CZ 457 Long Range Precision rifle - test & review

PUBLISHED: 14:01 14 February 2021 | UPDATED: 10:05 16 February 2021

Not specifically a hunting rifle but certainly no slouch thanks to deft handling and balance

Not specifically a hunting rifle but certainly no slouch thanks to deft handling and balance

Archant

Without doubt, one of the finest rifles I have ever used” - Chris Parkin reviews the CZ 457 Long Range Precision rifle in .22 rimfire

CZ 457 Long Range Precision in 22 RimfireCZ 457 Long Range Precision in 22 Rimfire

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CZ 457 LONG RANGE PRECISION IN .22 RIMFIRE | BRIEF OVERVIEW

PROS: Action design; Trigger design; Stock design; Ballistic performance; Value for money

CONS: Stock adjustments require Torx Wrench; The colour may not appeal to everyone

VERDICT: Without doubt, one of the finest rifles I have ever used

20” barrel is screwcut and supplied with a muzzle brake, I added a SAK moderator20” barrel is screwcut and supplied with a muzzle brake, I added a SAK moderator

CZ 457 LONG RANGE PRECISION IN .22 RIMFIRE | TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL: CZ 457 long Range Precision

CALIBRE: 22 Rimfire (other barrels available)

Magazine Capacity: 5 round supplied but 10 round available

Barrel: 525mm/20” Hammer forged screwcut ½” UNF with brake

Length: 1010mm/40”

Fully free-floating barrel in all conditions within the stiff stockFully free-floating barrel in all conditions within the stiff stock

Weight: 3.8kg/8.4 lbs

Length of pull: 351-382mm/13.8 to 15”

CONTACT: Sportsman Gun Centre

PRICE: £976.99 (Extra barrel “minisets” £175-£253)

Plentiful stippling on the meaty soft touch stock for excellent grip and easily cleanedPlentiful stippling on the meaty soft touch stock for excellent grip and easily cleaned

ALSO USED

SK Ammunition www.vikingarms.com

Schmidt & Bender www.schmidt-bender.com

Kestrel ballistic accessories www.r-p-r.co.uk

Unsurpassed bolt handling characteristicsUnsurpassed bolt handling characteristics

CZ 457 LONG RANGE PRECISION IN .22 RIMFIRE | IN-DEPTH TEST & REVIEW

The arrival of the Long-Range Precision certainly stated CZ’s approach to the growing market for precision rimfire shooting and long-range use as well as PRS-style events, but is it good enough to compete in a market that’s already becoming quite crowded? I waited a long time for this rifle, and by the end of this piece, you should have a clear idea about what the new CZ is bringing to the party.

The rifle is supplied with a pepper pot, flush-profile muzzle brake screwed over the barrel’s ½” UNF thread. Underneath, the crown is impeccable, and I easily swapped over to a sound moderator. This barrel shows flutes along its 20” parallel profile all the way back to the cylindrical action.

It is coated in an unspecified corrosion-resistant finish which, in fairness, is applied smoothly to a deep matt black/blue lustre and has withstood all manner of rain, mud and condensation when it came home at night with no bother at all. It’s worth mentioning that like the previous 455, this is a switch barrel rifle; alternative barrels and calibres are available.

Remove the rifle from the stock, slacken off the twin angled impinging grub screws at the front of the action and the barrel will slide out. There is a small spacer within the action to control headspace and mates into a rebate for the appropriate calibres, so if you change to, say, a .17 HMR, the entire job can be done in about five minutes with basic tools. You need the correct magazine for either .22/.17 cartridge length and this is controlled with a neat spacer that avoids any kind of clunky assembly.

A stock design that leaves others in its wakeA stock design that leaves others in its wake

Action overview

The action is supplied with an overhanging Weaver rail with 25 MOA inclination built in for long-range shooting and is an appropriate length for longer target style scopes for correct eye relief.

Twin extractor claws span the control-feed bolt face with a mechanical ejector appearing below as the bolt is drawn rearward on its 42.5mm stroke. This rail is slotted and screwed over the machined-in dovetails atop the 457 action – this not only allows a return to zero when swapping barrels and scopes, it also helps stiffen the otherwise open-topped action supporting that 22mm diameter barrel.

The bolt handle has a single rear-locking lug at the base of the handle. It can’t snag or stall on any of the action surfaces as it never retreats beyond them. This is a clever design that enjoys smooth operation and minimal rattle.

The shaft itself is only 130mm long and with a 33mm handle extending to support the 33mm spherical handle, it all looks a little bulky. In this case, however, looks are very deceptive. This is the finest bolt-action rimfire I have operated, regardless of price. Its mechanical flow and balance are impeccable, and that rubberised, facetted gem-like rubber knob might look bulky, but it accommodates fingertip or full-grip operating styles.

Recoil pad adjustability and length of pull spacers, which are included with the rifleRecoil pad adjustability and length of pull spacers, which are included with the rifle

The 60° lift never intrudes on the scope mounts or scope. The striker/firing pin weight has been significantly reduced to two thirds of that of the older style. The firing pin tip itself is reassuring functional, with a chisel tip design, and interestingly also shows a flat region to interface with the outer breech area. I expect this is likely to extend the firing pin’s life as well as control impact depth and, I have to say, this rifle got used a lot on test and never suffered from dead man’s click.

CZ supply a single-column five-round polymer magazine familiar to all previous iterations of the 452/453/455 and a 10-rounder is also available. It features a release catch at the front of the mag well and drops into your hand for single loading from the front. It is worth mentioning that rounds transit smoothly into the breech without damage or excess lubricant smearing/shearing and, as mentioned earlier, if you swap chamberings, the feed ramp is part of the headspacing insert and after swapping the barrel for a .17 HMR, I can confirm it works faultlessly with either ballistic tipped or hollow point bullets.

[Trev please include this pic]

100 metre test groups on the 50mm patches with SK Match ammo were often almost unbelievably good[Trev please include this pic] 100 metre test groups on the 50mm patches with SK Match ammo were often almost unbelievably good

Adjustability

You can adjust the single-stage trigger from 8 to 15 Newtons (800-1,500 gr) and mine arrived at this lowest setting with crisp pulls. CZ’s manual describes how to adjust the trigger for weight, sear engagement and overtravel, the first two of which are the most directly involved with trigger performance.

What a refreshing approach to rifle sports with warnings printed, but appreciation that some people can be trusted to refine a wear and tear component throughout what is likely to be a rifle that lasts a lifetime. Old CZs just never die and many of us likely started our shooting careers with one!

A red ‘cocked action’ indicator pin appears from the steel shroud along with a right-side two-position safety: forward for fire, with no bolt handle lock, and rearward for safe. The rear left side of the action bridge shows a modern non-trigger-dependant bolt release.

SK Match was this rifle’s favourite fodder during testingSK Match was this rifle’s favourite fodder during testing

Sensational stock

Stock design often demonstrates a rifle’s intended purpose and what a cracker this is. The underlying structure is beech with an intricately machined shape blending with aluminium sections for the butt. It is coated in a soft-touch material for grip in a light grey colour.

Heavy stippling is moulded into the underside and walls of the 59mm-wide fore-end with similar additions to the ambidextrous, vertical pistol grip with a moderate palm swell. The barrel is fully free-floated all the way to the action with excellent stiffness in the aforementioned fore-end.

Although no accessory rails are provided, these may be added to the underlying timber structure; that is personal choice and I have no specific desire for them, although chassis rifle fans might see this as a missing element. The angled face leaves plenty of space for the leading hand, you can wrap it quite high with fingers or thumbs pinning the rifle in place on a barricade with no barrel contact.

So far, the soft-touch surface has cleaned up well after some incredibly muddy gloop got smeared deeply into the texture and a light spray of cleaner was all that was needed to return it back to showroom condition.

The butt hookoffers class leading ergonomicsThe butt hookoffers class leading ergonomics

Underneath, the spacious two-piece aluminium trigger guard allows gloved fingers to access the 8mm-wide, curved blade without interference; reach to the blade is about 85mm from the web of your thumb, and your index finger is likely to sit on the grip. Thumb up or wrapped are both options, but I found the flat upper surface preferred the latter approach. The stock’s lighter colour did tend to accumulate a greasy mark from that same thumb continually loading magazines, but this wiped off with a cloth and some spray with no effect to the soft-touch finish. There’s plenty of space for three fingers to grip the gun, assuring a delicate, yet assured hold.

These subtleties hide behind this overtly purposeful stock with a height-adjustable cheekpiece and recoil pad. Both require a T25 Torx to adjust them, which could be judged as a downside compared to fingertip adjusters and the cheekpiece may need adjustment or removal if you need to remove the bolt, but this is really no huge hassle with knurled posts under the stippled polymer comb locking solidly in position without wobble or rattle.

The same tool is needed for the recoil pad’s vertical adjustment and it can also be swung slightly sideways to refine stock fit into your shoulder pocket around the collar bone. Again, everything is 100% solid and very comfortable, with the firm but grippy recoil pad remaining well planted into the shoulder.

Length-of-pull spacers are supplied to accommodate 351-382mm of adjustment and these are slotted/swivelled in place. Not fast-adjust but not rattly either. Cheek position on the comb is good, with a 47mm width for eye/scope alignment. I like the fact that from the side the lower areas are scalloped clear to minimise jawbone disruption. Although they might look like “pretty graceful swooping shapes,” they are also 100% functional.

Subtle touches

A butt hook sits underneath with a 75mm accessory rail for a monopod. This can be used as a rest with a soft rear bag or fist; if you want to add a bag rider, covers are available to smooth over the Picatinny-style teeth.

The hook itself is well spaced away from the recoil pad and carries stippling on all surfaces. Some say this is unnecessary on a .22 rimfire with such little recoil, but I disagree –this stocks’ design is the signature of a true shooter and engineer, not a stylist obsessing with looks alone.

Bi-lateral quick-release anchor points for a sling are available with two conventional sling studs on the fore-end’s underside for a bipod and other accessories. Some may complain of missed opportunities for more rail additions, such as M-Lock mounts for bipods, but I cannot stress how strongly I feel that this stock’s inherent design is masterful.

The 457 shares commonality with all the previous 455’s with its barrel changing optionsThe 457 shares commonality with all the previous 455’s with its barrel changing options

Ammo options

I ran the gun in on various odd boxes of ammo to get a feel for set-up and control until I received three types of SK ammo from Viking Arms, with Standard Plus, Match and Long-Range becoming the basis of the review.

All three performed well on paper at 50m with minimal spread between three similar 40gr round-nose lead bullets, all wearing a skim of lubricant that was suited for target use with no waxy residue left to gum up the magazine’s feed lips or the breech face.

All three come with ballistic data and tested muzzle velocities, but I ignored these and began shooting with a 50m zero plugged into the Kestrel with a 0.172 G1 ballistic coefficient. Great performance at the zero and consistency over the chronograph created a good vibe about the rifle and the urge to push it further.

SK measure velocity in a 26” barrel with 327 m/s (1073 fps) listed for both Match and Standard. The Long-Range Match is listed at 335 m/s (1099 fps), which is getting perilously close to the speed of sound. Average velocities in the CZ were 1071 fps for Standard (es 10), 1079 for Match (es 19), and 1127 for Long-Range (es 14). The latter was clearly supersonic and although effective on target out to about 175/190m, it could produce some serious vertical flyers.

The supplied pepper box muzzle brake alongside one of the stock spacersThe supplied pepper box muzzle brake alongside one of the stock spacers

The Standard was the most consistent in terms of extreme spread (es) over 20 rounds but the occasional significant flyer was noted. The SK Match showed itself to be exactly that: match quality with no damaged bullets and, although extreme spread may be judged slightly broader, it retained its groups except for perhaps one round in every 50.

The point I’m getting to is that because the rifle felt so capable with superb trigger pulls, comfort (both prone or benchrested) it made me look into the ammo so much more than the rifle. Bolt manipulation was light and fast with zero distraction from point of aim on a gun that certainly won’t jump off target from recoil.

This allowed bullets to be seen in flight on occasion as well as trace noted. The ability to reload quickly allowed shot strings to be performed more rapidly in variable wind conditions. The inherent consistency of performance and the ability to spot and dial accurate corrections for down-range wind conditions at ranges out to 305m allowed me to enjoy every aspect of shooting the rifle.

It was fascinating to explore the long-range ballistics of a rimfire for once, the effects of which are noticeable at just 200m, as opposed to a long-range centrefire at 1,000m. All done at low cost, a small scale and with significantly less noise.

Because I stayed subsonic, I was able to shoot hundreds of rounds a day on the farm next to my house without disturbance. The supplied test target showed 9mm centre-to-centre groups on the test range (probably a wind-free tunnel) and I found the rifle outperformed even this in the real world. Extended-distance targets speak for themselves and I never felt this gun let me down – just my own ability to judge the wind..!

CZ are not shy of allowing trigger adjustment options others shy away fromCZ are not shy of allowing trigger adjustment options others shy away from

And finally...

I review and shoot a lot of guns; I only ever compare them against direct market peers where the overall difference is often small. Most are decent rifles and have interesting design and style elements, but the CZ is different. You might prefer a slimmer chassis to slot through tight barricade gaps or add multiple accessory points and that’s a fair comment, but I very much doubt a better action, barrel and stock is available anywhere else.

I personally like the LRP’s stock design; it is comfortable, with a slightly rear-weighted balance. The barrelled action and accompanying stock certainly convinced me to take my hat off to CZ. This is an exceptionally good gun, with attention paid to tiny details that deliver impressive results. CZ have simply raised the bar without excessive cost and have clearly observed market trends, listening to shooters, not just designers.

They have blended ergonomics with mechanics, looks and performance and I fell in love with this rifle. I won’t say it’s the best rifle I have ever used, but I will say it’s the first one in 10 years as a reviewer I couldn’t comprehend sending back, so bought it outright!

Chisel tipped lightweight firing pin and pin stop to prevent tip damage. CZ certainly  know rimfire designChisel tipped lightweight firing pin and pin stop to prevent tip damage. CZ certainly know rimfire design

In a world of marketing claims, this is one I rather like!In a world of marketing claims, this is one I rather like!

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