Face Off : CZ 455 Varmint vs Marlin XT
One of our staff, and up and coming reviewer, Steph, takes us through a comparison of two leading rim fire rifles, going head to head. Read on to learn much more….
There are a few things to consider when it comes to buying a rifle. The first is whether or not you want a rimfire or a centrefire and whilst there maybe slight differences in performance between the two, this choice will largely come down to what you are using the rifle for. Rimfires chamber smaller calibres and are generally used for target shooting or hunting vermin or other small animals whereas centrefires are used to tackle much larger game such as deer.
Not being a big game hunter myself, despite my love for venison, I have opted to compare two rimfires in this blog post, as they are more readily available, chamber a smaller variety of calibres and, perhaps more importantly, are quite a bit cheaper to both buy and maintain. Because of this, the two rifles I have chosen to compare are the Marlin XT chambered in .17 HMR and the CZ 455 Varmint chambered in the larger .22 WMR round. Both of these rifles are moderately priced with the Marlin coming in around £400 and the CZ at £550, and are perfect for anyone looking for their first rimfire.
Best Looking Rifle?
This is perhaps the most divisive of topics as a lot is down to personal taste, and most serious shooters would consider this topic to be secondary to almost any other. However the aesthetics of a rifle are important when it comes to creating a first impression and make all the difference between someone asking: “oooh what is that?” to “what is that!?”
Both of these rifles follow a similar shape and design, and imitate classic bolt action designs of the past, with the Marlin being slightly more angular and the CZ more curved, the Marlin also features a synthetic stock as opposed to the walnut wood of the CZ.
This, for me, makes the CZ a clear winner in looks department as the graining and quality of the wood used in its stock is simply fantastic with subtle pattern variations and a varnished finish that gives the colour real depth and, in my mind, is far more attractive than plastic will ever be. This is one of, perhaps the main, reason for the price difference between the rifles as polymer stocks are far easier to produce.
Winner : CZ 455
Despite the quality of its walnut stock, this feature does make the CZ almost half a kilo heavier than the Marlin,. This is even though it is significantly shorter, and with neither of them weighing in at more than 3.2kg, it is a very noticeable difference, and something to bear in mind when taking on long hunting trips. A heavier rifle makes shoulder firing more fatiguing and will lead to less accurate shooting as the hunt progresses.
The CZ also fires a larger round than the Marlin which requires more force to propel it the same distance. This will start to wear on your shoulder as shooting progresses and, despite the thicker rubber recoil pad on the CZ, is still a noticeable difference. Now this is somewhat negated by the fact that these rifles are rimfire and not centrefire, but the increase in recoil is still surprisingly apparent and something to bear in mind. Despite the more ergonomic stock design of the CZ, the Marlin would be marginally more comfortable for me, especially on long shooting trips.
Winner : Marlin XT
Here we go! This is the big one. A rifle can be gorgeous and comfortable but if you can’t hit a barn door with it, you may as well use it as a very expensive walking stick. Yes, I’m looking at you Mini-14… The majority of shooters will tell you that the biggest deciding factor in whether a gun is accurate or not is the the big fleshy attachment on the end of it, and whilst I tend to agree with this statement, there are some factors that can make one gun inherently more accurate than another.
A Comparison Of The 2 Rounds
The first of these factors is the ammunition used. Now I’m not going to go into great detail about the advantages and disadvantages about different brands of ammunition, but suffice to say when it comes to picking you ammunition, like anything, you get what you pay for.
When it comes to calibre however there are some generalisations that can be made. The larger .22 round of the CZ will drop off more rapidly than the lighter round of the Marlin although a good scope will be able to compensate for this. However, this weight can have it’s advantages and due to the heaviness of the round it is moved far less by a crosswind and as such is more suitable for hunting conditions where the conditions are changeable.
The second factor when judging accuracy is the barrel of the rifle itself. The Marlin features iron sights for better out of the box accuracy but I’m going to assume that no one reading this is Chris Kyle and will be fitting a high powered scope to assist their aiming.
The barrel of the Marlin is 2 inches longer than the CZ which gives the bullet more time before it is ejected into the turbulent open air which should improve accuracy.
However, in my experience this was not the case, as the CZ features a far heavier varmint grade barrel, which more rigid than the Marlin’s standard grade design and makes the bullet more stable when it leaves the barrel leading to less movement in the air.
The CZ shot so well, in fact, that it left one hole in the target with an entire 5 round clip shot at 50 yards – impressive stats indeed. The Marlin was not far behind but certainly is not the tack driver that CZ is.
Winner : CZ 455
The stock of the CZ is a thing of beauty. Now, I was not really given enough time to properly assess this attribute of the rifles in question, as reliability can only truly be measured after years of use, and thousands of rounds. However, what I will say is that with rimfire bolt action rifles, there is not a lot that can really go wrong. Both rifles feed and eject reliably, with the bolt of the Marlin perhaps being a little more clunky to operate, but this may be due to out of the box stiffness, something that should clear up after a couple of shooting sessions.
CZ rifles have been some of the most consistently reliable rifles on the market and are noted for their workhorse nature, round after round. Marlin rifles are not as well renowned for their reliability but have improved vastly in recent years thanks to their acknowledgement that their lack of quality control allowed bands such as Rossi and Henry into the market. The rifles that they produce now, having been effectively bought out by Remington, are simply of far better build quality than a few years ago.
Winner : Draw
In conclusion I would say that the CZ is marginally the superior rifle. Whether it is £150 better is debatable, as Marlin really seemed to up their game since the acquisition by Remington was completed. Those accuracy tests don’t lie however, and I myself am inherently drawn to a walnut stock, especially one as finely crafted as the CZ. Overall the CZ might be a heavier, more expensive rifle with a firmer recoil, but the level of trust I have for their brand for making quality products is something that tips the balance in the CZ’s favour.