The Tanfoglio TZ-75 Series 88 Pistol

By David Tong

Tanfoglio TZ-75 Series 88 Pistol
Photo by David Tong.

One of the most widely used 9mm service pistols in the world it the Czech Republic’s CZ-75. An all steel, full-sized semi-automatic with a 15-shot magazine, versions of this pistol are among the only “NATO-spec” handguns available on the civilian market.

The CZ-75 was first popularized by the late Jeff Cooper in the mid-1970's. He liked nearly everything about the pistol except the 9x19mm caliber. The pistol’s main claim to fame was its optional double-action first shot, or Condition One “cocked and locked” single-action first shot. Either way, subsequent shots were fired SA. The cocked and locked mode of carry was the one Col. Cooper preferred, as he maintained that hits were the only thing that mattered and hit probability with the first and successive shots was improved when fired single-action.

Another noteworthy feature of the CZ-75 is its ergonomics. A standard automatic pistol with a double-stack magazine can be a real handful for smaller hands. The CZ-75's thin-walled frame’s grip area, inset curve for the web of your hand (reducing trigger reach) and the more tightly curved front strap means that it fits small-to-average sized hands better than most competing designs. The thumb safety’s location falls under the thumb’s joint and is an improvement over the earlier 1911 and P-35 safeties, which are farther back and usually require some kind of enlarged lever to hit reliably.

I would like to make one last point about the ergonomic thoughtfulness of the design. Please note in the accompanying photo the semi-circular beveled cut near the hammer’s pivot pin. This was done to provide a comfortable place for the base joints of your thumb and forefinger, so as not to require the web of your hand to spread unnaturally to grasp the pistol. To the best of my knowledge, no other double-stack auto design has provided this ambidextrous feature.

Its low bore axis and steel construction (heavy weight) helped repeat shot accuracy. The CZ-75 became a darling of IPSC competitors during the 1980's and 1990's. While there have been a large number of big selling, all steel service pistols in the past, that number has been dwindling for over a decade. Today, CZ-USA offers several variants, including specially manufactured custom shop tactical and optics-ready competition pistols.

During the 1980s, the Italian firm of Fratellli Tanfoglio S.P.A. manufactured a CZ-75 clone, with and without a firing pin safety. While the original TZ-75 featured a slide-mounted decocker safety, the test pistol called a “Series 88,” reverted to the CZ-standard frame-mounted manual thumb safety that is far more ergonomic. The primary detraction is the nearly useless squared trigger guard. However, to be fair, the CZ’s also have this affectation.

Several different finishes were available from the Italian company, including polished and matte blue, two-toned matte blue over matte hard chrome, and fully matte hard chrome. Smaller parts, such as the slide stop, thumb safety, hammer, magazine release, grip screws and internal action parts are matte blued. Attractive plain-grained, smooth walnut stocks adorn the test pistol.

The TZ-75 appears to be manufactured from investment castings and finished-machined. I saw the slightly rough-looking surface that indicates cast construction in the magazine well. The slide to frame and barrel to slide fits are above average, better than the typical CZ, and visible tool marks are in unimportant places that do not affect function or smoothness of action. In fit and finish, this pistol compares well to arms costing twice as much.

The trigger pull is better overall than the current generation of CZ-75B pistols I have examined. The heavy double-action stroke has some staginess and weighs in at approximately 14 pounds. The single-action pull is worthy of note. It has a crisp release of approximately 4 pounds, with 1/8” of take up and no over-travel, even though the hammer is cammed back slightly during the squeeze. The reset distance is under ¼”, which is good for any DA/SA automatic and better than either the Beretta 92 series or the SiG-Sauer P-200 series handguns, or my wife’s CZ-75D Compact. Lock time seems a bit slower though, which indicates that the mainspring powering the hammer may be reduced in poundage compared to those designs. More on that later.

There are a few stylistic differences from the parent CZ-75. The slide’s front contour and that of the dust cover region of the frame are not as narrow and the slide’s full-length rails extend to the muzzle. Some sharp edges were present on these frontal surfaces and may make the pistol harder than normal on holsters.

The front sight is machined integrally with the slide and sits atop a serrated rib. The original CZ pistol has a more standard round-topped slide without rib. The rear sight is of conventional dovetail installation and both sights have contrasting dots in the three-dot pattern for quick acquisition. While the rear sight seems sort of “tall,” it has rounded edges and a bold shape that makes it is easy to acquire. If one is infirm or injured, the slide can be racked by using the steel sight against a door or table edge.

The only “functional” part that is missing from the CZ design appears to be the solid retaining pin for the hammer pin. On the TZ-75, the hammer and trigger pins are both spring roll pins, which may suffice. Tanfoglio is alleged to have assisted in the production of other CZ-clones such as the Springfield P-9 series, the Israeli-made Baby Eagle imported by Magnum Research and the EAA Witness line.

Here are the specifications for the TZ-75:

  • Type: Full-sized semi-automatic service pistol
  • Length: 8” from grip tang to muzzle
  • Width: 1 1/4” across grips, 15/16” across frame
  • Weight: 36oz. without magazine; 44oz. loaded
  • Barrel length: 4 1/2”, hard chrome plated
  • Trigger: 14lbs. DA, 4lbs SA, selective DA or SA first shot capability
  • Safeties: Left side mounted manual thumb lever; when engaged also locks slide. Internal firing pin drop safety. Half-cock hammer notch.
  • Magazine capacity: 15 rounds (9x19mm), 13 rounds (.40 S&W)
  • Sights: Fixed, open, three-dot; rear white dots and front red dot.
  • Available Finishes: Blue and matte hard chrome plated

It is fact that the Italian firm Mec-Gar manufactures magazines for CZ, SiG-Sauer and Walther, among others. Mec-Gar has a CZ-75 magazine that will fit and function in the TZ-75, but I was unable to obtain one during the test. These are available in 15, 17 and 19 round configurations in cal. 9x19. I can state that the TZ’s factory magazine latched, fed perfectly and dropped free in the CZ-75D Compact.

The test pistol had been shot extensively by its former owner(s) and was quite dirty from powder residue. I saw no evidence of metal peening, especially on the barrel and slide locking lugs that indicate substandard heat treatment or fit of the recoiling parts. In addition, the frame and slide fit exhibited very little lateral or vertical slop. Pushing down on the barrel hood with my thumb through the ejection port did not produce any movement. This too compared favorably with the Czech product.

The pistol's controlled-feed stroke does not bypass the barrel’s feed ramp. The bullet nose impacts the upper third of the ramp. This does not seem to affect feed reliability compared to other pistols designed at the same time (early 1970's), despite a lack of rounding of the edge between the ramp and the chamber (throating). Hand cycling rounds was slick and sure.

As one can surmise from the weight quoted above, the TZ’s recoil and muzzle flip is moderate and rapid fire is easy. The pistol's soft recoil and generous butt shape make shooting even +P ammunition nearly as pleasant as shooting standard-pressure .38 Special.

Groups ran between 2” and 3” for five shots at 25 yards, using Sellier & Bellot 115 grain ball ammunition. This is above average for a stock service pistol by a non-name-brand manufacturer.

Two rounds out of fifty failed to go off on the first try, which I attribute to the soft-feeling mainspring. I also fired a small quantity of Remington’s 124 grain +P Golden Saber and Winchester RA9TA 127 grain +P+ Ranger SXT rounds; these fed flawlessly. These bullets leave the muzzle at approximately 1,275 fps from the TZ’s 4-1/2” tube. The latter has been used successfully by a colleague for single-shot, short-range, whitetail deer hunting. These rounds functioned perfectly and printed 3” groups, hand held, at 30’. More than adequate for the intended purpose.

Where does the TZ-75 clone fit in the scheme of things? Since “Firearms Import and Export” (F.I.E., the importer) went out of business in 1990, original parts supply is problematic. This is somewhat mitigated in that Fratelli Tanfoglio is still in business and appears to respond to email inquiries promptly. The design is not considered fragile in any respect.

Grip panels and magazines are probably interchangeable with CZ-75 pistols and I have seen the Hogue Company’s rubber and wood grip offerings naming both pistols on their labels. The pistol appears accurate, durable and reliable, as have most of the CZ clones I have fired or owned. The chrome finish may not be “tacticool,” but its hard slickness reduces both cleaning time and wear on the slide and frame rails.

It is a big and heavy pistol to carry concealed, although its rounded surfaces and slim profile make inside waistband carry relatively comfortable for the semi-anorexic. At the time of this writing, I have worn the pistol thusly for seven days with no complaints, but I am used to carrying an all steel 1911 pistol.

I had reservations about the 9x19 round before the current generation of JHP bullets at +P velocity was introduced. I now believe these higher than standard pressure rounds adequate, if still not quite as statistically good as the .45 ACP.

With the price for this used example in 95% condition less than $300, I think it is a solid buy. Particularly if one cannot afford the $500 plus tariff for a new CZ-75B. Regardless, the TZ-75 appears to stand on its own merits.

Note: This article is mirrored on the Product Reviews page.

Back to the Handgun Information Page

Copyright 2011 by David Tong and/or All rights reserved.