Heirloom Quality Micro Varmint Rifle: the CZ 527—New Gun Review

CZ 527 01By David Higginbotham

CZ – USA
http://www.cz-usa.com/products/view/cz-527-varmint/

Leupold & Stevens
http://www.leupold.com/hunting-shooting/scopes/vx-2-riflescopes/vx-2-3-9x40mm/

Hornady Manufacturing
http://www.hornady.com/store/17-Hornet

The CZ 527 Varmint is a tack-driving .17 Hornet that’s perfect rifle for eliminating some of the more pernicious biodiversity here on the farm.  One of the neat features of this gun it has a novel CZ single set trigger. You can shoot it as a fairly normal hunting trigger, or you can click it forward to break at about one pound. With a flat shooting cartridge like the 17 Hornet and ridiculous “call your shots” CZ accuracy, this can make a huge difference in stretching the capabilities of the gun out to its ballistic max, and to the top of your own game in precise shooting. Our test gun came in a Turkish Walnut stock and is absolutely gorgeous. The 527 is an heirloom quality gun at an an expected fairly pricey $725 MSRP, and this varmint version is available in .204 Ruger, .223 Remington, this .17 Hornet, and they plan to also make some .17 Remingtons this year. I’ve been having some issues with skunks lately.  But now that I have a rifle that can send a 20 grain bullet downrange at more than 3,500 fps, it is a bad time to be a skunk in this neck of the woods.

The walnut is clean and handsome and protected by the rubber pad at the end of the stock. This isn’t a bad looking gun, but it isn’t so precious that you’d shy away from using it, either.

The walnut is clean and handsome and protected by the rubber pad at the end of the stock. This isn’t a bad looking gun, but it isn’t so precious that you’d shy away from using it, either.

The 527 Line

Before we get into the details on the 527 Varmint model, let’s talk a bit more about the 527 family. The rifles are available in a multitude of configurations. Mannlicher stocks. American stocks. Mauser stocks and Carbines. With or without iron sights. And they come in chamberings as light as the .17 Hornet, up to .223, even 7.62×39. All are full-sized rifles based on scaled-down and “micro” Mauser actions.

The Varmint model has a traditional walnut stock. The walnut itself comes from Turkey and is handsomely finished in a hard clear coat. If walnut isn’t to your liking, it is available with a laminate stock, too. The forend is checkered, as is a portion of the grip. The checkering is functional as a grip, and well cut, though not as decorative as it is functional. The heavy barrel is 24 inches long. It is chambered in .17 Hornet (the Hornady version, not the older wildcat style). The rifle is fed from a robust five-round detachable magazine. The rifle weighs in at 7.5 pounds. Considering the weight of the barrel, that isn’t much. The rifle is light enough to carry but heavy enough to handle the punch of the zippy little .17 Hornet.

The 529 is a full-sized gun with a heavy barrel, but it doesn’t look like one. It still manages to look graceful.

The 529 is a full-sized gun with a heavy barrel, but it doesn’t look like one. It still manages to look graceful.

The overall length of the rifle is 41.5 inches. It has 13.5 length of pull. The rubber pad on the butt seems to be designed more for the protection of the wood than any reduction of felt recoil, as the gun doesn’t push much at all. All told, the 527 is a full-sized rifle, though one that is scaled down to an appropriate build for the lighter rounds it is designed to shoot. In addition to its utilitarian functionality, the 527 would be a great way to introduce a slightly larger rifle to a small-framed shooter or a child. Yet it still fits my six-foot frame. While I’d like two more inches on the stock, I’m not hunched over the scope like I am on some smaller small-caliber rifles.

The 527’s Mauser action is an ingenious design made even more versatile by scaling back the traditional Mauser action to allow for the short throw needed for the .17 Hornet case. The external extractor is huge, especially when compared to the size of the Hornet’s case, and it rocks the brass from the chamber. On the way back in, rounds are picked up by the bolt and held in place by the extractor as they’re slammed home. Out of the box, the action had some sticky spots. It was difficult to work from the shoulder. Yet it smoothed out appreciably in the first 100 rounds. After a modest break-in, the bolt snicked in and out more gracefully. The rear bolt shroud cocks the bolt as it travels rearward, and it is easy to see if the rifle is cocked by visually checking the back of the bolt. The safety, a simple rocker on the right side of the bolt, will only engage if the rifle is cocked. Be sure to seat the magazine fully. If you don’t, the bolt will skim over the rounds and you’ll pull the trigger on an empty chamber (which I did more than once).

The magazine needs to be seated firmly for rounds to feed consistently.

The magazine needs to be seated firmly for rounds to feed consistently.

The Triggers

The traditional trigger on the 527 would be considered an asset on many guns. It is simple. Operate the bolt and pull the trigger. It is not quite as polished as I’d like. The trigger breaks at 3.5 pounds, exactly, which is respectable for a hunting gun. Yet there is a minute take-up just before the break. If there were any accuracy issues with the gun, I would be inclined to blame them on this tiny movement. It can be deceptive. There were several instances when I pulled the trigger and knew, before looking at the target, that I’d pulled the shot. If you don’t hit the trigger with enough crisp emphasis you will feel the slightest give. Yet even when I pulled shots, the impact point deviated less than an inch. And, as is the case with every gun, I developed a pull that worked. All I had to do was pull with a bit more determination. Once I’d habituated, placing shots was easy.

But you may never use the trigger in that mode. There’s a different feature that makes this rifle shine. If you run the bolt and then push the trigger forward, it becomes a set trigger that breaks below one pound. The increments on my scale aren’t small enough to give an exact reading, but it is less than a pound. In this mode, there’s no take-up. No slack. Groups tighten up just as you’d expect.

The set trigger on the 527 makes this all too easy.

The set trigger on the 527 makes this all too easy.

Even though the set trigger breaks under a pound, it is engineered well enough to take a solid jolt and remain in place. I set the trigger and then bounced the (unloaded) rifle on its butt and hit the stock from all directions with sharp blows from the heel of my hand, and the trigger held. Brush the trigger and it falls. It makes what is already an accurate gun even more deadly.

And it is incredibly easy to shoot. The .17 Hornet is a center-fire cartridge. It is hot. Yet it isn’t big enough to create much recoil or muzzle rise. The gun makes a sharp crack, but stays very level. If the rounds weren’t so small, you would be able to see the point of impact through the scope.

The 527 Varmint is well balanced, too. The heavy barrel stretches the weight out over the rifle’s length, so it isn’t a challenge to hold up. I found that I could stabilize the 527 well enough for standing shots by pulling my left hand down toward the trigger and bracing my elbow on my chest. The mass of the barrel also prevents the rifle from overheating. Even after several magazines, the barrel remained cool enough to hold with an ungloved hand.

Hornady’s .17 Hornet is a great option. 20 grains at an advertised 3,650 fps.

Hornady’s .17 Hornet is a great option. 20 grains at an advertised 3,650 fps.

The polymer tips on the centerfire rounds help with feeding and expansion.

The polymer tips on the centerfire rounds help with feeding and expansion.

Shooting the 527

Hornady’s V-Max .17 Hornet is a wicked little round. By little, I mean a paltry 20 grains. The wicked part is the round’s velocity. Hornady advertises 3,650 fps at the muzzle. Our chronograph results averaged 3,632. The round shoots fast and has a flat trajectory that makes it great for small varmints. The trajectory holds reasonably close to that of a 55 grain .223, at least to the 200-yard range. Because the bullet is lighter, it loses a tremendous amount of its punch at longer distances, and the round is considered ineffective past 300 yards, as it has lost most of its transferable energy. Under 200 yards, or so, is the sweet spot, in my opinion. With a traditional 3-9×40 (like this Leupold VX-2), there’s no real challenge.

The 3-9x40 scope looks larger on the scaled-down receiver than it actually is.

The 3-9×40 scope looks larger on the scaled-down receiver than it actually is.

We sighted in the gun easily enough. The last time I’d used this scope, I’d had it on a .308. When the CZ wasn’t punching paper, at all, my spotter suggested we go old-school. I pulled the bolt and aimed the barrel at the bull’s-eye. With the rifle in the rest, it was easy enough to align line-of-sight with the crosshairs. The rifle punched the target, and three rounds later we were zeroed.

After that, groups were predictably consistent. With the standard trigger, groups came in at or under an inch. Standing, those groups widened out to 2.5 inches. With the set trigger, the group size shrank: .37 of an inch. I think it would be possible to empty an entire magazine into one hole. We didn’t get that tight. Yet. But we only had one type of ammo, and a limited amount of it. More on that below.

After determining that the groups were going to hold steady under an inch, I pushed the gun a bit more. This isn’t a target gun. As such, there comes a time when measuring group sizes becomes superfluous. Can it hit what you are aiming at? That is far more important to varmint hunters. If you have a prairie dog sitting out at 200 yards, you won’t get a chance to measure groups. If you hit it with that first shot, you may not be able to measure much of anything.

This sequence was just fun. Five shots, shooting for the corners. I thought I’d miss with at least one, as I was banging out the shots one after the other, but the 527 kept up with me.

This sequence was just fun. Five shots, shooting for the corners. I thought I’d miss with at least one, as I was banging out the shots one after the other, but the 527 kept up with me.

And yes, the 527 is very capable. Check out the five-shot target with five identifiable holes on the one diamond. I’d grouped enough shots to know where the rounds were going to hit, and so I played with it. The first shot hit the top corner, which was an accident. The second shot hit the center, exactly where I was aiming. So I pulled the crosshairs over to the right and clipped the second corner. Then the bottom. Then the one on the left. Needless to say, I was pleased.

This is the sort of accuracy that makes this gun an ideal hunting tool. While the .17 may not be allowed for whitetail hunting in many places, I think it should be. The 527 would be ideal for hunting from a stand. I would use it on a wide variety of varmints. With this type of accuracy, the .17 could be used on anything from hogs to woodrats. That’s part of what makes the .17 Hornet such a kick-ass round. It flies fast. I remember stories from a few years back of people talking up the performance. The rumor was that the .17 Hornet blew up small game. The round creates such an expansive wound channel that small critters often disintegrated, or liquefied inside their skins (which made it attractive for hunters who collected furs).

.75-inch groups from 100 yards with a 3.5 pound pull? Not bad for me.

.75-inch groups from 100 yards with a 3.5 pound pull? Not bad for me.

I haven’t had a chance to test the killing potential of the 527. As this is a varmint rifle, and I have plenty of varmints I’d like dispatched, I should be out hunting and not inside typing. There’s a catch. .17 Hornet is harder to find than .22 LR. When the rifle arrived at my FFL, I began searching in earnest. There was none to be had. Impassioned pleas to Hornady and CZ secured enough to do some decent accuracy and reliability testing, but not enough to really play with. Yet. We’ll be getting some more as it comes off line and will continue the evaluation process. Would I let the scarcity keep me from buying a rifle chambered in .17 Hornet? No. This round will continue to grow in popularity. As more of us begin asking and begging for it, other ammo companies will answer.

CZ-USA suggests a retail price for the 527 Varmint at $725. It would likely sell for less. It is so versatile. Everything on the rifle seems well thought-out. The controls are all very easy to use. The accuracy, especially considering the price, is remarkable. I can’t see how you can miss.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Ron Callihan December 29, 2014, 1:58 pm

    Bought a 527 American in .233 a few years ago. Very accurate, fun to shoot and easy carry. Trigger could be improved a bit but still decent. Still would love to find a 1903 Springfield in 22 Hornet but since now retired, out of my price range. AWW!

  • JDHasty November 13, 2014, 10:42 pm

    I have a 527 22 Hornet and a 527 .204 Ruger American and like them both quite well. Both shoot close to half minute groups and the Hornet gives me 3250 fps with 40 gr v-max and Lil Gun. I was with a gentleman who is in his seventies and he kept saying: I have never seen a hornet that would tear a chuck on two and I have been shooting them all my life. I want a 17 Hornet with the varmint barrel this year but I think I will have to put it off until 2016 because I just bought a Ruger Single Seven 327 Federal Mag revolver and have been trying to limit myself to one new gun/year lately.

  • Hoot Woods April 22, 2014, 8:56 am

    I traded for a CZ in 223 several years ago . While I realize it isn’t really for deer this rifle has taken quite a few over the years and also a bunch of pest around my place. I would rather have it than any other small rifle . My wife loves it and so do our gran kids . Ammo is no problem as can be with others . I’d buy another C Z if I need another . Maybe the 7.62X39 would be a good choice because ammo is easy to find .

  • mort sahl April 22, 2014, 5:35 am

    Don’t shoot the skunks.

  • Ben April 22, 2014, 2:15 am

    Won’t be able to find ammo for it, even online. Got a Ruger 77/17 Hornet, never fired because impossible to find ammo exept at four times MSRP. Sad day in the Land of the Free when you can’t find ammo. If anyone knows where/how to get it in the Peoples Republc of California, I’m all ears. (Yea, yea, I know: just move to a state that’s still nominally free, but I want to have good seats when the balloon goes up.)

  • Mike McMahon April 21, 2014, 2:34 pm

    I had a CZ-527 Varmint in .223 a number of years ago. It was the first rifle that I handloaded for and could consistently turn out .25 inch 5 round groups with the rifle. I only had a few criticisms of the 527:
    1. proprietary magazine
    2. proprietary scope mounts
    3. weight – fine for bench, not so great for field

    I may consider a 527 again in the future if they’d at least move to a standard picatinny compatible scope mount.

  • Bill Mobley April 21, 2014, 12:49 pm

    You mentioned that CZ plans to make some 527 Varmint model .17 Remingtons this year. I bought a CZ 527 Varmint model .17 Remington over a year ago so they must have been making them for a while. Like your conclusions regarding the .17 Hornet, the .17 Remington is a very accurate rifle. CZ makes a good quality gun from what I’ve experienced. I am very pleased with mine.

    • Louis April 22, 2014, 1:15 pm

      Their web site states they’ll resume production in .17 Remington in 2015.

      • Bill April 24, 2014, 12:51 pm

        Louis, thanks for the clarification. I wasn’t aware that CZ had temporarily supsended production of the .17 Remington.

  • Bob Johnson April 21, 2014, 12:41 pm

    Got the CZ 527 in 7.62×39. it is a tack driver and deerslayer. It is a light enough gun to stalk with all day, a carbine I can drag through brush and a powerful enough cartridge to bust through brush whenit needs to. Seriously, I shot less than 1inch groups at 100 yards with the iron sights. I use the 154 grain soft points for hunting and it drops deer right there…

  • Bert April 21, 2014, 11:58 am

    I’ve got a couple of CZ 527’s- the euro stocked .22 Hornet (as a light walking varminter) and the carbine version in 7.62×39 (for a deer rifle that is REALLY easy to carry all day).

    I only wish they would bring this rifle out in .221 Remington Fireball as well- The CZ 527 came in this for a long time, it’s the BEST combination of inherent accuracy, easy projectile availability and reloading economy in a light varmint round, coupled with lightest possible report/muzzle blast for a 300 yard capable varmint rifle.

    .223 is all very well, but a lot more neighbor annoying noise for doing the same job.

    As the author found, .17 Hornet factory ammo for this isn’t widely available, and reloading components are pretty minimal too.

    .204 Ruger is right up there with .223 for noise and powder charge requirements, barely better than .17’s for projectile choice. PLUS the powder Hornady uses for the highest velocity factory rounds isn’t made available to handloaders last I checked.

    Please, please, pretty please! CZ, couldn’t you throw a couple of .221 Fireball rifles over to our side of the Atlantic???

    • Larry E. Litz May 14, 2015, 11:23 pm

      While CZ is at it please put the527 FS 22 Hornet back in the line up,ASAP . Thanks, Larry

  • George April 21, 2014, 10:27 am

    I have always thought that CZ was in the same fine group as the rest of the companies but the bull barrel makes it a heavy rifle for carry. But a nice rifle that should do just fine on raccoons or something small and the bullet does make sense as it will be light enough to not go thru walls if it deflects.

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