EVALUATION OF THE CZ 75 KADET .22 LR CONVERSION KIT
WHY A .22 CONVERSION KIT?
The idea of a .22 automatic pistol that looks, acts, and feels like a big, burly service pistol usually appeals to defensive shooters a great deal. But the trouble is that, until recently, few .22 pistols were made exactly like a service pistol, and if they were, then affordability became a problem. The alternative to a dedicated .22 service pistol seemed to be a .22 LR conversion kit fitted to a standard service pistol frame to accomplish the same purpose. A number of these have been successfully marketed, and my favorite gun maker, the CZ concern, has now developed one as well. The engineers over at CZ began by designing a .22 LR version of the CZ 75/85 line of service autos and called it the CZ 75 Kadet. They then took their new Kadet pistol and derived from it a .22 LR conversion kit for their CZ 75's and 85's. It is a beautifully built kit that turns these guns into very accurate, reliable, .22 service autos, and which also seems to have some application in the target pistol realm, as you'll see in the photographs presented a little later.
Since I'm a yellow dog CZ fan and have both a CZ 75B and a CZ 85, the Kadet conversion kit looked like a great solution. MSRP on it is $365, but Angus Hobdell's Custom CZ shop out in Mesa, Arizona provided one for $299 with free shipping. No FFL is required to buy the kit, and overnight shipping is not required. (www.czcustom.com
ENGINEERING AND CONSTRUCTION
Here is a photo of my 1992 CZ 85 9mm followed by a photo of the same frame with the CZ 75 Kadet conversion kit installed on it. The pistol with the .22 LR conversion kit installed feels and hefts almost exactly the same as the 9mm unit, and even feels a little heavier when empty. However, I seriously doubt that shooters will notice any real difference at all, whether empty or loaded, especially during defensive exercises. Such is the benefit of sticking with steel and not substituting plastic or aluminum in the conversion kit, as is done by other manufacturers.
This is my 1992 CZ 85, which has had about 2,500 rounds through it without a single failure.
This is the same CZ 85 frame with the Kadet 22LR conversion kit installed on it.
The Kadet conversion kit is all steel except for the rear sight, and comes in a standard black polymer finish. It is contained in a standard black plastic CZ pistol case and consists of five subassemblies seen in the following photo plus a cleaning rod, bore brush, and fired test round. Here's what makes it tick:
The top subassembly is the slide, an all steel unit that fits into the subassembly below it, the slide housing. The slide contains the firing pin and extractor assemblies, while the slide housing contains the barrel, ejector, recoil system, and sights. Then there is the recoil spring and guide assembly and two magazines. Finally there is a special slide stop that allows the slide to hold open after the last shot in the magazine has been fired. The standard slide stop will work, but may not hold the slide open after the last shot on some models. (Discussed later.) Note a couple of things here.......first how small and light the slide assembly is and how appropriate this is to the power of the .22 LR cartridge. Then note those WONDERFUL adjustable NIGHT sights.
Here is a slightly different view of the subassemblies.
The photograph below illustrates the construction of the .22 caliber magazines, and shows a standard 9mm magazine for comparison.
The magazines were stiff but are loosening up nicely with shooting. They were unusually clean from the factory.
Here are some photos that allow for a good understanding of the kit itself and its similarity to the "uppers" of the standard service autos:
This shows the three "upper" units. The Top is a 2003 CZ 75B .40 S&W; middle is the 1992 CZ 85 9mm; and the bottom unit is the CZ 75 Kadet .22LR Conversion Kit as it looks when slid onto its host frame. (Note: The "B" designation denotes the presence of a firing pin safety, which the earlier guns, called "pre B guns" did not have. My CZ 75B has this safety, while the older CZ 85 does not.)
This photo shows the subassemblies assembled loosely with the slide retracted just a bit to demonstrate the parts relationships.
The rear of the slide assembly showing the firing pin.
The breech face showing the firing pin/extractor arrangement.
This photo shows how the slide operates with the conversion kit seated on its host frame.
The factory owners' manual gives illustrated instructions for removal of small amounts of metal in certain places if the unit will not slide freely onto the host frame. This is done in order to achieve the tightest possible fit in guns at the top end of tolerances. However I did not and would not remove metal before trying to install the unit onto the host frame and seeing beforehand whether it is actually necessary to remove metal on that particular unit......and sure enough it was not needed in my case. My assembled Kadet conversion kit slid right onto the CZ 85 and CZ 75B frames with exactly the same amount of "snudge" in both cases, and functioned perfectly afterwards.
The installation process is simply to verify that the gun is completely empty and safe, that the magazine is removed, and then to slide the assembled Kadet unit onto the host frame as if it was the pistol's original "upper" assembly. It will slide freely until the rear of the unit reaches a point about 3/8" forward of the rear of the frame, and then it will stop, as shown here.
As discussed above, the Kadet unit will stop at this point in its travel onto the frame.
To seat it the rest of the way I held the grip in my right hand, rested the muzzle end on a pad on the bench and pushed down on the frame firmly, pushing it the remaining distance to its stop, as shown here.
Final assembly is simply to align the marks on the slide with the marks on the frame and insert the slide stop. Needless to say, all the rules of safe gun handling apply to this process, and there should be no ammunition on the work bench or in the work area at this time. It is imperative that one thoroughly test the function of all the safety features of the gun at this point, and definitely before loading the gun.
A CZ 75/85 or 75B/85B frame with the CZ Kadet .22 LR Conversion Kit installed on it functions exactly like the host gun as originally assembled in its original caliber. Double action and single action features remain the same, slide stop and magazine release functions are the same, and the safeties work the same providing the gun and the Kadet unit are functioning correctly. Again, a check of the functioning of all safety features is mandatory before loading the gun.
A BRIEF NOTE ABOUT SLIDE STOPS: The Kadet conversion kit functions very well with the host frame's slide stop in place. However, the host gun's slide stop may not hold the slide open after the last shot on some models. This is especially true on .40 caliber guns. In this case, just give the factory parts department a call at 800-955-4486, tell them which model and caliber gun you're going to use the Kadet kit with, and you'll have the correct slide stop in your mailbox in two days free of charge.
As of this writing I have fired 200 rounds of 40 grain solid nose high velocity ammunition of five different brands through this unit without a failure of any kind. I have fired it with repeat double and triple taps, rapidly reloaded in and out of battery and through mag dumps of varying numbers of rounds. I have fired it slowly as well and done everything in my power to get it to hiccup and it has not missed a lick in any way. One unexpected plus I encountered with this kit is that it is the cleanest-shooting .22 auto I have ever seen. It appears to accumulate only a fraction as much carbon and crud in the action as any other .22 auto I've ever used. In fact the unit has been extensively fired and not cleaned in all the photographs in this review. Here are the loads I used to test the Kadet Conversion Kit.
I don't know where the CMP gets its Aguila ammunition or what the factory stock numbers might be, but I'd take a ton of it if I could find it. It shot the best group of all the loads tested, a ten shot group measuring only one inch.
Very, very good. And probably even better than that. I took the conversion kit to the range mounted on my well-used CZ 85 frame and fired it for accuracy at 15 yards from a rest on a sturdy shooting bench. I used a two hand hold and fired it single action in semi-rapid fashion with full sight alignment, ten shots in one minute. The temperature was 75 degrees and the air was still. Here are the five targets I fired on, with the smallest group being 1" and the largest being 1¾" (I fired these rounds in semi-rapid fashion because I am having hip replacement surgery next month and I could not sit in firing position longer than one minute at a time, so it was either shoot or scoot.) Beg pardon for fooling around with zero while testing these loads. I settled on the 15 yard zero.
Given these results with the conversion kit fired in a hurried fashion and with common .22 LR ammunition, I think it would set the world on fire if fired slowly and with good target ammunition like the CMP issue Aguila in the photograph. Of course the presence of an experienced .22 target shooter would help a lot too, preferably one with less than 65 years on his odometer.
I stopped reading the gun magazines way back in the 70's because they simply became new product reports, and the reports were always glowing, even when the products didn't deserve it. So because of my dislike for such antics, I have honestly tried my best to find something about the Kadet conversion kit to criticize, or even something I don't like about it for the pettiest of reasons. But I haven't been able to find anything about this conversion kit that isn't first rate and certainly worth the money. I'd like to see a blued version available to go with my blued CZ 85, but I would buy this unit even if it was painted pink with green polka dots.....I have that much respect for it. It is an extremely well thought-out and engineered product that conforms to CZ's high standards of manufacturing quality. It is all steel and will surely last a lifetime.....and like most CZ products, its cost is affordable. Even the magazines are tough, heavy-duty units, which I consider to be a rarity in .22 magazines. So based on my experience with this product so far I would give it an excellent recommendation and never look back.
Best wishes and I hope this gives you something to hang your hat on when considering a .22 LR Conversion Kit for your automatic service pistol.