REVIEW: CZ Shadow 2-A Great Competition Pistol Right Out of the Box?

    Competition Pistols for certain shooting sports can be a breed apart:

    What may make a pistol great for home defense, LE/Military use, or concealed carry may not translate well to a pure competition pistol, and vice versa.  Competition pistols can run into the multiple thousands of dollars.  For those starting out in the sport, such cost can be daunting.  Sure, a stock Glock 17 or CZ75 can get one pretty far into these sports before the need or (let’s be honest here) desire for the “next level” of equipment comes to pass.  If one has the inclination to look for a pistol designed specifically for competition shooting in the USPSA or IPSC style of competitions, a certain set of features is desirable. If this author were looking for one, these are some traits he would look for:

    • Comfortable grip and easy to manipulate controls
    • Reliability
    • Affordable, easily found magazines
    • Common caliber
    • Better than average accuracy out to 50 yards
    • Low recoil for fast pairs
    • Long sight radius
    • Adjustable, highly visible sights

    Comparing the “Shadow” of the past to the pistol of the present:

    The CZ Shadow 2 was specifically “engineered to dominate in USPSA Production Division”.  The previous model, the CZ 75 SP-01 “Shadow Target”, was a “limited production product” with a barrel bushing from from CZ Custom, and as such excluded from production divisions due to this fact.  The Shadow 2 is a full-production gun with all OEM parts, and as such the rule-makers will need to tweak some other inane criteria in order to ban it from a division should they wish to do so.  Here are a few key differences on the Shadow 2 vs the original Shadow:

    • Barrel is longer at 4.89″ vs 4.61″
    • 1/2lb heavier at 2.9lbs vs 2.4lbs
    • OAL is 8.53″ vs 8.15″
    • Curiously, the magazines that ship with the Shadow 2 are 17rnd vs 18rnd for the old Shadow.
    • External grip/triggerguard/slide contour differences
    • Sights are a bit different and set slightly higher on the Shadow 2

    The Shadow 2 as it comes in the box

    Specifications:

    MSRP $1,299.00 
    Chambering 9mm Luger 
    Magazine Capacity 17+1 
    Frame Steel 
    Trigger Mech SA/DA 
    Sights Fiber Optic front, HAJO rear 
    Barrel Cold Hammer Forged 
    Barrel Length 4.89 in 
    Weight 46.5 oz 
    Overall Length 8.53 in 
    Safety Ambidextrous Manual Safety

     

     

    First Impressions:

    The CZ Shadow 2 comes in a nice plastic box from CZ-USA.  Upon opening the box, the first thing to be noticed was the three magazines, as well as a bag of 4 replacement recoil spring buffers.  Removing the pistol from the box, I was immediately impressed by how comfortable this pistol is to grip.  Below the beavertail, the CZ Shadow 2 has a pronounced shelf for the meaty part of one’s hand below the thumb to sit in.  Gripping this pistol felt natural, like a very firm, secure handshake.  The front, back, and side grip texture is aggressive enough to not slip around in one’s hand, but not enough to be uncomfortable or cause abrasions.  The pistol was properly lubricated from the factory, and the slide worked back and forth smoothly with nary a hitch or rattle.  The slide to frame fit is excellent for a non-custom production pistol.  The slide, being contoured and set in the frame, is somewhat difficult to get a good purchase on with larger hands.

    Good slide to frame fit. This is a more recent photo which shows finish wear on rear of slide

    The trigger on the CZ Shadow 2 is very good for a DA/SA pistol in its price range.  The DA pull measured at 10lb.  In DA mode, the trigger had three distinct facets to its travel.  The first was a tiny (perhaps .2″) amount of travel to the rear with little to no resistance.  The next was a smooth rearward pull with no stacking until the hammer came to be cocked back.  The last was breaking the trigger with a small amount of additional force, followed by some additional rearward travel to full stop after the hammer fell.  The SA pull was decent, at an average of 3lb 9oz.  There was a 1lb 10oz takeup, with a pretty clean break after an additional 2lb of pressure.  Trigger reset was short and consistent, with a easily discernible reset point that can be recognized after a small amount of practice.  Subjectively, this trigger felt like one of the best DA/SA semiauto triggers that I have yet tried.  As far as I can recall, perhaps only the Sphinx pistols have a trigger similar in feel and quality.

    The excellent trigger

    The pistol also comes with two different left hand safety selectors.  The one that came installed on the pistol was flush fit, with the optional one being more pronounced as to be easily manipulated with gloves.  The larger option also provides a nice thumb shelf, should one prefer to incorporate that feature into one’s grip on the pistol.  Being a longtime 1911 shooter, I opted for the latter selector and was very happy with the thumb shelf.

    Two flavors of safety selector

    Large selector installed

    Range time

    Ready for the range

    Equipped with a Blade-Tech holster for the Shadow 2 as well as some extra 18-round CZ-75 SP01 magazines and copious amounts of 9mm (including 9 different factory loads), I headed to the range.  As luck would have it, I rolled up on a friend of mine who was running a USPSA “classifier” course of fire for some local competitors.  Despite the pistol being brand new to me, most of my hits were in the “A” zone of the targets, and my times were decent as well.  The pistol’s grip angle led to easy acquisition of natural point of aim right when presented on target.  The red fiber optic front sight came into view quickly and was easy to focus on.  The other shooters that were present all had an opportunity to try a few mags through the pistol.  The agreement was unanimous:  the Shadow 2 was perceived as being easy and fun to fire, though being somewhat heavy at almost 3lbs unloaded.  Also shared was the feeling that the sights stayed on target shot to shot with ease due to the heavy weight, excellent grip ergonomics, and low bore axis.  Readers should keep gun mind that the gun was shooting factory loads, not handloaded low-recoil ammo.

    The Shadow 2 blazed through this target array. The pistol was easy to drive from target to target.

    After shooting the classifier a few times, I headed to a different pit to do some accuracy and reliability testing.  I tested the Shadow 2 with the following loads, shot from a soft handgun rest at 25 yards:

    • Federal Champion 115gr FMJ
    • Federal LE 124gr Hydra-Shok JHP
    • Fiocchi Perfecta 115gr FMJ
    • Wolf Polyformance 115gr FMJ
    • Speer Lawman 115gr TMJ
    • Speer Lawman 124gr TMJ
    • Speer Lawman 147gr TMJ
    • Browning BPT 147gr TMJ
    • Federal Range Target Practice 115gr FMJ

      Smörgåsbord of ammo

    The Shadow 2 was extremely consistent, and did not seem to prefer one grain or bullet type over another. The smallest 5 shot groups were around 1.75″ and the largest were 2.5″.  Keeping in mind my limited experience with this pistol and the myriad grab-bag of ammo this pistol was fed with minimal cleaning, this indicates a very good level of accuracy from the Shadow 2.  I was most impressed at the ability of the pistol to produce good results from whatever ammunition it was fed.

    Decent HAJO rear and fiber optic front sight array

    Picking up the pace:

    Having found the Shadow 2 to be more than accurate enough for competition use, I moved on to some fun rapid fire offhand tests at 5, 7 and 10 yards.  Largely due to the quality trigger and heavy weight, I was able to keep full mag dumps with all the rounds touching at 10 yards, and produced very small groups at 5 and 7 yards.  The red fiber optic sight was easy to keep my focus on, and hardly seemed to move at all during the rapid fire strings.  My best split times were .20 from a DA pull to SA, and .15 SA to SA.  The Shadow 2 trigger proved to be fast, smooth, and easy to operate at a competent level with little practice.

    adjustable magazine release button

    Reloads were fast and easy.  I was initially surprised at the fact that the Shadow 2 does not come with an oversized magwell, but I never felt hindered by the lack thereof.  Both types of magazines locked into place, fed, and dropped free flawlessly.  The magazine release button is adjustable, but I found the way it came on the pistol to be just great.  It was easy to find and operate when I needed it, and was not accidentally activated when I didn’t mean to release the magazine.

    The mag well is modest, but worked great for me

    After punching enough holes in paper, I moved on to steel.  Clearing dueling trees, plate racks, Texas stars, hostage targets, and small poppers was a blast with the Shadow 2.  I mixed in shots at a 50 yard  plate, which were easy to make.  After shooting several steel sequences, I moved out to do some slow fire on the 100 yard plates.  After a few shots, I figured out where to hold and was able to make sequential hits on target.  The Shadow 2 proved itself able to handle any potential competition scenario.

    Adjustable sight

    Friendly competition:

    For comparison’s sake, I fired the Shadow 2 along with a German-made Sig P210 and a Sig P226 X5.  These are all very accurate, heavy 9mm pistols.  I will say that, though the balance of the P210 was the best, the Shadow 2 held its own as far as accuracy and “shootability” is concerned vis a vis the 210 and of course has a greater magazine capacity.  The Shadow 2 blew the X5 out of the water in terms of reliability and staying on target due to much lower bore axis of the CZ (The price is much lower, too!).  If the Shadow 2 existed back when I acquired the X5, there is no question which one I would have chosen.

    As reliable as your Shadow?

    After 2000 rounds through the gun, I am happy to report that I have yet to encounter one single malfunction.  Zero.  The Shadow 2 has now digested 11 different loads from various manufacturers without issue.  I have not found this pistol to be finicky about different lubricant oils at different outside temperatures.  It does not require meticulous cleaning after heavy courses of fire.  The finish, however, is not the most durable.  Signs of finish wear have become evident on the hammer, the rear of the slide, the slide rails, the rear of the frame, and around the heel of the grip.  Also, I have noticed marring on the frame around the takedown pin.  While both the slide and the frame are nitride coated, the frame has an additional polycoat treatment.  My impression is that the polycoat is being scratched and marred somewhat during the takedown process. Fit on this match pistol is tight and the takedown pin does require a bit more force to be imparted than on a regular CZ-75.  These are minor issues, to be sure, but something to be aware of nonetheless.  I might send the pistol off for a different coating in the future if wear gets too bad.

    wear/marring around the takedown pin

    Overall Impressions:

    Objectively, the CZ Shadow 2 is an extremely well made factory competition pistol.  It has proven itself accurate and 100% reliable across a wide range of ammunition.  The trigger is of very good quality and the pull characteristics and weight lend themselves well to competitive use.  Though it has significant weight, the weight helps keep the pistol rock-solid on target shot to shot during rapid fire strings and mag dumps.  The sights are adjustable (should one need to adjust them; I have not) and of a good configuration for daytime competition.  Slide to frame fit is very good as well.

    Subjectively: Though the finish has started to wear in a few places, I have almost nothing but good things to say about this pistol.  For a street price of around a grand, I can say this pistol is as good as or better than many high-dollar custom competition pistols I have handled.  I am excited to use it in future competitions, and am 100% satisfied with my purchase.   Not only are the ergonomics good, but the pistol looks good, too!  In this author’s humble estimation, the CZ Shadow 2 is an outstanding value, and should be one of the first pistols to take a look at should one be in the market for a great competition pistol ready to go right out of the box.  Well done, CZ.

    Pros:

    • Accurate and 100% reliable with many different kinds of ammo.  Cheap or expensive-the Shadow doesn’t care!
    • Very good DA/SA trigger for fast split times
    • Custom performance from a production gun
    • Excellent value for the price
    • Stays rock-solid on target
    • Excellent ergonomics
    • Easily adjustable sights
    • End-user customizable features

    Cons:

    • Takedown is a bit difficult
    • Finish has started to wear/mar in a few places

    For more information, please visit CZ.

    Thanks to Hughston Shooting School for range time and logistical support

    Thanks to Aguila for ammunition

    Rusty S.

    Having always had a passion for firearms, Rusty S. has had experience in gunsmithing, firearms retail, hunting, competitive shooting, range construction, as an IDPA certified range safety officer and a certified instructor. He has received military, law enforcement, and private training in the use of firearms. He is fortunate enough to have access to class 3 weaponry as well.


    Advertisement