CZ 453 Varmint .17 HMR Bolt Action Rifle


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

March 11th, 2007




Click for video!

CZ-USA is the distributor of many fine handguns, rifles, and shotguns, but their flagship line is the variety of excellent rifles from Ceska Zbrojovka Uhersky Brod of the Czech Republic, known worldwide simply as CZ.

CZ makes rifles for riflemen. They make their rifles out of real honest-to-goodness steel and walnut. They make rifles that are user-friendly, reliable, and accurate. CZ makes rifles the way that shooters and hunters around the world want their rifles to be made. They have been making them this way for many years.

CZ-USA recently sent to me for review one of their .17 HMR chambered rifles; the Model 453 Varmint. As the name implies, this rifle is meant for varmint hunters, and the .17 HMR cartridge is well-suited to many types of varmint hunting.

I really took to the .17 HMR cartridge right from the beginning after its introduction by Hornady and Ruger a few years ago. It has been about five years since I first reported on the new cartridge, and have since tested several handguns and rifles so chambered. They have all exhibited fine accuracy, and I expected no different from the CZ 453 Varmint. I wasnít disappointed. The .17 HMR is a delightful little cartridge, and works very well on small vermin and pests, offering explosive performance on small rodents and such. The video shows the explosive performance of the cartridge on marauding water bottles, which really proves nothing, but I do like shooting them anyway.  The little bullet simply vaporizes the water into a mist, and splits the bottles lengthwise instantly. I have used the .17 on large groundhogs, with perfect results. I have heard of hunters reporting good performance on coyotes, but have not tried it myself on predators that large. 

Upon opening the box containing the new rifle, I was pleasantly surprised by the handsome appearance of the rifle. I have seen many CZ rimfires before, and they all looked very good, but I expect to someday open the box and find that CZ has also gone to using cheap plastic on their rifles. So far, they havenít taken to that habit as have many other rifle makers.  On the 453, every part that is metal is made of steel, and what isnít metal is the good-looking walnut stock, which is fitted with a synthetic rubber recoil pad. Of course, the .17 HMR cartridge hardly recoils at all, but the pad is a nice touch, and lends to the overall grown-up appearance of the rifle. By that, I mean that while many rimfire rifles seem scaled towards smaller sized shooters, which is perfect for kids, the CZ 453 is a man-sized rifle; feeling much more like a light centerfire rifle than a rimfire. Weighing in at a half-ounce over seven pounds, the 453 feels comfortable to hold, not like a toy as do many rimfire rifles. This is a quality firearm, and that is obvious right out of the box. The barrel is free-floated its entire length, but is fitted very precisely, and I had to slide a piece of paper down the channel to be sure.

The walnut stock exhibited good figure, and the pistol grip area is cut-checkered on both sides, with a slight palm swell for right-handed shooters.

The barrel measures twenty-one inches long, and is a medium-heavy profile tapering to just under three-quarters of an inch at the muzzle, which is finished with a recessed crown. The trigger guard, receiver, and magazine are finished in a bead-blasted matte black blued-steel finish, with the barrel, bolt handle, and magazine floorplate a satin blue-black. The trigger and bolt are left in the white, and contrast nicely with the rest of the rifleís finish.

The trigger on the 453 varmint is one of the finest available. It is CZís excellent fully-adjustable single set trigger, and is a delight to use. It operates as a normal trigger if desired, but by pushing forward on the trigger, the mechanism is set for a very light, crisp pull measuring just under one pound pull weight. In the normal un-set mode, the trigger pull measured three pounds and two ounces as supplied from CZ-USA. The safety is attached to the bolt, with forward being the "on safe" position , securely locking the firing pin, bolt, and trigger. Pulling back on the safety allows it to fire. A bit unusual, but it works very well.

As should every hunting rifle, the CZ is supplied with sling swivel studs attached front and rear. The bolt is equipped with dual extractors, and the all-steel magazine holds five rounds, for a loaded capacity of six total. The CZ proved perfectly reliable during testing, with feeding and extraction experiencing no problems at all.

For playing around and general hunting chores, I mounted a 2 to 7 power Leupold Compact scope in Leupold Rifleman rings, which worked very well on the 453 Varmint. For serious accuracy testing, I mounted a trusted Leupold 6.5 to 20 power target scope. This scope has become my "mule" scope, as I find myself using it often to test the accuracy of various rifles. I trust it. Nothing is more frustrating than to try to work out accurate loads for a rifle, only to find that the scope is not holding its settings. With the target Leupold, I donít worry about the scope, as I have come to trust it to hold its settings, and not drift the point of impact at all.

I had available to me for testing only two types of .17 HMR ammo; the Hornady 17 grain V-Max load and the CCI 17 grain Speer TNT hollowpoint load. Both performed very well. The Hornady load is advertised at 2550 feet-per-second (fps) velocity, but achieved almost 100 fps more from the CZís barrel, at 2647 fps. The CCI load clocked 2585 fps. Both loads exhibited excellent accuracy from the 453 varmint. One hundred yard five-shot groups would consistently cluster within less than one inch every time, with most groups being even tighter than that. At twenty-five yards, one hole performance was achievable every time. At fifty yards,  it would put three or four or sometimes five shots into less than three-eighths of an inch. When the groups would open up to over one-half inch, it was always my fault. Three shots at one hundred would usually settle between one-half and three-quarters of  an inch, with the two one-hundred yard groups shown being representative of the order of the day, both measuring nine-sixteenths of an inch. In every case, when I did my part, the CZ would shoot superbly.

The 453 Varmint is an excellent .17 HMR rifle, and is probably the best .17 currently available. Others are good-looking and accurate, but I have seen, handled, and shot none that were as good as this CZ 453 Varmint. For any shooter or hunter who is looking for a pest, varmint, and small predator cartridge, I recommend the .17 HMR cartridge. It is flat-shooting, explosive, and accurate. For any shooter or hunter who is looking for a good bolt action .17 HMR rifle, I highly recommend the CZ 453 varmint.

For more information on the line of firearms available from CZ-USA, go to:

For the location of a CZ dealer near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR icon at:

For a look at Leupoldís quality optics, go to:

Jeff Quinn

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Click pictures for a larger version.


CZ 453 Varmint .17 HMR Bolt Action Rifle.



CZ's excellent fully-adjustable trigger.



Push forward on the trigger to set.





The CZ 453 features an all-steel magazine.



All of the bottom metal is also steel.



The stock is equally impressive, featuring (top to bottom): well-figured wood, precise inletting, fore and aft sling swivel studs, nicely-executed checkering, and a sculpted rubber butt pad.



Conventionally-located safety operates in an unconventional manner: forward for "safe", rearward for "fire".



Muzzle features a recessed crown.



The CZ 453 uses standard 3/8" dovetail rings.



Author used his trusted Leupold 6.5-20x scope for accuracy testing.



Ammo tested included Hornady and Speer's 17-grain loads.



Accuracy was, in a word, superb.