By Bruce Potts
Wednesday, 15 February 2012
CZ 455 .17 HMR review: Bruce Potts tests a great-value rimfire rifle that offers switch-barrel convenience and accuracy, too.
We all wanted it and it’s finally here — Ceská Zbrojovka has produced a rimfire rifle that can change calibres from .22 LR to .22 WMR and the ever-popular .17 HMR, too.
This means that you can now shoot the tried and tested CZ action with hammer-forged barrel, but with the extra advantage that a silenced .22 LR rabbit gun can be changed into a flat-shooting .17 HMR rifle for fox control.
The CZ 455 is the new beast and I had the thumbhole-laminated sporter in .17 HMR for testing. Not only can the barrel be removed but the trigger is now a single stage unit with a lighter overall trigger pull. The barrel length on this model is 20in, although a 16in-version is also available, making it a very handy short vermin gun, even with a sound moderator fitted.
Barrel, action and finish
This is where the biggest change has been made with regard to design. Outwardly, the trim mini Mauser-esque action is still undeniably well engineered and proportioned for rimfire cartridge use, with that well-deserved reputation for accuracy and reliability.
But under the skin of the steel action lies a totally different barrel attachment arrangement that allows the barrel to be exchanged for a differing calibre while still retaining the accuracy.
CZ customers have been asking for a barrel- change facility and this should now rival the Sako Quad in this respect.
Firstly, the barrel is a trim 20in and threaded for a ∞⁄∏ UNF thread, although a 16in would be a better choice, even for the .17 HMR calibre.
This is a varmint rifle, so the barrel is profiled with a muzzle diameter of 0.865in and an almost straight taper, but this does not unbalance the gun. Also, importantly, the muzzle end of the barrel is choked inside to ensure the best possible accuracy; even the 16in is choked and not just a shortened 20-in barrel.
The magic happens up the other end with the chamber of the barrel and fixture into the receiver. Here a solid union is crucial for accuracy as well as safety, as the headspace needs to remain constant.
CZ has made sure of a secure fixture that uses twin grub screws that lock into the bottom of the action at an angle.
With the barrel removed there are corresponding twin-milled faces that those two grub screws tighten against when the barrel is inserted. The headspace is maintained by a recessed milled slot to the barrel facing off the front of the action.
Trigger, safety and magazine
The trigger, too, has undergone a makeover. The set trigger from the 453 has gone and now the single-stage unit has been tuned to give a far better and lighter trigger pull.
Listed at 2lb pull, I measured 2.5lb, which is fine, and there is almost no creep, only a precise let-off with a positive lock time to maximise accuracy.
The bent metal trigger-guard still remains, but now it is secured to the action via only two screws that balance the wood to metal fixture more evenly, and these screws have Torx heads not slotted.
The safety is the wing-type lever on the rear bolt shroud which, when it is at right angles to the bolt, is in the fire mode — pushing it forward makes the rifle safe.
The CZ 455 comes with a plastic five-shot magazine as standard and a 10-shot version is optional. The .17 HMR magazine fits the .22 WMR but a separate mag is needed for a .22 LR option if you fit that barrel, and this also comes will an adapter to fit in the magazine well to ensure perfect feeding.
The simple lever catch located in front of the magazine well allows the magazine to pop out far enough for it to be grasped and removed without fuss.
I am a big fan of the thumbhole stock, and not just for its looks. I also like the added strength to the top of the stock around the pistol grip.
On a sporting arm such as this, the laminated wood option is very practical. Layers of wood are glued together, with the glued layers forming an impervious barrier to moisture. Moisture can warp a good stock and this in turn can ruin your accuracy and the consistency of group sizes.
The pistol grip and thumbhole are very generous and give a good hold; the same goes for the fore-end, but the lacquered finish is a bit shiny and some form of chequering or stippling would be nice.
The raised cheekpiece is almost straight, raising the comb well for scope use and the solid black rubber recoil pad is very grippy.
Accuracy and targets
Accuracy, as one has come to expect from CZ rifles, was superb with all loads tested and some being quite sublime.
I also fitted the LEI .17 HMR sound moderator, which is an astonishingly quiet moderator for its size and adds very little length to your rifle.
The Hornady, Winchester, Federal and Remington all shoot the Hornady 17g V-Max bullet and all shot very similar velocities of around 2,550fps. Not surprisingly, accuracy, too, was similar.
At 50 yards the best group from these four came from the Federals, with 0.65in groups and at 100 yards just under an inch.
For foxes the 20g GamePoint from CCI is a good bet, and velocities of 2,426fps gave a healthy energy figure of 261ft/lb, the highest tested. Group sizes were astonishing — at 50 yards almost a single enlarged hole of 0.45in and that was repeated consistently, and at 100 yards no more than 0.75in.
This just goes to show that every rifle has its own preference in ammunition choice and, when you find it, both rifle and ammunition can sing in tune.
The more “eco-friendly” bullet loading from Hornady is the sintered copper-jacketed bullet called NTX. These weigh 15.5g but, interestingly, still shot velocities similar to the heavier 17g V-Maxes, giving 2,550fps and 224ft/lb.
Accuracy, again, was very good at 50 yards — five shots grouped into 0.55in and at 100 yards 0.95in were consistently printed.
Most important of all is the reproducibility of the accuracy and point of impact, if you were to exchange and then replace the barrels. I shot five NTX bullets at 100 yards then removed the .17 HMR barrel and refitted and shot five more.
The result was one nice 10-shot group of 1.2in, so less than 0.3in deviation from the initial results.
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