The CZ (Ceska zbrojovka “Czech Armory”) 550 is a solid rifle I’ll give it that for sure.  It is what I’d describe as a middle of the road “utility” gun.  In the SEAL Teams a “utility” weapon was one that you could use for multiple purposes (close quarter battle or sniper ops).  Mine came chambered for 308win, a synthetic stock, Night Force  (NF) 3.5-15 variable power scope, Harris bi-pod and the barrel (16 inches) comes adapted to fit a SureFire  supressor or “can”.

The CZ company has been around since 1936 and was originally established as a branch plant of Ceska zbrojovka (CZ).  Their first products were aircraft machine guns, pistols and rifles.  Since the 30’s the company has a long history of being state controlled and in 1992 appears to be a mix of private and state partnership.

My CZ came equipped with the Night Force and I’m a big fan of the NF optic.  After my first deployment to Afghanistan in 2002, I was attached to the Naval Special Warfare Sniper cell and worked on advanced tactics and training for all the active snipers on the west coast.  At the time my friend Jason (now a Master Chief SEAL) was heading up RDT&E and in all honesty, he was a big reason US SOCOM has the NF in the inventory.  Jason saw the value and pushed hard to get these scopes into our inventory.  This is often a very hard-lined “old boy” network and it’s a testament to his character that he was able to get this done in a relatively short period of time.  NF optics are very sturdy and while there are superior optics on the market, you just can’t find a better scope for the money in my opinion. Optics are measured by their light transmission loss, less light transmission loss translates into superior optics.  This is very apparent in low light conditions.   The NF illuminated reticle is an awesome feature and makes those low light dusk or dawn shots very possible.

100m Shot Group

I took the CZ to 100 yards for an initial zero, and like any new gun it’s always best to verify zero.  My first shots through the gun were on paper but I was 5 minutes high and 2.5 minutes to the left.  The minute of angle reticle makes measuring at close range a breeze.  Once measured, I made some simple adjustments for elevation and wind and my next three-shot group was definitely in the 1MOA range from the prone position.   I was using Hornady 165 grain ammunition and I have to give it to Hornady, they have great rounds and take pride in everything they do, right down to the packaging of their ammunition.

Loading the four round internal magazine on the 550 was easy.  The CZ’s magazine release is housed in the trigger guard and this made magazine changes very easy.  At first I thought the release would get in the way but it was actually a really nice piece of engineering and very functional.

I would have loved to check out the new SureFire suppressor but the SureFire representative had a schedule conflict and couldn’t make it up to the range in time for the shoot.  I’m a big fan of their tactical lights and used them on a ton of night ship takedowns in the Persian Gulf. Their lights are solid and very reliable and I can only imagine that their suppressors are the same.

A major challenge I’ve seen with traditional suppressors is zero shift when going from suppressed to unsuppressed.  Measuring shift (or lack of) at 100 yards would have been nice, next time I guess…

I was a big fan of the CZ550’s lightweight (8.3lbs), a lot of sniper rifles these days have gone overboard with modifications.  They look pretty on the range but lack practical features that encourage real world utilization.  I realize that adding heavier barrels and stocks provide a more stable shooting platform and manage recoil but, a lot of these rifles become impractical to the end user and end up destined as a range showpiece.  A good sniper rifle is like a good deer rifle, it is well balanced, lightweight and has rock solid performance in the worst of conditions.

It was a beautiful California day when I first shot the 550, clear skies and temperatures hovering around 80F.  The wind was blowing 2-3 mph out of the west (right to left) with gusts to 5 mph.

At five hundred yards I was holding 1-2.5 minutes of wind and 2-3.5 at seven hundred and was nailing the 12×12 steel plate.  Wind holds will change depending on what type of round you fire.  In this case I was using a 165-grain 308win bullet traveling out of the barrel at 2750 feet per second.

The max ordinate of the 308 round starts to become very pronounced at 6oo yards through a good spotting scope.  I always prefer to hold for wind rather than dial it into the scope. This is much more practical when you’re in the field and allows you to adapt faster to changing wind conditions and prevents losing track of your zero point on the knob.  I did have some minor feeding issues at five hundred yards, the action was sticking and in my opinion could be engineered a bit better.  Other than that the rifle shot very well.

CZ550 Urban Counter Sniper Rifle Review

Caliber: 308win 7.62mil

Weight: approx 8.3lbs (add another pound for the scope)

Magazine: 4

Barrel Length: 16 inches

Optic: Night Force 3.5-15 variable power scope with MOA reticle

Weather: Clear skies, 80 degrees F with 2-3mph westerly winds gusting to 5mph

Wind Hold: 1-3.5 MOA for wind back to 700 yards

The CZ550 is a solid utility rifle capable of a variety of applications.  I was happy with the overall performance.  Other than some minor feeding issues the rifle performed well.  While it’s not a “must have” rifle in my book, in all fairness, it has some of the rugged qualities made infamous by the AK-47.  When you hold it in your hands it gives you that feeling that it will never let you down no matter how nasty the conditions get.  Having been in situations where this type of thing matters, that’s worth something in my book.

(Featured image courtesy of bradfitzpatrickoutdoors.com)