When I recently arrived in Česká zbrojovka in Uherský Brod to become acquainted with the new products for 2015, Richard Velísek, the Product Manager for long arms drove me to the shooting range, smiling mysteriously. Once there, he removed from the carrying case something quite different to what I had expected. Richard does like his bit of drama, so he really savoured the moment. I was staring at a gun, which at first sight resembled no model from the Uherský Brod production known to me. Only upon closer examination did I see the familiar inscription CZ 512 on the left side of the receiver.
Rimfire rifles. Sometimes seemingly a little overlooked but in fact an essential part of life in the global shooting community. After all, didn’t rimfire rifles open up for many of us the magical doors, behind which a colourful and vast world of guns and shooting awaited? And that was not all. We use the .22 LR (and to a lesser extent several other rimfire cartridges) weapons for training, keeping fit, for sport shooting at all levels, for entertainment, hunting and also for self-defence. Praise the rimfire rifle! Without them, the life of a shooter would be infinitely poorer and duller.
The Czech Journey
Something similar can be said about CZ rimfire rifles. Thanks to their excellent properties, especially simplicity, durability, reliability and accuracy (not to mention affordability), they are one of the most popular and most widely used. This particularly applies to the repeating models of the famous ZKM/CZ 452 series, of which more than a million have been made. Even their direct successors are said to be doing well. They belong to the new CZ 455 line, which is remarkable for its ingenious modular design.
Then there are the self-loading rimfire rifles. The Czechs have contributed the successful ZKM 581 model, originally designed by the famous Koucký brothers (as it is well known, František was the creator of the Uherský Brod bestseller CZ 75). It was a nice little piece for hunting as well as sport shooting, which began production in Brno, in the second half of the 1950s. However, in 1965, it started being produced in Uherský Brod on a much larger scale. In addition to the basic eight-round magazine, you could also obtain a 16 round one, just the thing for plinking lovers.
In 1980 came the CZ 511 model, a subtly modernized version of the 581. Again, the design was more of a traditional hunting rifle, nevertheless, it did not rule out shooting for fun. I speak from my own experience. The 511 is a nice rifle and easy to operate, which does not suffer from digestive problems and can be fired quickly and accurately. Unfortunately, I have never had the longer magazine handy, because what can we say, eight cartridges disappear pretty quickly.
The CZ 511 was produced in .22 LR cal. up until 2006 as an addition to the repeating rimfire rifles on offer. It was clear that if Česká zbrojovka wanted to remain engaged in this field, it would have to take a weapon which would be more modern, more versatile and capable of firing ammunition other than just the traditional .22 LR. And thus the CZ 512, a self-loading rimfire rifle was born and came into production in 2010.
The 512 is an attractive modern weapon, designed for universal use by left and right handed users. The unlocked steel bolt moves in the upper part of the receiver, made from aluminium alloy. In the lower part of the receiver, made of durable fiberglass and reinforced polymer, lies the block with the hammer trigger mechanism and the magazine well. The transversal manual safety is located down in the trigger guard.
The CZ 512 model has been designed to be modular and the choice of calibre is a matter for the final assembly. The .22 LR and .22 WMR versions differ in the barrel, bolt and magazine, with or without the insert. In addition, the WMR is also equipped with a chute, which prevents the building up of ammunition during heavy movements of the bolt backwards. In terms of the design, the CZ 512 model stands between a traditional hunting rifle with its lacquered beech stock and a hi-tech one regarding the shape of the receiver. It is original and yet natural. The only thing is, its look unnecessarily defines the target group too narrowly, because it is obvious that despite all the modern gadgets, such a self-loading rimfire rifle will appeal primarily to traditionalists.
Where Has Tactical Come From
When Richard Velísek had taken enough delight in my amazement on the range, he told me that the gun which made my jaw drop was the CZ 512 Tactical. A very apt name and undoubtedly a very good move. But where has this tactical 512 actually come from?
Apparently, it had been quite a long journey. People at Česká zbrojovka were well aware of the trading limits the basic design had. It was already three years earlier when they began thinking how to take advantage of the CZ 512 modularity to offer a version which would follow the latest trends. These include the ever-increasing popularity of .22 LR weapons, which outwardly resemble submachine guns or assault rifles.
Nevertheless, in recent years Česká zbrojovka has been far from idle (check out the last few catalogues), so this in-factory tuning never got into the main research and development plan. Fortunately, their colleagues from the CZ-USA subsidiary did not allow the matter to sleep. They are used to not obtaining everything “in house” and cooperate with a number of weapon components and accessories manufacturers. In this case, they have negotiated with Advanced Technology International, a well-known company specializing in high-quality plastic stocks and gripping parts for weapons – and a new product was born.
It is remarkable how little it takes to evoke a completely different impression. After all, the base is still the CZ 512: its receiver, bolt and barrel. But instead of the beech stock, the whole thing is "dressed" in a tactical chassis and the result has not only modern, but even slightly futuristic feel about it.
The barrel is encased in a long aluminium forend with slanted vents. On the top, there is an even longer Weaver mounting rail and the forend has openings for attaching additional rails. Accessories enthusiasts can thus bedeck their CZ 512 Tactical at their pleasure. Below, there is a pistol grip with rubber gripping surfaces, a telescopic butt in the AR-15 style at the rear, adjustable in six positions. In addition, the muzzle has a threaded cover as standard.
What is more, the CZ 512, dressed in a jacket from ATI not only looks damn good but is also excellent to hold and shooting itself is perfect. The tubular forend literally makes you hold the weapon in a modern tactical grip with the thumb on top, which is quite unnecessary with .22s, but through this, one can learn appropriate habits before shooting from full-blooded assault rifles. The option to set the length of the stock is priceless. And the wonderful pistol grip...
In short, I was thrilled. The CZ 512 does appeal to me, it is reliable and accurate, but I always had the impression that it was a respectable weapon for respectable hunters. The CZ 512 Tactical is another story. Of course you can go hunting small game with it, in .22 cal. WMR it is powerful enough. But in my eyes it is above all a rifle with which you can have great fun, especially when you purchase the new 25 round magazine from Uherský Brod, which is extremely reliable and suitable for all modern CZ rimfire rifles.
And at the very end, Richard told me (how else than with a bit of drama) that the story of CZ 512 was not finished just yet. But more about that in a year ...
Author: David Pazdera