Saying that I love bolt-action rifles, is as much an understatement as Korth handguns are kind of pricey. It’s true, I love bolt-guns almost as much as military surplus weapons with their tremendously powerful rounds. Sometimes I want to get that same rush of manually cycling a weapon’s bolt, without the recoil, noise or cost of centerfire ammunition. The problem is, most bolt-action rimfire rifles feel like children’s toys; flimsy and cheap. I could buy a .22LR trainer rifle built off an old Second World War rifle, but those are expensive and mounting a scope would require permanently modifying a piece of history, and that’s something I simply can’t abode. Thankfully, CZ-USA makes their own military trainer .22LR bolt-action rifle that feels like full-powered weapon, without all the cost, the CZ-452 Special Military Trainer.
Ceska Zbrojovka Uhersky Brod or simply CZ for us American shooters, is a Czech firearms manufacturer with a long history of rifle making, despite only being known for their CZ-75 family of handguns. Which is strange, since they’ve also been making sporting and military rifles since they opened back in 1936.Though Western shooters had a hard time getting their hands on anything from CZ, since Czechoslovakia was still behind the Iron Curtain until 1993. Sometime later, CZ went private and currently imports their firearms through their US subsidiary, CZ-USA, located in Kansas City. CZ-USA also owns Dan Wesson Firearms, though DW operates out of Norwich, New York.
CZ’s current line up of bolt action rimfire rifles includes the older 452 and newer 455 series of weapons. Both models feature various barrel lengths ranging from 16 to 28 inches, and utilize walnut, beechwood polymer or laminate stocks. Furniture options aren’t limited to material, they also include thumbhole and full-length Mannlicher-style European profiles, giving buyers plenty of options. Unlike the 452 family, the 455 series of rifles have interchangeable barrels, allowing shooters to change calibers out among .22 LR, .22 Mag and .17 HMR. This is a handy feature for both shooters wishing to practice for less money using .22LR ammo, and for people who want more versatility out of a single rifle. The older 452 series feature tangent sights reminiscent of the Mauser 98k, while the 455 will feature adjustable iron sights that are similar to those that Remington equips their .22 rifles. The rear sight on this particular 452 is adjustable from 25 to 200 meters.
The hooded front sight is fixed, with a large cut out to allow light in and the rear notch is adjustable for windage. Several replacements for the rear sight exist, ranging from simple aperture replacements for the v-notch, to receiver mounted peep sights. Though if you’re not a big fan of shooting with iron sights, the top of the receiver is dovetailed for tip-off scope mounts.
This attractive example of a 452 Special Military Trainer, does an excellent job emulating the look, feel and size of larger centerfire hunting rifles. Next to a sporterized Mauser or Remington Model 700, most would be hard pressed to tell them apart. The Military Trainer model is finished in a matte blue and the graceful. European-style stock is made from beechwood. The furniture’s profile is unlike the straight comb many American shooters are accustomed to, and like high-end European rifles and shotguns, features a very distinctive schnabel forend. While some Americans dislike the European styling, I love it. It gives a timeless, flowing look to the rifle that distinguishes it from others. The rifle ships with sling swivels installed, and feeds from a detachable five round magazine; but ten round mags are available in both steel and polymer.
For months I had a Williams receiver-mounted peep sight attached to the receiver. Adjustable for windage and elevation, this sight increased my accuracy with the rifle as a fraction of the cost of mounting an optic. Though, ultimately the lure of a precise rifle wearing glass was too much for me, and I caved, buying a Redfield Revenge 2-7x34mm scope. It’s not exactly clear who or what Redfield is trying to get revenge on, or what for; but it sounds cool. The scope is nitrogen-filled to prevent fogging, and uses a 4-Plex reticle. The picture provided through the scope is very clear and has a generous amount of eye-relief. With a price point of $149, the Revenge makes an excellent, inexpensive companion for the CZ rifle.
On the range, the CZ-452 will turn a few heads thanks to it’s looks, styling, and accuracy. The rifle features an adjustable trigger, and is beautiful for us trigger snobs. The trigger is light, breaking around three pounds greatly aiding accuracy. Not that the CZ-452 needs any help. Five round groups at 25 yards using CCI Standard Velocity lead round nose resulted in one ragged hole under half an inch. The Sellier and Bellot target loads imported by Century Arms from the Czech Republic produced one inch groups under the same conditions, though bulk Federal copper-washed hollow point hyper velocity loads weren’t as impressive and regularly grouped just over one inch.
The CZ-452 Special Military Trainer appeals to anyone looking for a solid, dependable rimfire rifle that actually feels like a rifle. Whether it be for small-game hunting, target shooting Appleseed clinic or just plinking tin cans, this rifle is damn near perfect. The only issue with the CZ-452 is finding one, since CZ discontinued the model in 2013. Thankfully, CZ-USA now offers the CZ-455 Training Rifle which includes many of the same features which retails for $372.
Whether you’re scratching the military rifle itch, practicing sight alignment or teaching new shooters, the CZ-452 Special Military Trainer’s flawless reliability and astounding accuracy will serve you well. Younger shooters might not find the classic rifle as exciting as an AR-15, but the slow, deliberate bolt action will teach them to make every shot count. Yes it’s made of wood instead of evil black plastic, but that’s its appeal. It’s old school, old world and old fashioned. And sometimes, the old ways are still the best.
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