CZ 600 American Review: Return of the Wood-Stocked Hunting Rifle?

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A few short years ago, CZ went all in on their new model 600, which would replace the CZ 527, CZ 550, and CZ 557. This announcement was met with both anticipation and reluctance from consumers, and the rollout had equally mixed results. Initially the CZ 600 had switch-barrel capabilities, but due to the possibility of improper assembly, that feature had to be rolled back. Still, the CZ 600 performed well at our 2022 Gun Test, proving to be an accurate and reliable platform. Late in 2023, a new model of CZ 600 made its debut, this time in a more classic-looking wood trim. Though wood-stocked hunting rifles have nearly vanished from production, they still carry a strong appeal for many American hunters. Calling an imported rifle like the CZ 600 American, an “American” rifle takes some cajones, but rest assured that this gun gracefully blends modern technology, accurate shooting, and classic looks of an American hunting rifle.

CZ 600 American Specs

See It

Cartridges: .308 Win. (tested), .223 Rem., .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Win., .30/06, .300 Win. Mag., and 7.62 x 39mm

Barrel: 20 inches, 1:10 twist, threaded 9/16-24

Bolt: Six-lug, mini controlled feed extractor

Stock: Turkish Walnut, Varnish finish

Trigger: Single-stage adjustable, 1 pound 7 ounces to 3 pounds 2 ounces (measured)

Durable anti-corrosion finish

Optic mounting: Remington 700 scope base pattern

Weight: 7 pounds 8 ounces (measured)

Price: $820

Key Features

Turkish walnut stock

Threaded muzzle (9/16-24)

Vertical push-through safety

6-lug, controlled-feed bolt with fixed ejector

Four position adjustable trigger (single stage)

Tool-free takedown bolt

Double-stack detachable magazine that can be locked into place 

Review Highlights

Classic American hunting rifle heft and ergonomics

Attractive stock, but varnish finish shows bumps and dings

Controlled-feed action is crisp and smooth

Great trigger that’s easily adjustable 

9/16-24 muzzle threads for .308 are distinctly not American

Accuracy: 1.28  inches (29 5-shot groups)

Best Factory Ammo: Freedom Munitions 168-grain A-Max, average group size .947 inches (4 groups)

In .308 Win., the CZ 600 has a double-stack magazine that can be top-loaded when installed in the rifle. Tyler Freel

Wood Stock Appeal

Though they’re often written off as baby-boomer relics, wood-stocked hunting rifles appeal to many American hunters. I would argue that the debate is one of sentiment versus performance, but it’s understandable that for a craft with such deep emotional roots as hunting, sentiment matters too. Scores of hunters simply appreciate the feel and beauty of a wood stock, and that’s how it is. 

Wood stocks used to be the norm, and recently, it’s been tough to find many manufacturers who even offer them — and virtually none of the ones that are are flagship models. Even the CZ 600 wasn’t initially introduced in walnut. We have, however, seen a shift back towards at least some new rifles offered with wooden stocks. The Stevens 334 is one of the few wood-stocked budget-priced hunting rifles offered in recent years, but others such as the Winchester XPR are now dressed in wood too.

The lacquer finish on the CZ 600 American’s stock can become discolored when worn or dented. Tyler Freel

The stock on the CZ 600 American is a handsome Turkish walnut with checkering patterns on the grip and fore-end. It’s got a classic sporter profile that’s hefty but smoothly rounded and not as slender as those you’d see on rifles like the M70 featherweight. It’s got a nicely mated rubber recoil pad and the metal-to-wood fit is good — only a small gap at the rear of the tang is visible. 

My only negative feedback of the wood stock is that although lacquer finish seals and protects the wood, it’s easily damaged. Through the course of regular testing (not any rough handling or drops), common wear spots around the magazine well, bolt release lever, and pistol grip show white discoloration, where the finish has been worn or busted up a bit. I dented one spot on the buttstock, where the finish also became white as it flaked away from the wood underneath. Wood stocks are going to get some chips, dings, and wear. A traditional oil-finished stock will get them too, but breaking or cracking that lacquer finish turns it white and makes the imperfections more visible. 

The CZ 600 American: Classic Look, Modern Features

At first glance, the CZ 600 American looks like any number of classic American hunting rifles, which is the general idea. However, once you start digging into it, you’ll find that it has a medley of unique, useful features that make it even more appealing. 

The CZ 600 Bolt

The CZ 600 American has a 60-degree bolt throw and smooth-gliding bolt operation. You might first assume it’s a 3-lug design similar to the Ruger American, Winchester XPR, Sig Cross, Sako, etc. The lugs are the same diameter as the rest of the bolt body like these other rifles, but the bolt is more like a Weatherby MK V, with two rows of lugs, totaling six. It’s easy to maintain too. The firing pin can be removed for cleaning and maintenance in a couple seconds without tools — a feature we are seeing on more and more modern rifles.

The most unique feature about the CZ 600 bolt is that it is also controlled feed, using a small claw extractor and a bottom lug that has been cut back to allow the cartridge case head to slide up onto the bolt face as it springs free from the magazine. Push feed rifles usually have a recessed bolt face with a spring-plunger ejector, and the case head only pressed up against the bolt face and presses into the grasp of the extractor when the bolt is rotated into battery. 

Hand loaders are likely to enjoy the controlled nature of extraction and ejection of spent cases too. Rather than a spring-loaded ejector or fixed ejector in the receiver, the ejector in the bolt head is held by spring tension in a recessed position until the bolt is pulled all the way to the rear. At the bolt’s most rearward position, the ejector protrudes from the bolt face. This allows a shooter to eject cases sharply when running the gun fast, but on the bench, you can slowly draw the bolt back and dribble cases out for easy collection.

The CZ 600 has a six-lug, short-throw bolt, but it’s also a controlled-feed action. Tyler Freel

Modern, Intuitive Controls

One trademark feature of the CZ 600 and CZ 600 American is the vertical tang safety. The safety switch has buttons on top of the tang and on the bottom, just behind the trigger guard. To place the rifle on “safe,” the button is pressed up from the bottom, and to place the rifle on “fire,” the button is pressed down from the top with the thumb. It’s quick and not easily deactivated by mistake, but it could be quieter.

The bolt release is a small tab located on the right side of the receiver. The bolt can be removed without manipulating the safety or trigger, and simply depressing this tab allows the bolt to come free. The safety locks the bolt closed when on “safe,” but the bolt release switch allows it to be opened and removed while on “safe.”

The magazine release is also smartly designed. It’s simply a flat knurled button just forward of the detachable magazine. It sits flush with the stock so it’s not easily pressed accidentally, and pressing the button releases the magazine. To prevent accidentally releasing the magazine, or if a shooter simply prefers to top-load the double-stack magazine through the receiver, the button can be slid to a forward position that locks the magazine into place. I really like this feature. 

The flush-fitting magazine release button on the CZ 600 American can be pushed forward to lock the magazine in place and disable the release mechanism. Tyler Freel

The CZ 600 American Has a Good Adjustable Trigger

Most hunters prefer a good single-stage trigger, and that’s exactly what the CZ 600 American has. It’s a crisp-breaking trigger with no takeup and very little overtravel. Many rifles have adjustable triggers, but the CZ 600 system is foolproof. The trigger pull weight can be adjusted with a small metric Allen key by turning a screw just forward of the trigger. This requires no disassembly. 

There are four different settings for the trigger, indicated by an index mark and dots. The index mark shows which setting the trigger is on, and the dots, ranging from one to four, indicate the relative weight of the setting. Mine shipped at setting two, which broke at exactly two pounds. The minimum setting for the trigger on my sample broke at 1 pound, 7 ounces, and at the heaviest setting, it broke at 3 pounds, 2 ounces. Trigger feel was consistent across all four settings, except for weight of course.

The CZ 600 American has an easily adjustable trigger that toggles between four positions and corresponding weights. Tyler Freel

Receiver and Barrel

The CZ 600 American has a steel receiver and hammer-forged barrel, both finished with a black corrosion-resistant coating. The action has plenty of room to top-load cartridges and, wisely, it’s drilled and tapped for Remington 700 optic bases, which are plentiful. 

The barrel is a thin, but not pencil-profile, barrel, typical of a classic American hunting rifle. The only thing I don’t like is that it’s threaded 9/16-24, which is distinctly un-American as far as muzzle threads and suppressors go. Everyone knows it should be ½-24. There are some 9/16-24 direct thread mounts available for suppressors, but it’s far from standard here in the land of the free. 

Shooting the CZ 600 American

We are constantly extolling the virtues of ultra-lightweight hunting rifles these days, but weight isn’t a bad thing for a regular hunting rifle. At seven and a half pounds, the CZ 600 American isn’t cumbersome to carry but, with an optic, is quite pleasant to shoot. I shot mine, chambered in .308, round after round after round. From the bench, off a bagged tripod, and even offhand. The stock fits me well, and the slight palmswell on the grip makes it easy to pull the butt tightly to the shoulder while exercising good trigger control. Cartridges are always fed easily and the bolt is lightning fast to work. 

We focus a lot on a rifle’s accuracy, but these handling characteristics matter a lot. Don’t believe me? Go watch this video of me shooting a grizzly in the woods last spring — in which I was using a similarly fast-operating Winchester XPR. Think about how quickly you can work your bolt-action rifle under pressure, and if you’d be able to be ready for when he turns broadside for a follow-up shot. I don’t really buy into the argument that push-feed rifles aren’t as reliable, but the CZ 600 American is a controlled-feed rifle that can be worked incredibly fast.

The CZ 600 American’s bolt has six lugs and glides smoothly in the action. Tyler Freel

CZ 600 American Accuracy

The CZ 600 American comes with a sub-MOA accuracy guarantee that says it will shoot sub-MOA 3-shot groups with match-grade ammunition. We don’t place too much weight on rifle accuracy guarantees or 3-shot groups for that matter. We want to know what a rifle is reasonably capable of, and what the average hunter should actually expect from it. I tested the CZ 600 American with 11 different loads, and recorded 37 5-shot groups. 

It’s easy to focus on just the best load or, as many shooters do, tout their best group of the day as some sort of representation of how the rifle shoots. We’ve all seen the guy who keeps a tattered 3-shot cloverleaf in his wallet to brag about how accurate his rifle is — when the honest truth is that if the rifle did that all the time, it wouldn’t be wallet-worthy in the first place. 

To give you an accurate picture of how this hunting rifle shoots across a variety of loads, I’m simply averaging the top 80 percent (29 total) of groups. I would only cut the bottom 10 percent from the aggregate to eliminate groups with excessive human error or really poor ammunition performance, but at one point, I noticed the action screws loosening and had to re-torque them. To be safe, I’m cutting an extra 10 percent off the bottom. The average of those top 29 5-shot groups was 1.28 inches, which is quite good for a .308 that costs $800. For reference, the Tikka T3X Lite in .308 that I tested in 2022 averaged a group size of 1.9 inches over 27 groups.

Overall Average Accuracy(29 5-shot groups at 100 yards)1.28 inchesAverage Accuracy with Freedom Munitions 168-grain A-Max (4 5-Shot Groups)
*Most accurate ammo tested.947 inches20-Shot Group Size with Freedom Munitions 168-grain A-Max1.25 inches

An overall average accuracy aggregate gives us a good picture of what the rifle will shoot like, but even 5-shot groups don’t tell the whole story. I also recorded a 10-shot group with a handload I’m developing with Lehigh Defense 165-grain Extreme Chaos bullets propelled by 43 grains of Varget. That group measured .994 inches with an extreme velocity spread of 28.2 fps and a standard deviation of 8.3 fps. 

Additionally, I recorded a 20-shot group (fired in 5-round strings with barrel cooling between) with the most accurate factory ammo: Freedom Munitions 168-grain A-Max. It retails at a meager $26 per box, and averaged .947-inch 5-shot groups. My 20-shot group measured 1.25 inches with average velocity, extreme spread, and standard deviation of 2618 fps, 61.9 fps, and 15.3 fps, respectively — as recorded by my Garmin Xero chronograph

An impressive 20-shot group from the CZ 600 American and the most accurate ammo tested. Two 5-shot groups with a different load weren’t as impressive Tyler Freel

Why a 20-Shot Group?

A collection of 5–shot groups can give us an idea of how accurate a rifle is, but many groups you fire will be larger than that average. Though a 20-shot group will always be larger, it’s safer to assume that most 5-shot groups you shoot will fall within the dispersion of that 20-shot group size. Additionally, a 20-shot group will provide you a much more statistically consistent zero or average point of impact than 3- or 5- or 10-shot groups.

What The CZ 600 American Does Well

The CZ 600 American captures the heft and warm, wood-stocked feel and ergonomics of a classic American-style hunting rifle, while incorporating some excellent modern features, particularly the locking magazine release button and fast-running controlled-feed action. I really like how handily the rifle points and balances, and it’s quite accurate compared to its peer group.

Where the CZ 600 American Could Do Better

I’d like to see an  oil finish on the stock. The flakey lacquer turns opaque white when dinged or disturbed. I would also prefer the muzzle be threaded in the American standard ⅝-24 for .308-caliber bores. 

Final Thoughts on the CZ 600 American

Many hunters feel disillusioned by the sea of carbon fiber and injection molded stocks and parts. They yearn for the feel of a rifle that only a wood stock can bring. Though I would (and regularly do) argue that rifles are being made with more precision and quality than at any other point in history, it’s great to see a rifle like the CZ 600 American embrace what we like about a good wood-stocked hunting rifle, and integrate it with a more modern action and components. Though I’ll nearly always opt for a synthetic-stocked rifle when hunting in my home state of Alaska, I can tip my hat to the CZ 600 as one of the best mid-priced hunting rifles I’ve seen in quite some time.

The post CZ 600 American Review: Return of the Wood-Stocked Hunting Rifle? appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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