CZ 455 Evolution
Radical in looks, but built with a steeliness for hard work in the toughest conditions, this adaptable rifle is a vermin specialist’s dream, says Bruce Potts
CZ 455 Evolution
Overall Rating: 88%
Manufacturer: Czeska Zbrojovka
Pros: Good value
Price as reviewed: £620
Cons: Design not for purist
The CZ 455 rimfire action has an ethos of one-size fits all with the new CZ action being able to accommodate a .22LR, .22WMR or .17 HMR barrel via its quick-change barrel system. So a quiet rabbit gun in .22LR with a sound moderator fitted can become a close-range fox or crow rifle with the .17HMR or even the older .22WMR.
The trigger mechanism on the older CZ rim re models was always its Achilles heel, but the trigger on the 455 is now exceptionally good.
CZ rimfires come in many guises and lengths to suit target, vermin and just-for-fun shooting and this Evolution model has a radical-looking stock design that is actually very well suited to all types of disciplines.
Stock – a new and modern take
Let’s take that stock first. It’s certainly a change from the normal walnut stock varieties and even more radical than the excellent CZ thumbhole design. This Evolution stock is designed to be a new and modern take on a thumbhole profile with a highly ergonomic feel and is totally ambidextrous in use.
Though the bolt is right-hand only, the ambidextrous design is “handy” not only for left-handed shooters but also for righties that have to take left-hand shots, perhaps shooting around a hedge or barn where a right-shouldered mount would place your body in view of your game.
Made from laminated wood, the Evolution stock is built for hard use in all weather conditions. This is the new green/grey laminate, rather like a Forest camouflage, that is tasteful yet highly practical on a sporting arm. The glued layers or laminates that make up this stock create an impenetrable barrier to moisture, which can warp many a good stock. This in turn can ruin your accuracy and consistent group sizes. Not so with the CZ 455.
The butt section has a high swept comb, leading to a comfortable scope height positioning with a generous pistol grip with lip to stop your hand slipping off. It’s a thumbhole with a difference, because the hole is really a profiled section removed from the inner portion of the stock. This reduces weight but not strength and gives plenty of extra grip if necessary.
The fore-end is also radical in design, as it is very short and is just a tapered shelf. It looks too slim, but with either hand it instantly feels correct with a very secure and natural hold.
Manufacturer: CZ, Ceska Zbrojovka
Model: 455 Evolution
Type: Bolt-action Sporter
Overall length: 35.5in
Barrel length: 16in
Finish: Blued steel
Stock: Laminated wood, Evolution Thumbhole
Magazine: Five shot standard, 10 shot optional
Sights: None furnished, scope dovetails
Trigger: Single stage
Calibre: .22LR on test, .22WMR, .17HMR
Spare barrel: RRP mini set, starting from £165
Barrel, action and finish
The all-steel action of the CZ 455 has a barrel attachment arrangement that allows a quick change between calibre’s. I had the .22LR version, which is 16in long. It has a stout, heavy profile with a muzzle diameter of 0.865in and an almost straight taper but does not unbalance the gun. This suits the Evolution stock design and allows a good non-shifting accuracy potential. It is threaded for a óin UNF, so sound moderator use is easy and, due to the scalloped fore-end, the barrel is free floating, enhancing the accuracy.
The muzzle end of the barrel is choked inside to ensure the best possible accuracy — even the 16in version is choked and not just a shortened 20in barrel. This and the action have a satin blued steel finish that complements the laminate stock.
Changing the barrel into the receiver is held by a solid union that maintains the headspace for accuracy. CZ has made sure of a secure fixture that uses twin grub screws that lock into the bottom of the action at an angle. With the barrel removed, there are corresponding twin milled faces that those two grub screws tighten against when the barrel is inserted. The headspace is maintained by a recessed milled slot to the barrel facing of the front of the action. I shot before and after removal and saw little if no shift in zero.
Trigger, safety and magazine
The CZ 455’s single-stage trigger unit has been tuned to give a far better trigger pull than previous offerings from CZ, where your only option was an aftermarket trigger upgrade. Now 2lb is the factory setting, this Evolution sear broke at 2.25lb with minimal creep and an instant release.
The safety remains the same and is the wing-type lever on the rear bolt shroud; when it is angled at right angles to the bolt it is in the fire mode. Push the lever forward and the rifle is then safe.
The CZ 455 comes with a plastic five-shot magazine as standard and a 10-shot version is optional. Because the 455 action accommodates the shorter .22LR compared with the longer .17HMR and .22WMR rounds in the .22LR cartridge, there is an insert to the rear of the magazine well so standard CZ .22 rimfire magazines fit. If you change to either of the longer rounds, this insert pops out and now the longer magazines can fit perfectly, one action for all.
The 455 version of the ubiquitous Model 2 all those years ago is still an excellent value, reliable and accurate rimfire rifle. With the CZ 455 version you have a better trigger and the ability to exchange between calibres, made easier with the Evolution stock design. I like the “odd” looking stock. It is very comfortable and, due to its radical design, does not need any chequering. This 455 is for the vermin controller who appreciates dependability and accuracy with a stock that gives a firm grip for shots in tight spots.
Accuracy Very accurate for vermin control. 18/20
Handling Despite odd look, really good; fast and stable handling. 18/20
Trigger Adjustable trigger and light trigger pull. 17/20
Stock Quirky but flexible design and weather-proof laminate. 17/20
Value Good value, design not for purist though. 18/20
Field test results
I fitted a Hawke Vantage 4-12x50mm scope that is ideally suited to any .22 rimfire or .17HMR for that matter because not only is the price good and optics clear but the reticule is matched to the bullet drop, so shots at longer range are a doddle. I really like these scopes; I bought two!
With a .22LR I like to use subsonic loads with a sound moderator as this will be 90 per cent of the vermin user’s choice, but I also use reduced velocity loads for close range, discreet feral pigeon or rat use and even High Velocity occasionally.
Best subsonics were the new Winchester Max 42-gr bullet load as they group five shots into a minute 0.35in group at 30 yards and 0.45in at 50 yards, with a healthy velocity of 1,082 fps and 109ft/lb. Second best were the Eley Subs with 0.45in 30-yard group and CCI segmented just fractionally bigger. What was interesting was the slightly higher velocities from these subsonics than normal, so probably a slightly tighter barrel and pressure.
The RWS Z-Lang also shot very nice 0.5in group at 20 yards, this time with 843fps and 46ft/lb energy with the 29-gr bullet.
Importer: Edgar Brothers 01625 613177
Very accurate for vermin control