The .17 HMR CZ Model 452-2E American Rifle
By Chuck Hawks
Ceska Zbrojovka Uhersky Brod makes CZ rifles in the Czech Republic, as most shooters probably know by now. Since the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, The people in countries such as Lithuania, Poland and the Czech Republic have made the most of their newfound freedom. The export of quality goods to Western Europe and the U.S.A. is increasing, and the people in the Czech Republic seem to be trying harder than most of their Western European counterparts, who are increasingly stifled by the dead weight of their Socialist-welfare societies.
Flexibility, giving the customer what he wants, is the capitalist/free market way. It is ironic that the newly capitalist Czechs seem to understand this better than most of their neighbors in the established Western Democracies of Germany, Austria, France, and Belgium.
The rifle reviewed here, The Model 452 American, is a prime example of this. A couple of years ago the decision makers at CZ realized that North American and Australian shooters had different ideas about sporting rifle stocks than European shooters. Rather than ignoring that reality, as so many Western European rifle makers have done, CZ set about creating a model specifically for these markets. They named it, appropriately, the American, and it has been a big success.
The CZ American rifle Guns and Shooting Online consigned from CZ-USA is chambered for the .17 HMR cartridge. This flat shooting, rimfire varmint cartridge has taken the shooting world by storm. As well it should, since its 17 grain varmint bullet has a catalog muzzle velocity of 2550 fps and a maximum point blank range (+/- 1.5") of 165 yards.
The rifle boasts a nicely polished and blued barreled action and a walnut stock. The latter is modern classic in shape with a straight comb and wears hand cut checkering with machine cut borders on forend and pistol grip. The butt pad is black rubber and detachable sling swivel bases are provided. The (rather poorly) inletted bottom iron and trigger guard is obviously fabricated from a steel stamping, as is the trigger.
The detachable 5-cartridge box magazine is made from heavy gauge sheet steel. The magazine floor plate can be easily removed for cleaning by depressing a small, flush button located just behind the ".17 HMR/.22 WMR" marking. The magazine is reasonably easy load, easy to insert, and latches securely into place. A small trigger at the front of the magazine well releases the magazine when pressed rearward, and the magazine drops freely from the rifle. This is one of the best magazines of the type that we have encountered in a .17 HMR rifle. A longer 10-round magazine is available as an accessory.
While not always forged, all of the parts in this rifle are either steel or walnut. I could not find any plastic or aluminum parts. This is clearly a rifle built to a price point, but it offers high quality materials and construction.
The flat topped steel receiver is machined from a steel billet and grooved for 3/8" tip-off scope rings. The receiver's ejection port is large enough to make loading a single cartridge easy. There is a gas escape port in the right side of the receiver to channel escaping gas away from the shooter's face in the event of a ruptured case. The ejector is of the fixed type, machined into the receiver. This makes it possible to eject a cartridge or case gently by opening the bolt slowly, or to throw it well clear of the rifle by operating the bolt rapidly.
The bolt uses two rear locking lugs; one is at the root of the bolt handle and the other is 180 degrees opposite. This bolt cocks the firing pin on opening. When cocked, the rear of the striker protrudes from the end of the bolt to serve as a visual and tactile indicator. The bottom of the smooth, round bolt knob has been drilled for lightness. There are two hook type extractors at the bolt face. The tip of the sear also serves as the bolt stop. To remove the bolt from the rifle (or to reinsert it), pull the trigger fully rearward.
The small, wing type safety lever is mounted on the rear of the bolt and blocks the firing pin; it also locks the bolt closed. Unfortunately, it operates in the reverse direction from most bolt action rifles. Push the lever forward to put the rifle on safe. Pull the lever rearward to release the safety and fire the rifle. This "backward" safety is the feature I would most like to change on this rifle. Otherwise, operation of the 452 action is typical of traditional turn-bolt actions.
The test rifle's trigger pull measured a crisp 4.5 pounds out of the box on my RCBS Premium Trigger Gauge. This CZ trigger's release is so clean that it is easy to control. There is no perceptible trigger movement before let-off, although there is substantial over-travel afterward. Compared to most rimfire rifles made in the year of Our Lord 2005, this CZ has a very good trigger, so I left it alone for this review. However, it is adjustable for pull weight. To do so remove the stock, then turn the trigger rod nut to increase or decrease the trigger pull spring tension.
If you are beginning to think that this rifle offers a lot of quality and good features at a very reasonable price, you are getting the idea. The more carefully I examined the 452 American, the more impressed I became. Guns and Shooting Online gunsmithing consultant Rocky Hays also examined this rifle and reached the same conclusion.
Here are the catalog specifications of the CZ 452-2E American:
I mounted a Leupold VX-II 3-9x33mm EFR rimfire scope in Bushnell tip-off rings on the American for testing. This is an excellent scope that is well suited to any .17 HMR hunting rifle. As usual, I boresighted the rifle using my Bushnell Magnetic Boresighter. At the range I first zeroed the rifle at 25 yards (that took only 3 shots), then refined the zero at 100 yards, before we began our test shooting.
The testing was done over three range sessions at the Izaak Walton outdoor rifle range south of Eugene, Oregon. This facility offers covered shooting positions and solid bench rests. As an aid to accuracy, a Caldwell Lead Sled rifle rest weighted with two 25 pound bags of lead shot was used throughout.
The weather was partly cloudy all three days with highs of 70-75 degrees and not much wind. Guns and Shooting Online staffers Bob Fleck, Nathan Rauzon and I did the shooting. Four different brands of .17 HMR varmint ammunition were used, all with 17 grain bullets. These included Hornady (V-MAX), CCI (TNT), Remington (AccuTip-V), and Federal (TNT). Each shooter fired 5-shot groups with all four brands of ammunition.
For the recorded groups we used Outers Score Keeper Targets at 100 yards. CCI was the overall best ammunition in this rifle, although the CZ 452 shot very consistent groups with all brands. No malfunctions were experienced during our testing. Here are the complete shooting results:
OVERALL AVERAGE, ALL BRANDS OF AMMUNITION = 1.06"
That is an extremely impressive performance, right at the top of what can be expected from a .17 HMR rifle. The 452 American is included in the article ".17 HMR Rifle Accuracy Test Results," which can be found in the "Rifle Information" section of the Rimfire Guns and Ammo Page. There you can compare its range results with other .17 HMR rifles tested by Guns and Shooting Online.
The CZ 452 American impressed all of us with its quality, accuracy, and good looks. It is a lot of rifle for the money, with a MSRP between the "standard grade" Marlin 917V ($285) and the "deluxe" Ruger 77/17RM ($613). We give it an enthusiastic "three thumbs up."
RIFLE REVIEW SUMMARY
Copyright 2005, 2007 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.