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Tiny But Mighty – Rimfire Rifles as Training Tools

Revisiting rimfire rifles as accurate, long-range tools.

Tiny But Mighty – Rimfire Rifles as Training Tools

With an adjustable, competition-style stock and crisp trigger, the CZ 457 LRP comes ready for your next local PRS rimfire match. (Petersen's Hunting photo)

A few years ago, I attended a weeklong event for writers where we had the chance to try out dozens of firearms from various manufacturers. The crowd ranged from serious competitive handgunners to former special operators with a few all-around gun guys like me sprinkled in. Even given the diverse interests among the group, one firearm seemed to be everyone's favorite: the Ravage, a custom precision rifle chambered in .22 LR built by Vudoo Gun Works. The Ravage handled like a centerfire precision rifle but without the recoil or ammunition cost. It was incredibly accurate and flat-out fun to shoot.

Like most of the writers present, I loved shooting the rifle but winced a little at the price, which was north of two grand. Still, I was intrigued by the concept of a precision rimfire and decided to chase one down. I landed on a CZ 550 Precision Trainer, a bolt-action repeater with a heavy barrel and a T4 tactical-style synthetic stock made by Manners. Since 550s don't have adjustable triggers, I added a unit from Timney to get the pull weight where I wanted it. I also spun on a SilencerCo Warlock II suppressor and mounted an ever-reliable SFWA 6X scope. The rifle is startlingly accurate, and I can shoot it all day without breaking the bank or my shoulder. Volume-wise, it is the rifle that I shoot most often.

Revisiting rimfires as accurate, long-range training tools
Modern rimfires, like the CZ 457 LRP, have taken the .22 to previously unheard of lengths and given rise to a new-class of competition. (Photo courtesy of CZ-USA)

I wasn't the only one to discover the benefits of a precision rimfire. The Precision Rifle Series (PRS), one of the most popular and fastest-growing competitive shooting sports, recently launched the PRS Rimfire Series devoted to this category of shooters. These club and national level matches couple the challenge of practical precision rifle shooting with the benefits of a rimfire. Shooters engage undersize targets at varying ranges, mimicking many of the challenges of long-range centerfire shooting matches. Competition breeds innovation, and the precision rimfire rifle market has responded.

CZ 457 LRP Specs

CZ 457 LRP Type: Bolt-action rifle
Caliber: .22 LR
Magazine Capacity: 5+1
Barrel: 20 in., heavy fluted, threaded 1/2-28
Overall length: 38 in.
Weight: 7 lbs., 12 oz. (empty)
Stock: Adjustable synthetic
Length of Pull: Adjustable, 14–15.25 in.
Finish: Blued
Sights: None; equipped with Picatinny rail for scope mounting
Trigger: Single stage, 3.25-lb. pull
Price: $1,084

Going Long with the LRP

CZ-USA is a company that seems uncomfortable resting on its existing products and so updates its catalog year after year. As part of that product evolution, CZ introduced the 457 rimfire line, with several improvements over the 550. The receiver was shortened and made lighter, and the bolt throw was reduced from 90 to 60 degrees. To correct one of the most popular complaints among CZ rifle shooters, an American-style, forward-to-fire safety was added.

For 2021, the company has released the CZ 457 LRP (Long Range Precision), a rimfire designed with precision shooting in mind. The LRP is fit with a 20-inch, fluted heavy barrel that is threaded at the muzzle. A match chamber, first introduced on the 457 MTR, is reamed using minimum CIP specs, making it as tight as possible. A Picatinny rail comes mounted to the receiver, and the highly adjustable, soft-touch synthetic stock is designed for the types of field and barricade shooting positions commonly encountered in precision rifle matches.

Revisiting rimfires as accurate, long-range training tools

We got our hands on an early product sample and mounted a Leupold Mark 5HD 5-25x56mm scope, an almost identical optic to what I currently have mounted on a 6mm Creedmoor I built for long-range steel shooting. With this setup, I can use the same reticle that I would use with my precision centerfire rifle for inexpensive rimfire practice. The overall handling qualities of both rifles are similar as well, so the 457 makes for a great training tool. Since the trigger on the 457 is fully adjustable, I could even set the pull weight to match my 6mm. 

On the Range

Most publications use a 50-yard standard for accuracy testing rimfire rifles. Given what I expected out of the 457 LRP based on my experience with my own CZ rimfire, I decided to evaluate it at 100 yards. Depending on the ammunition, the rifle consistently produced five-shot groups right around one MOA. Both the Norma and Eley match loads we tested produced very consistent (and almost identical) velocities, which is a key attribute for long-range shooting.

One of the best attributes of a precision rimfire rifle is that you don't need a particularly long range in order to make things challenging. When zeroed at 50 yards, .22 LR match loads will drop around 55 inches at 200 yards. For comparison, most popular factory 6.5 Creedmoor loads will drop the same amount at 500 to 525 yards, so shooting a .22 at 200 yards feels more like 500 yards. Shooters are no longer handicapped by ranges that aren't configured for long-range shooting; with a target that's small enough, hitting at 100 yards can be a challenge.

A popular target for long-range precision matches is called the “Know Your Limits” rack. This arrangement is a series of five circular or hexagonal steel targets that get progressively smaller and, therefore, more difficult to hit. One of my favorite shooting aids is a scaled-down rimfire version of the KYL rack made by MGM Targets. Five hexagons range from 1½ to 3/8 inches, which translates to 1.5 to .375 MOA when the array is placed at 100 yards. Shooting it was an ideal test of this rifle's capability. The first plate was an easy hit that chipped the paint just high of center. The second and third plates took concentration, but the fourth and fifth targets were the real challenge. I nicked the top of the hexagon on target number four, so the pressure was on to shoot the rack with no misses. When the trigger broke on the fifth shot, I heard the satisfying smack of lead hitting steel. This little rifle is impressive.

As I write this, we are in the midst of one of the greatest ammunition shortages of all time. Supplies are low and prices are high, forcing many shooters to curtail their practice. With .22 rimfire ammunition still generally available and priced at around 20 cents per round, it is a great substitute for larger cartridges, especially in a rifle like the CZ 457 LRP. Whether you are interested in competing in precision rimfire matches or just looking for a rifle to practice with, the CZ 457 LRP is an excellent 

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