June 16, 2021
The company now known as CZ was originally Ceska Zbrojovka, or “Czech Weapons Factory.” It was founded in 1936 in the city of Uhersky Brod in what was then Czechoslovakia. This city was chosen for the country’s arms manufacturing plant because it was far away from the German border and Hitler’s bombers, but in 1938–1939, Germany seized control of Czechoslovakia.
CZ guns have been available in the United States since 1991 and are now imported by CZ-USA, which is headquartered in Kansas City, Kansas. CZ offers a wide array of centerfire rifles; over-under, side-by-side, and autoloading shotguns; centerfire semiautomatic pistols; and lots of delightful .22 rimfire rifles.
CZ’s line of high-quality .22 rimfire rifles began with the introduction of the Model 452 in 1954. The Model 455 debuted in 2010, and additional refinements resulted in the Model 457 in 2019. CZ has listened to its customers and American shooters in particular. In fact, CZ has developed several versions of its rifles called “American,” and each is tweaked especially to suit shooters on this side of the Atlantic.
With their numerous design improvements, members of the Model 457 rifle family are easily the finest .22 rimfires CZ has ever produced. Several variations of the Model 457 are offered, so there’s one available for just about any purpose and shooter preference, including the Varmint MTR, ProVarmint, Training Rifle, and Varmint Precision Chassis. Some models are chambered for .17 HMR and .22 WMR in addition to .22 LR.
To me, the most interesting Model 457 is the Royal, which was unveiled in 2020 and is in a class all by itself. I had the pleasure of putting a brand-new rifle through its paces recently, and as you will see, it’s fit for a monarch.
The .22 LR Model 457 Royal is a real standout, and one of the features it shares with other Model 457 variations is a push-forward-to-fire-style safety. One of the things that Americans did not like about the Models 452 and 455 was their “backward” safeties. Contrary to just about every other gun in America, the safety was “On” when it was pushed forward and had to be pulled back for the guns to fire.
Another big change was some significant redesigns to the action. CZ chopped almost an inch off the length of the Model 457 action and made it somewhat “slab-sided” to reduce the gun’s weight and footprint. It’s functional, but I think it looks pretty classy, too. In addition, the bottom metal is now an elegant interlocking two-piece system instead of the stamped part of previous models. And since a lot of shooters mount a scope on their .22s, CZ modified the bolt lift from 90 degrees to 60 degrees. This gives more clearance between the bolt knob and a scope’s ocular bell and permits the use of lower rings. Incidentally, scope rings no longer come with many CZ rifles and have to be purchased separately. Not to worry, though. They are readily available from CZ and other makers of scope rings.
Speaking of scopes, CZ supplied a set of 11mm rings for a 1-inch scope, and I mounted a Bushnell Prime 3-12X 40mm riflescope on the Model 457 Royal for this report. This fine scope has a side parallax adjustment and precise 0.25-minute click adjustments that worked like a charm. Its optics are bright and clear, and the MSRP is $229.95, which is a bargain in just about anybody’s book. With scope attached, the Model 457 Royal weighs 7 pounds, 9 ounces.
A good trigger is at the heart of good rifle accuracy. While the older CZ Model 455 was a great rifle, the trigger wasn’t adjustable. Well, the trigger on the Model 457 Royal is adjustable for weight of pull, creep, and overtravel. None of that was necessary on my rifle. Get this: The weight of pull on my rifle, right out of the box, was a delightful 2 pounds, 6 ounces, and it was nice and crisp.
A lot of features of the older CZ models didn’t need any improvement, including the excellent removable box magazine. As I understand it, both steel and polymer magazines are available and in five- and 10-round versions. A five-round steel magazine came with my rifle. It fits almost flush with the bottom of the action for a clean look and feel, and it fed hundreds of cartridges into my test gun without a hitch.
Overall, the aesthetics of the Model 457 Royal are, in a word, superb. The stock is Turkish walnut that is nicely figured, precisely fitted to the metal, and luxuriously finished in what I’d call a satin semi-gloss (it might even be handrubbed oil).
The fore-end has a “contrasting” wood tip of an unidentified species, and the buttstock has a black rubber “recoil pad” that is about 0.5 inch thick and slightly concave in its center.
In addition, the fore-end and buttstock have lots of fine-line checkering with absolutely no overruns or flattened diamonds. Plus, there are fleur-de-lis symbols carved into each of the checkering panels. Two uncheckered crescent lines accent the panels on the bottom of the fore-end. I’m guessing this checkering is machine-cut, but I don’t really care because it’s perfect.
A dainty cheekpiece that is not despoiled with a Monte Carlo comb is on the left side of the buttstock. And here’s an elegant touch that you don’t see these days on many rifles, at any price: perfectly inletted sling swivels fore and aft, each affixed with two hex screws.
The Model 457 Royal is available with either a 16.5-inch or a 20.5-inch barrel, and the twist is one turn in 16 inches (standard for the .22 LR). The muzzle is threaded 1/2-20 (a European standard) and comes with a protective cap. The metal finish is a subdued matte blue.
My barrel has the 20.5-inch-long barrel, and it is completely free-floated from the fore-end to the receiver. This obviously contributed to the fine accuracy I achieved with the rifle.
Let’s take a look at the range results. I tested 25 different .22 LR loads with bullet weights from 36 to 45 grains. The vast majority, of course, weighed 40 grains. I fired three, five-shot groups at 50 yards with each load from my indoor benchrest. The overall average of 75 groups was 0.83 inch; many were just one ragged hole, and 68 percent of the loads averaged under an inch. The average of all 40-grain loads was 0.78 inch.
There are only two slight digs I can muster on this rifle. First, “CZ 457 ROYAL” is engraved in 0.25-inch-high letters on each side of the stock just ahead of the receiver. It’s nicely done, but I think it looks out of place on such an exquisite rifle. Second, the fore-end extends 13.5 inches in front of the receiver. This leaves only 6 inches of the 20.5-inch barrel showing. I think it makes the barrel look too short or the fore-end look too long. But maybe this is just me.
I test a lot of rifles and always wonder if shooter fatigue plays a role in the size of groups from the first ones to the last ones. So when shooting the Model 457 Royal, I kept track of the order in which the loads were fired and calculated the correlation coefficient (r) for the data. This datum was .027, indicating there was almost no relationship between group size and the order fired. However, there was a modest positive relationship (r = .72) between bullet velocity and group size. (Remember, r just indicates a relationship and has nothing to do with cause and effect.)
Accuracy was nothing short of outstanding, and many loads gave some pretty impressive velocities for the .22 LR. Twelve of the loads topped 1,200 fps, and Browning’s 40-grain Target & Hunting registered 1,431 fps for a “whopping” 182 ft-lbs of muzzle energy. While a lot of loads delivered very good accuracy, there were some standouts. As might be expected, the slower 40-grain match loads, with velocities around 1,050 fps to 1,180 fps shot well, with an overall group average of 0.78 inch. The premium loads from Lapua and SK, all with 40-grain bullets, averaged 0.60 inch and 0.48 inch respectively. The smallest group average was with Winchester M-22 Black Copper Plated 40-grain RN ammo. It averaged a phenomenal 0.34 inch and a velocity of 1,223 fps.
Overall, the CZ Model 457 Royal performed, well, royally. Functioning was 100 percent with all loads, and no one could complain about the accuracy. With an MSRP of $769, the Model 457 Royal is a bit more expensive than a lot of .22 rifles, but from where I sit, it looks to be worth a bit more, too. As my friend and serious gun guy Scott Castle likes to say, “It costs a little more to go First Class.”
CZ 457 Royal Rifle Specs
TYPE: Bolt-action repeater
CALIBER: .22 LR
MAGAZINE CAPACITY: 5 rounds
BARREL: 20.5 in.
OVERALL LENGTH: 38.25 in.
WEIGHT, EMPTY: 6.04 lbs.
STOCK: Checkered Turkish walnut with sling swivels, recoil pad, and contrasting wood fore-end tip
LENGTH OF PULL: 14 in.
FINISH: Matte blued steel, satin semi-gloss wood
SIGHTS: None; receiver is milled for CZ-USA scope mounts
TRIGGER: 2.38-lb. pull (as tested)
SAFETY: Two position (push forward to fire)
MANUFACTURER: CZ-USA; cz-usa.com