The first USPSA Production Nationals was won by a gun that Col. Jeff Cooper described (referring to the action) as an “ingenious solution to a non-existent problem.”
Of course, Col. Cooper was referring to the double-action/single-action auto pistol, and I am referring to the Beretta that Ernest Langdon used to claim that first Nationals. Over the next several years the division was dominated by striker-fired pistols, and guys like Dave Sevigny and Bob Vogel would push their Glock models to claim the title. However, each year following would see a few more DA/SA guns in the top 10. There were places like Matt Mink’s Automatic Accuracy and Angus Hobdell at the CZ Custom shop that were focusing on making the CZ 75 variants competition contenders. Mink would come in second to Sevigny in the 2010 Production race. With race-ready parts and action jobs on the CZs and its Italian counterpart, the Tanfoglio, the face of Production division was changing.
The USPSA Carry Optics division has grown rapidly since its introduction.
In 2011 Ben Stoeger would take the title, ironically with a Beretta. Other than 2015 when there was almost a three-way tie between Vogel, Jonasson and Stoeger, the division has been dominated by the DA/SA guns of CZ and Tanfoglio. Survey results from recent years indicate that CZ and Tanfoglio have won over the Production division crowd, with CZ showing 48 percent of the competitors at the 2018 Production match running a CZ 75 variant of some kind.
Are we starting to see the same trend in Carry Optics? When first introduced polymer-framed striker-fired guns with red dots were the only way to go. Limited to 10 rounds, maximum 35-ounce weight and the same modifications as Production division, competitors who did try the new division were asking for more. Over the next two years the division became less restrictive with modifications and weight limits. However, it was still primarily being shot with polymer guns. When the division was finally moved from provisional to fully recognized in February 2018, the race was on. The addition of slide and grip modifications and the ability to change out small parts allowed what most competitors wanted, to be able to modify their gun in order to make it easier to shoot and compete with. Granted, there were a few who may find the changes excessive, but results do not lie. Carry Optics saw large growth in 2018 based on reported activities—nearly doubling from 2017.
With the changes, we also saw CZs take the second spot with over 20 percent of the guns at Nationals last year being used in this division. I have tried Production from time to time with a variety of guns but did not enjoy it as much as Single Stack or Limited. I had a Shadow 2 that was not getting used, so I reached out to the CZ-Custom Shop on a project, a Carry Optics- and Production-legal Shadow 2. Stuart Wong at the Phoenix based custom shop agreed to take on the job. I first met Stuart in 2006 when I was trying Production division for the first time. We were on the same squad together at the Double Tap Match and I was shooting a CZ SP01 Tactical model that I had just received back from Angus with what passed as a trigger job back then. Things have definitely changed with the work they are doing and the custom parts they are making for these guns.
Modified CZ Shadow 2 with Leupold DeltaPoint Pro.
The idea was to get the Shadow 2 under the 45-ounce weight limit of Carry Optics, but to still have the gun legal for Production. That would mean that the piece milled out for the optic would have to able to be mounted back on the gun, and no external slide lightening cuts could be made. I shipped the gun off to the desert for the crew that created one of the Accu Shadows I used to own to perform their magic on the Shadow 2.
At the completion of the work while I was giving my credit card number, Stuart wanted to know what red dot I was running, to include the correct mounting plate. I had them set me up with one for the DeltaPoint Pro and the CMore RTS2 so I could try both on this set-up. The Shadow 2 was already wearing a pair of the Henning Group contour checkered grips and I was good with the trigger on the gun from the box. It was ready to ship back. Stuart informed me that in order to get the weight down, the milled-out piece went all the way down to the extractor and would come out when changing out the plate.
When opening the box and inspecting the slide, you could barely see where the rear sight piece had been milled out except for the mounting screws. The rear piece came off easily enough, and dropping it on the postal scale showed that it was 2.4 ounces. The Leupold was not currently being used so I mounted it first. I am no gunsmith, not much of a tinkerer with my guns and, while I have owned several CZs, I have never taken out the extractor or anything other than the normal field strip. Getting the extractor back in would apparently take three thumbs, some type of sorcery and the ability to hold your tongue just right without biting it while saying the magic curse words to complete the task. I did it, and with all the original parts, I might add. With the red dot mounted I weighed the gun at 44.9 ounces on the postal scale, with a standard unloaded magazine with no base pad.
The gun was going to still need to go on a little bit of a diet once I added base pads. Without doing any additional milling on the frame, there were still a few options to trim this fat boy down a little. Removing the shroud around the DeltaPoint Pro saves you about a half-ounce of weight. Removing the factory steel guide rod and replacing it with a plastic one, like the one offered from Cajun Gunworks, will get you another ounce of weight. This will get the gun down, but selecting the right base pads, such as the Henning Group extension and follower kit, will bring this package right in at 45 ounces. I love the Henning Contour grips; however, you can change them out for the Shooting Sports Innovations Scale grips and save another half-ounce there.
The Leupold red dot is one of the heavier ones at 1.95 ounces. Removing the shroud really helps. The C-More RTS2 is already lighter at 1.16 ounces, and would actually be my choice to go with. I made a quick trip to the range with the Shadow 2 set up for Carry Optics, and the gun performed great; however, I had a hard time transitioning from the Walther PPQ Q5 that I have been shooting to the longer pull of the first shot on the CZ. I wasn’t going to be able to spend a lot of time adjusting, so I focused on what the major difference in the two guns would be, the added weight of the CZ versus the polymer Q5. The Walther is 28 ounces compared to the 45 ounces of the CZ, so would I be able to shoot the CZ faster with better hits?
Setting up and running just basic bill drills with the CZ already in single action from low ready, my times were almost the same as with the Walther. Doing the drill 20 times with both guns, the average times were almost the same. However, I can take a single stack and an open gun and do the same thing, and my times are about the same. Pulling a trigger fast on anything has never been my problem. Keeping them in the A zone, on the other hand, is an issue. The hits downrange when comparing the targets told a little different story. When pushing the Walther hard, I tend to push hits to the low left and into the C zone, a lot. With the added weight of the CZ, I was keeping most of the hits in the A zone, but would push some Cs down just below the A zone. With more time and getting used to the DA/SA trigger pull on the Shadow 2, these heavyweight guns from Production division will find a home in Carry Optics.
If you have a CZ and are looking for upgrades or custom work, get in touch with the CZ Custom Shop. They wrote the book on how to make these guns competition-ready. Also check out the new CZC A01, an in-house model custom-built from the ground up. If you can dream it up they can do it, and probably already have when it comes to CZs.
Article from the March/April 2019 issue of USPSA’s FrontSightmagazine. Photos by Jake Martens.