With its astonishing accuracy, reasonable price tag and superb engineering, CZ's all-new 457 rimfire rifle is a class act, says Bruce Potts
The CZ range of rimfire and centrefire rifles has served the UK sporting fraternity very well for decades now, and still provides exceptionally reassuring quality at a fair price.
The original Model 1 .22 LR rimfire rifle has been modified over the years and reached its zenith with the 455. Therefore, rather than redesign it yet again, CZ decided to start with a new model entirely. Enter the 457 — and what better way to evaluate the rifle than by checking out the luxurious Royal model?
It’s clear from the start this is an all-new rifle. The action is completely different, with a new bolt system, action and trigger, as well as a brand new walnut stock design — but sensibly, the tried and trusted magazine system remains.
Action, barrel, trigger
The action is longer than the previous 455 model at 6.25in and has a more slab-sided appearance, with the positioning of the bolt system rearranged. The dovetail scope mounts are 1.25in and 2.75in in front and behind the ejection port that is suitably large enough to accommodate the HMR round.
The bolt itself is 5.25in long with a low bolt lift of 60° and has a short operating length of 1.75in, so fast and smooth to recycle.
The profile is slightly dog-legged with a nice rounded bolt knob, and at the rear is a long bolt shroud of 2in that incorporates the red cocking indicator.
When the bolt is opened there is a large bolt guide rail that runs and locks into the rear section of the action. The bolt has a typical top-sited firing pin that is rectangular in shape, with a double-claw extractor for reliable case-rim engagement and ejection by a floor-mounted steel spur.
The CZ trigger is adjustable for weight and pull and it has a lighter striker, so the lock time is faster, making for better accuracy. The blade is quite curved in a smooth silvered alloy, and this model broke at 3.45lb with a very clean let off.
Magazines sit in an aluminium trigger-guard and magazine well. The Royal comes with a five-shot mag, but 10-shot versions are available.
What is noticeably different from the older rimfire models is the safety position. It sits on the side of the action and not on the bolt itself. The operating position is forward, showing red for fire, while rearward with a white dot means safe — simple and effective.
The barrel is 20.5in long on this HMR and has a ½in UNF thread and Sporter-weight hammer forged profile, giving a good blend of looks and balance, especially when a sound moderator is fitted. It also has twin securing screws to the action that allow a change of barrels along with a magazine change, too.
The metal parts are finished with a tough semi-matt blueing, not the high-gloss polished blueing seen on CZ’s American models.
The stock is the most visual change to the overall look of the Royal other than the action design. It harks back to the long slender fore-ends of Stutzen-styled continental rifles in some ways, but has the modern look with laser-cut logos and chequering.
The quality of walnut is excellent with a nice overall colour and good fiddleback striping to the butt section, and all with a semi-rubbed oil finish befitting a classic rifle.
The fore-end is very long at 13.5in and finishes in a dark laminate wood tip, which adds a good contrast. It is slender and has three distinct laser-cut chequered panels on the underside, the rearmost incorporating a fleur-de-lys motif.
The pistol grip has more conventional laser-cut chequered panels to both sides and again a small fleur-de-lys accent. Nicely inset are the blued steel sling-swivel studs, very old school, and a double palm swell and small cheekpiece to the stock design give grace yet very good handling.
I am not keen on the laser-cut
CZ Royal logo to the fore-end sides,
as it looks a bit tacky in my view, but the solid black rubber recoil pad
is more practical.
Internally, the stock has a steel inset recoil lug to engage with the action for better bedding, and each stock screw is supported with its own aluminium pillar, all helping with consistent and accurate shots.
First thing to note is be careful where you place the scope mounts and what type you use. I only noticed this after taking the photos initially then changing scopes for the range test.
It’s a standard 11mm dovetail system but if you put the sports match-style screw mounts anywhere near the bolt-lift area they will foul it. So place them in front or turn the mount around so the screws are to the left of the action.
Being HMR, there are no reloads but I had plenty of HMR fodder for the Royal to digest. HMR users have a variety of bullet weights and styles to use, from lead-free NTX bullets of 15.5-gr to the standard 17-gr V-Max loads and heavier 20-gr CCI Game Kings.
Hornady uses the 17-gr V-Max bullet designed to expand quickly in soft-skinned or feathered game and was the first bullet type. But newer varieties such as the Hornady 15.5-gr NTX, with its non-lead or a lead-free bullet and lighter 15.5-gr bullet, are starting to appeal to shooters. So are the heavier 20-gr CCI Gamepoint ammunition that expand more predictably and are better suited for fox use. I also had Remington and Winchester loads.
Velocity-wise, the fastest of the bunch were the Hornady NTX bullets. They were the lightest at 15.5-gr and had a velocity of 2,650fps for 242ft/lb energy and at 75 yards five shots gave a decent 0.699in grouping.
Next fastest and not far behind were the CCI TNT 17-gr loads that, producing 2,592fps and 254ft/lb, were also the most accurate. At 75 yards I had all five shots in 0.366in, a superb load on this one.
The Remington and Federal 17-gr bullets shot 2,570fps at 249ft/lb and 2,548fps at 245ft/lb with 0.912in and 0.736in groupings respectively.
The Winchester Varmint HV 17-gr shot some nice 0.463in groups at 2,511fps generating 238ft/lb energy, while the heavier CCI 20-gr Gamepoint shot consistent 0.695in groups at 2,422fps and 261ft/lb.
The original Hornady 17gr loads I use as a control shot just under 0.5in at 2,517fps with 239ft/lb energy.
A decent rimfire that will serve its owner reliably and accurately in the field