Charles Smith-Jones looks at a rifle of pedigree that is an absolute bargain, the CZ 511
The CZ 511 is essentially the same gun as the older Brno 581 which had previously been in production since the 1950s, the newer name simply reflecting the rebranding of Brno to CZ. Its design therefore comes with a strong pedigree, and even owners of older Brno models report that their rifles still shoot well and cycle flawlessly with the right ammunition, a testament to the outstanding build quality associated with the factory. It sold exceptionally well in the US where, after imports ceased in 2001, demand was so high that they resumed them in 2005.
Two versions of the CZ 511 were offered: the Standard, which came with a beech wood stock and a semi-matt finish, and the Lux, with its walnut stock and chequering on the grip areas. Admittedly not perhaps the prettiest of .22s as far as looks go, it appears a little hump backed and feels slightly heavy thanks to an all-steel construction. The Model 512, which eventually replaced it, relied more on polymers and alloys and as a result was much lighter. Brno and CZ barrels have always been good, and that of the CZ 511 is no exception, cold hammer forged and with a 1:16 twist. The stock came with factory-fitted swivels, which are easily replaced if desired.
New rifles left the factory with simple iron sights, the flip-up blades of which are calibrated for 50m and 100m. They are secured by indentation and adjustable for windage; elevation is corrected by sliding the foresight blade which is then secured in place by a screw. The receiver is dovetailed to 11mm or 3/8in to accept telescopic sight mounts. Fitting a moderator, and particularly a sleeved-back model, will probably require the entire front sight assembly to be removed.
Stripping down the CZ 511
Stripping the rifle for maintenance, an important task given that all semi-automatics need to be kept clean if they are to function reliably, is relatively simple. A connection screw, situated at the rear left of the receiver, is undone with a coin or similar implement allowing the barrel to be removed, after which the bolt guide, bolt and recoil spring can also be separated. Taking apart the trigger unit assembly, though, is definitely not a job for the amateur or casual user. The single-stage trigger is not user-adjustable but breaks cleanly enough. It may be a little heavy for some people’s taste at around 6lb though a gunsmith should be able to reduce it. The cross-bolt safety is located to the rear of the trigger-guard and shows a red warning marking when disengaged and a white one when on. The bolt can still be operated when the safety is applied though the trigger will remain locked.
The pressed steel magazine has a profile in line with the bottom of the trigger-guard when fitted, presumably a consideration that led to the slightly unusual standard capacity of eight rounds. The release catch is situated between magazine and trigger-guard and operated by pushing it forward. The magazine has a rather unusual wedge-shaped profile, which means that adapting other magazines to fit the rifle can be difficult. This, coupled with the fact that spare magazines can sometimes be difficult to source, is perhaps the main drawback of this gun.
Cycling problems with supersonic ammunition are rare but the blowback
action means that, as with many other
semi-automatic .22LR models, the CZ
511 can be happier with some brands of
subsonic ammunition than others. CCI
and Winchester are generally held to be among the better choices and, as ever, a regular cleaning regime will reduce any problems to a minimum.
Many consider this rifle to be mechanically superior to the highly popular Ruger 10/22 and it is a great, no-nonsense .22 semi-auto that still holds a timeless appeal. Both Brno and CZ may carry something of an unfair reputation for making guns destined for the budget market, but don’t let this put you off. This model (as are all Brno and CZ guns) is very highly regarded and much sought-after in the US where it is considered something of a collector’s piece, and it is strange that it has never attracted a similar regard over here. Reasonably priced they may be, it is the buyer’s gain that prices for used examples will probably be low, so if you are looking for a well-made, reliable and accurate semi-automatic rifle the CZ 511 is definitely one to consider.
- Country of origin Czech Republic
- In production 1996 to 2010
- Action Semi-automatic
- Stock options Beech or walnut
- Barrel length 20in to 22in
- Magazine Detachable
- Left-hand version No
- Weight (bare) 5lb 7oz
- Available in calibres .22LR
- Cost new N/A
- Cost used From around £150 depending on age and condition
“If you are looking for a well-made, reliable and accurate semi-automatic rifle the CZ 511 is definitely one to consider”