The best part of grocery shopping as a kid was veering down the cereal aisle. Endless options of chocolate, marshmallow, fruitiness, and, of course, diabeetus. The main selling point isn’t the tooth decay or insulin shots, but that coveted prize at the bottom of the box. It makes no difference what the product tasted like — the toy was awesome enough. Darwinism got rid of the cheap plastic pieces, most likely because someone ate a Kellogg’s bike reflector.
Consumers have evolved from the glory days of the 1980s. No kid ever read the nutrition facts, but the choices on the cereal aisle are now determined by grams of fiber, sugar content, and cost. The big stores now have their own versions of breakfast treats so you can get a similar taste at a lower price. Generic cereal has become the cost-effective way to start your day.
Grown-ups have to find a different aisle, as the one from childhood is tainted. If you’re reading this, the gun store is where you’ve turned. As with cereal, our decision-making process evolved to value different things. Money is as hard-earned as ever. The term “bang for the buck” has become a major factor in the closing of a sale. The kid in us is definitely gone.
Demand for heavyweight pistols is rising, and in competition at least, guns are weighed in pounds rather than ounces. The fact is, heavyweight equals less recoil impulse, but at what point does more weight become a liability rather than an asset? The argument that a heavier gun is slower to move between targets is valid, but in the grand scheme of things it’s minutiae. A heavy gun is easier to shoot fast but is cumbersome to carry. A lighter gun is easier to swing around and isn’t a burden to the waistband. The adult in us likes both sides.
Like the 1911, the CZ75 has reached a level of cult status, but it remains under the mass consumer radar in the U.S. It’s often on the short list of history’s great 9mm pistols, but never on top when it comes to sales. It hasn’t received the notoriety it deserves, but imitation is the highest form of flattery, and the CZ75 is one of the most copied 9mm pistols in the world. Just like with generic cereal, many are worse, some are basically the same, and a select few taste better than the original.
The CZ75’s ergonomics are some of the best around. In a world of blocky handles, the slim frame and upswept beaver tail make for a glove-like fit. Most pistol slides fit over the frame of the gun, but the CZ’s slide nests inside the frame. This makes for a lower bore axis and helps mitigate recoil. The traditional double-action/single-action trigger allows for the CZ to be carried with the hammer forward or “cocked and locked” for those 1911 boomers who prefer the hammer back carry method.
RECOIL has gathered three reasonably priced heavyweight CZ75-style guns to see how they stack up. From the place that started it all, we have the CZ75 SP01, the Baby Eagle III from Magnum Research, and the new kid from SAR USA, the K12 sport. The CZ and Baby Eagle have double/single-action triggers, where the K12 is single-action only. All three guns have similar ergonomics, which makes the comparison all the more difficult. Our job is to dig to the bottom of the box and find the prize inside.
HONEY NUT CHEERIOS
Since inception, the CZ75 has gone through a few upgrades and variations. Arguably, the CZ75 SP01 is the version responsible for rekindling the fire under the platform. The SP01 was designed as a modern duty weapon with military and law enforcement in mind, but quickly found a home in the competition arena. The base CZ75 is fairly heavy at 35 ounces, but adding a railed, full dust cover and beefing up the slide makes the SP01 a fat kid at just over 40 ounces. The Meprolight night sights are just as good in the daylight. The rubber palm swell grips offer ample area for gripping surface. The magazines carry the highest capacity of the three at 18 rounds.
The trigger features the lightest pull of the three guns with a double-action pull of just under 10 pounds (yes, that’s still a lot) and a single-action pull of 3 pounds, 11 ounces. These numbers aren’t stellar, but they’re still the best of the bunch. For trigger connoisseurs, the way a trigger breaks is just as important as the actual weight. The SP01 has a bit of roll when breaking the single-action trigger, making it easier to overcome the “wall.” This is the most important part of making an accurate shot. Simply put, don’t move the sights when overcoming the wall. The SP01 can live as a tactical sidearm or tear up a course of fire at the local match.
CZ CZ75 SP01
Capacity: 19 rounds
Barrel length: 4.6 inches
Overall Length: 8.15 inches
Weight: 40.7 ounces
HONEY NUT TOASTED OATS
Turkish firearms manufacturing has been around as long as any other, but the Turks have made a push in the last few years, giving us quality options with some interesting features that haven’t been offered at such price points. Companies like Canik, Tisas, and Sarsilmaz are at the forefront. Pronunciations are up to your linguistic prowess.
Sarsilmaz Arms is the biggest producer of firearms in Turkey. The company started in 1880, making it the oldest producer in the country. For reference, the Ottoman Empire was still in control of Turkey in 1880. EAA imported Sarsilmaz guns until 2018 when SAR-USA was created to make importation an in-house affair.
SAR quickly made a foray into the competition market with the K12 sport. The name even sounds fast. The K12 is basically a copy of the distinguished Italian racer, the Tanfoglio stock series (also imported by EAA). The K12 is the heaviest of the bunch at 41.6 ounces. It’s also the largest gun tested with a 4.7-inch barrel and 8.5-inch overall length. The ambidextrous safeties are large and easy to deactivate. A fully adjustable Bomar-style rear sight mates up with a plain black front sight. The K12 is the odd man out with the single-action-only trigger. Strangely, the trigger also netted the heaviest single-action pull weight at 4 pounds, 9 ounces (you had one job!). The trigger wall is more of a crisp vertical climb rather than a smooth rolling break. This made it a bit more difficult to wring out the best groups. The K12 is made for the game and fills the position well.
SARSILMAZ K12 SPORT
Capacity: 17 rounds
Barrel length: 4.7 inches
Overall Length: 8.5 inches
Weight: 41.6 ounces
HONEY NUT NOONIES
As the name implies, the Baby Desert Eagle is a miniature version of the iconic action movie gun. The aesthetics of the Baby Eagle are as pleasing as its big brother. It netted the heaviest trigger pull in double-action at 11 pounds, but 4.6 pounds in single. The traditional curved trigger puts the finger in the right place at the right time. The Baby Eagle has a slide-mounted de-cocker, which is mainly good for double-action, hammer down carry, while the levers on the slide take away from the already limited real estate found on CZ75-style slides. This makes racking the slide more of a conscious effort.
The gun is the lightest of the three at 38 ounces. The Eagle is also the shortest, with a 4.43-inch barrel and 8-inch overall length. The sights are three-dot style and have the smallest profile of this selection. The magazine capacity is more meager at 15 rounds. The Baby Eagle is the neighborhood kid that has a bully big brother, and it’s built just as tough.
MAGNUM RESEARCH BABY DESERT EAGLE III
Capacity: 15 rounds
Barrel length: 4.43 inches
Overall Length: 8 inches
Weight: 38 ounces
TIME TO EAT
Range time is the most important time of the day. We set up a single target at 20 yards to test accuracy. The guns were shot off a table with just our hands to hold them steady. 115-grain S&B, 124-grain Sig Sauer, and 147-grain handloads were on hand to poke holes in targets, and every pulled shot hurt a little more than usual with the scarcity of ammo today. They actually did a credit check before we bought the test ammo, and one late car payment almost ruined our range time.
The SP01 consistently produced the tightest five-shot groups (0.9 inch with S&B). The K12 (1.16 inches with SIG) and the Baby Eagle (1.35 inches with S&B) didn’t seem to like the heavier bullets, as they produced the worst results; almost a half-inch bigger than the CZ. None of the guns shot worse than 1.5 inches at 20 yards.
Another single target was placed at seven yards for the world-famous bill drill. Contrary to popular belief, the drill does more than showcase how fast you can make noise. From the draw, six rounds are fired as quickly as the gun will allow you to track the sights. Attention must be paid, as things tend to happen quickly when you let it rip. It helps that we’ve done this drill a few times before.
The K12 was the winner in the speed race with a 1.87-second time. The CZ and Desert Eagle lacked in the speed department, but not by much (CZ with 1.96 and Baby Eagle with 2.09 seconds, respectively). This was attributed to the double-action first shots of the other two guns, but that gave us another metric to test. Is it that much slower for a double-action trigger on the first shot? We’re glad you asked. The same target at seven yards would let inquiring minds know. The CZ was the only gun truly capable of being carried in both single- and double-action, so we started there. A single-action first shot includes the extra step of deactivating the thumb safety, but with a shorter pull. The trick of the longer double-action first shot is to start “prepping” the trigger before the gun is fully extended. Trigger control is key, as you can let off a round early and have to change your underwear. After a few tries, it was determined that a double-action isn’t as much a detriment as we thought. The best single-action first shot clocked in at 0.79 seconds and the double-action came right behind at 0.82 — proving once again that training is key to wringing out the most performance of any gun. Huh, who knew?
The K12 has many features of high-dollar competition guns, but at half the cost. The main downfall of the gun is the trigger. The single-action-only trigger and magwell make it ineligible for production class competition. It would have to enter against full custom race 1911s and other guns with exponentially bigger price tags. Have you ever tried to eat a full bowl with a tiny teaspoon? Bit of a disadvantage.
As expected, all the guns felt better than average in the hand. We found ourselves shooting the guns back-to-back to figure out which one had softer recoil, but ultimately, they were subjectively too close to call. K12 does its level best to knock the original off the throne but comes up just short, and the Baby Eagle is just behind that.
The three guns are technically relatives, as they share origins; you can see the likeness in their faces and bodies. They each have just grown up in different homes and been groomed for different purposes. The K12 is strictly an athlete, the SP01 is a purpose-built duty gun that’s also great at sports, and the Baby Eagle is the little brother that’s good at everything, just not as good as its siblings. Any cereal is capable of filling your belly, but some have the luxury of tasting good while being cost effective. OK, now what’s for lunch?