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.

cz527a

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.

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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.

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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

pmcgroup lcgroup fedgroup bhgroup

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.

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9 Comments

DEAN TEASLEY

Thank you for your informative review of the CZ 527 223 varmit. I`m looking to buy one and needed little more information on the particulars of this one.

Reply
Jimd

I’m trying to break the one inch barrier with my CZ 527 Varmint. I’m going to try a 63 gr bullet at about 3050 fps. No luck with 55 grainer or 45. The gun is consistent. I will try the ammos you did well with before I go and reload a bunch of them. Very straightforward uncomplicated review and gave me a new starting point to try and achieve accuracy. Thanks and God Bless.

Reply
Mel Ewing

Our pleasure! Do try some of the other grains and see what happens. The 527 has a 1:9″ rate of twist which will allow you to go as high as 69gr bullets.

Reply
James Creager

I used Miller’s stability and twist formula to figure a 55 grain V-Max in my 527 varmint with a 1-12 twist and the result was 1-11.4 twist for optimum long range accuracy. I am shooting groundhogs @ 400 yds. I love the 1-12 twist.

Reply
Mel Ewing

Good info, and that is about correct. The 1:12″ is excellent for 55gr. It doesn’t handle the heavier bullets though.

Reply
James Creager

I could be off on the Millers formula but I know it was closer to the 1-12. I only use 53 or 55 grain though like you said. Great review on the rifle … you did a super job. Is it so that some of the rifles are stamped 1-12 but are really a 1-9 twist? Thanks. God Bless.

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Suzanne Davis

Good article- thanks.
I have had my 527 FS for about 2 1/2 years. It has the 9″ twist. I use Nosler ballistic 55 gr with 24.5 g powder . Need to trim the neck of cartridge mos of the time as chambering on mine is very exact.
I have noticed a distinct difference in groups from cold barrel to those with hot barrel. Did you experience that at all. I shoot 5 rounds and then start real shooting.
I (most days) have groups of 5 in about 1 1/2″ at 100 yards. I want to go to 200. I’ve been told to get another rifle. Your opinion?

Reply
Mel Ewing

Is yours the varmint version? The one we tested was quiet accurate, well under 1 MOA.

Reply

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