Zastava CZ999 Compact 9mm pistol

Unless you’re a connoisseur of Eastern-European weapons, you’ve probably never heard of the Zastava CZ999 Compact pistol. So out of all the pistols in the world, why did I choose this to replace my HK USP 9mm?

I’ve had excellent experiences with a wide range of firearms made by the Serbian company Zastava. As stated in a previous article, I’m a fan of Serbia. They produce good rifles, good soldiers (though my experience with this is limited to the contractors I knew in Iraq)  and good liquor.

My second rifle was a Serbian M48A, a Yugo copy of the K98K Mauser to feed it, a friend and I ordered  7.92x57mm ammo from Century. I won’t torture you by telling you the price we paid in 2002. Suffice it to say that we purchased 2800 rounds and I wish we’d bought ten times that amount.

My first semi-auto was an old M59/66 SKS, which I bought from Century Arms as well. It served me well for years, being replaced when I upgraded to AR-15s and AK rifles. I’ve used the sporter version of the Zastava M70B1 and look forward to seeing an import version of the Zastava M21, which I saw used widely in Iraq. So of course, I wanted to see how their pistols fared.

Enter the Zastava CZ999 Compact in 9x19mm, imported by the fine folks at Century International Arms. The first thing I thought when looking at it was, “Huh, looks kinda like a SIG P226.”

Though proud Serbians may want to deny the similarities, they are most definitely there. How similar are they? Well, you can actually take the slide off of a P226 and put it on the frame of the Zastava CZ999 Compact. In fact, the slide release and decocker functions will work fine. I have not tested to see if it will fire.


The Zastava CZ999 Compact next to some Prvi Partizan ammunition, a Serbian pendant given to me by a Serbian PSD contractor in Iraq, and a bottle of Slivovitz; homemade Serbian liquor.

Straight out of the box, it fired flawlessly. Accuracy was very good, though that’s not something I consider to be a huge sticking point. A combat-oriented pistol should be accurate, but is not the weapon you should use to engage targets at distance. If a threat presents itself at 100 yards while I’m carrying the CZ999, I’ll either shoot it with my rifle/carbine, or (if I’m not carrying one) run the hell away. That said, the groupings that the Zastava produce are quite good; comparable to those I produce with my SIG. The trigger on the Zastava is crisp and breaks well.

Now, I’ve got several friends interested in adopting this as their defensive carry piece. I’m not going to recommend it if I can’t be sure of its reliability.

Sweat test – The most common wear a defensive pistol will get will be from carrying it, inserting and withdrawing it from the holster, and exposing it to human sweat. Since sweat is basically salt water, this can lead to corrosion rather quickly. To start off the testing, I carried the Zastava almost every day, during the summer.

Now, I sweat a lot. I believe the operative phrase is like a pig, which is odd, since pigs don’t actually sweat. But I digress. I dang-near bathed the CZ999 in salt-water for a couple of months. No ill effect. I (and a couple of students) fired several hundred rounds through it with the only result being that I noticed some scratching on the handle where my wedding ring rubbed during fire.

The most destructive test I can think of is the wet sand/rock dust test. After thoroughly cleaning the Zastava to remove all traces of lubrication, I threw it down into the wet rock dust/sand that covers the backstops of a local range. I then covered it in sand and proceeded to stomp the pistol as though it had made a pass at my wife. There was no magazine in the weapon, allowing little chips of stone to get into the mag well. When I picked up the Zastava and inserted the magazine, I could hear crunching and grating. It sounded like nails on a chalkboard. I then proceeded to re-bury it and again, stomp it into oblivion.

Zastava_CZ999_dirtyTo my disappointment, the weapon would not fire. The slide would initially not cycle. After pouring a bit of water on the Zastava, I got it to cycle and fire, though it often produced light primer strikes. So I locked the slide back, removed the magazine and poured water into the magazine well, then into the slide itself to try to flush out the debris lodged there. I was partially successful. So much grit was in the internals of the gun that I could actually see it in the water that drained out of the pistol. While the weapon fired, the pistol would cycle, but failed to lock forward.

Fearing that I’d actually succeeded in actually breaking a Serbian weapon, I took it home, disassembled it, and thoroughly cleaned it. I was amazed at the amount of sand and stone flakes that were still in the gun. I had to scrub it out with a brush and pick put some pieces with a dental pick. A particularly dirty area was the combination slide release/decocker. Extremely similar to that on a SIG Sauer P226, the Zastava’s seems to be a magnet for grit.

I removed all of the debris and lubed the pistol with Froglube. Though the slide shows significant scuffing and scratching from the abuse I heaped upon the pistol, the weapon functions just fine. I have since put hundreds of rounds through it without incident, including firing it underwater. You can see all of this in the video below.

So is the Zastava indestructible? No, but it’s a damn fine pistol, one that I regularly carry and have as a back-up to my beloved SIG. The similarities are such that I can operate the two using much the same muscle memory. With the reliability and accuracy that the Zastava has shown, I decided to have it replace my HK USP 9mm. Some of you may balk at the comparison, especially since the Zastava costs roughly half what the USP retails for.

Though I loved my USP, the thing was not very ergonomically setup for my smaller hands. With the Zastava, I can release the slide easily, whereas I had to adjust my grip on the USP in order to do the same thing. The two have the same capacity, have roughly the same accuracy at close-to-mid range, and are quite robust. The Zastava is more ergonomic, less expensive and more compact. Its smaller size allows for greater ease of carry and better concealability. The price point is important as well. I tended to baby my USP. As you see above, I have no hesitation about abusing the CZ999.

I carry, use, abuse and love the Zastava CZ999 Compact. You should too.


– by Allen Cosby

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53GR is an avid shooter, hiker and tinkerer. Introduced to guns at an early age, the hobby became a passion in his early twenties. After two years in Iraq as a contractor for a defense company, he developed an unhealthy addiction to military surplus gear. Though he's currently in treatment, the prognosis is that the condition is chronic.

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14 Responses to Zastava CZ999 Compact 9mm pistol

  1. Jason a buck says:

    Hey! Glad to hear all this. I came here because I’m having an issue..and have had it since day 1. I get about 3 or 4 rounds through it..and the slide gets stuck on the spent cartridge because it doesn’t t eject. I cleaned it and the same problem persisted. I had it cleaned again by a pro..aga8n..the same. I’ve tried different ammo, and nothing. EVERY mag I put in..the same thing happens after 2, 3 or 4 shots. So.. am 8mdoing something wrong? Can someone suggest an ammo that will ru better. Any tips. Thank u very much guys.
    Jason buck

  2. James Collins says:

    I have a new CZ999 compact 9mm and am having a problem, it will not fire. I am perplexed as to the cause I get a light firing pin strike that is off center. I was shooting Blazer Brass 115gr cartridges which has always been reliable. I also noticed that when the hammer is uncocked it doesn’t sit all the way forward and moves backwards and forwards about a 1/8″ of an inch.

  3. Daryl Parker says:

    Always have had a fondness for anything cz. Starting with my first cz52. 7.62+25 tok. Haven’t found any other weapon that would consistently feed empty brass from the mag. A powerhouse bottleneck round that puts the 357sig in its place.this round will defeat most body armor second chance ect. And runs with roller bearing lockouts on the barrel. It runs as smooth as a machine gun. Its a surplus masterpiece weapon from w.w. 2. That can be had for under $350.00. I wouldn’t sell mine for twice that. I’m sure the quality has only improved……..

  4. Al Lakosky says:

    This is probably one of the best all around handguns on the market, period. Now ad the very reasonable price of UNDER $300. and you really cannot go wrong. Be careful of one thing; I wanted to clean some copper marks off the gun’s frame from carrying in a short holster and having the firearm rub against the copper rivets on jeans, so I used rubbing alcohol. WOW! The rubbing alcohol actually made the non-baked black paint get soft and gooey and I am sure I could have taken the paint off by scrubbing the frame, the area in front of the trigger guard with a cloth soak in alcohol. I did further tests and Rem oil and other solvents didn’t seem to bother the finish but watch alcohol on the paint that Zastava uses!

  5. Bill Payne says:

    I purchased both the 9mm and 40cal Zastava CZ999 Full size pistols. They are both fine weapons and have never given me a single problem.
    I was so happy with the performance of both guns, I purchased 2- more of each for my Sons. They report the same, not one problem.
    The CZ999 has a chrome lined barrel, ambidextrous controls for the magazine release and decocker. What I love best is… if you are in a dark area, just run your finger across the top of the pistol and you will feel a button/pin extending upwards, the pin indicates whether a round is chambered. If a round is present, you will feel the pin, if not… you know to chamber a round before go-time.
    I own a Sig 40cal 229 which is a fine weapon. When I leave home, I have one of my Buddies (Sig 40cal or CZ999) tag along with me. I feel comfortable packing either one so that should say how much faith I have in the Zastava Pistols.
    I’ve been shooting for over 30-years. If I had recently taken up the hobby, I surely would not be critiquing any weapon on a public forum, especially a poor review.
    Forums allowing anyone to say anything just causes problem for all of us. .
    Reading earlier comments, many people would not take a second look at a great, inexpensive weapon.
    >On the topic of magazines, you cannot interchange Sig with CZ999 magazines. The Zastava magazines are specific to that weapon.
    >The +P ammo I have never tried.
    I agree with an earlier comment “I would rather own two of the CZ999’s than a single Sig 226 and I would probably still have some money left to spend”. In my case, the full size CZ999 over the Sig 229 40 cal.

    • Boiler says:

      Does any realize that CZ999 has very long trigger reset distance? Its reset distance is the same as your SA take up+ over travel.

  6. Rick says:

    How does the CZ999 run with +P ammo?

  7. Dennis Matt says:

    If anything the comparison to the Sig 226 is exact to a fault. I have ALWAYS despised the long take up on the trigger on the Sig 226, simply not caring for it whatsoever. When I pull a trigger I like to feel the trigger pull immediately and not after the lengthy take up that Sigs and this CZ Clone has. Despite my dislike of the trigger the firearm, both the Sig and the CZ999 are very reliable and accurate and other than the IMHO crappy trigger, are really great handguns. I would rather own two of the CZ999’s than a single Sig 226 and I would probably still have some money left to spend. Another thing I do not care for is the de-cocker. I like my guns capable of being carried “cocked and locked”. If you can live with the drawbacks, these are great guns and at the price the CZ999 is a far better buy than wasting all the money on the name “Sig Sauer”.

    • michael charleston says:

      you must be reviewing the wrong gun. My 999 has the best trigger of all my guns which total over 20 and the only gun with a better trigger reset is my taurus 840

  8. aframe says:

    WARNING CHECK YOUR SLIDE LOCK/DECOCKER SPRINGS!!! Love the gun, but when I first purchased it the slide lock/decocking lever would not hold the slide back. In the process of investigation I found that there were a couple of factory defects with the gun. First, the spring for the slide lock mechanism was too weak to hold the slide lock in place and thus it kept slipping out and the slide would cycle forward without warning or when barely tapped, NOT SAFE especially during reload as the slide was moving BEFORE the round was in place and created a unique jam with the bullet below the barrel and the magazine not seated properly. Also and here I am going to apologize as being new to guns and not using the proper terms, the circular base of the slide lock/decocking lever that rests inside of the grips had not been milled properly and was too larger resulting in the mechanism rubbing/wearing down the underside of the grip. I contacted Zastava arms directly and their customer support was initially very helpful and guided me through the process of grinding down the decocker to the proper size, but when that did not fix the slide lock issue, customer service suddenly disappeared and never returned another email. I had to take it to a g-smith to figure out the spring issue. So be warned, and check the underside of your grips to see if there is wear on them and also double check that spring tension level. Be safe. If you think you have an issue, send me a an email at and I can send you some photos and video of my issue and what zastava said was needed to fix it.

  9. Joseph says:

    Ive heard this described as a sig clone : runs from same holster , and am curious would this run the same mags as say a sig p226 or along those lines . Just picked one up and am curious about the compatiblity.

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