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VZ 58 Elite & Liberty

By Oleg Volk

The vz 58 is a very lightweight 7.62x39 carbine with a short-stroke piston action adopted by the Czechoslovak military in the late 1950s. The abbreviation “vz” stands for Vzor (model), the full name being Samopal Vzor 58 or Automatic Weapon Model 58. It was one of the first Czech arms to use the Soviet cartridge instead of the longer Czech 7.62x45mm round. Lighter than the AK-47 by 1.3 pounds despite a milled receiver, it used alloy magazines that weighed half as much as the steel AK-47 mags. Although similar in overall size to the AK, the slimmer pistol grip and stock make it look smaller. The rifle was exported to about 20 countries, mainly developing nations. With the 15.4-inch barrel extended to 16 inches with a shroud and semi-auto trigger group, it was imported to the US by Czechpoint USA of Knoxville, TN.

Warsaw Pact countries used the catchall term “avtomat” to describe both submachine guns and light automatic rifles. A technical term for “submachine gun” existed, but it wasn’t in common use. The doctrinal niche for the early automatic rifles was almost the same as for the pistol-caliber SMGs, so the vz 58 was designed more along the lines of an MP5 than of a SIG550. It’s handy in close quarters and accurate enough for intermediate ranges, but it had neither the accuracy nor the heat endurance of a mainline infantry rifle. Ironically, that made it better suited to civilian self-defense than the rifleman’s ideal rifle, such as the M14. Most defensive encounters happen up close, and few go beyond the first 30-round magazine.

The action design is similar to that of the Walther P38 or Beretta M9: a short-stroke piston acts on a bolt carrier, which actuates a locking block between it and the bolt. The lugs of the locking block engage with the rails machined inside the all-steel receiver. The mechanism works very well, with a very smooth and mild recoil impulse. A linear striker sleeve passes through the bolt carrier, in turn operating the firing pin. The entire receiver top opens during...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N9 (November 2017)
and was posted online on September 22, 2017

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