|March - April 2002
Volume 34, Number
The CZ Model 550 Prestige .30-06 with a Bushnell 3-9x scope. Photo by Stan Trzoniec.
For overall use its really
hard to beat a trusted Mauser action, and many of todays finest riflemakers
incorporate it as a basis for their rifles. Sturm, Ruger & Co. has a modern, updated
Mauser type action as does Kimber and some of the custom line builders. For reliability
and in-field dependability, Mauser actions have certainly withstood the test of time.
CZ (Ceska Zbrojovka) has taken this
action and has been using it in its line of Model 550 rifles for a number of years. Before
that the same company was using this action in its ZKK 600 series of rifles, which started
actual production around 1960, and even before that in its ZKW 465s as far back as 1946.
The ZKK series - aka Koucky - was in all probability one of the most popular sporting
rifles in eastern Europe. Later many Americans got to know this rifle as the Zbrojovka
BRNO and when imported here was available in the usual crowd-pleasing American calibers
like the .270 Winchester, .30-06, 7x57mm Mauser, as well as a host of European calibers
like the 7x64 and 8x57. Although the basic rifle has undergone some cosmetic changes, the
Mauser action has survived, albeit modified to modern standards as presented in the
current line of CZ bolt-action rifles.
Although the instruction book
included with the Model 550 shows about 12 different variations, CZs current catalog
lists eight versions being imported at this time in full-length cartridges plus additional
models in a shorter or light type rifle CZ calls the Model 527. These smaller
rifles are chambered in smaller cartridges like the .22 Hornet and .222 or .223
For the big game hunter, the CZ 550
series offers much in a medium price range well suited for middle America. The 550 Lux
features a Bavarian-type stock; the 550 FS has a full-length, Mannlicher-type stock
profiled from Turkish walnut. There is the Model 550 American designed from the classic
school of thought without line-disturbing monte carlos or any modern or California-type
adornments; the 550 Varmint speaks for itself with its heavy barrel, and for shooters
wanting plenty of punch, there is the 550 Medium and Safari Magnums. From the 7mm
Remington Magnum to the .416 Rigby, these rifles are fully equipped for the job at hand.
The Model 550 Prestige is the rifle we received for testing and sports basically the same
features as the Model 550 American but incorporates additional refinements like a jeweled
bolt and better grade of wood with a hand-rubbed finish.
Finally, the potential buyer can
choose from a traditional fixed magazine with a drop-down floorplate or a European-styled
detachable magazine. Magazine capacity is five rounds with the former, four rounds with
For sportsmen who place high marks
on fit, finish and value, this may be the rifle for them. Im an average type guy,
and the overall configuration of the stock fit me really well. I like my rifles with a
13.5-inch length of pull, and this Model 550 is almost 14 inches from the trigger face to
the rear of the one-inch recoil pad. A minor concern, as I either have to crawl the stock
a little or set the scope back to compensate. This problem might be an inconvenience for
shooters with short arms (like me) or heavy hunting clothes in the fall.
Aside from that, the stock is very well
thought out. On this Prestige model, the wood is semi-fancy Turkish walnut hand finished
to a satin patina. The stock shows no irregularities in prefinish preparations, and the
finish is free of dust or sanding marks. The grain of the stock is fiddleback in figure
and very pleasing to the eye. Its much stronger on the forearm, tapering gradually
to the buttstock, which if it were just a little stronger could pass for a crotchlike
Holding the rifle at arms
length, I detect a trace of castoff for right-hand shooters. At the present time there is
no listing for southpaws, which in all fairness should be looked into especially in these
modern times. As mentioned before, there is no monte carlo; instead a very nicely
proportioned buttstock favors this rifle. A cheekpiece has been incorporated and, combined
with the overall appearance of the stock, makes this rifle look like it could have come
out of any American factory. For the classic-type hunter there is no pistol-grip cap
although one would be nice to prevent chipping. The forend has no tip, instead it is cut
to a rearward angle almost Schnabel style, possibly to accent its European heritage. Hand
checkering is accomplished in a pleasing point pattern with some additional borders up
front, and sling swivel studs help to finish this stock in a customlike fashion.
Inletting on the inside, while not
quite up to high-tech standards, is better than average in most areas, and whenever the
inside clearances tend to be a little closer than expected, handwork can be seen. Where
the recoil lug on the receiver meets, wood epoxy has been placed to ensure a snug fit and
to keep the action from moving laterally in the stock. The action is pillar bedded, and
the barrel is free floated from the receiver forward. Fit of the action around the barrel,
receiver, bolt stem and floorplate are first-class without any roughness of any kind.
The Mauser action has been
modernized for todays shooting demands and is nicely finished. Removal of the bolt
from the receiver is typical: simply press forward on the bolt stop and pull the bolt to
the rear. Twin locking lugs up front ensure a close fit within the receiver when the bolt
is turned down and in tune with the rotating claw extractor, which ensures controlled
round feeding. Finally there is the rigid ejector at the rear of the receiver, and one gas
relief port is located at the bottom radius of the bolt body.
The bolt face is highly finished and
polished as is the rest of the bolt assembly. The extractor is polished brightly and
blends well with the jeweled bolt. Further back the bolt is blued to match the shroud,
bolt stem and bolt knob. The latter is swept back, contoured to allow for a generous scope
clearance and is devoid of any checkering.
The shroud is interesting and
contains some innovative ideas. The safety, mounted on the right-hand side, locks both the
bolt and sear and is shaped like a half-moon, allowing easy setting of this lever in
either the safe or fire position even with gloves on. The bolt shroud has a recessed
cocking indicator that disappears completely upon the release of the sear. Rearward of the
bolt release (or stop) is yet another neat button. According to the literature this is
called the disassembly catch, and by pressing this you can unscrew the bolt sleeve (or
shroud) and remove it while the bolt is still in the action. That sure saves trying to
disassemble the bolt on the home workbench.
Still another surprise is a set
trigger. While the normal trigger is tuned at the factory for 6 pounds, pushing the
trigger forward after cocking the rifle reduces the pull to about one pound. Needless to
say if this were my rifle, that set trigger feature would be upgraded to about 2 pounds
for not only peace of mind but also for safety in the field. Both the regular and set
option can be adjusted by taking the action out of the stock. As a caution and if you are
not familiar with these fine adjustments, lack the tools or a trigger pull scale, take the
rifle to the dealer or a gunsmith for assistance.
While that set trigger is surely
tempting to use, it should not be activated until you are ready to shoot. Set triggers can
be twitchy at times, and Ive seen them set the rifle off by just flicking the safety
lever off in a hurried situation. On this CZ 550 with the set trigger on and the rifle on
safe, this option can be neutralized by just pulling back on the trigger. When the safety
is then released the gun reverts back to a normal trigger.
Barrel length on the Prestige with standard
cartridges is 24 inches, appropriate for popular cartridges like the .270 Winchester and
.30-06. Any help in the velocity is always welcomed in nonmagnum calibers, especially when
the distance starts to stretch or the wind kicks up.
The receiver and barrel are highly
polished then richly blued. The receiver includes the use of integral or grooved slots to
accept the rings supplied with the rifle. Considering the fact rings and bases can add up
to more than $50 in additional expense, this adds yet another dimension of value. Rings
are finished in a high gloss to match the rifle and include a witness mark to keep both
halves of the ring going in the right direction. On our test sample, I mounted a Bushnell
Model 3200 3-9x scope. Once on the CZ 550, the glossy scope matched the blueing on the
rifle and rings perfectly. No windage adjustment is possible with this ring set, and
placing this medium combination on the rifle assured immediate lineup with the scopes
The Model 550 Prestige, chambered
for either the .270 Winchester or .30-06, is a natural for a rifle of this type. Teamed
with the former, it makes for a great all-around rifle for plains to medium game. With the
06, and using bullets up to 220 grains, it can take just about anything on the North
American continent. IÕve used it for years, and even with the advent of newer, more
modern cartridges, the .30-06 keeps plugging right along.
At the range the CZ Model 550 was a
surprising rifle to shoot. Even with heavy bullets in the .30-06, the rifle came back
easy, which in all probability was due to the soft recoil pad and generous stock
dimensions. All rounds were fired from the magazine in practical (read hunting) three-shot
groups at 100 yards. Feeding, extraction and ejection of all ammunition was perfect. The
set trigger worked perfectly and Im sure was a big help in reducing the size of many
of the groups. The weather was a balmy 72 degrees Fahrenheit, really nice for October in
Sometimes I feel like the Maytag
serviceman, simply because today its hard to find a rifle that doesnt shoot
well. Years ago it took time to tune a rifle to get it where you wanted it to shoot on the
target, not to mention in the field at moving game. Today, aside from maybe a barrel
break-in, even factory loads usually demonstrate fine accuracy potential, right out of the
box! The CZ 550 is one of these rifles and without any formal tuning, shimming or
tinkering and with commercial ammunition proved itself over and over again with little
effort on my part.
Playing the devils advocate, I
used this rifle and ammunition just as one might do as purchased from a gun shop. The
rifle was cleaned, a scope mounted, sighted in and with a variety of ammunition I headed
for the range. Looking at the results after firing only nine rounds of each selection, I
was ready for hunting season.
Picking a half-dozen brands from
Remington, Winchester and Hornady, I stepped up to the shooting bench. The 06
Remington has those neat little 55-grain Accelerators to fool around with. Zinging out a
24-inch barrel, 4,000 fps plus is possible depending upon weather conditions, the rifle
and other considerations. While they do tend to be erratic in some rifles, in the CZ 550,
2-inch groups were achieved at the century mark. Maybe not so accurate for the
dyed-in-the-wool true varminter, but they do fill a niche, especially when youre
bored at hunting camp and are looking around for something small and tasty to shoot for
Winchesters 125-grain Pointed
Soft Points came in with groups that averaged just about 1.25 inches. The best of the day
went to the Hornady Light Magnum topped off with its impressive 150-grain bullet. Three
shots went into an amazing .5 inch at 100 yards.
Winchesters Supreme 165-grain
Silvertip managed to put three shots into an inch. Remingtons top-of-the-line Safari
Grade offering complete with a heavier 180-grain Swift A-Frame averaged 1.25 inches, and
finishing up, its 220-grain Core-Lokt hit 2 inches at 100 yards.
I really hate to classify rifles as
good, bad or indifferent as they somehow become pigeonholed especially if the performance
is really not that good. But in the case of the CZ 550, I can only say that it rates high
on my list of rifles to consider for a lifetime of shooting and hunting. Teamed with the
.30-06 and certainly value priced, this is a rifle youll have on many a trip for all
types of game in the U.S. and around the world.
Aside from that minor length of pull problem,
I can highly recommend this CZ Model 550. For more information drop a line to CZ USA, PO
Box 171073, Kansas City KS 66117.