It’s hard not to dig into the preface to this pistol review without recalling the thoughts of fictional TV cop Rust Cohle in the first season of “True Detective”: “Time is a flat circle.”
Imagine, if you will, a homely and minimalist service-style pistol. It’s slab-sided and flat black and pooh-poohed as crude and inaccurate by the handgun cognoscenti of its time. However, thanks to prominent use as a service sidearm, reasonable pricing and a larger ammunition capacity than the pistols beloved by those cognoscenti, the pistol becomes enormously popular.
Pretty soon, many of the leading combat-pistol gurus at various shooting academies are touting it as the greatest thing since sliced bread and it’s becoming popular in shooting competitions. With the increased popularity comes companies springing up that specialize in tuning the guns for increased performance.
These companies start making increasingly expansive lines of aftermarket performance parts, and it’s only a matter of time until the inevitable occurs. The day comes when you can simply buy a complete new high-performance pistol that was obviously inspired by the service pistol, but is entirely built from the ground up using these performance parts.
You could be forgiven for thinking that I’m referring to the lauded Wilson Combat EDC X9 or the much-praised STI 2011 here, but instead I am referring to the new O.Z-9 from Zev Technologies.
To quote a 1990s techno track (that itself was quoting a 1950s kids’ movie) “All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.” The arc of the 1911 over the 30 years between 1970 and 2000 is now echoed by that of the Glock from about 1990 to the present. What was once a generic service pistol has spawned a full-house custom blaster.
Zev Technologies has been around for more than a decade. Once known for doing custom work on Glocks—and then for being a source of aftermarket Glock performance parts—it’s almost as if the entirely in-house-built O.Z-9 pistol project was preordained.
The O.Z-9 is a full-size 9 mm pistol that uses a bunch of parts from Zev’s impressive catalog originally intended for Glocks, yet it is not a custom Glock. It is its own thing—a custom pistol suitable for competition or carry that incorporates a dozen years’ worth of lessons in the performance-parts and customization business.
While it is the size of a Glock G17, an unloaded O.Z-9 actually weighs a couple tenths-of-an-ounce short of 1.88 pounds. This is about a quarter-pound heavier than a Gen5 G17. The difference in weight can be chalked up to the most-notable difference between the O.Z-9 and its spiritual forebear: The Zev’s chassis system (the company refers to it as a “receiver”).
Whereas on the original Glock, the serialized part—the actual firearm in the legal sense—was the polymer grip frame, the O.Z-9 is more like the STI 2011 in that the polymer grip frame and trigger guard assembly is a plastic shell that is held to a metal chassis by a removable pin. This chassis is the serialized part. As a matter of fact, the lower half of the gun is such a departure from the Glock that labeling it as some sort of Glock variant is doing the O.Z-9 a tremendous disservice.
While the O.Z-9 uses a slide-and-barrel assembly that is entirely derived from Zev’s Glock aftermarket parts catalog, the chassis and grip frame are entirely new creations. Granted, “chassis”-style systems have practically become the norm in newly launched handguns, most notably in SIG Sauer’s P320, but the O.Z-9’s is a different beast altogether.
Rather than a simple, stamped-steel cage holding the lockwork and bent outward to form little nubbin-like tabs that serve as frame rails, the chassis on the Zev is a massive piece that runs the length of the pistol and is machined from a stainless-steel billet, then PVD-coated.
Frame rails are machined into the chassis and are substantially larger than the ones found on a Glock, and feature relief cuts for debris clearance. Zev claims this enhances reliability in extremely dirty conditions. Not only are the frame rails formed from the chassis, but the Picatinny-style accessory rail is as well.
The polymer grip frame, secured to the chassis by a single pin in front of the trigger guard, is offered in gray and Flat Dark Earth, as well as the basic black of the test pistol. Zev offers them as aftermarket components, too, so the end user can mix and match colors on a whim. The company also intends to sell a shorter version of the grip frame that will take 15-round magazines and give the gun the full-length-slide/chopped-grip proportions of the common “Glock G19L” modification.
The grip itself is steeper than that found on a Glock G17. Its angle is a lot more reminiscent of the aforementioned STI 2011, actually, and that’s no accident. “Grip angle” is one of the most-commonly voiced complaints regarding the Austrian polymer pistol, after all, so Zev sought to eliminate that source of gripes.
While there are no finger grooves on the frontstrap, there’s a single, subtle hump that lies between the shooter’s second and third fingers. The grip features molded-in texturing that lies somewhere between a current SIG frame and skateboard tape on the coarseness meter. I found it plenty grippy without being abrasive, even over the course of several hours on the range.
The magazine well features Zev’s pronounced and removable “PRO Plus” mag funnel. I’m not saying that the funnel is big enough to allow you to reload the gun from across the room like Steph Curry lobbing in a three-pointer, but I’m not saying it’s not, either. The opening is every bit as large as the full-race Dawson Precision Ice mag well on my own G34. The trigger guard is well-shaped and relieved to allow a high hold without triggering “Glock knuckle,” the angry raw abrasion of the ring finger known to shooters of that pistol.
That high-hand cut on the frontstrap is well-matched by a pronounced, molded-in beavertail extension at the top rear of the frame, so even shooters with fairly beefy paws can choke way up on the pistol without worrying about their hands getting cut by the reciprocating slide.
The reversible magazine catch has a pronounced angle that makes inadvertent activation unlikely, yet allows for a clean and positive release when you mean to. It has a funky golf ball sort of texture to it that is echoed on the slide cover plate.
A flat-faced metal trigger shoe has the familiar safety tab in the middle of it. It breaks cleanly at 4 pounds at the point in its travel where the trigger face is vertical, and there is an absolute minimum of perceptible overtravel. It feels like a heavily massaged aftermarket Glock race trigger because, well, that’s exactly what it is—Zev will happily sell you just the trigger assembly for your Glock.
Moving on up to the top half of the pistol, we encounter the most obvious Zev styling cues, which are definitely a “love it or hate it” proposition; to wit, the rather elaborately machined slide. While one can debate the aesthetics of the thing until the cows come home, that’s a matter of preference. What’s silly is the amount of hand-wringing the internet invests over the possibility of the lightening holes in the slide somehow admitting debris that causes the gun
First, in the case of a concealed-carry pistol, some folks must go around with a lot more debris inside their waistband than I do. Secondly, G34s have been working fine with a fairly large lightening cut in the top of the slide for decades now. Heck, I’m carrying a Langdon Tactical Beretta these days, and the slide on a 92 is nothing but hole. Needless to say, I think that particular fear is way overblown.
This slide machining does serve a function beyond just looking cool and letting your Instagram followers see your gold titanium-nitrided barrel, though. On my postal scale, the O.Z-9’s slide was a full ounce-and-a-half lighter than the slide on my G17 (11.2 versus 12.7 ounces). This may not sound like much, but every ounce matters when those ounces are slamming back and forth under recoil. Shooting side by side with my old G17—an early Robar-customized gun—the O.Z-9 held noticeably flatter under recoil.
Adding to the effect of the lighter slide and heavier frame, the O.Z-9 uses a steel guide rod with a captive spring, so that’s another ounce or so added out near the muzzle end.
The slide cuts do, however, also show off the barrel, which is machined with rows of golf ball-esque dimples that, well, mostly they look cool. The barrel on the test gun was basic black and standard length, but it’s also available in bronze, and can be had in extended and threaded form in either color.
Zev’s proprietary slide features a deep cut for mounting a Trijicon RMR optic. The dot sits low enough to largely obviate the need for suppressor-height sights, which is good because the sights on the O.Z-9 are Zev’s standard ledge-style V3 Combat rear and a .215-inch, fiber-optic-enhanced blade up front. Serrated on the rear face of the sight body, the rear sight features a wide, square notch that leaves nice, fat light bars on either side of the front sight.
I was particularly impressed by the pistol’s well-written instruction manual, which is comprehensive and—more manufacturers should do this—includes a recommended replacement schedule for all springs and wear parts on the last page. This gun is obviously not intended to decorate the shelf in your safe; Zev expects it to be run, and run hard.
So how does it run? Pretty darn good, actually.
I was honestly going into this test prepared to be underwhelmed. This is a segment of the handgun market where too many offerings wind up feeling like the pistol equivalent of kit cars. You know kit cars—at first glance they look like a Ferrari or other exotic, but you get in and it doesn’t feel finished and there’s sagging wires and warped plastic everywhere. That’s how too many attempts at “aftermarket Glocks” wind up feeling.
The O.Z-9, on the other hand, is well finished and feels like a gun worth the (admittedly steep) price tag. You’d spend the same amount of money, just about, getting this amount of work done to a Glock when all is said and done, and you still wouldn’t have the rigid-billet chassis and interchangeable grip frames. Plus, you’d have the wait times associated with getting the frame contoured and slide milled, while the O.Z-9 is turn-key and ready to go right out of the box.
It shot flat, has a trigger that’s among the better striker-fired triggers I’ve tried and the grip is obviously designed with high-round-count shooting in mind.
According to my logbook, the test gun has seen 965 rounds without any malfunctions of any sort, either gun-, ammunition- or user-induced.
All in all, I have to say that I’m pretty happy to have been proven wrong by the O.Z-9.