Bolt-Action Choices: 7.62x39mm Rifles

As part of my desire to pull back from longer-distance shooting — perhaps “desire” is the wrong word;  “forced by crap eyesight” is longer, but more accurate — comes the need to look at a rifle which would suit my purpose better than those I already have.  Here’s one such example of a gun currently sitting in Ye Olde Gunne Sayfe, a CZ 550 (6.5x55mm Swede), topped with a Meopta 6-24x56mm scope:

As any fule Longtime Reader kno, I love me my 6.5×55 Swede cartridge, and I love equally the gorgeous CZ 550 Mauser rifle with its sweeeeet single set trigger.   To replace this beauty would require ripping out a piece of my heart;  but, at the same time, it has become too much rifle and honestly, would better suit someone who could actually use it to its full potential.  I’m not that person, anymore.

But if I were going to replace this paragon of excellence, the new bolt-action rifle would need to fill several criteria:  reliable, accurate, and chambered for a cartridge which would not require me to spend almost as much on new ammo as on the rifle and scope.  Something like the 7.62x39mm Russian (of which I have a ummm  modest supply already in Ye Olde Ammoe Locquer).

There aren’t too many of these extant, but here are a couple, with their comparative features side by side:

Given my long and affectionate relationship with CZ rifles, one would think that the 527 would have the inside track;  but I have to tell you, that stubby little bull barrel of the Ruger looks very tempting. I’m not too concerned about the difference in barrel length, because as it is, the 7.62x39mm works just fine in an AK’s 16.5″ barrel, and the shorter barrel would make the Ruger less unwieldy.

And I know that the Ruger’s standard trigger isn’t as good as the 527’s set trigger, but given the price disparity between them, a drop-in Timney (about $150) would still bring the Ranch Rifle’s price in below that of the CZ 527, and if I set it to a sensible 2.5lb pull, that would be more than adequate.

I hate the Ruger’s plastic stock material — or is it a painted laminate? either way, it’s awful — and of course the CZ’s walnut is exquisite by comparison, albeit somewhat heavier.

As for glass:  the 24x Meopta is much more than I need when my likely (and preferred) shooting distance would be somewhat around (and probably less than) 200 yards.  Something smaller (and lighter, as a bonus) would work just as well on either rifle, and I’d be looking at something like a Leupold 3-9x40mm 3HD, a Leupold 2-10x42mm VX-5HD, or else the Minox 2-10×50 ZX5i (all with illuminated reticles, to help my pathetic eyesight):

I have a long and satisfying association with both Leupold and Minox scopes too, so this would not be short-changing myself at all.

One more thing:  I’m not a huge fan of rail scope mounts such as on the Ruger, because they do raise the scope high off the action.  Low scope bases (lower even than on the CZ 500 pictured) would definitely work better for me.

As I said earlier, all the above is certainly food for thought, and I will be considering the whole thing carefully for a while before I drop the hammer, so to speak.  I hate selling guns, but if I’m replacing one that I can’t shoot properly for one that I can, it does make the process easier.


  1. Good man, Kim! Stay in the game if you can, and you still have something to contribute. 😊👍

    CZ also makes a carbine 7.62×39 that will blow the Ruger out of the water! It looks to be a smidge longer than an M1 carbine and I want one so bad I can taste it… but the gun safe is overflowing, the gun budget looks like a democrat boondoggle, and it just ain’t gonna happen. Maybe in the next life.

    The Ruger Americans I have seen do not run nearly as smooth as the CZs… but they are cheaper. My expert opinion is that a guy like you deserves the CZ. 😉

    1. I too like the CZ 527 carbine, and it comes in (barely) under 6-lbs. Turkish walnut, and a Mauser bolt – what’s not to like.

  2. I agree that you’d be better served by the CZ. I’m generally a Ruger guy but in my (our?) old age I think more about spending a few more dollars and buying what I want for one last time.

    I am a bit concerned about the availability of good ammunition in 7.62×39. Lots of us have spam cans of steel case Russian stuff that’s loaded with match heads and coal dust. That stuff is fun for making noise but good quality brass case ammo in any caliber is rough to find. If I was looking at a good quality bolt gun in 7.62 short Russian I’d pick up a set of dies. I know that you’re not set up to reload so your task will to find a commercial load that shoots accurately.

    1. Sellier & Bellot and/or Hornady (and I don’t doubt that there are others) can fill my need for good quality “Russian”, and a good set of dies is always a plus.

  3. WHy not keep the 6.5 Swede? Sure you’re not using it to its full potential but look at the folks that buy super cars, or soccer moms with their 4WD Land Rovers. they’ll never use the car to its full potential either but they’ll still enjoy using it.

    I’ve been looking for something with a more mild recoil that my wife would enjoy. 30-06 isnt bad but I’d like something along the lines of 7mm-08 etc. I thought about the 6.5Man Bun, but I don’t want a man bun. 6.5mm Swede looks interesting. Ammunition for it is like everything else right now, hens teeth. I guess that means rifle, glass, reloading components.


  4. +1 for the 527 carbine. I had the oportunity to test one from a friend and he almost needed a mule train to get it back.

  5. I have a pair of 527s, one in .223/5.56 and one in 7.62×39. I erred in lending the 7.62 to a BIL, who left it in uncleaned a damp cloth gun case for about 8 months. Sadly, the cheap Wolf ammo he used seemed to have battery acid and cat piss in each round. Despite the best efforts of my gunsmith, the barrel is at best 80%. I’m on the fence about having it re-barreled in 7.62×39.

    I enjoyed it with a Leupold FX-II 6×36 because of its generous eye relief and the recoil of the 7.62×39 round. Great combo for 150-200 yard shots and InstaDeath to coyotes and javelinas. I don’t think you would be disappointed.

  6. In terms of ammunition, I bought a bunch of Lapua brass cased ammo in 30 packs some time ago that is “too good” to shoot in my AK. I also found some Norma 7.62×39 that is very nice and “too good” for the AK, I have been looking at the CZ for some time as a perfect launching pad for that ammo.
    As I recall Ruger’s barrels measure .308 and not .311 as does the “real” 7.62 x 39. Correct me if I am wrong, as I think they felt it would work fine in the Mini 30. And apparently it does. I am not sure this is the case, this is based on my vague recollection when the Mini-30 came out.

  7. Didn’t the CZ 527 come with a left-hand bolt? I recall back in the dim past when I was flush, I was looking at that combination. If I could decide which from the existing collection to cast out to welcome the 527. . .

  8. I own the Ruger carbine in 7.62x39mm. I think it’s outstanding value for money, and it’s proved very accurate in my hands. A nice touch is that it has a threaded muzzle, so that add-ons are easy to attach.

    As for ammo, I agree that steel-case 7.62x39mm can be problematic if the rifle isn’t cleaned reasonably promptly. However, brass-case Prvi Partisan ammo is available for a not unreasonable premium:×39-123-grain-fmj-non-corrosive-brass-case-prvi-pa

    I also have a few hundred rounds of South African brass-case ammo in that cartridge. When we next meet, I can bring some down for you.

    I agree that the CZ offering is probably superior to the Ruger, but it’s not sufficiently superior for me to think it worth its extra cost. (Yes, I’ve owned a CZ 527 carbine, so I know what I’m talking about.) The Ruger is available on the street at under $400 (at least, that’s what I paid for mine), and I think it’s very good value at that price point. The trigger is good enough that I don’t need a Timney or other replacement unit.

    YMMV, of course.

  9. Maybe check out the Howa mini action in the Ruskie round…Brownells sells Howa stuff but does not seem to have many left in stock…lol…wonder why ??? Lol….go over to gunbroker and they have a couple NIB…I be loving my 300 Win Mag Howa !!!!

    1. Oh and btw….if you do not want the plastic stock or the scope with it, you can take them off and sell them for a few bucks. There are real walnut stocks available for the Howa line from various sources like Brownells. Or check out Boyds. And then put whatever scope floats your boat on top.

      So the Howa platform gives you the barreled action in 7.62×39, with pretty good reviews. Most reports and mine easily do sub moa. Howa’s are really done so well…Take your time and transform it to your likes. Like what Jack LaLane used to say about his wife. “I found a girl with the right personality and (putting her on his exercise regime) built her to his specifications. !”

  10. I guess the early Ruger Mini 30s had a .308 diameter bore, but later ones are .311 according to the Internet of Misinformation. I am guessing the Carbine you have in mind has the .311 bore, but that is a guess. Perhaps Mr. Grant could check his?

  11. I am not a big fan of 7.62×39. For me a 300BLK would offer more choices since I reload. For what 7.62×39 is capable of doing I have a 6.8SPC. It will reach out there a little further and the recoil of the .270 round is very manageable.

  12. I would go with the CZ 527 Carbine. I like ruger’s, but the CZ just feels right, is a good size, great trigger out of the box. I can echo turn4811, have not been a fan of 7.62×39. However, having been on the wrong side of that round, when my gun shop put the CZ in my hands, I made an impulse buy. It was good to be on the right side, the rifle is great, I don’t regret it, even though I wasn’t even looking for a rifle at the time. Of subject, way back in the past you mentioned the CZ 512, which I was unfamiliar with at the time. Have one now, one of my favorites. If I wasn’t sold on CZ’s before, that did it for me. Maybe a little more expensive, but not much more, and so worth it. Can’t wait to read what you do choose, and how it works for you.

  13. I have one of the rugers chambered in 5.56/223 rather than the soviet round.

    I had one of the CZ 527’s. Could not get any kind of accuracy out of it. Sold it to Peter Grant and far as I know he still has it. He is in texas and was changing a bunch of stuff in his arms room.

    The Ruger stock seems to me some kind of High Density Plastic. Feels good and need to get it to the range. I also have a ruger in 350 legends which seems to be a good deer round.

    Need some range time.

    Good luck on getting what you want.

  14. Ruger has made both the M77 and the Hawkeye in 7.62×39. They’re no longer available new, but should be available on the used market. I have the M77 and love it. And Remington marketed the model 799 in that caliber, but it’s also going to be a used market proposition. Other current choices can be had from both Howa and Savage.

    But if I were to buy one today, it would probably be the CZ.

  15. I won’t opine on either gun, it’s all about intended use and personal preference. What I am excited about is that you are talking about shooting again. I was dismayed when I heard in your previous thread about this being the last boomer shoot, that you intended to throw in the towel. There is so much fun to be had in the shooting sports beyond long-range rifle shooting. I mentioned I loved my long-range precision rifle course a couple years back, but neck mobility will prevent me from doing that again (can’t get into proper prone and see through the scope any more). But I love shooting combat rifles, and just taking my milsurps out for some fun range time. And IDPA is a blast, as well as a very practical activity.

    One thing I don’t know is the history of why you are not a reloaded, and I find it quite surprising. I find it an enjoyable part of the shooting sports in and of itself, not just as an economizing measure. Sort of like I enjoy changing my own oil and cleaning the chain, and otherwise fussing about detailing my Motorcycle. However, the economizing aspect is not to be underestimated.

    The Private Partisan ammo previously mentioned is good ammo, indeed, and one does not need all the gewgaws and gimcracks reloaders are known to be suckers for. A good, solid, single-stage like the Lee Classic Cast press, Lee dies, a Franklin Armory vibratory case cleaner, RCBS scale and powder measure, using plain old lanolin and acohol for lube, and you are in business to reload that PP brass 4-5 times. And I suspect you’d enjoy the pastime. Anyway, my two cents.

    Glad you are thinking about continuing to enjoy the shooting sports, though, Kim. Keep at it!


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