Tokarev TT-C
ZiP™ - It's the Futur...
Either a 338 Ultra Ma...
Winchester's XPR ...
Winchester's XPR ...
Handloading... A ...
Sabot munitions p...
The Ruger GP100 M...
Don't Forget the ...
Ruger's Lighter C...
Ruger's LC9s Turn...
Ruger's GP100 5&q...
Dreyse Model 1907...
Rifle
17 Hornet
204 Ruger
22 Hornet
22-250 Remington
220 Swift
223 Remington
243 Winchester
6mm Remington
240 Weatherby
25-20 WCF
257 Roberts
25-06 Remington
257 WM
6.5 Creedmoor
6.5x55mm Swede
260 Remington
6.5-284 Norma
264 Winchester Mag
6.8 Rem SPC
270 Winchester
270 WSM
270 Weatherby
7mm-30 RG
7mm-08 Remington
7x57 Mauser
280 Remington
7mm Remington Mag
7mm WSM
7mm Rem Ultra Mag
30-30 WCF
30 Remington AR
308 Winchester
30-06 Springfield
7.5x55 G11 Swiss
300 RCM
300 WSM
300 Winchester Mag
300 Weatherby Mag
300 Ultra Mag
7.62x39mm Russian
7.62x54R Russian
303 British
8x57mm Mauser
325 WSM
8x56R Mannlicher
338 Marlin Express
338 RCM
338 Remington UM
338 Winchester Mag
340 Weatherby Mag
338-378 WM
348 Winchester
358-378 RG
9.3x62mm
375 H&H
375 Ruger
375 Remington UM
378 Weatherby Mag
38-55 WCF
450/400 3" NE
416 WM
416 Ruger
416 Rigby
.44-40 W.C.F.
44 Rem Mag - Rifle
45 Colt
454 Casull Rifle
45-70 Government
45-70 Cast
450 Marlin
450 Rigby
460 Weatherby
500 S&W
500 Jeffrey

 

Česká Zbrojovka's CZ 550 FS Part I
a 9.3x62mm retro beauty
By Joseph D'Alessandro Editor | RealGuns.Com

With few exceptions, the American firearms industry has gone the way of the American auto industry; a cost reduction march to unimaginative, cookie cutter products, that will eventually be followed with a dramatic loss of market share. It has become increasingly difficult to uncover a unique aspect of a newly introduced rifle to underscore when writing. Universal plastic molded stocks and universal spray on metal finishes, a handful of popular chambers; most guns no longer have a discernable personality.

With little to differentiate one firearm from another, consumer interest has shifted from firearm design and craftsmanship to the worship of all things new and a need for instant gratification. The following isn't a review, but rather a short story about a firearm that I selected for my personal use. A firearm, I believe, that recaptures the component of firearm ownership that is sorely missing from so many newly manufactured firearms.

At the center of the CZ 550 FS is a stout medium length, or 30-06 length, square bridge Mauser type action, with controlled feed and a hefty claw extractor. CZ produces rifles in two action lengths; 30-06 8 3/4" and 375 H&H / 416 Rigby 9 3/16" with applicable bolt face. The medium action is slightly longer than the typical 30-06 action, which offers handloaders a little bit of more cycling room for maximum overall cartridge length. Additionally, the receiver's M26x2sp3 barrel thread means a 1.1" barrel shank and thicker chamber walls than: Remington, Ruger, Savage non-WSM models, Weatherby and Winchester. (Ed. note - M26 is actually 1.020" the Magnum is M28 and 1.100").

 The CZ 550 medium action has a magazine capacity of five rounds. The fixed magazine has a hinged steel floor plate with push button release forward of the trigger guard. Trigger guard, floor plate and internal box are all steel pieces. CZ 550 rifles include a single set trigger. My rifle's pull measured a very clean and consistent 3 lbs standard and 1 1/2 lbs set. The trigger is set by simply pushing forward on the back of the trigger. Trigger pull is adjustable externally through a small set screw situated just forward of the trigger. All other aspects of trigger adjustment such as sear engagement and overtravel can be accomplished by removing the action from the stock.

The 550's bolt is streamline shrouded with a central cocked indicator (1). The bolt assembly is released from the action with a small thumb lever, the bolt is push button disassembled. The bolt handle, unlike the 550 magnum action version, is solid with a full round profile.

Contrary to the CZ catalog, the CZ 550 has a three position safety (2). Full forward for off, white and red indicators visible. One click back for safe, bolt can be actuated, white indicator visible. Full back for safety on, bolt locked closed, no visible indicators. The safety is positive. All parts are heavy steel stock, none are plastic or stampings.

The rear receiver bridge is keyed to locate a proprietary scope base/ring assembly front to rear, both bridges have 19mm dovetails for base/ring mounting.  the front receiver ring is gas port drilled adjacent to the bolt face. yes, I've used a lot of words to describe the rifle's action, which illustrates an earlier point. This is a rifle that is worth picking over because it is a rifle with a lot of mechanical nuance. There are many small design touches that translate into practical use in hunting and shooting situations.

The CZ 550 FS has a 20.5" hammer forged barrel, 9.5" twist, with a reamer cut chamber. It is longer than a carbine, shorter than many rifles, perfect for the gun's 9.3x62mm Mauser cartridge, where appropriate powder selection will result in a 99% burn. Consider the CZ 550 barrel is a half inch longer than the barrel Ruger selected for its Alaskan model, where the 375 Ruger cartridge has a capacity 30 grains greater than the 9.3x62mm. The FS is compact at 40 1/2" overall, or approximately 6" shorter than my CZ 550 Safari. At 7 1/2 lbs the FS is also about 1 3/4 lbs lighter.

Sights that work...

The rear and front sight assemblies are made of steel. The rear is indexed for windage and elevation adjustment. The front sight is ramped and hood guarded with a top opening to allow ambient light to illuminate the front post. Posts are available in different heights. They are removed from the rifle by depressing a spring loaded button located forward of the post.

Again, this is nuance, but I honestly hate picking up a $1,500 American rifle and finding a set of injection molded plastic sights front and rear with a giant glowing light pipe for light gathering illumination. I don't hunt in predawn or post dusk hours and, if I did, I would not want what amounts to a flashlight waving at whatever I am trying to draw a bead on. The truth of the matter is, plastic isn't better, it is just a cheap way to make a rifle. I think the sights on the CZ 550 are...elegant and quite practical.

OK. What's up with the stock?

There are lots of interesting things up with the stock. The Austrian style, or hog's back stock, is designed for use with both optical and metallic sights and to direct recoil away from the shooter's face and shoulder. The appearance of a steep drop at the heel is exaggerated by the high rise at the comb and is mostly optical illusion. In actuality, the comb is slightly higher than the typical American pattern stock and the drop at the heel slightly greater. Compared to a very traditional Model 700 Remington, the CZ's comb is 1/8" higher and only 3/8" lower at the heel. While the two stock types appear radically different, the drop at comb and heel of the CZ are the same as a Weatherby Mark V or Weatherby Vanguard.

My body type is transitional Neanderthal - Cro-Magnon. By leg length I am 5'8" tall, but by trunk length I am 6'2" or so. My sleeve and neck length split the difference. The CZ's 13 3/4" pull and slightly increased drop work well for me. My 375 H&H Safari model has a similar hog's back stock and I can painlessly shoot it with heavy handloads from the bench with frequency.

My rifle's stock has...personality. Even through the satin finish it is easy to see lots of subtle vertical stripe on both side and the full length of the stock, but not so much to compromise strength or cause it to walk in damp weather. The checkering pattern is clean and conservative, cut at 18 lines per inch. I like Ruger rifles, but next to the CZ 550 FS, the Ruger International looks like a piece of water pipe strapped to a rough 2x4. 

The question often arises, "What purpose does the long stock serve?" Humans have approximately eight vestigial ear muscles that were, at one time in the distant past, used for directional control of the external ear. An absence of cave bear, and the emergence of wives seeking project assistance, have lessoned our need for acute hearing, so the muscles remain where the function does not. Think of the full length stock as vestigial in purpose. At some point in the past they protected soft steel barrels and prevented hands from freezing to bare barrels. Today we do not use our rifle barrels for crow bars and we tend to wear gloves when it is cold.

Full length stocks are attractive. There is more nice wood to look at than would be found on a sporter with a bare barrel and its presence can deliver the intangible of owning a rifle that doesn't look like everyone else's. Every time I see one of these rifles I think of guns of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that made their way through Africa and Asia on expeditions and safari. They look like the contents of a Stoeger's Shooter's Bible in the early 60's when that company catalogued so many interesting and varied types of gun. They look and smell like wood, oil and steel...sort of like an old wood floor machine shop that makes precision parts. Yes, these guns are of course made from modern manufacturing technology, but CZ took the time to not lose the essence of a well made hunting rifle.

Full length stocks are often criticized for the theoretical problem of the forearm warping in bad weather, applying uneven pressure to a barrel and thereby adversely effecting accuracy. In this case, I don't believe the inclement weather warp theory applies.

The parallel relationship between barreled action and stock inletting is maintained by the three large mount pad surfaces where the stock is sandwiched between the barreled action and heavy steel trigger guard and floor plate assembly. The guard bolt holes are steel bushed to ensure the wood won't compress over time and alter the relationship between metal and wood. Guard bolts are torqued metal to metal, not metal to soft wood. Front to back relationship of metal and wood parts is established and maintained by the two recoil lugs that fit into wells in the stock, the rearmost lug is secured with a guard screw and backed by a steel plate embedded in the stock. This is where the barreled action is supported, not the barrel channel.

Some manufacturers utilizing this type of stock gut the wood along the barrel channel. They hold the wood in place with barrel bands and a nose cap that clamps the wood against the barrel. The CZ's channel is slightly relieved, like any floated barrel gun, and only the very end of the stock is secured with a nose cap. The front end of the forearm channel has an embedded nut. When the cap is slipped over the muzzle, tightening the cap's lower screw pulls the wood away from the barrel and into the lower form of the cap. The cap is trapped and prevented from moving forward and over the muzzle without stressing the barrel. I could slip a piece of paper under the barrel and pull it along under the barrel from receiver to cap without it binding.

I've spent some time working with military forearms that have full length stocks and handguards. They can be a real pain to take down and thoroughly clean. They often reply on hidden spring keepers, and barrel bands may be held in place by ten coats of old varnish. Not the case here. The gun comes apart and goes back together as easily as any standard sporter type rifle; two guard screws and one front cap screw.

The 9.3x62 Mauser

OK, this is one of the dumbest things I've ever written, and that's saying a lot. The picture on the right is a comparison between the 9.3.62mm Mauser and 325 WSM rounds. Now me and the two other guys in the universe who shoot the 325 WSM have a visual point of reference. For everyone else, the picture the Mauser is 3.291" long and roughly .476" in diameter at the case head. The water capacity of the case is 78 grains, spill over full, about 8 grains more than the 35 Whelen, 17 grains less than the 375 H&H and about 8 grains less than the 338 Winchester Magnum. The 9.3x62mm Mauser round has been around since 1905 and is widely popular everywhere...but here.

The 9.3x62mm Mauser is typically loaded as a heavy hitter; factory loaded ammo of 286 grains clipping along at the 2500 fps level and 250 grain loads crowd 2700 fps. The price of loaded ammo from A Square, Lapua, Norma and Nosler is excessively high, typically in the $75 - $85 range. Recently Prvi Partizan, selling through companies like Graf & Son, have ammo out there in 286 grain soft point form priced at $19.95/box. This may or may not bring down the other company prices, but it illustrates their opportunistic pricing. I think a break in ammo prices, such as this from Prvi, could really increase the cartridge popularity.

No rainbow trajectory

The 9.3x62mm Mauser is not a short range plinker. A 250 grain bullet with a 6" kill zone has a point blank range of 257 yards. Not a varmint rifle, but it will actually stay with a 7mm-08 Remington with 140 grain loads for 300 yards and, even at that range, it hits with a ton of residual kinetic energy. Remember, this is from a gun with a 20 1/2" barrel. Here's a clip from the Real Guns External Ballistics Calculator -

Best Zero Results
Near-Zero - yds. 23 Midrange - yds. 124
Far-Zero - yds. 219 Max Ordinate - in. +3.0
Point-Blank - yds. 257    
Indices Range
Range - yds. 0 50 100 150 200 250 300
Velocity - ft./sec. 2600 2497 2397 2299 2204 2111 2021
Energy - ft.-lbs. 3752 3461 3189 2935 2696 2474 2266
Path - in. -1.5 1.4 2.8 2.8 1.1 -2.4 -7.8
Drift - in. 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Time of flight - sec. 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.4
 

Handloading

The 9.3x62mm Mauser is an easy cartridge to handload, especially when loading for the CZ 550 FS. Bullets can be seated to maximum COL and clear the action on loaded cartridge ejection, without contacting rifling. Brass from the high priced guys noted above runs about $1.25 per casing, however, Graf & Sons house brand brass runs $33/100 cases. I believe the Graf brass is made by Prvi. Reloading dies are available from Hornady, Lyman, RCBS and Redding. Only Lyman and RCBS are comparable in price, the rest are in the $60 per set range. I went with the RCBS full length sizer / seater set at $30. The shell holder is the very common size used for all 30-06 based cartridges. If unavailability of brass or ammo is a concern, RCBS sells a forming die that makes 9.3x62mm brass from 30-06 brass.

Companies like Hornady and Speer offer a reasonably priced product, others, not so much. Barnes follows its theme of near a dollar a bullet, as does Nosler and Woodleigh. Norma, Lapua (That's Swedish for "You've got to be kidding me"), offers $2/bullet wonders. The truth of the matter is, this is not a blazing velocity cartridge that requires special considerations in jacket and construction selection. The high prices don't reflect special construction as, again, opportunistic pricing driven by what has been limited availability.

The bullet selections for this project were made mostly to be representative of popular weights and bullet types. They are not necessarily what I would select for routine use. The Barnes bullet, because of its construction, is too long for a light weight bullet and robs case capacity where it is most needed. Additionally, the cartridge's moderate velocity may not result in proper expansion on game with the TSX. The Hornady bullet was selected because they are of primary bullet weight for this round and offer an OK value at $23/50. The Hornady bullet is manufactured for their 9.3x74mm rimmed load and is listed as an "SP RP", Spire Point and Recoil Protected. Woodleigh is a little high in price, but they are extremely tough bullets and they offer a super heavy 320 grain .366" bullet. My real world choice for most situations would be the Speer 270 Gain SP that sells typically at $19/50 and Hornady 286 grain at $23/50. The Speer product wasn't available when I was putting this together. I'd also like to try the Prvi .366" 285 grain soft point that is priced at $33/100. If they are the same as their loaded ammo, they should make a good general purpose selection.

I'm sure there are lots of medium speed powders that would work well with this cartridge, however, Alliant Re15 and Hodgdon H414 seemed to work the best and in that order. I ended up with near full cases, no compressed loads and a high degree of powder burn. Winchester 748 or 760 ball, or IMR 4350 would deliver similar performance. I used CCI large magnum primers, a habit I developed with case full, larger capacity cases. Both pressure and velocity readings seem to validate the selection and application.

I suspect I would use this cartridge on just about anything in North American. Muzzle energy is edging up into the 3,700 ft/lb range and it retains energy well. 250 grain load velocity is consistent with 250 grain loads for the 338 Winchester magnum and 200 to 300 fps faster than a 250 grain 35 Whelen load. The cartridge can also be loaded down for woods deer hunting for softer recoil when hunting wooded areas.

Summary

I bought the CZ 550 FS after sifting through tons of new rifle information and cartridge comparisons. I was looking for the perfect Maine gun; deer, bear and moose. The local area terrain is heavily wooded, wandering and steep in grade and, at the moment, pretty much snow covered. I also wanted a rifle that was classic in appearance and anything not covered in make believe Mossy Oak. I think it was a good choice. I know sometimes the minutia obscures the excitement, but that really wasn't the intention here. UPS delivered the gun and, after opening the box and taking a look at the contents, no one could shut me up for the rest of the day. I own lots of rifles, as my wife likes to remind me from time to time. They are old and new, factory and custom and some from factory custom shops. The CZ 550 FS sells, from our shop and others, in the mid to high $600 range. If you held one of these in your hands you would share my enthusiasm for the gun and its price. CZ is providing an excellent product and value to American firearm enthusiasts.

I'll be back shortly with coverage of scope mounting, handload performance and range measured accuracy.

Česká Zbrojovka's CZ 550 FS Part I
Česká Zbrojovka's CZ 550 FS Part II
9.3x62mm Handload data

Thanks,
Joe

 
Ruger
Burris
RealGuns Store
Handgun
327 Federal Mag
357 SIG
357 Magnum
40 S&W
41 Remington Mag
44 Mag Revolver
45 ACP
45 Colt
45 Super
460 Rowland
454 Casull
7.62 Nagant
9mm Luger
9mm Luger +P
10mm Auto
 
Contender
17-357 RG
222 Remington
223 Remington
30-30 WCF
44 Magnum
45-70 Government
 
General Info
Powder Rates
Primer Table
Safety Tips
Site Disclaimer
         
    All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. © 2015 Real Guns, Inc.