The firearm for this review was provided by the Kentucky Gun Company.
CZ-USA has introduced a couple new firearms this year, which I’m really digging. It definitely makes my job easier — I’d much rather review a completely brand new firearm than the latest variation on a theme from the GLOCK or H&K factory. Earlier in the year the “hot new thing” from CZ was the Scorpion EVO 3 pistol, a pistol caliber firearm designed to compete with the SIG SAUER MPX and others coming on the market. Today we’re looking at their newest offering, a pistol sized semi-auto rifle designed to compete with the other various and sundry modern semi-auto rifles. But in an already crowded space, is there room for the foreign import?
Let’s get this out of the way at the start: what we have here is, without a doubt, a SCAR knockoff. I was on the FNH USA shooting team. I have owned two SCAR rifles, one of which I have taken apart a few times and SBR’ed, and worked on el jefe RF’s SCAR rifles. I am intimately familiar with every corner of that gun, and I can say without a doubt that this was so close to a SCAR that I thought the FFL had made a mistake when they first took it out of the box to show me.
The FN SCAR went into production in 2004, and the project to design what would become the CZ Bren 805 didn’t even get off the ground until 2005. The SCAR was still the hot new thing and obviously on the minds of the designers when they went to the drawing board for this gun. That said, they might have actually done a better job on the design than FN.
Overall the design is pretty close to the SCAR series. There’s a massive CNC machined bolt carrier group housed within a similarly CNC’ed upper receiver (which is the serialized part) with a fixed and reciprocating charging handle installed on the bolt carrier itself. The barrel and gas piston assembly slides into the front of the receiver and is bolted in place, making it easy to swap for caliber changes if needed. The guts of the gun are inserted through the rear, and held in place using a rear end plate which is quickly removed for cleaning and maintenance. The polymer lower receiver houses the trigger pack and magazine well, and is kept in place with a couple pins.
Like I said, basically a SCAR. But there are some important differences.
When you pull the gun apart, the very first thing you do is push out the takedown pins. In the SCAR these pins are captured in the lower receiver so they don’t go walkabout when you’re cleaning the gun, but in the CZ Bren they can be completely removed. They’re the same pins from the new Scorpion EVO S3 it appears, at least in design.
The other major change is something I really like. With the SCAR, the short stroke gas piston system is contained within a small housing near the gas port and the bolt carrier is significantly lengthened in order to have the bolt carrier meet up with the piston. For the Bren, the piston has been extended back into the receiver so that the bolt carrier can be significantly smaller and lighter. This increases the possible cyclic rate of the gun and also reduces the scope-destroying “second recoil” problem that SCAR rifles tend to have, a second impulse that moves through the gun when the tank-like bolt carrier slams home.
Another thing mitigating that felt recoil is the tune-able nature of the gas system. Like the SCAR the gas plug can be rotated to adjust the level of gas entering the system (and therefore the rearward velocity of the bolt) which is great both for those running silencers (gun mufflers increase the gas pressure and therefore the cyclic rate, often leading to more wear on the gun) and those looking to take some of the recoil out of the gun.
You can see that lengthened gas piston through one of the side ports in the receiver. Something else you can see here is the distinct lack of rails on the side of the gun. The SCAR series ships with some chunky rails on the side and bottom of the gun that make the firearm feel much chunkier than it really is, but the CZ guys decided to go with some flat sections on the gun instead of the usual railpocalypse seen on modern rifles. There is a full length top rail built into the receiver, and a bottom rail as well that doesn’t feel nearly as chunky as the SCAR equivalent. That’s perfect for doing things like attaching a bipod or other mall ninja esque stuff. There’s also a sling attachment point, which is nice.
Gripping the firearm feels easy and natural. For someone with massive hands like me, that is. People with smaller hands may have a different experience. Anyway, the flat sections on the side of the gun provide plenty of surface area to get a comfortable grip and the raised end sections give you a great reference point for your hand. I like it, more than the SCAR actually.
The fire controls are housed in the lower receiver, and are (mostly) ambidextrous. The magazine release is on both sides of the gun, and so is the safety selector switch (also in a much more comfortable position than on the Scorpion pistol). The only thing that isn’t duplicated is the bolt catch, which actually is only a bolt catch and is only located on the left side of the gun. Normally a bolt catch can be used not only for the eponymous task of locking the bolt to the rear in the firearm, but it can also release the bolt when a fresh magazine has been inserted. The CZ Bren’s bolt catch is a one trick pony — you will need to grip the charging handle and pull it to the rear to disengage the bolt catch when inserting a new magazine.
That’s a little annoying for me. When it comes to speed, a bolt catch that is also a bolt release (a bolt “catch and release”?) is essential. Using the charging handle will always work, but that whole “economy of motion” idea comes into play when you start using guns for competition shooting and the like. Fewer motions to achieve the intended goal means faster times, and the one trick pony bolt catch makes that less possible.
You may notice that I’m harping on this bolt catch and the takedown pins a little bit. There’s a reason: those are the sole complaints I have about this gun.
The trigger is normally where things come off the rails, but in this case CZ has done a great job. The trigger is a nice two stage affair with a smooth first stage and a rather crisp second stage, and while that’s not my ideal choice for a run-and-gun configured
rifle firearm like this it isn’t bad. Normally you would expect a single stage trigger on a gun like this and a two stage trigger on something with some longer legs (like a marksman variant with a longer barrel) but if you had to choose one trigger for both situations a two stage trigger would be my choice.
Another nice feature: the backstrap on the pistol grip can be swapped to accommodate smaller and larger hands. I like that. I would have liked a standard AR-15 compatible grip more, but if you’re going to take this route then making it adjustable from day one is the way to go.
Out on the range the gun is a sincere joy to fire. The trigger is nice, the gun doesn’t have any rough patches to scuff your dainty hands, and the massive muzzle brake on the end of the barrel does a great job mitigating any recoil that may be left after the barrel’s apparent unfortunate date with a mohel. The charging handle doesn’t get in the way during normal operation, and if it does you can easily swap the side of the gun where it sits.
The gun ships with a set of iron sights attached almost identical to those on the earlier Scorpion Evo S3. They work just fine, and as iron sights go they’re pretty nice. The rear sight has two apertures (close range and long range) and is adjustable for windage, while the front sight is adjustable for elevation. Both come fitted to the full length top rail machined into the receiver.
That’s another difference with the SCAR. On that gun the front sight is permanently attached to the gas block, which was a major annoyance of mine. With this gun the front sight comes off easily and is just as easily discarded.
For accuracy testing I grabbed a box of Eagle Eye Ammunition 69gr .223 Remington ammunition (official ammo sponsors of TTAG’s gun reviews) and headed out to the range. I tested this gun at 25 yards with a scope and at the more customary 30 feet with the iron sights, and for a pistol version of a full size rifle the results were pretty sweet.
Admittedly I probably should have used a bipod, but I wanted to see how the gun would do just resting on the box it came in. For a pistol sized rifle that’s pretty awesome accuracy, and even without the scope and the rest it still impresses. For a home defense firearm this would be a damn fine choice, but I would like to see slightly larger holes. Perhaps a 300 BLK version is in order?
A fine shooting firearm is a thing of beauty, but the question we are trying to answer is whether this is worth the money. In a word: yes.
This is a fairly unapologetic knockoff of the SCAR series of guns, but there are some distinct differences that may actually make it better. The shorter bolt carrier, the improved gas system, and the factory two stage trigger are all things that FN should have adopted into their design but it was CZ that came out with them first in a similar package. In every other way this gun feels like a sleeker and dare I say sexier version of the SCAR than the SCAR itself, which is surprising since this firearm retails for just about a full thousand dollars less than the SCAR. The only caveat with this firearm is that there aren’t any replacement parts available yet, but the speed with which people started producing stuff for the Scorpion EVO S3 makes me think that it won’t be long before we see replacement barrels and stocks galore.
I wouldn’t consider paying full price for a SCAR, but I would definitely pay full price for this.
Specifications: CZ Bren 805 PS1 Pistol
Caliber: 5.56 NATO
Action: Semi-auto, short stroke piston
Barrel: 11″ cold hammer forged
Weight: 6.7 pounds
MSRP: $1,982 (~$1,650 street)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * * * *
The short barrel is definitely no bueno for the 5.56 NATO round, but the accuracy is hard to argue with.
Ergonomics: * * * *
Caveat: for a pistol version of a rifle. This is much more comfortable to fire than the Scorpion EVO S3, but not quite as nice as some of the slick tubed AR pistols.
Reliability: * * * * *
Not a single complaint.
Right now there’s nothing, but there appears to be a ton of stuff on the horizon. The ability to customize the gun is present, CZ just needs to make the parts available to take advantage of that design. Since the gun has been in service for almost a decade with European governments there’s definitely some stuff out there, it just needs to get here. Soon.
Overall: * * * *
I have some very very minor complaints about the gun, but overall this is an excellent firearm. A SCAR without the SCAR price tag, very easy to SBR, and fairly sexy to boot. It ain’t cheap, but quality doesn’t come cheap these days.