I’ll be the first to admit that I'm more than just a fan of CZ firearms. From the beginning of my development as a gun nut, I have always had a fond feeling toward CZ’s firearms and the brand in general. So, it came as a great surprise to me when I was handed a CZ over-under 12-gauge shotgun – specifically an Ultralight – since I didn’t even know they made shotguns.
I was more familiar with their bolt-action rifles and their classy pistols. But, like the true gun nerd that I am, I embraced this new knowledge and the set of barrels that came with it.
I was quite surprised when I opened the box. Not only was it different from what I expected, but it was also green. Surely, I thought, someone had left their spray paint unattended at CZ. But to my surprise, it appeared to be a factory Cerakote job. Not out of this world, I guess, but not something I expected to see in a double-barreled European shotgun.
The barrel set was 28 inches long and came with a full set of hand-installed chokes. Over-under shotguns are such simple mechanical devices, so it came as no surprise to me that they were very similar in the function and controls to what I have handled in the past. I say simple, but they are beautifully simple, as I found out upon disassembly. Necessity and my child-like curiosity both managed to remove the receiver from the buttstock, and the mechanical beauty of pins and levers inside the gun impressed me.
The barrel lock and safety are the only controls besides the trigger itself. They are mounted in the tang of the receiver. You slide the safety forward with your thumb to disengage and fire the gun. But in the safety button itself, there is a smaller selector to determine which of the two barrels goes off first. There is a very brilliant and simple connection that shifts the trigger’s movement between the two different sears. The barrel lock engages the bottom of the barrel block, securing the action closed.
But Why So Light?
In my journey to the center of the receiver, I noticed something that I had missed. The Upland Ultralight was light for a reason. One of those reasons was the aluminum-alloy receiver. I noticed during my inspection of the gun that the barrel hinge pins were steel pressed into the aluminum receiver.
The furniture on the CZ was a traditional wood and quite plain to be honest. I suppose the designers at CZ were thinking this gun would be more of a workhorse than a delicate mantel piece. I suppose that would also explain the Cerakote finish. The butt of the gun also featured a simple rubber pad.
The Huglu barrel set was also made to work more than show off. The absent middle rib surely reduced additional weight on the gun, as did the 26-inch length. The ejectors that typically toss spent shells from the chamber were not spring-loaded, they simply lift the shells from the chambers for the shooter to remove and put in his pocket.
Time to Shoot
Once again, I sought the shooting company of my father. His seasoned input on shotguns and their various virtues would come in handy. After switching out the two full chokes that came in the gun for something a little more modified, it was time to start throwing birds.
I love the challenge of hand-thrown clays. There is so much more finesse and the ability to really mess with the shooter. Dad and I have been throwing targets by hand since I was old enough to shoot a shotgun, so the day was surely going to be a fun time. And just to have something to compare it to, Dad brought along his Browning Citori.
After warming up on some pretty straightforward trap targets, we decided to start mixing it up a bit with report pairs and other angles. Throwing targets from way off to the side of the shooter greatly resembles the speedy green-winged teal that I enjoy chasing through the muddy marsh. The lightweight CZ is very quick to shoulder, and the recoil didn’t seem unreasonable at all despite its ultra lightweight.
To be fair, we were shooting 1-ounce loads, but that didn’t stop us from hammering a whole lotta clay.
I found that I wasn’t as good with the CZ as I’d hoped to be. I’d like to blame it on the gun not fitting me or something like that, but it’s more likely due to my lack of practice. Speaking of fit, I didn’t have an issue with it, but my dad did mention the comb was a bit low for his face. He does enjoy adjustable combs on most of his doubles, so it could just be he’s a bit spoiled.
My main complaint when shooting the CZ was due to the friction it takes to open the action. New over-under shotguns are pretty stiff and can require some break-in before they loosen up. I don’t know if this gun just needed to be shot more, or if it is just that stiff.
Pros and Cons
The Upland Ultralight would make a great gun for jumping grouse and partridges in the desert mountains where I do much of my hunting. The lightweight is definitely a big plus for someone who is trekking all over upland bird country. I found the trigger to be perfectly suitable for hunting terrain like that, and with sling studs built into the gun, the shotgun can be easily carried over the shoulder.
The OD green color that surprised me at first actually grew on me a bit. If I’m going to be traipsing all over the mountain in potentially poor weather, I don’t want to deal with a high-maintenance blued finish. The Cerakote makes much more sense. But if you’re going to put a good all-weather coating on the exterior of the gun, perhaps synthetic furniture is also in order?
I must say from the get-go, I was a bit nervous about the barrel lock on this gun. The lever didn’t seem to close enough for my taste. I know they tend to loosen up, and the lever comes more and more to the center as the gun wears, but this was more than that. I can’t help but think there is something slightly out of adjustment on this gun, and its likely something easily remedied. And if that is the case, my biggest concern with this gun is of no consequence.
Fondness for doubles is in my blood, so I feel drawn to this gun despite the few things I hold against it. Sure, there are things I would change about it if given the chance, but I also feel like I’d love to take it out for a hike and shoot a limit of doves. I think upland hunters would enjoy this gun, and it would make a fine companion on a long day in the field.