CZ’s line of shotguns is pretty well fleshed out these days, spanning the spectrum from classy side-by-sides to go with your elbow-patched tweed jacket to tactical pumps for the bedroom closet. The 712 Practical seen here, which I’ve been playing with since November, is intended for use in 3-Gun competitions but can certainly suit other roles as well. At its core, it’s meant to be an affordable — yet quality — entry-level, semi-auto shotty to get into the 3-Gun world. Where “quality” and “budget” collide you might expect to see “compromise” joining the party as well, and the 712 Practical does have its compromises. . .
An MSRP of $699 means the 712 Practical comes in at $376 less than the Beretta 1301 Tactical we reviewed in September (and $576 less than the 1301 Comp, which is a closer comparison) and $77 less than the Mossberg 930 JM Pro. The competitively-priced box is definitely checked here. But does it deliver?
Well, upon opening the box I got a chuckle from the burgundy velour — or velvet, as I certainly don’t know the damn difference — socks protecting the parts. Then I realized that the parts were parts. It wasn’t exactly a shotgun so much as a shotgun kit. No worries, as the first thing I do with a new gun is take it apart anyway so I suppose CZ saved themselves some cost and saved me some trouble at the same time. It could complicate things for a new shooter, though, as it isn’t the easiest firearm to assemble and the instructions in the manual are just barely sufficient.
The gas piston system is actually extremely similar to the Beretta 1301’s and, like the 1301, no part of the action actually goes into the stock. The recoil spring is ahead of the receiver, coiled around the magazine tube, which also acts as the “guide rod” for the action bars. The piston itself is made in the USA for 922(r) compliance reasons.
For the same reason, the stock is U.S.-made. It’s sourced from ATI and features a pistol grip with cushy rubber on the swappable backstrap, plus a standard AR-15 butt stock on a commercial-spec buffer tube.
Worth noting is that the buffer tube is not actually removable — it’s integrated into the receiver adapter plate — but any AR-15 stock that works on a commercial tube will work on this one. The included stock is basically “parts kit” standard except for a nice, adjustable cheek piece that I didn’t use (my cheek weld was almost too high with the cheek riser uninstalled) and the addition of ATI’s Scorpion recoil pad, which actually does a very good job of absorbing energy.
I must admit, the whole stock and pistol grip setup isn’t really my cup of tea. There are definitely a lot of folks out there who prefer a pistol grip on a shotgun, I’m just not one of them (except for short length of pull, home defense sorts of guns). Especially for 3-Gun use, where it actually gets in the way of a couple of the most popular speed loading techniques.
The AR buffer tube, though, is pretty awesome as it opens up a nearly unlimited market full of stock options. In the future, the 712 Practical will likely ship with ATI’s T2 TactLite stock, but I’d actually much prefer it with the Akita. Of course, swapping the stock out is only one bolt away:
Naturally it would be a Torx bolt and no tool is included. It does actually come with a hex head bolt replacement in a baggie, should you prefer that, but you’ll still need the ol’ Torx bit to swap it out in the first place.
As a final note on the stock setup, there’s some compromise when two companies on separate continents each produce half of the parts for one gun. The finish on the metal parts of the stock doesn’t quite match the finish on the receiver. There’s a bit of a gap between the pistol grip and the trigger guard, which is filled with foam rubber. It can’t be seen from any distance, but it doesn’t look so hot up close. Separately all of the parts are fine. Together, it’s not entirely a secret that they weren’t manufactured under the same roof. Really, once again it’s 922(r) to blame for this and at least we’re talking aesthetic nitpicks, not functional ones.
The other notable part from ATI that comes with the 712 Practical shotgun assembly kit is their fluted magazine tube extension. I believe the spring and follower are ATI also, but am not sure on that one. At any rate, the extension tube is a nice piece and it fit perfectly on the 712. It brings the capacity up to 9+1 (and there’s a way to “ghost load” an extra round on the lifter for a total of 9+2) and extends past the muzzle to protect it when dumping the shotgun into 3-Gun barrels.
Even on some expensive shotguns they can need a bit of sculpting, if not welding then sculpting, to facilitate aggressive speed reloading without shaving off your thumbnail. The 712’s is nice and smooth and won’t bite back. The loading port has some bevel to the edges to help you slam shells in there without being rejected.
The only improvement I’d consider (not shown very well in either of the two photos above, mind you) would be a larger bevel around the entrance to the magazine tube. It’s beveled, but it’s fairly small and I was able to jam a couple of my reloads onto that edge, which stopped them dead in their tracks. I don’t think it happened to me with factory loads, and I admit it has a lot to do with the slightly bulbous crimps on some of my reloaded shells. But I’m also not pushing the gun as hard as a 3-Gunner would and a larger margin for error here would be noticed.
For a shotgun intended for fast action, the controls are too small. A large bolt knob, oversized bolt release button, and oversized cross bolt safety button(s) would be appreciated. Yes, again the idea of the 712 Practical is to get you 3-gunning at an affordable price and these controls can be upgraded later. But these three items are dang important to running the shotgun, especially rapidly, and if they were oversized it would make the Practical look even better when compared against its more expensive competition — and there’s still some room to bump the MSRP up just a tad yet remain a “budget” option.
One huge plus is that the 712 Practical is actually threaded for choke tubes and it comes with five of them plus a choke tube wrench. This really is practical, as it opens up all sorts of different uses for this shotgun, from sporting clays to home defense to hunting, and it allows the user to optimize shot spread for varying target distances that can be encountered on different stages of a competition.
That brass bead you see on the muzzle is threaded M3x.5, so it can be unscrewed and replaced with various aftermarket options should you prefer a tritium dot, a fiber optic, etc. That and the ability to mount aftermarket sights to the rib are the extent of one’s choices, as the receiver is not drilled and tapped for aftermarket accessories such as a rail for mounting optics or a ghost ring sight. While that doesn’t make the 712 an outlier in the market, the option to pop a “scope base” onto the receiver would be sweet and would up the value proposition here.
Installed on the gun from the factory is a flush receiver plate, but it ships with a sling mount plate included in the box and seen installed above. It doesn’t accept a QD swivel, so it’s designed for a clip.
On The Range
The 712 Practical is a nice shooter. Although I didn’t like the pistol grip in this application, the gun shot accurately for me and pointed well. It definitely isn’t light, weighing in on my scale at over 9 lbs empty, but the weight combined with the Scorpion recoil pad and the well-tuned action made it a soft shooter, even with extremely stout loads.
While the Beretta 1301 felt over-gassed to me, the 712 felt just right. Of course, this meant the 1301 ran my really light reloads — made for my O/U and loaded with either 7/8 or 1 oz of birdshot and not much of a charge behind it — with authority, whereas the 712 would not reliably cycle them. By the end of my testing it was running about 2/3 of those reloads and stovepiping the other third. That said, I have zero expectation of a semi-auto shotgun running these reloads whatsoever. That the Beretta did it was cool, but it meant it beat you up a bit on full-power stuff. The 712 shot factory birdshot without a hiccup and I could shoot it all day long without my shoulder ever knowing. The muzzle also stayed flatter, but it would have been better for me in this regard with a more traditional stock. Magnum slugs, buckshot, and high speed steel loads ran great as well.
The trigger could use some work. At 7 lbs it’s too heavy for the gun’s intended use, and it’s also gritty. I’d at least polish up the FCG parts if it were mine. Additionally, the shape of the trigger shoe wasn’t ideal for me. I found the curve a little too tight and the trigger itself a little too short. My finger just wanted to be a bit lower on it but then the tip of the trigger would dig into my finger. If this were my competition shotgun I’d probably heat up the trigger shoe and hammer out some of the curve — there’s room in the trigger guard to make it straighter.
While the bolt handle and bolt release button didn’t slow me down much, the really small, cross-bolt safety pads were more of a hindrance. That 1301 Tactical certainly hit all three of these controls out of the park, and assuming use of the safety is mandatory for competition or personal reasons, my first order of business on the 712 would be bolting larger pads onto the safety.
I’d outfit it a little differently, but as an entry-level, lower-priced-yet-reliable shotgun for testing the waters of 3-Gun competition, the 712 Practical has its niche and suits the purpose. Should the purchaser become more and more serious in the sport, the 712 can either grow through some modification or it can be replaced with a more expensive shotgun down the road.
3-Gun or not, the swappable choke tubes, adaptability of this stock and option to replace it with others, removable magazine tube extension (the 712 Practical ships w/ cap & plug for limiting capacity for hunting or trap/clays/skeet purposes), and replaceable front bead do make it a practical shotgun in that it can be readily adapted to just about any use. The CZ 712 line is solid and reliable enough to be a good choice for just about any use, too.
Specifications: CZ-USA CZ 712 Practical
Caliber: 12 Gauge
Action: semi-automatic, gas piston
Overall Length: 39.5″
Weight: 8.1 lbs unloaded (manufacturer stat)
Stock: adjustable 6-position AR-15 style
Sights: brass bead on the front of the 8mm flat vent rib
Barrel Length: 22″
Chokes: Includes F, IM, M, IC, C flush chokes and a choke wrench
Ratings (Out of Five Stars):
Ergonomics: * * *
I may not personally like a pistol grip on a gun like this, but plenty of folks do. The ATI one is quite comfortable. I do certainly like the adjustable length of pull and adjustable cheek rest (even if I didn’t use that part). The recoil pad is effective, and the forend was just the right length and diameter for me. One star off for the trigger shape and the small safety, plus I actually needed a little more drop at comb/heel to lower my cheek weld a touch. And it’s a big, heavy gun.
Reliability: * * * * *
No ding on this whatsoever for not liking my reloads. They’re totally out of range of what any semi-auto should run, and the 712 was flawless on everything made by a factory. It felt like it was tuned just right. The action appears robust, reliable, and well-made.
Trigger: * *
Not so hot. Too heavy, a bit gritty, and even the shape of it was less than ideal.
Customize This: * * *
Average, as most semi-popular shotguns are going to have options for stocks, bead sights, magazine tubes, etc. More stars would require the ability to mount an optic on the receiver or at least more readily-available aftermarket (drop-in) upgrades for the controls.
Overall: * * * 1/2
I’d probably pin it as average, but the 712 deserves at least half of an extra star for coming in at a fairly low price compared to most of the 3-Gun competition competition. As a good choice for entering the competition world and seeing if it’s for you before plunking down the big bucks, the 712 Practical makes a lot of sense. Even if it lacks some of the race-ready controls, it’s rock solid in reliability and doesn’t need lifter modification. It’s also extremely practical and adaptable for other uses, should 3-Gun not be on the docket and a sweet looking, 10-shot, semi-auto scattergun with adjustable stock and pistol grip is on your wishlist.