The CZ Model 527 chambered for the .17 Hornady Hornet was one of the most anticipated rifles for varmint hunters in years.
While I was at the 2013 SHOT show in Las Vegas, the CZ-USA booth was abuzz with reports that rifles were shipping that week and as rifles were being received, posts were popping up on internet forums from happy owners.
Hornady introduced their factory .17 Hornady Hornet ammunition at the 2012 SHOT show. With some slight changes to the popular .17 Ackley Hornet wildcat, Hornady continued to embrace the .17 caliber in its various forms with this new factory offering.
The specs on the new .17 Hornady Hornet (.17HH) are impressive. They list their 20 grain V-Max bullet at velocities in the 3650 feet per second range, with 592 foot pounds of energy. A box of 25 cartridges will run you about $23.00. Hornady’s factory ammunition is very accurate, but reloaders can get the cost down to pennies because the cartridge uses very little powder compared to some of the other larger varmint calibers available.
CZ-USA’s Model 527 in .22 Hornet was one of the most popular rifles for those wanting to convert to the .17 Ackley Hornet. For this reason, when the factory .17 Hornet was announced by Hornady, CZ fans were waiting for word that they would be chambering this cartridge in one of their inherently accurate guns. When the news came in late summer/autumn of 2012 that CZ would be chambering their Model 527 in .17 Hornady Hornet, folks began to contact their dealers to pre-order and get on the waiting list. They were smart to do so. As of publish date, CZ has shipped up to 1000 of the American and Varmint version rifles, with approximately 500 each now on backorder. As rifles hit the dealers, they were snapped up quickly by those wanting to take one out to the prairie dog towns for some explosive action! However, rifles keep showing up at dealers around the country and they are well worth the wait.
As stated above, the CZ Model 527 rifle comes in both the classic American version, as well as the Varmint version. The CZ website lists the following specs for each rifle:
CZ Model 527 American:
Weight: 6.34 lbs.
Overall Length: 40.4 in.
Barrel Length: 21.9 in.
Length of Pull: 13.5 in.
CZ Model 527 Varmint:
Weight: 7.5 lbs.
Overall Length: 41.5 in.
Barrel Length: 24 in.
Length of Pull: 13.5 in.
Both rifles come with a 5 round detachable magazine that fits nicely in front of the trigger guard, leaving the center of the rifle open for easy handling when firing off-hand, or if you need to push the rifle further up on your shooting bag. The trigger is the standard single-set that is used on almost all of their centerfire rifles. There is no need for bases, as all the CZ rifles come with integrated dovetail grooves so they are ready for mounting your scope with the appropriate rings.
I originally wanted an American version when I placed my order, but since they were out of stock I agreed to a Varmint version. After completing the wait period and transfer from my FFL, I was finally able to really handle the gun. I was pleasantly surprised how nice it felt. The weight was not that different from the American version and I knew that one of the older, compact Leupold scopes I had would be a perfect lightweight match.
My first course of action was to thoroughly clean the rifle. The bolt on the Model 527 is easily removed with the push of a button, allowing you to mount your bore-guide with ease. I spent quite a bit of time cleaning all parts of the gun. Even making sure to wipe down all the nooks and crannies of the bolt face.
I then mounted my scope using the CZ rings for the Model 527. It was easy enough, now that I use the Wheeler Professional Reticle Level System.
I’m not going to discuss my break-in and sight-in procedures (everyone’s differ slightly), but I wanted to post my best group. This was one of the 5 groups I shot. As always, I shot a 3-shot group, this time at 100 yards, off a steady rest consisting of front and rear sand bags (filled with walnut media). My groups varied from this one, up to 0.43”.
Because of the extended range of the .17 Hornet caliber, my final sight-in was 0.5” high at 100 yards, which allows me to hold dead-on a ground squirrel at 250 yards and not worry if my yardage estimate is a little off.
Once I was done with the final sight-in and break-in period, I headed up to an area of California in the Central Valley to look for ground squirrels. Since I had not been up to this area in quite a while, I was concerned that the population of squirrels may have been killed off with poison. That concern was removed and my heart started racing when I pulled into the orchards and saw ground squirrels running in every direction!
I went to the East end of the ranch, where the owner had planted new fruit and nut trees two years ago. Freshly planted trees, with a few leaves and no fruit or nuts, are not very appealing to a ground squirrel. However, give the trees a couple of years and they become prime targets because of their smaller size. I was eager to see how things would go with the light, 20 grain bullet, but the wind was beginning to concern me.
Just as I finished setting up my bench and placing the CZ onto my shooting bags, ground squirrel number one popped its head out of a hole between two trees about 120 yards away. It knew that I was there and was probably one of the ones that ran as I pulled up in my truck. I sat behind the rifle and opened the box of Hornady ammunition. I don’t really use a magazine in a situation like this, so I just slid the bullet into the chamber a bit and shut the bolt. I hunkered down behind the scope to see if he was going to come out and offer a better shot. Like most ground squirrels, this one decided that it was probably safe to come out a bit further, just to get a better look. That was a mistake on his part. As I lined up the crosshairs on his shoulder, I clicked the safety off. At the shot, the squirrel was launched out of the hole and I saw it fling out of the view of my scope! The wind prevented me from hearing the hit, but the acrobatic maneuver told me that he had to be dead.
Later as I looked for this squirrel, I found only small chunks of meat with no sign of the dead critter! I thought about the shot again and decided to go even further past where I thought it might be. Sure enough, he was laying a good 4 feet from the hole where I shot him. He was a small squirrel, so I should have taken that into account when considering his flight path and distance. I was impressed by the damage. The shot had gone into his shoulder and the bullet completely removed most of his body on the other side! He felt no pain and was most likely dead before he hit the ground (click thumbnails for larger images).
I sat at this spot for a while, taking out squirrels from 80 yards out to 100+. My concern about the wind was unfounded, which always seems to be the case with the fast .17 calibers. The CZ rifle performed flawlessly and was superbly accurate! I love guns that you can be confident about, especially at longer ranges.
This was to be the case later in the day when I was able to make some headshots at 150 and 160 yards with no issues. One of the shots I got on video. It was still windy, but nowhere near what I was experiencing earlier in the day. I was on a small road that skirts along the trees on a portion of the ranch. I had missed an opportunity on a ground squirrel that was close, because I was fiddling with my video camera (a mistake I seem to repeat often)! Just when I got everything set with my camera, a ground squirrel popped out at least 50 yards past the first one. I adjusted my objective and took aim on its head. I heard the crack of the bullet hitting the squirrel’s head and I watched it flop around with the typical headshot, death throes. It decapitated the ground squirrel and killed him instantly!
At one point, the ranch owner found me and asked if I felt comfortable shooting around some of his equipment and masonry. I told him “Yes” and that this rifle/ammunition combo was extremely accurate. With his permission, I was able to shoot in areas that I had not been able to before. The first few kills was me shooting, with the land owner looking over my shoulder. One shot was at a ground squirrel that was standing on some orange Spanish tiles he was saving for a roofing project. He said that Rattlesnakes were showing up under the tiles looking for ground squirrels and did I feel comfortable removing the squirrels? Just as the last word left his lips, a ground squirrel popped up on top of the tiles and stared at us standing about 100 yards away! I said, “It must be a sign” and pulled the CZ up to a rest on an old piece of farm equipment. Just as I found the squirrel in my crosshairs, I told him to plug his ears. With him right there, the shot was a bit stressful, but my shot was dead-on and it blew off the top half of the squirrel! We walked over to examine my handy work, but I soon realized that I sprayed ground squirrel bits and blood all over his tiles. I apologized, but he just chuckled and said that the blood would wash off! A big smile was on his face as he patted me on the shoulder and said “Have fun”! I spent the rest of the day wandering the ranch, setting up my bench and removing the unwanted varmints that create so much damage on ranches like these. The CZ .17 Hornet was a blast!
Although the wind did not allow for very many long shots, the results I experienced were very positive. The CZ Model 527 is a very accurate rifle. I own a half-a-dozen CZ’s and have never been disappointed with their accuracy. This combo is a perfect and fun, small varmint gun. I will be heading to Arizona soon to shoot some prairie dogs for Part Two of this story, so stay tuned!
By: Eric Mayer
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