The Czech military’s excellent piston-operated 805 Bren is now available to U.S. shooters in a semi-auto version, and it doesn’t disappoint.
The Czechs have been making some very high quality firearms for many years, and that tradition continues with the CZ 805 Bren S1 Carbine. It’s a lightweight, semi-automatic with a 16.2-inch barrel chambered in 5.56x45mm, the standard NATO cartridge.
Many people familiar with firearms mistake it for the FN SCAR 16S. There are similarities and differences, some considered significant and some of no consequence, depending on preference. A few are addressed here, but let’s first discuss the name, which has been applied to a few different firearms.
The use of the word “Bren” in naming guns traces back to the mid-1930s when the British were in search of a reliable light machine gun. Several designs were submitted for testing, one being the Czech ZB vz. 26 made in the Czech city of Brno. Tests revealed the gun as better than the other entries, but it needed modifications to make it suitable for use by the British. After a number of changes, the military adopted the improved gun.
Agreements were made with the Czechs for it to be produced at the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield Lock, which led to the name Bren—a combination of BRno and ENfield. At least one expert has described the Bren as “the finest magazine fed light machine gun ever put into service by anyone at any time.” Given this, it is no wonder that the Czechs have continued to use the Bren moniker for current production models.
The original select-fire 805 Bren is a standard arm of the Czech military, but it’s now available in the U.S. in a semi-automatic version. Made in the city of Brno by Ceska Zbrojovka, it is imported into the U.S. by CZ U.S.A. located in Kansas City, Kansas.
On the front end of the lightweight barrel is an effective muzzle brake that, while loud, does an admirable job of reducing felt recoil and muzzle rise. Admittedly, the 5.56 NATO round is pretty tame and isn’t known for heavy recoil, but the brake does make follow-up shots a bit faster.
The gas piston action also helps reduce felt recoil. There are two settings, one for normal operation and the other for adverse conditions when the gun is extremely dirty and more gas is needed to operate the action. A spring-loaded detent must be pressed to rotate the gas valve setting or to remove the gas piston assembly for cleaning. Beneath the gas block is a bayonet lug, something the SCAR 16S lacks.
The aluminum upper receiver has a Picatinny accessory rail running from the front of the handguard to the rear on which flip-up front and rear iron sights are mounted. Both are alloy, not polymer, with the rear having a large and small aperture. It is adjustable for windage, whereas the front is an elevation-adjustable post surrounded by protective wings.
Another Picatinny rail is located on the bottom of the upper and runs from the front of the magazine well to the front of the handguard. There are no rails on the sides like there are on the SCAR.
The charging handle can be easily installed on the left or right, while the magazine latch and safety selector are ambidextrous, making the 805 right- or left-hand friendly. Although the bolt is held back after the last round is fired, the bolt latch is located only on the left side of the receiver. To release the bolt to return to battery, the charging handle must be retracted and released. The SCAR’s bolt can be released the same way, but also by pressing the bolt catch toggle on the left side. The charging handle reciprocates when the gun is fired.
Those shooters with small- to medium-size hands will find the reach to be longer than on an AR or the SCAR. Some may have difficulty reaching the controls without altering their grip. For an even longer reach, the grip backstrap can be replaced with a larger one available from the manufacturer.
The two-stage military trigger broke at just less than 5 pounds after a short take-up and just a small bit of creep. It’s not a bad trigger for a stock unit. And the gun is designed to accept standard AR-15 style magazines. It is supplied with two, and the magazine well is beveled for faster reloads.
The 805 has a polymer buttstock that can be folded to the right by pressing a button and can be adjusted for length. A non-slip rubber buttpad is installed, and the cheek piece on the comb can be moved from one side to the other.
Field stripping for cleaning purposes is simple and requires no special tools. First, after making certain the gun is unloaded, the charging handle is retracted and allowed to go forward. The safety is engaged, and then the front takedown pin is removed. This allows the lower receiver to be moved slightly forward and pulled down, separating it from the rest of the gun.
Next, the rear takedown pin is removed and then, while pressing the takedown button at the rear of the upper receiver, the buttstock assembly slides down and away from the upper. This allows the recoil spring assembly to be withdrawn from the rear of the upper. Then the bolt carrier assembly is pulled to the rear using the charging handle and when the charging handle is aligned with the cutout in the receiver, it is withdrawn which allows the bolt carrier to be removed from the back.
The gas piston assembly is removed by rotating the valve 180 degrees while pressing a spring-loaded detent with a pointed object. The assembly can then be pulled forward and separated from the upper. The gas valve and piston are then easily pulled apart. Those familiar with the SCAR 16S may wonder why disassembly stops here and the bolt and firing pin are not removed from the bolt carrier. To do so requires a punch to drive retaining pins, something that is not easily done in the field and is probably best left to a gunsmith or armorer.
On the Line
The gun proved to be plenty accurate for a gun designed for self-defense, target practice, hunting or fun. Groups averaged around 2 inches at 100 yards, much better than the military standard for the M4 carbine. The best group was delivered by Black Hills 75-grain Match Hollow Point ammunition.
This gun has a lot of features for shooters interested in something other than an AR-15. And with an MSRP of $1,999 compared to the SCAR 16S MSRP of $2,995, the CZ 805 Bren S1 Carbine will appeal to many. For more information, contact CZ-USA, 800-955-4486, CZ-USA.com.
CZ 805 Bren S1 Carbine
Type: Semi-auto, short-stroke gas piston
Caliber: 5.56×45 NATO
Barrel: 16.2 in., 1:7 twist
Overall Length: 39 in.
Weight: 8.02 lbs.
Sights: Windage and elevation adjustable, flip up
Finish: Black anodized
Capacity: 30+1 rounds
Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the Fall 2016 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.