Like many American shooters, I first became aware of Ceska zbrojovka through the legendary CZ 75 9mm auto, which elicited a great amount of interest when it was virtually unobtainable here (it was sort of an Iron Curtain mystery gun). By now, of course, the company, under the CZ-USA banner, has established a commanding presence in this country with a vast lineup of bolt-action rimfire and centerfire rifles, a raft of DA and DAO pistols, and, more recently, a fairly diverse assortment of Turkish-made shotguns.
The smoothbore menu now includes side-by-sides, over/unders, autos and pump guns. All CZ firearms always seem to score highly on the “value for money spent” scale. And one of the latest, the 612 HC-P, may top the entire CZ manifest in that regard.
What is it? Well, it’s a tactical pump shotgun. The HC-P stands for “Horde-Control Pump.” Obviously, it’s a tip of the hat to the zombie gun craze. But whether you’re interested in shooting games or home defense (or maybe both), the HC-P has quite a bit to offer. Briefly, it’s got a 20-inch barrel, an excellent take on the ghost-ring sight concept, a black polymer pistol-grip stock and, thanks to its twin-action bars and sculpted fore-end configuration, a very slick, short-throw action.
Naturally, it’s a 12 gauge. And, yes, it’s got a three-inch chamber (which simplifies manufacture and allows users to tap into a wider range of ammo possibilities when the more sensible 2¾-inch stuff is tough to find or in short supply). The crossbolt safety is sited at the rear of the triggerguard, making it a whole lot faster and easier to access while your shooting hand is married to the stock’s pistol grip.
The rear sight features a generous aperture flanked by two red fiber optic bars. It is fully adjustable for windage and elevation and has easy-to-see witness marks for adjustments. The adjustment screws themselves are large enough to permit you some latitude in the size of the screwdriver bits you’ll be able to use when dialing things in. The front sight is a raised green fiber optic bar, which is well protected by a set of ears that have cutouts to suck in light. Ahead of the rear sight is a four-inch rail in case you’re inclined to stick some type of optic on the gun.
The HC-P features side-sling swivels on each side of the stock and one on the magazine tube that you can swing in either direction in case you want an out-of-the-way section of your torso to hang the thing when otherwise engaged.
When it came time to take the gun to the range, we rounded up some buckshot, slugs and target loads and headed down south of our offices to the Tremont Sportsman’s Club (our local range at Chillicothe being closed due to flooding). The HC-P was a real attention-getter with some of the local members there, and we proceeded to set up some 25-yard targets to see how the gun grouped with slugs. The top performer here was an old reliable—Winchester Super-X one-ounce HPs. The packaging claims 1,600 fps, and we certainly didn’t dispute that number enough to break out a chronograph (besides, plastic wads and chronos don’t seem to get along). Anyway, when dealing a one-ounce projectile from a smoothbore, what’s a few fps one way or the other? The main thing was the groups we got, which were essentially cloverleafs. This would seem to make this gun/load combo a viable 50- to 60-yard whitetail proposition.
Our next two entrants were Winchester Razor Back and Dupleks lead-free Monolit32—both featuring 1⅛-ounce slugs (and yes, that extra ⅛ ounce was noticeable from a recoil standpoint). Neither equaled the Super-X one-ounce slugs in terms of group size, but—at two to 2½ inches—they were plenty good enough.
By the time we’d finished with the slugs, we were grateful that we’d chosen to bring Remington Managed Recoil 00 buck to round out things. The eight-pellet load seemed to like the Cylinder-bore choke tube that came with the gun. At 12 yards, the patterns never exceeded seven inches across and were centered fairly well—and fairly uniformly—in the 12×18-inch target we were using.
With buckshot, it’s difficult to say with certainty which load works best with which choke. It would have been interesting to have had a Modified, Full or IC tube on hand to compare. A tighter pattern can certainly extend the effectiveness of any buckshot load, but it really isn’t a science. If you’re interested in what combo works best in any particular gun, you’re simply going to have to bring along a couple of different sizes of buckshot and a couple of choke tubes (along with a serious strap-on recoil pad) and be prepared to put in the time. If you’re sold on a specific size of buckshot, just bring different tubes and see what works best with it.
We even tried our hand at clay targets with the HC-P and did fairly well. Granted, lower-profile open rifle-type sights would’ve made things easier, but the gun handled well (although a pistol-grip stock is, to be honest, a bit of a pain for wingshooting).
Finally, we rapid-fired a couple of boxes of Federal target loads through the gun, just to see how well it functioned. The most impressive thing was how smooth the action was for an out-of-the-box item. You’re obviously not going to get the slickness of a well-used Remington 870 Wingmaster at first, but after time, things should get nothing but better. Our only quibble? The trigger was a bit gritty. To be honest, however, this would only pose a problem for slug shooting, and, as our results indicated, it really didn’t pose an insurmountable one.
The HC-P, it should be noted, is not the only member of the 612 line of CZ pumpguns. There is a slightly less racy-looking Home Defense model, featuring a conventional stock and open rifle-type sights, and a camouflage Wildfowl Magnum. The MSRP on the HC-P and Home Defense are well south of $400, while the hunting-oriented Wildfowl Magnum is right about at $400. We’d be curious to try them as well.
At any rate, the HC-P looks like a pretty good 3-Gun shotgun selection. It shot well and never malfunctioned. We wouldn’t want to take advantage of its capacity for three-inch magnums (particularly with slugs or buckshot), but squeezing out a few extra fps by going to a three-inch seems pretty counterproductive. This gun was fun to shoot, and realistically, for every round of slug or buck you run through it, you’re probably going to shoot a couple of boxes of clay target loads.