A Tale Of Woe

As Longtime Readers will recall, when I was on sabbatical in Britishland back in 2017 I was seduced into buying a Mauser M12.  As Mr. Free Market was there, it took but a moment to pop it onto his UK firearm license, and off I went, new Mauser in hand, and shot 0.5″ groups with it.

The problem was that although I wanted to bring it back home with me, I couldn’t — H.M. Government required that I pay nearly a grand to “export” my own rifle to the U.S.  Not having a spare grand lying around, I just left it in Mr. FM’s already-overfilled safe while I decided what to do with it.

In the end, with great reluctance, I decided to sell it.  After a lengthy wait (almost a year), Mr. FM informed me that he’d managed to offload the thing, and the money came back to me.

So now I have to decide what to replace it with.

First things first:  I’m not going to replace it with another new Mauser.  They’re too expensive Over Here, and in any case, I didn’t get back exactly what I’d spent for the original M12, so I have to trim my expectations somewhat.  (And Mauser doesn’t offer the “starter” — read:  cheaper — M18 in 6.5x55mm, because they’re idiots.)

Secondly, whatever rifle I get will be topped with the scope I originally bought Over There for the M12, the Minox ZX5i 5-25x56mm, which at the price delivers outstanding clarity and reliability.  This scope will allow me to reach out to 500 yards quite easily, which is as far as I can shoot accurately and with any degree of consistency.

Thirdly, whatever rifle I get will be in 6.5x55mm Swede because

  • it’s my favorite centerfire cartridge of all time, and
  • I have two lifetimes’ worth of 6.5 Swede ammo lying around, and
  • I’m not interested in getting a gun which would require starting up a new category in Ye Olde Ammoe Locquer.

As to the M12’s replacement:  my default choice for any new rifle is the CZ 557 American, because it costs less than a grand:

I’ve always loved CZ rifles, dating back to when they were still called “Brno”, and this latest model with its single set trigger and rugged reliability is just the bee’s knees.  (I’m agnostic on the “controlled-feed / push-feed” argument, unless we’re talking large-caliber dangerous-game guns.)

That said, there are a couple of decent options outside the CZ Matrix, most notably the Ruger M77 Hawkeye African:

Here’s what I like about this particular M77 variant:  it has iron sights — and even though my old, deteriorating eyes say “scope-scope-scope”, I like having the irons as backup should the scope fail.  Also, the barrel dimensions were originally set for large calibers such as the .416 Rigby, so it’s as near as damn it a “bull barrel” for the smaller 6.5 Swede.  And as I fully intend to take the replacement rifle up to Boomershoot next year (along with whatever bench-rest rifle I next get through the now-annual raffle), that thicker barrel is less likely to start “whipping” as it heats up over a lengthy firing session.  I have to tell you, I like its looks.  The only “downside” is that Ruger triggers… let’s just say that they don’t measure up to the CZ, and they’re not “set” triggers either (which I prefer).  But the beauty of Ruger rifles is that there’s a plethora of aftermarket drop-in trigger groups available, so that shortcoming could be addressed easily, if it’s an issue.  (And that said, I’ve had no problems with the .300 Win Mag Hawkeye LRT‘s factory trigger, so maybe I’ll be okay.)  Pricewise, the Hawkeye is about a hundred bucks more than the CZ, which is manageable.

Finally, from out in left field comes the latest “entry-level” model from Sauer, the 100 Classic.  I’ve never fired this model, of course, but I have fired several other Sauer rifles over the years (mostly when I was back in South Africa), and they’re peaches:  smooth, reliable and very good-looking, in that “Germanic” way.

My only quibble with the Sauer — actually, all Sauer rifles I’ve fired, come to think of it — is the way the stock slopes down towards the action, rather than falling away as do both the 557 and M77 models above.

Also by comparison, the Sauer 100 has a 22″ barrel vs. the 24″ barrels of the 557 and M77, but that’s not critical, really.  Pricewise, it’s about the same as the Hawkeye (just over $1,000) — but as with all German engineering (e.g. Porsche), there is an additional price to be paid for the extras:  Sauer Hexa-Lock scope rings typically cost well over $200.  Granted, they might conceivably be the best rings you can get, period;  but sheesh…

Anyway, there it is.  I don’t have to get a replacement medium-cartridge rifle, of course, but that’s not an argument that carries much weight around this zip code, nor on this website.

I’ll let you know what I decide.


  1. If you want to shave a few more bucks off the cost, check out the Finn built Tikka hunter model (around 800 dollars). Pretty lines and good reputation.

    1. The problem with Tikka (Sako’s budget brand) is that over the years, the quality has become spotty — i.e. you might buy a Tikka which works just fine, but the next serial # is a total POS. Also, I will not buy a plastic-stocked rifle.
      Now if we were talking about a Sako M85… hold me back.
      But the M85 costs over $2,000…

  2. It’s a shame the Zastava M70 Mauser doesn’t seem to be coming into the US in 6.5×55 right now – I know they’ve done runs of them. I do know where to get one in left hand, but that’s not going to help you. I bought one in 375 H&H – metalwork is outstanding on it, the stock is meh…. obvious where they cut corners to get the price down. Although it is one of the easier pieces to replace. There is a Zastava USA finally, and Elk County on Gunbroker always seems to have a lot of Zastava rifles. 7×64 and 8×57 right now, but no 6.5×55/ A fellow sinister’s shop that sells on GB has been importing lefty Zastavas for a while – he got me my 375, and currently has a LH 6.5×55. I’m trying not to look at it too often.

    That CZ would be a great choice, but the Ruger African just makes me happy to look at. I’d pick either of those over the Sauer, for the same reason you stated – not happy with that stock. I’m sure it shoots fine.


  3. The Ruger Hawkeye African in 6.5×55 is a bit of a rare bird. Unlike Ruger’s regular runs of other M-77 African rifles, these were special-ordered by the distributor Lipsey’s, who had Ruger produce a mere 250 of them.

    One such resides in my safe, even now. I’ve got the Letter of Provenance from Lipsey’s for it, as well. It was their SHOT show display rifle for 2016 and 2017, and is lettered to the serial number as being One of Two Hundred and Fifty.

    The wood is sublime, the checkering is exquisite, and the trigger… quite simply one of the best “out of the box” I’ve ever shot. Much like my Browning Buckmark UDX .22 pistol, it’s perfect as it is.

    Being that I intend it for hunting, it’s wearing a Nightforce 2.5x10x42 scope, which is size and scale appropriate to the rifle. I had the rings trued and lapped, and the scope mounted by a skilled ‘smith with all screws set via “inch-lb.” torque wrench to exacting specifications.

    And your right about the barrel, by the way. This is most decidedly not a “featherweight” rig.

    Factory loads are holding at 0.75 inch, and I’m awaiting a set of custom dies, cut to match the three fired cased I sent in with the order.

    If you can find a Ruger Hawkeye African in this caliber available to buy, then pounce if at all possible. Every one I’ve seen thus far is a gem.

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  4. I have the CZ 550 Mannlicher ~ https://www.shootersupplyusa.com/index.php/cz-550-fs-6-5×55-20-5-walnut-mannlicher-5rd.html ~ it has a claw extractor, single set trigger and a 20.5 in. barrel so it is a great close in rifle but over 300 yards between the shorter barrel and the full stock it is hard to hit smaller stuff, especially with a warm barrel. It has the Bavarian stock which is a bit of a hump back and that puts my check in the right spot for the Leupold scope and the set trigger is sweet. I reload 6.5 x55 and it is truly a versatile round.

  5. Kim,
    I’d check with the Savage special order shop. They can provide almost any rifle in the catalog in 6.5 swede. The cost is moderate, and I find the Savage trigger to be excellent. (413) 568-7001 and ask for the special order department.

    1. The final cost of a Savage 10 custom chambering is a little more than the CZ 557, according to Savage.

  6. The CZ has a certain grace to it, but I’ll bet that you go with the Hawkeye African to give your other Hawkeye company. Plus, there’s the familiarity factor.

  7. You will not be disappointed in the CZ557. I have it in 6.5 Creedmoor for the same reason you’re getting it in Swede—tons of bullets. I almost never get to shoot it anymore, but my safe full of CZ’s (527/7.62×39 & 527 Ebony Edition in .223/5.56), CZ 455/.22) have always given top satisfaction.

      1. I have the older CZ 550 American in 6.5×55. Mauser action, beautiful and accurate rifle. I don’t shoot it much nowadays.

  8. Kim;
    In a completely different direction, you could get an action from Brownells, a Remage barrel from McGowan, A trigger from Rifle Basix, a fine wood stock from Richards Microfit (a misnomer) and you will have something to do with yourself for several months. The wood stock you can pick the quality of wood and the design to suit your own taste. The quality of the finish would be up to you also.
    When you’re done, you’ll have a tackdriver that suits YOU perfectly.
    In the end, the cost may be a bit higher but so will the personal satisfaction.

  9. Have you considered a change of pace and getting a crossbow? Or perhaps a muzzle-loaded cannon? Or going large with a catapult or trebuchet for chucking those pumpkins really far?

    1. Trust me, he can’t afford a cannon. Artillery isn’t a hobby, it’s more of a way of life. There’s the gun, the limber, the trailer to move it all on, the truck to tow the trailer…

      I’ve looked into it.

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