CZ 85 Combat 9x19mm Pistol

By Chuck Hawks and Jack Seeling

CZ 85 Combat
CZ 85 Combat, black polycoat finish. Illustration courtesy of CZ-USA.

CZ stands for Ceska Zbrojovka and this world famous Czech firearms manufacturer has been producing fine firearms since 1936. Today, CZ owns the largest small arms manufacturing plant in the world, with over 200 acres of buildings. They produce an assortment of centerfire and rimfire bolt action rifles, the VZ 58 military style semiautomatic rifle and autoloading pistols. (For other CZ firearm reviews, see the Product Review Page.) CZ-USA has been importing CZ handguns and rifles into the US for ten years and now imports Turkish shotguns under the CZ brand. CZ-USA owns the Dan Wesson brand, which has morphed into a line a of Colt style 70 Series 1911 pistols that are basically assembled from parts made by manufacturers such as Wolff, STI and Ed Brown.

The subject of this review, a Model 85 Combat, is an attractive 9mm pistol. It is an upgraded version of the locked breech, short recoil operated, CZ 85B incorporating an adjustable target type rear sight, drop free magazine and an adjustable stop screw to control trigger overtravel. To allow for quick replacement of the firing pin without tools, the firing pin block safety has been eliminated from the Combat model. The Model 85 Combat is a popular pistol with top shooters in the IDPA Stock Service Pistol and USPSA Production classes.

Here are some basic specifications for the CZ 85 Combat, taken from the Instruction Manual and the 2008 CZ catalog (our measurements in parenthesis):

  • Caliber - 9mm Luger
  • Overall length - 206mm (8-1/16")
  • Height - 138mm (5-3/8")
  • Width - 38mm (1-3/8")
  • Weight with empty magazine - 1000 grams (2 lbs. 4.1 oz.)
  • Barrel length - 120mm (4-7/16")
  • Sight radius - 170mm (6-5/8")
  • Magazine capacity - 16
  • 2008 MSRP - $667

We ordered our test pistol with a satin nickel finish, which we found particularly appealing. Black polycoat (see illustration above) and "dual tone" (satin nickel frame and blued slide) finishes are also available. Our silver colored, satin nickel finished pistol was supplied with ambidextrous black plastic grips and black sights, hammer, slide stop levers, safety levers and magazine. The whole pistol is slightly "melted" to eliminate sharp corners. It is a handsome pistol that is comfortable in the hand and every part except the grips is made of steel, according to our impromptu "magnet test." This includes the 16 round magazine.

The basic CZ 85B is a fully ambidextrous version of the earlier CZ 75, introduced in 1975. The CZ 75 design incorporated all of the best design features of its time, including a high capacity, double stack magazine, ergonomic grip and spacious trigger guard (reminiscent of the Beretta 9mm service pistols), single action and double action operation (SA/DA), slide in frame design, hammer forged barrels and all steel construction. The CZ 75 became famous for performance and reliability and has been widely used in IPSC and IDPA matches.

The pistol was shipped in a foam lined, blue plastic case. Included were Warrantee cards and a rather extensive and useful Instruction Manual, spare magazine, magazine loading tool, cleaning rod with a slotted tip and a brass cleaning brush. This very complete package even included a pair of plastic snap caps and a bunch of replacement primer pads for said snap caps!

Our pistol came with a printed representation of a test target that showed a five shot group fired at 25 meters (slightly over 25 yards) that measured a rather unimpressive 106mm (about 4-1/4"). This was fired with Sellier & Bellot ammunition, so we were able to eliminate that brand from our review right off the bat. Frankly, this is not acceptable accuracy. It made us wonder which was at fault, the test shooter, the pistol, or the ammunition.

It probably wasn't the fault of the black, Patridge type, "glow in the dark" three dot sights, which are excellent. The front blade is pinned to the slide and the fully screw adjustable rear is mounted in a dovetail at the rear of the slide. The top of the slide is flat and grooved to reduce glare.

Some shooters think that eliminating the firing pin block safety (as per our Model 85 Combat) allows for a better trigger pull, but if true, you couldn't prove it by our test pistol. Its DA trigger pull was beyond the maximum measuring range of our RCBS Premium Trigger Pull Scale and its single action pull was a substantial 5.25 pounds with a very long take-up and plenty of rough creep. You have to want this pistol to go bang. At least the overtravel screw was properly adjusted at the factory.

Although it is a selective SA/DA pistol, the CZ 85 Combat is equipped with a conventional (1911 style) manual safety lever that is pushed up for "safe" and down for "fire". The safety cannot be applied unless the pistol is cocked. This manual safety allows "cocked and locked" carry for die-hard 1911 fans, but should be ignored by everyone else. The whole point to SA/DA pistols is that they allow trigger cocking and thus can be carried safely with the hammer down on a loaded chamber and brought into action by a long pull of the trigger. No manipulation of a safety is required.

Unlike most SA/DA pistols, the 85 Combat's safety lever does not serve as a decocking lever. To un-cock the burr hammer, it must be manually lowered. The hammer incorporates a half-cock position that will stop its fall as long as the trigger is not pulled back. The slide stays open after the last shot.

Take down is accomplished by the following steps:

  1. Remove the magazine and insure that there is not a cartridge in the chamber.
  2. Safety off.
  3. Manually retract the hammer to the half-cock position.
  4. Put your left thumb through the trigger guard (from the left side) and with your other fingers firmly grasp the top of the front part of the slide. Push the slide back to align the vertical marks at the left rear of the slide and frame.
  5. Keeping the lines aligned, use the base of the magazine to tap on the right side slide stop lever; this will drift the left side slide stop lever from the frame far enough so that it can be removed by simply pulling it free.
  6. Pull the slide and barrel forward off the frame.
  7. Remove the recoil spring/guide rod and finally the barrel.

No further disassembly is required for routine maintenance. Reassemble in reverse order. The all steel magazine can also be disassembled for cleaning, although this will rarely be required. This is a fairly easy pistol to take down and it should not be a problem for anyone even slightly familiar with short recoil operated autoloading pistols. Certainly, it is more convenient to field strip than a 1911 style pistol. The Instruction Manual recommends cleaning the pistol after every use.

As the CZ 85 Combat is a good looking pistol, we were anxious to get it to the range. We were fortunate to have a clear and partly sunny spring day shortly after its arrival, so off we went to the Izaak Walton outdoor range south of Eugene, Oregon. The high temperature was about 60 degrees and the wind was minimal. We did our shooting for record from the bench using a Pistol Perch rest. All groups were five shots at 25 yard targets, fired in single action mode.

We had three common types of 9x19 factory loaded ammunition on hand. These included Remington/UMC 115 grain FMJ, Winchester 115 grain FMJ and Winchester 115 grain JHP Personal Defense loads. These are all standard pressure 9mm factory loads, the same ammunition that we routinely shoot in our own 9mm pistols. Guns and Shooting Online staff members Chuck Hawks, Jack Seeling, Jim Fleck and Bob Fleck did the shooting. Here are the results.

  • Remington/UMC 115 gr. FMJ: Smallest group = 1-1/4", Largest group = 3-3/4", Mean average group size = 2.1"
  • Winchester 115 gr. JHP: Smallest group = 1-1/2", Largest group = 4-1/4", Mean average group size = 2.5"
  • Winchester 115 gr. FMJ: Smallest group = 3-3/8", Largest group = 3-7/8", Mean average group size = 3.6"


Good for our collective egos is the fact that we averaged smaller groups with all three test loads than the CZ factory test group that accompanied the pistol. We would rate the CZ about average in terms of autoloading service pistol accuracy, which is to say good enough for government work (literally), but nothing to write home about.

Everyone but Chuck (who shot the smallest average groups with the CZ) complained about the trigger pull. Undoubtedly, it is gritty and too heavy and there is too much take-up to allow anyone to do their best shooting. We all felt that we could have shot smaller groups had the trigger been lighter and cleaner. Unfortunately, the CZ 85's trigger pull is about average for autoloading service pistols these days. If you want a decent SA trigger pull out of the box, buy a revolver. Chuck, who didn't find the CZ's trigger any worse than the usual, run of the mill Glock, H&K, Ruger, Taurus and S&W pistol triggers, felt that a little quality time spent stoning the engagement surfaces would probably result in an acceptable trigger pull.

Unlike the trigger, the Combat's sights drew favorable comments. They are precise and easy to align. Reliability is another plus, the gun never bobbled. Function and feeding were perfect throughout and the pistols controls are well placed and convenient to use. The grip, although large in diameter, drew favorable comments for its comfortable shape. Because of the CZ's ergonomic grip and substantial weight, felt recoil was minimized. Jack particularly liked the CZ 85 and plans to purchase our test pistol for his personal use.

In summation, the CZ looks good and works well. It is not cheap, but neither is its retail price exorbitant. It is a high quality, all steel service pistol that you could trust with your life. Given a trigger job, it would become a very good pistol.

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