Skip to main content

Review: CZ 550 Western Series Rifle

Review: CZ 550 Western Series Rifle

Offered in five cartridges ranging from .26 Nosler to .300 Win. Mag., the 550 Sonoran in .270 is fit for hunting most of America's Lower 48 game animals.

We hunters who live to enter the back-country, those of us who hunt the wildest places on earth, are often looking for a rifle that will live up to the lessons of our past experience.

A field rifle needs to be as rugged as the hunters who carry it, accurate so as to ensure a quick and ethical kill on the game animals we respect so much, impervious to inclement weather and able to be relied upon. The CZ 550 Western Series fits all of these requirements.

series-550-review-rifle-cz-sonoran-western-12


When one first looks at the CZ 550, the design of the stock immediately stands out. CZ has elected to use a Manners carbon fiber stock in olive drab color for this lineup. Traditionalists may cock an eyebrow and question the lines, but upon handling it, it becomes evident that Manners knows what it's doing.


The pistol grip is a bit more vertical than a conventional rifle stock, but the palm swells offer a very comfortable feel. The grip angle is reminiscent of the Savage F-class rifle stock, and I noted that it has been fitted with a good-quality recoil pad that sits comfortably on the shoulder.

The palm swell of the Manners pistol grip makes for a nice, natural control.

The pistol grip and forend grip area have a pebbled, or distressed, texture, which isn't aggressive but does well to help us keep a firm grasp regardless of field conditions.

With certain models I've handled in the past, the CZ 550 action has been a bit on the sticky side out of the box. Not so with the CZ 550 Sonoran I just finished evaluating. From the initial insertion of the bolt into the receiver, cycling the action feels smooth as glass, and cartridges feed very well from the five-round magazine, making follow-up shots no issue at all.


The flexible recoil pad made benchrest work a pleasure.

My test CZ 550 came chambered for the venerable .270 Winchester, a tried-and-true favorite that has been with us since 1925. Being the little brother of the king-of-the-hill .30-'06, the .270 has been criticized throughout history for not having a wide-enough range of bullets to make it a true all-around rifle.

Bullet weights for this caliber generally run from 90 to 150 grains, with some specialty bullets made in 160 and 170 grains. The bullet technology of today has changed all that.


With modern bullets, a .270 Winchester is much more well rounded and potent than ever.

Whereas in the past folks such as the great Elmer Keith designated the .270 as a marginal rifle for game in the elk/moose/kudu weight range, the bonded-core and monometal bullets that are offered in .277-inch diameter may very well have changed that opinion.

With a rifle such as the CZ 550 Sonoran that gives a practiced hunter the ability to accurately place the bullet into the vitals of his quarry, a hunter should be able to successfully take most of the world's game animals that a medium-bore rifle would be suitable for.

The proven controlled-round feed of the CZ 550 action makes for positive feeding and ejection of cartridges.

Bison, Cape buffalo and brown bears sensibly require a larger bore and heavier bullets, but if this were the rifle in hand on an African plains-game hunt, confidence would abound. Perhaps opting for the premium 150-grain bullets would help to hedge your bets when license and trophy fees add up to half a year's mortgage payments.

In this era of giant-case super-magnums, many of the sweet-shooting cartridges such as the .270 Winchester are too often overlooked. If you were to study your history, you'd find that there was a fellow named Jack O'Connor who made a bit of a reputation using this cartridge.

The hinged floorplate is a great feature for safely unloading at the end of the day.

This particular rifle has a 24-inch fluted barrel, and it and all the metal are treated with a ferritic nitrocarburized finish inside and out. While that may sound really cool, it is designed to be tough. That doesn't mean we ignore CZ's recommendation to apply a light coat of quality gun oil on occassion. Do that and this finish should offer a lifetime of protection.

The 24-inch barrel length is an intelligent choice for this caliber, as it will give the shooter enough barrel length to wring out the velocity needed to get the flat trajectory that put the .270 on the map, yet not be unwieldy in field situations. The barrel is free floated in the carbon fiber stock without having a considerably large gap.

The fluted barrel hastens the cooling process while developing loads and practicing with your rifle.

One of CZ's signature features has always been its single-set trigger. Oh, how a trigger can make or break a long-range shot. Many feel that CZ has a gem in that single-set design.

Simply slip your finger behind the trigger, push forward until you hear and feel a click, and you've set the trigger to break at a fraction of the weight of its normal setting. I went from having a three-pound trigger pull to one that was two pounds lighter.

The CZ 550 features a single-set trigger, which is pushed forward to achieve a lighter trigger pull, helping you make those long-range shots.

In this mode, there is virtually no creep and very little overtravel. It is a feature that long-range shooters have always benefited greatly from, especially in a prone. Be sure and check that the safety is engaged before pushing the trigger forward to ward off the effects of Mr. Murphy and his entourage of potential tragedies.

Even in the normal setting, the CZ trigger is a crisp and clean affair. Regardless of your preference, you should experience no issues with trigger pull in either mode.

The 550's three-position safety allows the shooter to unload the rifle without having to put it in Fire mode.

The CZ 550 is equipped with a three-position safety on the bolt side of the action. Forward is Fire (revealing a small red dot indicator); the middle position is Safe, preventing the trigger from firing but allowing the shooter to work the bolt to unload the rifle safely; and the rearward position blocks both the bolt and the trigger.

The safety has a positive feel and is located in a spot where the shooter can easily feel it without taking eyes off the target.

Good glass is a must for long-range shooting. The 4.5-14X Zeiss was crystal clear and took adjustment very well.

For optics on my CZ 550, I used a Zeiss Conquest 4.5-14x44 MC equipped with a #20 Z-Plex reticle. I mounted it in a set of high rings to give proper scope alignment with the high comb of the Manners stock. This scope gave plenty of eye relief, with the crystal-clear image that Zeiss is famous for, and even with a 1-inch maintube, it offered plenty of light transmission.

The parallax adjustment made for crisp focus of long-range objects, and the top-end magnification of 14X would make a sensible choice for sane shooting distances without sacrificing much on the lower end. At 17½ ounces, the scope added a bit of weight to the package, but, overall, it maintained a nice center of balance to give the rifle a natural rise to the shoulder.

The CZ 550 barrel is completely free floated, which enhances accuracy.

At the bench, the CZ 550 really came into its own. Factory loads produced a respectable level of accuracy, hovering between 1 MOA and sometimes a bit more.

With handloads, the rifle revealed its true potential. The Massaro Ballistic Laboratories 140-grain Hornady boattail, my handloadbullet, printed five-shot groups besting at .85 inch. A Thorne Customs handload printed exactly 1 MOA with 130-grain Speer Hot-Cor bullets, both of which should prove more than accurate enough for any hunting situation.

western-rifle-sonoran-550-series-review-cz-11

Felt recoil from full-house factory loads was easily manageable, more than likely due to the design of the lightweight Manners stock. The Hornady Custom Lite reduced-recoil ammunition featuring its 120-grain SST bullet proved to be aptly named; felt recoil dropped right off to the point where it would make a good choice for a shooter whose experiences are limited and who wants to develop good skills while being able to kill effectively.

Know how your loads perform and the CZ 550 will offer acceptable accuracy given any bullet weight.

The CZ 550 Sonoran displayed accuracy that will work for almost any American hunter, but it's worth making sure the barrel is broken- in first.

As mentioned, the single-set trigger was an added bonus, especially at the range. If you're not familiar with using one, I recommend spending some time with it. It is a very touchy affair and can feel as though you've sent a round downrange before you realize you've touched the trigger.

However, the single-set trigger is a huge help when trying to wring out the rifle's mechanical accuracy, when assessing load accuracy and for precise zeroing for long-range work.

accuracy-cz-sonoran-western-series-550-review-15

All said, the CZ 550 Sonoran will make a great companion. While it's not a lightweight mountain rifle, I'd could see it being slung up a sheep mountain or accompanying an elk hunter on forays afield in the autumn. The modern .270 bullet handles almost all of the game in the lower 48 states, possessing plenty of killing power and the accuracy that hunting requires.

With premium bullets, even African plains game could be confidently hunted. But it's those Western senderos and whitetail, bean-field hunters for which the Sonoran was made. Give this rifle a long, hard look, and rethink the .270 Winchester. Even in this era of Magnum-Mania, this CZ 550 Sonoran in .270 Win. is a wonderful combination.

Current Magazine Cover

Enjoy articles like this?

Subscribe to the magazine.

Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Pocket-Pistol Carry Tips and Tricks

Pocket-Pistol Carry Tips and Tricks

Pocket carry, as a method of concealed carry for a defensive firearm, can be a practical option when done right. This is especially true during the colder months when heavy outer garments can obstruct access to a traditional waistline holster. Former U.S. Navy SEAL Jeff Gonzales, president of Trident Concepts, joins G&A contributor Kimberly Heath-Chudwin to discuss guns, training and gear, including Blackhawk's TecGrip holster that can make pocket carry more successful.

Surefire XSC Micro-Compact Pistol Light: First Look

Surefire XSC Micro-Compact Pistol Light: First Look

Small, lightweight and purpose-built for sub-compact carry guns, Surefire's XSC pistol light takes on EDC illumination segment.

Trijicon RMRcc Reflex Sight – Perfect for Optics-Ready Concealed-Carry Pistols

Trijicon RMRcc Reflex Sight – Perfect for Optics-Ready Concealed-Carry Pistols

The people asked and Trijicon answered. Introducing the RMRcc miniature red-dot sight for compact, concealed-carry pistols. Trijicon's new RMRcc features the durability and reliable controls that have made the RMR so successful, but its reduced dimensions make the “Concealed Carry” model better suited for the popular small-frame pistols designed for discreet carry and personal defense.

Savage Arms Impulse Rifle with Straight-Pull Action

Savage Arms Impulse Rifle with Straight-Pull Action

Savage introduces a must-shoot straight-pull rifle, the Impulse, with three hunting configurations.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The first in this new family of Springfield Armory rifles is the Model 2020 Waypoint, the result of years of engineering, testing and evaluation, combined with premium grade components found on rifles costing thousands of dollars more.First Look: Springfield Armory Model 2020 Waypoint Bolt-Action Rifle Rifles

First Look: Springfield Armory Model 2020 Waypoint Bolt-Action Rifle

Guns & Ammo Staff - September 29, 2020

The first in this new family of Springfield Armory rifles is the Model 2020 Waypoint, the...

9 Commonly Misused Gun Terms How-To

9 Commonly Misused Gun Terms

Kyle Wintersteen

"Assault weapon." Sixteen-round "clip." A box of "bullets." When it comes to guns and gun...

The story of a confederate sniper’s revenge and an exclusive look at his rifle.The Story of Civil War Sniper Jack Hinson and His Rifle Historical

The Story of Civil War Sniper Jack Hinson and His Rifle

Kyle Lamb - January 12, 2018

The story of a confederate sniper’s revenge and an exclusive look at his rifle.

The United States Army has adopted the SIG Sauer Tango6T 1-6x24mm as its new dedicated optic for squad designated marksmen.SIG Sauer Tango6T 1-6x24mm Review Optics

SIG Sauer Tango6T 1-6x24mm Review

Tom Beckstrand - December 31, 2020

The United States Army has adopted the SIG Sauer Tango6T 1-6x24mm as its new dedicated optic...

See More Trending Articles

More Rifles

You might be surprised how many Americans (even gun owners) think machine guns are illegal.Machine Guns — Can You Own One? Rifles

Machine Guns — Can You Own One?

Eric R. Poole - December 15, 2020

You might be surprised how many Americans (even gun owners) think machine guns are illegal.

In 2019, Remington hulked up the Model 783 and introduced a new model for varmint hunting, appropriately named the Remington 783 Varmint.Remington 783 Varmint Review Reviews

Remington 783 Varmint Review

Alfredo Rico - July 24, 2020

In 2019, Remington hulked up the Model 783 and introduced a new model for varmint hunting,...

The SAKO S20 is a departure from the company's typical offerings, and with change comes a whole lot of options for the consumer.SAKO S20 Rifle Review Reviews

SAKO S20 Rifle Review

Tom Beckstrand - December 01, 2020

The SAKO S20 is a departure from the company's typical offerings, and with change comes a...

Excellent fit and finish are essential for an accurate firearm. While the Wilson Combat Ranger in .350 Legend wasn't made as a precision competitor, it sure performed like one.Wilson Combat Ranger .350 Legend Review Reviews

Wilson Combat Ranger .350 Legend Review

Jim Angell - October 02, 2020

Excellent fit and finish are essential for an accurate firearm. While the Wilson Combat Ranger...

See More Rifles

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Guns & Ammo App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now