March 29, 2023
It’s exciting to see what happens when a big manufacturer embraces new technology. There have been significant advancements in gun making, with tooling and machines now capable of holding tolerances that were unthinkable five or even 10 years ago. Those capabilities are just now starting to manifest into a slow trickle of new bolt-action rifles.
The greatest and most exciting bolt-action rifle advancement in 2022 came from the CZ 600 series. It’s a new rifle and CZ already has several models in many calibers: the do-all Alpha ($749); the Lux ($849), a hunter with select-grade walnut; the Range ($1,199), reviewed here; and the light, compact Trail ($1,155) that accepts AR magazines for the .223 Remington loading and Bren 2 mags for 7.62x39mm.
Gone are the two-lug, Mauser-style actions with large, external claw extractors or push-feed actions. That was the past. In the place of those is the new CZ 600. The heart of every model is a modular three-lug action that feeds from a double-stack detachable-box magazine. Even more incredible is the way the bolt locks directly into the barrel; this allows the receiver to be made from either aluminum or steel. CZ added a trigger that’s equally fantastic, so bolt-action lovers have it made.
It’s a Big Deal.
Just about every bolt-action rifle follows a similar playbook. Have a bolt with probably two or three lugs that locks up by rotating against lug abutments inside a steel receiver. If it’s exotic, it may feature a quick-detach system or guarantee headspace on pre-fit barrels. That’s about all the variations.
The CZ 600 is completely different because the bolt lugs lock directly inside the barrel. The machining wizardry required to pull that off is impressive, but putting the lug abutments inside the barrel contains all the pressure from firing, which means the receiver just needs to hold the barrel and bolt in alignment. This is why the CZ 600 receiver can be made from steel or aluminum.
Since CZ manufactures every barrel while controlling the location of the lug abutments inside the barrel in relation to the chamber, headspace for the barrel is guaranteed by CZ. The only variable then becomes the bolt head that includes the bolt lugs, which is removeable from the bolt body. An important concept to remember in manufacturing is “small parts equal rigid tooling.” The bolt head is small, so the tooling holding it is rigid. This means variation from one bolt head to the next is minimal. CZ has no problems holding headspace between any bolt head and any barrel. This arrangement leaves the door open for CZ to sell barrels, bolt heads and magazines that allow any rifle to be re-chambered in any cartridge that fits the action’s length. Think of it as a .308 Winchester that could be easily “re-chambered” into a 6.5 PRC, and then back again.
When CZ first announced the CZ 600, it was marketed as a rifle that the consumer could re-barrel at home. CZ learned that it was possible to re-barrel these in such a way that the rifle would still fire when the action wasn’t completely closed, which is dangerous. Hence, re-barreling at home was scrapped for the foreseeable future. While the loss of that feature is unfortunate, it is still super simple for a gunsmith or CZ to reconfigure the rifle.
All of these new features and capabilities of the CZ 600 are starting to sound expensive, so it’s important to remember that this family of rifles retails between $749 to $1,199. There is no other rifle with anything resembling these features for anywhere near this price! I’ve been working with the CZ 600 Range model for several weeks, and I still can’t believe it sells for so little. What a time to be alive.
Part of the reason that CZ was able to keep the cost down was smart design and aesthetics. For example, the receiver is square on the bottom with machined flats on the sides and top. Some models will have integral Picatinny rail bases machined into the receiver. Making the receiver flat on the bottom gives the action screws ample thread engagement, which corrects the single biggest flaw of anything wearing a Remington Model 700 footprint. The Remington M700, because of its round shape, has little thread engagement so actions screws work loose, sometimes quickly. This is why a couple generations of American riflemen know to always keep a torque wrench in the range bag.
Back in the 1960s, machinists wanted to work with round shapes because they could spin them in a lathe and easily make them concentric and balanced. It was a convenient and economical way to machine tight tolerances. Nowadays, everything is computer controlled so machining square shapes poses no issues, especially when machining flats instead of radii. Machining flats is fast; radii take time and run up costs. The front action screw threads into a massive expanse of flat bedding surface under the tenon, creating a stress-free environment for the barrel. This design will not suffer from unexplained flyers because it puts a lot of steel in the right place. The rear action screw also threads into a flat area just forward of the trigger, not the receiver’s tang. This location gives the rear action screw plenty of steel to bite into without trying to bend or stress the receiver like an action screw that’s been threaded into the tang.
While the CZ 600 has the best action screw location I’ve seen on anything costing less than $5,000, the recoil lugs (yup, plural) are also smartly laid out. There are two recesses cut into the receiver’s underside that correspond to two steel lugs embedded in the stock. The smaller rail sits just behind the front action screw and the larger rear rail sits in front of the rear action screw. Torqueing the action screws down ensures the barreled action remains immobile, thanks to these two steel lugs.
How's it Handle?
While the action design is fascinating, there’s a lot more to the CZ 600 than just the action. The bolt has three lugs arrayed in two rows for a total of six lugs. The lug layout is such that, when the bolt is opened, there is a lug at 6-o’clock and the extractor rides on the lug located at 2:30. This lug layout is ideal.
Placing one lug at 6-o’clock gives it lots of engagement with cartridges feeding from the double-stack magazine. Loading the magazine is a snap because rounds can just be pressed straight down until they click in place. Pushing the bolt forward causes the bottom lug to hit the top-most cartridge in the magazine. The cartridge feeds so effortlessly that it often felt like the bolt failed to pick up a round. Firing a few magazines worth of ammunition made it easy to discern that the bolt always picked up a round, but it required so little effort that I was repeatedly surprised.
CZ was also wise to position the extractor on the outboard lug, low in the ejection port. It’s an AR-15/M16-style extractor that sits on a controlled-round feed (CRF) bolt. The bottom of the bolt face is open and allows rounds coming out of the magazine feed up and under the extractor. When the shooter pulls the bolt to the rear, the ejector pops out of the bolt face and knocks the fired case around the extractor and out of the ejection port. Running the bolt hard launches fired cases several feet. Easing the bolt back pops out fired cases right next to the rifle.
The trigger is new for the CZ 600, which is refreshing in a world of ho-hum factory triggers. The trigger is adjustable between four settings. Accessing the adjustment screw does not require removing the barreled action from the stock. I have no interest in heavy triggers, and I did all of my testing at the lowest possible setting. My trigger pull gauge measured its weight at 1.4 pounds, and it was crisp. I could detect no creep when working the trigger. Dialing the trigger up to its maximum pull weight required about 3 pounds of pressure to let-off.
The trigger attaches to the receiver by way of a partially enclosed housing. It is held in place by a single large screw at the front and a pin in the back. Remove the screw, drive the pin out, and the trigger assembly drops free from the receiver. An annual detailed cleaning of a well-used CZ 600 is easy, thanks to its clever trigger installation.
In the spirit of detailed cleaning, the bolt also offers toolless disassembly. Once removed from the receiver, grabbing the bolt shroud and rotating in the direction of the “unlock” symbol molded into it allows the firing pin and cocking piece assembly to slide out the back of the bolt body. The bolt head is not easily removed, but separating the firing pin assembly from the bolt body permits the shooter to clean out the firing pin channel. This may be essential in case the rifle ever suffer a pierced primer, which usually blows debris back into the firing pin channel and can lead to subsequent misfires.
My first impression of the CZ 600 was that it shot better than I expected. CZ rifles have always shot well for me, but a combination of how this particular barrel is made and the 1.4-pound trigger made for some fine groups. Barrels on the CZ 600 series are hammer-forged with the chamber part of the mandrel. This ensures the chamber is perfectly concentric with the rest of the bore and that there is no run-out. The lug abutments inside the barrel that support the lugs when the action is closed are indexed off of the rifle’s bore. The bolt goes wherever the lug abutments send it, indicating the lug abutments to the bore is great for supporting accuracy.
The best group measured .48 inches for five shots at 100 yards with Federal’s 168-grain Gold Medal Match. Average group sizes for all three loads tested stayed below the three-quarter MOA guarantee every CZ 600 Range rifle carries.
The Range was appropriately named because it’s best suited to dinging steel and having a good time. The “Alpha” model has a lighter barrel and a synthetic stock. It retails for $749 and is my top pick for a hunting rifle out of the lot. The Lux is a wood-stock model that has strong European lines, and the Trail is a light, compact chassis version. The Trail would be my choice for a woods or truck companion; it’s also the most exotic-looking.
The CZ 600 is going to be part of the CZ lineup for years, and I’m thrilled about that. It brings relevant features to the rifle community at a price that’s so good it’s hard to believe.
- Type: Bolt action
- Cartridge: 6mm CM, .308 Win. (tested)
- Capacity: 5+1 rds.
- Barrel: 24 in.; 1:10 twist
- Overall Length: 44.9 in.
- Weight: 10 lbs.
- Stock: Laminated Wood
- Finish: Matte blue (steel)
- Trigger: adj; 1.3 to 3 lbs.
- Sights: None
- Safety: Two-Position Lever
- MSRP: $1,199
- Importer: CZ, 913-321-1811, cz-usa.com
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