CZ is not the first name in American hunting rifles, but I think they need more love. These guns are rock solid, very dependable, and as accurate as any rifle you’ll find on the shelf at any mom-and-pop gun store in America. It is time they get the respect they so obviously deserve.
Let’s start with the basics. This is a traditionally styled hunting rifle. It is meant for traditional North American style hunts, where you often only get one shot. What the 557 lacks in terms of magazine capacity, it makes up for in accuracy. If you’re looking for an old-school workhorse, you should check out the CZ 557.
This CZ 557 is a .30-06. The steel is all blued. The American walnut stock is ornate, but not ostentatious. The checkering, which is not cut by hand, serves its purpose and provides a solid grip. The Sporter model doesn’t come with any sights, but the milled cuts on the receiver make mounting scopes easy. The rifle can hold four rounds in its fixed magazine. The recoil from the .30-06 is mitigated, slightly, by a thin rubber pad at the end of the stock. This all seems pretty standard.
The 557 does have some features that aren’t as common as they should be. The receiver is milled from a billet, not a casting. The barrel is cold hammer forged. My favorite feature is the safety, which allows the bolt to be worked while the safety is on.
The trigger is adjustable, which lets you adjust for all of the basics. If you want a lighter pull, less creep, or less overtravel, it is all adjustable. This gun came in for review with a trigger set just over two pounds. There was no creep, and very little over travel. The sharp curve of the trigger sits deep in the trigger guard, which would allow the rifle to be easily controlled while you are wearing gloves.
While many of CZ’s rifles use Mauser-style bolts, the 557 has a short internal extractor and plunger-style ejector. We had no issues with feeding from the 557 and it ejected well. CZ suggests that the push feed system makes the gun easier to hand load. The length of the .30-06 makes it even easier. If you’re working from the bench, and don’t want the hassle of loading the magazine every four rounds, this system has clear advantages.
We shot the rifle with a Burris E1 Fullfield. The E1 is a dynamic scope. While I don’t typically expect miracles from a typical 3-9×40, the E1 was well suited for the 557. The glass is clear, and the weight is average for scopes of this size. This E1 has an illuminated reticle, which was helpful when the hog hunt we had scheduled stretched into the evening. While it wouldn’t be of much use in full darkness, it is ideal for the low light conditions pigs prefer for feeding.
I had forgotten how much the .30-06 kicks. It has a definite punch. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t maintain my sight picture through the scope after I’d pulled the trigger. This is a disadvantage of the platform, I think. The heavy hitting round has its benefits, but rapid followup shots are difficult. And don’t stand beside the barrel while someone else is shooting. It is loud. If you’re directly behind the barrel, in the position of the shooter, it is loud, but it isn’t going to knock you down. I’d been taking pictures during this review and positioned myself directly beside the rifle, still in a safe position, when the shooter pulled the trigger. Even with muffs and foam plugs, the concussion hit me hard. And I knew the shot was coming, too.
Yet it is the other end, I guess, that’s going to suffer the most. The .30-06 delivers impressive terminal ballistics. There’s nothing on this continent, or many others, that the round won’t dispatch. And the .30-06 manages to hit hard without being over-the-top. It is manageable, effective, and easy to come by.
It is this last point that’s so important. The .30-06 is everywhere, in countless different grain weights and bullet designs. The 557 will eat it all. When we went to sight in the rifle, we pulled an old ammo can of .30-06 from the shed. The rounds were loose, knocking against each other, and tarnished by the Florida humidity. My expectations were decidedly low. I don’t even know how much the old FMJ bullets weighed. I still can’t tell you if they were boat tails or not. I thought we’d see keyholes, and have trouble extracting the cases, but no. They all shot with no problem.
We had the rifle sighted in quickly, and placed three of these old rounds under 1 MOA. One went right through the center ring. At that point, I felt somewhat satisfied. But we’d been shooting off of a solid foam rest, and that isn’t always an option when you’re in the woods. As I was bragging about the rifle’s abilities, one of my coworkers pointed out that what we were doing was really pretty easy. “Pick it up and shoot it,” he said, “and then tell me how it shoots.”
He has a point. As much as we like to judge guns by how well they shoot under controlled conditions, conditions on any given hunt are rarely controlled. You may or may not have a rest. It is doubtful that you’ll really be able to get prone (especially in the Florida hammocks). You may be able to rest it on something, but depending on the angle of your shot, you will probably support the rifle yourself. At that point, having a gun that shoots under 1 MOA becomes somewhat academic. Can you hold it that steady? Can you find your target quickly, even with the magnification on the scope dialed way up? Once there, can you hold it steady enough to squeeze off that kill-shot?
Turns out that I can. When given the challenge, I picked up the rifle, chambered a round, found the target and leveled the reticle. When I pulled the trigger, I was less than an inch off of my intended pint of impact. That means something to me. The 557 is heavy enough to prevent excessive shaking, balanced enough to hold, and the excellent trigger caps it all off.
We put the rifle into the field during a hog hunt, but came up short. It wasn’t the rifle’s fault, but the pigs’. They didn’t want to get shot, so they hung out, hidden, and never showed. That’s the way it goes sometimes.
All told, the CZ deserves a lot of consideration. With an MSRP of $792, this is an heirloom quality rifle that shoots a lot better than most of the heirlooms I’ve come across recently. One of the other editors here at GunsAmerica shot the 557 for a month or so and described it as a “miracle worker.” That may be true, depending on how you define miracles. Even if it isn’t, the 557 delivers, and I can’t wait for the whitetail season to open.