Alpha . . . bravo!
Con Kapralos was well impressed by the new CZ 600
Ceska Zbrojovka (CZ) has taken a huge step with the release of its CZ 600 series of centrefire rifles. Such classics as the CZ 550, 555 and 557, held in high regard for their superb fit and finish, are no longer in production with the CZ 600 moving the company into new territory.
CZ has released five models in its 600 line ‑ the Ergo, Range, Trail, Lux and Alpha – and all have a niche user group in mind and specific task at hand. Local importer of CZ, Winchester Australia, sent Australian Shooter one of the new Alpha models in .308 Winchester for assessment, coupled with a Meopta Optika 6 3-18×50 riflescope and a generous selection of ammunition. Being a review rifle, it arrived assembled with the optic cradled in Recknagel rings all ready for testing.
At a glance
The CZ 600 Alpha in .308 Winchester is a full-size, turn-bolt rifle with modular design and the capacity to interchange barrels. The barrel is 510mm (20”) with a medium/heavy profile, the receiver aluminium with Picatinny rails machined into its top surface for scope attachment. The stock is fibreglass-reinforced polymer with detachable five-shot magazine also made from polymer and the entire rifle is finished in matte black, has an overall length of 102cm and weighs 3.2kg bare.
CZ 600 receivers are machined from either high-grade aluminium or steel, the Alpha test rifle having the former measuring 24cm long by 4cm wide and while aluminium receivers aren’t new on sporting rifles, CZ provides reassurance with a guaranteed 20,000-round service life. The Alpha’s receiver has a generous ejection port on the right for unhindered clearance of fired cases while permitting a round to be top-loaded into the magazine.
Atop the receiver body two short Picatinny rails are milled into the front ring and bridge, allowing the use of matching scope-mounting rings. Other models of the 600 have the receiver drilled and tapped to accept Remington 700-style scope-mounting bases. The receiver and barrel attachment is a complete deviation from previous CZ centrefire models, the left of the front receiver ring base being split and made to accept the chamber portion of the barrel.
This is clamped into place using three large screws which are semi-permanently fixed into place with red thread-locking compound. Rearward of the three set-screws is a notch in the receiver which engages with a recoil lug in the stock floor, just forward of the magazine well. This lug arrangement provides excellent support of the barrelled action into the stock.
The 600 is designed as an interchangeable barrel rifle but CZ does stipulate only qualified gunsmiths are permitted to carry out such work. Any attempt to remove a barrel yourself will void the factory warranty and to further reiterate its position, it only makes barrels and spare parts available to CZ-approved gunsmiths through Winchester Australia.
The barrel is cold hammer forged, 510mm long (20”) and of a medium/heavy profile. It measures 27mm at the front receiver ring and tapers down to 18mm at the muzzle, which is also threaded. The external metal surfaces of the CZ 600 barrelled actions are finished in a new surface treatment called Bobox, applied as a chemical heat process which results in a super-tough finish that’s also corrosion resistant.
This is redesigned to match the new receiver. It measures 190mm x 20mm and is released from the receiver by pressing the bolt catch, in the form of a spring-loaded tab in the right side of the bridge just forward of the bolt handle. Up front the bolt has three pairs of symmetrically spaced locking lugs which engage into corresponding recesses in the chamber end of the barrel proper, a longitudinal slot cut into the underside of the bolt body serving as a guide for the bolt stop to run along.
The design can be touted as a combination of a controlled round feed and push feed systems, demonstrated when chambering a round from the magazine. The cartridge rim is guided under the extractor, which it holds firmly throughout the bolt cycle until the case is ejected from the action. The bolt handle is steel and accompanies a 60-degree bolt lift, something that’s standard on many factory bolt-actions. A large bolt handle knob ensures the user will have a decent grip in all conditions.
Safety, trigger, magazine
The trigger unit is of a single stage design under the rear tang. It has a unique feature where the user can choose four pre-determined pull weights by simply using a 1.5mm hex Allen key in the dial in front of the trigger (the stock need not be removed to do this). The surface of the dial has a small dot which, when rotated, indexes to four pull weights from 0.8-1.8kg. The test rifle had the trigger pull set at 1.4kg, not sure if this is the factory setting but it was left as-is for testing.
The safety’s a deviation from the norm on most bolt-action rifles, being located at the rear of the trigger group. It consists of a tubular rod sliding within a housing and is operated by simply pressing up from underneath or pushing down from the top. Pushing the button down makes the rifle safe, up enables the firing mode. It seems to work as intended and is positive in operation.
The magazine is polymer and of a detachable box design with twin stack configuration holding five rounds in .308 Winchester. It clicks in securely and has a neat feature where the magazine can be ‘locked’ into place by simply sliding the release button forward. The magazine can also be top loaded through the ejection port quite easily, a feature many hunters prefer.
This is a quantum-leap from its predecessors and all models in the new range have something different. The Alpha’s is fibreglass-reinforced polymer and has a rather characteristic design and aesthetic. The comb is fairly high while being slim and straight without a cheekpiece, the pistol grip quite scalloped and allowing a secure hold. To the rear of the buttstock a soft rubber recoil pad is fitted with a Monte-Carlo scallop at the top of the pad and absorbed recoil well in testing.
Sling swivel studs are provided as standard on the toe of the buttstock and underside of the fore-end. The stock has a series of grip panels inletted into its surface around the pistol grip and fore-end but also the main segment of the stock either side of the receiver and two small triangles above the rear stud. These inletted grip panels are raised rib-like striations with a rubber texture and offer satisfactory grip in all conditions though the aesthetics left me a tad undecided.
At the range
Winchester Australia supplied a wide selection of hunting and match ammunition for testing, the rifle thoroughly cleaned beforehand with three 3-shot groups fired from each brand at 100m.
Accuracy testing at 100m
|Average Group size (mm)*
|Winchester Copper Impact 150gr
|Winchester Super X 150gr PP
|Winchester Super X 180gr PP
|Winchester Deer Season XP 150gr
|Winchester Ballistic Silvertip 168gr
|Winchester Match Sierra 168gr
|Winchester USA 147gr FMJ
* Average group size calculated from three 3-shot groups at 100m from a benchrest.
The CZ 600 Alpha in .308 Winchester, coupled with the excellent Meopta Optika 6, made it possible to shoot some accurate groups and any of the five hunting loads would make a suitable choice for the astute hunter. The rifle shot flawlessly, feeding rounds from the magazine to the chamber and ejecting fired cases without issue. The standout was naturally the Match load with the 168gr Sierra with a group average of 20mm, pretty respectable from a non-benchrest shooter like me.
In the field
The 600 Alpha and Optika 6 topped out at 4.1kg and for a stalking outfit that’s just on the limit. If this was my rifle I’d fit a lighter optic and rings to drop overall weight to around 3.8/3.9kg. I chose to set up in a ground blind overlooking a proven deer patch and using Winchester Copper Impact loads, harvested a couple of fallow deer for meat. I did a few short walks with the rifle/scope combination which carried well and many will appreciate the additional weight and love the compact nature of the Alpha.
Having owned and reviewed a few of the predecessor CZ models, the new 600 range is in a league of its own. Purists won’t be rushing to upgrade their 527 and 500 models with the 600 targeted more at a new market and oriented towards the US at that. For what it is, the CZ 600 Alpha is a neat rifle suited to both hunting and target applications with the barrel interchangeability one of its best attributes. The CZ 600 Alpha retails at $1695 and is available from all Winchester Australia dealers nationwide.
Manufacturer: Ceska Zbrojovka, Czech Republic
Model: CZ 600 Alpha
Action: Bolt-action repeater, interchangeable barrel capacity
Calibres: .223 Rem to .300 Win Mag, tested: .308 Win
Magazine: Detachable box, polymer, five-rounds
Barrel: 510mm (20”) cold hammer forged, medium/heavy profile, 1:10” twist
Sights: Picatinny rail integral to receiver, no open sights
Trigger: Single-stage, adjustable to four pre-set positions from 0.8-1.8kg
Stock: Glass-reinforced polymer
Finish: Matte black barrelled action and stock.
Overall length: 102cm
Weight: 3.2kg (bare)