Zastava CZ 99 Precision .22 bolt-action rifle

by Technical Advisor Brendan Atkinson

It would be fair to say that many shooters started off with a rimfire rifle in their younger days before graduating to something a little more powerful. Many a shooter fondly remembers a single shot Lithgow, or something similar, as the gun with which they first shot a game animal. Many of those old rifles are gone now, either worn out or surrendered to authorities, so what does the new breed of younger shooters have to choose from?

Some may choose to purchase secondhand; however, there are a number of new and affordable .22 rimfire rifles around - and the Zastava CZ 99 Precision fits nicely into this category. This review rifle was the standard model, but there is another model that has the barrel threaded for fitting a sound moderator. There is no point importing that one into Australia.

Straight out of the box, it certainly did not look like a cheaper rifle, with all metal parts (except the trigger) finished in a rich blue/black and the walnut stock protected with a low sheen oiled finish. The stock is chequered on the forearm and at the pistol grip. At 2.8kg, it handles very nicely and would be a good walk-around rifle for juniors or adults. For those who carry their firearm slung, sling swivels are provided.

The action appears to have been machined from a single billet of steel and is quite thick in the walls, compared to many other brands. It has a dovetail machined on the top for mounting a scope if required. A safety catch is fitted on the right-hand side of the action and only locks the bolt and trigger when the action is cocked. Being a repeating action, a five-shot magazine is fitted and a spare ten-shot magazine was in the box. The two-piece cylindrical bolt is designed for right-handed people - it features twin extractors and a fairly heavy firing pin spring. The trigger is quite good as supplied, but, according to the owner’s manual, is adjustable in ‘authorised service shops’.

The barrel is 22 inches in length, with a sight radius of 16 inches. It features six grooves with the usual one turn in 16 rate of twist. The barrel was very smooth internally, as I discovered when patching out the factory preservative before firing. This is not always so with some of the cheaper imports.

I originally elected to test fire the CZ 99 using the open sights as supplied. The rear sight is a standard U shape, which may be folded flat when a scope is fitted, and the front is the normal bead type protected by a metal hood. The rifle was shooting slightly to the right of point of aim and this was easily corrected using a drift against the rear sight. Aided by its light weight, the rifle handled and pointed extremely well and would be a handy outfit for rabbits and such out to about 50 yards with open sights.

To test the accuracy potential, I then fitted a Hakko 3-9x40 scope in Millet rimfire rings. For hunting, however, I would recommend a maximum power of six magnifications. Using higher powers sometimes encourages shots well beyond the humane range of the .22 rimfire round.

Many rimfire rifles can be ‘ammo sensitive’ and you may need to try different brands and styles before finding one that satisfies your requirements. I stuck mainly with those that are available from the rifle’s distributor. Stirling High Impact high velocity rounds achieved five-shot groups of about one inch at 50 yards - this would be more than adequate for rabbits. Switching to some older PMC Target 22 ammo, which is standard velocity, I achieved groups of about three-quarters of an inch at 50 yards. However, the best groups came from some PMC Scoremaster standard velocity - half an inch at 50 yards in good conditions. This very affordable ammo would be excellent for plinking or just practising offhand shooting with the CZ 99.

Just out of curiosity, I tried some very expensive match grade rimfire ammo and did manage a couple of groups that approached the three-tenths-of-an-inch mark. I was not trying to make a target rifle out of the Zastava, which is a hunting rifle, but why die wondering? I have seen some hunting rifles that shot well enough to enter field rifle-type competitions, with the right ammo being used.

To sum up, this is an accurate, well-made and affordable rimfire rifle of European quality. I believe that they will sell for less than $400 and I understand that some gun dealers are offering them with a scope and mounts package for about $450. Rifle supplied by Highland Sports.