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.
Comfortable palm swell is visible in this photo
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.