Rimfire autos have long been a popular choice with both sport and competition shooters.
CZ came up with a winner with its excellent model 512 auto, which was available in both .22LR and .22 Winchester Magnum (WMR). Since then, CZ has teamed up with ATI and developed a tactical chassis for the rifle for folks who wanted something a little bit more than just the classic wood-and-steel hunting rifle.
When it came time to pick up a test rifle, I debated between the .22LR version and the .22 Magnum. There’s a lot to be said for the affordable .22LR, but if you want a bit more punch for use on varmints or the ability to reach out a little bit farther, the .22 Magnum really comes into its own.
In addition, there aren’t a lot of .22 Magnum semiautomatics available on the market to begin with, especially if you like a tactical-style rifle, so the CZ 512 Tactical really sits in its own niche.
Factoring together those two aspects, it seemed only natural to give the magnum version of the 512 Tactical a run.
The CZ 512 Tactical comes chambered in either .22 LR or .22 WMR, just like its sporting brother, the Model 512. The test model I worked with was chambered for .22 Magnum.
It is fitted with a shorter, 16.5-inch-long barrel equipped with 1/2×28 muzzle threads. The barrel is free floated in a ventilated forend equipped with a full-length Picatinny top rail. A six-position collapsible stock allows adjustment for heavy clothing or a wide range of shooters.
The pistol grip is large and hand filling and allows easy access to the cross bolt safety. The gun comes equipped with a higher-capacity, 10-round magazine, although it will also still take the five-round mags of the original Model 512.
Weight is 6.1 pounds, which is actually a touch heavier than the 512, but the overall length of the gun is short (36 inches with the stock open and 33 inches overall with it closed). Its MSRP is currently listed at $524 in .22 Magnum, which is only $14 more than a basic Model 512 in .22 Magnum with a wood stock.
No sights are provided with the 512 Tactical, but the full-length rail allows the user to customize the gun as they see fit. For competition, a red dot would work nicely. For target or hunting use, a magnified optic would be best, and you can always put a set of flip-up irons on, no matter what use you foresee for the gun.
For my range testing, I tried two different optics: a Leatherwood Hi-Lux 4-16×44 optic and later, a TruGlo Tru-Brite 30 1-6×24 scope, with both red and green illuminated reticle.
The trigger pull on the 512 is excellent. CZ lists it at 6.1 pounds, but it feels lighter to me. It’s crisp with a nice, short reset.
Sight-in with both optics was very fast—under five rounds with minimal adjustment. In fact, it seems as if the 512 Tactical just wants to shoot. At 25 yards, five-shot strings made ragged, one-hole groups, regardless of the ammo I used. In fact, the 512 was not at all picky about ammo, whether I fed it solids, jacketed hollow points or ballistic tips. And I didn’t have a single malfunction in more than 300 rounds during my test period.
Moving out to 50 yards, my groups barely opened up over the 25-yard groups. I was regularly printing under a half-inch with all loads. I did some 100-yard work, as well. However, I didn’t do my “for record” shots at that range, because it was uncharacteristically a warm winter day when I got out for that testing. Still, groups at that range hovered just under 1 inch. They might well have stayed even smaller, but I’d tag my eyes as being the culprit, as well as allowing an occasional flier to open things up.
I had three shooters behind the 512 Tactical while I was working with it, and it was eye opening to see just how consistent this gun shot, even with different shooters. I can honestly say I got some of the best groups I’ve ever shot with this rifle, as did my buddies. It’s simply a joy to shoot. No recoil, a good, consistent trigger and boringly reliable shot-to-shot accuracy.
Rimfires can sometimes be finicky with both feeding and accuracy, preferring certain rounds to others, particularly .22 Magnums, in my experience. Not so with the 512 Tactical.
Role of the 512 Tactical
I can see utilizing the 512 Tactical in a number of roles.
First, it’s an amazingly accurate rifle and is simply enjoyable to shoot on the target range.
It would also be a great rifle in any number of rimfire competition matches, either in the .22LR chambering or the Magnum, if allowed.
It’s also a great short- to mid-range varmint gun, especially in .22 Magnum (as tested). I could see groundhogs learning to fear this rifle, especially if it were fit with a suppressor; they wouldn’t know what hit them.
Lastly, I have to say that I wouldn’t rule it out as a survival/camp gun. You can carry or store an awful lot of .22 Magnum ammunition in a relatively small space.
Ammunition cost is more than for the .22LR, but it is still a good deal less than centerfire ammunition. As is, you get a round with more punch than the .22LR, especially in a rifle, and much better bullet design with rounds such as the Remington V-Max loads and Hornady Critical Defense.
Another Good One
You could look at the 512 Tactical as something of a micro assault rifle,” if you can forgive the use of the term. The lack of recoil and excellent accuracy, along with the adjustable stock, make the CZ 512 Tactical a gun the whole family can shoot well … something that can’t be overlooked in an emergency situation.
Fast, accurate hits with a few .22 Magnum hollow points beats a heavier gun any day of the week. Equipped with something such as the TruGlo 1-6x scope, you have the option of a 1x dot sight for close-range work up to 6x for more-precise game-gathering or pest control.
If your battery dies, you still have a basic reticle. Add a set of backup irons and a few spare mags, and you’re in business.
Speaking of spare mags, while the 10-rounders are a bump up from the original 512’s five-round magazines, I wouldn’t mind seeing a mag with even more capacity. You’re a bit limited in practical size as a result of the single-stack nature of the mag, and you don’t want to impact the excellent reliability of the gun. Nevertheless, I’d like to see how a 20-round magazine would work.
Whatever role you envision for the 512 Tactical, it’s an extremely accurate and reliable rifle at a very competitive price for the features that you get. CZ has a long history and a reputation for making great, quality firearms, and the 512 tactical is certainly no exception.
Model: CZ 512 Tactical, .22 WMR
Caliber: .22 WMR
Magazine capacity: 10
Magazine type: Polymer single stack
Stock: six-position adjustable; adjustable comb height
Length of pull: 12 to 15.25 inches
Sights: Picatinny rail
Barrel: Cold hammer forged
Barrel length: 16.5 inches, threaded 1/2×28
Overall length: 33 to 36.25 inches
Weight: 6.1 pounds
Notes: All shots were fired at 50 yards using a sandbag rest with a Leatherwood scope set at 6x. Ambient temperature was 65 degrees (F). Group size was the best of five-shot groups fired.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the August 2016 print issue of Gun World.