Jason Harris praises the CZ 527. 17 Hornet calibre, a flat-shooting, low-recoil centrefire, with no big bangs
With rifles there always seems to be a better idea just around the corner, but in this case it’s more a marriage of an old rifle to a new calibre.
The CZ 527 is the old bit, though not that old. CZ, or Ceska Zbrojovka, has evolved from what was the Brno Arms company. It’s a little confusing from a historical point of view. The company first started back in 1918 as a military arms factory. Known then and for many years as Brno, they made all sorts of things from cars to computers. Brno is actually the town in the Czech Republic where the factory is situated. In 1992 the company’s current incarnation was born, now known as CZ, though shotguns are still made under the Brno name. Most famous in the UK for their rimfire rifles, I would think that CZ rimfire rifles have been the best seller. There are probably very few gamekeepers in the UK who haven’t had a CZ rimfire at some point.
The rimfire market effectively meant .22 LR in the UK for many years, but about 15 years ago it was given a bit of a shake up with the introduction of the .17 HMR. Often with rifle calibres, one thing will inspire another and new calibres will evolve from old ones. The .17 HMR was born of the .22 WMR and was the best thing to come out of this calibre.
Buoyed by this success, Hornady, the American ammunition manufacturer, has recently come up with the .17 Hornet; itself derived from the long existing .22 Hornet.
The .22 Hornet used to be a reasonably popular centrefire rifle, effectively the smallest centrefire on the market for many years and essentially a fox rifle. Nowadays the .22 Hornet has been all but forgotten, in favour of the .222, .223 and .22-250. All give plenty of bang, but you can sometimes have too much of a good thing and depending on the lay of the land and what you want to do, smaller calibres can make a lot of sense.
The .17 in a centrefire isn’t a new idea; Remington started the ball rolling some years ago with their .17 Rem, which itself was a necked down .222 Rem. This was originally designed for shooting coyotes and similar in the USA, with minimum damage to the pelt so that the fur could be used. In the UK the rifle worked very well for foxes.
There have been many other variants of the .17 calibre. Although it shares the name and pays homage to it, the .17 Hornet is a very different thing from the .22 Hornet. The bolt face is the same size, but case dimensions are completely different. The taper of the case is different and the shoulder is 25 degrees necked down to the .17 bullet. Hornady produces two rounds; a 20g V-Max or polymer tipped bullet and a 15.5g NTX bullet.
This is less than half the weight of the typical .22 bullet weight of 45g. Not only this, but the .17 has a velocity of approximately 3,650 feet per second, and has a trajectory comparable to that of a .223 Rem, which, to put it into perspective, weigh 55g. As a bonus there is minimal recoil, allowing the shooter to see the bullet strike if conditions allow. It has about half the powder capacity of the .17 Rem so there is much less fouling and pressure by comparison. This means less barrel wear and also has the bonus of making the rifle relatively quiet, especially when a sound moderator is added.
The CZ 527 action is solid and well-made. Although a recent action from CZ, it owes its heritage to the Mauser 98 and is really a mini version to suit smaller calibres.
The bolt action has a side safe at the rear right of the bolt which is two positions. When engaged it locks the bolt closed. There is a large side mounted extractor very much in the Mauser style. The magazine has a five- round capacity and is made of steel for maximum strength. The rifle has 16mm dovetail rails for scope mounts.
The trigger is single set. Most commonly it will be used conventionally and is fully adjustable — though best left alone. It can be pushed forward to the set position.
The American version pictured here is a standard contour barrel without open sights and is screw cut for a moderator. There is also a varmint version available; in other words a heavy barrel.
Although quite new, the .17 Hornet is proving itself to be a very useful tool. It is probably at its best when taking on foxes, but is useful for hares and corvids too.
Not all marriages work, but I think this will; it’s certainly got off to a good start!
“The CZ 527 is a good solid rifle with proven heritage. Coupled with the .17 Hornet calibre, it would
be a good choice for serious fox shooting without a big bang.”
Both American and Varmint versions have a list price of around £999 including VAT, but I suspect you can find them on the shelves for a little less.
Marks out of 100
Build quality 23/25
Value for money 21/25
A good choice for serious fox shooting without a big bang