CZ 515 review

Review: CZ 515 American and Tactical lever-release rimfire rifles

CZ’s 515 rimfire rifles are a radical departure from the company’s conventional bolt-action rifles but, despite being unconventional, accuracy is still as good as ever.

Certain rifles have become benchmarks against which all other rifles are judged and the Czech Brno Model 1 and elegant CZ 452 are prime examples. The latest CZ Model 515, however, is a horse of a different colour.

CZ 515 review
The CZ 515 American is more-or-less a conventional classic sporter

Offered in two different configurations, the Tactical carbine and American rifle, the CZ 515 incorporates a number of unique features. 

Both models share the same aluminium chassis and two-piece stocks, but all resemblance ends there. 

The American is a standard sporter with birchwood stock while the Tactical (as the name suggests) resembles an AR carbine.

Since the chassis and operating mechanism are common to both guns, let’s examine them first. 

The 515 is a manually operated lever-release bolt action rifle. The blow-back bolt has a hold-open device that locks it open after each shot. 

CZ 515 review
The CZ 515 Tactical resembles a modern sporting rifle but with a lever-releaser bolt action

When the delayed blow-back bolt is in battery, the bolt face is held against the face of the chamber by the weight of the bolt (which is close to 450 grams) and pressure exerted against it by the strong recoil spring. 

This inertial effect holds the bolt in the closed position during firing and for a few milliseconds after firing — just long enough for chamber pressure to drop off before it is blown back and locked open.

To release the bolt and chamber a fresh round, the user simply presses down on a serrated lever on the right side of the receiver and the bolt is released to be slammed forward by the force of a powerful recoil spring.

The CZ 515 has a crossbolt safety handily located in the rear of the trigger guard. It can be pushed off with the trigger finger.

CZ 515 review
Barrel, upper chassis and breech-bolt removed. Care must be taken when removing and replacing the recoil spring, rod and carrier

The two-piece black-anodised chassis is machined from aluminium. The parts are beautifully matched and being rounded-off at the rear gives it a sleek styling. 

The 515 American features an integral ⅜” dovetail atop the upper chassis for easy attachment of scope mounts, with a recoil stop to anchor the rear ring. The Tactical differs, having a full-length picatinny rail. 

The ejection port has a slot for the charging handle to slide forth and back in.

CZ 515 review
Lower chassis houses all the working parts, including the hammer and trigger mechanism

The upper part of the chassis contains a massive bolt, square in cross-section with a steel extractor and chisel-nose firing pin. 

The bolt runs along an integral rail on the left side and is further supported and guided by a second rail on the right-hand side. Riding on dual rails, the bolt operates very smoothly and positively.

The lower section of the chassis houses the trigger mechanism, hammer and spring, trigger guard and magazine well. Both rifles are accompanied by a 10-shot synthetic magazine with
steel follower.

CZ 515 review
The barrel is inserted into the upper chassis and secured with a pair of angled screws. Cocking lever is on the right side

Both rifles have a very nice, crisp single-stage match-grade trigger. According to my RCBS trigger pull scale, both rifles let off at 1.36kg with very little take-up.

The American has a plain, classic-style birchwood buttstock sans cheekpiece, and is not chequered. The forend is flat on the bottom with a large takedown screw below the tip. 

The buttstock is retained by a screw in the bottom of the grip which is angled upward and threads into the rear of the lower chassis. 

CZ 515 review
Buttstock is adjustable for length and comb height by loosening four small screws

The Tactical’s stock is entirely different. 

The carbine’s buttstock may have been inspired by the Magpul Industries Precision rifle stock. Adjusting length of pull and comb height is pretty straightforward. Two screws are loosed to allow either the buttpad or comb to slide back and forth or up and down, respectively. 

Tighten the screws when you find your perfect fit. (Certain Australian states don’t allow telescopic length adjustment so those rifles have fixed stock length.) 

CZ 515 review
Tactical’s handguard has 22 large cooling slots, a full length picatinny rail on top and a 10mm dovetail on the bottom for accessories.

The straight pistol grip is an integral part of an aluminium housing attached to the rear of the chassis. The rear end is hollow and a pipelike buttstock is inserted into the hole where it is secured with a large screw angled up behind the grip.

The Tactical has a 295mm long, free-floated aluminium handguard with 11 large ventilating slots on each side. It is monolithic and characterised by its massiveness. 

Attached to the top of the handguard is a full-length picatinny rail which extends to the rear of the upper chassis. Held to the handguard by four large screws, it has only a single screw securing it at the rear of the upper chassis, making it easy to remove. 

CZ 515 review

An integral dovetail rail stretches full length along the bottom of the handguard for easy mounting of a bipod, a flashlight or a laser.

The Tactical also differs from the American by virtue of its shorter overall length — 920mm against 995mm for the latter — and has a free-floated 410mm (16”) carbine-length barrel compared to 520mm (20”) for the 515 rifle. 

The visible portion of the barrel protruding from the handguard has the muzzle threaded ½”x28 and the knurled cap is about 16mm in diameter. A block screwed into the bottom of the handguard behind the muzzle supports the barrel and holds it centrally in the handguard.

Barrels are inserted into the front of the upper chassis and secured with a pair of hex-head screws, one on each side. Loosen off the two screws and the barrel pulls out easily. 

Stripping the 515 for cleaning is straightforward enough if you follow the instruction manual, but take care to hold down the breech-bolt with your thumb when you slide the cover off, or the recoil spring, rod and carrier will forcibly be ejected. 

When reassembling the rifle take care after you have reinserted the recoil spring, rod and carrier to hold the breech-bolt down again as you slide the upper chassis along the rails. Before it is fully home, you must reinstall the cocking handle as it won’t enter the bolt once the assembly is complete.

How fast can you shoot these new 515s? Are they quicker to reload, aim and shoot than a turn-bolt?

Well, that’s something we trialled at the range by shooting at a pig target at 25 yards. We found it possible to fire five aimed shots into the chest area of the hog in 30 seconds. That’s fast!

We scoped both our test rifles with a Meopta Meopro 4-12×50, a very nice scope, although a bit oversized for a .22 Magnum hunting rifle. Evidently Meoptas sell like hotcakes, certainly faster than they can get ’em!

CZ 515 review
High velocity Varmint HV ammunition shot many groups like this one at 50 yards

The new CZ 515s both shot very well and there were no malfunctions over the course of shooting 100 rounds each of Winchester Varmint HV 30gn V-Max and Super-X 40gn JHP ammo. 

Five-shot groups at 50 yards with the Tactical landed the first four shots in .4 to .5” but the fifth shot quite often turned out to be a flyer which opened the groups up to average .95”. 

Unsurprisingly, the premier performance was a group shot with the 515 American using Varmint HV V-Max, which formed a cluster of bullet holes measuring .495”. 

I rate the 515 American as being capable of averaging .75” and the Tactical around 1”. That’s pretty darn good as the majority of bolt-action .22 Magnums I’ve tested at 50yd averaged 1.5” groups.

Shifting the targets out to 100 yards resulted in the American with Varmint HV posting a five-shot average of 1.25” and the Tactical 1.5”.

The .22 WMR is a powerful cartridge that sees widespread use as a varmint cartridge with 30gn and 40gn bullets. I’ve had a lot of experience with my CZ 452 ZKM American in .22 WMR on a wide variety of game. 

I’ve enjoyed the best success using the faster 30gn bullet at 2250 fps when whistling foxes. The 30gn bullet has a less curved trajectory than the 40gn-bullet and with the Varmint HV load a .22 Magnum can be sighted in for 125 yd with the bullet rising no more than about 1.8” above the line of sight and landing about 2” low at 150yd. 

Bullet energy at that distance is 125-130ft-lb, or about the same as the muzzle energy of a .22 LR high-velocity load.

CZ 515 review

I’ve found the 40gn solid leaving the muzzle at 1910fps superior to the 40gn soft point and serious medicine for goats.

Federal’s 50gn JBHP .22 WMR load, which clocks a solid 1650fps in my gun, is a bit more of a good thing and within 100yd I’ve cleanly killed half a dozen fallow deer with it.

The full ballistics were obtained in the 515 American’s 520mm barrel. There is a price to be paid for handiness of the Tactical’s shorter barrel, with a loss in velocity. 

The 30gn V-Max Varmint load dropped from 2250fps to 2110 fps, and the Super-X 40gn JHP dropped from 1910fps to 1750fps.

Altogether, the CZ 515 American would make a first-rate hunting rig, whereas I find the 515 Tactical difficult to categorise. I guess it’s more of a fun gun, but choice is largely a matter of individual preference. 

In its favour, however, the Tactical is easy to hold steady offhand, shoots accurately and is effective enough for small game. 

These lever-release rifles advance a refreshingly different approach to rimfire rifles. The bottom line is that these CZs showed that they can hold their own with most other rimfire sporting rifles produced today.


  • Manufacturer: CZ Uhersky Brod, Czech Republic
  • Type: Lever-release bolt-action repeater
  • Calibre: .22 LR and .22WMR (tested)
  • Magazine capacity: 10 rounds
  • Barrel: Tactical, 410mm; American, 520mm
  • Overall length: Tactical, 920mm; American, 995mm
  • Weight: American 2.72kg (6lb); Tactical, 2.84kg (7¼lb)
  • Stock: Tactical, AR chassis type; American, 2-piece beechwood
  • Length of pull: Tactical, 380mm (adustable); American, 345mm
  • Finish: Tactical, matte black barrel and chassis; American, semi-gloss wood
  • Sights: none. Tactical, picatinny rail; American, integral dovetail
  • Trigger weight: 1.36kg as tested
  • Safety: crossbolt through rear of trigger guard
  • Price (RRP): Tactical, $1650; American, $1325 (2022)
  • Distributor: Winchester Australia




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.