Let’s get something straight right up front: In the realm of safari rifles, the .375 H&H Magnum really has no peers, period. From short ranges to long, and from small game to large, it’s just simply the best all-around cartridge ever invented. And while different actions have been wrapped around the wonderful .375, a classic bolt action somehow seems the only proper platform for it.
And that is exactly what we have in a new version of an old favorite: the CZ M550 American Safari Magnum rifle. CZ-USA has pretty much kept the genetic thread of the old classic European Mauser alive with its extensive line of bolt guns from the Czech Republic. From the diminutive M527 for varmints, the M550 for all manner of big game, the M550 Safari and the Safari Classic Express Rifles from the CZ Custom Shop for the big bruisers, CZ has it covered.
A recent addition to the M550 line is a version specifically tailored to American tastes called the American Safari Magnum. It’s sure to stir the hearts of those who worship at the altar of the rifled tube. The American Safari is available in .458 Winchester, .458 Lott, .416 Rigby and, of course, .375 H&H.
Everybody needs a quality .375, and when I first saw the test gun, it was lust at first sight. I immediately sold the .375 of another make I owned at the time and purchased this one. Every detail of this rifle exudes restrained elegance and evokes images of the best-quality English bolt guns of old. The stock is of Turkish walnut. The color is so dark it’s almost black, and jet-black swirls course through the wood.
The metal finish is midway between gloss and matte. Whatever you call it, it perfectly complements the stock to complete the look. The buttstock is finished with a nice, functional solid recoil pad, and the excellent cut checkering is in a point pattern on both sides of the pistol grip and wraps all the way around the fore-end.
There is no grip cap or fore-end tip to distract from the classic elegance of the stock. Sling swivels are provided, and the only slight faux pas that I could find is that the front swivel stud is in the stock, instead of on a barrelband.
The action is a full magnum length and easily handles the .375, as well as the slightly longer .416 Rigby. It is a true controlled-feed action, so to load the chamber, fill the magazine and close the bolt. The magazine holds five cartridges in .375 and .458 Lott, and three of the fatter Rigby rounds. A hinged floorplate allows emptying the magazine without disturbing the chambered round, and the spring-loaded floorplate release button is at the front of the triggerguard, where inertia keeps it from dumping your ammo in the dirt during recoil. The two-position safety locks both the sear and the bolt.
The single-set trigger is fully adjustable and is handy as all get out. Unset, it breaks at three pounds, 12.6 ounces. Set, it lets off at 1 pound, .3 ounce. If you’re facing a belligerent Cape buffalo, unset is, of course, perfect. But I found the set feature just the ticket for range-testing loads and for zeroing, and it would be great for the occasional longer shot off the sticks on the veld.
The 25-inch barrel is hammer forged and hydraulically lapped for smoothness to keep fouling to a minimum and enhance accuracy.
An extra recoil lug called the “F block” is dovetailed into the underside of the barrel about 5¼ inches back from the fore-end tip. It is essentially an extra recoil lug that further strengthens the wood-to-metal interface for recoil distribution. It is secured by an escutcheon screw through the stock. The action has two crossbolts at the front and rear receiver rings.
The rear sight is the classic three-leaf that is exactly as you’d expect on a safari rifle. The fixed blade is for 100 yards, with two folding leaves for 200 and 300 yards.
All have shallow V’s that give you a good view of the front sight. The front itself is a ramp that holds a white bead on a blade that is easily removable, should you wish to replace it with another size or style. A small spring-loaded plunger at the front of the front blade can be depressed, and out pops the front.
The front sight is protected by a sturdy hood. These are usually removed, but this is not necessary on the Safari Magnum. The CZ folks made the hood with a fat “window” on the top to let in plenty of light for fast iron-sight shooting in poor light. It’s a really neat and functional feature. Most shooters will probably opt for a scope, and the CZ M550 action comes equipped with 19mm dovetail cutouts and one-inch rings.
For sighting, I mounted a new Nikon Monarch African 1-4×20 scope with a German No. 4 reticle. The quick-detachable rings were from from Alaska Arms (available from CZ) and allow the scope to be removed and replaced in a flash with no loss of zero.
I tested six representative factory loads at 50 yards, and the results are shown in the accompanying table. All shot pretty well—I wouldn’t hesitate to go on safari with any of them. Best of the day was an outstanding five-shot cluster of the Nosler 260-grain Partitions that went into a .60-inch group at an average velocity of 2,569 fps. Remington’s 270-grain RN barely exceeded 1½ inches, and at 2,718 fps, produced a punishing 4,430 ft-lbs (the most of any load tested). Groups with the various 300-grain versions were only slightly larger, and muzzle energies ranged from 3,800 to 4,100 ft-lbs. Thanks to the well-designed stock and the rifle’s weight of 10½ pounds (scoped), recoil was an authoritative shove rather than an unpleasant punch.
All in all, it’s hard to envision a better-balanced package for a .375 than the CZ American Safari Magnum.
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