Without doubt, the most popular and hardworking .22LR to hit these shores has to be the CZ rimfire - in any of its many guises.
Its longevity of production is testament to its quality and popularity, and yet it still retains that old-world build standard, with real value for money.
CZ has always sat firmly within the reach of all shooters; the price-tags on its guns make them affordable and desirable not only to the beginner, but also to well-seasoned shooters.
I have never fired a CZ that would not shoot and I know of many guns that still bring home rabbits after 20 years of service. CZ is not a company to sit still, however. Market forces and ever higher expectations from shooters have seen many new models appear in the range.
Most rifle barrels conform to the longer-is-better rule, which, as with speed limits, does not actually relate to anything of real relevance. Most .22 rimfires sport 20in or 24in barrels, which are only there due to traditional design: most savvy hunters know that reducing a .22 rimfire barrel does not affect performance or accuracy in any way – in fact it enhances the performance, with less fouling, less weight and better balance. The diminutive .22LR round burns all its powder a long way before 20in, so reducing a barrel to 16in is actually beneficial.
The law states 12in as an absolute minimum length, but most people stick to 14in or 16in as a safe workable minimum. Not only does this allow a lighter rifle, but also offers a handy rifle for use in the field; as a sound moderator will undoubtedly be fitted as a desirable requirement for sporting use, this addition will only replace lost barrel length. CZ has taken all this on board and now offers several rifles in its range that sport barrels most shooters will end up with anyway, without resorting to the hacksaw!
Action remains the same
CZ continues to use the petite, tried-and-tested Mauser-design action and bolt assembly that has served it so well for so long. Its tubular all-steel receiver has integral dovetails for scope-mounting, with plenty of length to accommodate most scopes on the market. The bolt is beautifully proportioned, with a short-angled rearward profile and adequate ball bolt knob.
Due to the short bolt-throw and travel it is more than good enough, and when the action is cocked there is a small protrusion, which indicates the status from the bolt shroud. Forward, and the bolt has a twin-extractor claw arrangement, with affixed blade ejector, which is simple, works well and is suitably robust. The magazine, now polymer in construction, feeds directly from a floorplate capture-hinge, with feeding once again flawless, whether with a standard five or 10-shot magazine.
Trigger and safety
The safety catch is my least favourite item, as it is a horizontal-type lever straddled on top of the rear bolt shroud, with operation dictated from the right-hand side.
Set at right angles to the bolt, when the rifle is in ‘fire’ mode a red dot can be seen on the side of the action. Pushing it forwards engages the safety and the lever covers the red indication dot, letting the shooter know the rifle is safe. The safety can only be set with the action cocked; the whole bolt mechanism is locked, ensuring the firing sequence is totally inaccessible.
The trigger remains the same, simple yet functional. The trigger blade is a little skinny, but there is just enough room for a gloved hand in the trigger-guard. Limited on adjustment, the shooter must rely on proper follow-through to achieve maximum accuracy. That said, there are many after-market trigger sear and spring replacements that would bring the trigger up to modern-day standards.
Gone is the traditional walnut-and-blued action, and in comes the practical nickeled finish and synthetic stock, which some may baulk at, but which actually offers a practical exterior for real-life shooters. Outwardly, the barrel and action seem to be made of stainless steel, but are in fact nickel-plated to offer a good weather-resistant finish. The finish is very hard-wearing and not so shiny as to spook any wary game with unwanted reflections. Dirt is easily wiped off without detriment to the finish, allowing the shooter to concentrate on the shot and not worry about whether the rifle is getting knocked about. The same is true of the barrel, which is where the real advantages of the short-barrelled CZ come into their own.
Stock in trade
At last, a synthetic stock that does not feel synthetic. Most plastic stocks have a hollow, moulded profile and feel to them ? not so the CZ Style. The black synthetic stock has a drab finish, perfect for hunting, and a stippled finish that excludes the need for chequering, which again is perfect. Yes, the stock is constructed of two halves, but when glued together the solid interior gives a real sense of stability and workmanlike endurance. The form represents a high-combed Monte Carlo cheekpiece and Schnabel fore-end, complemented by a black, solid, fixed recoil pad. There may be visible join marks between the two halves, but it is, to me, one of the better synthetic stocks on offer today. You will not break this unit; it is built to last, which is highly commendable.
On a barrel roll
Sixteen inches, nickel-finished and factory-threaded for a 1/2in UNF moderator, what more could a shooter ask for? Removal of the thread protector allows all manner of sound moderators to be fitted to the universal 1/2in UNF thread. Having tried the vast majority, I plumped for the PES stainless steel muzzle can to complement the nickel finish and offer excellent noise reduction. To prove a point and to ascertain the best fodder to feed it, I tested most of the subsonic ammunition on the market through the little CZ Style, looking not only for accuracy from that shortened barrel, but also consistency.
In the field
Like a twitching Masterchef contestant, every rifle has its preferred diet. This CZ certainly had a preference for Eley subsonic ammunition, with RWS .22 subs a close second. Regardless of the barrel reduction, the Eleys, with a PES stainless steel moderator fitted, returned a healthy yet subsonic 1,024fps velocity from a string of 10 shots, for an energy of 93.2ft/lb. Similarly, the RWS ammo, always a lot slower, starting out at 985 fps from a 24in barrel, lost only 63fps velocity from the barrel reduction, giving consistent 922fps velocity and 75.6f/lb energy figures, with only 20fps variation to velocity.
All this transformed down-range to capable rabbit and corvid accuracy, right out to 100 yards. One crow toppled from a lofty perch at 80-odd yards, totally unaware of my presence or the CZ’s capabilities. A little wind-drift compensation and its marauding days were over.
If ever there were an off-the-shelf .22 rimfire ready for pest control, the CZ Style has to be it. Let’s face it: cheap, well made, unbreakable, accurate and totally rugged, that 50-year-old design hit the mark back in the 1950s and is still hitting the mark today. If anyone asked me for my personal choice of no-nonsense rimfire, I would have no hesitation at all in recommending the CZ Style rifle. Priced at £398, where can you go wrong? Maybe a better trigger would help, but as a basis for the perfect rabbit gun I can think of nothing to beat it at the price and quality, as well as being threaded and proofed for a moderator. What else is there to say?
Importer: Edgar Brothers
Tel: (01625) 613177
Overall length: 34.1/2in
Barrel length: 16in
Magazine: five-shot standard, optional 10-shot