I do not normally review .223 rifles, as the caliber is not sufficiently suitable in the sniping role. (Read here to find out more). But, I was looking for an accurate and affordable to shoot practice rifle, just to get trigger time. At the same time, I have been hearing some good things about the CZ 527 Varmint rifle, and decided it would fit the bill nicely, and I’ll review it for possible law enforcement use. So out I went to pick up a CZ527 Varmint Kevlar. This was suppose to be a bargain rifle, but to be honest, the price was more then I thought it would be for a “bargain” .223. The cheapest I could find it locally was $610 USD. Now that I had the rifle, I brought it home and examined it closely.
One thing to watch out for, the original CZ527 varmint rifles has a 1:12″ twist, and if you plan to shoot anything over 55gr, this could be a problem. About 2 years ago (2002) CZ switched to a 1:9″ barrel, which is what my test example has. But, some of those 1:12″ rifles may still be in circulation. In searching for affordable ammo, and making an acceptable compromise for long-range practice, I decided I would focus primarily on 55gr BT bullets, which is what the M193 original NATO 5.56 Ball ammo is.
The 527 Varmint comes with a lighter weight heavy barrel, I would guess a 5 or 5.5 target contour. Its 24″ long and hammer forged. It has a recessed target crown. The action is the CZ527 action which is a modified “mini” mauser action. It’s only long enough for the .223 size calibers, and this rifle is only currently available in .223. Like all CZ’s, the actions have integral scope mounting bases (like Ruger). This caused more of a headache for locating rings (I ended up going with CZ rings) but this is changing, as Burris and Leupold have recently introduced compatible rings. There is a 5 round detachable box magazine that is decently enough built, and functioned without any problems. Though I’m still trying to get used to the magazine release. Currently it’s a bit stiff and clumsy, but it should get better. The bolt is typical mauser “claw” extractor and works well. Over all, the action is smooth and pleasant to use. The trigger is a single “set” trigger, and frankly, I don’t like it. Set triggers (especially single ones) have no place on tactical rifles, and is borderline on varmint rifles. Though they work well on competition rifles. I didn’t measure it official, but when “Set” the trigger is under a pound of pull, and I would guess 10-14 oz somewhere. In reality, the set trigger works well, but I shoot not using the set feature. If you do not set the trigger, it operates as a traditional trigger, but not a very good one. The pull is about 4-5 lbs, which isn’t too bad, BUT, the take up is long, with a distinct notch in it. Once you feel the notch, there is slightly more creep, another notch and finally a release. After as nice as the set trigger is, I was a bit bummed about this mode of operation. Once I got used to it, I was able to get the rifle to perform. Now, I might be able to clean that pull up some, or have a professional gunsmith do it.
I mounted a Burris Fullfield II 3-9x40mm with ballisticplex. Mounted using CZ medium height 1″ rings. I’ll have a review of the Burris scope up in just a few weeks. I broke the rifle in during initial zero, and used PMC 223 55gr ammo. After the formalities were done, I came back a week later for evaluation, and then another trip a week after that. During the evaluation I used various factory loads, including Federal Gold Medal Match 69gr, BlackHills 52gr Match, PMC 55gr and US Issued M193. The PMC is their bulk loading, and cheap price, and as I had hoped, it shoots right around 1 MOA. In terms of the federal loading, the 69gr bullets require a 1:8″ twist to stabilize and I wanted to try them in the CZ. Well, I couldn’t defeat physics again. While the bullets never tumbled or acted weird, the groups were sporadic and not consistent with an average size of around 1.3 MOA. We got a few groups to go sub MOA, but not consistent enough. The bullets just didn’t stabilize enough in the 1:9″ twist. The Blackhills 52gr match performed very well, achieving the best accuracy of all the loads we tried. Average group size was about .65″ with a low of .43″. Unfortunately, its a flat base bullet, and doesn’t do well at longer ranges. Now, the most surprising development was the pleasant performance of military issue (Lake City) M193 55gr ammo. This is military ball ammo, and was extremely consistent. Group sizes ran from .62″ to .84″ With an average right around .75 for all groups!! This was an extremely pleasant discovery and I want to try a couple of other lots to be sure its consistent but so far, so good! Here are some of the groups shot
Conclusions: The CZ527 lived up to its billing, its a very accurate out of the box rifle. I don’t like the trigger, but I’ve also seen worse. The action is smooth, the magazine operation a little clunky, but the rifle is comfortable. The light weight of 7.5 lbs (less optics) make the rifle very handy to carry. It has a short overall length and would make a very good urban tactical rifle. The .223 caliber is not sufficient to trust hostages lives with, but some areas do not have the choice, and are limited to .223. This would make a fine option, especially with some trigger work done.