CZ 452 HMR Varmint long range accuracy cannot be eclipsed

March 23, 2015 at 6:50 pm

Breakfast in the garden watching the solar eclipse was abandoned, when thick clouds blanketed out any view of the sun, until once the moon had passed on it’s inevitable orbit, the skies cleared to reveal blue skies again. Like so many in the South of ¬†England, who felt cheated by the weather gods from viewing this rare event, I was determined to do something to compensate. That something involved a 25 miles drive to my most northern shooting permission, high in the Chiltern Hills, where without a visit for nine months, I expected a rabbit bonanza, having already warned the butcher to clear a space in his cold room.

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Disappointment number two was waiting for me, when informed by Phil the cattle farmer, that my precious rabbits had been gassed by his arable farming neighbour bordering the land. High petrol prices and nearer permissions had kept me from my pest control duties here and young oil seed rape plants had proved too tempting for the rabbits. Four, or five visits a year were all it took to keep the numbers in check and now I had paid the price too. Given time they will be back and so will I. All was not lost, as there is a warren at the other end of the farm. This I had decimated years ago, but fresh grass and ideal burrowing ground retained a small rabbit population, of which I now pinned my hopes of avoiding a wasted journey.

Parking in the folds of a small river valley, I climbed the gate and began to ascend the grassy downland towards the warren that abuts the hedgeline of the field, seeing the outlines of several rabbits as I breasted the top of the hill. Exposed against the skyline, I watched white tails flash in the sunlight, as one by one the rabbits melted back behind the hedge and the safety of a corner 250 yards away, well out of range of the HMR. Keeping low, I closed the gap, slowly sinking to the ground, when another rabbit came through the fence closer to me and began feeding. Slipping the rifle from it’s bag, while lying flat, I sprung the bi-pod back into position and clipped a 5 shot magazine up into the breech, cocking the bolt.

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Raising up to scan through the scope, I could now see three rabbits shuffling about feeding a 100 yards away and took a bead on the nearest. The supersonic crack from the muzzle broke the silence of the hillside, as the tiny .17 inch diameter bullet hit home, the rabbit flipping over with a reflex leap, disturbing the other two. One ran, but the other only it made as far as the fence, before another headshot tumbled it over the wire. Scanning the hedge line there was no other movement and after a 10 minute wait, got in position in it’s shadow, with a clear view to the corner and beyond.

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The late afternoon sun was still warm, considering it was the last official day of winter, but the shadows were already stretching out as I lay waiting for movement in the corner 120 yards away, where the rabbits had earlier filed out of the field. A pair of pheasants stuck their heads through the brambles and strutted off with straight backs, heads raised towards the opposite hedge to be followed by the rare sight of a guinea fowl wandering out into the sunlight.

As I considered getting up to retrieve the brace of rabbits, something passed behind the fence, sighting my scope on another rabbit, which hopped out into view, but stopped to feed with it’s back to me. Without a clear shot at it’s head, a body shot would ruin the meat and I waited for it to work round, only to be dismayed, when it raised up and went back where it came from, before I could take a shot. They usually oblige by stopping at the edge for a last look round, which ironically it normally is, but this one just kept on going. More minutes and a rabbit ran out from the corner on my side, stopped, then turned towards me. Again no good, a head on shot can pass right through the animal with very destructive consequences. Silent pleading from me and it turned it’s head to the left for long enough, the trigger was squeezed and the rabbit flopped over, before the report could echo back to me.

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A fifteen minute wait without any more coming out to play and I got up to collect these three, taking them back to my bag to paunch, ready for the butcher on the way home. All was packed away ready to go and I stood up for one last look around to see a brown smudge against the green of the field 150 yards away. Another rabbit had come out further round the corner. Getting back down, the rifle was uncased, loaded and cocked ready for one last shot. With hold over, I have shot rabbits at 200 yards on a windless day like this, using the HMR and with confidence I raised the rifle on the bi-pod to sight in line with the eye at the top of it’s head to allow for bullet drop. At that range, the delay between the crack of the bullet and it hitting home is only parts of a second, but it seemed an age before the rabbit jumped forward to remain motionless.

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What a shot, the CZ 452 .17 HMR is a heavy old rifle with the 16 inch Varmint barrel, but it just keeps pumping out the bullets with laser like accuracy on a still day. Packing everything away again, I was pleased to see nothing on view and relieved that it was down hill all the way back to the van, with approaching 10lb in weight of rabbits, plus that again of the rifle. The next task was to negotiate two large towns through the back roads, during the Friday rush hour, to deliver my bounty before the butcher’s shop closed it’s doors for the day, fewer than was expected, but he was happy.