Mauser CZ 527 Varmint rifle.
Few designs can be described as classics, but the Mauser bolt action is one.
The CZ 527 is a variant from that old genre – the term ‘mini-Mauser’ would best describe the action used on this rifle. Designed by CZ in the Czech Republic to cater for smaller bullets such as .222 and .223, its diminutive size perfectly balances cartridge choice and is not burdened by excessive weight.
The model on test was a new variant, called the Varmint. It sports a longer, heavier barrel and was chambered in the new .204 Ruger high steeping fox cartridge.
A bolt apart
Truly a shortened profile, the CZ 527 action is only 6in long and saves at least 1lb over a standard short-action design. This is not a quick design fix – the whole action is miniaturised. The bolt has been scaled down, but the twin opposed locking lugs are suitably large to provide precise and safe bolt closure.
Common to most Mauser designs is the external extractor which is non-rotating and acts in conjunction with the bolt stop positioned ejector spur to eject used cases positively. The bolt cocks on opening and the rear bolt shroud is used as the cocking piece. The bolt handle is straight and rather short, but the comfortable small ball operating end ensures a smooth and trouble-free cycling action. Initial tightness from a new rifle is soon overcome and after the range and field tests the bolt had run in nicely.
Scope mounting is easy, as there are integral dovetails on the receiver top, a system I always prefer. I used some good Millet mounts with a suitable 10×42 varmint scope from Deben.
The detachable magazine is a preferred option, especially on a fox or varmint rifle, where fast successive shots may be encountered. Because of the small action design, the magazine protrudes below the action line. Some say this is ugly, but I find it a distinctive feature that allows a good hold of the magazine when changing. It is a single column feed operation in line with the receiver, which is very reliable, unless debris causes a problem. Made of blued steel, its extraction is accomplished by depressing a lever. This is a two-handed operation as that catch has the jaws of an irate ferret, but it is a knack that is easily learned.
Set for safety
The trigger is adjustable and has the advantage of having a set trigger fitted as standard. The initial factory setting on the trigger pull is heavy at around 5.5lb, but this can be lightened. Though cleanly breaking, there is a reasonable amount of trigger creep to the first travel, which is only really noticed on the target range and not in the field, where concentration is focused on the quarry. If you desire a light, less than 1lb trigger weight, then the trigger blade can be “set” by pushing it forward until an audible click is heard. Be very careful though, as set triggers can catch you out if your fingers are cold.
The safety catch is a rolling latch on the right side of the receiver. Pushing it forward or back exposes a red dot and can be operated by the thumb without breaking the firing grip hold.
Designated a ‘Varmint’ model, the CZ had a more slender profile barrel than one would think from a traditional varmint rifle, though the length was deceptively long. The barrel is nearly 2in longer than many similar rifles, but the profile is slimmer at just under 1in at the receiver ring, tapering to 0.7in at the muzzle. At more than 25in long, one would hope that enhanced ballistic performance, especially from the .204 calibre on test. The barrel is fully free-floating along its entire length, so shifting zeroes due to warpage should be negated. As with the action the finish is a classic blued affair which is smart and on most CZ rifles tends to be hard wearing.
The stock is walnut and CZ always seems to use some elegant and good-quality wood. This 527 model was no exception, with good colour and a tight pattern with a straight comb and high heel. A slim black rubber recoil pad is all that is needed and the slender gait is transferred up the stock devoid of a cheekpiece, to a nicely rounded fore-end. Fine hand-chequering panels adorn both the pistol grip and fore-end panels, a perfect complement to this highly pointable rifle. Some longer range varminters would prefer a wider fore-end profile, but the stock as it was worked fine shooting with either a Harris bipod or off shooting sticks.
What interested me was the Varmint profile barrel and the new .204 Ruger calibre. Nestling nicely between the .17 (.172) and .22 (.224) calibre centrefire rounds, the .204, or 20 calibre, has the benefit of a slimmer projectile diameter and an intermediate weight that translates into a more efficient downrange ballistic than either of the former two candidates. Ammunition was sourced from Remington via Edgar Brothers and from Hornady (Tim Hannam), which are the only manufacturers at present, though Winchester is set to come online soon.
Factory ammunition dictates that only 32-grain and 40-grain projectiles are available, which is fine, as the CZ 527 barrel twist is 1:12, allowing near-perfect bullet stability for such bullet weight heads.
The 32-grain is quoted as producing 4,225fps and 1,268ft/lb energy, while the 40-grain bullets produce 3,900fps or 1,351ft/lb energy. On the face of it, that’s fast ammunition, just right for a night of fox control. However, as most things, the truth lies in the test and though the CZ proved to be an accurate rifle with all the ammunition tested, the velocity figures, despite its long barrel, were below par. This is because test barrels and factory quotes usually do not relate to the individual rifles and their idiosyncrasies. However, I achieved best accuracy from the Remington 32-grainers, with 0.5in groups at 100 yards with a velocity of 3,987fps and 1,129ft/lb energy. The 40-grains from Hornady came in a close second with 0.75in groups, and velocities and energy figures of 3,735fps and 991ft/lb respectively. Regardless of velocity, even at these figures a 32-grain bullet when zeroed at 100 yards will still be within a chest cavity of a fox at 275 yards – in practical circumstances, that is all that matters.
The CZ 527 may be an old design with slightly quirky looks and features, but they have always shot well when I have had the pleasure to shoot them. In fact, rather like a fine wine, the more a CZ is used it mellows and settles down to a smooth, ultra-reliable firearm that knows how to shoot and take the knocks any shooting trip might throw at it. For £692, the CZ 527 will always represent value for money and now coupled with the new ultra-fast 20 calibres and new synthetic stocked versions, that old design might just be coming of age. The only shame is that the barrel does not come threaded for a sound moderator, which seems mandatory these days.
CZ 527 Varmint
Model: CZ 527 Varmint
Maker: CZ, Czech Republic
Importer: Edgar Brothers 01625 613177
Calibre: .204 on test, .222, .223
Action: Mauser bolt action
Sights: Receiver grooved for scope
Magazine: Detachable, five rounds
Barrel: 25.75in Varmint profile
Trigger: Standard and set trigger
Safety: Side operated
Lightweight but accurate
Good value for money
Magazine awkward to remove