Gun test: CZ 457 Thumbhole Laminate in .22LR
- Credit: Archant
Broadsword is a big fan of thumbhole stocks and may have found his new favourite while testing the CZ 457 Thumbhole Laminate in .22...
The new range of 457 rimfires from CZ continue to see favour with not only the new rimfire shooter but also the hardened professional who relies on their build quality and accuracy for vermin control.In essence, that’s the nature of CZ rimfires – a dependable, reliable rifle. The 457 model is available in a variety of styles to please all shooters from target, mini sniper, synthetic or wood stocked versions. On test, we have one of the best of these models, namely the CZ 457 Thumbhole Laminate.
The universal, ambidextrous thumbhole stock design ensures a rugged, rigid and highly weather-resistant finish from its laminate construction, that’s also very stable and comfortable in the shoulder.
The newer 457 action is proving to be a hit among shooters and continues to utilise the older model 455 quick-change barrel systems, so a .22 LR can be instantly changed to a .17 HMR or .22 WMR with a new barrel and magazine kit. Differing barrel lengths of 16” or 20” and various barrel profiles can also be interchanged if you like. I had the standard configuration of .22 LR with a 16” varmint profiled barrel.
The CZ 457 Synthetic sporter stocked version at £430.99 will continue to be the most popular model no doubt, but this version for £704.99, with its symmetrical modern laminate stock of grey/brown, is definitely worth the extra money.
It’s a looker, in terms of both design style and the colour of the laminate used. Grey/brown layers of wood resined together for a super-strong, rigid platform to bed the action into makes a bold design statement. Usually, you see a green, grey or black laminate, so this colour scheme is a nice change. It also breaks up the outline of the CZ 457 and is therefore field/hunter-friendly, while the matt lacquer finish stops moisture ingress and is easily wiped clean.
CZ have not shied away with this stock design – it is very sculptural and every cut and scallop is there for a reason. Being laminate, it has a really solid and rigid feel to it, part of their appeal being a rigid bedding area to maintain accuracy as well as brushing off the elements. The differing layers of laminate match both sides and the high and low points really match the flowing lines of the stock profile, a small thing maybe but you do notice it, very nice. I also like the non-adjustable nature of this stock. You don’t always need an adjustable cheekpiece or length of pull, – here, the length of pull is a good 14.25” with a slim, solid, black recoil pad and spacer and two q/d sling swivel studs.
The forend is well designed with its dropped nose look, providing some air space at its extremity, making for a very free floated barrel. It is 1.25” wide at the tip with a semi-rounded profile and top lip for extra grip, which swells to 2.25” at the action end for additional support.
At the magazine port, the laminate has been milled deep so it sits flush with the hand only ever contacting the laminated woodwork for added comfort. As shooting off knees often has your hand in this position, it’s a nice touch. You also have a flowing trigger guard, which is all part of the laminate material; and it’s thick and wide at 1.75”, so very strong.
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This brings you to the pistol grip with its upright position; again, I like this, especially on a thumbhole design, as it feels natural to hold. Remember, this is an ambidextrous stock, so you have finger grooves on both sides and two palm swells with double the stippling panels, so a good grip from all angles. Behind the pistol grip is the large teardrop-shaped thumbhole, which allows for speedy access and a steady hold, all nicely profiled so the hand sits inside it comfortably.
The top bridge section is huge! Often an Achilles heel on many thumbholes, but not so on this CZ. It is so beefy you would have to be very unlucky to break it. That top bridge flows up and back into the comb section, which is suitably high for good scope sight alignment with either side offering a swell forming a comfortable cheekpiece. I also like laminate stocks as they are heavier than synthetics, but I would trade that in an instant as they provide a certain heft and warmth to the stock, as well as balancing the rifle when a sound moderator is fitted.
Bedding wise, you have two stock Allen screws with metal cups that sit on embedded synthetic pillars that mate with the action when the screws are tightened. There is also a small removeable metal recoil lug on the rear tang just behind the trigger, so all bedding issues are addressed. I know I have waxed lyrical about the stock, but it really is a very well-designed and capable thumbhole.
Action, barrel, trigger
I am getting used to the look of the 457 models and I’m starting to appreciate that all-over nitrided finish, as you have a low-reflective surface combined with good scratch resistance and a rust-proofed external finish. It mimics a matt, blued finish but is far superior.
The actual action is a bit boxy, a modern twist that goes with the more futuristic stock design, I guess. It is long at 6.25” with an integral 11mm dovetailed top for easy scope fitment or NV rail, and it also features several drilled recoil pits for mounts with recoil pins.
An elongated bolt release lever is recessed to the left of the action and with the bolt removed you have good access to the loading port and back end of the barrel/chamber for cleaning.
The bolt is trim at 5.25” with a bolt handle positioned just behind the mid-point of the body, allowing the front section to remain horizontal while the rear portion rotates with the bolt handle in a 60° arc locking precisely into the action.
You also have a large bolt guide that runs in a recess machined in the action that the bolt rides in, so the bolt action does not bind and is fast and positive in use. But make sure that any scope mounts with large external tightening screws are mounted with the screws to the left side, otherwise they can hit the bolt when opened. These BKLs had no issues in that regard.
The forward section of the bolt is stainless steel with an ejector cut for the action-mounted spur type ejector to ride in. You have really good twin extractor claws at the three and nine o’clock positions and the firing pin has a large top mounted rectangular profile for excellent and consistent ignition from a variety of ammunition types.
Another nice point is the trigger mechanism, which has an adjustable trigger for pull and weight via a screw located in the trigger blade itself and the trigger housing. It’s preset to 12N at the factory but is adjustable from 8-15N, with trigger travel adjustments from 0.5-5mm. I had no travel and a crisp release at 3.35lb, combined with a fast lock time due to the lighter striker used in the 457 action. This and the trigger all helps accuracy down range.
Due to the new bolt design, the safety position has changed from a wing-type to an action-sited one. It’s much easier to operate, to be honest, and operation is forward, showing red to fire and rearward with a white dot for safe. The bolt can be opened and removed, even with the safety engaged.
As mentioned, the magazine well is deeply recessed and the five-shot magazine provided (10-shot is an option) sits just below the lip of the stock. There is enough room to quickly release the mag as it pops out to get a good hold. Behind the magazine is the synthetic blanking plate that is removed for an HMR or WMR fitment if you decide to switch the barrel.
Talking of which, this barrel comes standard with a varmint profile of 0.880” diameter at the muzzle end and is screw cut with a ½” UNF thread with a muzzle brake/thread protector.
This barrel was 16” long, although a longer 20” is also available; both are hammer forged with a 1 in 16” rifling, so they will happily handle all available normal .22 LR ammo. You also have the two angled securing Allen screws at the action end, which, when unscrewed, allows for a quick change of barrel calibres and magazine, thereby doubling the potency of the CZ 457.
The Sportsman Gun Centre are now the agents for the Primary Arms optics manufacturing. This GLX 2.5-10 x 44mm scope uses a very good first focal plane ACSS Griffin Mil type reticule for perfect down-range bullet drop compensation and it complemented the 457 perfectly. I also fitted an over-the-barrel Wildcat Panther rimfire reflex moderator, which only increased the overall length to 38.25”.
In the field testing and conclusions
At 30 yards, the CZ was superbly accurate – no surprise there. Best load went to the Eley Subs that shot minuscule groups, as did the Winchester 42gr Max loads at 0.37” and 0.41” respectively. At 50 yards, the Eleys were still shooting five shots at 0.55”. I had the odd flier but that was me; -7°C outdoors does make you shiver a little!
In fact, all the subsonic ammunition shot very well indeed, so it just comes down to personal choice. The lower velocity rounds, which I like to use for ferals and close-quarters vermin work, also shot well, with the CCI Quiet being particularly accurate at 20 yards and incredibly quiet too, funny that! And although the 40gr bullet does not expand at that speed, it’s nevertheless superb with a safe backdrop as a ratter.
At 30 yards, the RWS Z Lang and CB Longs struggled a bit with larger groups, so with this gun keep the ranges sensible with super-slow rounds. The new SK Match long-range ammo was again super accurate with 1112 fps for 110 ft/lbs of energy and 0.45” groups, and if you like high velocity then the RWS HV hollow points achieved 1251 fps and 139 ft/lbs for 0.42” groupings. Even the lead-free offerings from Norma, with its 24gr composite bullet, achieved 0.85” five-shot groups at an eye watering 1571 fps and 132 ft/lbs.
In the field, the Primary scope was really good, both optically and with that FFP reticule allowing every bit of accuracy to be used at slightly ambitious ranges on unsuspecting bunnies.
The thumbhole design of this model was excellent and despite the cold and wet the CZ 457 kept its zero and delivered dead on each time. You still have that smooth bolt delivery and totally reliable action with cheap spare magazines and a super-tough nitride finish, so what more do you need?
Manufacturer: CZ, Ceska zbrojovka
Model: 457 Thumbhole
Type: Bolt Action Sporter
Overall Length: 34.25 inches
Barrel length: 16 inches, ½ UNF threaded
Weight: 7.1 lbs
Finish: Semi Matt Black Nitride
Stock: Laminate Thumbhole
Length of Pull: 14.25 inches
Magazine: 5 shot standard, 10 shot option
Sights: None furnished, 11mm scope dovetails
Trigger: Single stage, adjustable
Calibre: .22 LR on test, .17 HMR, .22WMR available