CZ’s Walnut — And — Blue Model 557
By Mark Hampton
CZ’s Model 557 Sporter — walnut, blue steel and chambered in the All-American ’06.
Mark said going retro was great fun, and the classic caliber performed perfectly!
It came as somewhat of a surprise. I’d told some friends I’d be elk hunting with a .30-06. You’d have thought I was tackling a bull with a BB gun! You should have seen the eye-rolls!
The .30-06 isn’t the latest, greatest, fastest, sexiest cartridge alive today. It’s not a speed demon. It’s not a shoulder-dislocating magnum. But it has been successfully taking big game for almost 120 years. I’d venture a wild guess the ’06 has accounted for enough big game to feed all the families on the North American Continent for decades. Despite the skepticism, I had plenty of confidence the .30-06 would be ideal for an Idaho elk hunt. The CZ Model 557 would be a solid platform for it. And I was looking forward to my first opportunity to hunt with the CZ.
The best 100-yard groups were produced by Black Hills’ GMX and Nosler’s Partition —
both 150-gr. loads. The skinner is from Outdoor Edge. Mark felt the CZ was predictable
and reliable and the bolt ran like “greased lighting.”
CZ has not joined the race to see who can build the cheapest rifle for the casual deer hunter. Their Model 557 is not a mirror image of the company’s larger, controlled-round feed Model 550. The newer Model 557 uses a push-feed system with a short extractor and plunger-style ejector. I personally like the push-feed platform as I tend to single-load cartridges when doing range work. The extractor rides over the rim of the cartridge effortlessly.
At the moment CZ offers two action lengths — a standard length with a fixed magazine and a true short action with a detachable box. There are two main configurations, a Sporter and a Varmint. The Sporter has a 20.5″ barrel (and recently, a 24″ option) and comes in .243 and .308 Win. in the short action and 6.5×55 Swede, .270 Win. and .30-06 in the long.
The actions themselves are CNC machined from steel billet. These are “real” rifles with no compromises on build quality. CZ incorporates integral 19mm dovetails for easy scope installation. Several options are available for rings including Leupold, Talley, Warne, Burris and several European brands.
The two-position safety located on the right side of the tang directly behind the bolt, allows for cycling while the rifle is on “safe.” So you can load and unload with the safety engaged — a welcome feature. The chromed trigger on my test gun broke cleanly at 3.5 lbs. Not too light and not too heavy. A good “hunting” rifle trigger. It’s single-stage and fully adjustable for weight, over-travel and creep with three adjustment screws. I saw no reason to touch mine as it was perfect for the job at hand. The Model 557 Sporter has a traditional hinged floorplate with a magazine capacity of four rounds.
The handy-length 20.5″ cold-hammer forged, factory-lapped barrel comes with a 1-10″ twist, pretty much ideal for shooting the 150- to 165-gr. bullets I intended to use. The short barrel is made for easy handling and it balances just fine. And in real-world conditions, the shorter barrel won’t affect terminal performance.
Even though this is a European-manufactured rifle, the walnut stock is definitely geared for Americans. While European hunters often choose iron sights for running game, their stock configuration is different than ours. We like an eye position favoring optics because most American hunters prefer to scope their bolt-action hunting rifles. This attractive, oil finished, finely checkered, Turkish walnut stock was designed for American tastes and a scope fits neatly. The stock also features a textured rubber recoil pad and wears the CZ logo.
Mark’s bull fell to one well-placed uphill shot from a distance of 140 yards.
Old school still delivers the goods!
Major-brand ammo candidates for Mark’s hunt included Hornady, Black Hills,
Nosler and Federal. Since they’ve had 120 years to sort out the .30-06, Mark
found it shot well with everything he tried.
Optics and Ammo
I chose a Burris Fullfield II 3-9x40mm scope set in 1″ rings sent from CZ. The clarity of this scope is superb and I felt it was a good match for the rifle. It features the company’s Ballistic Plex hashmarks providing the necessary ingredient to ensure proper bullet placement if longer ranges come knocking. The Fullfield II is a solid hunting scope ideally suited for my Idaho elk hunt. With today’s magnum-sized optics featuring enough magnification to observe aliens on the moon, I felt confident the simplicity of the 3-9x would serve me well. Simple is always good, especially when in the field!
I ran five factory offerings over my Oehler 35 P during an initial range session to see where things were with the rifle and scope combo. I’d grabbed what I thought might be worthy candidates for my hunt. They included the Black Hills 150-gr. GMX (2,775 fps), Nosler 150-gr. Partition (2,810 fps), Hornady 165-gr. GMX (2,867 fps), Federal 180-gr. SP (2,565 fps) and the company’s new 175-gr. Edge TLR (2,718 fps).
Granted, the velocities I got were a tad shy of what you’d expect with a 24″ barrel, I doubt very seriously if any bull elk would notice much difference. All five loads tested were definitely worthy, but Black Hills’ GMX and Nosler’s Partition showed favor with the CZ. Three-shot groups from two shooters produced less than 1″ groups with Black Hills, while the Nosler load punched groups just a tad over 1″. I could live with either one, but I flipped a coin and the Black Hills 150-gr. GMX won a trip to Idaho.
One feature stood out loud and clear while shooting at the range. The CZ’s bolt could be manipulated effortlessly. In fact, it’s the slickest cycling bolt-action I’ve ever shot. Not to overuse the term “silky smooth” but the bolt glided effortlessly. As much as I hate to use the term, “greased lightning” kept coming to mind. Incidentally, both rifle and ammo performed without any hiccups.
Since my outfitter suggested sighting dead-on at 200 yards — as well as figuring out the point of impact out to 400 — I made a trip to the farm and dialed the CZ in for just that. Thanks to the hashmarks on the Burris scope, I knew where to hold at 300, 350 and 400 yards. Banging away at a few steel plates from various yardages left me feeling like I was ready for elk. Say what you will about modern miracle rifles and calibers, the thought of going “old school” with a wooden stocked, bolt action in .30-06 just kept making me smile.
Turkish walnut and a pistol-gripable pattern are part of the CZ’s traditional charm.
Non-detachable and proud of it! The Model 557 has a magazine capacity
of four and features a hinged floorplate.
The safety is positioned directly behind the bolt — handy. The checkering appeared
to be cut and fit and finish were first-rate.
The Hunt Begins
Leaving camp long before daylight, my guide Wes and I made our way up a steep mountain. Wes wanted to be on the top overlooking a large meadow where we hoped to spot a bull. But just as it was getting light enough to see we spotted a couple of bulls on a ridge above us.
I got into position quickly and cranked a round into the chamber. The two bulls worked their way out of sight, followed by another one. When he stopped momentarily in a small clearing, I settled the crosshairs on his shoulder and gently squeezed the trigger. The shot was maybe 140 yards. All the other elk disappeared immediately. The shot felt good, but as usual there’s always some uncertainty since you lose sight during recoil. But the bull didn’t make it 75 yards, as the GMX had punched through the vitals, exiting on the opposite shoulder. Now that my Idaho elk tag was filled, the hard part began — but it was all good. It seems an ’06 is “enough gun” after all — which I never doubted for a second.
The blued CZ Model 557 with its wood stock has traditional heart and soul, more than its $792 MSRP might indicate. It’s the type of rifle you can hand down to your children and grandchildren to use for years to come. Those grilled elk steaks my wife and I are having for dinner this evening are reminders of how well the combination of CZ, Burris and Black Hills performed.
Compared to composite stocks and stainless guns, blue and wood might seem old fashioned, I know. But just like a ’68 Ford Pick-Up truck, it still hauls the goods. Trust me … any big game you use it on won’t know they didn’t just meet a new .300 Magnum-something!
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