There’s an adage among Americans that declares, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In other words, don’t monkey with something that’s proven to be successful. And, while that axiom is often appropriate, the reality is that there is typically room for improvement with most designs—firearms included—and turning a blind eye to potential changes and/or upgrades can lead to stagnation and an inferior product. It’s through customer feedback and continued research/development that firearm makers offer consumers the most relevant and reliable arms. CZ is a perfect example: The recently released 712 G3 shotgun does, indeed, improve upon the already solid 712 G2.
Like the G2, the Turkish-made 712 G3 is a 12-ga., 3", gas-operated, semi-automatic. Upon firing, gas is bled through two barrel ports and into the barrel lug, where the piston is located. The piston impinges on the action bar, which is forced rearward, thereby disengaging the locking block and compressing the recoil spring surrounding the magazine tube.
Simultaneously, the extractor, which is part of the bolt group atop the action bar, extracts the spent hull. In the process of the bolt group traveling rearward, the hull is ejected via a static appendage on the barrel extension. The rebounding recoil spring then forces the action bar/bolt group forward, collecting and chambering the awaiting shell and completing lockup. The process is incredibly fast, and the use of gas (versus inertia) changes the energy impulse, softening perceived recoil.
Two load-specific pistons (designated light/medium and heavy/magnum) accompany the gun. The light/medium piston is recommended for 1¼-oz. loads traveling 1,200 to 1,300 f.p.s., while the heavy/magnum piston is the choice if that same payload were traveling between 1,350 and 1,700 f.p.s. An easy-to-understand 712 G3 piston usage chart is found on the company’s website (cz-usa.com). Matching the piston to the shotshell is an additional step, but it’s not onerous in the least and ensures reliable functioning.
The G3’s re-designed, matte-black aluminum receiver has aesthetically pleasing lines, better holds the fore-end (than the G2) and has a series of grooves spanning the length of the top. The receiver is not drilled and tapped but is machined to accept mounts used on some European guns, although they are not currently available from CZ-USA. On the right side is a welcome oversize bolt release.
The trigger assembly, which contains most of the fire controls, is attached to the receiver by way of a single pin. Incorporated controls include: a crossbolt safety at the front of the trigger guard; a cartridge drop lever (with helpful lip); and a single-stage trigger that, on the sample shotgun, broke at 5 lbs., 6 ozs. There was a hint of creep, zero overtravel, and the reset was both short and very audible—all in all, not a bad trigger.
Available in 26" and 28" lengths, the 712 G3’s matte-black, chrome-lined barrel is topped with a flat, 7 mm-wide ventilated rib ending with a large, white bead. The barrel is threaded for the supplied, extended Active-Choke tubes—in cylinder, improved cylinder, modified, improved modified and full constrictions—which, according to the CZ-USA website, reportedly have a longer parallel section and are designed to work with the 0.735"-bore diameter. A choke tube case and wrench are provided, though checkering on the tubes makes the latter moot. The barrel is kept in place, tight against the receiver, using a support nut.
Rounding out the package is the furniture. In this case, the fore-end and buttstock are made from Turkish walnut exhibiting very minimal figure; at the G3’s $579 price, that’s to be expected. If wood isn’t your thing, or if the gun is destined for a hard life in inhospitable environments, the shotgun is also available in the Utility and Synthetic Camo Terra editions, both of which have synthetic furniture.
The wooden fore-end has finger grooves and nicely executed checkering, while the buttstock has the latter on the pistol grip; sling swivel studs were omitted from both sections. There is a noticeable palm-filling swell on the pistol grip that favors right-handed shooters, however, an included stock-adjustment kit facilitates changes to cast and drop at heel. Capping the buttstock is a pliable, minimalist recoil pad.
Given its utilitarian design, we opted to pattern test the CZ with a proper upland game load—Winchester Elite Rooster XR 2¾", 1¼-oz., No. 5—at 40 yards through the modified choke. Referencing the piston-usage chart, the light/medium piston was suggested. The hard-hitting shell also enabled us to experience felt recoil generated from a stouter-than-standard load. Unsurprisingly, thanks to the bore/choke configuration and Shot-Lok technology featured in the Winchester shell, dense patterns were the rule. Gas operation and a soft recoil pad lessened felt recoil, but, from the bench, it was still punchy.
To get a better idea of the handling characteristics and overall reliability of the 712 G3, on a separate day, we headed to the sporting clays course. We used a variety of 2¾" shells of differing load weights and velocities, but all cycled flawlessly, illustrating the effectiveness of the multiple-piston system when the correct one is in place.
Being only slightly tacky and rounded near the top, the recoil pad made shouldering from a low hold surprisingly fast—perfect for hunting and FITASC competition. With the gun balancing at the front of the receiver, we found that it was lively in the hands and swung effortlessly, smoothly and consistently. It pointed naturally, too.
These same attributes made the gun a joy to use in a floating blind while pursuing a variety of waterfowl on Virginia’s eastern shore. Again, the gun cycled flawlessly and contributed to a mixed bag of birds.
The CZ 712 G3 is a fine example of a company adhering to cookie entrepreneur Debbi Fields’ maxim, “Good enough never is.” By improving on an established design, CZ offers consumers a rugged, reliable semi-automatic suitable for nigh all shotgunning tasks—all for less than $600. In this economy, that’s a real accomplishment.