Mike Powell is here with his latest rifle review, and this time he’s testing out this week’s Gun of the Week, the CZ 527 Varmint.
Over the many years that I’ve been shooting, one make of rifle seems to have been ever present and that’s the Czech firm CZ Ceska Zbrojovka or Czech Armoury), who have released the CZ 527 Varmint, our current test subject. CZ forged a reputation for producing consistently accurate rifles, although their overall appearance has sometimes left a little to be desired.
However, over the past decade CZ 527 Varmint makers CZ have, without a doubt, upped their game and today produce rifles that, appearance-wise, are among the leaders.
The one thing that has remained constant though is the make’s inherent accuracy. I have owned several different CZ rifles and without exception all have been able to shoot far better than I can!
At present I have a CZ .17 Hornet which really is a joy to use, highly accurate and more than a match for several of my far more expensive rifles.
So it was with some anticipation that I received one of the many 527 models to review. In .223, which is perhaps my favourite fox calibre, this particular rifle came fitted with a Form thumbhole laminate stock.
I have a very high regard for Form products and have been extremely impressed with the quality of their stocks – which they are producing for an ever increasing range of rifles.
This particular rifle was no lightweight; weighing in at around the 11lbs mark when scoped up and with a mod fitted. However, these days the majority of shooters use a rest or shoot from a vehicle, so weight – particularly when shooting from a static position – isn’t really a problem. And without a doubt weight adds to stability, which can only be good for accuracy.
The 24” barrel is cold hammer forged, has a fairly distinct taper, is factory screw cut 15×1 for a moderator and has a flat recessed crown. The finish is a pleasing very dark matte grey which suits the laminate stock well.
The rifle come with a 1-9 twist rate which – although one might think is designed specifically for bullets in the weight range of 49-55 grains – shoots heavier ammo well too.
Normally I use home-loaded 50 grain V-Max bullets for the majority of my fox work, but for the purposes of the test I used Hornady 53 grain V-Max and also put some 73 grain ELD Match ammo from the same manufacturer through the rifle. Although they didn’t group quite as well as the lighter product they certainly were more than fit for purpose.
Of course, rifles are not necessarily consistent when it comes to how they handle different types, makes and weights of ammunition, Personally, I would think that 70 grain bullets are perhaps a little on the heavy side for a twist rate of 1-9.
In the past when trying slightly heavier ammunition in this twist rate I’ve found that the low 60s is probably the heaviest that will stabilise consistently.
However, as we know, all rifles vary, so if for some reason you are looking for heavier ammo in your rifle it may well pay to give some a try. As would be expected from a CZ rifle, the accuracy when using “normal” weight ammunition was outstanding.
Bearing in mind this was a new rifle, after a couple of fouling shots and half a dozen more to zero it, it was printing sub one inch groups which is good enough for me.
Moving to the action, this is the German Mauser 98-type action used by CZ for decades with only occasional tweaks. It’s understandable that very few changes have been made as this action has pretty much everything going for it.
The action is very strong and strength hasn’t come at the expense of appearance, as the overall lines of the action look good. The extremely strong claw extractor, a feature of the action, prevents rounds sticking and as far as I’ve been concerned I’ve never had a Mauser type extractor let me down. Other manufacturers now use this type of action which has to be one of the very best ever made.
The bolt throw is quite high and as a result medium to high rings are usually needed. The receiver has 15mm dovetails for scope mounting. Incidentally, the safety on the 527 is a little unusual in that safe is when the catch is in the forward position and fire is to the rear. This is the reverse of many rifles, but one soon gets used to it!
The trigger is the single set type. I know this system isn’t to everyone’s taste but it does have its uses. I have to say that when in the field I normally stick to the standard trigger action which itself is quite light at around the 3lbs trip weight.
However, I find the single set system very good when zeroing or when taking a more leisurely shot from a static position. When using the set trigger function, care always has to be exercised as it certainly isn’t impossible for your “muscle memory” to fire the rifle before you are ready. Also, if you do “set” the trigger and don’t fire the rifle remember to return the trigger to normal!
The trigger guard is roomy enough to allow a gloved finger to operate the trigger safely in cold weather. The trigger itself is adjustable, but again needs a cautious finger when carrying out this sort of adjustment, ensuring the trigger pulls stay within safe parameters.
This is always especially important when a set trigger is involved. My advice where CZ rifles are concerned is that unless you have a real problem, I would be inclined to avoid adjusting the trigger – they are normally excellent straight from the box.
The all-metal box magazine holds five rounds and the release catch is a sprung lever located on the right hand side of the magazine itself.
Turning to the woodwork, this specialised custom stock is very nice indeed. The laminate is a pleasing grey/olive/brown mix with an easily adjustable cheek piece and a ventilated forend.
I removed the stock to have a look at the internals and the finish and inletting throughout was first class. The sculpted pistol grip fitted the hand well but the thing I really liked was the adjustable cheek piece.
Eye/scope alignment is important for accuracy and it seems to me that with the large 50/56 objective lens used increasingly these days, to be able to raise the cheek piece is almost an essential.
This Form stock has a triangular button let into the stock which, when pressed, allows the cheek piece to be set where you want it. As with everything else with this stock, it worked well. Finally, it is fitted with a fairly thin, soft rubber butt pad and three studs for sling and bipod.
The rifle came fitted with one of Edgar Brothers Bushnell Nitro scopes the 3-18×56 model. I have always found Bushnell scopes to be extremely reliable and fit for purpose. I had one of their Dawn and Dusk Scopes on a rifle that held zero with no adjustment for years – very impressive!
The Nitro model supplied sits in the middle of three new scopes, in between the entry-level Prime and the top of the range Forge. The supplied scope gave a very good picture and came with an illuminated reticle. The mechanics worked well with audible clicks which is always a plus.
In use it did the job well and really couldn’t be faulted. Sometimes I think this make of scope doesn’t get the recognition it deserves which is a shame as they really are very good product.
Turning to the rifle’s performance, I took it out to the range where I put some 53 V-Max Hornadys through it, and once zeroed it was happily printing one inch groups and less. When I switched to the heavier 73 grain the group opened up to just over the inch.
CZ 527 Varmint review: prices
CZ 527 Varmint RRP: £868.00
Sportsman Gun Centre
01392 354 854
Bushnell 3-18×56 Nitro Scope RRP: £595.00
Whilst I tried the heavier ammunition out of interest, the .223 is undoubtedly first and foremost a vermin rifle and would be most people’s usual choice for fox control, being able to cater for both short to mid-range shooting and even for those who have the ability (not me!) for long-range work too.
There is no doubt that the CZ 527 Varmint .223 lives up to the high reputation that the company have built over the years for reliability and accuracy – arguably the two most important factors that shooters look for.
Many thanks to Edgar Brothers for supplying the CZ 527 Varmint. 223 fitted with the Form laminate stock used in this review. Since we tested it, Sportsman Gun Centre have taken on distributorship of CZ rifles and can they be contacted on the details below.
This review originally appeared in our sister publication, Sporting Rifle Magazine
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