Compared: CZ Model 550 American and Remington Model 798 Rifles
By Chuck Hawks
The CZ 550 and Remington 798 are both Eastern European produced Mauser Model 98 based sporting rifles. Practically everyone who knows about such things considers the Mauser 98-type action to be the best, or at least one of the best, bolt actions ever designed for a hunting rifle.
The basic commercial Mauser 98 design incorporates a one-piece bolt body with dual front locking lugs and a rear safety lug, non-rotating full length extractor, receiver mounted ejector, forged steel receiver, flat bottomed receiver with integral recoil lug, internal box magazine, steel hinged magazine floorplate, one-piece steel bottom iron and trigger guard, two position safety, left rear receiver mounted bolt release and an adjustable trigger. It offers controlled feeding, massive dual front locking lugs for plenty of strength and to minimize case stretching, and deflects escaping gas safely away from the shooter's face in the event of a blown primer or case. The loading/ejection port is large for easy single loading, but cartridges should be pressed into the magazine, not slipped directly into the chamber with any controlled feed rifle.
Very few, if any, other bolt actions today incorporate all of these desirable features. The Winchester Model 70, itself a modified Model 98 action, was the Model 98's main challenger, but the Model 70 was discontinued in 2006. These are the actions used in the best and most expensive bespoke rifles.
The CZ 550 and Remington 798 give you the same type of action as the best custom built rifles in a factory produced hunting rifle at a fraction of the cost. Remington sources their Model 798 ("7" because it's a Remington bolt action and "98" for Mauser 98) from Zastava Oruzje in Serbia, while CZ (Ceska zbrojovka) builds theirs in the Czech Republic. Zastava Oruzje has been building Model 98 rifles since 1928, and CZ since around 1936.
Both the CZ Model 550 American and Remington Model 798 barreled actions are polished and blued with the bolt bodies left in the white. When mounted in their respective stocks, both barrels are free floating. I can see no difference in the basic quality of these actions.
The primary difference is in the one-piece stocks and even those have visual similarities. Both have fluted combs, are cut checkered in simple but adequate 4-panel point patterns and the tip of the forend is cut back at a reverse angle. The CZ American stock is a walnut classic type with straight comb and a relaxed pistol grip curve. The Remington stock for 2007 was made of laminated hardwood, but in 2008 this was changed to American black walnut. This stock incorporates a Monte Carlo comb and a tighter pistol grip curve. The CZ stock is a little more slender and perhaps a bit more graceful. I prefer the looks of the CZ's stock, but both are good stocks and far more attractive that the injection-molded synthetic stocks so common at this approximate price point.
Here are the basic specifications for the CZ Model 550 American:
And here are the basic specifications of the Remington Model 798:
As can be seen from the specifications, the differences between these two rifles are subtle. Judging by our test rifles, the Remington/Zastava action is polished a little better both externally and internally, in the latter case particularly in the area of the bolt rails. The bolt and magazine floorplate releases are different, as are the bottom irons, trigger mechanisms and the safety mechanisms.
The Model 798 bottom iron/magazine box/trigger guard is all one piece of steel, as on a German Mauser 98. The CZ uses a separate sheet metal magazine box similar to a Model 70. In this area I prefer the Remington's traditional (and expensive) method of construction.
In the case of the floorplate releases, I prefer the Remington/Zastava cross-bolt in the front of the trigger guard bow to the CZ's Model 70 type sliding latch, but you might not. As an aside, the 798's magazine floorplate latch is the only detail in which it departs from a traditional commercial Mauser. Every thing else appears to be as Paul Mauser designed it. The CZ 550 departs from the Mauser 98 design in several areas including the floorplate release, magazine box, bolt release, bolt shroud, gas escape ports, ejector placement and bolt guide.
A plus for the CZ is that its extractor is beveled to facilitate the single loading of cartridges directly into the chamber. It will over ride the rim of a chambered cartridge and allow the bolt to close if required, always a nice touch in a controlled feed action. I also found the CZ's Model 70 type bolt release to be more convenient than the 798's traditional Mauser bolt release lever, although both work fine.
The CZ safety locks the bolt closed when "on" (rearward) to prevent inadvertent bolt opening in the field. The Remington safety allows the bolt to be opened to unload the chamber with the safety "on." In this, I prefer the CZ system. Remember that both rifles have hinged magazine floorplates to allow unloading the magazine without operating the bolt.
Like most CZ's our test rifle came with a single set trigger and I have never been a fan of set triggers on hunting rifles. For me this trigger is too creepy and heavy (about 4.25 pounds) un-set and too light (about 12 ounces!) for use in the field when set by pushing the trigger blade forward.
Once the trigger is set the rifle should be fired immediately. If it is not, it is possible to "un-set" the trigger by first applying the safety and then, keeping the rifle pointed down range in a safe direction, pulling the trigger. This reverts the trigger to its normal, un-set position without dropping the firing pin. Perhaps because I'm a "simpler is better" guy, in this important area I prefer the Remington's single stage trigger.
The CZ receiver is grooved for scope rings (a nice plus) and these are supplied with the rifle. Unfortunately, the CZ scope rings are higher than necessary for scopes with 40mm and smaller front objectives and rather crude looking to boot, but they do represent a (roughly) $30 savings (over the price of a Weaver base and rings) if you use them.
Both our CZ and Remington test rifles worked properly and were more than sufficiently accurate for big game hunting. There is little or nothing to choose between them in terms of functionality.
Toss the factory supplied stock and either would serve as the basis for a fine custom stocked rifle. In fact, I ordered an Accurate Innovations custom stock for the my Remington 798 (yes, I purchased the Remington test rifle for my personal use), and an article about the finished rifle can be found under "Rifle Reviews and Articles" on the Rifle Information Page.
If when you began reading this comparison you hoped that the conclusion would be a clear-cut superiority for either rifle, you are disappointed. Things are seldom that simple. These are similar rifles distinguished by differences in detail. You will need to inspect both to determine which you prefer.
Both the CZ Model 550 American and Remington Model 798 have been the subject of full length reviews and both achieved a "B" (Good) final score. If you are looking for a reasonably priced, controlled feed hunting rifle, these rifles deserve to be on your "short list."
Note: Individual, full length reviews of these rifles can be found on the Product Reviews page.
Copyright 2007, 2008 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.
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