Mark Stone tests the latest in CZ’s line of semi-auto rimfires – can the 512 meet his high standards for a .22LR?
For me, .22LR rifles should have three attributes. Firstly, they must be seriously affordable. Secondly, they must be reliable. Thirdly, they must embody enjoyment and instil in their owner an urge to go out and use them. You need an affable companion that goes anywhere, is robust, easily digests cheap ammo, is accurate and is of a size and weight that means you can use it in any situation – be it out walking, from the driver’s seat of a 4×4 or astride a quad.
Not so much new to the scene, more a modern continuation of the famous 511 model, CZ’s new 512 .22LR embodies all the salient points I’ve outlined above. And while, like its predecessor (and like me), it’ll never win any beauty competitions, CZ’s take on the modern .22 has become marginally more mainstream in looks, handling and functionality. Currently, UK importer Edgar Brothers can only just keep up with demand.
For £555 you’re never going to get walnut, but the quality of the lacquered beech woodwork is more than acceptable and comes complete with sling swivel mounts. Similarly, no chequering has been applied to the two-piece furniture, although two discreet grooves have been let into the upper edges of the square forend.
Although shorter than expected, the stock – in conjunction with the 512’s excellent balance – more than promotes fast handling. The plastic butt plate ensures its doesn’t snag when mounting. If there is an anomaly, it is that the pistol-grip seems oversized and is something of a handful. That aside, in general terms the dimensions, fit and quality are more than up to the task and a more pleasing alternative to the cold, synthetic variants offered by others.
The black polymer receiver is matte-finished, which made it a perfect match for the matte-finished Weaver 6×38 Classic K6 fixed-magnification scope and Grand Slam mounts that I attached to the integral 10mm dovetailed accessory rail. Apart from the white script that identifies the rifle’s maker, model and serial number, everything else remains black – even the plastic trigger guard that houses the cross-bolt safety. The bolt lock and blade are resolutely the same colour, and the only hint of difference is in the slightly brighter finish of the 525mm barrel. The five-shot plastic magazine slots neatly into place directly in front of the trigger guard and just behind the small release latch. For an additional £28 you can up this to a 10-shot clip – an option I and most others would take, if only to increase flexibility on night-time outings.
In respect of the barrel, while the .22LR and the rest of the new 512s come with the muzzle ready-threaded, if you want the option of adjustable open sights you’ve got to go for the .22WMR version. This is something of an oversight from my perspective. Apart from that, all the controls are simple to operate and all fall within fingertip operation – although the bolt-lock, which automatically locks back after the last round has been discharged, can be fiddly if you wish to lock it back manually. With the bolt drawn fully out of battery, pressing gently on the trigger guard’s serrated lever and allowing the bolt to travel slowly forward will engage the lock. You have to feel the two mechanisms engage with each other for the lock to work. Not ideal in my opinion, but effective once you’ve got a feel for it.
I opted to use my usual .22LR ammo, namely Winchester’s Subsonic Super-X. These small rimfire bullets have served me well over the years. The 512 zeroed in within 15 shots after initially boresighting it with a Leupold Zero Point Laser collimator. Nevertheless I was left with the sensation that either a livelier round might suit this little CZ or that it would prefer high velocities to truly drive the gas-operated system along. And while the overall feel of the 512 was of a rifle that was there to get on with the job, its major downfall was the non-adjustable trigger. Breaking at an average of 7lb, it’s heavy enough that you have to make a concerted effort not to jerk when firing. You will get used to it, but it does detract from what is otherwise an excellent little rifle.
With the Weaver scope mounted along with a Ledwave PL-5G LED Hunter torch and a Parker Hale moderator kindly loaned to my by Paul at Bond & Bywater, the whole combination weighed in at exactly 8lb with an overall length of 45½in. And before anyone comments, while I still think moderators make rifles look ugly and destroy the overall balance, they do have their place on a .22. Similarly, I tend not to attach slings to .22s since I find they tend to hamper or get caught up with handlebars and gear levers.
On an evening’s crow shooting on a friend of mine’s family estate, the little outfit quickly proved its worth. Both when walking and when working from the driver’s seat of my 4×4, the 512 made short work of two corvids feeding around the new lamb pens. The dense stand of trees that act as the overnight quarters for hundreds of these black beasties also provided a safe backdrop for the birds that settled on the lower branches. The two-stage PEL-5G allowed lamping to be varied between a dull but usable green glow and an intense emerald beam. While I know some prefer a variable magnitude scope, the fixed 6×38 Weaver scope’s speed of acquisition and ability to work in both low light or via the torch meant it was as good as I would ever need.
CZ set out to produce a small, usable .22LR rifle that can be used for a variety of tasks, from vermin control to some light target shooting. In my opinion, they’ve succeeded. Apart from the small negatives, there’s nothing particularly wrong with it. The 512 makes an ideal daily companion for those who need to carry a .22 as part of their routine, and the overall build suggests that it’ll be around for a good number of years to come. At £934 for the entire set-up as I used it, what more could you want or need?