The 7.62x39mm cartridge is one of my all time favorites. The 7.62x39mm cartridge has been around since 1947 and has proven itself to be a light-recoiling cartridge for offensive work, defensive work, and hunting medium-sized game. The bullet design includes FMJ, soft-point, and hollow-point; all of which cycle nicely through the SKS and AK-based rifles.
When the SKS rifle arrived in the US of A, many a hunter converted the rifle for hunting deer in the South and other geographical locations. My introduction to the 7.62×39 cartridge began with an acquisition of a Chinese SKS or two. I have been hooked on the cartridge ever since. When fired through a semi-automatic firearm, like the SKS or AK47-based firearm, the recoil of the cartridge is very mild to the shoulder. While sharing similar ballistics to the venerable .30-30 cartridge, the light recoil is something very desirable to these old bones.
After indulging myself with an American-made Ak47 variant, I decided to take a leap and evaluate how the cartridge would perform through a bolt-action carbine. The CZ 527 Carbine was chosen as the test platform. The choice was simplified by the fact that the CZ was the only bolt-action firearm chambered for the 7,62x39mm cartridge. While finding a suitable magnified optic was something of a challenge, I liked what I felt when firing the 7.62×39 cartridge through the CZ. I later produced an article on the CZ 527, its attributes and foibles, and life continued.
Recently, Ruger produced the Ruger American Ranch rifle in 7.62x39mm that I thought was worth a look. Doing some research on the Ruger, and although I was not enthralled by the composite stock, I felt that it would be worthy since all of the reviews were positive. I hoped that my perception of shortcomings with the CZ 527 would be mitigated with the Ruger – same 7.62x39mm church, but in a different pew.
So, here I present a comparative viewpoint between the Ruger American Ranch and the CZ 527 in 7.62x39mm.
To being with, I would like to talk about optics.
At the present time, the CZ 527 is outfitted with a Sight Mark CORE HX 2-7x32mm “Hog Hunter” magnified optic mounted in Warne “high” scope rings, which is actually optional given that the CZ 527 has front and rear sights. My aging eyes demand magnified optics. With the Ruger American Ranch in 7.62x39mm; however, a magnified optic is essential since the firearm does not have sights. To be fair in my assessment of these two firearms, I decided to mount an identical scope on the Ruger American Ranch in 7.62x39mm. Ruger provides a Weaver #46 rail on which to mount the rings and scope; whereas, CZ provides fixed, integrated 16mm Scope Bases.
The challenge with scoping the CZ 527 was the lift of the bolt. The Warne high rings for the CZ provided enough clearance as long as the eye-piece of the scope was not too large. For that reason, the Sight Mark CORE HX 2-7x32mm “Hog Hunter” magnified optic was selected over the Nikon scope of the same magnification; the eyepiece on the Nikon did not provide that needed bolt handle clearance.
On the Ruger American Ranch; however, a set of medium Warne QD rings provided a nice clearance between bolt handle and eyepiece. With the provided rail, mounting and leveling the scope was far easier than with the CZ 527. The combination of Warne QD rings, the Sight Mark “Hog Hunter” 2-7x32mm scope, and the Ruger Ranch make for a nice, compact package.
Ruger utilizes a Flat Dark Earth Synthetic stock, patent-pending Power Bedding® with integral bedding block system that positively locates the receiver and free-floats the barrel for outstanding accuracy; whereas, the CZ 527 is straight comb walnut stock that is not bedded; nor is the barrel free-floating. LOP for the Ruger is 13.75 inches and for the CZ 527 Carbine is 13.46 inches. For me, I prefer the extra .29 inches of the Ruger, but I have to say that the stock on the CZ 527 is more favored simply because I am a wood stock type of guy. I will say that I would try to protect the stock on the CZ more than I would the Ruger. A nice, laminated stock; however, would really add something to the Ruger, in my opinion – and I may seek one out at a later time.
Whether “bedding” is needed on a short-barreled carbine like the Ruger or the CZ is up for debate.
Even though the LOP of both the CZ 527 and Ruger Ranch is adequate, I install a Pachmyr Decelerator Slip On recoil pad just to provide a little more LOP for me.
Unless absolutely necessary, I’ll refrain from removing the action from the stock on the Ruger. There are two mounting screws for attaching the action. Each of the screws must be equally tightened to between 60-inch pounds and 80-inch pounds to properly “bed” the action.
Left-handed shooter, like me, will not be able to grip the stock with the thumb wrapped over the tang and operate the bolt. I normally shoot with my shooting thumb alongside the stock anyway. With the Ruger American Ranch, thumb position is not an option. For a lefty, the thumb must be alongside the stock. For right-handed shooters, there is not issue as the shooting/cocking hand comes off the firearm anyway.
The CZ 527 Carbine comes with a proprietary 5 round magazine that I have found to be contentious at times. Whether it is an alignment issue or simply new magazines, I have had the bolt “hang-up” on me on more than several occasions. I was expecting a “smooth operator” with the CZ, but that is not what I am getting. In my opinion, a drop-box magazine like that found on the SKS would have worked well on this type of firearm. It is, after all, a sporting carbine. Of course, you can’t make money selling magazines when a drop-box magazine is being used.
The Ruger American Ranch utilizes Ruger Mini 30 magazines. While the Ruger comes with one 5-round magazine, you can find 10-round, 20-rounds, and even 30-round magazines, but the 10-round magazines are somewhat scarce. For myself, I ordered two, 10-round magazines directly from Ruger since the 10-round magazines are hard to find, and I prefer using a magazine from the manufacturer over 3rd-party magazines in some cases – Ruger is one of those cases. I felt no need to invest in 20-round magazines for a bolt-gun and 10-round magazines make the Ruger American Ranch less cumbersome than it would be with larger-capacity magazines. Unlike the magazines for the CZ 527, the Ruger Mini-30 magazines work quite well and “hang-ups” with the bolt were non-existent. I will say that I am not impressed with the follower on the Ruger 10-round magazines. The followers on both magazines were hanging up when I tried to insert the first round into the magazine. It seems that the read bottom edge of the follower was catching on the magazine body at the rear. A little deeper follower skirt would have prevented this. I may just work with the five-round magazines in the future, as this one seems to work just fine and without the first round loading issue.
The Magazines for the CZ 527 are not “top loaders” as the Ruger Ranch 7.62×39 magazines are. You can load a Ruger Ranch 7.62×39 magazine with the bolt to the rear without removing the magazine.
I will say that that 10th round was a bear to insert until after the magazine was well broken in and a fully-loaded magazine is best inserted in the firearm with the bolt to the rear and safety lever on safe.
I found it best, as a left-handed shooter, to hold the butt of the firearm against my waist with my left hand gripping the stock while my right-hand did the dirty deed of removing and replacing the magazine. No “speed loading” with the Ruger Ranch that’s for sure!
Also, the magazine for the CZ-527 allows the bolt to be closed after the last shot. The Ranch magazine, being the same used in the Mini-Thirty, prevents the bolt from being pushed forward after the last round. If you are not cognizant of how many rounds you have fired, not being able to push the bolt forward may confuse you.
Being a left-handed shooter, I found no issues with attaching magazine to the CZ 527. With the Ruger the magazines are a tight fit when the firearm and magazines are new. It takes some work to get the Ruger magazines inserted and just as much work to release them from the magwell.
The magazines for the CZ 527 insert and remove easily; the Ruger magazines, not so much. To remove the Ruger magazine, simply push the magazine lever to the front until an audible click is heard, which means that the locking latch has cleared the magazine lock, then grasp the magazine and pull downward. The longer magazines, like the ten-round magazine and above, are more easily extracted than the five-round magazine that comes with the rifle, because they have more surface area to grasp. To insert the magazine I found it best to just insert the front lip of the magazine into the well, rock it back and up to press the magazine latch inward, press the magazine all the way in; albeit, you will have to slap the bottom of the magazine to fully seat it – bolt open or not, until it locks (clicks) into place. The operation is similar to inserting an AK magazine, if you have had that experience, but with a lot less clearance to work with.
The Ruger Mini 30 five round magazine is somewhat easily disassembled for cleaning or replacing magazine parts, unlike the CZ 527 magazines. Magazine parts are readily available through Ruger and other on-line distributors like Cheaper-Than-Dirt.
With all this said, I ordered three additional Ruger five-round magazines because they seem to work smoothly in the firearm. The Ruger American Ranch carbine is, after all, a sporting firearm. If I need something for “serious” work, the AK-based firearm is available with larger magazine capacities and semi-automatic operation.
The trigger on both the CZ 527 and the Ruger are excellent. The CZ 527 has a single-set trigger that is almost scary to operate once the trigger is “set.” Out of the box, the standard trigger pull weight was 3.5 pounds average. The set trigger pull weight was 13.9 ounces! That’s right; the set trigger pull weight is less than a pound!
Out of the box, there was absolutely no pre-travel nor over-travel. When you place the trigger finger on the trigger, the trigger is ready to go when you are. In the case of the set trigger position, the trigger may be ready before you are. The trigger is also user-adjustable, but I found no need to do any adjustments.
The Ruger American Ranch has the Ruger Marksman Adjustable™ trigger that offers a crisp release with a pull weight that is user adjustable between 3 and 5 pounds – according to Ruger. As with the CZ, I found the trigger acceptable and felt no need to adjust; albeit, the Ruger’s trigger is not yet broken in and is a bit gritty.
The safety lever for the CZ 527 is located to the right rear of the firearm just behind the bolt handle. It is a two-position safety. Raise the safety lever until it covers the red dot for a “safe” condition. When ready to fire, lower the safety lever until the red dot is visible.
The location of the safety selector on the Ruger American Ranch is located low on the tang and centered, which makes it easy to reach and operate for right and left-handed shooters. The safety selector is a two-position affair very similar to that on Mossberg shotguns. To go “off safe” push the safety selector forward until the red “F” is exposed. To go “safe,” pull the safety selector rearward until the red “F” is covered.
The Ruger American Ranch in 7.62x39mm is what I would call, a “Utility Carbine,” because the 16.5-inch barrel hardly qualifies it as a rifle. The barrel is made from cold-forged alloy steel in a matte black finish, with a 1:10 RH twist rate, and incorporates a 5/8″-24 threading with an end cap, which allows for a flash hider or noise suppressor to be installed. Considering that the AK47 barrel is approximately 16.3 inches, I foresee no loss in velocity, given that this is bolt-action firearm and all gases go forward and are not diffused in any manner within the firearm like that of a gas-operated, semi-automatic firearm. In fact, there might be a slight increase in bullet velocity.
The CZ 527, like the Ruger American Ranch in 7.62x39mm, also falls into the “carbine” classification due to the barrel length. However, the 18.5-inch barrel of the CZ has a 1:9 RH twist rate with 6 grooves.
The CZ 527 is built to CIP specifications. The 7.62×39 chambers are ideal for shooting steel-cased surplus ammo. Designed to shoot .311 bullets, some American brass ammo may not perform as well as the imported steel-cased variety because of SAAMI brass dimensions and varying bullet diameters (typically, .310 inches). With that said my CZ seems to do well with steel-cased ammunition and is adequately accurate for my purposes.
The Ruger didn’t seem to balk at all with steel-cased ammunition with the one-piece, three-lug bolt with 70° throw that provides ample scope clearance and utilizes a full diameter bolt body and dual cocking cams for smooth, easy cycling. While some may be purists about it, the difference between a bullet diameter of .310 and .311 does not make for an issue with me. Ruger states that it will handle both with aplomb. So far, it seems that Ruger’s statement is true.
At the Range:
To place the evaluation between the CZ 527 and the Ruger American Ranch firearms on a somewhat even keel, identical ammunition was run through both firearms; Golden Bear 7.62×39 123-grain Bimetal HP with brass-plated steel cases.
The one thing that will impress you, as well as your shooting neighbors, is the amount of muzzle flash seen when shooting Russian ammunition out of a short-barreled bolt-gun. In short, your world, and that of others, will be lit up. I can see placing a flash-hider on the Ruger just to diminish some of the flash.
My Final Analysis:
It really comes down to form vs. function.
The CZ 527 Carbine Rustic 7.62×39, in my opinion, definitely has the form. The CZ 527 is simply a pleasure to look at and hold, and the trigger pull is just short of amazing. At 5.94 pounds, without scope, the CZ 527 is the heavier of the two carbines under scrutiny with the Ruger American Ranch 7.62×39 weighing in at 5.9 pounds without scope. We are only talking a .04 pound of difference here. Whether you like wood and steel or synthetic and steel, either firearm would fit your fancy.
What really matters, at least to me, is function. Here is where I lean in the direction of the Ruger American Ranch in 7.62×39. Granted that the trigger is not a good as that found on the CZ 527, or is the stock that pretty to look at, and that stubby barrel leaves a lot to be desired and makes the carbine look “off’ balanced,” but the Ruger is a gosh-darn good and functional firearm platform.
As I mentioned previously, I shoot with the thumb of the shooting hand alongside the stock. For right-handed shooters, thumb position is not worth warranting discussion, as the hand is well clear of the tang as it operates the bolt. For left-handed shooters such as me; however, thumb position can make the difference between going home with a damaged thumb or not. If the left hand is “gripping” the stock in the usual position on the tang of the stock, the “cocking piece” of the bolt may contact the thumb as the bolt is operated rearward, and this could cause some harsh words to be expelled from the mouth and possible blood to be expelled from the thumb. With the thumb of my shooting hand (left) resting against the side of the stock, no injury occurs to the thumb and I am saved from creating new curse words.
At first, I was skeptical of the Ruger American Ranch in 7.62×39, but this firearm is growing on me. The more that I handle it, the more that I like it.
More About the Ruger American Ranch Rifle:
As I read more reviews of the Ruger American Ranch Rifle in 6.62x39mm, I have no problem including reviews other than mine.