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Straight shooter: a look at the CZ 550

Charles Smith-Jones looks at the CZ 550, an unpretentious rifle that will be a reliable friend for you in the field

CZ 550

CZ 550

Manufacturer: Czeska Zbrojovka

Based in the Czech Republic, CZ is effectively a rebrand of the older Brno marque, whose products have always enjoyed a deserved reputation for unpretentiousness, reliability and robust construction. It is a testament to the brand that there are a great many early Brno and CZ rifles still in circulation performing just as well as they did when they left the factory.

Based on the tried and trusted Mauser 98k design, the CZ 550 has been produced in a wide variety of calibres and models that cater to deerstalkers and the hunters of larger and more dangerous game. There are two basic actions – medium for standard cartridges and magnum to accommodate the larger big game and safari calibres, with a wide range of configurations built around them to meet the needs of different shooting situations.

CZ550 Variety

The array of models based around these action types range from a standard configuration through varmint, battue, fullstock, sniper and higher-end lux variations, with specially chosen wood for the furniture.

The Safari Magnum models come with selected walnut, classic safari shape, express sights and Pachmayr butt pads to reduce recoil. These guns are in the heavier calibres needed for big and dangerous game hunting and tend to have internal magazines that accommodate either three or five rounds, depending on the cartridge.

Both of the basic actions feature a controlled-feed mechanism, which employs a large, non-rotating claw extractor that engages with the cartridge rim from the moment it travels from magazine to chamber, then remains so until it has been fired and is subsequently ejected. The bolt action will cycle correctly irrespective of whether the rifle has been fired or not and is not affected by the way the rifle is handled throughout cycling. As a result, it is dependable and trusted by those hunters whose well-being may rely on the process.

The rear of the firing pin protrudes from the rear of the bolt, indicating visually whether the action is cocked or not, and a disassembly button allows access to the firing pin and spring for cleaning or the unlikely need for replacement.

A large gas-relief hole in the bolt body, which is designed to deflect any debris away from the shooter’s head in the event of primer or cartridge failure, provides a safety feature. Bolt removal is by simply depressing a release button on the left wall of the receiver before rotating and then pulling the bolt out.

Most (but not all) models have open sights fitted as standard and the majority have receivers with a 19mm dovetail rail milled into the front and rear to take mounts or mounting rails for a telescopic sight.

CZ 550Functions

Many 550s feature a single-set trigger. It operates as single-stage when used normally and will have left the factory with the pull set at around 3.4lb, a comfortable setting for most users. If a lighter pull is desired, the trigger can be pushed forward to set it to less than half this. While some appreciate this setting as an aid to more accurate shooting, it divides opinion as a function and others consider it unsafe, but its use is optional and down to personal preference. The safety catch is side-mounted rather than on the rear of the bolt as it is on the original Mauser 98k design.

Barrels are hammer-forged steel with twist rates appropriate to the calibre. Magazine options vary: some models have an integral box magazine with a detachable floorplate, while others have a detachable magazine. The latter are released by a catch at the front of the trigger-guard. Capacities vary but are usually four or five cartridges.

The CZ 500 started to be replaced by the CZ 600 series in 2022 but remains in limited production. It represents a sturdy, accurate and highly dependable rifle at a very reasonable cost. Even a used example that has been looked after will be an attractive option, especially to anyone on a budget looking for a quality stalking or safari rifle.

CZ 550Tech specs

CZ 550

  • Country of origin Czech Republic
  • In production 1995 to present (though reduced production)
  • Action Bolt
  • Stock options Walnut, laminated or synthetic options
  • Barrel length 0.5″ or 23.6″, depending on model
  • Magazine Floorplate or detachable. Capacities vary depending on model and calibre
  • Left-hand version No
  • Weight (bare) 7lb 4oz (Exclusive model .308 Win), 9lb 4oz (Magnum Lux .375 H&H)
  • Available in calibres .243 Win, 6.5 x 55, .270 Win, 7mm Mag, 7×57, 7×64, .30-06, .308 Win, .300 Win Mag, .375 H&H, .416 Rem, .416 Rigby, .458 Lott, .458 Win Mag, 9.3×62
  • Cost new £1,241 (Exclusive .308 Win), £1,705 (Magnum Lux .375 H&H)
  • Cost used Upwards of around £300 but highly variable according to age, model, calibre and condition