Sometimes it’s good to shake things up and do something different with our firearms training to move forward in our skill level. This training can take many forms. It can be basics like pistol shooting at 7, 15 or 25 yards to make sure we can hit a life-sized target in a defensive scenario. Or we could move on to shooting for accuracy, and practicing shooting from the draw. Many will run different drills like the Mozambique or El Presidente models to step up the ante. And, finally, there’s competition.

I learned in nine-ball years ago that the only way you get better is to compete with better people, though I hadn’t really applied that thought to shooting. So, recently, I decided to get into some competitive shooting. Though I’ve been shooting for more than 30 years, it just hadn’t really occurred to me until this point in my life to try competition shooting. I thought it would be interesting to go through the firearm and holster selection process and approach this review from the perspective of someone just getting into competitive shooting, which I am.

After doing a lot of reading and speaking to members of my gun club, I found that there were guns of all types out there in the field depending on the discipline and competition type. But one brand kept popping up as being a key player in competitions, and that brand was CZ. Having shot many CZ pistols and rifles in the past and enjoying success, I felt like that would be a great company to check out from the start. And as it turned out, CZ did have an updated competition pistol being released in early 2017, and that was the new Shadow 2.

The Shadow Returns

Like its predecessor, the original SP-01 Shadow, the Shadow 2 is built upon the CZ 75 platform with a pure focus on competition. The slide is actually contoured to focus the recoil impulse more closely to the centerline of the bore, and the full-length dust cover adds weight up front to assist with recoil.

With this new iteration, the slide and barrel have been extended about half an inch for a longer sight radius and to add additional weight to assist with recoil mitigation. Also adding extra weight to the mix is a full-length steel guide rod that is incorporated rather than a plastic guide rod, as found in the original.

After going back to the drawing board with this model, CZ’s engineers designed the Shadow 2 with a higher beavertail along with checkered front- and backstraps, and a relief cut under the triggerguard for a higher purchase on the firearm. While these modificationss were intended to assist with the user’s purchase on the weapon, other steps were taken to improve a shooter’s handling as well.

First, the Shadow 2 comes with two styles of interchangeable safeties. One is a flat, low-profile safety that, to be honest, is a little tough to engage quickly. It’s hard to get a get purchase on it, and it’s a bit mushy feeling. The other style is an extended thumb safety which, though it adds a little extra width, is much easier to engage in the field.

Since the Shadow 2 can be fired in single-action and double-action/single-action (DA/SA) modes, the user’s preference will probably dictate which safety is used on the Shadow 2. For instance, if going with a traditional DA/SA operation, there’s no real need for using the extended safety to come out of “cocked and locked” mode, so the low-profile safety may be preferred.

Though this is a positive add-on for the pistol, it’s worth noting that while the second safety comes with the pistol, there are no instructions in the user manual for how to remove the installed safety and replace it with the second safety. I found a video online that showed the steps necessary to swap the safeties, but it’s not the easiest process in the world. If you don’t have the patience or the expertise for such a task, it may be better left to a competent gunsmith.

Another nice touch on the Shadow 2 is the reversible magazine release. Not only can it be swapped for either the left or right hand, but the release’s profile—or how far it sticks out from the frame—can also be adjusted to one of three positions in accordance with the user’s preferences.

The Shadow 2 comes with target sights consisting of a HAJO rear and a fiber-optic front sight that’s finer than the one on the original model. The rear sight is click-adjustable for elevation, and it can be drifted for windage as well. Additionally, both front and rear slide serrations are present, and they’re much more aggressive than those on the previous model.

A Strong Start

Being new to the competition side of things, I was looking for any input I could find, and I recently had a chance to speak with Joyce Wilson, president of the IDPA. I asked her what three things she would advise a beginning competitor to do to get a strong start. She smiled as she remembered her own humble beginnings and said that the person should get a mentor, dry fire a lot and just go to matches.

That last bit is especially true. We humans tend to find ways to get out of things that might put us on the spot in public or with friends. We have the capacity to be embarrassed, or sometimes our egos just won’t let us take on something new out of fear of being shown up. She also noted that the beginner should take a quality class to learn the fundamentals of shooting and accuracy. As she said, “With accuracy, speed will come.”

I’ll admit that getting my start in competitive shooting at the age of 47 gave me some pause, but I had to convince myself to step up and just do it, so Wilson’s words stayed with me as I took on something new.

Part of getting ready took shape in the form of finding a holster and magazine carrier. I spoke with Alex Costa at ANR Design, a preferred vendor for CZ-USA. Having started in early 2014 and quickly getting on track due to his project manager background, Costa already had experience with setting up customers with holsters for competition. He walked me through the process of picking out the company’s Race OWB holster with a G-Code RTI hanger. In addition to the holster, ANR Design provided several of its single-magazine carriers.

The quality of the Kydex work from Alex and his crew was top notch. All of the cuts were precise, and the edges were polished nicely for a clean and professional look. Just as an aside to highlight the company’s quality, ANR Design is working with several manufacturers like Khar Arms. From there, I ordered a G-Code Duty Mount Kydex belt slide for the holster and I was ready to roll.

A New Chapter

The fusion of getting used to the new CZ Shadow 2 while also acclimating myself to competition shooting opened a new chapter up for me. There were several aspects of the Shadow 2 that made the experience very enjoyable and easier to transition to this new type of shooting, particularly where the combination of speed and accuracy merged.

First and foremost, the trigger pull on the Shadow 2 was nothing short of magnificent. This compliment is made with no exaggeration, as the trigger must be tried to be believed. The trigger on the sample I received broke at 8.46 pounds in DA mode and 2.71 pounds in SA mode. The SA pull may be a bit light for defensive work, but it certainly provides an edge for the serious competitor.

The superb texturing on the Shadow 2 ensured a locked-down grip on the pistol, and the forward-heavy weight of the full dust cover and stainless steel guide rod helped mitigate recoil to a significant degree. Even hotter ammunition did little to bring the gun’s muzzle up and off target. In addition, the felt recoil was nearly negligible, allowing for very fast follow-up shots—a key to winning.

I tried several different loads with the Shadow 2 to measure its inherent accuracy. Two types of ball ammunition were tested along with the hollow points since the pistol is set up for use in competitions. In the mix were Sig Sauer 124-grain V-Crown JHPs, Federal Premium 147-grain +P HSTs, Colt 124-grain National Match FMJs, Winchester 115-grain Silvertrip JHPs and Fiocchi 124-grain FMJs. There was a good assortment on hand, and for the most part, the Shadow 2 did extremely well at 25 yards from a rest, with the best single group of 1.63 inches being shot with Federal’s +P HST offering. The same round also brought in the best average group size of 1.98 inches.

That’s pretty good considering the 25-yard distance and merely being shot off a rest—not locked down in any way. The pistol’s reliability was excellent, with no malfunctions of any kind occurring while testing at the range or shooting during some local matches. Maybe I have just gotten the luck of the draw, but I have not encountered a malfunction with any CZ weapon that I have reviewed. That’s a true testament to the skill and craftsmanship that goes into each and every firearm the company manufactures.

I did find, however, that the fiber-optic front sight was a bit too fine for my tastes, and it took a bit longer to acquire the target. From the bench, the sight worked extremely well for accuracy, but for off-hand shooting, a slightly thicker insert would be my preference. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s a relatively minor con.

Making the Team

After having participated in a couple of local matches, so far my entry into beginning competitive shooting has been a fun and educational experience. Not only have I begun to learn more about another niche in the firearms industry, but I’ve found a new way to challenge myself by stepping out of my routine and trying something new.

The complete outfit worked extremely well together, including not only the pistol, but also the Kydex gear from ANR Design as well. The CZ Shadow 2 is a near-perfect blend of features intended for the serious competitor. It offers excellent handling with exceptional reliability and phenomenal accuracy. The weight of the all-steel pistol, including its full dust cover, significantly mitigates the recoil impulse. The DA trigger pull is easily one of the very best on the market, and the SA pull is just that much better.

There’s no questioning the fact that CZ has brought out a worthy successor to the original Shadow, particularly where competitive shooting is concerned. It is a beautifully engineered pistol replete with all the aesthetic and functional touches that one could want in a competition model. If you’re looking to get into the world of competitive shooting, you’d be hard pressed to find a better production pistol than the CZ Shadow 2. But that takes care of the easy part. Now you just have to go do it.

CZ Shadow 2 Specs

Caliber: 9mm
Barrel: 4.89 inches
OA Length: 8.53 inches
Weight: 46.5 ounces (empty)
Grips: Aluminum
Sights: Fiber-optic front, HAJO rear
Action: DA/SA
Finish: Matte black
Capacity: 17+1
MSRP: $1,299

CZ Shadow 2 Performance

Load Velocity Accuracy
Colt 124 National Match FMJ 1,100 1.92
Federal Premium 147 HST +P 1,030 1.63
Fiocchi 115 FMJ 1,156 2.50
Sig Sauer 124 V-Crown JHP 1,202 2.06
Winchester 115 Silvertip JHP 1,214 2.63

*Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph and accuracy in inches for best five-shot group from 25 yards. 

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This article was originally published in “Handguns Buyer’s Guide” 2018. To order a copy, visit

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