It has been just over a year since the RCMP re-classified the Cz858 rifles in Canada. We are still waiting for “the fix” Bill C-42 to come into full effect and remove the restrictions on them.
But the original importer of the Cz858, Wolverine Supplies, already has a fix ready to go. More than a fix, they have an improvement, an evolution, an honest effort to bring the Cold War era rifle into the 21st century.
Now there is a Cz958.
If you are not familiar with any of the 58 pattern rifles available in Canada, they all trace their origins back to the Sa.58 which was developed for the Czechoslovakian army during the Cold War. Rather than producing Kalashnivkovs like the other Warsaw Pact countries, Jiri Cermak designed an alternative. They’d use the same ammunition as the Russians, and at 500 yards they might look similar, but the Sa.58 was very different from the standard Kalashnikov. It was striker fired, had a last round bolt hold open, and could be fed from both magazines or stripper-clips.
This new rifle is a joint project between Wolverine Supplies in Virden, Manitoba and Česká zbrojovka in the city of Uherský Brod, Czech Republic. With two major additions, they’ve improved the rifle and tailored its design to Canadian law.
The biggest addition is a complete top rail that removes the old dust cover, ejection port, and rear sight block. Now, instead of a massive ejection port and exposed bolt, the 958 has a flattop optics rail and a more traditional ejection. The interior of the rail acts as an extra large brass deflector.
The second addition is a scalloped space around the trigger guard. This newly manufactured receiver has an improved finish, and is deeply narrowed around the trigger guard. This does improve the ergonomics for the shooter. Magazines are easier to remove, and your finger has a natural indexing point that is off the trigger. But it also serves a deeper purpose to make sure that the Cz958 can never suffer the same fate as the Cz858. The RCMP reclassified them on the possibility that some rifles could be converted to automatics.
There will be two variants of the Cz958: A tactical model, which was what I spent time with, and a new hunter’s model. The hunter model will feature a clean pencil barrel, without the front sight block or a threaded muzzle. It also comes with a fixed stock rather than the metal folder.
The 958 weighs in at 6 lbs 11 oz in its factory configuration with an empty magazine. By the time I’d put optics and some more ergonomic furniture on mine I was up to 9 lbs 11 oz. Using a Timney Trigger scale I got a consistent pull just over 6lbs with a bit of creep to it. The rifle ships with a full 19 inch non-chromelined barrel.
Now, with a proper ten inches of rail (or rail-estate as I like to call it) you’re free to use variable power optics over the ejection port, even with a full four inches of eye relief. I opted for a Vortex Viper PST 2.5-10×44. After all, we’re still shooting 7.62×39, so I’m not going to be winning any F-class shoots with 24 power optics..
A 10x optic also makes life a little easier when it comes to accuracy testing. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the Cz958 shot. I selected 4 different loads of 7.62×39 to test through the rifle.
Over several range trips, I shot groups from a bench at 100 yards, and allowed the barrel to cool between shots. I used four and five shot groups, and did some quick calculation using the-long-family.com’s Group Size Statistical Analysis. This system uses a simple model and produces an average based on multiple groups with varying numbers of shots. So although I only had a single box of Hornaday Z-Max compared to several hundred rounds of surplus, the group sizes can be compared based on a 100,000 shot statistical model.I went in to the comparison expecting Hornaday’s Z-Max ammunition to be the best shooter. After all, it is the most expensive, and one of the only ballistic tip options for the caliber. But I was shocked to find the Polish surplus rounds routinely outperformed every other type of ammunition.
The original Czech laminated wood grips, stocks and handguards have been affectionately named by Canadian Shooters “beaver barf furniture.”
Personally I find the beaver-barf a little small, and so traded my pistol grip out for a Fab Defense grip. I also traded the military folding stock for a Fab Defense enhanced stock that allowed me a proper cheek weld, QD sling mount, and a decent rubber butt pad. I found the straight tube stock and cheek rest made for a much better cheek weld when shooting at 10x.
There are two lost features in moving from a Cz858 to a Cz958: first, you can no longer feed rounds off a stripper clip directly into the box magazine. This made life easier for Cold War soldiers receiving crates of ammunition already fit on stripper clips and filling 30 round magazines, but for a Canadian shooter with 5 round magazines I don’t see it as much of a loss. The other lost feature was one of the rarest and most sought after Cz858 upgrades: a left handed bolt. With the enclosed optic and dust cover, a bolt with a left side charging handle will no longer fit into the Cz958. These left handed bolts were most popular among high-speed low-drag shooters who liked the ability to rack the charging handle using their reaction hand.
One of the few issues I did experience with the Cz958 involved that charging handle. With the addition of the optics rail, and especially with the rings and turrets of a fullsize scope, things become tighter around the charging handle, I found I had to use the index and thumb of my right hand to get a reliable grip that wouldn’t skin my knuckles.
As of writing, and to the best of my knowledge, the Cz958 has yet to receive a listing in the Firearms Reference Table after seven months of inspection. Of course, I cannot say for certain, because that database is not available to the public, and the lab is not exactly forthcoming.
However the firearm I was given met all the requirements laid out in the criminal code to be non-restricted.So whats keeping Wolverine from importing the guns en masse?
Canadian Border Services does refer to the FRT when processing the import of firearms. They can hold a shipment and request that technical opinion, even though these rifles do not need to be registered. As a result, Canadian shooters are kept waiting while the RCMP takes their time.