Why Won't My Magazine Drop Free? (aka What Is a Magazine Brake?)
Often, new owners of the modern production CZ pistols are concerned that their magazines seem to hang up after pushing the mag release. The magazine drops for roughly an inch or more, then stops. At this point, the magazine is easily removed by hand. This should occur even with a fully loaded magazine.
This feature of the CZ line is caused by the magazine brake, a slightly bent piece of metal located behind the magazine inside the grip frame. The magazine brake is part #24 in the current CZ 75 series manual illustration. As the asterisk by this part in the illustration indicates, these parts "differ according to versions" (page 25). In other words, a few models have a flat, rather than bent, magazine brake. These models (i.e. 75B SA, 85 Combat, etc.) allow magazines to drop free in their stock configuration.
Why Have the Magazine Brake in the First Place?
The original concept of the CZ 75/85 series is a service pistol suitable for military or police use. (This is also true of most of the other modern production CZ pistols derived from them.) In particular, the CZ 75 is respected as a handgun suitable for the harshest environmental and combat conditions.
As such, the designers felt that magazine retention was critical. Without at least one functioning magazine, a semi-auto pistol becomes a largely worthless, breech-loading single shot weapon. The magazine brake ensures that magazines are not ejected accidentally, lost, or rendered inoperative by being dropped in mud, sand, etc. In combat conditions, magazines are critical, because additional ones are not normally available.
Unfortunately, the various militaries' requirements for a reliable combat handgun do not always meet the standards of civilian shooters. Most CCW techniques, shooting sports (i.e. IPSC, IDPA, etc.), and individual instructors emphasize the importance of rapid reloads. The magazine brake does significantly increase the time involved, since the magazine must be manipulated in some way, even if merely allowing it to drop free. Furthermore, the CZ magazine brake is unusual; few other design offers a similar feature. As such, many civilian owners do not care for the magazine brake and want their magazines to drop free.
How Can I Make My Magazines Drop Free?
There are several methods:
1) Obtain and install the alternate part #24, usually known as the "flat" magazine brake. This is the part found on the 75B SA, 85 Combat, etc. (These are available from CZ-USA.) This is fairly easy to do. Drift the pins, which are sometimes very loose already, and slide the brake free. Install the new brake and slide the pins back into place.
2) Bend the magazine brake while it is still in place. After removing the grips, gently bend the brake backwards (towards the mainspring) with a pair of pliers or a similar tool. The idea is to decrease how much of the metal makes contact with the magazine. This is probably the most popular and easiest solution. The brake is thin and relatively brittle, so be very careful.
3) Bend the magazine brake after removing it from the grip frame. This is essentially the same as #2, but the risk of breaking the part is somewhat reduced. This enables you to flatten the brake by placing a book or a similar light weight on the part for a few hours.
4) Remove the magazine brake entirely. This is a quick fix, but it has some disadvantages. Once the brake is removed, it is no longer present to guide the magazine smoothly into place. It is possible for the magazine to hang up on the main spring or the grip screws. With practice, it will become a non-issue, but it may cause some problems in the meantime. Also, the magazine no longer has the benefit of the brake holding it in place during firing, normal use, etc. This last concern may not be legitimate, but it did occur to me. (Note that CZ uses a "flat" brake, rather than no brake on the drop free models.)
5) Tighten the metal loop at the top of the magazine brake. According to people that have tried this method, the risk of breaking the part is fairly high, but it is a more permanent solution. Drift the top pin, freeing the brake. Using needle nose pliers, tighten the metal loop through which the pin fits. This will effectively shorten the magazine brake, which prevents it from making enough contact to retain the magazine. The advantage of this method is that the brake can no longer flex back into its old position.
6) Replace the brake with another piece of metal. A few members have actually made their own flat brakes, which has been a satisfactory solution for them. Obviously, this requires a bit more effort than the other suggestions!
Some Parting Thoughts
I don't shoot in competition, and I actually like the magazine brake. I mention this merely because I seem to be a minority of one! At any rate, I bought a 9mm CZ 75B SA a couple of years ago, and I was dismayed to find that this model had the flat magazine brake. I would constantly forget that the magazines drop free on this model, and I got tired of picking them up.
I actually bent a flat brake using the reverse of method #2. This seems to work perfectly well, but I would use a conventional (bent) magazine brake as a guide. The flat brakes are every bit as thin and brittle as the bent ones, and the reference point may prevent you from overdoing it.