CZ 455 Thumbhole
- By Chris Parkin
- 12 Comments
- Last updated: 23/03/2018
In a world of fantastical looking guns, it takes quite a bit to turn my head, but I really loved the look of the ‘Wasp’ (as my daughter christened it) from the word go. CZ’s high quality hammer forged barrel, at 20-inches in length, was a great visual balance against the relatively bulky laminate of the Yellow stock, both visually and mechanically, it remained a very balanced rifle to shoot but only right-handed. A halfinch thread at the 22mm crown supports a supplied radially ported brake, yet is also perfect for a moderator. Brakes are great for the target guys, to minimise any muzzle flip at the expense of diverting noise back toward the shooter but perhaps not a significant recoil dampener on the delightfully refined, yet competent 22 rimfire cartridge.
Other CZs are available with the same laminate thumbhole furniture in more restrained colours, yet the defining feature of the ‘Wasp’ was the Feather trigger system. This two-stage unit arrived from the factory with a pull weight breaking, at its slight mushy second stage, of just 300-grams. It required an extremely delicate approach to use repeatedly. With the stock removed, I had full access to the adjustment screws, which allowed me to tweak the unit gently with an Allen key, to add all the available second stage breaking force it could muster, topping out at a measured 400-grams (1-5 Newtons, the S.I. Unit of force rather than mass or weigh but forgive me).
Equally importantly, I minimised the amount of sear engagement, to give the trigger a far crisper feel and although it’s hardly a unit I will want to use wearing heavy gloves, it now perfectly suited a target rimfire rifle. I doubt this is the type of gun to get bundled around aggressively but the usual caveats with trigger adjustment apply, although it’s nice to see them freely adjustable and not glued to death with epoxy like the Yankee units are.
All metal matches perfectly, with luscious deep bluing everywhere, except for the bolt shaft that retains its gleaming bare steel finish for slick operation. The action’s upper carries conventional 11mm dovetail scope rails that I feel are a long overdue ‘echo’ from the past in these days of multiple Picatinny sighting systems and easy changeovers with QR mounts. I fitted a suitable ‘Britannia’ rail that neatly slides over the action before being secured by diminutively proportioned, but exceptionally secure grub screws. They may slightly mar the action (which is no longer in sight) but conventional airgun mounts are less secure and often leave unsightly marks on dovetails; so, I think this rail is a definite winner and I now add them to any rifle they are available for. I consider it a semi-permanent addition.
A single rear lug locks the 455’s bolt, which is compatible with multiple rimfire chamberings, alongside additional barrels. On this righthand only rifle, though, the bottom metal is machined from solid aluminium, rather than the folded steel trigger loop seen elsewhere. It’s anodised yellow/ gold to complement the other aesthetics of the gun, with a matching coloured polymer base to the standard CZ pattern 5-round magazine. Ten-round mags are also available, with an identical single stack centre feed mechanism that feed perfectly every time and are easy to load too. The magazine release catch nestles just ahead, recessed into the bottom metal, with the empty mags sliding freely into your palm for fast re-supply.
A ball bolt knob sits at the end of a 50mm extension from the bolt shaft and to be honest, I think it’s time this was updated, as with a scope on board, it is fingertips to operate rather than a comfortable grip. It’s fast to use, with minimal 43mm bolt stroke but that 18mm ball end continually sees your fingers, thumbs and nails leaving their abrasion marks on the hard-anodised body of the scope’s ocular body. No damage to anything other than your manicure but I think it’s time CZ went a little longer, but more importantly with a slight angular turn down on the handle, especially on these heavier, broader laminate stocks that are far distant from the rifle’s slenderer Walnut forebears. Twin claws on the bolt face ensure all goes to plan, cycling with purposeful ejection mechanically actuated by a fixed blade exposed as the bolt is drawn back over it through the open topped action.
CZ’s ‘backward’ safety is almost a welcome character these days, with it fully locking bolt and firing pin when safe, even if it is forward for safe and rear for fire, at least you won’t accidentally open the bolt or tap off a live round accidentally, it’s a very assuring safety catch. No weak strikes were experienced during test and the firing pin made its mark with vigour, so I’m glad to see CZ haven’t used weaker springs throughout, in aid of a lighter weight of pull.
Removal of the action from the stock requires a T30 Torx wrench on twin bolts to the front and rear of the bottom metal. It’s a tough, durable unit with plenty of space for gloved fingers, even though the trigger might be a bit light for such clothing. Barrel removal requires the gun out of the stock, which is truly fully-floating the barrel and remaining stiff in all conditions. Secure swivel studs are fitted fore and aft for sling/ bipod mounting. With the bolt, open, two 4mm Allen bolts hold the barrel in place, mounted at 45-degrees on either side the action unscrew; give the barrel a firm pull out of the action and reverse to re-fit. It’s very easy and the barrel has a solid shoulder to its tenon, to ensure correct head spacing, before the two bolts push it tightly into position. It doesn’t look like the custom aluminium trigger guard and bottom metal will suit the longer 17 HMR/22 WMR mags though, so this is a factor to consider if you were ever to plan that. Just because it can change calibres, you don’t have to and frankly, this is a target stock, not really a light hunting unit and regardless of your belief in the colour sensitivity of animal’s eyes, you would look a tad odd wearing camo carrying this gun.
Shooting the ‘Wasp’ held no surprises, with all ammunition proving acceptable. Roundnosed, regular speed and subsonic/target rounds held the expected half inch groups at 50-metres, yet the longer barrel did seem to hold accuracy better at 100-metres than the common short 16-inch barrels. Fiocchi Subsonic hollowpoint and S&B hollowpoint worked well in the 1-16-inch twist, cold hammer forged barrel but I never seem to love high velocity 22 ammo, copper washed or not. Although it carries more punch for short range heavy vermin control, it’s not something I trust the consistency or accuracy of on paper. No rounds failed to chamber, fire or gave me any unexpected ‘crackers’ with return to zero after a deliberate barrel removal and re-fit remaining within 25mm of zero at 50-metres. Velocity was right as listed on the box and borescope inspection of the barrel showed a well finished rifling structure and chamber area. Hammer forging is tricky to get wrong in the hands of the consumer, as rejects tend to very obviously fail quality control to almost devastating flaws.
Getting used to the almost straight aluminium blade of the trigger, rather than older curved steel ones, was no issue and it was a delight to shoot the gun from stable positions, especially prone. Unsupported positions were a bit trickier, as I like to steadily build up pressure on a trigger and would have happily doubled the pull weight but each to their own, it is certainly consistent. 350mm/13¾-inch length of pull is present from the 12mm/half-inch rubber buttpad with slight texture that plants securely into your shoulder pocket. Given that you won’t be operating the trigger in heavy gloves, it may also be expected that you will be wearing lighter clothing for target work (in theory?) so I’d like to have seen another 5-10mm on the L.O.P. The pad is bonded on, so will need to be sliced off if spacers can be sourced and added. Yellow and grey layers of Birch laminate make for an attractive grain like structure, with the matt finish applied with perfection for a seamless, smooth finish that will resist moisture and chemical attack (believe me, I know).
No left hander is available, and this stock is very uncomfortable to be shot left-handed if improvisation demands it. Thumbholes might look nice but if CZ combined the best elements of the ergonomics of this and the EVO GG stock, they would be onto an absolute masterpiece ergonomically, with a green/ grey laminate, you would have the perfect 22 Rimfire varminter! The deep thumbhole shows slight palm swell and great relaxed security but getting your opposing hand into it is a task for the contortionist. This stock originates from Boyd Laminates in the US and it really surprises me after all these years that they never evolved it into truly ambidextrous format.
This is quite a specialist addition to the 455 line-up. What a superb trigger and what stunning looks, with fantastic finishing on all wood and metal components.
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