South African TZ99
Type: Recoil Operated Self Loading Pistol
Capacity: 15 round detachable box magazine
Sights, front: Drift adjustable blade
Sights, rear: Drift adjustable notch
Barrel length: 4.25"
Weight (unloaded): 40.2 ozs., loaded
Suggested Retail Price: $400
"Where have you been hidin' out lately, honey?
You can't dress trashy till you spend a lot of money."
It's Still Rock and Roll to Me, Billy Joel
The fact that lyrics published in 1980 are applicable to times and subject matter the author never contemplated is an eloquent statement on the human condition. Or maybe it's just that the more times change, the more people stay the same. Case in point: Just as the fashion police of the early eighties dictated that a wardrobe that hadn't required a second mortgage couldn't possibly be stylish, the modern firearms cognoscenti would have us believe that any pistol with a retail price lower than the gross domestic product of the BENELUX nations is inherently inaccurate, unreliable, and ****e to spontaneous disassembly at the worst possible moment.
This view of the firearms world through dollar colored glasses doesn't sit well with the average Cruffler. After all, these are the ladies and gents who consider a $35.00 Turk M38 Mauser a treasure waiting to happen, who hunt with Mosin Nagant M44 carbines and scoff at people with expensive Remingtons, Weatherbys, and Browning rifles, and who pot away with finish-less Victory revolvers, Russian re-blue P.38's and Argentine .45's, all the time looking askance at the philistines at the other end of the range with their Glocks, H&K's and Kimbers. Deep down in the Cruffler soul there's a small, still, but insistent voice whispering: "There has to be a good modern pistol out there in a caliber more common than .455 Mk II, that won't break the bank." As usual, that small voice is right (remember when it told you not to have the chili at that diner on the way back from the gun show last month?), and an excellent, affordable pistol is the subject of this month's review.
The pistol in question, the Tressitu TZ-99, draws considerably on the basic design features of the SIG-Sauer P226/P228/P229 series. It is double action, recoil operated, with a slide and barrel that lock together by means of an enlarged chamber area fitting into the ejection port. Like the SIG-Sauer guns, the TZ-99 has no safety, but does have a decocking mechanism that allows the hammer to be safely lowered on a loaded chamber. It also features a steel slide riding atop an alloy frame. However, these features, and the pistol's basic lines are where the resemblance ends. In fact, a better description of the TZ99 is that the designers used the P226 as a point of departure and produced a pistol that is significantly improved and refined.
Part of the TZ99's charm comes from its rather convoluted history. The TZ99 has wandered around for a very long time looking for somewhere to call home.
The gun was originally produced as a commercial venture by the Crvena Zastava factory located in Kragujevac, Yugoslavia, in the late 1980's. Called the CZ99, it departed from the P226 in a number of ways. To begin with, the slide was made from a single piece of forged and milled steel, in contrast to P226's stamped sheet steel slide and press-fit breech block. The number of controls has been reduced from three to two by having the decocking lever serve double duty as the slide stop lever, and all controls save the takedown lever are ambidextrous. A loaded chamber indicator was also added. Only a very small number, less than 1,000 by most accounts were imported to the United States. The CZ99 was available in both .40 S&W and 9x19mm
If imitation is the measure of success, then the Zastava CZ99 was wildly popular. Manufacturers in a number of countries sought to produce the gun locally, some with, some without licensure. Israel was one of the countries that actually produced and exported CZ99 copy. The Israeli pistol, known as the "Golan," was much less nicely finished and machined than the Yugoslavian original, often with visible external tool marks. Nevertheless, the guns were reliable and accurate. As with the original CZ99, only a very few were imported in the early 1990's.
In the early 1990's Crvena Zastava entered into a licensing agreement with a South African company called Tressitu, which had made a name for itself in the small arms industry with an innovative submachinegun called the BX9. Tressitu collaborated closely with the Yugoslavians to produce a licensed copy of the CZ99 to be called the TZ99, to be offered in both 9x19mm and .40 S&W. As it turned, out, the the TZ99 was only produced for a short period of time, as the company went out of business in the mid-1990's. A number of TZ99's remained in storage in South Africa until imported in mid-2000 by Southern Ammunition Company on behalf of PW Arms. The guns are available now from a number of distributors.
AIM Surplus is one of the companies distributing the TZ99. Now, we're always suckers for a good deal on a well made pistol, and this fact is not lost on Bryan Flanagan, AIM's sales manager, who spoke those magic words:
"Hey, I've got a great deal on a really nice gun for you guys."
For those of you new to CRUFFLER.COM, and the CRUFFLER.COM staff, this is akin to waving a piece of bloody meat in front of a pack of starving dogs. In fact, our technical editor spent two days in bed due to the back injury he sustained pulling his credit card out of his wallet at warp speed. True to form, a day or so later, the BBT arrived bearing the package containing the TZ99.
TZ99 Breeechblock. Note passive firing pin safety and that it is integrally formed with and machined from the slide.
The TZ99 we received was brand spanking new. Inside the packaging the TZ99 was packed in a black plastic box bearing a molded Tressitu logo. Opening the box we found the TZ99 and its accessories in a form fitted foam rubber lining. The pistol was still coated with the original factory lubricant inside a plastic shipping bag. There was a fifteen round magazine inside the pistol and a spare fifteen round magazine inside a niche in the foam rubber lining. Also included was a bore cleaning brush and a manual printed in both English and Afrikaans. The pistol was finished in a very attractive satin black enamel, while the barrel was left in the white. The enamel finish is not only pretty, it provides a significant measure of environmental protection and also allows the slide and frame to match in appearance.
The TZ99 follows the general lines of the SIG-Sauer P226. Like the P226, it has an alloy frame and a steel slide and incorporates a decocker and a passive firing pin blocking safety system. However the TZ99 is considerably larger, and gives the appearance of a P226 that has grown in all dimensions by ten to fifteen percent. There are other significant mechanical differences between the P226 and the TZ99. The TZ99's slide is a single forged and milled piece of steel, while the P226 uses a piece of stamped sheet steel into which is pinned the breech assembly. The TZ99 also dispenses with one of the controls found on the P226:
While the P226 has a disassembly lever, a slide stop lever, and a decocker, the TZ99 designers dispensed with the slide stop lever, incorporating its functions into the decocker. Operationally, this means that when a fresh magazine is inserted into a TZ99 that has locked back after the last shot in the previous magazine, and the decocker/slide stop is used to drop the slide, the first shot is perforce double action.
The slide stop/decocker and the magazine release controls are ambidextrous; being found on both sides of the frame. The magazine release operates on a hemispherical slot cut into the front of the magazine, and rotates in and out of engagement when the magazine release is pressed and released. The TZ99 is also equipped with a loaded chamber indicator. A channel is milled into the slide from the breech face to the top of the slide, and a spring loaded bright steel pin inserted. When the chamber is empty, the forward portion of the pin protrudes into the chamber and the top of the slide is smooth. When there's a round in the chamber, the head of the cartridge forces the indicator pin back into the channel, and the head of the pin protrudes above the top of the slide by about one millimeter. While that doesn't sound like a lot, it's more than enough as the bright pin contrasts with the black slide and presents more than enough for tactile verification in low light conditions.
Decocking Lever and Slide Stop. The horizontal piece in the milled recess in the slide is the actual slide stop piece. It is actuated by the decocker lever
Loaded Chamber Indicator
Metal to metal mating was excellent, with no indication of overly loose tolerances or slop. There was no lateral slide to frame play. Disassembly is effected in the same manner as the SIG-Sauer or Astra A-80/90/100 pistols: The slide is locked to the rear and the magazine removed. Then the disassembly lever is pivoted 90 degrees downward. The slide is the free to run off the frame, and the barrel and recoil spring assembly can be easily removed.
Shooting the TZ99
The TZ99 looked good, it was well made from quality materials, and possessed several innovative features. The question was whether or not it would perform as well at the range as it did on paper and for the camera. And so, our intrepid test team ventured out to the NRA range in Fairfax, Virginia.
Disassembled view of the TZ99 which to test the TZ99:
We brought along several types of 9x19mm ammunition with
PMP 115 grain FMJ
US Military M882 Ball
Winchester USA 115 grain FMJ
Federal Hydra-Shok 124 grain JHP
We fired the TZ99 for accuracy at at fifteen yards, using a three inch black center as a target. The results were quite gratifying. The best results were turned in by the Winchester USA ammunition, giving a five shot group of roughly an inch and a half across. The worst results weren't much worse - a two inch group with the M882 ammunition. Sights on the TZ99 are of the standard three-dot variety, and proved to be very easy to acquire and align. Sight regulation was excellent, with all shots striking to point of aim.
Recoil and Ergonomics
The recoil sensation with 9x19mm pistols is never very intense, and in the case of the TZ99, was downright pleasant. The added width of the grip frame helped to distribute the recoil forces over a wider area of the hand, thus contributing to a lower overall perceived recoil. With respect to ergonomics, the TZ99 is a love it or hate it affair. Shooters with smaller hands are going to find it somewhat uncomfortable to reach the trigger for the long double action first shot. Additionally, they may experience a little difficulty reaching the decocker/slide stop control without substantially altering their grip. Shooters with average to large hands will find the gun very comfortable, settling into the hand in a manner reminiscent of the Browning High Power.
Given the TZ99's size, using it for a concealed carry piece may present significant challenges to many shooters. Two of our testers, reported no difficulty concealing the pistol so long as it was carried in either a vertical shoulder holster or on the small of the back. Three other testers reported that the gun was simply too large to conceal effectively. Like so many other firearm decisions, it boils down to is personal choice. If you're the kind of person who regularly walks around with a full size Government Model on your hip, then you'll have no difficulty with the TZ99. On the other hand, if you want to hide the gun in a Speedo, well, a Kel-Tec might me more your speed. It is worth mentioning that the TZ99, despite its size, is still smaller than the HK USP and Glock 20/21.
The double action trigger pull was both heavy and long. While this is a desirable feature in a double action self loading pistol that lacks a manual safety, we felt that the trigger was slightly grittier than we would have liked. This seemed to smooth out with repeated firing. Single action trigger pull was light and crisp, with just a hint of overtravel.
We fired approximately eight hundred rounds through the TZ99, and noted no failures to feed, fire, extract, or eject. What's more remarkable about this is that all these rounds were fired in one session through an uncleaned and unlubricated gun (the slide and frame rails had been wiped clean of all lubricant in an effort to see if the gun would function at all in an unlubricated mode). Very few other pistols would have given this level of reliability under those conditions.
Conclusion If you're looking for a high quality 9x19mm self loading pistol that is accurate, comfortable, and utterly reliable, you can go buy a SIG-Sauer P226. Or, you can go buy a TZ99, a case of ammunition, a very nice holster, and take your significant other out to dinner at a four star restaurant . Our bet is on the TZ99. Despite its somewhat obscure origins, the TZ99 is an exceptionally well made firearm that offers exceedingly high levels of performance and reliability. While the "name brand" pistols may well be as good as the TZ99, none of them can lay any claim to being better. Given that Tressitu is out of business, and that no more TZ99's, or CZ99's for that matter, will be imported or produced, our advice is to snap one of these up before the well runs dry.
Gee, that doesn't look anythign like a SIG!!!
I've never heard of Tressitu.
I'm suprised to see it has a loaded chamber indicator. Doesn't have a damn magazine disconnect yet, does it?
Er Sig have ripped off plenty of Czech designs.
Originally Posted by Imshi-Yallah
I have one Nice service handgun
Chambered in a less-useless caliber than 9mm Parabellum?
Can you guys use JHP's over there?
How many people have you shot with 9mm Mr Hard****?