October 16, 2023
CZ-USA recently discontinued all of its centerfire rifle models—yep, all—and replaced them with a versatile action engineered to be better. It’s one of the most dramatic shifts I’ve seen a firearms company make.
Fans of the classic claw-extractor Model 550 (and all the similar BRNO derivatives) wailed in anguish. My heart sank right along with theirs. Another great, historic, controlled-feed rifle gone.
Thankfully, CZ’s new Model 600 is innovative, well thought out, and beautifully built. If the company was discontinuing the Model 527 mini-Mauser action, the accurate Model 557 push-feed action, and the Model 550, it at least did so with a very interesting rifle.
The Epitome of Modern Bolt Guns
The Model 600 is interesting in diverse ways. Col. Townsend Whelen, famous for stating, “Only accurate rifles are interesting,” would have found the Model 600 “interesting.” Shooters who appreciate modern design will find it compelling and fascinating.
Let’s dig in and unpack the Model 600. There’s a lot to discuss.
For starters, actions are machined of either steel or aluminum, depending on the configuration. There are four different variations of the Model 600: the Alpha (which I used for this report), the Lux, the Range, and the Trail.
The bolthead locks into battery directly into the rear of the barrel. That’s how it’s possible to use aluminum for the action—it takes no stress or pressure from the cartridge at all.
The bolt also features a controlled-feed extractor—perhaps a nod to the CZ and BRNO Mauser-type actions that are legendary for reliability on dangerous game. Whatever the reason, I’m a fan.
The bolthead has six locking lugs, two in tandem, in a classic three-lug pattern. The result is a fast 60-degree bolt throw.
The bolt body is steel, and the bolt knob is metal, wood, or polymer, depending on the variation. The bolt shroud is polymer and is turned to easily disassemble the bolt. When cocked, a cocking indicator protrudes from beneath the rear of the shroud.
While on the subject, when engaged, the safety locks the bolt closed. A small rectangular button on the right rear of the action, immediately forward of the bolt handle, may be pressed to unlock the bolt and allow it to be functioned with the safety still engaged. That same button serves as the bolt release for removing the bolt from the rifle.
I think the safety is the most unique feature on the Model 600, and I believe CZ took a calculated risk when designing and incorporating it. It’s located in the rear action tang and the rear trigger guard tang. Yep, it’s a vertical crossbolt-type safety driven straight down through the rear of the action. The crossbolt ends measure 0.38 inch in diameter and are nicely checkered. Press the top end, or “button,” straight down to disengage the safety and use the tip of the middle finger to press just behind the trigger guard to engage the safety.
It’s different. It has an unfamiliar feel. But it’s ergonomic. It’s definitely outside the box. I think it’s just possibly the coolest modern safety I’ve used. I’ll detail why later, in the shooting results section.
The action’s lines and profiles are very nicely designed, machined, and finished. The Alpha version I used has an aluminum action. It has the advantage of 1913-spec Picatinny optic rails machined into the top of the action. There is no stronger or more concentric scope mount. And while I lament the loss of the classic CZ Model 550, I do not lament the elimination of CZ’s proprietary integral scope bases.
By the way, the Model 600 Lux and the Model 600 Range have steel actions and are profiled to use standard Remington 700-type scope bases. The Model 600 Trail has a unique aluminum action with a full-length Picatinny rail atop it.
Barrel shanks are milled with locking lug recesses. Three large screws secure the barrel into the front of the receiver.
The trigger and the detachable box magazine are unique—and they are excellent. The CZ 600 magazine is polymer and is of double-stack configuration. Insert, pressing the rear of the magazine home and then rocking pressure to the front of the mag to click it into place.
Here’s some interesting stuff. A kidney-shaped release button is located right in front of the magazine and is well protected. Still, that button may be slid forward about an eighth of an inch to lock the magazine in place. When locked, it can’t be accidentally ejected. It can be top-loaded just like a traditional hinged-floorplate rifle model. It’s very savvy, and I do love savvy engineering.
The single-stage trigger is surprisingly crisp and light for a factory model, and it is user-adjustable without removing the barreled action from the stock. The hex adjustment screw has a broad head, and it’s marked with dots. Four positions, four settings. My rifle came with the trigger set on “two dots,” which is the second-from-lightest setting. Measuring it with my Lyman digital trigger gauge, it had less than 0.5 ounce of variation over a series of five tests, and it averaged exactly 2 pounds. Like I said, it’s crisp. It also has minimal overtravel. I’d rank it right up there with $150 aftermarket match triggers.
The four Model 600 variations have vastly different stocks. The Lux is what it sounds like: premium walnut with classic styling. The Range has a laminate wood stock, heavy but oh-so-stable. The Trail is very AR-esque with a collapsible stock. As for the Alpha reviewed here, it has a polymer stock with cutting-edge ergonomics.
As such, it does not have the rigidity of a carbon-fiber stock, but it feels great in precision-shooting positions and off-hand positions. A high comb provides good cheekweld; a near-vertical grip positions the shooting hand comfortably and without consistency-robbing torque; and textured serrations provide non-slip grip surfaces at critical points.
Keep in mind this rifle retails for $749. Have you priced premium carbon-fiber stocks recently? A stock alone costs that much.
The barrel is free-floated in the fore-end. Now, this is not a lightweight tube. It is cold hammer forged and features a semi-heavy contour. It has American-pitch threads at the muzzle for suppressor compatibility (5/8-24 for bigger centerfires; 1/2-28 for .22 centerfires). Rifling twist rates are fast where appropriate to support the long, heavy-for-caliber, highly aerodynamic projectiles so popular these days. My 6.5 PRC Model 600 Alpha has a 1:7 twist.
The Alpha’s combination of semi-heavy barrel and lightweight aluminum action makes for a slightly surprising balance. Some may say it’s muzzle heavy. I’m not one of them. It’s reminiscent of the best-balanced rifles of my off-hand competitive shooting days, which minimize shooter shake and unsteadiness. CZ made some subtle but very savvy decisions in configuring the Alpha. For hunters doing a lot of driven hunts, it’s much easier to follow through on running shots with a bit of weight in your barrel. Pairing the light aluminum action with it keeps overall weight within reason, so the Alpha isn’t hard to pack in the woods. Granted, it’s no mountain rifle, but I like how it feels and carries.
It’s important to note that true to its roots, CZ designed several different true-to-caliber-size versions of the Model 600 action. Cartridges like the .300 Winchester Magnum have robust actions; the .223 Remington, .224 Valkyrie, and 7.62x39 are built on more petite receivers. Barrel lengths are also appropriate, so weights across the variations differ vastly. A 7.62x39 tips the scales at 6.6 pounds; the 6.5 PRC you see here weighs 7.9 pounds.
Superb Shooting Results
After attaching a well-worn Harris bipod to the front sling swivel and mounting a lovely Kahles K318i scope, I scrounged up six different 6.5 PRC loads (no easy task these days) and repaired to the range.
Spring mud combined with warm temperatures made for slow progress, but I worked through all six loads, firing three consecutive three-shot groups with each ammo type for average. CZ has a sub-MOA, three-shot-group accuracy guarantee for all Model 600s, with a sub-0.75-MOA, five-shot guarantee on the Range variation.
The first load I tried—Hornady’s 147-grain ELD Match ammo—averaged a scant 0.65 inch. Right out of the gate, the rifle met CZ’s sub-MOA accuracy guarantee and then some.
Two of the six loads averaged a tad over one MOA. The other four averaged less than 0.75 MOA. That’s spectacular performance for a $749 rifle.
While I was shooting, two characteristics of the Model 600 came to my attention. First, the trigger broke like an icicle. It’s wonderfully crisp and clean. On the downside, the fore-end is pretty flexible. The Harris bipod held the fore-end tip still, but I could take two fingers and wiggle the buttstock, easily twisting it right and left. A bit more rigidity would have made it easier to get perfectly stable in the prone position. Still, that bit of flex didn’t seem to hurt the accuracy results, as you can see from the accompanying chart.
I want to circle back here and comment on the safety. While it takes a bit of getting used to, it has undeniable advantages. For one, it’s ambidextrous. More interesting to modern shooters employing precision shooting techniques, it falls under the tip of the thumb when the shooting hand is placed comfortably and torque-free on the grip, with the thumb resting lightly atop the wrist, not wrapped around it.
I found I could aim at a distant steel target, chamber hot but safety “On,” waiting out a wind gust (or theoretically waiting for a game animal to step out from behind a bush or turn broadside), and when conditions were perfect, a trace of downward pressure on my thumb tip silently disengaged the safety, leaving me instantly ready to send the shot downrange. No sound, no discernible movement, no interruption to my shooting grip or delay on the trigger.
Is there anything wrong with the Model 600 Alpha? Aside from the flex in the stock, I’ll be darned if I could find anything. I lament the loss of CZ’s classic dangerous-game guns and all the unique cartridges CZ used to chamber, ranging from the 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser to the .505 Gibbs. However, that lamentation is no strike against the Model 600. As a modern rifle, it offers a nearly unprecedented array of features, capability, and ergonomics, all at a very reasonable price.
MODEL 600 ALPHA SPECIFICATIONS
- MANUFACTURER: CZ-USA: cz-usa.com
- TYPE: Bolt-action repeater
- CALIBER: 6.5 PRC
- MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 3 rounds
- BARREL: 24 in.
- OVERALL LENGTH: 42.2 in.
- WEIGHT, EMPTY: 7.69 lbs.
- STOCK: Fiber-reinforced polymer
- LENGTH OF PULL: 14 in.
- FINISH: Blued steel, black anodized aluminum, black stock
- SIGHTS: None; Picatinny rail bases machined into the receiver
- TRIGGER: 2.0-lb. pull (as tested)
- SAFETY: Two-position vertical crossbolt
- MSRP: $749
Hunting with the CZ Model 600
While I was in the Czech Republic for a Model 600 pre-launch media event, I was fortunate enough to hunt mouflon with a Lux model chambered in .300 Win. Mag.
Hunting a new country often comes with sensory overload. Foggy mists overhung giant forests, rolling gently and broken by hidden meadows. It was October, and the red stag “roar” was on. Guttural, raspy bellows reverberated through the woods, distracting me from my task of looking for wild sheep.
My guide spoke a trace of English and had a translation app downloaded on his phone. We crawled up a ravine and peeked over the edge into a meadow—and got pinned by red deer all around us. Three mouflon moved in. Two were immature; one—I was reluctantly given to understand—was too big. It dawned on me that the biggest mouflon males were preserved to pass along their genetics. When old, they could be shot, but they brought a premium.
In the dark of the next morning, we sat in primeval mist in an elevated box stand made of oak. Black with moisture and green with moss, it felt much older than me. Stags moved directly below us, migrating with the dawn from the fields below into the bedding cover above. As light washed the valley, two mouflon rams emerged. One was right for the taking. He paused at 68 yards, and the Model 600 Lux put a softnose bullet through his vitals. The ram dropped, quivered, and lay still.
Like CZ rifles have for more than a century, the Model 600 had done its job perfectly.