February 2014

17 Hornet Bolt Rifles: CZ-USA’s 527 Varmint vs. Ruger’s 77/17

The Lilliputian 17 Hornet isnít widely chambered yet, but in these two well-appointed and sturdy guns, the cartridge impressed us with its accuracy, power, and ease of shooting.

Most of us are familiar with 17-caliber cartridges as rimfire ammunition, but the 17 Hornet is a centerfire round thatís only manufactured by Hornady in 15.5- and 20-grain V-Max Superformance loads. But we arenít offended by being one of the few people buying this round, because the touted box ballistics offer some astonishing numbers. Such as a muzzle velocity of 3650 fps with a drop of only -6.6 inches at 300 yards (200-yard zero). Maybe thatís why Ruger and CZ are taking a chance on chambering rifles for this pipsqueak round, and itís one of the reasons we were attracted to the cartridge. So much so that we got a $725 CZ-USA 527 Varmint 17 Hornet #03066 and Rugerís $969 77/17 17 Hornet Rotary Magazine Rifle to test head to head.

Each rifle represented a design well established by their respective manufacturers. The Ruger was built on a Green Mountain color-laminate stock. The CZ stock was Turkish walnut. Both rifles offered a traditional pattern of checkering at the forend and on the pistol grip. Length of pull was equal, measured at 13.5 inches. Stock drop at the comb and at the heel measured the same, and stock pitch was nearly equal. The Ruger had a 3-position safety that allowed the operator to work the bolt, but not the trigger when in its central position. The CZ rifle offered a simpler 2-position on/off safety. Both rifles featured a removable magazine. The Rugerís 5-round rotary design would go heads up against CZís 5-round single column magazine. Each rifle offered a scope mount integral with the receiver and proprietary scope rings. Each gun was fitted with a 24-inch barrel with recessed crown, and when fully loaded, both the CZ and the Ruger weighed more than 7 pounds. Both guns had rubber buttpads. The Ruger finish was matte stainless and the CZ was blued. One final note of comparison was that both the CZ 527 and the Ruger 77/17 17 Hornet rifles demonstrated a noticeable improvement in function between the thirty-fifth and fiftieth rounds. This included magazine fit, feeding, and bolt action, primarily regarding extraction from the magazine. Accuracy from the CZ was remarkable right out of the box, and the Ruger rifle continued to show improvement as its barrel was broken in. Both rifles produced muzzle velocity as listed on the ammunition box, resulting in muzzle energy near 600 ft.-lbs.

To find out how these rifles differed and evaluate this unusual chambering, we began by mounting a 4-16X42 Nikon Monarch BDC scope to test for accuracy from the 100-yard bench. Blessed with tame weather across the range at Houstonís American Shooting Centers, we were able to perform our tests with reasonable uniformity from day to day.

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