CZ’s Urban Counter Sniper Rifle Combines Outstanding Accuracy with Compact Size.
Story & Photos by Brad Fitzgerald
The latest winner of America’s Top Model?
Not quite. If you’re a firearms aficionado, the name represents beauty of a different sort, although you probably use the more familiar (and spell check-friendly) initials “CZ.”
The company has been making guns for a long time (since 1936, to be exact), but only relatively recently has the name become commonplace among U.S. shooters, thanks in no small part to the establishment of their CZ-USA facility in Kansas City, Kansas. In the past decade and a half, CZ has won over a number of American fans, and with good reason. They make quality, serviceable guns at an attractive price, and—perhaps more than any other company over the last decade—continue to offer shooters new and different firearms that make sense.
In an era when bolt-action .22s were appearing less and less frequently in company catalogs, CZ introduced a lineup of extremely accurate, robustly built rimfires, and American shooters took note. Today, the company’s 455 model is well respected in benchrest circles, and more and more new shooters are cutting their teeth on CZ .22s. The company has produced big bore, dangerous game rifles since the 1980s, when the Brno 602 challenged the Winchester Model 70 as the go-to bolt gun for dangerous African game. Today, CZ’s big bore line-up is the most extensive of any manufacturer in the United States. Their elegant side-by-side and over/under shotguns feature nice stocks, solid actions with color case finishing and a classy look at a reasonable price.
As I said…beauty of a different sort.
UCS IN THE USA
The CZ story didn’t begin with the production of quality sporting and target guns, however. It began with the production of military and law enforcement weapons, and the company still produces guns used the world over. Most of these military weapons are semiautomatic rifles and pistols—such as the 805 Bren and the new P-09 (Editor’s note: See our October issue for our P-09 test drive)—but the CZ brass hasn’t forgotten how to build a rifle around their solid 550 bolt action. CZ has offered a number of tactical and semi-tactical rifles based on the 550 over the years, and by and large these have been a success.
This year, CZ added another tactical horse to their growing stable with the 550 Urban Counter Sniper (UCS), a gun that exemplifies many of the things that CZ does well. First of all, this is a company that does an excellent job zeroing in on areas of consumer interest and creating unique products that not only fit the market but oftentimes create a new buzz. Such was the case with the introduction of CZ’s Bobwhite and Ringneck side-by-sides. These guns were attractive and attractively priced, and soon bird hunters began falling in love with them. Another of CZ’s talents is seeing new markets for existing products; the 550 action was already available; the company just needed a new platform.
Enter the 550 UCS. I clearly remember testing the company’s little Bobwhite side-by-side shotgun. Everyone at the range wanted to look it over, and the bolder ones would ask if they could shoot it. The reaction to the UCS has been the same. With its short Teflon-coated barrel, hefty Bell and Carlson fiberglass stock with spider web design, and a radical looking Surefire muzzle brake that is QD suppressor compatible, the UCS is an eye-catching rifle.
Make no mistake. The CZ is not a dressed-up 550 rifle with costume combat paint. Unlike other companies that slap a heavy barrel and a fat stock on their standard bolt gun and market it to the tactical crowd, the UCS is a purpose-built weapon designed for a very specific task. The UCS does incorporate the regular CZ 50 action, but the 550 is well-respected in shooting circles for its dependability. It’s a controlled-round action with a full-length claw extractor for a strong bite and secure feeding. The action is polished to a glassy smoothness, and the bolt runs in the action like it’s been freshly greased. The bolt handle has an oversized knob and the outside of the action has a non-glare matte finish.
The Bell and Carlson stock is Kevlar and has a wide beavertail fore end with twin sling studs and a palm swell that helps provide a solid platform. The stock has a full-length aluminum bedding block to help increase the rigidity of the action and provide consistent groups. Aluminum bedding blocks provide a rock-solid platform and aid in accuracy, but they are expensive and are typically only found in high-end rifles like the UCS. The short (16-inch) barrel is free-floated and coated in Teflon to give a dull, dark olive green and protect the rifle from the elements. The barrel is free floated, and one of the things that CZ prides itself on is excellent barrel harmonics, or the imperceptible (to humans, at least) movement of the barrel after firing. For a rifle to be really, really accurate, it must be properly bedded and have good barrel harmonics. As you’ll see in the range portion of this test, the UCS gets high grades in both.
At the end of the barrel you’ll find the unconventional looking Surefire muzzle brake/suppressor adaptor, yet another sign that CZ was serious when they set out to build a top-of-the line sniper rifle. All those angled notches and cuts in the Surefire brake aren’t just for looks…they’re part of a patented system called Impulse Diffusion that is designed to minimize the effects of muzzle blast and rearward concussive effects. Between the heft of the rifle and the outstanding performance of the Surefire brake, it was possible to shoot the UCS and remain on-target in the Trijicon scope, work the bolt, and fire a rapid second shot. The Surefire brake also serves as a mounting device for the company’s Fast-Attach suppressors. CZ made a smart move by bringing Surefire into the equation. These brakes/suppressors aren’t cheap, but they are highly effective and of the type and quality you’d expect to find in a rifle of this class.
The UCS incorporates CZ’s single stage set trigger. To place the trigger in the set position, press it forward until it clicks into position. Once it does, don’t breathe too hard on that trigger, because when you imagine what an ultra-light, break-like-glass trigger feels like, it’s probably something like the feel of the CZ’s trigger in the set position. From the unset position, trigger pull hovers around four and a half pounds, which isn’t terrible, but when that trigger is set it requires just less than two pounds of pressure to fire the rifle. The good news is that if you have time to set that trigger between shots it isn’t going to take much more than a pulse of your finger to send the bullet downrange.
The receiver of the UCS is machined so that CZ one-piece rings mount directly to the receiver, and the corresponding notch in the receiver matches a post on the scope rings so that you can’t screw up the mounting process. When the scope is locked down, it’s a solid mounting system that doesn’t shake loose, and the UCS comes with either 30mm or one-inch rings, depending upon your preference. In addition, the rifle is supplied with two detachable box magazines, one that has a five round capacity and one that holds ten. The overall length of the rifle is just 37 inches, and the weight is about eight and a quarter pounds, making the Urban Counter Sniper ideal for tight spaces.
Click here to read about the range test and results!