A Rifleman’s Rifle: Sound Technology’s Silenced CZ 452-2E ZKM
By Al Paulson
Only accurate rifles are interesting. Ruger 10/22 and 77/22 rifles are very good values, and they can be customized into very accurate and user friendly rifles with a significant investment of time, effort and expense to make them truly interesting. That said, if you have participated in competition with a fine .22 rimfire target or biathlon rifle, then you must secretly lust after a better rifle to silence. Certainly hunting winter ptarmigan in Alaska at 80-110 yards with an Anschutz Model 54 that would deliver 1/4 MOA with Eley Tenex match ammunition ruined me for life. While the Ruger rifles are ideally suited for suppressing, in my heart of hearts, I’ve long wished that a suppressor manufacturer would introduce a line of suppressed rifles based upon a better rifle. A big part of the problem in my view is that a particular Ruger may or may not be accurate. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Ruger pays between $6 and $7 for a 77/22 barrel. To keep that price, barrels must be made quickly and tool life must be maximized. Therefore, bore and chamber dimensions can be expected to vary. So does accuracy. With careful ammunition selection, one 77/22 will group 3/8 inch at 50 yards, while another will group 3.5 inches- in my experience. Most seem to group around 1.5 inches. There are other compromises that must be made to keep the cost down, which also tend to give the Ruger less gravitas as a serious working tool compared to a fine European target or hunting rifle. I do not fault Ruger for making those choices. I have simply wished someone offered a suppressed rifle based upon a more serious shooting iron. Someone has. Mark White of Sound Technology now offers a suppressed Czech CZ 452-2E ZKM rifle that is worthy of the serious shooter. It is short, handy, robust, very quiet, and—above all—accurate.
Manufactured by Ceska Zbrojovka Uhersky Brod in the Czech Republic, the CZ 452 series of eight different models probably represents the best-selling .22 rimfire rifle design worldwide. Although relatively new to the United States, CZ 452s have been well known and highly regarded elsewhere for a long time. They are noteworthy for their quality, long service life, accuracy, and reasonable price. Their robust design of Mauser heritage features a receiver made from a steel billet, a hammer-forged barrel for accuracy and long life, adjustable trigger, cocking indicator, easy disassembly for routine cleaning and routine maintenance, and a very positive safety at the right rear of the bolt. While this is one of the best .22 rifle safeties I’ve ever seen, I should note that among us sourdoughs in Alaska, it was a solemn if unwritten rule that one never hunted with a round in the chamber. Safeties can fail or be dislodged by brush or a difficult climb up an escarpment. We only chambered a round if we were taking aim on a game animal or if we smelled a bear.
CZ receivers except the “American” models feature an 11 mm dovetail groove for scope attachment. The CZ 452 -2E ZKM model used by Sound Technology is based upon a variant that features the particularly handsome, classic design of a traditional European hunting rifle and the 11 mm dovetail. The CZ features an 18 lpi checkered, beech stock (stained walnut) with Schnabel fore end and beautifully designed and blued European sling attachments that cry out for a simple, soft, fine piece of leather as a carrying sling. The Lux model with stock of Turkish walnut is available for a few extra shekels. I think that would be a good investment, although I’m extremely happy with my beech model thus far. The barrel features an outstanding tangent sight that is adjustable for windage and elevation, with gradations out to 200 meters. It is an excellent sight for young eyes, although mature shooters will be better served by a scope. The tangent sight should really be removed to facilitate scope mounting, especially if the front sight will be removed anyway in the process of making a Silent CZ. In non-U.S. markets, CZ .22 rifles are available with the muzzles threaded to accept sound suppressors. U.S. rifle manufacturers take note. The CZ rifles come standard with 5-round magazines, and both 5- and 10-round spare magazines can be purchased. The barrels have somewhat tighter bores than U.S. standard, about 2 thousandths tighter. The CZ’s firing pin and extractors are far more powerful and robust than the Ruger’s, which are particular weaknesses in the American design. For example, Baikal Junior Steel ammunition may fail to fire in a Ruger, and it generally jams in a Ruger’s chamber and fails to extract. The CZ 452 always fires, extracts and ejects this tough ammunition without a hitch in my experience. All in all, White’s selection of the CZ 452-2E for suppressing was an excellent choice, since it is superior in a host of ways to the Ruger 77/22 and yet it costs about $110 less. How often can you get more for less?
If your primary interest is benchrest shooting, I’d probably opt for White to build his system on one of the American models in the CZ lineup. These feature 3/8 in (12.7 mm) dovetail groove for scope attachment and no iron sights to complicate scope mounting. The American models also feature a broader forestock that is better suited to shooting off sandbags. If you can’t decide which to get, buy one of each. The CZs are inexpensive enough to make that a realistic option. White also builds this design on the Ruger 10/22 for those who favor that rifle.
Table 1 compares the features of the standard CZ 452-2E and Sound Technology’s Silenced CZ rifles. The silenced CZ features White’s latest iteration of his enormously popular M-Can, which is noteworthy for its superb sound reduction, unusual self-cleaning properties, ease of routine maintenance when required, robust construction, extraordinary service life, and—above all—accuracy. This M-Can is 7.38 inches long and 1.25 inches in diameter. The Silenced CZ weighs 6.3 pounds, which is 0.2 pound lighter that the unmodified rifle with beech stock before the conversion. Built like an M1A1 main battle tank, the M-Can is welded to the barrel, so misalignment will never be an issue. This is a one-stamp gun despite the fact that I opted for a 12.4 inch barrel.
It is important to note that even 12.4 inches is longer than White’s preferred embodiment, for a variety of compelling reasons. My logic for the 12.4 inch barrel was both cosmetic and practical. From an aesthetic point of view, a shorter barrel would have required whacking off the front of the forestock, and I didn’t want to lose the graceful Schnabel fore end. Furthermore, a 12.4 inch barrel comes extremely close to providing maximum bullet velocity, enabling me to tailor velocity and terminal ballistics by the selection of ammunition.
White prefers a shorter barrel to ensure that standard velocity target ammunition will stay subsonic under a wide range of environmental conditions. Note that CCI standard velocity and Aguila SE Subsonic have lower velocities than Remington, and so are more suppressor-friendly in this regard. The Aguila solid point subsonic, for example, is very good ammunition and produced an average muzzle velocity of 1,011 fps out of the Suppressed CZ at 95 degrees F (contact Centurion Ordnance, Dept. SAR, 11614 Rainbow Ridge, Helotes, TX 78023; phone 800-545-1542).
A shorter barrel may also be more accurate than a standard barrel, since it may be stiffer and less subject to barrel harmonics. Extensive research into the effect of barrel length versus velocity using a wide variety of ammunition (see Silencer History and Performance, Volume 1, pages 226-235) has clearly demonstrated that the velocity of standard velocity ammunition is at or near maximum with a 12 to 14 inch barrel. By then, no more energy can be transferred from the modest 1 to 1.4 grains of powder combustion gases to the projectile. Friction between the bullet and the bore becomes an increasingly significant factor with longer barrels.
Trigger pull was a consistent if heavy 4.0 pounds, and it exhibited more creep and overtravel than I liked. After several hundred rounds, the creep mellowed out, but trigger pull weight and overtravel remained issues. Sound Tech recently started installing trigger overtravel screws for a modest fee. This modification makes a big difference. Dr. “Nick” Panisuan of Bangkok, Thailand, has developed the definitive methodology for doing trigger jobs on the CZ 452 and an American has documented the procedure, with illustrations, on the Internet. Go to http://projects/chatrifleclub.org/cz452mods.html. Furthermore, at the CZ Forum archives at www.rimfirecentral.com explains how to turn the CZ trigger in to a crisp 8 to 10 ounce trigger pull comparable to a $1000 Anschutz. The CZ Forum also provides a variety of other techniques to improve the CZ’s trigger, as well as a source for replacement springs to facilitate a great trigger job. Bear in mind, however, that this is a particularly nasty trigger to reassemble, so I’d personally hire the work out if you can find a qualified gunsmith. Mark White at Sound Technology will do an excellent trigger job, eliminating overtravel and bringing trigger pull down to 2 pounds, for $55. That’s a mandatory investment in my book.
I evaluated Sound Technology’s Silenced CZ using four kinds of ammunition: Remington high velocity (R HV), CCI Green Tag standard velocity target (CCI SVT) since a superior rifle merits a better target round than Remington’s standard issue, Remington subsonic (R SS), and Russian Baikal Junior Brass subsonic (BJB SS). I used a Ruger 77/22 with 12 inch barrel as the reference standard for unsuppressed performance and a Tasco World Class 6-24x44mm AO scope for accuracy testing, although I eventually replaced it with a much handier Simmons Model 1031 22 MAG 4x28 scope. I was not happy with how the Simmons rings fit the 11 mm dovetail, so I immediately replaced them with Bushnell 76-3022 rings that seem to grip the 11 mm dovetail without a problem, provide just enough clearance for the bolt handle for handy manipulation without being too high for a proper cheek weld, and are much cleaner visually than Simmons or Weaver mounts. CZ offers excellent if expensive steel mounts. Many end-users seem to be particularly happy with mid-priced BLK scope mounts (the same mount works both for 11 mm and 3/8 inch dovetails). BLK mounts can be purchased from Silver Streak Sports; check out their website at silverstreaksports.com/BLK.htm.
I should note that the use of Baikal Junior Steel subsonic (a slightly cheaper alternative to Junior Brass) will quickly kill soft and feeble Ruger firing pins and extractors, but the CZ seems to have no problem with that ammo. I also find it interesting that Eley uses Baikal ammunition for their quality control program when manufacturing Eley premium match ammunition. The fact that the Silenced CZ likes Baikal Junior Steel is particularly gratifying since I’ve got 30,000 rounds of the stuff languishing in storage. The mean (average) sound pressure levels, net sound reductions, and three-round groups (measured center to center) appear in Table 2. The temperature during the testing was 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and the speed of sound was 1,144 fps.
Sound signatures of 112 decibels with standard velocity and subsonic match are nothing short of wonderful. The sound of the striker falling on a CZ 452 is 110 decibels, so Sound Technology’s Silenced CZ is only 2 decibels louder than action noise with the rifle’s most accurate round tested thus far, CCI Green Tag. Note that the muzzle velocities of standard velocity and subsonic rounds are almost identical; clearly a 12 to 12.4 inch barrel is an extremely efficient length. Three 3-round groups averaged 0.18 inch at 50 yards. I haven’t fired such small groups from a .22 rifle in a long time. Wow!
When I grab a silenced bolt-action rimfire rifle these days, it is Sound Technology’s Silenced CZ. It is handsome, affordable, robust, low maintenance, handles and balances to perfection, delivers superb sound reduction (within 2 dB of firing pin noise), and qualifies on the single most important criterion for a silenced rifle in my opinion. It is extraordinarily accurate-nearly three times more accurate than the unmodified CZ 452 rifle when using CCI Green Tag match ammunition. White’s reputation as an accuracy guru is supported by the performance of the Silenced CZ. Furthermore, the Silenced CZ fits my body and my biases to perfection. Only accurate rifles are interesting. The Silenced CZ from Sound Technology is the most interesting suppressed turn-bolt .22 rimfire rifle I’ve yet encountered, and I can recommend it with unbridled enthusiasm.
For more information on the Silenced CZ, contact Sound Technology, Dept. SAR, P.O. Box 391, Pelham, AL 35124 (phone and fax 205-664-5860; URL http://www.soundtechsilencers.com). For information on CZ rifles in general, contact CZ USA, Dept. SAR, 1401 Fairfax TFWY, B-119, Kansas City, KS 66115 (phone 1-800-955-4486; e-mail email@example.com; website www.cz-usa.com).
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