Hunting rifles don’t have to be expensive in order to be effective, and CZ’s new 557 Eclipse is a great example of this. The company revamped its esteemed Model 557 by eliminating unnecessary frills to create a no-nonsense tool for the hunter that desires a high-end firearm but who, at the same time, wants to have money left over for taxidermy.
The Eclipse’s receiver starts life as a solid steel billet that is then CNC-machined into shape. This includes two integral 19 mm dovetails atop the rifle that allow CZ-style scope rings to be mounted directly to the receiver. Once finished, the action is mated to a 20.5″-long, cold-hammer-forged, chrome-moly steel barrel.
At launch, the Eclipse is available chambered in three cartridges: 6.5 mm Creedmoor, .308 Win. and .30-’06 Sprg. The muzzles on the .30-cal. guns are cut with a recessed crown, while the Creedmoor comes threaded 5/8×24 TPI for a muzzle device. As the barrel is lapped at the factory there is no need to break it in, saving the user the labor and associated ammunition costs. The barreled action is finished with a deep matte bluing that protects it from the elements and safe rash in-between seasons.
The rifle employs a rather simplistic push-feed mechanism, and this is a big reason for its overall affordability. The bolt is a two-lug design that offers a 90-degree throw, and it is plenty sturdy for the three chamberings offered. Rounds are fed from an internal five-round magazine that features a hinged floorplate to speed up the unloading process—just don’t forget about the one in the chamber. The floorplate is released via a push button that is unobtrusively located just forward of the trigger guard.
Although this rifle is designed to be economical, CZ did not skimp on the trigger. The Eclipse’s trigger is user-adjustable, and our test rifle had a pull-weight range of between 1 lb., 13 ozs. and 3 lbs., 12 ozs.—with accuracy testing for this review conducted at the lightest setting. In addition, it can be adjusted for pre-travel as well as overtravel. Other features include an American-style black synthetic stock with soft-touch texturing, unique polygonal checkering on the grip and fore-end areas, and an over-size rubber buttpad. As for functionality, the rifle includes a total of three sling studs—two fore and one aft—allowing both a two-point sling and a bipod to be employed simultaneously.
Before hitting the range, we mounted a Riton X3 Primal riflescope using a pair of Warne Maxima rings. As the optic offers a 3-15X magnification range we felt it would be a good choice atop a .308 Win.-chambered Eclipse, as 15X is quite appropriate for accuracy testing, while 3X is realistic for many hunting scenarios inside of 200 yds. Ironically, the open upper hemisphere of the scope’s reticle gives it a distinctly European feel, while the European rifle itself feels perfectly American through its stock design and push-to-fire safety. For ammunition we selected loads with bullets weighing 150, 168 and 175 grs.
Our range day mimicked typical hunting conditions of the northeast with its 33° F ambient temperature. As we fired our formal accuracy test, we paid attention to any feeding issues that the gun experienced. The only time we seemed to have a problem was when we failed to seat the rounds as far back in the magazine as possible before pressing them down. Aside from that, the gun was a dream to shoot. The bolt cycled exceedingly smoothly, and recoil was more than manageable, even with the heavier bullets. We fired many near-minute-of-angle groups with all three types of ammunition—as well as one just inside of one m.o.a. with the Winchester USA Ready load. Aside from the rifle’s consistency, we found it to be superbly balanced when fired in the standing position, and it also lent itself well to both seated and prone shooting.
Disassembly of the CZ 557 Eclipse is about as simple as with any bolt-action, once you find the bolt release. In this case, it is covered by the bolt and can’t be accessed until it is retracted. We found this design to be exceptionally well thought out, as tucking it away protects it from getting snagged on other gear or brush. Once removed, full access to the bore is granted and no further disassembly is needed for a typical cleaning. If the rifle was exposed to excessive moisture the stock can be removed just by loosening the two action screws that hold everything together. Reassembly of the rifle is as simple as reversing these steps and torquing the screws down to 64 in.-lbs., which is slightly less than other 557 models due to this rifle’s plastic “bottom metal.”
We found our time with the CZ Eclipse 557 to be very enjoyable. The company’s goal with this gun was to offer a 557 at a lower price point, and we appreciated that it successfully did so without sacrificing quality or any important features.