Small Game Precision: CZ 455 Varmint Review

The CZ455 .22LR is a tack-driver right out of the box. With the addition of the Leatherwood USMC 8x Sniper Scope, it becomes a real beauty reminiscent of the target rifles of the 1950s and ‘60s. Photos by Kris Kandler.

The CZ455 .22LR is a tack driver right out of the box. With the addition of the Leatherwood USMC 8x Sniper Scope, it becomes a real beauty that’s reminiscent of the target rifles of the 1950s and ‘60s. Photos by Kris Kandler.

A modestly priced .22 with exceptional out-of-the-box accuracy is topped with the Leatherwood USMC 8x Sniper scope, making for one classy rimfire.

The flat, wide base of the CZ 455 Varmint’s stock is well-proportioned to its heavy bull barrel, and is handy for benchrest-style shooting.

The flat, wide base of the CZ 455 Varmint’s stock is well-proportioned to its heavy bull barrel, and it is handy for benchrest-style shooting.

It was one of those mornings. The sun was beaming through a canopy of yellow, orange and red leaves, October colors peaking, air hanging motionless, the last warm day. Not a creature was stirring, not even a squirrel.

But there was one defiant tree, left alone in the chainsaw desert. It was Fortress Squirrel—a knotty old Oak with ingress and egress escape hatches, and all sorts of gnarly twists and turns—the compound, the last brave holdout.

We stopped our stalk. Without warning, agitated by crunching leaves underfoot falling silent, the little barker made a break for it. With bushy tail fluttering mid-air like a plane’s rudder, Head Honcho Squirrel bounded with superhero strength onto a branch. He was eye level some 50 yards out and none too happy.

Wood obscured his location somewhat, but the 8x magnification cleared the way as the fine crosshairs of the Leatherwood Sniper Scope locked on—it was a chip shot. The 40-grain Remington ELEY match bullet drilled the gray squirrel mid-ship and launched him like a fur cannonball to the leaf-covered ground below. We carved the first notch in the walnut stock of the CZ 455 Varmint and fired up the rotisserie.

A 1903 style military leather sling was added to practice field sling shooting positions.

A 1903 style military leather sling was added to practice field sling shooting positions.

CZ 455 Varmint Review

The CZ455’s bolt was a little tight out of the box for rapid shots, but then again most new stock guns are. There were no feeding issues from the rifle’s 5-shot mag.

The CZ455’s bolt was a little tight out of the box for rapid shots, but then again, most new stock guns are. There were no feeding issues from the rifle’s five-shot mag.

Among .22LR rimfires, few have as good a reputation as the CZ Model 455, which is the latest incarnation of what used to be CZ’s 452 line. The model’s pedigree is one of modularity, above par craftsmanship and good value.

For those so inclined, the CZ 455’s interchangeable barrel system makes it easy as pie to swap tubes from lightweight and medium to the model I tested, the heavy varmint. Since my only intention was to test the Varmint version, I didn’t take advantage of the modularity, but it is nice to know the option is there.

What you do notice straight away is that this is a stout, well-built little bolt gun. It has a surprising price tag of only $469 MSRP (street price is around $380-$400). The heavy, non-tapering barrel is cold hammer-forged, mics at .863 and is 20.5 inches in length. The 1:16 inch twist rate is friendly with 40-grain match bullets, sending them along with accuracy like a surgeon’s laser.

The rifle’s Turkish walnut stock is good looking, too, and gives the rimfire a classy, vintage feel. The stock’s fore-end is wide and flat, measuring 1.70 inches—making it ideal for benchrest-style shooting off of sandbags and field shooting positions resting on the hand. The weight of the gun naked is about 7 pounds, and it makes one hell of a fine training rifle, particularly now that .22 ammo has been released from secret underground vaults (or wherever they were keeping the stuff).

The only complaint I’ve heard about the gun is its trigger, which some say is a little heavy and a tad rough. However, that wasn’t my experience. Out of the box the test rifle’s trigger measured 2 pounds 8 ounces on the RCBS trigger gauge, and I had no trouble shooting little ragged holes at 50 yards.

Could it use a little smoothing out? Sure, but while I believe a great trigger will help a good rifleman, it won’t overcome a lousy one. That said, the CZ 455 trigger is adjustable even though I couldn’t see any compelling need to tinker with it.

The receiver is milled for CZ’s 11mm dovetail scope mounts built in—so you’ll need CZ scope rings—but I opted to make things interesting by installing a long-tube reproduction scope from Leatherwood Hi-Lux.

Parallax is adjusted via the Leatherwood’s objective lens. Simply loosen the locking ring and turn the sunshade while checking for parallax.

Parallax is adjusted via the Leatherwood’s objective lens. Simply loosen the locking ring and turn the sunshade while checking for parallax.

Leatherwood USMC 8x Sniper Scope

1903-style spring-loaded turrets are included with the Leatherwood USMC, and need to be installed by a gunsmith. Adjustment is ¼ MOA elevation and windage.

1903-style spring-loaded turrets are included with the Leatherwood USMC, and need to be installed by a gunsmith. Adjustment is ¼ MOA elevation and windage.

Patterned after the early Unertl Target Competition long tube scopes of the 1940s, which were employed by the Marines from WWII through Korea and Vietnam, the Leatherwood Wm. Malcolm USMC 8x Sniper Scope reproduction is every bit as stunning and useful as the old Unertls, only it is built with modern tolerances, really good glass and is something a person can afford, with an MSRP of $549. By comparison, a genuine Unertl—if you can find one—will set you back a grand or more. And most originals are in tough shape.

The optic needs to be installed by a gunsmith, as it requires the barrel to be drilled and tapped. Unertl-style mounts, included, are specified at 7.20 inches center to center. My gunsmith placed the rear one just forward of the receiver on the barrel. It turned out wonderful and garnered many nice words from everyone who saw and handled it.

As an aside, this “old-fashioned telescope” happens to be very popular these days in the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) Vintage Sniper Competition (mounted primarily on 1903 Springfields).

The scope’s .750-inch tube slides in the mount upon recoil—the idea back in the day was to keep the scope away from the shooter’s eye and to buffer its delicate internals during recoil—and Leatherwood provides a spring to return the scope to battery.

Since recoil isn’t much of an issue on a heavy-barreled .22LR, I opted to keep the return spring in place (in the CMP Vintage Sniper match, that spring is disallowed in keeping with the historical accuracy). Shot to shot, the scope kept its zero.

The reticle is a simple fine crosshair. Turret adjustments come out to be about ¼ minute of angle (MOA) per click, and there is a setscrew on the rear mount to lock the turrets into place once sighted in. One full turn of the elevation micrometer turret equals 50 clicks or 12.5 MOA. Note that on this style of optic, the reticle inside the tube is stationary; the tube itself, centered in the three spring-loaded prongs, does the moving.

I found the glass, fully multi-coated lenses to be excellent; there was no discernible aberration out to the edges; its gas-filled tube keeps things clear of fog and condensation in all nasty conditions. Parallax adjustment is via the 31mm objective lens, which is marked with distant gradients you can use as a starting point. I found them to be very close.

Accuracy with CCI’s 22 LR HP 40-grain Varmint and Velocitor Small Game were very good, for 50-yard plus distance shooting.

Accuracy with CCI’s 22 LR HP 40-grain Varmint and Velocitor Small Game were very good for 50-yard plus distance shooting.

Shooting the CZ 455 Varmint

Remington Club Xtra and ELEY Match 40 grain ammo provided the tightest groups, precision that truly lives up to the bolt gun’s claim as a “varmint” rifle.

Remington Club Xtra and ELEY Match 40-grain ammo provided the tightest groups, precision that truly lives up to the bolt gun’s claim as a “varmint” rifle.

Best 50-yard groups were attained with Remington’s ELEY and CLUB Xtra Match ammo—no surprise there. The ELEY gave a best 5-shot grouping of .465 and averaged .527.

I also shot CCI’s Velocitor copper-plated 40-grain hollow points that truck along at 1,435 fps; Segmented HP 32-grain at 1,640 fps and the company’s new Quiet-22 Segmented HP, the slowest of the bunch at 710 fps. All of the CCI stuff landed in around .750-1.000 inch groups, very good accuracy for plinking and field shooting work. Winchester’s Wildcat 22—a lead round nose 40-grainer going 1,255 fps—yielded about the same accuracy as the CCI, also very good. The bottom line is that the CZ 455 is an out-of-the-box accurate rifle.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a dead nuts squirrel gun, or one for field shooting practice, you can’t go wrong with the CZ 455. Do one better by topping it off with a Leatherwood USMC 8x Sniper Scope. You’ll get a real head-turner—one that shoots as good as it looks.

CZ 455
Product Name: CZ 455 Varmint, .22 LR
SKU: 02140
Firearm Type: Rifle
Purpose: Hunting
MSRP: $469.00
Chambering: .22 LR
Rate Of Twist: 1:16 in
Magazine Capacity: 5
Magazine Type: Detachable
Stock: Turkish Walnut, Varmint-Style
Length Of Pull: 13.75 in
Sights: No Sights, Integrated 11mm Dovetail
Barrel: Cold Hammer-Forged
Barrel Length: 20.5 in
Overall Length: 38.75 in
Weight: 7.1 lbs
Trigger: Mech Adjustable
Safety: Two-Position
http://cz-usa.com/

This is what it’s all about—a rimfire rifle and telescope combination capable of drilling long-distance shots on small game using real-world field shooting positions.

This is what it’s all about—a rimfire rifle and telescope combination capable of drilling long-distance shots on small game using real-world field shooting positions.

Leatherwood USMC 8x Sniper Scope
Power:     8X
Objective lens:     31
Exit Pupil Range:     4.2
EYE Relief:     3.15″
Length:     22.1″
Short Reticle:     Fine-Cross
Elevation Adjustment:     1/4 (MOA)
Short Feature:     3/4″ Main Tube
FOV:     11′
Coating:     Diamond Tuff14
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Where to Get It…

The Leatherwood/Hi-Lux Optics 8X Wm. Malcolm USMC Sniper ScopeLeatherwood/Hi-Lux Optics 8X Wm. Malcolm USMC Sniper Riflescope
This USMC Sniper scope from Leatherwood/Hi-Lux is a brilliant combination of a vintage military sniper scope design and modern riflescope technology. Originally, this type of sniper scope gained attention during the Vietnam conflict after Marine Carlos Hathcock used the 8x USMC Sniper scope with recorded success.  Get yours here

2 thoughts on “Small Game Precision: CZ 455 Varmint Review

  1. nimrod666

    If I shot a squirrel “mid ships” my dear old grandfather would have chewed me out about wasted meat. Head shots only. You have no excuse with a rifle that accurate and a scope as big as the rifle for such sloppy shooting. A 4X would be more appropriate and weigh a lot less and that might improve your shooting. I would suggest that instead of sand bag bench shooting you should practice real life field shooting positions.

  2. The Honey Badger

    That’s a pretty silly combination. Put a good Leupold rimfire scope on that sporting rifle, as it will be more compact, durable and useable in the field. Put the Lakewood scope on a serious target or varmint rifle where it belongs. The latest generation of shooters has gone completely big scope stupid. I wish you kids will get over it soon.

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