CZ 557 Range Rifle in 308 Win
Like Steyr, Ruger and Tika, it appears that CZ from Czech Republic have also joined the foray into producing a Scout rifle. Originally envisioned by Col. Jeff Cooper in the 80s, the Scout rifle concept was meant as “one rifle for all purpose” and works great as a survival rifle of sorts. It has to be lightweight, have backup iron sights, chambered in 308 Win caliber, and feature a detachable magazine for quicker reload.
The Scout rifle has once again had a resurgence as of late, and has come into discussion again with the Canadian Rangers rifle program in 2017 requesting for a Scout type rifle in 308 Win and a magazine holding 10 rounds. Eventually Tikka won the procurement with their T3x ARCTIC rifle, beating out submissions from Steyr and CZ.
CZ introduced this rifle to the commercial market as the CZ 557 Range Rifle. And here we have a closer look at the double stack magazine and its iron sights that are visible even with the factory scope base in place.
Here is a long description off CZ Europe’s product page.
CZ 557 Range Rifle – a universal rifle from Uherský Brod
In the early 1980s, the legendary gun guru Jeff Cooper formulated a concept for the Scout Rifle. His ideal was a compact and powerful repeater suitable for hunting and combat. It was supposed to be a .308 Win. cal. rifle with a total length of up to one meter and weighing less than 3 kg, capable of repeatedly hitting a target the size of a human figure up to 450 meters using mechanical sights. Mentioning this historical fact is not a coincidence – I think Jeff would have liked the new Uherský Brod rifle.
Cooper’s vision of a universal rifle is an interesting phenomenon. Many experts and customers were excited about such an idea, but when one looks at it, there aren’t many mass produced weapons meeting or at least approaching the criteria of a Scout Rifle on the market at all. The reason is simple – to meet all these visionary requirements is not easy. The first real factory-made Scout Rifle was not created until the second half of the 1990s, and it came with the emergence of a new generation of modern materials and technologies. Even then it only just met the requirement for weight, because the 3 kg he aspired for is still a pretty big hurdle for a .308 capable of the required accuracy.
The topic of rifles belonging to the Scout Rifle category has recently come to the fore because of a tender for the rearmament of the Canadian Rangers. This distinctive patrol unit operating in hard to reach areas of the Canadian wilderness has required, as a replacement for its outdated military repeaters, a modern universal rifle in the spirit of Jeff Cooper’s concept. Only a bit more embellished with some tried and tested elements of the discarded Lee-Enfields.
Supporters of the Scout Rifle concept no doubt sing their thanks to this tender, since because of it, several new models have been created and tested, which Jeff Cooper would have definitely approved of. Among them is a brand new rifle from Uherský Brod. Now this would have probably impressed Jeff even more, since it is no secret that he had a soft spot for Česká zbrojovka weapons.
The Breakthrough CZ 557
In Uherský Brod, the new model CZ 557, created by extensively modernizing the popular CZ 550 series, was chosen as the starting point. In fact, the changes were so significant that a completely new model has been created. The 550s and the 557s share just some structural and functional principles and several minor parts.
To simplify, CZ 557 is a modern repeating rifle with a cylindrical ‘push feed’ bolt. It is locked into the receiver by two symmetrical locking lugs. The firing mechanism is cocked while the bolt is being opened. The 557 is equipped with a fully adjustable trigger mechanism and uses a technologically simple method of attaching the barrel into the receiver, which has a positive effect on high accuracy.
Uherský Brod weapons are known to be accurate, reliable and extremely durable, but until recently, it was regarded that concerning technology, the company remained as if was still at the end of the 20th century. A regular customer would probably not have noticed, but in many ways, because of the technologies, the company was hampered. In contrast, the new 557 was from the beginning designed to use the latest manufacturing processes, led by the use of modern mill-turn machining centres. Thanks to its sophisticated design and technology, the CZ 557 is not only easier and faster to produce, but can also be easily and quickly adapted to market needs. A good example is the Range Rifle model, which began to be created according to the requirements by the Canadian Rangers.
The current version of the 557, of which there are quite a few on the market now, is between 1,042 mm and 1,083 mm in length overall, with the barrel being 520 mm. The weight is about 3.3 kg (an approximate value as it is strongly influenced by properties of a particular blank). Some versions are equipped with mechanical sights and all allow the attachment of a scope onto a 19 mm dovetail groove on the receiver bridges. All versions also have a fully adjustable trigger mechanism (with the resistance adjustable in the range of 10 to 22 N). It has already been mentioned here. It is a wonderful thing, for which you do not need a double set trigger. Up until now, the basis was a two-position safety without a bolt block. Another safety feature is the indicator in the form of the rear end of the firing pin, which protrudes from the bolt head when the bolt is cocked. There is no need to discuss the cold forged barrels in length; they have long been significantly contributing to the respected accuracy of CZ rifles.
The CZ 557 entered the market with a cartridge box, which was also typical of all previous versions. Although there were rumours that Česká zbrojovka had also designed a magazine version, it had not featured in the offer. The situation changed only with the arrival of the Range Rifle of .308 Win. cal., which was launched after the completion of the Canadian tender. Reportedly, the Uherský Brod model did extremely well in this tender.
A Rifle for All Seasons
During the development of this rifle according to the specifications of the Canadian Rangers, it was essential for Česká zbrojovka to maintain the maximum specifications of the current CZ 557 version. This particularly applied to the barrel, whose length of 520 mm is a well calculated optimum. It is short enough for the weapon not to be too long and long enough for the proper burning of the powder charge in cartridges of the calibre used and to maintain high accuracy.
Taking this into account, it was clear that the criteria required by Cooper – incidentally, once the standard for infantry weapons intended for combat in trenches – was an unachievable goal. However, only by the proverbial close shave. Because by shortening the receiver, the overall length of the new rifle reached only 1,028 mm, including the thick rubber buttplate. Without it we would have done it.
It is similar with the weight. A little was saved by shortening the system, but since it is a rifle with a wooden stock, it is extremely difficult to keep it below 3 kg, not including ammunition, without a fatal impact to the ergonomics. (As already pointed out, much depends on the properties of the particular blank.) Nevertheless, shooters with a weaker constitution will not regret it, because a shot fired from a .308 is not easy.
The compactness of the Range Rifle is, if a little surprisingly, amplified by a new element in the form of a long Weaver mounting rail (Picatinny Rail), mounted on the top of the receiver. Therefore, it is nice to see that the middle part of the rifle gained a bit of bulk. Therefore the user does not have to rely on CZ assemblies only and can choose from a substantially wider selection of the optical or electronic sights. Additionally, the rail also has viewing apertures. In other words – the well-designed mechanical sights (with the option of adjusting the rear sight inclination and with the front sight accentuated by fibre optic) can be used without having to remove the rail. This feature has been tried and tested and it really is no problem. And for some, the longitudinal groove in the middle of the mounting rails may even improve results.
The magazine – mentioned so far just briefly. In Uherský Brod, they actually did work on it before, however, the Canadians strictly asked for a capacity of 10 rounds (à la Lee-Enfield). It has a steel body and as expected, it is double stacked with a double stack mouth and therefore it is easy to fill and of a reasonable size. The catch is on the front wall of the trigger guard, well protected yet easily accessible.
The lacquered beech stock of American type has two pins on the bottom part of the forend, one is used for attaching a bipod and the other for a loop to attach the sling.
The CZ 557 Range Rifle was originally intended as a de facto military weapon, although the Canadian Rangers would use it on bears rather than people. In any case, it received a double action trigger in a traditional military style as the basis, with the first resistance between about 12 to 18 N, which rises up to 30 N before firing. However, the trigger mechanism is designed in such a way that after appropriate adjustments, it behaves as a single action mechanism. Do consider using the services of a specialist workshop, because the CZ 557 trigger can be set really “sharply”.
There is one more significant difference from the current CZ 557: when secured, the manual safety blocks the bolt. This rifle is intended for use in bad weather and impenetrable terrain, and in this configuration there is no risk of the bolt being inadvertently opened when you push your way through dense undergrowth.
Česká zbrojovka calls the CZ 557 Range Rifle model “a rifle for a real man” and combines it with a photo of a tough guy. This “Cooper” from Uherký Brod is really not for everyone. It is a weapon belonging to the working tool category. It is short, relatively lightweight and durable, of high performance and with great fire capacity. It is ideal to be constantly at hand in real wilderness where you can suddenly come across predators and not necessarily just the four legged variety only. I would not recommend this rifle for Sunday shooters; nonetheless, in addition to the positives mentioned before, experienced users will certainly appreciate its readiness and high accuracy.
To sum it up, I am back at my initial thought. I really think that Jeff Cooper would really like the CZ 557 Range Rifle and I am sure he certainly would have forgiven those few extra millimetres and grams, which separate it from his ideal – the Scout Rifle. Because overall, it is undoubtedly a fully-fledged universal rifle that one need not be afraid to entrust his life to.
Sadly, this rifle is not available in the US. If you are interested, perhaps you should contact CZ USA and express your interest in purchasing one.