CZ-USA American Safari Magnum

For hunters who'd rather spend their money on air tickets to Zambia than on high-end safari rifles, CZ-USA offers its American Safari Magnum. Built on the CZ 550 action and chambered to .375, .416 Rigby, .458 Winchester and .458 Lott, it lists for half as much as the company's Safari Classic.


While I've used CZ 550s in .30-06 and 9.3x62, I'd not handled one in an "African" chambering, so I called Jason Morton at CZ-USA for an American Safari Magnum in .375 H&H.

Nobody can call CZs 550 willowy. Best described as a modified Mauser, the action has a brawny profile and substantial heft. The double-square-bridge receiver has no top holes; you fasten a scope with mounts that clamp 19mm dovetails front and rear.


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Specifications:

CZ-USA AMERICAN SAFARI MAGNUM

Type:two-lug turnbolt, centerfire
Caliber:.375 H&H Magnum (tested), .416 Rigby, .458 Winchester, .458 Lott
Magazine:5 round internal box with hinged floorplate
Barrel:25 in., 1:12 twist
Overall length:46 1/2 in.
Weight:9 lb. 15 oz.
Trigger:adjustable single set
Sights:triple-leaf V-notch rear (two folding), metal bead front on hooded barrel-band ramp
Price:$1,194
Manufacturer: CZ-USA, 800-955-4486


The big, flat footprint of the action makes for plenty of bedding area. "We add epoxy to ensure full contact at recoil lug faces on our most powerful rifles," Jason says. Magnum 550s feature a second recoil lug under the barrel that mates with a steel stock insert to best distribute thrust, and they incorporate double cross-bolts--fore and aft of the magazine well.

The 550's bolt is of traditional two-lug design, with a no-nonsense Mauser extractor. The bolt face is partially enclosed, allowing for controlled feed. A fixed extractor emerges from a slot just below the left locking lug as the bolt reaches the end of its throw. A Winchester 70-style bolt stop bears against the left lug.

The two-position thumb safety locks the striker. A red dot appears on the sleek bolt shroud when the safety is forward. The trigger is CZ's own: a single-set mechanism you can pull as you would any trigger or push ahead to engage it for a lighter pull. The trigger is adjustable. Mine came from the box at a manageable 23/4 pounds, by my Timney scale. Set, it broke at just one pound.

Bottom metal, all steel, includes a one-piece guard bow and magazine housing and a hinged floorplate secured by an M70-type button in front of the guard.

Most CZ 550s are stocked in plain American walnut, but laminated wood is an option, as is fancy walnut. "We're working on synthetic stocks for the series," Jason notes.

The 25-inch barrel, of medium contour, hangs easily on target and swings readily. A barrel-band front sight complements a trio of rear leafs, two folding. Their shallow V notches all have white center lines for quick aim. "We offer 15 heights and sizes of front sights," Jason points out. "So your rifle is pretty much guaranteed to shoot where you look, no matter the load."

The rifle arrived as I was about to leave town, so I suggested to pal Rich McClure that he check zeros. He promptly boxed up a few dozen handloads, and found the rifle printed tight groups at 50 yards--appropriate iron-sight range.

The fixed (100-yard) leaf put 300-grain bullets six inches low, 270-grain bullets 31/2 inches low. The 300s, a handload using RL-15, struck an inch high with the 300-yard leaf; 270s with RL-15 shot to point of aim. All groups--several under an inch--landed just a tad right of center.

Because each shooter sees irons his own way, I mounted a 3-9X Leupold Vari-X II in Talley rings to check accuracy at distance.

CZ rifles feature an adjustable single set trigger. The author's sample broke at 23/4 pounds normally, one pound when set.

Three open sights (t

wo hinged) feature white center lines under broad Vs for quick aim.

In fact, the CZ's substantial weight made bench shooting comfortable and may have contributed to the rifle's fine accuracy. The beefy stock and broad butt-pad help mitigate recoil, and the straight comb babies my cheek at the shot, then puts my eye quickly in the sights for a follow-up.

My handloads, 300-grain Herter softnose bullets accelerated to 2,420 fps in front of a charge of H4831, printed inside 11/4 inches. In fact, the CZ shot the smallest groups and the most consistently of four .375s I had on the range that day.

By no means svelte, the 550 American Safari Magnum is a solid rifle with an utterly reliable extractor and sights sturdy enough for any safari. The heft assists with offhand aim when you're out of breath from keeping up with your PH and the trackers. A single fixed leaf filed for an 80-yard zero would suit me, ensuring point-blank hits from the muzzle to just over 100 yards with big bullets. An open-sighted .375 need not reach farther.

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Accuracy Results:

CZ-USA AMERICAN SAFARI MAGNUM

BulletBullet Weight (gr.)Muzzle Velocity (fps)Avg. Group (in.)
Hornady SP-RP*2702,6102.4**
Federal Vital-Shok SP2702,7001.7
Herter*3002,4151.2
Speer*3002,4401.8**
Hornady Heavy Mag InterBond3002,7051.6
*Handload
**Iron-sight group 50 yards, expressed in m.o.a.
Accuracy figures are the average of three-shot groups at 100 yards unless otherwise noted. Herter handloaded chronographed with Oehler 35 with screens set 15 feet from the luzzle. All other velocity figures are published data. Abbreviations: SP, softpoint; SP-RP, spire-point recoil-proof

The bolt cycles more smoothly than a Mauser's, and you'll feel the same subtle bumps. Cartridges slide dutifully from box to chamber, with nary a hiccup save, occasionally, with the last round on the lift.

Sure, I could ask for 22 lpi checkering, instead of 18, but the American Safari Magnum is an affordable .375 retailing for about $1,100. It is a hunter's stopping rifle--rugged, reliable, accurate and with the fetching lines that appear in rifles costing many times as much. Like the other 550s in an extensive line of big game rifles, this CZ feels at home in the hand.

Groups of 11/4 inches came easily with scope attached. The iron-sight groups were nothing to sneeze at either.

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