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CZ 455 Thumbhole .17HMR

By Nik Maxwell

I’ve always had a penchant for CZ (and BRNO) rifles. To me they are typical of the classic wood and blued steel rifles I have shot and hunted with since my youth. They exude strength, functionality and a purpose-built design.

 

The last CZ rifle I had the pleasure to review was a 550 Lux (NZG&H #142) chambered in 6.5x55. It was an absolute dream of a rifle. Finished in blue and wood, sporting a double set trigger and in that proven performer of a cartridge, you can’t really ask for more in classically styled firearm.

 

Moving forward to 2019, I was amped when Andrew from Kilwell Sports offered NZG&H a CZ 455 Thumbhole varminter chambered in .17HMR for review. What a combination!

 

Arrangements were made and the kids and I headed over to Rotorua to meet up with Andrew and pick up the rifle, as well as some Winchester 17 grain and 20gr ammunition.

 

The Kilwell Sports offices are impressive with large taxidermy displays of game animals and game birds, all manner of fly-fishing rods and gear as well as a variety of fishing, hunting and outdoor equipment. The kids loved it and so did I! We also met up with Amanda Wells who made the kids feel most welcome.

 

OVERVIEW

The CZ 455 Thumbhole is a standard bolt-action rimfire rifle available in both .17HMR and .22LR. Our review model was supplied in .17HMR, something I was very pleased about – it is an outstanding cartridge and has transformed the light varmint platform since its development in 2002.

 

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT; The 455 breech is solid and well machined; clearly marked model number and calibre type; double extractor claws for improved case extraction.

 

The standout feature would have to be the laminated thumbhole stock. The stock features a sizeable comb that provides a decent cheek weld as well as a slight palm swell to aid your grip. It is fixed to the receiver via two large hex-head bolts.

 

The ergonomic, laminated thumbhole stock not only looks great, it provides an excellent cheek weld and improved handling.

 

There is plenty of space between the barrel and the barrel channel. A “softish” rubber buttpad finishes off the stock nicely. The stock is “kinda” short though, by about an inch for me. Fitted between the end of the stock and the buttpad there’s a solid rubber spacer. Adding another one or two of those, or even a thicker replacement spacer, would have it fitting me just right.

 

“It is an impressive and purposeful looking firearm and I was hopeful that it would perform just as well as it looked.”

 

The heavy barrel is threaded for either a suppressor or brake. Our review rifle had the brake fitted. This is a solid little unit with ports machined at a right angle to the barrel. Similar to the stock, its blued finish gives a tasteful contrast to the rifle.

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Oddly, the swing safety works in reverse; forward for safe and back for live. It is however, positive and easy to operate; the muzzle brake works to tame recoil, not something the author normally associates with rimfires, even the high velocity .17 HMR.

 

The stainless-steel trigger is single stage and at first felt pretty decent, but more on that later...
The safety is a standard swing type that locks the trigger mechanism. For whatever reason it works in reverse. Push forward for safe and flick back to fire. It is firm and locks in position well.

A stainless steel trigger adds to the overall look of the CZ 455.


CZ has a reputation for all things being metal and the only piece of plastic on the rifle is the 5-shot magazine. The mag is easy to load and feeds reliably. It will hold either 17HMR or .22WMR (.22 Win Mag) rounds. It is an impressive and purposeful looking firearm and I was hopeful that it would perform just as well as it looked.

 

The polymer mag holds five rounds.

 

ON THE RANGE

Supplied with the rifle were some Winchester Varmint HV 17gr and Winchester Super X 20gr. This is reliable ammo that I regularly shoot through my Savage B17.

 

Fitted to the rifle was a Meopta MeoPro 3-9x50 scope. A quality piece of glass more than suitable for the rig. My first shots with the CZ 455 and the 17gr ammo resulted in a one hole 5-shot group at 25 metres, nice! Moving out to 50 metres, I achieved groups of a similar size. 100m was to be my zero and the groups there ranged from ¼” to ½”, not too bad at all.

Nik shot both Winchester 17gr and 20gr ammunition through the CZ 455 with pleasing results.



There were a couple of random fliers amongst the groups which were a little odd. I was confident that I was shooting well enough and closer inspection revealed that some of the cases had split. It would only happen intermittently, maybe one per 15-20 shots. After some more testing, it was apparent that the split cases were causing the fliers.

 

Without the technical knowledge or equipment I was unable to determine if this was caused by the chamber or the ammunition. I did however do some online research and soon found a lot of chatter about .17HMR cases splitting. There were two commonly discussed possible scenarios, first, that the rifle’s chamber is slightly oversized and second, that the latest batches of cases are too thin. In fact either or both of these factors could contribute to the splitting.

 

It is important to note that .17HMR cases are manufactured with extremely small tolerances, they are very thin around the neck. Perhaps I had struck a “bad batch”? Unlikely though, as it was happening with both ammunition variants. I’ll be doing some further testing with my Savage .17HMR to see if I can shed some light on this. I’ll keep you posted.

 

A mix of 100m 5 and 3 shot (plus zeroing) groups. Overall, the ammo shot well, but there were some ‘issues’, see text.

 

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Although a little too short for me the thumbhole stock is fantastic to handle. I haven’t had much experience with this style of stock, but I can certainly understand why hunters and shooters like them. The trigger could do with some work. There was a noticeable, but consistent, amount of creep that in my experience is not conducive to achieving a rifle’s true accuracy potential. It is still a great shooter but if it were my rifle, some gunsmithing or even a new trigger would be on the cards.

 

At the end of the day, the rifle shoots very well and I was ready to take on some pest control on the local rabbit population.

 

IN THE FIELD

The owner of the local farm when I regularly hunt has made it very clear that the rabbit population is to be kept under control. As such, Nathan and I have spent numerous days combing the hills reducing the numbers and while it takes a little more effort these days to locate a bunny, the owner is happy!

 

Pest control on a rainy afternoon in the Te Puke hills.

 

I flew solo for the first hunt and spent a couple of hours which resulted in a grand total of zero. I did see one rabbit scurry off into the gorse but that was about it! I did however see a couple of a fallow deer on the bush edge, always good to see.

 

The next trip was more eventful, and I managed to reduce the current population by, one. The Winchester Super X 20gr ammo proving to be devastating and resulting in a quick and clean kill. On small game the 17HMR is formidable.

 

CONCLUSION

I love this gun. It’s a tack driver and apart from the issue with the cases mentioned above it was a pleasure to handle and shoot. The laminate stock and thumbhole grip certainly grew on me over time which is in part due to how well the rifle performed. I firmly believe in function over form but in this instance, the CZ 455 delivers on both levels.

 

Nik

 

CZ 455 Thumbhole .17HMR 
Weight 3.40 Kg
Calibre/rate of twist .17 HMR (9"), .22 LR (16")
Stock Laminated wood
Feeding system Detachable magazine
Sights None
Trigger mechanism Adjustable
Barrel Hammer forged
Width 75 mm
Magazine capacity 5 rounds
Cheekpiece Yes
Height 215 mm
Overall length 891 mm
Barrel length 525 mm

 

CZ firearms are imported and distributed by Kilwell:

www.kilwell.co.nz

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