While .45 ACP and the 1911 will forever be the most classic combo, there are a host of .45 ACP guns out there that deserve love and respect too.
Finding the best one might be a matter of personal perspective, but I think we have a real contender in the CZ 97 B.
How does it compare to other options, will this near quarter-century-old design keep up in the modern market place, can a bit of Czechnology improve upon the perfection that is the .45 ACP?
We’re going to answer all those questions and more. By the end of this review, I’m pretty sure you’ll find yourself considering the 97 B as a future member of your gun safe.
But let’s find out.
Table of Contents
Features & Specs
Chambered in .45 ACP, using 10-round staggered single feed magazines, the 97 B has a screw-in barrel bushing, high-vis fiber optic front sight, a loaded chamber indicator, DA/SA trigger, and manual safety.
Unloaded the 97 B comes in slightly heavier than a standard 1911. Breaking down its measurements, it weighs 41.3-ounces and features an overall length of 8.3-inches.
While width-wise, it’s 1.4-inches thick.
The barrel measures in at 4.65-inches.
Cold hammer-forged barrel, thin aluminum grips, steel frame…all for a street price of around $700.
Introduced in 1997, the 97 B is basically the CZ 75 B scaled up to be in .45 ACP for the American market.
That’s…basically the whole story. There is some context to consider, though.
In 1997 the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was still in effect, limiting magazines to 10-rounds.
While the debate for 9mm vs. .45 ACP will continue to rage, one aspect that can’t be denied is 9mm loses its advantage when lower-capacity mags are at play.
Combined with the fact that, at the time, .45 ACP was far more dominant than 9mm in the American market, it makes sense for CZ to try something made just for us.
And this really is made just for us.
Finding a CZ 97 B outside of the USA is pretty rare. Even in the U.S., it’s not the most common of firearms.
But it is in production and you can find them in stock when you look hard enough.
Honestly, the 97 B is exactly what you would expect a CZ 75 B to be if it was beefed up to .45 ACP.
It’s incredibly soft shooting, the recoil impulse is long and smooth. The trigger, while heavy in DA, is crisp in SA and feels great.
Shooting the 97 B is hard to describe in ways since it’s really unlike almost anything else on the market.
If you’ve shot a 75 B and 1911, the 97 B is like taking the best of both worlds and perfectly combining them.
Other non-1911 .45 ACP guns on the market really don’t compare.
The steel frame makes the 97 B heavy, and the 10-round magazine adds even more heft to the package.
However, that also allows it to absolutely eat recoil. .45 ACP has never felt so comfortable to shoot as in this gun.
If you have small hands though, you’re going to have a bad time.
A basically double-stacked .45 ACP magazine means the grip is thick…even with the thin grip panels.
I have XL hands and the magazine release is very difficult for me to reach. I have to rotate the gun in my hand or use my weak hand to hit the release.
Surprisingly, the safety is easy to use and well placed.
While the trigger is DA/SA, since it doesn’t have a decocker of any kind it’s really not meant to be shot in DA.
The DA pull is ridiculously heavy and long. Since you’ll really only ever use it if you had a light primer strike, it’s not something to worry about, though.
Should you be keen to get a decocker, the 97 does come in the 97 BD version that drops the safety for a decocker.
The SA trigger is much shorter, smoother, and lighter — but it’s still nothing like a 1911 trigger.
Double-action is about an 11-pound pull and single-action comes in at a little over 5.5-pounds on my gauge.
This can be improved massively with an aftermarket trigger if you want.
Sights and sight picture are simply awesome. The fiber optic front sight stands out and is picked up by your eye with ease.
The rear sight feels a little large, but aids in acquiring the sight picture and getting on target quickly.
Magazines are capped at 10 rounds sadly and that is a function of the design. While it made sense in 1997 with the AWB limiting us to 10 rounds, now it feels like a real handicap.
Who Is It For?
It’s also a great option for handgun .45 ACP hunting and makes for an amazing plinker.
I wouldn’t call it the best thing ever, but even with the outdated magazine design — the 97 B is simply so good that it lives on because of just how nice it is to shoot and use.
Because it comes with 10-round magazines and it is on the California roster, I hugely recommend it for anyone in California looking for a .45 ACP non-1911.
10-rounds is better than a standard 1911 and .45 ACP delivers a lot of punch on a target, great for when you’re capacity limited.
I Wish, I Wish…
If I could pick one gun to get a modern 2.0 redesign, it would be a very close call but I think the 97 would be near the top of my list.
Sadly, the 10-round magazine really holds the system back when you compare it to guns like the FN FNX-45 with a 15-round magazine, the Walther PPQ with a 12-round mag, or even the Glock 21 with a 13-round magazine.
Granted, there are a number of non-1911 guns with 10 or less round magazines, like HK 45 or the Sig Sauer P220, but when you know that more is possible — it’s hard to settle for less.
I also feel that with some clever design CZ could reduce the weight and size of the grip a little. Maybe extend the magazine release to make it easier to thumb.
And add some modern features like a more flared magwell and the ability to mount optics.
Basically, it’s a ‘90s gun and it shows. That doesn’t make it bad, it just makes it ripe for a second coming.
That said…I don’t think CZ will do it. And since this is what we got, I enjoy it for what it is. A great .45 ACP gun.
By The Numbers
I’ve fed my 97 B everything from super cheap steel cased .45 ACP to Federal HST $$$ defensive ammo. I’ve never had any malfunction of any kind.
I have big hands so for me this feels pretty good, but it’s at my outer limit. This is the nature of the beast when it comes to .45 ACP though so…ya.
Because it’s basically just a large 75 B, the 97 has some great aftermarket parts for it. If you want, trick it out through shops like Cajun Gun Works.
If you love the CZ platform or just really like steel-framed guns, this will really scratch an itch for you. But it can’t be ignored that compared to some of the more modern non-1911 .45 ACP guns out there — this is a bit dated.
That said, it still comes in at a very respectable price point for a steel-framed full-sized .45 ACP pistol.
Out of all of the guns in my safe, my CZ 97 B is one of the most fun to just take out shooting.
Sharing it with friends at the range, as long as I can talk them into taking a spin with something so big, it never fails to bring a smile and convert another shooter to the cult of CZ.
It’s not the newest design or the highest capacity, but it’s still a favorite while still being a gun that I would absolutely trust my life to.
What is your favorite non-1911 .45 ACP gun? If there was a gun you could pick for a 2.0 redesign, what would it be? Let us know in the comments! For more of our picks in .45 ACP, take a look at the Best .45 ACP Pistols (That Aren’t 1911s)!