November 15, 2021
When I first joined Shooting Times as assistant editor 29.5 years ago, my personal limit for the price of a used gun was $350. In other words, I thought I could afford just about any used gun I found that “tripped my trigger” as long as it was $350 or less. Most of the new guns I fancied at that time were in the neighborhood of $800, so I had to be awfully choosy about which of them I could buy. Since then, all the major riflemakers have created lines of economy-grade new rifles with MSRPs ranging from about $600 to almost $800. With inflation, based on what one online calculator determined, my 1992 $350 limit is now equal to $661.08, so theoretically, I should be able to afford a bunch of today's economy-grade new rifles. Not many of those rifles “trip my trigger.” The new Model 557 Eclipse from CZ-USA does. In my mind it's not just another one of those inexpensive synthetic-stocked budget rifles. Here's why.
The Model 557 Eclipse features a push-feed-type action. The bolt has dual-opposed locking lugs, a recessed boltface that provides a ring of steel around the case-head, and a relatively large bolt knob. The extractor is a Sako style, and the ejector is a plunger style. Our review sample had very little bolt wobble when working the bolt back and forth, and as expected, it locks up tightly when pushed forward and turned.
CNC-machined from billet steel, the action has a two-position, push-forward-to-fire safety located on the right side near the bolt shroud. There is a cocking indicator on the back end of the bolt shroud, and the boltstop is located on the left side of the action. By the way, the bolt can be removed with the safety engaged.
The trigger is a very nice single-stage mechanism. It is user-adjustable, but because our rifle's pull averaged a crisp, clean 2 pounds, 15 ounces right out of the box, I didn't make any adjustments to it for this report. Interestingly, the 10 measurements that made up that average varied by just 4 ounces.
The cold-hammer-forged barrel is 20.5 inches long, lapped at the factory, and given a recessed crown at the muzzle. Our rifle is chambered for .308 Winchester, which is one of my personal favorites for a hunting rifle, and the Model 557 Eclipse is also offered in 6.5 Creedmoor and .30-06. They all have 20.5-inch-long barrels, and the Creedmoor's muzzle is threaded. Our sample's barrel measured 0.62 inch in diameter at the muzzle and 1.23 inches where it joins the action.
With its short barrel, the Model 557 Eclipse's overall length is 41.5 inches. It weighs 6 pounds, 13 ounces without a scope.
The Model 557 Eclipse has a hinged floorplate made of strong polymer, and our rifle's internal magazine holds five rounds of .308 ammo. (Magazine capacity for the other two chamberings is also five rounds.) The floorplate release button is located at the front of the trigger guard.
The short barrel and the synthetic stock are perhaps the most notable features of the Eclipse version, and the stock is not your average cheap plastic stock. This one is very well designed and crafted. It has a sort of soft touch finish, which I thought felt kind of “sticky.” That's sticky in a good way because it provided a secure grip. Length of pull is 13.75 inches, and the barrel is free-floated in the stock's barrel channel.
The grip portion is fairly wide, making it comfortable to shoot (more about the shooting later) and providing a good purchase for the gripping hand. It also has slight palmswells on both sides, and there is rectangular texturing on the grip and on the fore-end. The fore-end is also wider than your average cheap plastic stock, and it has two sling-swivel studs up front and one on the buttstock. Rest assured, the fore-end is not so wide as to be cumbersome in the field, but it allows excellent control when shooting from a benchrest.
Speaking of shooting from the bench, I had an exhilarating afternoon putting all the .308 Winchester factory loads I could round up through the Model 557 Eclipse. In total, I had a dozen loads with bullets weighing from 150 grains to 210 grains. Some of my ammo is getting a little long in the tooth, as they say, and some of it is now discontinued, but the Model 557 Eclipse handled each and every round without fail. As I said earlier, the .308 Win. is one of my favorite hunting rounds, and I've shot an awful lot of it over the years in bolt-action rifles and carbines, semiautomatic rifles and carbines, at least one lever-action rifle, and even a single-shot handgun or two. It is a powerful cartridge.
And don't let it fool you. It can knock your socks off if the rifle you're shooting doesn't fit you well. I'm sure you don't want me to drone on about it, but I will never forget the first time I fired a .308 bolt action. I was a teenager working at Gil Hebard Guns, and we took in a rebarreled/restocked Mauser on trade. So I asked permission to check the rifle out because I had never fired a .308. The next day at my family's farm, I fired exactly one round through it and quit. That shot almost knocked me on the ground! Just for clarification, in those days, I was shooting a Ruger No. 1 single-shot rifle chambered for .458 Winchester Magnum pretty regularly, so I was accustomed to shooting hard-thumping rifles.
It turned out that the rebarreled Mauser's aftermarket, straight, wood stock didn't fit me at all. Plus, there was no recoil pad. I had a similar painful experience shooting one of the first Marlin MR-7 bolt actions chambered for .308 Win. a few years after I took the job at Shooting Times. It wasn't nearly as bad as the old Mauser, so I managed to fire three or four shots, but for me, shooting it was not comfortable at all. The bright spot from those painful experiences is they gave me a measure by which to judge other .308 Win. rifles.
Thankfully, I found the .308 Win. CZ Model 557 Eclipse to be very comfortable to shoot. I credit the CZ engineers with a job well done.
In the accuracy department, the Model 557 Eclipse was very good, too. The average for all 12 factory loads was 1.17 inches at 100 yards. That's for three, five-shot groups with each load.
Averaging 0.85 inch, my most accurate factory load in the Model 557 Eclipse was the Winchester Subsonic 185-grain Power-Point ammunition. That was a pleasant surprise because it is the softest shooting .308 Win. ammo I've ever fired. It produced a muzzle velocity of 1,145 fps and a muzzle energy of just 539 ft-lbs. It impacted way low of point of aim, so if you are going to try some of this ammo, just be aware of that and plan accordingly.
Second place in the accuracy department went to the HSM Low Recoil 150-grain loading. It averaged 0.88 inch for three, five-shot groups. It's supposed to have 53 percent less recoil, and it was easy on my shoulder but not as soft as the Winchester subsonic ammo. Even though the HSM Low Recoil loading has a lower muzzle velocity, its bullet is specifically designed to be deadly on game.
Third place in accuracy went to the Hornady American Whitetail 150-grain InterLock SP load with an average of 0.99 inch. Surprisingly, out of the Model 557 Eclipse's 20.5-inch barrel, it achieved an average muzzle velocity close to 40 fps higher than its factory rating.
Other than that load, the velocities out of the 20.5-inch barrel were pretty much what I expected. In my experience, with .308 Win. rifles with varying barrel lengths, there is typically a 40-fps to 90-fps reduction in velocity per inch of barrel length. In my archives of shooting results, I found velocities of several of the same loads in 22-inch barrels. Compared to those notes, the CZ Model 557 Eclipse's 20.5-inch barrel averaged between 69 fps and 170 fps less than the 22-inch-barreled guns.
After spending a lot of time handling and shooting the new Model 557 Eclipse, I can say it's accurate and comfortable to shoot. The synthetic stock is very well done. Other nice features like the integral scope mount dovetails, user-adjustable trigger, and smooth-operating bolt make it stand out in the field of budget-priced bolt actions. And since its MSRP of $659 is under my old $350 limit, adjusted for inflation to today's dollars, I'll bet it's no surprise to readers that I'll be buying one.
I think it is a very cost-effective rifle.
CZ-USA Model 557 Eclipse Specifications
- Manufacturer: CZ-USA cz-usa.com
- Type: Bolt-action repeater
- Caliber: .308 Winchester
- Magazine capacity: 5 rounds
- Barrel: 20.5 in.
- Overall length: 41.5 in.
- Weight, empty: 6.8 lbs.
- Stock: Black synthetic
- Length of pull: 13.75 in.
- Finish: Matte blue
- Sights: None; receiver dovetailed for CZ rings
- Trigger: 2.9-lb. pull (as tested)
- Safety: Two-position (push forward to fire)
- MSRP: $659