September 07, 2021
CZ has one of the most diverse catalogs of any firearms manufacturer, with everything from competition pistols and revolvers (under its Dan Wesson brand) to sporting shotguns and hunting rifles. The company is now adding to that expanded product portfolio by offering an affordable synthetic-stock version of its successful 557 line of rifles: the 557 Eclipse.
CZ’s 557 rifles were announced in 2016. They were a departure from the company’s storied 550 controlled-round-feed Mauser action that traced its roots back to the Brno 602. The Brno was much-loved by African hunters who wanted an affordable controlled-feed rifle for hunting dangerous game. CZ recently discontinued the 550, which has caused tremendous grief for many fans of this venerable rifle. CZ has moved on, though, and the 557 is the firm’s new flagship hunting rifle.
As with other 557 guns, the Eclipse has features that are reminiscent of the 550 it replaces. The two-position safety is similar, as is the 557 Eclipse’s profile. The action is CNC-machined from billet steel and features dual 19mm dovetail optic bases machined directly into the receiver for maximum strength. The metalwork has a bead-blasted blue finish.
The Eclipse’s 20.5-inch cold-hammer-forged barrel is lapped at the factory, and the muzzle comes with 5/8x24 threads and a thread cap. The rifles feature black polymer stocks with dual front sling studs and large square texturing on the fore-end and pistol grip.
While many competing bolt guns in this price category come with detachable box magazines, the 557 Eclipse has an internal box magazine with a hinged floorplate. The floorplate release button is positioned on the front of the trigger guard, and all floorplate metal is made of polymer, which reduces the gun’s cost and weight.
The most obvious difference between the 550s of yesteryear and the current 557 line of rifles is the switch to a push-feed bolt. The 557 Eclipse’s dual-lug bolt features a recessed bolt face and a ring of steel for added security as well as a plunger-type ejector. The 557 Eclipse rifles are available in 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Win. and .30-06. The use of polymers brings the rifle’s unscoped weight to 6.83 pounds, which is about a quarter-pound less than the 557 American with a walnut stock. Suggested retail price for the 557 Eclipse is set at $659 for all calibers.
“CZ-USA has always prided itself on providing some of the best bang for the buck in the firearms industry, and the 557 Eclipse is the perfect example of that,” says Zachary Hein, CZ-USA’s marketing communications manager. “A premium push-feed rifle at a stellar price, small changes like polymer bottom metal and a simplified bead-blasted blue finish definitely add up, allowing the Eclipse to retail for $250 less than our flagship 557 American model.”
Other features include a cocking indicator that protrudes through the back of the enclosed bolt shroud and a bolt stop located alongside the bolt itself. To remove the bolt simply depress the bolt stop and pull backwards.
Gone is the old set trigger found on CZ rifles. Many shooters found this design to be too heavy when not in the set position and too light when set. The new trigger is a clean, crisp, single-stage trigger that is fully user-adjustable.
There’s no shortage of sub-$700 push-feed bolt-action hunting rifles, so how does the CZ 557 Eclipse stack up against the competition? For starters, the stock is better. Much better. Sure, it’s still polymer, but it’s a dense polymer with a softer surface than competing guns. Some budget bolt guns come with hard plastic stocks that don’t offer a good grip when shooting and boom like a bass drum when they hit a rock or branch. This one does not.
Length of pull is 13.75 inches, which is longer than competing models, and overall fit and finish are better than most competing high volume/low-cost rifles. The pistol grip is wide and comfortable, and while the geometric texturing on the rifle may or may not appeal to you, it offers an excellent grip surface. The fore-end is wide enough to rest nicely on bags, and the dual front sling studs make sense for anyone who wants to mount a sling and a bipod at the same time.
The CZ’s bolt stroke is smooth and clean, and I like the hinged floorplate and internal box magazine design more than cheap plastic magazines on competing guns that are a hassle to seat properly. The 557’s finish is nothing fancy, but the matte finish doesn’t produce excessive glare, and the metal isn’t prone to surface scratching.
Rifles competing in this price bracket include the Franchi Momentum ($609), Winchester XPR SR ($620), Mossberg Patriot LR Hunter ($766), Savage 110 Hunter ($759), Ruger American Go Wild ($629), Weatherby Vanguard Synthetic ($599) and others. These rifles weigh between 6.5 and 7.5 pounds, and the CZ sits squarely in the middle of the group with regard to weight.
All have synthetic stocks, and the Franchi, Winchester, Ruger, Mossberg and CZ guns feature threaded muzzles. Four of the rifles—including the CZ—feature two-lug bolts while the others use three lugs. Only the Franchi, Weatherby and CZ employ internal box magazines with hinged floorplates; the other guns use detachable box magazines.
The CZ holds five rounds, which except for the Mossberg is more than the other 6.5 Creedmoor rifles listed. Only the CZ and Mossberg come with dual front sling studs.
If you’re in the market for a gun in this category, your choice will largely come down to personal tastes, but there are two primary features that set the CZ apart from these other guns.
First, it comes with a shorter 20.5-inch barrel. Despite the marketing images you see of big game hunters glassing for game atop snow-capped peaks, the reality is most hunters spend their seasons chasing hogs and whitetails from box blinds, pop-up blinds or tree stands. If that’s you, the CZ’s shorter barrel will be a blessing. Cramped quarters make long-barreled guns a liability, and even the seemingly insignificant inch-and-a-half you save with the CZ will do wonders for the gun’s maneuverability.
Will it work for those ad-worthy hunts high in the mountains? Yep, but it’ll also work well when you’re setting up on a whitetail in a pop-up blind at the edge of an alfalfa field.
What’s more, if you’re planning on actually using that threaded muzzle to attach a suppressor, you’ll appreciate the stubby barrel. Guns with 24- or 26-inch pipes become cumbersome when you add almost a foot of suppressor to the muzzle. And don’t be alarmed that the short barrel will rob you of velocity. The CZ’s muzzle velocity figures were within about 100 fps of longer-barreled rifles with the same Creedmoor loads.
The second feature that sets the CZ apart are bases machined directly into the receiver. The CZ rings sent with the rifle are much sturdier than the Creedmoor’s modest recoil requires, but that’s not bad. I’ve never heard of any hunter complaining that their scope was too solidly attached to their gun, but I’ve known several lament about improperly attached or weak rings and bases loosening up in the field.
At the range, one of the first things you’ll appreciate about the CZ is its stock design. The straight comb and generous recoil pad help control recoil, and the stock is wide enough to offer complete control over the rifle. The pistol grip is comfortable and properly angled so you can shoot this gun off a rest, off sticks or prone, and the wide fore-end sits firmly on the bag. CZ got the ergonomics of this rifle right.
The trigger is excellent. It’s adjustable, but my sample arrived from the factory with the trigger set at 2.4 pounds, so I didn’t need to adjust it. There’s no creep, and the face of the trigger is wide and slightly curved. It’s as good as any trigger in this price point and better than what you’ll find in many competing guns.
The CZ offers ample space for top-loading the rifle. I did encounter a problem when loading the rifle the first couple of times, but it was an issue with my technique and not the gun design.
The CZ 6.5 Creedmoor’s magazine box is slightly larger than this short cartridge demands and required each round to be pushed down into place and slid back as far as it would go. Once I started doing that I didn’t run into any feeding issues whatsoever, and the CZ fed, fired, extracted and ejected without hassle. There’s very little in the way of slop when cycling the action.
CZ doesn’t explicitly promise sub-m.o.a. accuracy with the 557 Eclipse as some competing manufacturers do, and while that’s a sticking point for some buyers, it isn’t particularly concerning to me. Accuracy guarantees assume the shooter is capable of sub-m.o.a. accuracy, that the scope is mounted properly, and that the shooter has spent time finding a load that the rifle favors—all variables that can complicate the process of verifying that a rifle doesn’t live up to its stated accuracy promise.
While testing three different loads in the Eclipse, I found the rifle to be capable of sub-m.o.a. accuracy with ammunition it likes. Three-shot groups ranged in size from 0.88 inch to 1.72 inches, with average group sizes ranging from roughly one inch to 1.5 inches. The CZ will shoot under an inch with ammo that suits it, which means it competes well with other rifles in this class.
The CZ’s controls are well laid out. The two-position safety is a push-to-fire design and doesn’t lock the bolt closed in the Safe position. The benefit is that the rifle can be loaded and unloaded with the safety engaged. The theoretical downside, however, is that the bolt handle could inadvertently catch on brush and open the action. While I’ve had this happen with other guns sharing a similar design, the CZ’s action is tight enough that I don’t foresee this being an issue with the Eclipse.
I do appreciate that the safety is easy to reach and manipulate, and there’s a large red dot visible when the safety is in the Fire position. Releasing the floorplate is simple thanks to the large button at the front of the trigger guard, but it’s also firm enough that I don’t suspect there to be any issues with accidental mag dumps.
Being located inside the receiver makes the bolt stop less accessible than other models with bolt stops on the left rear side of the receiver, but once you’re familiar with the system, it isn’t difficult to manipulate.
It takes a lot to compete in the crowded $600 to $700 rifle market, but the CZ 557 Eclipse has features that match up well with competing guns. I found it to be a well-built, buttoned-up rifle that is well-engineered and offers plenty of shooter-friendly features.
The Eclipse manages to be an affordable gun without being cheaply made, and it’s a gun you can count on to provide years of service without issues. I think it’s certainly a worthy heir to the late CZ 550.
CZ 557 Eclipse Specs
- Type: two-lug bolt-action centerfire
- Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor (tested), .308 Win., .30-06
- Capacity: 5+1
- Barrel: 20.5 in.; threaded 5/8x24
- Overall Length: 41.5 in.
- Weight: 6.8 lb.
- Stock: black synthetic
- Finish: bead-blasted blue
- Trigger: adjustable single-stage type; 2.4 lb. pull (measured, as received)
- Sights: none; receiver machined for 19mm rings
- Price: $659
- Manufacturer: CZ-USA, cz-usa.com