Story and Photos by James E. House
The word versatile is defined as turning with ease from one thing to another or having many aptitudes. With many center fire calibers, versatility can be achieved by hand loading as a result of the wide range of components that can be selected.
For many years, the rimfire shooter was limited to using .22 short, long and long rifle cartridges, but in many instances that was not possible because the rifle or handgun was designed to use only one of the cartridges, usually the short or long rifle. The choice of rimfire calibers now includes not only those older versions, but also the .22 WMR and .17 HMR.Â
Despite the fanfare it received when it was introduced, most firearm manufacturers have dropped the .17 Hornady Mach II (or as it is sometimes known, the .17 HM2). Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to utilize .22 LR, .22 WMR and .17 HMR cartridges in one basic action? Well, now you can.
Czeska Zbrojovka has been producing firearms since 1936, which means the company is my age. CZ produces a full line of rifles, pistols and handguns, but it is the new CZ 455 that is the subject of this piece. Like the CZ 452 rimfires, the 455 has the classic lines of a fine sporter. Not only does the trim stock have a pleasing profile, but it is nicely checkered on the forearm and grip. The stock also has studs in place for attaching a sling.
What makes the CZ 455 so special? The answer is the versatility that comes from it being a bolt action sporter that can fire .22 LR, .22 WMR, or .17 HMR cartridges by switching barrels. As a result, the rifle can be purchased as a single caliber model or as a combo with one or two additional barrels. The instructions that come with a barrel purchased separately indicate that such individual barrels must be fitted initially by a gunsmith.
Cartridges of different lengths will not feed from the same magazine. The magazine for use with .22 LR ammo is about half an inch shorter than that for the .22 WMR or .17 HMR cartridges. A block fits behind the .22 LR magazine to occupy part of the space in the magazine well. That block is held in place by a transverse pin that is easily removed from either side so that a longer magazine can be inserted. The barrel and action must be removed from the stock to gain access to the magazine block. As a result, the .22 LR magazine—combined with the block—has the same overall dimensions as the magazine that holds the magnum cartridges.
The solution to the magazine length problem is rather unique, but so is the technique that enables barrels to be switched. This is inherently more difficult with a bolt action rifle because traditionally such barrels were threaded into the receiver on high-quality rifles, but press fitted and locked in position with a transverse pin in inexpensive models.
EASY BARREL CHANGES
The CZ 455 employs two large screws that pass through the receiver ring and mate with V-notches in the barrel tenon. As a result, removal of the two screws with a torx wrench allows the barrel to be pulled forward out of the receiver. The instruction manual states that the magazine housing rear screw must be loosened 1 to 2 turns before inserting the barrel.
After insertion of the barrel, the screw must be tightened before tightening the two screws that hold the barrel in place. Specification for the degree of tightening of the stock screws is 6 newton meters (Nm) and that for the barrel locking screws is 5 Nm, but I seriously doubt that most rimfire shooters will have a torque wrench calibrated in metric units.
Unlike many low-cost rimfires that employ only one bolt holding the barrel and action to the stock, the action of the CZ 455 is held to the stock by two large torx-headed screws. They are located in front of the magazine and just behind the trigger guard. The necessary torx wrench is supplied with the rifle. The trigger guard and the guard plate consist of two separate pieces of heavy sheet metal.
The barrel has a tight match chamber and is free floating in a barrel channel that has too much clearance for my taste. I would have preferred a snug fit with a slight upward pressure a couple of inches behind the tip of the forearm. Metal surfaces are highly polished and richly blued. The barrels for the rifle I received have no sights, but I have been told that a .22 LR barrel with open sights will be available. Personally, I believe that all rifle barrels should have sights even though today the vast majority of rifles are used with scopes.
The receiver of the CZ 455 has the usual grooves along the top for attaching clamp-on scope mounts, but they have the European width of 11mm rather than the 3/8-inch width common on American rimfires. Some clamp-on mounts have enough latitude in tightening to work with either groove width, but others do not. Fortunately, a set of rings is furnished with the 455 American, and they are high enough to accommodate scopes with large objective lenses.
Because I like trim rifles, especially rimfires, I do not usually mount huge scopes on them, so I have no need for the high rings. As soon as I can find rings designed for mounting a compact scope low on the receiver, the factory rings will be swapped out.
One issue with regard to mounting a scope on the CZ 455 is that the shape of the bolt handle requires the scope to be mounted rather high, which may be the reason why the rings supplied are so high. I replaced them anyway with a pair that were lower that would still allow the bolt handle to clear the rear scope bell.
For initial testing of the CZ 455, I mounted a new rimfire scope that is being marketed by Burris. The scope is marked “RimFire by Burris,” and it is a 3×9-40 that is produced in China. The turret knobs are slightly higher than those normally found on hunting scopes, but there are raised bars on the adjustment screws so they can be changed by finger pressure.
Target images viewed through the scope appears very bright and sharp, and a dual-thickness reticule with fine wires at the intersection is employed. My impression of this scope can be illustrated by the fact that I bought two for my own use and another for my son. Even though using the CZ rings resulted in the scope being mounted higher than I would have liked, the RimFire scope makes a good optic for almost any rimfire use.
TRICKY TEST CONDITIONS
As a result of some extended severe weather on the Midwest prairie, I was forced to test fire the CZ 455 under less than optimum conditions. The tests were conducted on an indoor handgun range that allowed shooting at only 25 yards. It was during the initial tests that I realized that the RimFire scope has a great deal of parallax at 25 yards and it is not an AO model.
Handgun ranges typically do not have shooting benches, but rather a narrow shelf on which the gun and ammunition can be placed. On such a shelf, I tried to arrange two sandbags to emulate a shooting bench, but the effort was not entirely successful. I fired three 5-shot groups with several types of ammunition, including some high-velocity hollow points and some standard-velocity target ammunition.
Even with my less than ideal arrangement, it was readily apparent that the CZ 455 performed in a decidedly different manner depending on the type of ammunition I fed it. Some groups with SK Standard Plus and Lapua Super Club gave very small groups that measured only 0.35 and 0.42 inch. However, some of the high-velocity loads gave groups measuring about 0.75 to 1.0 inch. Even when allowance is made for the makeshift rest and a scope with considerable parallax, such groups are too large for a rifle of the quality of the CZ.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A SCOPE MAKES
In an effort to reduce the variables, I removed the Burris RimFire scope and replaced it with an old BSA 4-12×44 AO airgun scope that I have used in testing many rimfires. That scope can be focused sharply at any range from 10 yards to infinity, which solves the problem of parallax.
Once more at the range, I still had to contend with a rest that was less than rock solid, but the focusing ability of the scope made shooting more predictable. Three five-shot groups fired with SK Standard Plus gave an average size of 0.29 inch and those with Lapua Super Club averaged 0.36 inch. The smallest groups measured only 0.26 and 0.33 inch with these types, respectively.
Although the use of a scope that could be focused at 25 yards was a big help, it was apparent that high-velocity loads would not group as well as the standard velocity loads. The best performance with high velocity loads was with Winchester Super-X solids which gave an average of 0.35 inch and Federal HV bulk pack for which the average group size was 0.53 inch. There is no doubt that under suitable conditions the CZ 455 is capable of excellent accuracy with the right ammunition.
Continuing the tests, I changed to the .17 HMR barrel, bore sighted and commenced firing with Federal 17-grain Premium ammo. Because the first shot was not in the black, I decided to shoot a five-shot group anyway, and when the second shot was fired, I wondered where it landed because it was in the same hole as the first. The next three resulted in a single ragged hole, which I measured as being a group of 0.22 inch. The first three groups gave an average size of 0.32 inch. I quickly attributed any deviation from a single hole to my shooting.
Switching to the 20-grain hollow point CCI Game Load also resulted in very small groups that were as small as 0.28 inch in some cases, and the average for three five-shot groups was 0.35 inch. I was so impressed that I left the 17 HMR barrel in place and sighted in with that load.
I would like to have tested the rifle outdoors at 50 yards with the .22 LR barrel and at 100 yards with the .17 HMR barrel, but it was not possible. However, the results that were obtained on a 25-yard pistol range made it clear that the CZ 455 is capable of excellent accuracy.
THIS ONE’S A KEEPER
The CZ 455 is a solid, attractive rifle of the classic blued steel and walnut type. It’s well proportioned and has a solid feel. A squirrel hunter can configure the rifle with the .22 LR barrel for fall small game hunting and then change to the .17 HMR or .22 WMR version for spring and summer varmint shooting. The MSRP for the CZ 455 in .22 LR is $396 and that for the magnum calibers is $417. If you buy it with both a .22 LR and magnum barrel, the price is $531.
My mother used to say that pretty is as pretty does, and the CZ is not only attractive, but it is also capable of impressive performance. These attributes, along with the rifle’s versatility, will appeal to a lot of rimfire shooters, including me. After I’d concluded my test, I called CZ to tell them to bill me for the 455 American rifle. Unlike so many guns I’ve tested, I’ve decided to hang on to this one.
P. O Box 171073
Kansas City, KS 66117-0073
BSA OPTICS, INC.
3911 S.W. 47th Ave., Ste. 914
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33314
920 54th Ave.
Greeley, CO 80634
CZ 455 AMERICAN
Caliber/s .17 HMR, .22 LR, .22 WMR
Mag capacity 5 rounds
Barrel Length 20.5 inches
Overall Length 38.2 inches
Weight 6.1 pounds