Gun Review: CZ 455 Varmint Tacticool Suppressor-Ready Rifle

CZ_455-right-mantel

Believe it or not, I’ve only owned a single, manual-action .22 LR rifle in my life. It’s a pre-1968 (unsure exactly when it was made, but it has no serial number so it’s pre-Gun Control Act) WesternField 830, which I’ve had since I was a kid. Although it’s still a solid shooter, after my AAC Element 2 suppressor was released from NFA purgatory I decided it was time to find a new rifle that was a bit more modern and visually interesting, had a threaded muzzle, and was an absolute tack driver. I had hoped this would be PWS’ T3 Summit Rifle, as it’s sexy as hell and the toggle action is a blast to run, but its accuracy left me underwhelmed. Cue the CZ 455 Varmint Tacticool Suppressor-Ready rifle . . .

A friend in California showed me his CZ 452 about five years ago. Although by that point I had already been a CZ pistol fan for quite some time, I had never handled one of CZ’s rifles. My impression was that it looked and felt like a quality, centerfire rifle in every way, and I think that would still be my one-sentence review of the gun today.

Plastic and aluminum are eschewed for parts milled and hammered from blocks of steel, then blued. Walnut stocks are of a higher grade wood than found on most rimfires. Actions are tight, triggers are adjustable and break cleanly, and barrels are cold hammer forged. In a sea of cheap, mass-produced rimfire rifles, CZUB is keeping things old school and manufacturing a product that will last.

CZ_455-logo

Of course I just had to rebel against the old school at least a little bit, and was drawn to one of the five 455 variants (of 13) that don’t have traditional, wood stocks like the 455 Varmint that Nick reviewed or the 455 Lux that Brett reviewed. As much as I do love the classy look of the full Mannlicher stock and the futuristic racecar looks of Joe Grine’s 455 Varmint Evolution, I really dug the police sniper-esque, tactical look and feel of this rifle’s Boyd’s stock.

CZ_455-stock

It’s actually a laminate wood stock coated with a pebble-texture paint finish. It feels stiffer and more solid than your typical synthetic stock, and didn’t carry the massive price tag of the carbon fiber and fiberglass Manners T4 stock available on the 455 Precision Trainer.

I like the dual sling studs on the forend. This makes simultaneously running a bipod and a sling easier. While most bipods do have a sling attachment point on the bottom, more clearance is provided with the two stud method. It also provides two bipod mounting location options, which is twice as many as usual and infinitely more than on the studless T3 Summit rifle.

CZ_455-sling-studs

The bolt is stiff for a rimfire, locking up quite snugly but also fairly smoothly. I know it’s common for owners to polish their 455 bolts, but for once I’m going to let that happen on its own. As you can see in the video above, firing this rifle rapidly is easy. Even if the bolt is fairly tight, its throw is short and I have zero worries about bending or otherwise harming it. It can be manhandled like a centerfire.

A departure from what I’m used to, the safety lever is on the bolt itself and physically blocks the striker — much like an old Mauser. It’s easily pushed forwards with your strong hand thumb to engage, and pulled rearwards with thumb or trigger finger to disengage.

CZ_455-safety

Striker status is easy to verify by look or feel, as it protrudes from the rear of the bolt when cocked, and is recessed in the bolt channel when at rest.

CZ_455-striker

The bolt face has light support for the cartridge rim, and employs dual extractors to ensure empty (or full) brass comes out of the match chamber.

CZ_455-bolt-face

I probably should have cleaned it prior to the glamour shots

The polished, blued bolt handle has a curve to it to clear various optics, including large scopes like the 5-25×52 SIG SAUER WHISKEY5 that’s seen in most of these photos.

CZ_455-bolt-handle

An 11mm dovetail is machined into the top of the receiver, which does limit scope ring options a bit. Joe Grine had some great suggestions in his review, but the CZ rings have been working great for me in both 1″ and 30mm flavors. CZ sells a Weaver adapter rail as well if that’s your thing.

CZ_455-left

The heavy profile bull barrel — another aspect lending to this rifle’s centerfire-like look and feel — is threaded 1/2×28 at the muzzle. The thick barrel leaves plenty of shoulder for solidly mounting a suppressor.

CZ_455-muzzle

One of the things I absolutely adored about the T3 Summit Rifle is its incredible trigger. Easily the shortest-traveling, most ridiculous trigger I can remember shooting. On CZ’s 455, there’s only one aspect to the trigger that I actually prefer; it’s made of steel.

CZ_455-trigger

I dig the flat front of the trigger shoe, and generally it feels pretty good although my finger does prefer slightly less profile curvature. It’s almost completely creep-free from the factory and metered in at a hair under 4 lbs, but for some reason it felt heavier than that. Of course, it’s also adjustable for pull weight.

CZ_455-trigger-adjust

Well, it’s adjustable once you return from the hardware store with a T30 Torx bit, at which point you’ll be able to very easily remove the stock. Trigger pull weight is adjusted by adding or removing pre-tension on the trigger spring by rotating that square nut. I let mine out most of the way and it’s now dead consistent at just a hair over 3 lbs.

Thanks to the Dvorak TriggerScan I can show what the trigger pull actually looks like:

CZ 455 Trigger Scan

A 0.054″ travel distance from at rest to trigger break is pretty dang impressive. That’s really too little creep to feel by hand unless you’re trying extremely hard. Graphed against the Century Arms C308, which has 3.7 times more trigger travel before the break:

C308 vs CZ455

I’m not well-versed enough to know all of the differences between the CZ 452 and the 455 that appears to have replaced it, but one of them is definitely the interchangeable barrel system. CZ sells a bunch of 455 barrels in .22 LR, .22 WMR, and .17 HMR in various styles and ranging in price from about $123 to $189. The best part of this is that your same CZ 455 receiver can accept any of these barrels in any of these calibers (keep in mind some stocks won’t clear the bull barrels), and barrels can be swapped out in just a few minutes.

CZ_455-barrel-attach

A spacer at the rear of the magwell is removed for using .22 WMR or .17 HMR mags.

A couple of set screws clamp the barrel into the receiver, and that explains 95% of what’s required for the barrel swap process. 10/22-like simplicity here. I believe some CZ 455 models are even sold as kits with a spare barrel in a different caliber.

The factory-included magazine is a polymer, 5-round affair that fits flush against the bottom metal. For .22 LR use, CZ also sells a polymer 0-round (a single shot sled), 10-round, and 25-round magazine.

5-, 10-, and 20-round mags

5-, 10-, and 25-round mags

Hint: If you replace the large, polymer follower in the 25-round mag with one of the shorter, metal followers from the other magazines, you’ll go from a 25-round capacity to about a 32-round capacity. And it’s still reliable. That’s almost $219 in .22 LR in one magazine!

Accuracy

Yep. Tack driver.

Before I had even shot this rifle for groups, I was playing around to get familiar with it while sighting in the Primary Arms 6X ACSS .22 LR scope. Center punching clay pigeons at 150 yards with utterly boring regularity made it clear very quickly that this thing was a shooter. As seen in the video review of that PA scope, even at that distance I was consistently able to intentionally hit clays in the rim after a .22 hole in the center didn’t shatter them completely. This left me pretty excited to see what kinds of groups it would lay down, and it didn’t disappoint.

Three shots at 50 yards:

CZ_455-target4

I asked a bunch of people what this was, and they said “a bullet hole.” Nope, it’s three!

Five shots with Federal Gold Medal UltraMatch at 50 yards:

CZ_455-target1

CZ_455-ontarget

Five shots with American Eagle Suppressor at 50 yards:

CZ_455-target3

Federal in light rain at 50 yards:

CZ_455-target2

The most amazing thing about this rifle is that it put up solid groups with every type of ammo I tried. Most five-shot groups came in around a half inch at 50 yards, a few brands consistently did better than that, and the worst, least consistent brands still always grouped inside of 3/4 inches. The best were Federal Gold Medal UltraMatch (this has been the best for me in a few guns now) and American Eagle Suppressor, followed closely by Eley Match, Gemtech Silencer Subsonic, Norma Match, and Lapua (SK). I also shot Winchester 555 bulk, Federal Target Grade Performance bulk, CCI Blazer bulk, Remington Subsonic, Eley Club, American Eagle bulk, Aguila SuperExtra, CCI Mini Mag (both HP and round nose), and CCI Stinger.

Flummoxed that I had gone through my entire .22 LR collection without finding anything the rifle didn’t seem to enjoy shooting — and we’re talking loads from 950 fps up to 1,640 fps — I broke out the weird stuff. A handful of 15-year-old, CCI .22 Shorts and some primer-only, 20 grain Aguila Super Colibris later, and I still haven’t found that round. These I only shot at 25 yards, but they’ll both do one-shot groups all day long.

This is the accuracy I was looking for.

On The Range

A laminate stock and steel everything else, including what’s a bull barrel even by centerfire standards, doesn’t add up to a featherweight rifle. According to CZ it’s 6.6 lbs dry and unadorned. Add a bipod, an optic capable of taking advantage of the 455’s accuracy potential, and a suppressor and you’re lugging around a real piece of shootin’ iron. With the Primary Arms 6X scope plus the other, aforementioned accouterments affixed, it clocks in at 9 lbs on the money.

That’s a lot of rimfire, but the balance when shooting offhand is pretty good since the barrel is only 16″ long and the optic and fairly large buttstock round things out. The stock’s pistol grip is excellent, as is its cheek rest and forend. In total, it’s highly controllable and can be locked down well in a variety of positions. When shooting off the bipod I like to put my thumb on top of the flat space above the pistol grip.

PrimaryArms_ACSS22_left-high

Although nothing in the action changes to run the longer .22 WMR or .17 HMR cartridges, it still feels short and sweet running .22 LR. It would be even faster if the bolt didn’t lock up so snugly or fit in the receiver so precisely, but this definitely contributes to the excellent accuracy and overall solid, quality feel. I wouldn’t mess with that.

As Nick mentioned in his review, the magazines line up the next round almost perfectly with the chamber. Rounds enter smoothly and without damaging the bullet’s nose (which also contributes to accuracy, I’m sure, as many .22 LRs will put dents and dings on bullets as they chamber). Empty cases eject with authority, even if you’re taking it easy on the bolt. I’ve had this rifle since the beginning of August and I’ve been shooting it a lot, and have yet to suffer a single failure to feed or eject, or a single light strike or other mechanical issue.

It’s a great shooter. Oh, and it’s quiet as a church mouse with subsonic ammo.

Conclusions

Centerfire quality in a rimfire rifle that’s made to last. The manufacturing and materials may be a bit old school, but the stock and the heavy, threaded barrel definitely jazz it up a bit. It’s so accurate that I had to avoid my morning coffee — 0.05 MOA caffeine shakes actually show up on paper!

455mantel

I’d leave it at that, but the TTAG brass knows that no gun or gear is perfect and encourages us to seek out the truth and seek out the flaws. Or, at least, the nit picks, which is all I can come up with in this case. I’d like a trigger shoe with a larger radius, I’d like a threaded-on bolt knob so I could slap some absurd tactical thing on it, the gun could go on a bit of a diet (but then, of course, it just wouldn’t be the same gun, in which case CZ makes an app for that), and its appetite for .22 LR is much larger than I anticipated.

Specifications (CZ 455 Varmint Tacticool Suppressor-Ready):

MSRP: $549.00
Caliber: .22 LR
Rate Of Twist: 1:16 in
Magazine Capacity: 5, 10, or 25
Stock: Black Painted Laminate
Length Of Pull: 13.75 in
Sights: No Sights, Integral 11mm Dovetail
Barrel: Cold Hammer Forged
Barrel Length: 16.5 in
Overall Length: 34.75 in
Weight: 6.6 lbs

 

Ratings (out of five stars):

Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * * *
It’s a strong four stars. CZ tends to look at finish polishing as something that will happen on its own over the course of a few hundred to few thousand rounds. Which is generally true. But five stars would require polishing the sear surfaces and some of the bolt mating surfaces, etc., at the factory to make the moving parts feel glass smooth instead of just better than average. Again, the quality of this gun is way above that of most rimfires, but it also costs more so I’m holding it to a higher standard.

Customization * * * * *
From the factory you get swappable barrels in three calibers, various magazine capacity offerings, and lots of stock options. The OEM trigger is adjustable for pull weight. Thanks to Boyd’s offerings alone, there are dozens of aftermarket stock styles to choose from. There are aftermarket triggers from Timney and others. Fewer scope ring options than with some rifles, but still enough to fit the bill. Plus CZ sells a Weaver mount. You’re pretty well covered for customization here.

Accuracy * * * * *
It’s probably capable of better accuracy than I’m capable of wringing out of it.

Overall * * * * *
This rifle was loaned to me by CZ-USA, but the only thing going back to them is a check. This is the new, manual-action .22 LR I’ve been looking for.

comments

  1. avatar CZ Guy says:

    CZ makes awesome stuff, hence my name. This is an incredible value for the money. Great review, calling my dealer now. I want one…

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      I have said for years here at TTAG that I think the CZ .22 rifles are the best bang:buck (pardon the pun) bolt-action, .22LR rifles out there today. They’re accurate, they’re reliable, their triggers don’t suck (but they can be improved a bit), they’re in nice stocks, they’re still making a blued, polished steel product, and the price is quite reasonably (IMO) for what one is getting.

      The pity of it is, we (Americans) used to make .22 rifles like this.

  2. avatar Tim says:

    I have a very similar model, which looks about the same except for the laminate thumbhole stock, and I love it. The trigger was heavier than I would have liked, so I dropped in an adjustable sear (DI Products), which along with adjusting the trigger pull weight helped immensely.

    My one gripe is that, no matter what adjustments I make to the trigger, occasionally something won’t “reset” correctly, and pulling back on the bolt causes it to pull all the way out of the receiver without being caught. In other words, it’s as if I still had the trigger depressed, and was attempting to remove the bolt. I’ve found that pulling the bolt up *with authority* avoids that, and I’m hoping whatever it is will wear in.

    1. avatar Jeremy S says:

      Could that be due to the aftermarket sear setup? CZ-USA will handle warranty repairs at no cost to the owner of a CZ, but if the replacement sear is causing any of the issue then they’re going to charge for the repair time/parts. Maybe bring it to a gunsmith near you?

    2. avatar StickShift says:

      The bolt on my 455FS occasionally slips over the sear, binding up the action. You have to pull on the trigger and give it a strong pull/push for it slip back off. As far as I can tell, it’s a tolerance issue, but it happens rarely enough I never sent it back to CZ to be fixed. It seems like a rare issue, but I’ve heard similar reports on Rimfire Central.

      Your issue sounds more severe though. I’d send it back to CZ and see if they can figure it out.

  3. avatar Gunr says:

    I think you forgot a decimal point in your assessment of how much ammo you could get in one magazine. $219?

    1. avatar Jeremy S says:

      Just a joke 😉 ….half of the comments on every .22 gun review on here since early 2013 have been along the lines of how impossible to find and expensive .22 LR is. Thankfully it’s been getting much better in the last few months, but people still make jokes like “worth its weight in .22” 😛

      1. avatar rosignol says:

        My friendly neighborhood arms dealer regularly has 22LR in stock and lets me buy as much as I want.

        Possibly because I’m a regular, but I don’t think I’m getting particularly special treatment.

  4. avatar Craig says:

    Here’s a question – since this is a varmint hunting gun as sold by CZ, how does the painted laminate stock hold up to water and snow? The big advantage to a synthetic stock is that it can’t warp like wood. I know laminate is better than one piece of wood, but…

    1. avatar Jeremy S says:

      It’s mostly sealed by the paint, except for some of the inside areas. I had it out getting rained on for a couple hours without a hitch but can’t say I torture tested it (or plan to). There are a couple of 455 options with synthetic stocks, though, if it’s a big concern. There’s also a zillion other Boyd’s options and most of their laminate ones are completely sealed with clear coat inside and out. I could actually run the identical stock to what was on the PWS T3 Summit review gun.

    2. avatar Bob in MI says:

      I’ve got the same stock on a Savage MKII. I have beaten the crap out of it and laid in the snow dinging rabbits. The stock is no worse for wear. I did paint the inside areas that didn’t appear to be sealed as well with a little spray paint.

  5. avatar Red In Texas says:

    The only nit to pick, would be poly mags. Seems to cheapens an otherwise great rifle. Not that it is going to stop me from getting one.

    1. avatar Jeremy S says:

      It does seem a bit incongruous that they aren’t stamped, blued steel. But I have no issue with these mags because they’re really good. They’re lightweight, don’t dent, don’t rust (my 55-ish-y/o WesternField mag has surface rust in areas), and function flawlessly. Joe Grine made some comments about them vs. the Savage steel mags in that shootout style review he did.

  6. avatar SteveInCO says:

    Can’t personally see spending that kind of money on a .22LR rifle, BUT it’s good to know such a thing exists and that CZ (maker of just about everything I carry) is doing their usual quality work.

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      12 years ago I paid $800 for a Lee-Enfield No8 trainer. A single-shot, iron-sighted .22. And this is a tack-driver!

      I have won so many .22 training rifle competitions with this rifle, I have actually lost count.

      And now I get repeated offers of over $2000 for the rifle because of their rarity, and mine is a Fazakerly produced example which is rarer and more in demand.

      The No8 uses a converted Lee-Enfield receiver, which proves the point that the accuracy issues in many rimfires is because of the thin receivers. While safe to operate, they must flex on firing.

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      One of the ways I judge how serious a shooter is (relative to how serious s/he claims to be) is to look at the quality of their .22 target pistols/revolvers/rifles.

      People who are serious about shooting will have quality .22’s. You can shoot rifles or pistols indoors, all year ’round. You can shoot them on short (50 yard) ranges (rifles) and 50 foot to 25 yard ranges for pistols.

      The people I shoot with regularly have probably at least $500 to $1K invested in a .22 target pistol (a single pistol) and $1K to $3K in a .22 target rifle. They’re very good shootists – because the .22 allows them to shoot all year ’round on indoor ranges, when you’d have to be shooting through a foot of snow and 40 MPH winds in the winter here.

      1. avatar Jeremy S says:

        Hmmm well I think my best .22 handgun is, coincidentally, the CZ Kadet Adapter when on top of my worked SP-01 frame.

        1. avatar CZ Guy says:

          Wonder if a cadet would fit on my Shadow?

      2. avatar SteveInCO says:

        Like Jeremy, I have a Kadet adapter. My long rifle is a Savage of some sort, not terribly fancy.

        But then I’m not surprised to be different from Dyspeptic on this, it seems he and I have many attitudes that are 180 degrees out of whack pretty consistently.

  7. avatar Gunr says:

    How bad is the laminate stock, that they would paint it? As far as painting something black to make it look “Tacticool” is concerned, is a 22 LR “tactical”?
    The stamped trigger guard looks like something on a cheap 22 single shot. Just my opinion.

    1. avatar Jeremy S says:

      No, I don’t think a .22 LR is tactical. I don’t think CZ does either, which is why I’d guess they called it the “tacticool” in the first place.

      Most of Boyd’s stocks are clear coated. Like the one on the T3 Summit that was reviewed. Their stuff is pretty nice, actually. In this case, it’s painted to give it the pebble texture. The alternative would be going with a synthetic stock or an overmolded stock (e.g. http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2015/09/jeremy-s/gear-review-hogue-1022-tactical-thumbhole-overmolded-stock/), which is fine but it is not as solid or as stiff. With that Hogue one, for instance, it flexes under load and I could feel it happen if I loaded up the bipod to a decent degree. This laminate one is rock solid. The studs, for instance, aren’t just screwed into it. They’re actually through-bolted with a locking nut on the other side. I do like this stock and its finish.

      You have to go old school .22 to even find one with a metal trigger guard. I think all the cheap ones these days are plastic. In this case the guard and the entire bottom metal is all once piece of stamped steel. It’s a heavier gauge than many. It’s pretty standard fare, though, yeah. Utilitarian. But, heck, I’ve seen $10,000 shotguns with stamped sheetmetal trigger guards although, sure, they start thicker and round all the edges and engrave them, etc. But some of them still hammer the guards out of a strip of metal instead of machining them from a billet.

  8. avatar Bunsen says:

    Jeremy, Look at Diversified Innovative Products for a 25MOA scope rail to allow using standard picatiny rings and a trigger shoe. They make some other goodies, but those are the two I most often recommend.

    Although it looks like quite the shooter already you might be even more pleasantly surprised if you fed it some Lapua or SK Jagd target ammo and did a Yo-Dave trigger job.

    You’ve just dipped your toe into the very deep pool of precision rimfire. Look around your area and you might find a tactical rimfire match or two. Welcome to the CZ rimfire addiction. 🙂

    1. avatar Jeremy S says:

      I shot SK Rifle Match through it. You think the Standard Plus (which is less expensive) will group better?

      1. avatar Stinkeye says:

        What does “better than a one-hole group” look like? No holes in the target at all?

      2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Tight groups out of a .22 require consistent ammo, just as with centerfire ammo.

        Factors include:

        1. Consistency in muzzle velocity.
        2. Consistency in bullet concentricity. Some cheaper ammo will have bullets that have defects in them, some will have bullets that aren’t true on the axis of the case, some will have irregular crimps in the cases. These all affect group size.
        3. Consistency in rim thickness.

        1. avatar JeffR says:

          Dyspeptic, I have read before about testing and then buying .22 ammo from the manufacturer based on production runs to ensure consistency in the ammo and better accuracy. For those of us who are not professional shooters or made of money, any guidance as to how to buy consistent rimfire ammunition?

      3. avatar Bunsen says:

        It really all depends on the specific Lot # as there is not a huge difference between SK Std Plus and SK Rifle Match. If you ever get super serious about your 100yd-200yd shooting Lapua Center-X is an excellent choice.

        A service not a lot of folks know about is Lapua’s rimfire service center in Meza, AZ. It is VERY reasonably priced to test and purchase several lots of SK or Lapua brands that shoot well in your rifle.

        http://www.lapua.com/en/customer-center/test-shooting.html

        1. avatar Jeremy S says:

          I’m nowhere near that serious in this case. The 455 is just for fun use and I have no intention of shooting in smallbore competitions. I have a couple of RWS loads (which is apparently where the Federal Gold Medal Match and UltraMatch actually come from) plus Lapua Center-X and SK Standard Plus in my shopping cart @ Midway so I’ll pick that up shortly here.

  9. avatar UofUdavid says:

    Is this worth the extra coin over a savage? If savage makes an equally accurate shooter which one would it be?

    1. avatar Jeremy S says:

      Joe did a CZ–Savage shootout in his review: http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2015/04/joe-grine/17-hmr-shoot-off-savage-93r17-vs-cz-455/ …obviously those are two specific models among dozens, but it’s a good comparo piece…

      1. avatar UofUdavid says:

        Thanks Jeremy!

  10. avatar Nate H. says:

    One hole groups at that price? Man, I think I just found my next rifle purchase! Admittedly, it may be a while off though, I’ve gotten pretty serious about competition pistol shooting, and that’s taking up a lot of the extra dough I don’t have lying around anyway. But, man! One hole groups!!!!

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email