A long time ago in a land far, far away, a group of soviet men came together to drink vodka and develop an intermediate cartridge to feed a new generation of weaponry for Mother Russia. The cartridge that came to be was designated the M43, or 7.62x39mm. It is most known as the cartridge used by SKS rifles, AK-47s, VZ-58s, and RPD light machine guns. Most importantly, some of the most mass-produced firearms in history are chambered in this cartridge, making it a cartridge that is both commonly found and cheap to buy. Enter the CZ Model 527 Carbine.
At first glance, the 527 Carbine is a handsome looking gun. It sports a semi-matte blued finish, a dark-stained walnut stock, fixed iron sights, a detachable 5-round box magazine, a set trigger, and the most adorable micro-mauser action. Other versions of the CZ 527 have chamberings like 222 Remington, 221 Remington, and .22 Hornet, but, the Carbine is the only version of the CZ 527 that is chambered in 7.62x39mm.
I was initially taken aback by the chambering. This gun looks and feels like refinement; like the old-school type of refinement. You know, like brass embellished leather furniture, expensive lounge wear, sipping expensive cognac from the finest crystal snifter; the rich British safari hunter kind of refinement. However, when I think of 7.62×39, I imagine mullets, plaid shirts, camouflage shorts, cheap beer, bump firing AKs, and lots of derka derka (not necessarily the utmost of refinement). Considering that most 7.62x39mm you find now-days is cheap steel cased ammunition, and that most firearms that shoot it aren’t known for inherent accuracy, it’s easy to dismiss it as an unimpressive and wasteful cartridge. Albeit, there is word around the internet that there are places around the world where 7.62x39mm is actually used for hunting… Animals, not people.
Action: CZ Micro-Mauser
Caliber: 7.62x39mm – .311″ Bore, 1 in 9.5″ twist (CIP Specification Chamber)
Sight Options: Iron sights – Driftable rear sight, front sight with removable hood and sight post (not adjustable)
Optic Base Options: Proprietary 16mm mounts (Damn Europeans)
Trigger: Adjustable Single Stage (with set-trigger functionality)
Stock: Dark-Stained Turkish Walnut
Finish: Brushed (Blued)
Prior to shooting the gun, I was able to make the following observations by handling it:
1. The gun is light weight, well balanced, and feels great in the hands. The micro-mauser action is a very light action, and even with the hardwood stock, the gun weighs in at just a smidge under 6 lbs. The balance of the firearm allows the gun to glide into your shoulder and the comb on the stock allows for remarkably quick alignment with the iron sights. You’d have to shoulder it to fully understand.
2. The walnut stock is actually a pretty damn good looking piece of wood. I’ve never been to Turkey, but I have to admit that they sport some serious wood. In addition to feeling solid, the checkering lines are hard and straight, and appear to be actually cut into the wood (as opposed to pressed-in like some budget manufacturers do now days). The result adds aesthetic relief and improved functional grip to the stock. I dig it.
3. The action is tight, but smooth and easy to operate. The bolt does ride up fairly high (having a 90 degree throw), but is not awkward to manipulate while cycling.
4. The set trigger, when set, it exceptionally light (and everyone is after a light trigger, right?). When the firearm is cocked, you press forward on the trigger until it moves forward and clicks into place. At this point, the slightest tap of the trigger will set it off. It’s a little unnatural to use at first, but with enough practice, you might actually remember to set it before shooting.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are obvious notables about this firearm that are kind of dumb right from the get-go. First and foremost, the CZ 527 Carbine is not an expensive firearm, but it ain’t cheap either. I was able to pick up the rifle from a big name retailer for $699.99; not super expensive, but definitely more than other firearms I’ve purchased in this caliber (why do I keep judging this gun by the caliber???). Next, the magazine holds a measly five rounds… which makes it the smallest magazine I’ve ever used with this caliber (there, I did it again!). That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, right? I suppose it forces me to take my time and truly appreciate every round as I fire… of 7.62x39mm (Ok, I’m done). Also, there has got to be larger capacity magazines around… right?… Wrong. I’ve only been able to find five-round magazines for the 527, regardless of caliber. Fortunately, the magazines are all-metal and high quality, but unfortunately, they are not cheap. An additional magazine will set you back about $40 + shipping from CZ. Other retailers might sell it for less, so I’ll have to hunt around to find another one.
Finally, I only noticed after buying the rifle that the scope mounting situation is a royal pain in the čéška (‘cheshka’, the Czech word for patella or, apparently, a woman of Czech nationality… that’s not at all confusing). In accordance with brash European firearms design, the only way to mount a scope to our trochu puška (little rifle) is via the CZ proprietary rail that is milled into the receiver itself. What does that translate to? SUKA! No Weaver or Leupold style rings and bases for me. I live up in Alaska, so the only way for me to obtain a set of medium-height 1″ CZ proprietary rings is to order a set online… I guess it’s time for more internet again…
Now, while we wait for rings to arrive, let’s take this bad boy out and shoot in those wonderful iron sights! I decided to do the iron sight accuracy test with a few different ammunition options. I wanted to do some cheap steel stuff, some brass cased stuff, and then some handloaded specials. The cheap ammo would be comprised of the $6.49 boxes of 122gr and 124gr FMJ Tula. The brass cased stuff were Fiocchi 124 gr FMJ and Sellier & Bellot (my favorite ammo company, also made in the Czech Republic) 124 gr FMJ. The handloaded specials were 123gr .310″ SP Sierras over Accurate 2015 powder, 150 gr .311″ Sierras over Accurate 1680 powder, and some some subsonic 230gr .310″ Hard Cast Boolits over Accurate 1680 powder.
I did very little research on handloads for this rifle, so I just used my basic knowledge of handloading and my good ol’ Hornady load manual to throw together a couple of load recipes. Should work out fine, right? Key points to know here: The bore diameter is .311″ with a 1 in 9.5″ twist rate. I thought to myself (in the purest of cockney), “Well, the good ol’ tree-oh-ate wiff a one-‘n-ten twist loikes dem 165gr-178gr bullets somefing good. I bet this gun will shoot them quite right!” It made me think that this could potentially be a great white tail or other small venison gun with that 150gr SP… What I actually discovered is that I know nothing about dynamic ballistics… more on that later.
Now that I’m at the range and behind the gun, I’m noticing an interesting problem. The iron sights that lined up so beautifully in the gun store tend to disappear against dark backdrops… like the kind of dark backdrops that the center of common targets make… Well, that’s nothing a little white nail polish can’t fix, I suppose. I started by shooting a bit of the cheap steel cased ammo to get an idea of where the sights are dialed in at. Since I’m a terrible shot with open sights (a skill of mine that has severely decomposed over the past two years), I opted to start at the old standard of 25 yards. This turned out to be an excellent choice! The iron sights are dead on right at 25 yards, and judging by the caliber, they will also be pretty close to dead on somewhere around 150 yards.
Since I’m so severely iron sight handicapped, I had trouble keeping the grouping below two inches at 25 yards. I wasn’t particularly concerned about the rifle’s inherent accuracy, but rather concerned about my poor, decrepit shooting. I took more time to focus and adjust my shooting fundamentals, honing in on accuracy. Once I got myself back in the game, I was able to post about a 1.5” group with the open sights using the cheap steel-cased 122gr Tula. As I moved up in bullet weight, I noticed my groupings getting wider. The 124gr Tula scored a group of about 2”, the 150gr hand loads got marginally worse, posting a 3.5” group (still at 25 yards, mind you), and then finally the 230gr hard cast handloads posted the worst grouping at ???? (two rounds made it on paper and the other three were… somewhere downrange). I can assume that the CZ did not fancy the heavy subsonics much. After the hard cast debacle, I decided to pack up and save the rest of the ammo for when the scope rings come in.
Fast forward three weeks. The Warne model 1B1M 1” medium-height rings finally get in and I affix my spare Redfield Revolution 3-9x40mm to the CZ. A note about the rings: You have to grind down the little recoil lug/screw-thing on the rear ring to get it to fit correctly on the rifle, but that is a simple task done quick via rotary tool. I wish I had taken a picture of it before and after, but I didn’t, nor will I be taking the scope off to show you any time soon (because the Warne ring design makes leveling the scope an exceptionally frustrating chore). Aside from that, I had read somewhere on the interweb that the 527 suffered from a poor bolt handle design that gave too little room for scope clearance, and thus required higher sitting scope rings to clear properly. Fortunately, the NEW CZ 527’s have had the bolt handle redesigned to allow the usage of medium rings. The Redfield Revolution just barely clears the bolt handle (woo hoo! Picture is at the bottom of the post), so all is good on my end. I bore sighted out to 25 yards, stepped back to look at the finished product, told myself, “That’s a good looking gun,” and then cased it up for the next day’s range trip.
I’ll divert from the narrative at this point to bring up some concerns I had before I took the gun to the range with a scope. I’ve seen some reviews around the internet about this gun posting marginal groups at best, usually meandering around the 1.5” to 2” range at 100 yards with various qualities of ammunition. This has weighed heavily on me since the day I purchased the rifle. But, since the internet is full of all kinds of opinions and ‘facts’, I felt like I needed to determine the quality of this rifle for myself. For this reason, I chose to do accuracy tests with the cheapest of cheap steel cased ammunition, mediocre (and slightly more expensive) ammunition, and handloads to represent the utmost refinement of what ammunition can be (HAH!).
(Back to the narrative) I wanted to get the scope dialed in on a separate day from the test shooting, so I took a brief trip to the range just to sight in the scope. It was a mild 36° F, overcast skies, and not even the slightest breeze in the air; a calming atmosphere to for the task at hand. After 4 rounds of zeroing at 25 yards (still using the cheap 122gr Tula), I nail the bullseye hard on the 5th round. At this point, I waited for the next cease fire and moved the target out to 100 yards. Once settled in again, I re-zeroed the rifle at 100 yards in just 3 more shots. Feeling aptly smug about my magnificent and obviously unrivaled sighting-in skills, I started posting 5 shot groups.
Working my way around the other three bullseyes of the sight-in target sheet, the gun posted excellent groups of about an inch or so, but always with one flyer that screws everything up (usually on the second or third shot, which I will chock up to user error – still using the cheap steel cased ammo).
On the third and final group, really focusing on fundamentals and breathing, this happened:
No, I am not shitting you, that is a 0.5” four shot group (with the fifth being an outlying bastard that moved it out to a 1” group), from a 20 round box of 122gr FMJ Russian made Tula ammunition that I got for $6.49. That’s right. The cheap steel cased plinking ammo just scored an exceptional group. Actually, if you measure from center to center, the four shot group comes in at somewhere around 0.2″ group and about a 0.75″ group with the flier included. This means either one of two things: I am either an exceptional marksman (HAH!) or I’ve got myself a damn good rifle. I’m fairly certain it’s the latter. This gave me high hopes for the upcoming accuracy test.
Come November 19th, 2015 at 4:00 PM Anchorage time, I decide it’s the last free moment that I’ll be able to get out to the range to do a final accuracy test. Remember earlier when I said I wanted to test the rifle on a different day than when I sighted the rifle in? Stupid move on my end. The weather is now crap, the wind is now crap, it’s getting dark, and it’s a blistering 5° F out with a wind chill of -15° F. Why am I here right now? To test out… the… CZ… 527… one… last… time…
I would bore you with the extreme details, but I’ll cut it short: Bad day at the range. I didn’t net any kind of recognizable group due to the wind and my unstoppable shivering. To add salt to the wound, the Fiocchi brand ammunition did not like the cold temperatures one bit, and only TWO of the five test rounds actually lit off. I was able to make one useful observation about ammunition choice. The cheap Tula brand ammo seems to utilize powder that is consistent regardless of temperature. All of the Tula rounds stayed dead on with my scope, but the other brands shot significantly lower (like 7 to 10 inches lower). I can only assume that the powders used by Sellier & Bellot and Fiocchi do not cope well with cold weather. Let that be a lesson for all of you.
Four months later, with the weather only slightly better, I was able to get some groups printed on paper. I dirtied up the barrel a bit to get to where the 122gr Tula was grouping tight again, keeping the Fiocchi and S&B in my inner coat pocket to keep them warm so they can actually fire. Then, I attempted a 5 shot group with the Fiocchi: First shot was about 2.5″ low and just to the right, second just 0.25″ below the first shot, third didn’t fire, fourth was 4.0″ low, and the fifth shot is sitting at the very bottom of the Shoot-N-See target (8″ low and 1″ to the right”). Garbage. I think the cold has something to do with the inconsistent groups.
Next, I did the S&B: First three shots rang in at roughly 2″ low, and made about a 1″ group. By the 4th shot, the barrel started to make a pretty significant mirage in the scope, and my 4th and 5th shots went WAAY wacky. I will chock the two fliers here with operator error and say that the 124gr S&B has promise and potential. In warmer weather, this would be worth revisiting.
Trying to be sneaky, I pulled the bullets from 20 Tula Cases and hand loaded the cases with one Speer 123gr spire points. They shot better than the brass cased reloads I did, but they were still sitting at no less than 2.5″ groups. Strangely, the bullets sitting closer to the lands and grooves shot worse than the bullets crimped at the cannelure groove. I might play with some powder and bullet choices using the steel cases and see if I can net better groups.
Range Time Information:
Firearm: CZ 527 Carbine
Magazines: 5 Round (x1)
Ammunition: Tula 122gr FMJ (best grouping)
Fiocchi 124gr FMJ (worst)
Sellier & Bellot 124gr FMJ (second best)
Temperature: 15° Fahrenheit
Elevation: Somewhere between 50 and 100 feet above sea level
Total Rounds Spent in Session: 60
Final Disposition: Somewhere between Indifference and Lust, but leaning toward Lust.
- Likes the cheapest ammunition the best
- Looks mighty purty
- Fun to shoot!
- SCOPE RINGS
- Uncommon Magazines
- Doesn’t like my hand loads :(
I do have one interesting observation about the CZs set trigger. I’ve used it many times, but I’ve concluded that the extra motion incorporated into the set trigger’s functionality doesn’t necessarily promote accurate shooting. The way the set trigger works, while the rifle is cocked and ready to fire, you push forward on the trigger itself, and the trigger itself will travel forward and click into the set position.
Every time I use the set trigger, I always feel like my shooting posture is less solid and there is a great deal of uncertainty to the trigger’s release and final resting position. When it finally releases, I feel the smallest shudder in my posture, and my shots are always just slightly off their mark. With that said, all of the really tight groups I’ve shot with this rifle were done without using the set trigger function. It’s an excellent idea in theory, but the execution in the CZ leaves something to be desired. There is also potential that I just don’t know how to properly fire a gun using a set trigger, but I’ll blindly ignore that possibility.
As for ammunition choice, stay away from American brand ammunition based off of SAAMI specifications; the best results will come from European brand ammunition. According to CZ’s website, the 527 Carbine uses a chamber based off of the CIP cartridge standard for 7.62×39, which uses a little larger dimensions than the American SAAMI specifications. In short, the 527 was designed to shoot the cheap steel stuff with excellent results. I’ve yet to find anything that shoots as well as the cheap stuff does, handloads included. However, I imagine that if you choose to fire form and neck size only your hand loads, you might actually formulate a quality load for this rifle – just be sure to use .310″-.311″ diameter bullets.
Overall, I can’t say that I have a lust for this gun, but I’m not necessarily indifferent about it either. Aside from the stupid scope mounting situation and the fact that it emasculates me when I try to hand load for it, I actually like this rifle. It’s the very first CZ I’ve ever owned and I am not disappointed. Not only is it an attractive looking gun, it is light weight, well balanced, and accurate… if you feed it the right ammunition. Hand loading ammunition for it will be quite a journey to find the optimal load for accuracy and hunting capability. Albeit, it’s a gun that looks, feels, and shoots like refinement, even if you use ammunition that isn’t. I have no qualms about it… I just need to get the barrel threaded now…