Here at TTAG, we have been shooting our .17 HMRs a lot more than our .22LRs lately. Why? ammo availability. Somehow I’ve ended up owning two .17 HMRs: A Savage 93R17 BSEV and a CZ 455 EVO. That means that the stars have aligned for a shoot-off. Make the jump to see which one comes out on top.
In their various configurations, the CZ 455 and Savage 93R17 are two of the most popular .17 HMRs on the market. These two rifles are well-matched in terms of size, features, and price ($520-ish) so they are a pretty even match up. TTAG has reviewed different versions of both of these rifles, here, here, and here, but we have never done a head-to-head shoot-off . . .
Before we get going, I need to point out that both rifles tested here have been slightly modified. First, I had my gunsmith thread the barrel on the CZ and he recrowned the barrel as part of that process. In addition, I added sling swivel posts to the Savage since it did not come so equipped from the factory.
I polished the bolts on both rifles and smoothed out the actions a bit. In the case of the CZ, my gunsmith polished up the action as well. In both cases, he also adjusted the triggers to make them lighter than the factory settings. Other than these minor modifications, these rifles are stock.
By way of introduction, I will also list the accessories shown on these sample guns. My Savage 93R17 features a Vortex Viper 4-16×50 HS with Deadhold BDC reticle, Warne medium 30mm rings, and a Blackhawk bipod.
The CZ is equipped with a Harris 6-9 bipod, Leupold VX-2 6-18×40 AO with custom BDC “Target” turrets and LRV Duplex reticle. In the photo below, you can see that the turret is zeroed at 50 yards (.5), and you can also see the settings for 100 yards (1.0), 150 yards (1.5), etc. One full rotation of the turret zeros the rifle at 350 yards (3.5). This is a great system, but it’s somewhat limited for use at the specific elevation in which you are shooting. It can increase the flexibility of the system by buying caps set for sea level, 2000 ft., 4000 ft., etc. Mine were cut for 2000 feet elevation as a compromise.
The scope rings on the CZ are the excellent Talley 22CZRH 1-inch High Rimfire Rings for CZ 452 European, 455, 512, 513. These rings are specifically designed to match up with CZ’s 11mm dovetail setup.
I’ve owned lots of rimfire rings, from Leupold, Burris, Millet, Kwik Sight, Simmons, and others. But these Talley rings have been absolutely the best. They also have a slim, refined look that complements the rifle. If you are in the market, be sure to get the “high” rings for the CZ, because the CZ 455’s bolt interferes with lower rings.
With that intro out of the way, let’s begin the comparison. I have evaluated these two rifles in eight different categories: special features, optics rails, visual appearance, trigger, magazines, fit/finish/reliability, accuracy, and availability of accessories.
The CZ 455 features the ability for the end-user to switch out barrels /calibers in minutes. That’s definitely a “European” thing, as some countries have (gasp!) limits on the number of firearms a person can own. Depending on your shooting style and budget, interchangeable barrels can be a really big deal or utterly useless. For example, if money is tight, being able to switch calibers for around $150 could save you from having to buy a second rifle and a second scope. If you travel, you can bring three barrels (.22LR, .22 Mag., and .17 HMR) in a compact package. However, the rifle will obviously need to be re-zeroed every time a barrel is switched, which is a PITA.
None of the Savage rifles offer this feature or anything else out of the ordinary for a bolt gun, except for perhaps a left-handed version. Here’s a photo of my friend’s southpaw version of the 93R17. I’m assuming that would make it a 93L17!
According to CZ-USA’s website, CZ still has left-handed CZ 452’s in its inventory, so it has not yet manufactured a left-handed version of the CZ 455.
Advantage: CZ (at least for right-handed shooters).
The Savage features detachable two-piece picatinny/weaver rail. Generally speaking, these will get the job done, and I’d guess that 95% of users will be satisfied. I fall into that other 5%, and I have a higher degree of confidence in one-piece rails. I noticed that the 2-piece rails on an older Savage that I sold to a friend were not in 100% alignment. Did it affect anything? Not really, but it bothered me nonetheless. While its not a 100% “must have,” I do recommend that Savage 93 owners upgrade by buying a one-piece 20 MOA rail from DIR Inc. or EGW.
One Pro-tip for Savage 93-Series owners: You really do need to use blue Locktite on the screws that hold the rail sections locked onto the receiver. I have seen three separate situations where the Savage mounts worked loose which in the field, causing the rifles to lose their zero.
The CZ features an integral European-style 11mm dovetail. Because this rail is milled into the receiver, there is no chance for the rail sections to come loose, as is the case with the Savage. But there is one problem. Though elegant in appearance, it is difficult to find rings that fit this dovetail. I think I bought three sets of rings for my CZ 452 America before finding a set of Millet rings that fit, and even those rings left a lot to be desired. I ended up upgraded my CZ 452 with the DIP Products 20-MOA rail and some Warne rings. That set-up works, but in my opinion, the best solution for CZ 455 users is a ring set made by Talley. I wish I had known about the Talley rings at the time I outfitted by CZ 452, because they are definitely the hot ticket. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it is hard to argue against the fact that the Talley rings simply look better than the competition.
Advantage: As long as the Talley rings are available, CZ gets the nod on this issue.
Although the colors of the stock and metal finish are different, both of these rifles look fairly similar. The only notable difference is that the Savage features a spiral fluted barrel. The depth and spacing of the spiral flutes suggests that they are primarily cosmetic in nature. Nonetheless, there is no denying that they add an appealing visual accent not present on the CZ.
Another aspect of the Savage that adds to the overall look is the use of stainless steel. Be forwarned, however, the Savage uses steel that is only marginally “stainless.” I know from personal experience that you can get surface rust / oxidation if you do not keep in the rifle oiled up. Of course, I live in a rather wet / damp climate so this is not likely going to be as much of an issue if you live in Arizona or similar locales.
The CZ 455 is an attractive gun, but there are no cosmetic enhancements such as barrel flutes, bolt jeweling, etc. The bluing is a utilitarian satin luster, which was disappointing in comparison to the high polish bluing on my 2006-era CZ 452. I’m guessing that CZ decided to spend the extra time and money on the trigger instead. Overall, I’d rate the metal finish on the CZ 455 as utilitarian: not ugly but not impressive, either.
So, in conclusion on this topic, I’m gonna give this category to Savage. Obviously, things like the color of the stock call for a subjective assessment, but the combination of stainless steel and barrel flutes tilts the equation in favor of the Savage, IMO.
Historically, CZ rimfire rifles such as the CZ 452 were known for having decidedly mediocre triggers. So when I bought by CZ 455 EV, I pretty much assumed that I would need to upgrade the trigger. However, CZ must have gotten the message because over the past few years, the samples I have tested have been pretty good right out of the box. The factory trigger is adjustable, and after a bit of tinkering, I have the trigger set at a crisp 2.2 lbs with no creep.
Since the advent of the Accutrigger, Savage has been an industry leader when it comes to triggers. The Accutrigger trigger always had a great reputation in the shooting community, although you will find the occasional detractor. One potential issue is the trigger safety, as it tends to be either a love-it or hate-it affair. The 93R17 features the AccuRelease safety feature, which blocks the sear unless the release is depressed by the trigger finger. Wikipedia describes this feature as follows:
Within the trigger there is the long silver-colored AccuRelease lever mounted within the trigger body and sharing the trigger’s pivot point in the housing. When at rest, the forward upper end of the AccuRelease is positioned directly behind the sear, where it will block the sear should any external force cause it to jar out of the trigger notch. In normal operation, the trigger finger will first take up and depress the AccuRelease lever so that its forward tip drops out of the path of the sear, allowing the sear to move fully backward when released by the trigger at whatever weight you have adjusted the trigger pull to be.
In various promotional materials and videos, Savage touts the Accutrigger as being a user-level adjustable trigger, with “no need to pay a gunsmith.” However, Savage also states that “Savage Arms strongly recommends that no firearm be modified, adjusted, repaired, or components replaced unless the work is performed by a qualified gunsmith. Failure to heed this warning will result in loss of warranty rights and potential property damage or personal injury.” I guess Savage’s lawyers can’t help themselves when it comes to disclaimers of liability. WTF?
Advantage: Too close to call.
The CZ 455 features 5 and 10 round magazines. In the photo above, the 10 round mags are shown inserted in the mag wells of both rifles. Extra 5 round mags are shown off to the side. The 5 round magazines are available in steel or polymer. While I have used steel mags with my CZ452, so far I only have the plastic magazines for the CZ 455. They work fine, and I have no complaints. Nick Leghorn summed it up best when he wrote about the .22LR version of the CZ 455 back in 2013:
“The CZ 455 also uses a five round magazine, but it is positioned in such a way that the bullets are presented directly in front of the chamber and feed smoothly and directly in without any issues. I have never had any malfunctions or failures to feed with this rifle, and the age-old problem of bullets deforming as they slide into the chamber doesn’t happen with this gun.”
Ditto for the .17 HMR version of the CZ 455.
The Savage magazines are, on the other hand, fairly crappy – both in design and execution. The interface with the receiver is an old and tired design. The mag inserts by riding along a rail that protrudes out the bottom of the rifle. Even more annoyingly, the steel magazines have a tendency to bend and loosen up over time. While you can fix this by bending them back ever so slightly, they do not inspire confidence.
Having said that, the CZ mags are expensive ($36-40), while the Savage mags are a bit cheaper at $22-34.
Advantage: CZ (by a long shot -no pun intended).
Fit and Finish / Reliability.
I have owned three Savage 93s, and I have a friend who also has a 93R17 FV. Based on my experience with these four guns, the fit and finish tends to be on the utilitarian side. One of my.17 HMRs had tool marks on the inside of the receiver. Two of the four guns had to make trips back to the factory for warranty repairs.
One of the most common problems I see with the 93R17 is light primer strikes. My buddy had to send his $200 93R17 FV back to Savage in March of 2014 to get that fixed, and the turn-around time was 7 weeks. It probably would have taken longer but for some diligent phone calls on his part. In fact, the only reason I bought the Savage 93R17 BSEV featured in this review was because it was increasing looking as if his rifle would not get shipped back in time. As it turned out, his rifle arrived back on the morning of the day we were scheduled to leave.
My Savage 93R17 BSEV occasionally gets light primer strikes as well. And recently, my 93R 9RJ (.22 Magnum) started experiencing numerous light primer strikes. I haven’t quite figured out the solution, other than to send them back to Savage. It may be a maintenance issue – I haven’t attempted to take the bolts apart yet.
Another problem I frequently encounter with the Savage is slight headspacing issues. The .17 HMR headspaces on the rim, and so if the neck of the chamber is not exact, you will experience cracked brass casings. I sent my first Savage 93R17 BTVSS back to the factory and they fixed that problem with around a one month turnaround.
The CZ 455s have been more reliable. In fact, they are utterly reliable. The only problem I had was with the Rifle Basix trigger on my CZ 452 – it loosened up over time so I had to take the rifle apart and re-adjust it. Rifle Basix recommends using Loctite on the screw once you have things set the way you like it, but I never did that. My bad.
Truth be told, my CZ 455 was not finished as nicely as I would have hoped. When I first picked up my CZ, I have to say that I was very disappointed with the action. Although CZ spent more time on the trigger, they seem to have forgotten to polish the action: it’s rough, gritty, unpolished, and generally left a lot to be desired. This was in stark contrast to my CZ 452, which featured a more smooth action – I wont say “buttery” smooth, but good enough. When I dropped the CZ 455 off at the gunsmiths to have the barrel threaded, I also ask him to tidy up the action a bit. He polished the critical metal-to-metal interfaces and now the rifle is much smoother. I suspect that the rifle would have eventually “broke in” on its own, but I’m glad I got the work done.
Advantage: CZ due to better reliability, but not much –if any- advantage with regard to fit and finish.
Availability of Accessories.
At least in the U.S., there seems to be more aftermarket accessories and parts available for the Savage 93. This is especially true when it comes to stocks. Aftermarket stocks are available from Boyds, Stockies, Revolution, and Richard’s Microfit. Diversified Products, Inc “DPI” has a full line of accessories for the Savage 93. EGW makes an excellent 20 MOA picatinny mount for the Savage 93R.
However, with the possible exception of stocks, sufficient variety of accessories are also available for the CZ 455 as well. For example, DPI has a full line of aftermarket parks for the CZ 455, including 20 MOA scope mounts. EGW has similar mounts. Talley has you covered on scope rings. Timney and Rifle Basix make replacement triggers, and you can even get match-grade Lilja barrels in .17 HMR. 22 WMR, or .22LR. I think Manners and Boyds may be the only source for aftermarket stocks.
Saving perhaps the most important category for last, let me say right off the bat that both of these rifles are phenomenally accurate. I have significant trigger time on two CX 455s and three Savage 93R17s so I have gotten a pretty good sense of the accuracy potential of both platforms. And I can say that all of the samples I tried were easily capable of consistent ½ inch groups (or better) at 50 yards and sub-MOA (<1 inch) at 100 yards. Having said that, wind has a big effect on the little .17 HMR, especially as you start to push it out to 200 yards or beyond.
Both of my Savage 93R17’s have shown a decided preference for 20 grain pills. My buddy swears that his 93R17 shows a fondness for the more common 17 grain ammunition, however.
The CZ seems to be less picky about ammo. I would say that it shows a slight preference for 20 grain pills, but the difference is not nearly as dramatic as it is with my two Savage 93Rs.
Overall, there is not enough difference in accuracy between the five samples I have fired to make this factor determinative, and I do not see a clear accuracy advantage here to either company.
And the Winner is…the CZ 455!
When you add up the CZ’s interchangeable barrel, improved trigger, fine accuracy, excellent reliability, and detachable magazine, and compare it to the major faults of the Savage 93R17 (substandard magazines, obsolete magazine interface, frequent light primer strikes, and occasional lackluster quality control), the decision is a no brainer: the CZ 455 is a superior weapon.