails on the inside of the slide that mate with the rails on the outside of the frame giving it the stereotypical CZ low bore axis look. The slide has deep front and rear serrations that help with slide manipulations. The top of the slide is adorned with a high-visibility red fiber optic front sight and a height-adjustable black-serrated notch-style rear sight, which is by far my favorite traditional iron sights configuration to use, that is dovetail mounted into the optic cover plate. However, I still prefer high-visibility front sights that don’t rely on fiber optics for defensive applications as the fibers aren’t very durable and have a tendency to break off. Even though I really dig the rear sight as well, I also find it to be better suited for competition and suboptimal for defensive applications. This is because the rear sight doesn’t have a front ledge that can be used for one handed slide manipulations. While it is still possible to perform one handed manipulation using friction, friction methods are more difficult to execute correctly which can be problematic in a high stress situation. The other issue I have with the rear sight is that it is mounted to the optic cover plate rather than being mounted to the slide. This means that an owner who considers backup iron sights on a pistol with a mounted optic to be essential, like me, has to not only source proper height sights, but also has to source an optic plate that can accept a rear sight as well as an optic. There are a couple of aftermarket plates available that solve this problem, but they are among the most expensive plates available for the Shadow 2 optic-ready slides and rarely in stock.
Behind the back of the slide we find a notched hammer that is common to other Shadow 2 series pistols. The hammer is skeletonized and features top serrations that provide adequate grip for hammer manipulations that are necessary for this pistol’s manual of arms, which I’ll touch on with a bit more detail later in this review.
Below the slide we have the compact frame which is forged from 7075 aluminum alloy. The frame begins with a full length dust cover that has an accessory rail underneath which will accept any of the latest wizbang laser or light gadgets one might want to add. The front of the trigger guard is flat and serrated which will be appreciated by those who like to place the index finger of their support hand there as part of their two hand grip technique. The trigger guard itself is large enough to manipulate the trigger even while wearing thick gloves.
The double-action/single-action (DA/SA) trigger is, for the most part, fantastic and what one would expect from a Shadow 2. The curved trigger is hinged and the face is smooth. Both the double-action and the single-action trigger pulls are smooth. The double-action pull begins with about ¼ inch of pre-engagement travel before it begins to cock the hammer. Once engaged, the double-action pull breaks at about 9 ⅜ lbs according to the trigger pull gauge I used. The trigger reset is pretty short and I estimate it to be just a hair less than ¼ inch. The rest is also very audible and tactile. The single-action trigger pull begins with about ¼ inch of pre-engagement travel before reaching the wall that breaks at about 3 ½ lbs (also according to the same trigger pull gauge). There is a tiny bit of creep before the break on the single-action trigger pull, but the movement is so smooth and so that it’s difficult to notice.
The only thing about the trigger pull that some folks, like me, might take issue with is the trigger reach for the double-action trigger pull. That trigger is pretty far out there. This can be mitigated by manually cocking the hammer and using the manual safety. This means that all trigger pulls will be the shorter and lighter single-action pulls. However, this comes with another problem which is the ambidextrous manual safety. The profile of the safety is very thin which makes manipulating it with a thumb challenging to say the least and that assumes those with double-action reach problems can reach the manual safety with their thumb which is not the case for me. The manipulation problem can be remedied by replacing the safety with an extended safety. However, that may not solve the safety’s reach problem. The route I’m going to take is to get the Shadow 2 Compact “cajunized”, that means installing the Shadow 2 Pro-Package from Cajun Gun Works, which will shorten the reach, the reset, and lighten both trigger pulls. This approach isn’t without its own risks, one of which is making the single-action trigger pull too light for defensive applications since the trigger pull is already pretty light to begin with.
The stock of the pistol has checkering on the front and rear which is aggressive enough to help keep one’s grip on the pistol in place. On the sides of the stock, we have removable aluminum silverish-colored grip panels. The panels are thin and have some texture to them. They are also very aesthetically pleasing in my opinion. The texture on them isn’t aggressive enough for my taste, but it is present nevertheless. The stock also includes a high cut beavertail that
The magazine release button has a small extension on it that is colored to match the grips and features some texturing to it. It is easy enough to find and manipulate. It’s also reversible although not fully ambidextrous. The magazine well, while not flared, has a very nice bevel that should help guide magazines into it.
Fit and finish on this CZ Shadow 2 is fantastic as are the ergonomics. In my opinion, it is a well built, finely tuned, and good looking performance pistol.
As frequent readers might have guessed, the CZ Shadow 2 Compact went from the FFL, to my workbench where a 6.5 MOA Trijicon RMR Type 2 was mounted, and to the range where I proceeded to put several hundred rounds of ammunition through it. The experience was in many ways what I expected, but in a few ways not what I expected at all.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll avoid comparing the Shadow 2 Compact to the Shadow 2 and save that for another post. That said, I expected to experience a Shadow 2 at the range. While the heritage and lineage of the Shadow 2 are undeniably present, the Shadow 2 Compact has a different feel to it and that’s what I didn’t expect.
As I said, the Shadow 2 heritage and lineage are present. This was evident in both reliability and performance. The Shadow 2 Compact will let you shoot as fast as you can and it will send projectiles precisely where you send them. I know it sounds cliche, but as long as you do your part, the pistol will do the rest. It is arguably the best performing pistol in this form factor that I’ve handled. I’ve got to get this out to the range in the future and do a side by side comparison against the Staccato P as I think it will at the very least give the Staccato a run for its money.
Let’s address the elephant in the room, defensive carry, which is what the marketing for the CZ Shadow 2 Compact specifically targets. Even though my tone towards defensive carry applications for this pistol has been skeptical, it is possible. This comes with several caveats.
Let’s start with the manual of arms. This pistol doesn’t have a firing pin block (FPB), which is one of the reasons it has such an amazing trigger. Some folks have taken the lack of a FPB to mean the Shadow 2 isn’t drop safe. However, that’s not entirely true. There are plenty of guns that don’t have a FPB, such as 1911s, that are carried for defensive purposes. Like those other guns without a FPB, it means the Shadow 2 Compact should only be carried in specific conditions with a round in the chamber. The first option is to carry it in condition 1, cocked and locked, like a 1911. That is with a round in the chamber, the hammer cocked, and the manual safety engaged. While this will work, don’t forget about the manipulation and reach issues mentioned earlier. Another option is to carry the Shadow 2 Compact with a round in the chamber with the hammer half-cocked and the manual safety disengaged, which is effectively how DA/SA guns are commonly carried. Assuming the double-action trigger reach isn’t an issue as discussed previously, the manual of arms can be problematic, particularly for shooters who aren’t intimately familiar or are uncomfortable with manually decocking a hammer on a loaded chamber. Even those who are intimately familiar with and comfortable with this process can find this process to be problematic when performing it under stress, such as a self defense incident, or when tired (as one might be after a long day of training). It’s an advanced manual of arms that demands full awareness, attention, and care to avoid negligently discharging the firearm.
The other caveats come from the factory iron sights and the optics system. It’s going to take some time and money to configure the pistol with either sights that are better suited for defensive carry or with a durable optic and suitable backup sights.
I expect some readers will disagree with the caveats. I also expect some readers to disagree with the idea of using the Shadow 2 Compact for defensive applications. That’s fine. It’s up to each individual to figure out what pistol they will carry and how to configure it. At this point in time, I think it’s a real possibility and I’m eager to work through these caveats myself. Assuming that I can work through them, I just might end up using the pistol for that context.
Another potential application for the CZ Shadow 2 Compact is for IDPA competitions in the Carry Optics (CO) division. I hadn’t considered this competitive application at first because I associate the Shadow 2 pistols with USPSA as they are too heavy to meet the equipment requirements for IDPA. However, according to the 2023 Equipment Division Appendix of the IDPA Match Rules, the Shadow 2 Compact should meet the equipment requirements. Now I’m not suggesting that the Shadow 2 Compact will be the new hotness for the CO division in IDPA, especially since the most recent rules changes now allow 2011 pistols to compete in the same division, but I’m optimistically hopeful that will be viable. If nothing else, it’s an option.
So there you have it. Everything I currently know and think about the all new CZ Shadow 2 Compact. It’s an aesthetically pleasing high performance compact pistol. Even though the current street price is steep and the speculated MSRP is higher than the average person would want to spend on a pistol, the price is still a great value when looking at it from a bang for the buck perspective. The performance rivals other pistols that have significantly higher price points. While I’ve mentioned some caveats for using the pistol in a defensive carry context, I do believe it is viable for the right person. It may also be viable for competing in the IDPA CO division, but I’ll withhold judgment on that until I’ve had a chance to give it a go in that context.