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The Vault

Czech ZH29 rifle

The Czech ZH29 is a meticulously made example of early semiautomatic rifle design. Made in the era before WWII when great care was taken in making arms, the only stamped parts on it are the buttplate, mag body, and mag floorplate – everything else is a machined part. Unfortunately, this carried over into the rifle’s price, which helps explain its limited commercial success. It was offered for sale in 7.92, 7.62, 7, and 6.5mm cartridges, but the only significant contracts were from Ethiopia (Abyssinia, as it was known at the time) and China.

The ZH29 had several unusual features, even by today’s standards. The bolt locked into the left side of the receiver, as opposed to the top or symmetrically into both sides. The barrel was fixed slightly out of square with the receiver, though it is not immediately obvious with the continuous shroud over it. However, you can see that the rear sight is offset to one side, while the front sight is centered on the barrel.

The magazine catch was another interesting but expensive feature. Like most magazines of the time, the ZH29 mag locked in place with a front lip and rear catch. However, the front lip was held in place by two spring-loaded pieces, so new magazines could be pushed straight into the magazine well, instead of the typical “nose in, rock back” motion normal for mags with rear catches.

The bolt holdopen was also unusual – it was integrated into the hammer mechanism. The magazine follower would block the bolt from closing after the last shot was fired, and the hammer would lock into a cutout on the bottom of the bolt. Once a new magazine was inserted, the bolt would be released by pulling the trigger. A second pull would fire a shot.

Videos

Manuals

ZH29 manual

“Guns” magazine article on the ZH29 (English)

Photos

Chinese contract ZH29 (click to download high-resolution copies)

 

9 comments to Czech ZH29 rifle

  • Hrach

    Disassembly looks like AR15 , with braking the upper receiver:)

  • Hrach

    Dear Admin of http://www.forgottenweapons.com
    Thank you for posting such useful and exciting information about rare and very interesting firearms.
    You are doing a great work for gun enthusiasts !!!

  • MGMike

    An excellent gathering of information!

    One minor correction: the front sight is not “centered” on the barrel. In fact both sights front and rear are offset: the rear to the left and the front to the right. In addition, both are slightly angled to the right, not parallel to the long axis of the rifle.

    The gun was noteworthy also for its early incorporation of a gas regulator, an exceedingly simple and ingenious design. The back of the plug is cut at several different angles so that when the plug is rotated, the gas port is masked to admit more or less gas into a very short cylinder where it impinges the gas piston head. The gas is vented off almost immediately when the piston moves, and the aluminum radiator is intended to absorb the heat. This very short cylinder/piston arrangement closely resembles that of the much later Czech vz58 assault rifle.

    The Zh29 uses a magazine almost identical to the ZB26/ZB30; the is a slight difference in the follower, but the LMG mags work very well in the Zh29. The felt recoil of this rifle, possibly due to the very straight stock, is generally agreed to be punishing.

    M

  • For fear of breaking any parts I have never fired my ZH29, it was great to see how it functioned on your video. My ZH29 was brought home by a Vet. when he returned to the USA after WWII and captured in Germany.

  • Redshirt214

    Anybody else notice that the US version has an all wood stock, and lacks the characteristic aluminum heat sink?

  • [...] its not being sold. its a keeper for sure, i hope you have a good safe to keep it in!! for others. Czech ZH-29 rifle __________________ MOE! LARRY! THE CHEESE! Life Member the Elmer Fudd Hunt [...]

  • Sepp44

    Information from the factory indicates a total of 510 ZH29′s were made, with 500 going to China/Manchuria over a 4 year period. This was the only contract, acc. to factory records, which are intact. 10 others were reportedly made, but were demos(?),not part of any contract. No more were sold. Mine and all the ones I have heard of in the U.S. were found at a Japanese Naval Yard after the war. a total of 10, or so I’ve been told.

  • Peter Wells

    Very little verifiable information out there but I am currently chasing an Ethiopian contract ZH29 with Ethiopian crest on top/rear of receiver indicating a ‘contract’ piece (a source in the UK has evidence that the contract consisted of 450 guns). This is a WW2 bring-back which, together with a number of Duke of Aosta carbines and pistols, was part of the huge haul of small arms captured when Addis Ababa surrendered and found their way back to South Africa – thankfuly!
    A beautifully made and rare item soon to be mine!

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