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Gun Review: CZ Shadow 2 Compact 9mm Pistol

CZ Shadow 2 Compact (image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly.)

I’ve had this gun for several months and put about 2,000 assorted rounds through this it. It’s been a hit on the range with multiple experienced shooters getting a turn with it. All loved it. None of that was necessary for this review, but it’s instructive. In this case, the name of the gun and its legacy is all anybody really needed to know to guess this would be a heck of a shooter.

It’s a CZ Shadow 2 Compact, and it is awesome.

The Shadow 2 Compact’s legacy reaches back 50 years to one of the best duty and competition guns ever made, the venerable CZ 75. It goes even farther back when you consider the High Power’s influence on the C75. I wrote quite a while ago that if I could recommend one pistol for any shooter, it would be the CZ 75, and I still stand by that.

The Shadow, then the Shadow 2 were the next evolutions of that line, providing shooters with greater customization possibilities, more grips and optic options, and a factory trigger that we were previously paying gunsmiths to create. Those guns, the Shadow and Shadow 2, became so popular it would have been hard to go to any competition of note and not see a few there.

CZ Shadow 2 Compact (image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly.)

Although those guns shot extremely well, they were large, “duty” sized competition pistols. CZ has now expanded their offerings of the Shadow 2 line with the Compact model which is nothing more than the same great gun in a slightly smaller package.

With a 4-inch barrel and an alloy frame, the Shadow 2 Compact is right at the upper limit of carryable size and weight for most dedicated shooters. If you insist on toting sub-compacts, this isn’t your gun. Its bare weight is 7 oz heavier than a GLOCK 19 and about the same footprint. That said, with a quality holster and belt, there’s no reason you can’t have this gun on you all day in relative comfort.

CZ Shadow 2 Compact (image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly.)

Like its forefathers, the Shadow 2’s slide rides inside the pistol’s frame, unlike most semiautomatics. That allows for the barrel and mass of the slide to ride very low inside the frame, providing for an extremely short height-over-bore axis. That results in the light felt recoil all of the 75 variants have been known for, regardless of their frame material.

The downside of that slide-inside-the-frame design is that there isn’t as much real estate to grab hold of in order to rack the slide for loading or clearing a malfunction. CZ puts deep cuts fore and aft on the slide, but there’s really no getting around the fact that, no matter how well-textured the slide is, there just isn’t as much of it to hold onto.

One solution for this problem that’s available for the Shadow 2 models is the addition of an optic, as any optic provides a big ol’ ledge that’s a great handle for manipulating the slide.

CZ Shadow 2 Compact (image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly.)

The Shadow 2 Compact comes optics ready…kinda. There’s an optics cut on the top of the slide with the factory plate also being the dovetail slot for the rear sight. Since the Shadow 2 series has been out for a while now, there’s a wide range of relatively inexpensive mounting plates available for a wide range of popular optics. That makes mounting your optic of choice extremely simple.

Of course, that also means you’ll lose the rear sight when you mount an optic, unless you use an optic with a rear sight attached, like Leupold’s DeltaPoint Pro or SIG ROMEO-X Pro. Be advised that you may also need to change the height of your front sight to co-witness.

CZ Shadow 2 Compact (image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly.)

The supplied irons look and work more like what you’d expect on a competition firearm than a duty gun. The rear is a black serrated face with a squared U-notch. It’s drift adjustable for windage and screw adjustable for elevation. The front is a thin red fiber optic front, with just enough light on either side of the front sight to see a small amount of the target.

CZ Shadow 2 Compact (image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly.)

Although that front sight is pretty thin, the red fiber optic tube jumps right out. The top of the slide has a serrated runway texture along its full length, diminishing glare and drawing the eye right to the front sight. It’s the kind of detail we used to pay a lot to have milled into our guns.

After 500 rounds through the Shadow 2, the single action trigger measured at 3lbs 4.2oz and the double action pull right at 10lbs 1oz averaged over 5 pulls on a Lyman digital trigger scale. I knew from my previous experience with the full size Shadow that this is about where the trigger would end up, but was still surprised those were the actual measurements. They feel much lighter.

CZ Shadow 2 Compact (image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly.)

The entire double action trigger cycle feels fast and smooth. It’s really outstanding. I’d put the CZ Shadow 2 Compact’s factory trigger up against any 92 series trigger, even the ones smithed by Earnest Langdon (praise be his name.)  If you slow that trigger pull way down, you can feel it stack about three-quarters of the way through the pull. Those of you old school Colt double action revolver shooters who are adept at staging a trigger will appreciate this feature, but I never could and don’t.

The single action trigger feels much lighter than about 3½ lbs. It’s light and the reset is short and strong, but there is some squishiness and creep at the back of the single action trigger that you’ll feel in slow, precision pull.

CZ Shadow 2 Compact (image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly.)

The magazine release can be swapped to either side. Standing proud on the frame, it’s aggressively textured and color matched to the aluminum grips. It’s practically impossible to miss and requires no change in my strong hand grip at all in order to drop the magazine. Empties launch reliably from the magazine well.

The standard capacity for the magazines is 15 (the gun runs carries fine at 15+1). If you want more there are several quality aftermarket manufacturers as well as magazine extensions available. CZ sends two high quality mags with each gun, and aftermarket mags run about $40.

The magazine well on the Shadow 2 compact is mildly funneled. I’m going to credit the shape of the grip and the tapered design of the magazine itself with easy blind insertion of the mags into the well. Reloads are very fast, but they weren’t so right out of the box because of a very tight slide lock/release.

The slide lock/release is large and well positioned. My thumb (size large hands) has no issues reaching it without a shift in my grip. However, when the gun was brand new the release was very stiff, requiring a grip shift and a hard push down in order to actuate. After a few hundred rounds this settled a bit and now I can just reach the thumb forward and hit the release hard enough to make the slide drive forward.

CZ Shadow 2 Compact (image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly.)

Like its predecessors, the Shadow 2 Compact can be carried with the frame-mounted thumb safety off, using the trigger’s longer double action pull, a quality holster, and good sense to keep the gun from firing unintentionally. This is an extremely well proven system, going back the better part of a century. However, you can also choose to carry the gun with the hammer back and the thumb safety on (cocked and locked), firing the gun in single action mode.

If single action/safety on is your preferred method of carry for the Shadow 2 Compact, you’ve got a choice to make. The factory thumb safety sits tight to the frame and is comfortable to carry, but can be missed if you are moving quickly…or, as I found out in the Texas heat, if your hands are sweaty. There are aftermarket safeties available, but they protrude a bit more, of course.

CZ has chosen to put bright aluminum grips on all of their Shadow and Shadow 2 models when they first come from the factory. Despite this being more of an EDC model, the Compact is no different. In this case, they’ve included bright silver highly textured scales. Just like previous models, if you don’t like them, it’s easy enough to swap them out with dozens of aftermarket and CZ-made versions.

CZ Shadow 2 Compact (image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly.)

The arched mainspring housing area and overall geometry of the grip is one of the big selling points for the Shadow 2 Compact. If you have small hands, this might not be the gun for you, but the medium and large-handed individuals I had shoot the gun all remarked on how well it fit. Beyond just the grip scales, the entire grip frame is well textured, to include the front strap and mainspring housing area. The Compact really does a great job of locking into the hand for a solid hold even during long strings of fire on hot days.

CZ Shadow 2 Compact (image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly.)

Because it’s a CZ and because of the wide following of the brand worldwide, there’s no shortage of aftermarket parts. You can change the sights, the barrel, the grips, the magazine release, and lots more. Holster options abound.

At the bench, 25-yard groups of 1.5″ or better were common. Armscor’s inexpensive 115 FMJ shot at 2.6″, the worst of the group. The best was Wilson Combat’s Signature 147gr match round at 1.4.” I also fired the 147gr Armscor FMJ (1.9″) , the Winchester 147gr PDX1 Defender (1.5″), Winchester’s 115gr FMJ (2″), and old Speer Gold Dot 124gr +P (1.5″). All shooting for groups were untimed from a fouled bore, off bags, and the result of 4 strings of 5 round groups averaged at 25 yards and using the factory irons. The fact that all of these very different rounds shot so close to each other tells me that the limiting factor was likely the shooter (me).

CZ Shadow 2 Compact (image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly.)

The Shadow 2 Compact carries well and shoots even better. I intended to put my standard 500 rounds through this gun and call it a (few) days. That didn’t happen. Part of that was me once again discovering that I like a DA/SA gun.

On paper, mastering two trigger pulls makes no sense to me. In reality, I tend to get my first round out and on target faster with a DA/SA gun than I do with either a DA or SA pistol. This makes no sense to me, but the timer doesn’t lie and that trend certainly carried over to the Shadow 2 Compact.

The Shadow 2 Compact is also just a fun gun to shoot. There were zero malfunctions of any kind throughout the review with any shooter, and in general the rounds just kinda went where I wanted them to go. It points very naturally (at least with the supplied irons) and the grip geometry and surfaces mean there was no shifting or futzing around with the gun, even in long strings of fire. Every shooter I had try the Shadow 2 Compact felt the same.

CZ Shadow 2 Compact (image courtesy JWT for Shooting News Weekly.)

Two things I don’t need in my life include double digit inflation and yet another double stack 9mm pistol. But after shooting the CZ Shadow 2 Compact for this review I couldn’t help but think, “This is the pistol I should be carrying.” It’s accurate, it’s ultra-reliable, it has tons of available options, and it’s just plain enjoyable to shoot. Unsurprisingly, CZ has absolutely knocked it out of the park with this one.

Specifications:  CZ Shadow 2 Compact 

Caliber: 9×19mm
Magazine capacity: 15
Height: 1.37″
Width: 1.4″
Length: 7.5″
Barrel length: 4″
Weight with empty magazine: 30.6oz
Sights: Fiber optic front sight, checkered rear sight
Trigger: SA/DA
Frame: Aluminum alloy
Grips: Duralumin
Safety features: Manual safety | Safety notch on the hammer
Size: Compact
MSRP: $1,299

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