It’s a lot easier to say CZ instead of Ceska Zbrojovka so that’s what we Americans do when referring to this major arms manufacturer based in the Czech Republic. If you’re not familiar with CZ, they are the largest small arms manufacturing facility in the world, occupying some 16 acres in the Moravian city of Uhersky Brod. The factory was started in 1936 with production starting a year later, making machine guns for aircraft in preparation for war with Nazi Germany. The company grew by leaps and bounds over the coming decades, producing all types of military and sporting arms.
CZ 600 Series Rifles
But prior to 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, then Czechoslovakia was an Iron Curtain country and therefore its products could not be imported into to the United States. In other words, they had a late start here in America, but they sure have made up for it since! Today, CZ markets it military and sporting arms to more than 90 countries and employs more than 2,000 people.
How The Sausage is Made
Last year marked CZ’s 85th anniversary, and to celebrate the occasion a new line of sporting rifles was launched to replace the Mauser-type 500-Series that served the company so well for so long. Dubbed the 600 Series, the new line consists of five models: Alpha, Ergo, Trail, Lux and Range. Almost predictably, the new line is based on the tri-lug system, which has been adopted by at least nine other European-based, bolt-action rifle manufacturers and by Ruger, Winchester and Thompson-Center here with the American, XPR and Venture lines, respectively.
This system employs a bolt with three non-projecting locking lugs oriented on 120-degree centers. It requires only a 60- rather than 90-degree bolt rotation (handle lift), and no raceways are needed in the receiver to accommodate projecting locking lugs (the receiver can be a simple tube). It’s a system that can greatly simplify production resulting in a very affordable end product, but not all tri-lug systems are budget class. Though this new generation of CZs is what I would describe as being just one step above budget class price-wise, they machine their receivers from solid steel billets, which is not the most economical way to produce a rifle.
Multiple Barrel Lengths & Chamberings
The 600 receivers come in three lengths. the Mini is scaled to the .223/5.56mm; the Medium to the .308 family and the Long for standard-length cartridges like the .30-06 and .300 Win Mag. Moreover, there are two types of receivers. The Alpha, Ergo and Trail models are of aluminum with integral Weaver-type mounting rails while the Range and Lux models are of steel and accommodate Remington 700 mount systems. The Short’s bolt has one row of three locking lugs, the Medium and Long bolts sport two rows of three, but all lock up within the barrel, not the receiver ring. The latter feature allows an easy change of calibers within a given receiver size by virtue of barrel/bolt head interchangeability.
The barrel shank is smooth and is slip-fit to the receiver, which is essentially a massive C-clamp that tightens around the barrel by three transverse machine bolts. Bolt heads can be swapped, so you can switch from, say, a .308 Win to a 6.5 PRC, or a .30-06 to a .300 Win Mag.
Controlled-Round Feed System
One of several innovative features is the ejection system. What looks to be a plunger-type ejector button in the lower quadrant of the bolt face, isn’t. With the Remington 700-type plunger system we’re all familiar with, the button protrudes from the bolt face under strong spring pressure and is compressed only when the bolt is closed on a chambered cartridge or spent case. As the bolt is withdrawn and when the mouth of a spent case (or the nose of a loaded round) clears the front wall of the ejection port, the pressure against the case head by the plunger ejects the case. But because the ejector button is always protruding from the bolt face, it precludes controlled round feeding because the rim of the feeding cartridge can’t slide upwards against the bolt face as it clears the magazine feed rails—the plunger is in the way.
The 600, however, achieves controlled-round feeding by combining a recessed plunger with Mauser-type inertia ejection. Instead of a static ejector blade contacting the case head through a slot in the bolt face to kick it free of the port al-a Mauser, the plunger makes contact with a button as the bolt reaches within a quarter inch or so of being fully withdrawn. It’s the inertia of the rearward-moving case being rudely met by a static stop button that throws the empty clear. And like all inertia systems, easing the bolt rearward to just short of activating the ejector allows case or cartridge to be plucked from the port manually. On the right side of the receiver just in front of bolt handle is the bolt stop/release that also serves as a safety bypass that allows the action to be cycled with the safety engaged.
Another strong feature is the 600’s detachable magazine. First off, it’s a unitized polycarbonate with integral feed lips that stores cartridges in a staggered row to maximize vertical space. The result is a five-round capacity for standard cartridges, three for magnums, yet the box fits flush with the belly of the stock. Charging the mag is effortless, as rounds are simply pushed downward through the feed lips; no need to slide them rearward under the lips. Other advantages are that the magazine can be charged from above through the ejection port — something that can’t be said for a lot of rifles with DMs. And by sliding the release button forward, this magazine can be locked in place, precluding accidental disgorgement. This is a unique feature.
Other noteworthy features are found in the patented fire control system. The safety consists of a steel rod serrated at both ends that slides vertically within a shaft at the rear of the receiver. In “fire” mode, this button projects below from behind the triggerguard bow. Pushed upward, it now projects from the tang above engaging the safety. It’s very ergonomic and silent in operation.
Adjustable Trigger & Sub-Moa Guarantee
The user-adjustable trigger has four tension settings that can be changed without removing the barreled action from the stock. A small round button just ahead of the trigger in the ceiling of the guard bow is rotated with a small Allen key to one of four detent positions indicated by one, two, three and four dots spaced 90 degrees apart. Rotate the one dot position to the witness line and you’ve got about a 2.5-pound pull; four dots around 4 pounds.
For all but the Trail model, barrel lengths are determined by caliber, and all come with threaded muzzles and thread protectors. The Alpha, Lux and Ergo models are guaranteed to shoot sub-MOA three-shot groups at 100 meters; the Range is guaranteed to shoot sub-.75 MOA five-shot groups, and the Trail 2 MOA. All accuracy testing was established with match-grade factory ammo.
Of the five models comprising this new 600 series, I found the Ergo and Trail models most interesting. The Lux, with its Bavarian-style humpback comb, schnabel forend and fish scale grip panels is obviously styled to European taste. The heavy barrel and adjustable stock make the Range model CZ a nod to the long-range crowd.
A Ballistic Sneak Peak
As a representative of Athlon Outdoors’ Ballistic magazine, I had the opportunity to shoot all five of these new rifles as one of a small group of American gun writers invited to the factory for the launching of the line. However, we were but five among about 35 other writers and editors in attendance from around the world. In other words, it was a very important event! After a very professional presentation of the new line by the CZ folks, we were all bussed to a luxurious gun club where we had the shooting range all to ourselves.
Like I said, I found the Ergo and Trail models to be the most interesting, but unfortunately the Ergo will not be available here until next year. However, that didn’t stop me from using one chambered in .308 Win on a Mouflon hunt that was arranged for the American contingent after the conclusion of the seminar.
The Trail is a most radical iteration of the Model 600 in that its 16.2-inch barreled action sits in an AR-style aluminum chassis—a “lower” if you will—that accepts AR grips and magazines. The telescoping buttstock has a length-of-pull range of 5.5 to 13.6 inches, and when fully compressed the overall length of the Trail is just 27.2 inches. It comes in only two chamberings, .223 Rem and 7.62×39 and it weighs a mere 6.2 pounds. It is one cool little gun!
On The Hunt
As for the Mouflon hunt, we had only 1-1/2 days hunting out of elevated stands (hochsitz) situated at the edge of open fields. The animals—wild boar, Mouflon, red and roe deer were free ranging, i.e., no fences, but they were fed, so the results are pretty much the same. That’s how they do it in Europe. Less than an hour on-stand a small band of Mouflon emerged from the forest. One of the rams, a young one, was badly crippled and could barely walk. My jaeger and hunting ethics both demanded I dispatch the suffering animal, which I did. The other four guys shot beautiful rams.
Having filled my license, I had nothing better to do on day two but sit in the same hochsitz and see what I could see. About a half an hour before dusk a herd of red deer came into the open not more than 150 yards from me. I counted 40 of them and not a single hind to be seen! They were all stags and about 10 of `em were high Silver or Gold Medal. I’ve hunted red stag in six European countries and in Argentina and I’ve never seen anything like it. It was an incredible experience.
Bottom line: This new CZ 600 is one helluva nice rifle offering enough innovative features to set it apart from so many other tri-bolts on the market today. And they are surprisingly affordable with MSRPs starting at $749 for the Alpha; $849 for the Lux; $1,155 for the Trail, and $1,199 for the Range. For more information, visit at cz-usa.com.
This article originally appeared in the April-May 2022 issue of Ballistic Magazine. Get your copy or digital subscription at OutdoorGrooupStore.com.