Friday, August 16, 2013

The Epitome of a Good .22

I like to shoot.  I got my first projectile launcher when I was 6 years old.  Like many first time experiences with guns, mine was with a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun.  I got if for Christmas, and my dad would not let me do anything with it until (a) he had a long talk with me about safety and the consequences I would suffer if I violated the rules, and (b) he had taught me the rudiments of marksmanship.
I just about wore that Red Ryder out.  It served me well up until I started junior high school (now referred to as "middle school"), at which time, something internally broke, and while I was at school, my mom chose to dispose of it in the trash.
Long before the demise of my Red Ryder, upon my 10th birthday, I received a single shot .22 rifle of the Sears & Roebuck brand which was made by Savage Arms.  This diminutive rifle handled .22 Short, Long, and Long Rifle, all of which were available back in the '60s.  This was the first real firearm I cut my teeth on. All of the rules associated with my BB gun applied, only on steroids.
As part of the birthday gift, I was informed that I was responsible for providing my own ammunition.  This was probably a wise move on the part of my parents, as they estimated I put close to 200,000 rounds through the Red Ryder. I mowed lawns, raked pine straw, and did general labor for my neighbors to feed that little .22.  Back then, a box of .22 Short was around $0.50, including tax.  I hunted squirrels and rabbits, and when hunting season was over, many of the neighborhood kids would hang out and have informal target matches with our .22 rifles.
As I got older, my dad reckoned that I was old enough for an autoloader, so, on Christmas of my fifteenth year, he presented me with a Remington Nylon 66 in Apache Black.  The 66 only shot long rifles, but that was OK, because by then I had a job at the local car wash, and I had plenty of money for a kid in those days.  The Nylon 66 was surprisingly accurate for a mass produced "cheap" .22 rifle. I think at the time, the MSRP on them was around $50.  I scoped it with a 4x Weaver K4, and the number of squirrels and rabbits I brought home was stupendous.
Time moves on. After college, I got interested in centerfire rifles, and did not touch my rimfires for literally decades.  I competed in NRA Highpower Match.  I took up big game hunting.  I started handloading and spent thousands of hours punching paper.  But, as my kids became of age, I heard the lowly .22 calling out to me.  My kids cut their teeth on shooting with .22 caliber rifles - the same ones I did.
After my children left home, I found myself wanting to spend more time on the range.  Even though I had a plethora of centerfire rifles of various chamberings at my disposal, I wanted a good quality .22 bolt action rifle to spend the majority of my range time with.  I still have the two .22 rifles I grew up with, but I wanted more of an "adult" rimfire.  I was down at my local gun store one day, and there was a really nice looking bolt gun on the rimfire rack.  I asked the clerk behind the counter if I could hold it.  He handed it to me.
It was a CZ 455 American.  I was very familiar with CZ firearms, owning several examples of their handguns and big game rifles.  CZ products are made in Uhersky Brod, Czech Republic.  CZ firearms are known for their rugged, no-nonsense reliability, and often times innovative designs.  The 455 is no exception.  It is a high quality, switch barrel rimfire rifle which can shoot .22 Long Rifle, .22 WMR, or .17 HMR, depending on which barrel is mounted.  This particular rifle had been bought as a present and brought back to the store 30 days later, unfired.  Qualified as a "used" gun, I obtained it at a significant discount.

Off to the range.  The 455 American, scoped with an old Bushnell Banner I had laying around, shot everything well, but with CCI Standard Velocity and Wolf Match Target, I was getting sub-half-inch groups at 50 yards.  Needless to say, this became my go-to rimfire for all shooting chores that called for a rimfire, and has given me hours of paper punching pleasure.
More recently, I was in a very large, nationally known gun store in the next town over, just browsing one Saturday afternoon.  A CZ rimfire in the used rack caught my eye.  It was a CZ 455 Varmint with a short, heavy barrel.  While examining it, it was obvious that someone had put it through its paces, but the evidence consisted of brass drag marks on the magazine follower, and a little residue in the barrel.  This rifle cost me about the same as I paid for the sporter (American) version.  At the range, it did not disappoint. Like the sporter, it shot everything well, and CCI SV and Wolf MT the best.  In fact, if I put the targets in front of you, you would not be able to discern which target went with which rifle.

The 455 Varmint has the same barrel-swapping ability that the sporters do. You can get the Varmint with a single set trigger or not. Mine does not, so I will probably fit it with a Yo Dave trigger kit.  The standard trigger is distinctly two-stage, and a little heavy for consistent precision shooting.  It is a great hunting trigger, however.
On the rimfire forums, like, many shooters refer to the CZ rimfires as "the poor man's Anschutz".  Anschutz sporting rifles start in price about the same point that CZ rimfires top out.  Yet the CZ rifles shoot almost as good.  I say "almost" because there are a few shooters I know that own both brands and tell me that the Anschutz is ever so slightly better, but that it takes a superior shooter to tell the difference. I don't, and probably never will, own an Anschutz, so I will have to take their word for it.
If you can only have one .22 rifle, I highly recommend the CZ 455. It has become my absolute favorite rimfire, and one of my top 5 rifles of all time.  True, it is not a high-capacity autoloader, and it does not have a lot of gizmos, nor does it have Picatinney rails to hang a lot of crap from, but it gets the job done in a more accurate fashion than most everything else I have tried.  That is why I give it the title of "The Epitome of a Good .22".

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