While guys who dig CZs these days often like to think of themselves as mysterious and edgy, back in the chilliest days of the Cold War, picking up a CZ 75 was tougher than you'd think. 

A product initially of Communist-controlled and Moscow-allied Czechoslovakia, as we have covered dozens of times in the past, the CZ 75 first hit the market in Europe in 1975, hence the name. While nothing in the design was new – every feature had already appeared in a production gun somewhere – the combination of its internal slide rail design (similar to the SIG P210) with a 15+1 shot detachable 9mm magazine (Smith & Wesson Model 59), double-action/single-action trigger system (Walther P-38), and a linkless cam locking system (Browning Hi-Power) yielded a very sweet shooting pistol with a decent capacity that could be seen as a legitimate target or "combat" handgun, especially for its day. 

A second-generation 1986-vintage CZ 75
A second-generation 1986-vintage CZ 75 "Pre-B." The 18+1 round magazine is a later model than the original, and we'll get into that. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
A second-generation 1986-vintage CZ 75
Also, don't sweat what "Pre-B" means. We'll get into that as well. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
A second-generation 1986-vintage CZ 75
A neat thing about the design for American users was that, when carrying in a Condition One "cocked and locked" format, unlike the 1911, the CZ 75 had a more instinctive thumb safety that was in a position that made it easy to "wipe" off on the draw instead of one that had to be pushed forward and up. 
A second-generation 1986-vintage CZ 75
The CZ 75 was very M1911-sized, seen here compared to a Kimber Rapide, but with twice the magazine capacity, as it was in 9mm rather than .45 ACP. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
A second-generation 1986-vintage CZ 75
The CZ 75 series feels great in the hands and has a natural feel to it, leaving no doubt as to why it remains in production after 45 years and has been extensively cloned and copied. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
A second-generation 1986-vintage CZ 75
The gun is marked as being produced in that Versailles Treaty-era cultural hodgepodge – Czechoslovakia, not the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic became an independent republic in late 1992, and CZs made today are marked accordingly. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
A second-generation 1986-vintage CZ 75
A DA/SA pistol, the CZ 75 Pre-B series, which was made between 1980 and 1992. Crafted of renowned Poldi steel – typically used for crankshafts and tools – these guns are durable. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)


Related Review: The CZ 75 is Still an Amazing Pistol 45 Years Later


CZ 75s were known in the U.S. – they even popped up in that 1984 classic "Red Dawn" in the hands of dastardly commie airborne forces in the opening action sequence. The thing is, as there was plenty of bad blood between the U.S. and Warsaw Pact countries in the 1970s and 80s, it was fairly hard to get a CZ 75 in the States. 

This meant that most in that period came in via two narrow and now historically ironic sources: from Canada through a company called Pragotrade, and via American servicemembers/businessmen who bought them in Western Europe back when gun laws over there were a lot less draconian. The latter is where I think this gun came from, as it doesn't have any import marks but does have what seem to be factory-installed adjustable LPA target sights, which would make it a ringer for CZ 75s sold commercially in Britain in the mid-1980s. 

For instance: Czech out this ad from Edgar Brothers, a big UK-based gun distributor that is still in business – although not in the handgun market for the past 25 years. 


Edgar Brothers ad CZ 75
Now, that gun looks familiar...Sadly, the UK banned almost all private handgun ownership in 1997. 


As for the term Pre-B, this comes as a distinction between the later CZ 75B model guns. A different generation introduced in 1992-ish and still in production, they include a squared (rather than rounded) trigger guard, a rounded hammer (rather than spurred) and firing pin block (rather than no firing pin safety and companion short trigger reset disconnector.) 

That doesn't mean the Pre-Bs are the first run of CZ 75s, as that honor goes to so-called "First Model" variations, which were made in the mid-to-late 1970s and use distinctive "waffle"-style grip panels, have no half-cock feature (something that was introduced on the Pre-Bs), run shorter slide rails, don't have the fluted lightening cut on the dustcover of the frame, and typically sport a high polish blue finish rather than the painted matte finish seen on most Pre-Bs. 

With the U.S. market opening big-time for CZ following the thaw of Cold War tensions after 1992, the CZ 75B and a host of follow-on variants started sweeping into American gun shops, officially imported for the first time. 

One problem often encountered with Pre Bs is that their original magazines are often missing – a byproduct of them having survived the Federal "Assault Weapon" ban of 1994-2004 – with working period replacements costing a good bit when found. Luckily, we found out that new extended CZ SP 01 18-round mags (CZ Model 11102) have the right geometry to work in these Cold Warriors, clicking into place without modification, locking the slide back on empty, feeding reliably, and (mostly) dropping clean when released. 

A second-generation 1986-vintage CZ 75
My Pre-B ran well with standard CZ SP 01 18-round mags and is still a dream on the range, even at age 37. How did it get in the country? A Cold War mini-mystery. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

As for the availability of these guns, known serial number ranges with collectors’ groups point to as many as 150,000 of these guns produced between 1980 and 1989 when the numbering style shifted. Of course, most of these surviving guns are likely floating around outside of the U.S., but there are a bunch of them that have washed up over here – we see them regularly and usually have one or two in stock

A second-generation 1986-vintage CZ 75
Pre-Bs are often unearthed overseas in places like Israel and Africa and are shipped in by importers such as Century, which is good news to hungry CZ collectors. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

However, if you want a new CZ 75 that has the same old feel as a Pre-B but with more supportable internals, there is always the CZ 75 Retro model, which has lots of the same features including a rounded trigger guard and spur hammer.

revolver barrel loading graphic