CZ455 Switch Barrel Rifle
- By Pete Moore
- 1 Comments
- Last updated: 26/01/2017
Centrefire switch barrel rifles are common these days but a production rimfire is not. To date the only gun available is the Sako QUAD. So it was with some surprise I discovered the other year that CZ would be offering their take on this unique rifle option. Called the 455 you would be forgiven in thinking it is a standard 452, as in essence it is and their approach to changing the tube is certainly more simplistic. It also replaces the old and much loved CZ452.
A switch barrel rimfire is not a new idea as Venom Custom Shop (Steve Pope) were modifying the original SAKO P49S Finn Fire with a QD barrel system. A bit later they offered a 17 Mach 2 tube for the Ruger M77/22, which used Ruger’s existing chevron barrel retention system. I mention this as it’s on similar lines to the route that CZ takes with the 455.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
With the introduction of the 455 series CZ has taken the opportunity to add a few minor improvements to what many feel the old 452 needed. First impressions show smoother bolt operation and a slicker safety catch. Stocks have been subtly tweaked too! Wisely there’s no 17 Mach 2 option; sticking instead to the bread & butter 22 Long Rifle, 22 Magnum (WMR) and the 17 HMR! Hornady’s Mach 2 used a 22 LR case necked to .17” firing a 17 grain V-MAX pill at 2000 fps it came and went with barely a whimper. Accurate yes, but lacking the killing power of the others and very badly wind affected. Yet another .17” assigned to the scrap heap of good ideas in principle but not in practice!
Shooting and handling wise the 455 is no different to the 452, the major difference is the barrel change. So what you buy is a complete rifle then add the Mini Set (barrel & magazine) of your choice. Importers Edgar Brothers sent me a 22 LR Varmint, thumbhole laminate (brown) with 20.75” barrel and a 17 HMR Mini Set with a 16” Varmint tube. The bolt face remains the same with the twin, opposed extractor claws handling the 17HMR/22 WMR case head and that of the 22 LR.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Sako with the QUAD sought to redefine the Finn Fire and came up with an ingenious method of barrel retention. It uses a rising plate that clamps up tight on a flat section of the barrel’s chase at 6 o’clock, one slight problem was the barrel had to be removed at an angle and a large objective scope (much over 40mm) would stop it coming out unless you took the glass off. Magazines were all one length to suit the 17HMR/22WMR with filler plates for the shorter 22 LR/17 Mach 2 and colour-coded as were the barrels. Burris produced a dedicated, QUAD scope that could be pre-zeroed to all calibres by a system of rotary,(colour-code) rings on the elevation turret that could be set for the individual calibres. It was an impressive design though expensive, though there are many shooters who still mourn the demise of the original Finn Fire, feeling the QUAD is not as good. Or for that matter not required.
CZ’s approach is a more basic yet highly secure system that requires a more involved change as we shall see. For this you will need a 30 Torx screwdriver and an 1/8” Allen key. Start by removing the bolt and magazine, then undoing the 2 x 30 Torx action screws that also holds the trigger guard on then lift the barrelled/action out of the stock. Looking at the front of the action (at 6 o’clock) you will see two, large Alan screws that enter the receiver at an angle these hold the barrel in position. Remove these and slide the tube out.
Inspection shows twin, angled V-cuts on the sides of the chase, these are what the retaining screws impinge upon to hold the barrel in place. At 6 o’clock on the chamber face is a 90° shelf that engages with a flat inside the receiver to act as a positioning and anti-rotation device. CZ’s approach to the magazines wastes nothing as the 455 uses the existing pattern of polymer clips be it 5 or 10-rounder, 22 LR or 17 HMR!
The mag well is polymer and magnum-length, included in the 22 LR Mini Set is a plastic spacer that pins into the well so taking up the COL difference between the 17HMR/22WMR and Long Rifle cartridges. This is made even easier as the release lever is at the front of the well where it has always been. As I previously mentioned the standard Magnum or LR bolt with its twin extractors handles both case head diameters without modification, so one does it all.
In all the swap takes less than 5 minutes (3minutes 45 seconds) and is easy to accomplish. There appears to be no requirements to torque down the barrel retention screws to a setting, just wind them in tight using the leverage of the Allen key alone. It is a cost effective solution to the switch barrel concept with what appears to be minimum amount of modification. For example the barrel is a standard type and simply re-machined to fit the new retention system and the use of the Magnum mag well means just the polymer insert is required for the shorter 22 LR clip.
However, the $64,000 question still remains; does it hold zero? The answer is yes to a greater degree, though there was around sub-1/2” point of impact shift, which was not surprising. Good sense dictates we should always check zero on any switch barrel system before hunting. I do this on my two.
The 455 is not made with a dedicated, Q/D, return to zero mount like the Mauser or Blaser. Given it’s a rimfire you will probably be using the same scope and not changing it, so just a matter of readjusting the turrets to suit the calibre fitted. Though some might prefer a higher magnification commensurate with the longer range potential of the 17HMR/22WMR. For the test I fitted a Kahles 3.5-10x50 KX, which I set up in Sportsmatch medium high rings. Ammo went to Remington 17 grain 17 HMR and Winchester, 40 grain 22 LR sub-sonics. Up front the new LEI .17 Varmint and .22 Predator slim line moderators.
A CZ is a CZ and I was not expecting any problems in the testing and I was right. The slightly improved fit and feel areas of the 455 were most noticeable, with smoother bolt operation and decidedly better feel and movement to the safety catch. I much prefer the newer design polymer mags though as a matter of course I would equip either calibre with the 10-shot.
The thumbhole stock is a real beauty and follows the generic Fajen-style with a medium/heavy forend that fully free-floats the heavy barrel, with a decent pistol grip and generous scallop behind the thumb
hole. QD sling studs are fitted though the front one could do with being an inch or two further back. The head position is well supported though and even with a rubber butt pad I found the LOP a bit short and had to push the scope as far forward as possible to get a comfortable eye relief!
For me the barrel lengths are all wrong as I would have sooner had a 20” 17HMR tube and a 16” for the LR, but CZ does offers a number of lengths and styles. I also feel the Varmint weight is a bit too heavy given the calibres. However, no complaints on performance – the 17 was producing the expected ½” groups at 100 yards and the 22 holding an inch at that range too, so more than capable of head shots.
For me there is no choice as 22 LR is a given and 17HMR is better than 22WMR as it is inherently more accurate and shots can be taken with confidence out to 200 yards in the right conditions. Prices are more than acceptable too with the 22 Varmint at under £600 and the 17 HMR Mini Set under £150. I would not change my Ruger M77/17 All-Weather, but if I was coming into rimfire hunting again a 455 TH Varmint with a 16” 22 LR tube and a 20” in 17HMR would be my ideal set up…
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