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CZ 527 and Russian-American Amory BARS-4-1
Bolt Action 7.62x39mm Rifles

By Randy D. Smith

Russian-American Amory BARS-4-1
Randy D. Smith holding Russian-American Amory BARS-4-1 rifle.

When it comes to an all-purpose predator cartridge, the 7.62X39 Soviet has a lot more going for it than many will give credit. The cartridge is chambered in a variety of inexpensive semi-auto rifles, is one of the least expensive centerfire rounds to shoot and can be called into service for predator, small deer and feral hog hunting at moderate range. It is popular in Europe and across Russia because of these traits. I have owned and used a number of rifles in this caliber and I enjoy hunting with it.

Last winter during January and February, I took twenty coyotes by calling in cold and snowy weather and concentrating my efforts in heavy Conservation Reserve Program grasslands, a large proportion of which was walk-in public hunting. None of those coyotes was taken at a range beyond sixty yards. Every one of these dogs could have been easily taken with a 122-grain hollow point 7.62X39mm round. Several of them were.

I sight the 7.62X39 one or two inches high at 100 yards. The 7.62X39 will zero at 150 yards and be about four inches low at 200 yards. At 200 yards, the 7.62X39 retains almost 900 foot pounds of energy. A .223 Remington retains around 675 foot pounds of energy at 200 yards. The 7.62X39 round is more flexible and less expensive to shoot than any of the revolver rounds, such as the .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and .45 Long Colt, in bolt action or lever action carbines.

Recoil from a 7.62X39 is greater than a .223, so it is more difficult to keep a scope on target. However, it is noticeably less than a .243 or .30-30. While cartridge accuracy is considered so-so, I believe that is because of the rifles for which it is commonly chambered. Most military semi-autos are built with sketchy production tolerances and do not have target grade triggers and neither does the Ruger Mini-30. In the right rifles, I have been satisfied with the 7.62x39's accuracy. In bolt action and single shot rifles the 7.63X39 can be quite accurate. While Remingtonís Spartan SPR 18 single shot, imported from Russia, has a poor trigger and corresponding mediocre accuracy, the H&R single shot (when you can find one) is very accurate when chambered for this round.

BARS-4-1 Rifle

I currently carry a bolt action 7.62X39. It is a Russian-American Armory BARS-4-1, manufactured by Izhmash of Russia. These are the people responsible for Saiga rifles and shotguns. The description of the rifle on the web site is as follows:

The BARS-4-1 rifle is designed for medium-sized game and big upland bird hunting. The design of the (scope) mounts allows the shooter to deliver fire over the iron sights without detaching the optical one. The stock may be made of different kinds of wood (birch, walnut, beech). The rifle is available in the following modifications: Bars-4-1 chambered for the 5.6x39 cartridge, the Bars-4-1 chambered for the .223 Rem. (5.56x45) cartridge and the Bars-4-1 chambered for the 7.62 x 39 cartridge.

The safety is typically "backwards" European, forward is safe and backward is fire. When engaged, the safety switch locks the bolt in place. It is a push feed action with detachable five round magazine. The staggered feed magazine fits flush with the bottom of the stock. The bolt handle fits tightly against the stock when the bolt is closed. My rifle weighs less than the advertised seven pounds. The stock is probably beech. The open sight settings are crude and the markings are inaccurate. I used the 300m sight setting for 100 yard shots and it worked pretty well on short range game.

Eventually, I mounted an inexpensive 2.5X Simmons compact scope to improve accuracy. The scope made a tremendous difference for successful 100 to 150 yard hits. I chose a compact because the scope base is a 3/8Ē dovetail and is so short that a standard length scope is too close to my eye and there is not enough adjustment to mount the scope farther forward. This scope works fine. There is a pin in the top of the breech to keep the scope rings from working forward under recoil. Obviously, what Iím implying is that the rifle is not what we are commonly familiar with in the good old USA.

I have used this rifle for over a year and I will keep the BARS-4-1. The trigger is simply excellent and it makes a fine bolt action stalking rifle. While the BARS 4-1 trigger is not as light as the set option on the CZ, it breaks right at three pounds.

From a bench rest, my BARS-4-1 will shoot cloverleaf 100 yard, three shot groups using Wolf 122-grain hollow point ammunition. There is usually a flyer in a five-round group, but I blame the ammo rather than the rifle. That is the beauty of this rifle. It rivals my most accurate rifles with a cheap scope and cheap ammunition. It is a darned good rifle. I have had no warranty claims on the BARS-4-1.

CZ 527 Rifle

I had a CZ 527 (made in Europe in the Czech Republic) for a year and experienced many of the same quirks evidenced in the BARS-4-1. The CZ 527 is a compact mini-Mauser action that is supplied with excellent open sights, although I chose to mount a 2.5X Weaver scope on it. It has a detachable metal, in-line feed, five round magazine that extends below the bottom of the stock, spoiling the stock's otherwise good lines.

The CZ 527 is supplied with a genuine walnut stock, a real plus in an economical rifle. Unfortunately, my CZ's stock split at the tang after less than 150 rounds. To their credit, the company immediately replaced it at no charge.

The CZ 527 is extremely easy to shoot accurately, mostly because of its single set trigger. You push forward on the trigger until it clicks to set it for a very light pull.

I took the CZ on a Texas predator hunt and loaded some PMC 7.62X39 rounds. I had three misfires in a row on a coyote that had called. I switched to Wolf brand ammunition and every cartridge fired perfectly. Of course, this was after the coyote was long gone. When I examined the dud PMC rounds, I saw strong primer indentions and concluded that these misfires were not the rifle's fault. I sent the ammo to PMC for examination and never heard from them, nor have I received my ammunition back. I quit using PMC ammunition because of this incident.

While I have had occasional misfires with Wolf and Barnaul (Russian) ammunition in SKS and Saiga semi-autos and the Remington SPR-18, I have never had a misfire in either bolt action. Frankly, I canít see spending the extra money for domestic loads, unless you intend to reload the empties, when the steel-cased Russian stuff works so well. Wolf 122-grain hollow points and Barnaul 125-grain soft points hit coyotes and feral hogs very hard and usually put them right down.

Summary and Conclusion

Why would someone want a bolt action 7.62X39? They are more accurate, more reliable, better balanced and more pleasing to the eye than military semi-autos. They are also legal in almost all jurisdictions. I consider both of these rifles to be good choices for recoil sensitive shooters. Either would make an excellent training rifle for young whitetail hunters. They are excellent stalking and backpack rifles, being light and compact. They are very economical to shoot with Russian ammunition. Because of their detachable magazines, it is convenient to carry them unloaded in a farm truck and yet be able to have them charged and ready for action in a few seconds. They are predator rifles that can be called to duty for hunting deer or average size feral hogs at the ranges that most whitetail are taken (under 100 yards).

I took one whitetail doe with the CZ 527 at eighty yards and a young feral hog at fifty with 122-grain hollow point bullets. Both took less than three steps before going down from well placed lung shots. I have shot a number of raccoons, badgers, skunks and several coyotes with the BARS-4-1, all at less than a hundred yards, and all of them went down on the spot. I did send one coyote spinning this winter with a pulled shot and it took a second round to anchor him. Hide damage is less than with a .243 or .30-30, since the 7.62x39 round is less powerful than those calibers. I can see why the 7.62X39 is popular for hunting the smaller species of game in Europe. Where legal, these would make excellent turkey rifles.

No, they will not do anything that canít be done with a lever action .30-30 and they do not have the range of a .243, but they are extremely inexpensive to shoot and both of my examples are among the most accurate rifles I have tested. I think they are nearly perfect for woods hunting and I often carry the BARS-4-1 in the rolling sand hills of south central Kansas. It is a great sand hill predator calling rifle, especially when I call at the far end of the area and have to pack-in nearly two miles. I also normally carry the BARS 4-1 during late summer deer scouting ventures just before muzzleloader season. I normally carry the rifle in my camper during summer outings.

For the recoil sensitive hunter, or the backpacker who wants an inexpensive pack rifle with much more power than a rimfire, the bolt action 7.26X39 is a good choice. I particularly like my BARS-4-1 in this caliber because it is an economical fit between my rimfire rifles and my lever action .30-30ís. While the lever action .30-30 is a superior deer choice, the bolt action 7.62X39 is my preference for close range predators.

Note: There is a full review of a CZ 527 rifle in .223 caliber on the Product Review Page.

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Copyright 2008, 2012 by Randy D. Smith and/or All rights reserved.