Staff Writer (Updated: 5/9/2016):
The CZ75 emerged as a commercial venture intended for export, hence the selection of the 9x19mm Parabellum pistol cartridge favored by the West. While manufactured in modern-day Czech Republic, the reader must understand that the nation existed as a unified Czechoslovakia prior to and after the German occupation of the country in World War 2. Following its "liberation" and subsequent occupation by the Soviet Union at the end of World War 2, Czechoslovakia became a full communist state in 1948. As such, politics and military fronts were heavily influenced by its communist overseers. With this in mind, it is interesting to note the CZ75's target market essentially being the rest of the world.
Design of the CZ75 pistol was attributed to brothers Josef and Frantisek Koucky while manufacture came under the Ceska Zbrojovka (CZ) brand label. Outwardly, it was a very conventional-appearing pistol for the time, sporting clean, firm lines with a padded grip, large trigger ring suitable for a gloved hand and slide running the length of the weapon. Controls were within easy reach of the primary hand and sights consisted of a front blade mated to a rear square notch. The hammer protruded from the rear of the frame in the usual way and a spur overhung the grip for better support. Overall weight of original models was under 2.5lbs with a running length of 8 inches, the barrel measuring 4.7 inches. Internally, the CZ75 managed a manual safety configuration similar to that of the storied Browning Hi-Power. The arrangement made it possible for the operator to carry a ready-to-fire handgun (cartridge being chambered) in relatively safety. The CZ75 made use of the widely-accepted 9x19mm Parabellum (German) pistol cartridge through a short-recoil, tilting barrel action. The action allowed for semi-automatic fire and provided performance consistent with other modern handguns of the time. As designed, the handgun fired from a 15-round, dual-column, staggered metal magazine inserted through the base of the grip. The handgun then went on to be released in 9x21mm IMI (Israeli) and .40 S&W (American) chambered forms.
The original CZ75 batches were recognized under the simple "CZ75" designation while a later batch production effort was added under the same name and completed with lengthened slide rails. The CZ75B was the second major production model incorporating an internally-housed safety for the firing pin and a stainless steel version followed. The CZ75B "Omega" was a special offshoot with additional availability in .40 S7W chamberings to broaden market appeal. These models also had slightly modified trigger groups. The CZ75B "SA" offered a single-action (SA) trigger group and was available in both 9x19mm Parabellum and .40 S&W chamberings. The CZ75 "Compact" was a more portable version of the base CZ75 handgun featuring a shortened pistol grip and shortened barrel assembly and slide. A version chambered in .40 S&W eventually appeared. The CZ75 "Semi-Compact" attempted to bring about the best of both worlds, retaining some of the form and function of the original CZ75 model with the benefits of compactness in the smaller CZ75 offerings. The barrel and slide components were both borrowed from the Compact model while the overall frame and grip were pulled from the original CZ75. The CZ75 "PCR Compact" was an ultra-compact version of the CZ75. The handgun line was also joined by special sporting types for competition shooting.
A select-fire (semi- and full-automatic) variant debuted in 1992 with a slotted muzzle compensator and an accessories "well" under the frame (just ahead of the trigger ring). The well could handle an extra magazine (inserted upside down) for use as a forward vertical handgrip required to counter muzzle climb. The well also doubled as a mounting point for a laser aimer or similar accessorie. Typical magazines were of 25-round count with a rate-of-fire of 1,000 rounds-per-minute reported. At least two versions of the design were to be encountered: the original following much of the same lines as the base CZ75 semi-automatic pistol with a variant fitting a longer barrel assembly and slide extension.
The CZ85 was debuted in 1985 as a fully-modernized form of the original CZ75. The model differed primarily in its ambidextrous handling. The CZ85B incorporated a firing pin block while the CZ85BD brought about use of a decocking lever. The CZ85 "Compact", as its name suggests, was a more compact form with concealment in mind and chambered for the American .40 S7W cartridge. Rail support under the forward frame allowed use of tactical accessories. The CZ85 "Combat" was a military-minded model sans firing pin safety but with revised controls and an adjustable rear sighting device.
Several law enforcement- and military-minded variants appeared under the main "CZ75 P/SP" designation beginning in 1999, each noted by a special series number in the designation (01, 06, 07, etc).
The CZ75 (and her related kinds) have gone on to see widespread service with forces all over the world beyond Czechoslovakia/the Czech Republic. Operators have included Georgia (military), Kazakhstan (police, special police), Lithuania (military), Poland (police), Russia (police), Slovakia (special forces, military and police), Thailand (special forces), Turkey (police) and the United States (police, Delta Force). Due to illegal, unlicensed copies floating about, official operators are more numerous than then listed.
Popular foreign off-shoots of the CZ75 design include the American Springfield P9 and the Italian Tanfoglio T-series.