Readers of SAFARI Magazine, particularly our international readers, are probably familiar with the CZ Model 550. This classic Mauser-style rifle offers controlled-round feed; securely grasping the rims of cartridges even as large as .505 Gibbs in its massive claw extractor. That extractor always keeps the cartridge in control as it feeds or removes it from the chamber, which is a great benefit when hunting dangerous game as it provides a modicum of insurance against such things as double-feeding a cartridge during a tense situation.
I recall the late Finn Aagaard once saying he was surprised at how quickly he could work a bolt action when frightened, and it is under the kind of stress that can rattle even a veteran PH where a less skilled hunter can bind up the works and get into trouble.
But not all hunting is for dangerous game, and a design alternative to controlled-round feed is push-feed. With a push-feed, the bolt face simply pushes a cartridge forward into the chamber. Once the rear of the cartridge clears the magazine, it is “loose” in the action until you close the bolt.
There are benefits to push-feed, not the least of which is that they better center cartridges in the chamber and that has been claimed to increase accuracy potential. Push-feed rifles are also the style of rifle selling most these days, so CZ added one to its line — the Model 557.
“The customer that the 557 is designed for is one who wants a best-of-class deer, plains game, elk, etc. rifle, but isn’t satisfied with the compromises that have been made on the entry-level-priced rifles offered by our competitors,” says Jason Morton, VP of Marketing for CZ-USA regarding who he sees as the ideal customer for the Model 557.
With the market turning to push-feeds, CZ saw the opportunity not only to introduce a new rifle to meet that demand, but also to rethink how it makes rifles. For example, the older Model 550 uses a forged receiver. The process starts with a metal forging generally shaped like the finished product that is then machined. CZ had to contract out all of the forging process, creating what Morton calls a “bottleneck” in the manufacturing process.
Rather than have another line with a built-in production bottleneck, the Model 557’s receiver starts out as bar stock that is fully machined into the finished product. While other manufacturers do that as well, their finished products are often simple cylindrical metal tubes with a washer-like recoil lug sandwiched between the face of the action and the barrel. Instead, the Model 557 is a complex machining with desirable features such as a flat bottom, integral recoil lug and machined-in scope bases.
Another thing CZ changed was the trigger. Instead of the familiar CZ SST trigger that can be set to a hair trigger by pushing the blade forward, the 557 uses a single-stage, fully user-adjustable unit that can be tuned for such things as pull weight, creep and overtravel. “It’s actually a great trigger,” explains Morton, “but isn’t as complicated as our single-set trigger system used on the 550. There is a cost savings there, but only when compared to the 550.”
One thing CZ did not change, however, is its barrel. “We invest a lot of time and money in our barrel making and, as a result, no production rifle beats our barrel quality,” says Morton. CZ’s barrel making involves leaving the bar stock exposed to the elements to “season” before being drilled, reamed and then going through the cold hammer forge before final lapping.
Though Morton mentions cost savings, that was not necessarily a goal with the Model 557. “It’s possible for us to make a rifle to compete on price with the lowest common denominators in the rifle market,” says Morton, “but our customers expect a higher quality product from us. Additionally, we take a great deal of pride in our guns. I only want to make rifles I’m proud to carry in the field.”
SCI recently received a sample Model 557 Sporter chambered in .30-’06. This classic-looking bolt-action is all steel with laser cut checkering on the Turkish walnut stock. The only synthetic parts are the solid rubber recoil pad and a polymer bushing around the tail of the firing pin. There are also synthetic- and carbon fiber-stocked versions.
“It’s a smooth operator,” says Morton of how the bolt lifts and glides effortlessly through the action. “The tolerances are held very close due to the new CNC machines that are used to make it. You won’t find rough machining or casting marks on this receiver,” he says.
I topped the 557 with a Trijicon 3-9×40 mm AccuPoint scope and fired it for accuracy at 100 yards using factory loads from Hornady and Federal. Five, three-shot groups with Federal 150-grain Fusion soft-point averaged 1.18 inch while the comparable Hornady 150-grain Interlock American Whitetail load delivered a 1.5-inch average. I’ve used the 150-grain .30-caliber Interlock in a lot of rifles and on a lot of game and know it can do better, so I used a tried and true handload with it and IMR 4064 powder and was able to shrink group average down to 1.03 inches.
Best groups came from a clean, cold barrel, which was not surprising considering ambient temperature on the range was nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit. There were no malfunctions of any kind, even when single loading.
As Morton indicated, this is a smooth operating rifle. The bolt licks back and forth in the action and the American-style stock comes to the shoulder with the shooter’s eye perfectly centered in the scope. At 3.4 pounds pull, the trigger snaps like an icicle and needed no adjustment. Recoil is adequately mitigated by the rubber recoil pad, though shooters who are sensitive to recoil may be better served with the optional .270 Win. or 6.5×55 Swede chamberings.
“It’s a rifle of the quality and materials that will last for generations,” says Morton. “We don’t offer the cheapest rifle available. That’s a decision we have made intentionally.” While manufacturers are producing pretty good inexpensive guns, the CZ Model 557 is for somebody who wants an heirloom quality rifle at a good price. It’s for someone who doesn’t like where the market has gone. It’s somebody who doesn’t like that race to the bottom; the one who doesn’t want the $299 deer rifle.–Scott Mayer
Model: 557 Sporter
Calibers: .30-’06 Sprg., .270 Win., 6.5×55 Swede
Action: Bolt-action repeating rifle
Magazine Capacity: 4
Barrel: 20 1/2-inch cold hammer forged
Trigger: Fully user adjustable; 3.4 pounds pull
Sights: None. Machined for CZ ring bases sold separately
Stock: Oil-finished Turkish walnut
Overall Length: 41 1/2 inches
Weight: 7 1/2 pounds
Other: Hinged steel floorplate