Many years ago I, along with quite a few others, thought the CZ rifles, although quite accurate, were a bit, shall we say, agricultural. This is certainly not the case today. A shooting friend of mine purchased a CZ rimfire recently, and I was impressed with the out-of-the-box build, accuracy and finish.
While the company is best known for its rimfire rifles, more and more serious fox shooters are turning to the CZ centrefires on offer – there are an increasing number of very enthusiastic owners.
One of the biggest attractions of CZ rifles has to be the price. They are inexpensive – so first-time shooters and old hands alike can get their hands on an accurate, well-finished rifle that won’t break the bank.
One of the latest offerings is the CZ 527 Varmint. The 527 is a variant of the classic bolt-action, the Mauser 98. Tailored for calibres such as .204, .222, and .223, its small size matches the choice of cartridge and keeps overall weight to a minimum. While I have to say that my preference for an out and out foxing round would be .223, the .204 Ruger seems to be the calibre of choice at the moment.
The Varmint model has a heavier barrel, which has become the norm for this type of rifle. The action is small, very small – everything has been scaled down and the bolt is no exception. The locking lugs, however, have been left pretty well as normal to ensure safe and secure bolt closure. In common with most Mauser designs, the external extractor is non-rotating and acts in conjunction with the bolt-stop positioned ejector spur, to eject used cases positively. The bolt cocks on opening and the rear bolt shroud is used as the cocking piece. The bolt handle is straight and rather short, but the comfortable small ball operating end ensures a smooth and trouble-free cycling action. Although the bolt is inclined to be a little on the tight side from new, after 50 rounds or so it eases off to give the normal smooth operation one has become accustomed to in this type of action.
Integral dovetails are machined onto the top of the receiver, probably still the simplest and best system of scope mounting.
The single-column feed magazine is detachable, which to my mind is the best system – although its capacity is five shots, which should be enough for pretty well every eventuality, it is always useful to be able to swiftly refill, should the need arise. Because the action is so small the magazine does seem to protrude rather a lot, but this is not a problem and certainly to my eye anyway, does not detract from the overall appearance of the rifle. In fact, I am inclined to prefer a magazine that can be gripped easily rather than waiting for it to drop out of its housing. Another thing I like is that the magazine is made of steel, preferable to a polymer construction every time.
The trigger is adjustable and has a set trigger fitted as standard. The initial factory setting, as is common on many foreign rifles, is heavy at 5½lb, though this can be lightened. The trigger action has some creep, though it does break cleanly enough. The rolling catch safety is fool-proof; pushing it forward or back exposes a red dot – and it is simple to operate by the thumb without breaking the firing grip hold.
Designated a Varmint model, the CZ has a more slender profile barrel than one would think from a traditional varmint rifle, though the length is deceptively long. The barrel is nearly 2in longer than many similar rifles, but the profile is slimmer at just under 1in at the receiver ring, tapering to 0.7in at the muzzle is fully free-floating along its entire length. At more than 25in long, one would hope for enhanced ballistic performance, especially from the .204. As with the action, the finish is a classic blued affair, which is smart and on most CZ rifles tends to be hard-wearing.
The stock is walnut and as the quality of CZ guns has steadily improved, so has the woodwork. As well as walnut, there is a choice of Kevlar and laminate depending on the model chosen. The slim stock has a straight comb, a slim black rubber recoil pad and is finished without a cheekpiece. The rounded forend and the pistol grip are finished with what appear to be hand-cut chequering. In the 527 range, CZ have produced a very nice, sensibly priced rifle that will fit the bill for very many shooters.
If you are looking for the .204 calibre offering, then the choice of ammunition is rather limited, with only Remington and Hornady available at present, though Winchester should also come on stream soon.
Factory ammunition dictates that only 32-grain and 40-grain projectiles are available, which is fine, as the CZ 527 barrel twist is 1:12, allowing near-perfect bullet stability for such bullet weights. On a more practical note, using the 32-grain bullet and zeroing the rifle at 100 yards, you should still be in the kill-zone of a fox right out to almost 300 yards – that’s more than enough for me and most others too.
CZ have been with us for a very long time, and looking at their latest products it is pretty well certain they will be with us for a long time to come. You can spend a considerable sum on new rifles today, and in general you get what you pay for. The CZ 527, at somewhere around £700, represents extremely good value for your money; it shoots well, handles well and, as is normally the case with CZ, is trouble free. One tiny gripe is that they do not come threaded for a moderator, but I have to say I really like these rifles, and any of the smaller calibres would be an excellent choice for fox control. MP
Models tested: Varmint walnut; American synthetic
Price range: £700
Contact: Edgar Brothers 01625 613177 www.edgarbrothers.com