CZ 455 EVO GG in .22 Rimfire - in-depth test and review
- Credit: Archant
Chris Parkin puts the CZ 455 EVO GG rifle in .22 Rimfire to the test in this in depth rifle review
*Very nice stock design both visually and ergonomically, man sized length of pull!
*Mechanical tolerances feel tighter and more precise
*Fine pointability and balance
*Plenty of scope mounting space on the dovetails
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*I’d like a longer bolt handle to span the 50mm stock width better for speed
*A little more meat/space on the forend to keep fingers clear of the barrel
*Sling swivel studs
I didn’t like the standard thumbhole version of the 455 sporter but I do love this one. Totally ambidextrous to be shot from any position, a good fun gun that will last pretty much forever left alone yet warrant any upgrades you may chose to add.
Model: CZ 455 Evo GG in 22 Rimfire
Calibre: 22 Rimfire
Magazine Capacity: 5 round detachable magazine (10 round available)
Barrel: 405mm/16” Hammer forged screwcut ½” UNF (1 in 10” twist rate)
Weight: 3.12kg/6.88 lbs
Length of pull: 355mm/14”
Trigger pull: 1600gr/3.5lbs
Fiocchi Subsonic Hollow Point
Hawke Endurance 3-13x56 LR Dot riflescope
Hawke Sport Optics
S&B Subsonic Hollow Point Ammunition
SK Standard Plus Ammunition
Winchester 45gr Hollow point ammunition, SAK sound Moderator and Sportsmatch 30 mm scope mounts
Swillington Shooting Supplies
CZ’s 455 takes little introduction. As a base-level action the 452 was utterly dominant for years with a brief 453 interruption before the 455 came online. Although capable of having barrels changed, it was never advertised as a switch-barrel gun although it will accommodate .22, .22 WMR and .17 HMR with ease. (The .17 HM2 doesn’t really seem to have caught on so let’s leave that one well alone.)
The Evolution stock has been around for some time but the latest offering in a ‘forest camo’ colour is delightful. The fit and finish of this birch laminate stock is impeccable and, similarly, CZ has got the 455’s quality control working well as all metal-to-metal fit and functionality is perfectly mechanical. I shot this gun alongside my own 452 in .22 rimfire to compare the two similar guns for feel as it was the stock design that sets them apart the most, if not the material used. The Evolution is clearly designed more for a club target shooter or for rimfire disciplines with fire and movement. It has a truly ambidextrous thumbhole design with a gentle roll to the comb, allowing you to maintain a vertical head position from most positions yet, to my mind, favouring standing. ‘Thumbhole’ is perhaps a slight understatement because the whole butt area of the gun is cut away, yet with a 16” bull barrel up front, the gun both looks and feels very well balanced. There is a definite emphasis on aesthetics with a very stylised peak to the rear of the comb that gives a kind of rearward location or ‘anchor point’ to the back of your jawline. I’m often very doubtful of the attraction of thumbholes that appear bulky and actually slow down the firing hand regaining the rifle after operating the bolt, but have found great delight in shooting the Evolution. Yes, I would make a couple of tweaks though! I’d like another inch (25mm) on the length of the fore-end and a bipod stud because that would make this gun just as good for field shooting and rabbits when prone, as well as a bit more versatility from sticks.
I would also prefer a bit more gap between fore-end and barrel as although totally free floating, your hands do tend to wrap it quite easily and a thumb pressed against the barrel does little for harmonics. The grip suits smaller hands as your little finger seems to creep off the lip at the base but still seems comfortable to anchor well. Length of pull at the rear end of the stock is brilliant, as at 14” (356mm) it actually allows a good position for an adult on the gun, with the vertical pistol grip measuring up well to place the centre of the index finger pad onto the 7mm-wide, smooth trigger blade. The colours of the laminates – green, brown and a very grey/blue – look superb and although cut away quite drastically, no element of the stock looks flimsy or weak, unlike the similar walnut designs in the airgun market. A little bit of chequering would be nice but I like the 12.7mm (½”) solid rubber butt pad that welds into your shoulder. I like this stock a lot and would far prefer to see its adoption across the CZ sporting range rather than the overly bulky, definitely right-hand-only current laminate thumbhole design I reviewed a few months ago.
The barrel runs totally parallel, 22mm in diameter (0.86”) from the muzzle to the action. It carries a ½” thread for a brake or sound moderator behind a neat recessed target crown. Everything is shielded with a full-diameter, knurled thread cap for a sleek look. In terms of looks, the 455 action differs little from any other CZ rimfire with an 11mm dovetail for scope mounting. I like to see Picatinny rails on rimfires these days as I have a tendency to swap scopes around a lot on mine from day to night-vision usage, but several companies are making some really high-quality aftermarket add-ons now and, although they mark the action underneath with grub screws, they do make the job a neat one externally. I use one on my own 452. CZ supplies a five-round steel magazine with the rifle but the 10-round polymer ones also fit for those with extra capacity needs and are easily available, reliable and inexpensive. Mags pull clear after disengaging the catch to their front in the mag well. Feeding the rounds from mag to chamber is a little ‘grinchy’ but does ease up with time and the bolt travel at 43mm is quick. An 18mm 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 requires fingertips to operate rather than a relaxed handful. The ball is fine but, given the width of the stock, at least an extra 10mm of handle length could be easily incorporated into the two-piece bolt, locked with a single rear lug. Twin extractor claws on the face ensure all goes to plan cycling/ejection-wise through the open-topped action. Long dovetails give plenty of space for scope mounting but just be careful about going too low as sometimes a case can bounce off the underside of the scope and drop back into the magazine area, preventing the bolt from closing.
Given the switch-barrel capability, the 455 bolt-close seems a little tighter on head-space than those of old, which is perhaps a good thing. It isn’t quite as slick to cycle as my old 452 but neither has it enjoyed countless thousands of rounds to ‘run it in’. CZ offers a new aftermarket trigger system and I wouldn’t have minded having it here. Many custom kits have appeared over the years to modify the basic CZ rimfire trigger to reduce creep. The one here was seemingly sharper and cleaner than those of old but it still had a tiny bit of creep – maybe 0.5mm on the blade’s tip – but it did break cleanly once it went and you didn’t feel any grittiness while it was creeping. It was consistent, though, and gave me no issue to shoot with a 3½lb (1,600g) break and plentiful overtravel. The safety still seems to go the wrong way, i.e. backwards for fire and forwards for safe, but as far as safeties go, it is a good one as it locks the firing pin and bolt closed when applied. Removal of the action from the stock requires a T30 Torx wrench to remove twin bolts to the front and rear of the (still metal) bottom metal. It’s a tough, durable unit with plenty of space for gloved fingers and finished matt. Barrel removal requires the gun to be out of the stock, although, like swivel studs, it wouldn’t take much work with a drilled hole through the woodwork to make it externally available, should you be a customisation fan. With the bolt open, there are two 4mm Allen bolts holding the barrel in place, mounted at 45 degrees to the action on either side. To remove the barrel, simply unscrew, give the barrel a firm pull out of the action and reverse to refit. It’s very easy and the barrel has a solid shoulder to its tenon to ensure correct initial head-spacing before the two bolts pull it even tighter into position. Perhaps the snug head-space issue is generated here as close tolerances are ensured!
Shooting the Evolution held no real surprises with all ammunition proving acceptable. Round-nosed, regular speed and subsonic/target rounds held the expected ½” groups at 50m but, as always, when extending the ranges to 100m, the groups showed a distinct gap between the speed/consistency of ammo types. Fiocchi Subsonic Hollow Point and S&B Hollow Point worked well in the 1-16” twist cold hammer-forged barrel but I never seem to beat 1½” (38mm) with subs at a 100m target. Other brands clearly highlight their velocity inconsistency with occasional shots dropping a couple of inches low out of the general beaten zone. High-velocity ammo can improve on this but I think the copper washed bullets tend to foul the barrel and I prefer to stay with ‘clean’ lead subs, preferably round nose match for targets. The deeper hollow point of the 42gr Winchester as always proved more devastating on live quarry but wasn’t as accurate for head shots, so you can choose what suits you. None of the rounds failed to chamber or fire, or gave me any unexpected ‘crackers’ with return to zero after a deliberate barrel removal and refit, remaining within 1” of zero at 50m.