An In-depth Look at the CZ 527 Varmint Rifle for Predator Hunting

Predator hunters looking for a classic rifle boasting the look and feel that only wood and steel can provide should look no further than the CZ 527 Varmint.
An In-depth Look at the CZ 527 Varmint Rifle for Predator Hunting

Like many predator hunters, I genuinely appreciate all of the modern advances made in firearms production that have culminated in gunmakers able to consistently turn out amazingly accurate rifles with assembly line volume. Functional features such as synthetic stocks and zero-headspace assembly really trip my trigger on purely “technical” rifles where the desired outcome is nothing more than a surgical shot.

But if there is anything lacking from such guns, it’s that they have no “soul” like you find on guns crafted from once-living wood — guns that are pleasing to hold and retain the figured grain of growth rings and mineral streaks that patiently recorded the passage of time.

Surprisingly, finding such well-stocked basic guns these days is difficult, but the Czech firm of CZ continues offering them for hunters who still appreciate rifles that have the warm glow and heirloom quality of wood and all-steel construction. “It’s still built with old school craftsmanship,” explains Zach Hein, Marketing Communications Manager for CZ. “You’re going to pass it down to the next generation,” he says.

One such wood-and-steel gun I recently received for review is CZ’s Model 527 Varmint. With its Turkish walnut stock and all blued steel parts, it’s a rifle that has all of the qualities of a traditional bolt-action sporting rifle plus a little extra nostalgic flair given its Mauser pedigree. Its proportions fall between a nimble lightweight and a sedentary benchrest rifle though Hein notes that its “beefy” barrel is “more for the guy who wants to call and bring [coyotes] in.”

It has a small action — almost as though CZ took a conventional ’98 Mauser action and shrank it proportionally, and then tweaked a few elements. Everything is so scaled down that chamberings on the 527 are limited to the exceptionally small cartridges such as the .223 Rem. I received. Larger “short-action” cartridges such as the .243 Win. are simply too big to fit.

Though CZ found room for improvements, the company was also wise enough to leave certain time-tested Mauser features alone such as the non-rotating claw extractor that provides controlled round feed. On the 527 the, extractor beveled so it snaps over case rims, if you choose to single-load. (Photo: Scott Mayer)

Even with its diminutive action, the 527 Varmint is a full-size rifle with a free-floating, 24-inch, medium-heavy, hammer-forged barrel. Hein says CZ barrels are “known for accuracy,” which is good because I noted that there is no action bedding, which is typically a standard accuracy-enhancing feature. “[T]hey’ve done it that way for so long, and we still see really good results out of the rifle,” explains Hein. “If we were to bed them, it would be a little extra cost and we’ve been fighting to keep the cost where it’s at.”

There are several improvements found on the 527 over the familiar ’98 action including a bolt-locking, two-position thumb safety instead of the three-position safety on the ’98’s bolt shroud. While I really like the ’98’s three-position safety when using iron sights, add a scope and it becomes unusable because the scope’s ocular bell blocks the safety from pivoting.

On the 527, the safety is a rocking lever mounted by the root of the bolt handle where the scope cannot interfere. It’s conveniently located, but by American standards, the lever operates backward — you pivot it forward for safe, back for fire. “It’s a function of how [Europeans] hunt,” says Hein as he explains that when stalking or on a stand, Europeans tend to keep their thumb on the safety and pivot it back as they mount the gun. “It makes total sense to them,” he says.

Another difference I’m arguably going to call an improvement is that the 527 uses a petite, single-column, five-round, detachable magazine instead of the ’98’s staggered internal magazine. I say “arguably” because there’s nothing wrong with the internal magazine to improve upon. It’s just that I believe the detachable box is a little safer in that with it you can remove the source of the ammunition from the gun first, and then unload the chamber instead of having to cycle all of the cartridges through the chamber.

If there are drawbacks, they’re that you can’t top-load the magazine with it in the gun and, being a single-column box, it protrudes a bit from the belly of the stock. Some shooters find the protruding magazine unsightly and an obstacle to carrying the rifle, but because the 527 action is so small and the magazine tight against the front of the trigger guard, the protruding box doesn’t look like a design afterthought, and carrying the rifle is no problem.

Perhaps the biggest improvement over the ’98 is CZ’s impressive Single Set Trigger system. The SST offers what CZ calls the “Perfect Pull” trigger adjustment, as it is user-adjustable for pull weight, creep and overtravel for both the hunting trigger and the set trigger. The set trigger is not the two-trigger arrangement like you typically see on many American muzzleloaders or various European hunting rifles. Instead, it’s what Hein calls the “French style” where all you have to do is press the single trigger blade forward to set the trigger. On the sample, the hunting trigger was a smart, single-stage five-pound pull, while the set trigger was an attention-getting 15-ounce touch.

Though CZ found room for improvements, the company was also wise enough to leave certain time-tested Mauser features alone such as the non-rotating claw extractor that provides controlled round feed. On the 527 the, extractor beveled so it snaps over case rims, if you choose to single-load.

There is also the familiar pivoting ejector that works proportionally to how hard you pull the bolt handle back. Pull the bolt back gently and the fired case lazily drops beside the gun where you can easily pick it up for reloading; give the bolt a real yank and the case goes flying.

The 527 is equipped with 16mm dovetail rails milled into the receiver for scope mounting and Hein notes that CZ offers a variety of rings. “Also Warne has several,” he adds. “Leupold makes some rings. Millett, Burris, S&K; there’s actually quite a number of them. We have a whole list on our website of scope rings that are available as well as their height, which helps a lot because scopes keep getting bigger and bigger. We also do Picatinny mounts for them.”

CZ provided medium-high 30mm rings in which I mounted a Leica Magnus 1.5-10x42mm scope. The Magnus is physically an overly large scope for what I would ordinarily put on this rifle and I only chose it because its power and clarity combined with its ultra-fine crosshairs would help give readers the best accuracy results I could. Others may want to go with a scope that’s more svelte, especially if they’re ham-handed as there is little clearance between the bolt handle and the scope body when operating the bolt. One could also consult CZ’s scope ring tables for higher rings.

For loads, I selected Black Hills’ 50-grain V-Max and Sig Sauer Elite 40-grain Varmint & Predator Tip, which I thought would perform better than heavier bullets given the 527’s middle-of-the-road 1:9-inch twist. Being European-made, 527 rifles comply with CIP specs, and CIP does not distinguish between .223 Rem. and 5.56mm meaning you can safely fire either in the 527.

Accuracy at 100 yards was nothing less than outstanding. The smallest three-shot group — a single, ragged 0.15-inch hole — came from the Sig ammo. That load averaged 0.33 inch while the Black Hills was not far behind, averaging 0.51 inch.

As expected, the set trigger was simply delightful and helped with accurate shooting. I’m not sure I’d use it routinely for hunting because it’s so light, but if I had a coyote hang up way out there or one that presented a small target, it’s good to know that you can instantly set the trigger down to such a light let-off.

I was a little concerned that with its full-length barrel the 527 would be overly long and have a gangly feel to it, but the proportions are such that the rifle handles well, though it carries just a tad muzzle heavy.

The only problem I encountered was that the bolt travel wasn’t smooth; it wanted to “chatter” in the raceways as I chambered a cartridge. That was not something I experienced at the workbench when I was setting up or later cleaning the 527, so I’m going to attribute it to the 100+ degree heat on my range, and a lube that didn’t stand up to the conditions.

One thing you’ll notice about CZ rifle owners — they don’t stop with owning only one. “Rich” from Oregon comments on CZ’s website that he owns five and that there’s “not much on the market to compare to them.” “Bob” posts a flat out warning that once you buy a CZ you have to have more than one. “This is your last chance to walk away,” he cautions, “I’m on number seven.” Similarly, “Thomas” reports that he, too, owns seven CZs and adds, “Most new guns I’ve owned from other manufacturers needed some ‘tweaking’ to get them to shoot their best. Trigger jobs, glass bedding, etc. Not my CZ’s!”

Overall, the CZ is a solid rifle. If you’re into the “old school” look but still want all of the accuracy and performance of modern rifle, then the 527 may be the start of your own CZ collection.

SPEC SHEET

MANUFACTURER: CZ USA
MODEL: 527 Varmint
CALIBERS: .17 Hornet, .204 Ruger, .223 Rem.
ACTION: Bolt-action rifle
MAGAZINE CAPACITY: Five
BARREL: 24 inches, medium-heavy, cold hammer-forged
TRIGGER: Single-stage adjustable CZ SST set trigger; five pounds pull, 15 ounces set trigger pull
SIGHTS: None. Integral 16mm dovetail
STOCK: Turkish walnut
OVERALL LENGTH: 44 1/4 inches
WEIGHT: 7.8 pounds
MSRP: $725
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.cz-usa.com

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