Sp-01 Phantom, AN APTLY NAMED PISTOL
The CZ SP-01 Phantom is a variant of the famed CZ 75 in the SP-01 line. However, the Phantom differs from the rest of the SP-01’s in that it is 14.5 ounces lighter than its steel framed predecessor. The Phantom weighs in at 26.2 ounces unloaded (according to my scale), while the steel framed SP-01’s weigh 40.7 ounces (according to CZ’s website). Thus, having a pistol almost a pound lighter than the standard model would feel like a ghostly rendition, comparatively. The SP-01 Phantom has been the standard issue sidearm of the Czech Republic’s 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade since 2012. The polymer framed Phantom was developed specifically with the military in mind. Having such weight savings makes a lot of sense for a secondary weapon that won’t see much action, but still has to be carried everywhere.
FEATURES OF THE SP-01 PHANTOM
The CZ SP-01 Phantom is a duty/full sized pistol with a 4.6-inch barrel, chambered in 9x19mm. As mentioned, the Phantom has a lightweight polymer frame that features a full-length dust cover, which I find aesthetically pleasing. Underneath the dust cover is an integral 1913 Picatinny accessory rail for attaching lights or laser aiming devices. Three-fourths of the grip’s backstrap is cut for two different sized backstrap inserts. The slide stop and a frame-mounted decocker-only lever protrude from the left side of the Phantom. When the decocker is engaged, it safely lowers the hammer to half-cock. If you prefer the hammer to sit flush against the slide, it must be done manually with your thumb while pulling the trigger. There is no manual safety, but that matches my preference, though I know some people prefer them.
The metal sights feature a three dot system that are also photo-luminescent when charged with a flashlight. One quick charge lasts long enough to check out a bump in the night if the Phantom was used for home defense. The SP-01 Phantom sights are compatible with aftermarket sights that fit CZ 75B models. I should note that if you’re looking at aftermarket sights, they are not compatible with SP-01 Shadow cut sights, but standard SP-01 sights are compatible.
The slide has a low profile, but the slide serrations are aggressive and easily gripped. I handed the empty Phantom to my wife and asked her to rack the slide. She liked the fact that the recoil spring wasn’t too stiff and she was able to manipulate the slide easily. She also liked the thinner grips and said it felt good in her hand. Since the Phantom’s grips are made from one piece of polymer, it eliminates the need for interchangeable side panel grips. I measured the width of the grip at 1.1 inches on the Phantom. I have medium sized hands and also enjoyed how well the Phantom fit in my hand. The sides of the grip have a slightly raised texture that isn’t aggressive but isn’t slippery either. The front and back of the grip have slightly more aggressive checkering that works while not being abrasive. The frame’s inward angle above the trigger has a natural feel for the trigger finger when the Phantom isn’t being pointed down range.
The stock steel framed SP-01 removable plastic or rubber grips measure to 1.43 inches wide according to one of the moderators on the CZ Forum. This is another aspect that benefits an armed force with varying sizes of people. Although, there are aftermarket aluminum grips available for steel framed SP-01s that bring the grip width closer to the Phantom’s.
Taking the SP-01 Phantom apart is pretty straight forward. Unlike other pistol manufacturers, CZ gives users corresponding notches on the frame and slide for proper take-down alignment. Once the marks are aligned, the take-down (also the slide-stop) pin which protrudes on the right side of the pistol can be pushed inward. CZ recommends using the base plate of a magazine as it takes some force to loosen it. Once loosed, the take-down pin can be pulled out and the slide can be moved forward off the frame. The recoil spring and guide rod can be carefully removed from its notch under the barrel. The barrel can then be removed rearward.
To change the backstrap, find a hard surface that you don’t mind scratching or denting. The lanyard loop at the base of the grip is also the plug for the hammer spring, it is captured by a pin that holds it and the backstrap in place. Push the pistol down with the lanyard taking all the force. Using the provided tool in the Phantom’s case, push the pin out when the tension is released from it. Then release the pressure on the pistol. The backstrap can then be slid off and replaced. Replace the pin in the same way.
Despite the thinner grips, the upper portion of the frame and the railed part of the slide are a bit wider at 1.13 inches. I had a Safariland 6280 duty holster for Glock 20/21 models handy and the SP-01 Phantom fit like a glove, with or without the light. For those not interested in big duty holsters, there’s a good running list of holsters designed for CZ SP-01’s HERE.
The SP-01 Phantom was pleasant to shoot. The fit in my hand just felt right. I had to work a bit to get used to the trigger since I’ve been used to shooting striker fired pistols and revolvers and the Phantom’s trigger sits somewhere in between the two. The double-action (DA) trigger is weighty but smooth. I don’t have an exact number to give as I don’t own a trigger pull scale. It was manageable and I still hit my mark or very near it. The single-action (SA) trigger was also smooth with a very short reset. I found that in SA, as long as I held the trigger to the rear with an intentional release only to the click of the trigger reset, I fared much better. In SA, if the trigger is fully released, there’s enough travel to the sear that it’s hard to determine the exact point of where the resistance is met. It’s a non-issue though as long as you shoot from the reset point. For those that prefer to use the slide stop as a slide release, I made sure to try that out as well and found it smooth, easy and satisfying. What’s not to like when loading a fresh magazine?
On my first range trip, I had two failures to feed within the first two magazines using Speer Lawman 115 grain FMJ loads. I wasn’t exactly sure what had caused the malfunctions at the time. However, having shot about another 350 rounds through it during my evaluation of the SP-01 Phantom without any other malfunctions, I attributed it to the break-in period or an overly ambitious magazine spring. The Phantom didn’t have any other hiccups during my time with it.
Hornady was very kind in providing self-defense ammunition for the Phantom. They sent 75 rounds of Critical Duty 115-grain loads, and 75 rounds of American Gunner 115-grain loads. All functioned flawlessly and the Phantom cycled smoothly and spit the casings out consistently, three to four feet away to my right.
I shot at 15, 25 and 100 yards for the evaluation of the SP-01 Phantom. I believe most handguns are capable of good accuracy well beyond the typical self-defense and static qualification scenario ranges, so I wanted to see how the Phantom did. As most reviewers point out, the pistol is more accurate than we are, and I found the same with this pistol. At 100 yards off-hand, I managed 4 out of 18 rounds on an unfolded cereal box. From the bench, I managed 9 out of 10 shots on the same sized target. The pictures below show some of my groups at the aforementioned ranges. I’ve rarely been one to leave one-ragged holes in my targets, but I hope to improve that with time.
Overall, I like the CZ SP-01 Phantom. I happen to think it’s a good looking and smooth shooting pistol. The fit and finish are solid and it felt good to play with a hammered semi-auto again. I plan to purchase the example I evaluated and plan to use it as my “nightstand gun” – without any doubts it will function if called to action. I would prefer if it shipped with three magazines instead of two, but extra magazines are available and of comparable prices to other duty sized gun magazines.
If you have experience with any of the CZ 75, SP-01, or SP-01 Phantom models, tell us your thoughts in the comments section. For those that don’t, what are your thoughts on the Phantom?
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