Range Report: TZ-75 and Springfield Loaded 9mm

It’s always a great day when I get to go shooting, and it’s even more fun when I’m taking “new” firearms.  New, I say in quotes, because I took two pistols I purchased used but have not yet shot until today.  They are both 9mms… a Tanfoglio/F.I.E. TZ-75 and a Springfield Loaded 9mm.

First off, let’s start with the TZ-75.  The TZ-75 was manufactured in Italy by Tanfoglio and imported into the U.S. by F.I.E. as a copy of the famed CZ-75.  My specific TZ-75 was likely made in early 90′s (note:  mine is a Series 88, easily identified due to its frame mounted safety).  I recently sold an excellent condition CZ-75b and many accessories, and just picked up this TZ-75 online for the bargain basement price of $265.  Wait… why would I sell the “genuine article” to get the knock-off?  Well, here’s why:  I used to own this same knock-off in the form of the EAA Witness (which is the same gun as the TZ-75, as they were both made by Tanfoglio on literally the same production lines).  Having owned both, I preferred the feel of the Witness and it’s smoother trigger.  The CZ-75′s grip wasn’t as comfortable to me, and my specific CZ-’s trigger pull was always a constant source of annoyance to me.  The CZ had a long trigger reach and, at the end of the pull, had a gritty feeling that would throw me off.  The TZ-75 feels, at least to me, to have a slightly shorter reach to the trigger… likely due to its more aggressive “dished out” grip backstrap.   Anyway, I originally sold the Witness because I could never get it to shoot point of aim but was never really happy with the actual CZ either.  Would the TZ-75 be any better????  More on that in a bit.

The next pistol I brought was a Springfield Loaded 9mm Target.  It was purchased with funds from the sale of an STI Spartan 9mm.  This specific Springfield was produced in 2004 and has a great trigger and well finished components.  It cost considerably more than the TZ-75, coming in at a price of around $850 used.  But, good 1911s always command a premium price.

I brought both pistols to an indoor range today and shot targets at 10 yards and 50 ft (but mostly 10 yards).  Before I show the targets, keep in mind that this is my first outing with both pistols so I wasn’t shooting as accurately as I probably can with either.  And, in the case of the Springfield, I know accuracy will improve once I lighten the pull weight a bit and replace the stock trigger with a short Greider model (I shoot 1911s better with short triggers).  Anyway, here’s some quick observations on both pistols:

Springfield Loaded 9mm:  very well finished and smooth.  Trigger pull and length aren’t optimal for me, but that is an easy change.  Shoots well and the adjustable sights are very nice, but honestly I did not shoot as well with this as I had expected or hoped.  No malfunctions or failures to feed or eject, and I used three different Metalform 9-round magazines.  Being a full size 1911 9mm, recoil was almost nothing. Looking forward to modifying the trigger and seeing what it will do.  All in all, it did what you would expect a Springfield 1911 to do:  shoot accurately and dependably.

F.I.E. TZ-75:  this was a very pleasant surprise.  For $255, you can’t always expect much but it arrived to me in excellent condition without a single scratch or scuff; it looks almost like new.  And, this pistol shot exactly to point of aim and was more accurate than I expected.  Meaning, I shot better with it than I expected.  The trigger on this is much nicer than on my CZ-75b. In fact, the TZ-’s trigger has more of a short, smooth “roll-off” feeling at the end of the pull vs. the CZ’s grittier cam-action feel.  The TZ never failed to feed or eject, and recoil is very subdued in this due to the heavy steel frame.  Also, when shooting, it has an interesting feel that makes it easy to get into rhythm.  Some pistols have this and some don’t; it’s hard to explain.  I think I’m going to like this pistol a lot and it’s a keeper.  In fact, I’m already looking for new grips and another magazine.

Here’s some samples from today’s shooting.  Not great shooting, but decent enough.  The first target (set of four 5-shot groups) is for the TZ; the second target is the Springfield.

In summary, both pistols functioned perfectly and were fun to shoot.  The TZ-75 exceeded my expectations, and the Springfield left me wondering if it will match what my STI did in terms of accuracy.  However,  realistically knowing that it’s not yet set up for how I like a 1911, I’m guessing I’ll see improvement once I have it configured the way I prefer.  Regardless, they are both great pistols but the TZ-75 is an absolute steal!

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1911 9mm: Springfield Loaded Target

A couple years ago, I thought I didn’t need any more handguns (ha ha, what a fool I was).  On a forum I frequent, I posed a question:  What Should I Get?  Essentially, I was looking for input from other forum members as to what was “missing” from my collection, because from where I sat I couldn’t see anything else that I could own.  After listing all the handguns I owned at the time, I hit “post” and awaited the responses.  Gun people being gun people, we love to spend other people’s money and the suggestions rolled in.  They all had merit, yet none of them were compelling enough to raise an eyebrow.  Then, it came.  Someone suggested a 1911… but in 9mm.  Well, I certainly didn’t own one of those, and the idea of match-grade tight groups in a soft shooting, classic design got me thinking.  Ultimately, those thoughts manifested themselves into an STI Spartan in 9mm.

The STI Spartan is a great pistol for someone on a budget and fit the bill nicely.  On paper, it was in fact my most accurate 9mm and I figured I would have it forever.  Then I heard about Springfield Armory making their Range Officer in 9mm, and the Spartan went on the “for sale” boards.  Quickly, I had an offer to purchase and ended up with close to $600 in my pocket.

The market being what it is, the prices on Range Officers started increasing.  By, like, $100.  Not happy with this, I expanded my search into other models and came across what appeared to be a lightly used Springfield Loaded Target 9mm in Stainless Steel.  Since my ultimate idea was to have a stainless or hard chrome finished 1911 9mm with adjustable sights and front strap checkering, the Loaded, while more expensive than the Range Officer, already came in stainless and therefore saved around $200 in what would eventually be the cost of hard chroming the R.O.  This particular Loaded came with five magazines as well.  After a call to check the serial number with Springfield Armory, I found out the gun was made in March 2004.  So, with my newly expanded options in front of me, I placed a bid.  And, I won.

Fast forward a week.  The Loaded, as of today, is in my possession.  Here are my initial observations:

  • This particular gun came with five magazines, a hard case, allen wrenches for the guide rod, and keys for the internal mainspring lock.  It did not come with the holster and mag carrier package like Loadeds do today and, frankly, I don’t care.
  • The pistol looks great.  There is a tiny, tiny bit of nick marks on the right front slide serrations, but not enough to really notice.  Other than that, the surface looks great.  The traces of an “idiot mark” are present beneath the slide stop, but it’s hard to find a 1911 that doesn’t have a trace of some mark there already.  And, it’s faint.
  • This pistol is smooth.  I can’t quite describe it, but it’s the smoothest feeling 1911 I own… and that’s saying something.  It isn’t quite as tight as my others from a slide to frame fit perspective, but that’s okay.  Slide to frame fit is highly overrated in terms of producing accuracy.  And, like I said, it’s smoother than any of my other 1911s in terms of slide movement.
  • The controls are all crisp and, well, I can’t quite describe it but they feel like quality.  The ambidexterous thumb safety snaps on and off with a nice clack.  My S&W PC1911 didn’t do that, but this Loaded does.  I can quite put into words what it is about this pistol, but it just feels solid.  Parts feel well finished, smooth, and seem to move with precision.
  • The ad for this pistol said “fantastic” trigger.  Yeah, sure, I thought.  I know triggers and I’ll be the judge of that.  Well, folks, it is fantastic.  Like “let me squeeze this with my eyes closed and try to find some hint of creep or grit.  Hmmm… nope, can’t feel anything like that.  Let me try again.  Nope, just a clean break.”  The only way I can describe the break is “surgical.”  That’s not an adjective that is really applicable to a trigger, but it breaks as clean as my Kimber Series 1 and my S&W PC1911, and those are the two best triggers I own (outside of my S&W revolvers).  The weight is at a perfect “just below” 4 lbs. as well.  “What???? I don’t need to bend a sear spring????”  I guess not, at least unless I want to take it down just a wee bit to 3.5 lbs.
  • Bushing fit is tight. Not overly so, as I can easily remove the bushing with my fingers, but it’s tight enough that I can’t feel any play in the barrel.
  • There is no overhang between the rear of the slide and the frame.  Almost all of the Range Officers I have seen have this, and it looks sloppy. While the extractor is slightly proud of the slide, I can live with that.
  • I do NOT like the two-piece guide rod.  Why would you complicate disassembly like this?  I’ll keep it for now, but it’s a PITA and creates unnecessary steps in disassembly if you ask me.

I have never owned a Springfield 1911 before, and I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t get the “better” Range Officer at first.  But, as long as this pistol shoots as well as it feels, I have a feeling I’ll not give another thought to the Range Officer with this Loaded in my hands.  This is my first Springfield 1911 and already I am impressed with the fit and finish of this pistol. Stay tuned for a range report coming soon!

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“New” Old 9mm: Tanfoglio TZ-75

Cheap isn’t always good, and good isn’t always cheap.  About 15 years ago, I purchased a new EAA Witness 9mm in “Wonder finish.”  My recollection is the pistol felt great in hand and was a solid shooter.  And, I recall that I paid only around $300 for it new in box.  However, I never could get the sights regulated and ended up selling it even after installing an adjustable rear unit.  Ever since then, I’ve wondered if I might have given up on the Witness before giving it a real chance.  I even blogged about it at the location below:

http://martowski.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/gun-selling-regrets/

Well, cruising Gunbroker is often a dangerous experience.  Filled with potential wallet-emptying purchases, I can always find a “great deal” waiting to be had.  Recently, I started thinking about that Witness again and started sniffing around to see what it might take to give that gun another chance at life in my collection.

Prior to 2005, European American Armory (EAA) imported two sizes of the Tanfoglio-manufactured Witness:  a “small frame” in 9mm and .40, and a “large frame” in calibers such as .45 and 10mm.  However, in a move likeliy meant to simplify parts and logistics, in 2005 EAA started using only the large frame for all calibers.  While that’s great for .45 and 10mm, it meant that smaller calibers would have to occupy a platform bigger, heavier, and bulkier than required.  It also meant that the small frame Witness, never an exceedingly popular handgun in the first place, would become harder and harder to find.  As of 2014, they can still be found, but not in the quantity possible just a few years ago.

In addition to the EAA Witness, Tanfoglio produced a number of other very similar  pistols that were essentially the same as the gun, just under different names.  One of these was the TZ-75.  Imported by FIE, the TZ-75 evolved into the Witness after FIE went out of business and EAA acquired the rights to import and market pistols in the U.S.

This past week, I had just finished purchasing another handgun and did a search for “Witness” on Gunbroker.  Not satisfied with what I found, I expanded my search to the TZ-75 and found what appears to be a clean, lightly used specimen going for not much money at all.  I put in a bid and ultimately won the pistol in the opening picture of this post.  This particular pistol is a 9mm TZ-75 Series 88.  Prior to the Series 88, the TZ pistols had slide mounted decocker safeties and very squared trigger guards.  The Series 88 incorporated changes that ultimately made their way into the Witness pistols as well, including a frame mounted manual safety, more rounded trigger guards,  and some changes to the frame dimensions and overall design.

I don’t have possession of the TZ-75 yet, and will not have it for another week or so.  However, I’m anxious to see this and more anxious to get it out to the range to see what it can do.  Consider this the Witness’ 2nd chance at life in my collection.

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Why The 1911

I enjoy firearms; they are my hobby.  And, out of all firearms, I enjoy handguns the most.  They present the most challenging aspect of shooting (in my opinion) and can be utilized in short indoor ranges or vast outdoor expanses.  A handgun is also a very personal weapon, easily customized to the user and often times carried close to their person.  I own a number of handguns in a variety of actions.  Out of all of them, I have come to appreciate the 1911 above all.

Why the 1911?  I mean, it’s not new… it’s called “1911″ for a reason.  It’s big, heavy, and doesn’t hold a lot of rounds.  A magazine holding eight .45 ACP cartridges is standard and, even in 9mm configuration, 9 – 10 rounds is about all you get.  It’s also known for being finicky, with a barrel bushing that must be fit “just right”, feed path that requires just the right angle and polish to work correctly, and an extractor that often needs adjusting.  Finally, the 1911 isn’t cheap.  A “cheap” 1911 runs close to $500, and many consider $800 to be the entry point for a decent model.  Heck, even some $1,200 versions get derided for having MIM parts and mediocre finishing.  The 1911′s detractors say it only survives due to a legion of fanatic “fanboys” who refuse to let it go despite dozens of superior designs on the market.  In fact, on paper there may be no compelling argument to picking a 1911 over a Glock or other similar design.  But, not everything can be quantified on paper.

When you pick up a 1911, the first thing you notice is the weight.  What’s seen as a negative by many is also an advantage.  It’s not a light pistol, which means it’s great for soaking up recoil.  Also, with a 5″ barrel and all steel construction, it’s much more “front heavy” than many more modern designs.  If you’re a target shooter, a little front weight is a good thing as it helps balance a pistol and keep it steady in the hand.  The 1911 also has a grip angle that works surprisingly well for a large number of people.  And, speaking of grip, being a single stack means that it’s easy for people with virtually any size hand to use.  Moving just in front of the grip, you’ll find a trigger that is truly unique.  Cruise the case at your local big box store and the 1911 is likely the only pistol you’ll find with a trigger that moves straight back without a pivot motion.  That translates into a smooth, linear movement that is easy to control.  When it comes to triggers, a well tuned 1911 will have a crisp break that rivals that of a single action revolver.  The “cocked and locked” safety on the 1911 is also a large selling point, allowing the user to keep the pistol in a status where it can be instantly deployed into action with a trigger that’s as crisp and clean on the first shot as every other that follows.

Finally, one of the things about the 1911 that is virtually unchallenged in the handgun world is the amount of customization that’s possible.  It’s nothing for a user to change out grip panels to their personal preference.  Mainspring housings can be easily replaced as well.  As for triggers, a fairly handy person can fit a trigger in 30 minutes.  Pull weight is easily adjusted by bending the sear spring legs, and the entire handgun and can torn down to its smallest parts and reassembled in less time than an average episode of CSI.  Parts, configurations, factory options, and gunsmiths specializing in this pistols are nearly limitless.  Open up the Brownell’s catalog and/or do a quick online search and you’ll see for yourself.

The fact that the 1911 balances exceptionally well in the hand, provides a comfortable grip, is capable of having a superb trigger, and shoots (on average) more accurately for me than any other semi-auto platform makes it one of my favorite platforms.

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Range Report: Sig P226 (plus Browning Hi Power)

If you read my last post, you are aware that I am once again the owner of a Sig P226.  I won’t go into detail on this particular pistol as my “Sig P226 Reboot” entry did just that.  However, I did take the Sig to the range last week for its first workout… and its friend the Hi Power came along for the trip!

Anyone familiar with the P226 knows of its legendary pedigree.  I am no stranger to the Sig, this being my 2nd attempt at finding P226 nirvana (and no, it doesn’t Smell Like Teen Spirit).  As I like bringing more than one toy to the range, I picked the Hi Power Practical to accompany the Sig since it’s been awhile (like, a couple years) since that particular “9″ got any trigger time.

All in all, I ran about 50 round through each pistol.  Not a comprehensive test by any means, but at least enough to punch a few holes in the paper.  In summary, the Hi Power fed pretty much everything like a champ; the Sig choked about six times in feeding.  I suspect it may be a magazine issue, so I will eventually pick up a Meg Gar mag as I consistently have good experience with those.  The mag I was using was factory Sig, but the spring seemed pretty weak.  Might pick up a new spring for that as well.

In terms of accuracy, I never seem to shoot the Hi Power well.  Meaning, I keep everything on the paper and I don’t have to hang my head in shame, but it doesn’t ever shoot as well as many of my other toys.  This trip was no exception.  Below is a target shot at 10 yards.  The top and bottom left targets were from the Sig; the top and bottom right targets from the Browning.  Each target represents a total of five shots.

Here’s 10 shots at 50 feet from the Sig:

Again, nothing to be ashamed of but not stunning either.  However, for my first trip out with the Sig I’ll take this.  I think I’ll become better with this pistol as I spend more time with it on the range, but I will say that my recent obsession with 1911s is starting to spoil me to anything else.  Noting that… I have another 1911 on the way.  I won’t say what it is now, but a hint is that it’s not a .45!

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Sig P226 Reboot

Eddie Money sang the lyrics, “I wanna go back and do it all over, but I can’t go back I know.” Well, I just did go back… but not in a “relive high school/college/insert grand memories here” sort of way. No, this is much less grandiose. I bought a gun.

Now, to set the stage, this isn’t just any gun. It’s a Sig P226, considered by many to be the best all-around service 9mm in history. While that is debatable, it’s safe to say the P226 was on the premier stage during the 80′s “Wonder 9″ rush. With every manufacturer clamoring to get the next best high capacity “9″ to market, Sig took their venerable P220 and converted it into one of the finest service autos in existence. Still in use with military and police forces around the world, the P226 commands a premium price in a market overflowing with choices. Factoid: the P226 was the only pistol, other than the Beretta 92fs, to meet the US Military’s requirements for a new service sidearm in the quest to replace the aging 1911. For reasons sometimes cited as cost, sometimes cited as political, sometimes cited as other “cloak and dagger” factors, the US went with the Beretta. But many felt, and still feel, the Sig is the superior sidearm.

This is not my first Sig. In fact, I currently own two others: a SigPro SP2022 and a Nitron Rail 1911. And, I’ve owned a P226 before. Just a few short years ago I sold a somewhat unique P226 because I struggled with what role it filled in my collection (see previous posts). And, truth be told, it rattled more than my old ’94 Camaro did on a gravel road. Anyway, I’ve been strolling along quite happily since then, but always felt I may not have gotten the true P226 ownership experience in my first go-around with that pistol. So, thanks to the beauty of internet shopping, I found another.

This particular P226 was originally a duty sidearm with the Flint, MI, police department and wears the markings to prove its pedigree. I must admit that I find police markings, when done tastefully, quite unique and appealing on firearms. In fact, the reason I “ditched” my first P226 was to purchase a Glock 22 with El Paso Sheriff’s Office markings. Anyway, back to the subject. What interested me in this pistol wasn’t just the markings, but it was the fact that it came with the reduced reach trigger, short reset trigger, E2 grip, and all new springs. Oh, yeah, and it was $525. So, I ponied up the money, sent a check to Ohio (not sure how this gun made it from MI to OH, but surplus police pistols released to the market go through various distributors), and waited. Today, I took possession of the pistol. I haven’t fired this weapon yet so I can’t say how it performs, but will be posting that report when available. However, here are my initial impressions:

- This pistol appears to have seen very little service. Yes, it is used and has a couple marks on edges of the frame, but all in all it’s in excellent condition. The internals, as evidenced in the pictures below, are in excellent condition as well with very little wear. Look at the frame feed ramp, the ejector, and the barrel lug. There’s still plenty of finish left on all parts. My guess is this pistol was carried in a holster and fired minimally. And, even with this, there isn’t really much wear to indicate long term holster use.

- The trigger is smooth. Like, “this DA pull might be nicer than my Beretta 92fs” smooth. The SA pull is light… just a tad over 4 lbs (see picture below). There is a slight amount of creep before the break, but it is smooth… very smooth (unlike my CZ-75b, which felt like it ran over sandpaper right before the trigger break). And, mind you, I’m comparing this to the feel of a 1911 trigger. So, for a service auto like a P226, it is very common to have some minimal movement right before the SA break. The short reset trigger creates a noticeably short, well, reset as well. Shorter than the SP2022. Shorter than the Beretta 92fs. Comparable to my Walter PPQ… which is saying something.

- I love the feel of the E2 grips. Some of the “old” Sig fans don’t like this new grip, but I love it. I don’t have large hands and the combination of this grip and the reduced reach trigger (which is a different feature than the short reset trigger, but both are present on this pistol) creates a very nice, manageable feel. I once owned an EAA Witness and, while I sold it for other reasons, the grip was wonderful with its dished out grip in the web of my hand. This E2 grip feels like that old Witness did.

- Extras! This Sig came with night sights, which isn’t surprising for a law enforcement weapon. But, it wasn’t advertised as having these. And they are still bright! It also came with a nice blue Sig hard sided case marked “Law Enforcement.” Again, not shocking but not something included in the pistol’s description.

Based on initial impressions, this Sig has exceeded my expectations. It’s been used very little and has all the features I wanted. I can’t wait to take this to the range for a little head to head shooting against my Beretta 92. Stay tuned!

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Kimber Classic Custom Target Needs Some Love?

My S&W Performance Center 1911 is an amazing pistol, hand assembled by experienced gunsmiths and capable of being compared with the “big boys” in the semi-custom industry.  My Sig Nitron Rail 1911 is a very utilitarian weapons with features I would want on a handgun meant for something other than a range environment (all the while being able to run with the S&W in terms of accuracy).  My STI Spartan, while more Spartan (obligatory pun intended) in design, nicely fills the niche of a 9mm range gun.  But what about my Kimber?

My Kimber was my first 1911.  It was manufactured in 1998 and, is thus, a “Series 1″ Kimber… meaning it does not have the often criticized Swartz firing pin safety.  I purchased this pistol used in 2007 from a local shop, convinced it was all I could ever want in a 1911.  With adjustable sights, crisp trigger, and black rubber grips, what else could I need?  Well, I quickly determined that I prefer wood grips and short triggers, so modifications were made.  Seven years later (and 16 years after it came off the assembly line), the Kimber Classic Custom Target is still a great handgun but it has been eclipsed by other members of my stable.  It does not shoot quite as well as my S&W or Sig, and lacks the front strap checkering that I’ve determined is my preference.  Also, its replacement trigger has a smooth face and I’ve now discovered that I prefer grooved triggers on a 1911.  Alas, what was once the pride of my collection has been reduced to “reserve” status in my list of 1911s.  I even contemplated the unthinkable today:  selling it to fund another purchase.

At this point, I can go one of two routes with the ol’ Kimber:

  • Accept it for what it is:  a classically styled “enhanced” 1911 that, while lacking many of the custom touches and more modern refinements of my other pistols, remains a smooth shooter.
  • Turn this into a project gun with updates that, while making it very different than its factory form, could give it the “mojo” to become a favorite once again.

If I go the update route, it will likely include some or all of the following:

  • Revision to a Greider short grooved trigger (easy… I can do this myself in less than an hour).
  • Machine cut front strap checkering (25 LPI; no WAY I try this on my own).
  • Undercut trigger guard (see above… best left to professionals).
  • Hand fit oversized bushing (something from EGW perhaps, but not by these hands).
  • Hand fit premium barrel (maybe a Kart; what’s Alchemy Custom’s phone number??).
  • Carry cuts in the front to give it a “Hi Power” profile (I lack the skills and machinery for this).
  • Refinish in satin or brushed hard chrome (yeah, this is more involved than a can of Krylon and thus ain’t happening at my house).

I’m not sure what I’m going to do at this point; the Kimber is a great pistol in its own right and I’d need to wait some time anyway before having the funds to move forward on a project such as this.  For now, my Kimber will stay “as is” and may get some more range time just so it doesn’t get lonely.  But, in the back of my mind I’ll be thinking about what some “upgrades” could help it become… and what it might lose in the process.

 

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