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.
“Guns” magazine article on the ZH29 (English)
Chinese contract ZH29 (click to download high-resolution copies)
Disassembly looks like AR15 , with braking the upper receiver:)
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Thank you for posting such useful and exciting information about rare and very interesting firearms.
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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.
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.
Anybody else notice that the US version has an all wood stock, and lacks the characteristic aluminum heat sink?
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.
I am pretty sure that you have never seen the factory records, which are actually far from being intact.
Right now we can confirm these export numbers based on the documents from the archives of Zbrojovka Brno:
China: 285 ZH 29 and ZH 32
Lithuania: 50 ZH 29
Ethiopia: 100 ZH 32
Plus samples for Czechoslovak Army and trials in different countries (USA, France, Latvia, Turkey, Romania, Greece…).
I would also like to see the evidence of a UK source concerning the Ethiopian contract. 450 pieces is a nonsense, again. Remember that only the deliveries to China took around 4 years (in this is Sepp44 right).
Well, very interesting. I can prove only 13 ZH-29 in Lithuanian Border Police Service at the moment. I believe 50 is the right number, but part of Lithuanian archive records had gone after soviet occupation. Although I’m sure no one ZH-29 was supplied to the Lithuanian Army. May I ask for the factory records?
You are correct, the customer was Lithuanian Police and not the Army. My numbers are based on a longer research in many documents in ZB archives. What exactly do you need? Maybe a direct contact will be better? I will highly welcome any information and pictures from Lithuania. Thanks!
My e-mail: email@example.com
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!
Very cool! Send us photos when you get it!
450 is way too much – highest estimate I ever saw indicates 200..
however highest recorded rack number is 0109 – which is mine 😉
Following this information as far as who purchased these rifles, is a there a serial number trail to help determine who in fact purchased a specific rifle. As I mentioned my ZH29 was a Vet. bring back from Germany at the end of WWII.
What is your serial number? And could you please share some pictures including markings etc.? Maybe the we can say more.
Would you have a email address that I might send pictures and serial number, I have two serial numbers to supply.
It´s firstname.lastname@example.org. BTW, I have just found that you are trying to find more about your rifle for quite a long time. I am afraid it will be really difficult without more detailed story of/about the veteran. I suppose it might be just a sample, because this model was tested in many countries – and Germans sure also took a look at it. So far I remember, in Germany were captured also other Czechoslovak semiauto rifles; I think there are pictures of models by Ceska zbrojovka Strakonice in a Hatchers´s book (unfortunately I dont own a copy).
My ZH29 was brought back at the end of the war by a Texan who found it after the war at the Taku Naval Dockyard in Japan. I doubt it was ever used, it still looks new.
would not you want to sell your ZH29? Thank you Lukas