Samopal vz.58: The Czechoslovakian Answer to the AK

Among the nations of the Warsaw Pact, only Czechoslovakia designed and produced its own infantry assault rifle – everyone else used the Kalashnikov. The Czech vz.58 is often mistaken for an AK because it has the same basic layout, but is in reality a completely different gun mechanically and has no interchangeable parts with an AK. It is a short stroke gas piston system will a pivoting locking block like a Walther P38 pistol and a unique linear hammer for firing. The vz.58 was produced from 1958 until 1984, and underwent no substantial modifications during its service, although various new bolt-on parts are available today for commercial sale.


  1. At start I have to give Ian credit for his interpretation of names, origin and so on – good job! To add to what he says: there had been certain inertia in many industries and institutions of the time period 1948-58, armament industry not being an exception. Czechs began developing new select fire rifle (actually still in CZ Strakonice where vz.52 comes from), almost in parallel with vz.52. It had been designed for Cech 7.62x45mm round. I have seen pictures of prototype in that caliber; the gun looks substantially more beefy.

    Now about some technical details. The finish which you see here and it was indeed prevalent on most of production is an enamel baked-on finish and ‘beaver-barf’ furniture. During my service I have seen early rifles which had phosphate finish(on steel prats) and hard anodise on aluminum magazine. They wore off quite fast which was not to liking of ministry of defence so they soon changed it. Also, the original guns furniture (one I carried was) was made out of single piece of hardwood.

    The bore chrome plating was new addition over vz.52, developed just one year prior to introduction; no need to mention it was welcomed by troops. Cleaning it, as was the rest of rifle, was a breeze.

    • “(…) almost in parallel with vz.52. It had been designed for Cech 7.62x45mm round. I have seen pictures of prototype in that caliber; the gun looks substantially more beefy.(…)”
      Was that ZK 503, see 1st photo from top:
      If I understand that text correctly enough its development was ignited by Deputy of Minister of Defense (?) in April 1951. Mass no greater than 4 kg, Rate-of-Fire 500 rpm and maximal length 850 mm were specified. 29th March 1952 Josef Koucky and František Koucky proposal was deemed as most fitting by VTÚ.

        • Yeah Chermak, that may be it. His was gas-piston operated right from start. Worth of noting is twin mode trigger mechanism.

      • Glad you brought it up, since I never saw it before. This experimental weapon by Koutsky brothers was not gas operated weapons. It was short recoil operated with accelerator. Apparently they had problem with weight and maybe (my intuition) with complexity.

        There were several other competing designs in the race, among them also one by V.Kratochvil, designer of vz.52. Also V.Holecek, designer of vz.23/25 SMG was among loosers.

      • Here is another source in Slovak language. It merely supports and details what you already brought up.

        There was one experimental version with bipod, heavier barrel and scope (not really intended as LMG). There were expectations it might increase firepower, but it failed. It was severely overheating and accuracy/ grouping suffered. Thermodynamics in practice are always the same.

        • I read more about then reigning Czechoslovakian ministers of defenses and I suspect actual situation was that:
          Aleksej (Alexej?) Čepička was Minister of Defense since 1950 year, but considering he often switched post held (1948 Minister of Justice 1950 head of board of interaction with churches) he seems to act foremost to get political power, with little regard for actual knowledge or experience and heavily based on Stalin support. Responsible for
          gegen die Leitung
          des staatsfeindlichen
          and der Spitze

          which was show trial, similar in form and function to 1930s Soviet show trials. Starting losing power after death of Stalin in 1953, appointed as boss of patent office in 1956. Expelled from Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1963. Died forgotten in 1990.
          When he was absorbed by political games inside said party, technical issue were under control of Bohumír Lomský (used name Lenc during WWII)
          who finished junior officer course in 1930s Czechoslovak (and was actually commanding company), after occupation of Czechoslovakia fled to Poland joined Czechoslovak Legion (this is different entity from one of belligerents of Russian Civil War) which after fall of Poland (1939) was interned in Soviet Union. For some time hide as worker for hire, in spring 1940 show his true identity, shortly later join “Czechoslovak mission in USSR”. In February 1942 join newly formed 1. československý samostatný polní prapor, where he work closely with Ludvík Svoboda (he would later become president). With that unit fight in numerous battles since February 1943 (note: unit was upgraded several times, so it is reference by numerous title). Get rank of Brigadier General in 1949. Since September 1953 First Deputy of Minister of Defense. Since April 1956 Minister of Defense. Was viewed as professional and having do great length of job to make Czechoslovak forces one of most able member of WarPact. After events of 1968 year was “freed” of post of Minister of Defense and got work in institute of military history of Czechoslovakia. Publicly criticized Soviet intrusion into Czechoslovakia in 1968 year. Become member of Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1950 year, exited in 1968 year.

  2. A long time ago, I read a caution about this rifle. Supposedly, it can be assembled and fired without the locking piece. Ian’s demo makes that look impossible (bolt carrier wouldn’t engage the bolt), but I’ll let Denny handle that. (It doesn’t sound like something a long-established arms industry would do, I have to say. But the Cold War had funny ideas.) I’ve also seen a YouTube of a five-mag dump through a Vz 58, with zero malfunctions, that left the gun smoking but completely intact. And finally, I saw one of these little irons in a glass case at Springfield Armory, way back when it was a failing public institution. I was struck by how small and neat it looked, displayed with some fancy-dan yellow leather pouches and belts suitable for pulling headquarters guard.

    • It seems the bolt can really be assembled without lock piece… But it also seems there is an upward lug working as disconnector in coorporation with the locking piece… This means, no locking piece, no firing posibility at all.

      Very well designed and made rifle reflecting the national gun merits of Czech People…

      • When looked carefully, there it seems no connection between locking block and trigger. If thought no designer would create a service rifle enabling to fire the unit as unlocked, it should be a way to overcome this… If noticed, the rifle is of “Push Feed” type… This means, if the bolt beİng not fully closed, the cartridge back would not get in touch with breech face and the firing pin could not reach to primer for ignition… In case of locking block absence, the bolt would not firmly seat in its foremost place as leaving a respectable gap preventing case back to fit into the breech front recess and thereby preventing to fire the rifle without the lock piece… IMHO…

        • When the bolt assembled without locking blog, it floats inside the carrier back and forth in limits of locking distance… When the bolt and carrier reach to their foremost location on the rifle there should be no indication if any bolt element being absent… The gun may be triggered and the striker elements work in the due course. But in case of driving a cartridge into the chamber, the rear of the round will push the bolt to the rearmost location in the carrier and since the bolt accepts the case back with forced “Push feed”, it never gets contact with bolt breech face even the bolt and carrier are taken to the foremost place over the gun and the rifle will not be discharged in this, locking piece absence situation, should the trigger is pressed. This corrects; No firearm designer might be fool enough to make a gun dischargable in unlocked or battery off position…

    • Regarding possibility to leave out Lock piece (“zavora” in Czech) I can say that much – I do not recall any provision precluding it. The reason being is that it is not connected with Bolt other than semi-circular socket. This might have been a conundrum for designer to solve to satisfaction. If it was me, I’d make for provision that those two parts cannot be separated. Then, cleaning them would create another problem. They attempted to solve the problem by chrome plating the Lock; it can be seen in dark. When you turn weapon with mag well up you can clearly see if the piece is there or not. I never heard/seen case of someone firing the rifle without lock in place. It’s one of those risks you have to live with.
      Regarding reliability: I have seen them fired only in clean condition; there was never a failure I would remember. Great contribution to reliability are extra-thick magazine lips (made from 2 layers of metal spot-welded together).

      • The same type of 2 layered lips are in AK magazine.
        But of course this mag here is aluminum, so its wise to make it as rugged as possible.

      • According to Popelinsky, the hard chrome on the locking piece was to provide low friction and Wear resistance. Allowing locking piece to begin moving while there was still residual pressure in the breech.

        The kinematics of the locking system are interesting. Depending on where you locate the centres of rotation, for cutting the front and back faces of the locking pieces, it is possible to achieve different degrees of camming for chambering and extraction

        It’s actually much easier to achieve (and to play tunes on) with this system of locking than it is to cut what are effectively short multi start threads on the back and front of the locking lugs for a rotating bolt.

        • First two paragraphs – I agree. To reduce friction and improve longevity, I would consider it too.

          On third one – method of locking. Let’s consider common rotary locking into Barrel extension or into a Block riveted/ welded into receiver. You get an obstacle to viewing/proofing clear/cleaning chamber. This particular point makes for advantage on systems such as Lee-Enfield.

          • “This particular point makes for advantage on systems such as Lee-Enfield.”

            This applies for all tilt-lock type mechanisms such SVT-40, SKS, FAL and many others.

      • various rifle results from the Yugoslav 1961-62 tests:
        liquid mud – solid mud – sand – dust – cold
        AR-10 + + + + –
        AK – + + + +
        G3 + + + + –
        vz.58 – + + + +
        FAL – – – + –
        Other than FAL, which failed miserably all other were considered good enough for adoption.

        • In terms of “gunk” ingress, this open top design; which is a dust cover when closed, seemingly. Would this design perform (hypothetically) as well if it was exactly the same “adjusted for ejection angle” if it was enclosed in a reciever, with an AR style, rear, cocking handle. Point being this bolt, goes inside the reciever; a bit. Thus I mean that the tiny ingress point “between” the top cover and bolt, is it so small compared to say an AK. That ingress is less of an issue, so it would also be if fully covered.

          Unless its the greater area of “cover” even with very tiny ingress points, that can cause jams; as oppose say a noticable gap like on an Ak.

          • Due to friction or such I.e. Tiny ingress points, but less egress points… Egress points for “tiny” things.

          • The dust cover notion, the Ar has one; yet it is more of an enclosed reciever than an Ak, so I mean when firing… Could this “so the open top” allow egress of any reduced “due to the design” accumalated “gunk” better when firing. So to concludem if so; is this open to the better idea?

          • To clarify; the “enclosed space” if this had an enclosed reciever over the bolt, would be double the surface area compared to now. Hope that makes sense.

          • Ok, to cut a long story short; see when this bolt/dust cover I.e. It’s open to the elements, goes inside the short reciever: Splat, anything bigger will be pushed off into the air. If enclosed it will be… Enclosed. Answered my own question.

          • Try fluting the op rod; gunk going forward onto the bolt face, try and direct some gas over the chamber via said flutes maybe. Hacksaw and a hammer. Might work; be worth it if it did.

          • I like that cmmg auto ar bolt rotating thing; add a fluted chamber maybe, for toasty’ness… And skateboard wheels…

          • Try a mud shield; just to see, a silly looking plate behind/half the cocking handle area “of a shape to fit” egressed “gunk” upon the bolt passing into the receiver would hit guard… Not land in chamber, maybe. Be worth testing, just for the record.

          • That cmmg mod, could simply be a stud; not the cocking handle, inside a modified reciever. Normal ar cockng handle… Solves a lot of “gunk” issues that actually, simply; the ar one.

          • That Bayonet is good; positive, it’s a move forward I.e. Lets move, forward via this.

          • Future terminators; a legimate albeit hypothetical proposition, but a fair one. “Those boxes that speak at McDonalds drive thrus, are simply speakers” yet… He he!

            Logic suggests killer robots are the future; but if you don’t agree fair play.

          • Stick c4 etc on individual killer robots firing like lasers at you, as a caveat, hypothetically in the future.

            Meh, if they’ll take wd40 for joint pain and stop vapourising humans well fine; be like bender off futurama.

        • Only explanation for this various rifles testing when you already know who will be your winner, is that maybe they thought the “West” is gonna give them these other rifles for free, or at least their production lines and blueprints, which apparently didn’t happen.

          • Your BS bias is showing off Storm…
            It was far from clear which one would be winner.
            In first test (AR-10, AK, vz.58, M59/61, M14) between rifles that passed tests (AR-10, AK, vz.58) AR-10 was prefered. But AR-10 receiver was a “space-age” thing for it’s time and licensing for machinery was on same restriction as the one for aviation industry (only things that Yugoslavia had troubles acquiring from the west).
            So in second round, G3, AK and vz.58 were tested, G3 being winner. Here… it is not clean what happened, Germans were more than willing to sell technical documentation, but something went wrong (I suspect interference from CETME, since relations with Franko’s Spain were shitty) and it came to nothing.
            Then AK and vz.58 were looked at, licenced vz.58 was considered for a while, but Zastava has already started work on making a copy of the AK, so it was decided to concentrate effort there.
            It was not expected that west would give anything for free, but M70s were made on the “western” machine park, either originals or local licenced copies. In fact vast majority most of the ex-Yugo weapon industry ran on the “western” machine park.

          • Oh no, slav Balkan war thing. I accept my comments are shit and both of of you are mighty warriors; like Alexander the Great and such.

            So your both right “no shooting Austro-Hungarian Dukes now”

          • I mean, when you look at all that, it sounds close to ludicrous, Yugoslavia actually wanting to adopt AR-10 (which no country did as main rifle) ?
            Next, adopting G3, when you already have PAP in 7.62×39 ?
            It was clear from the start,imo, what is actually obtainable and that everything reasonable points in AK direction.

            But knowing of Yugo’s balancing between East and West, thats why I said its not completely unrealistic that they maybe fantasized they are gonna get these western rifles by some crazy cheap deal, as was with stuff they got from US when there was split with Stalin. They were very pragmatic and I believe would struck a deal, although I dont know if, or how much, Soviets would be angry with their fellow “socialist” country using western rifles.

          • “Yugoslavia actually wanting to adopt AR-10 (which no country did as main rifle) ?”

            And in 7.62x39mm feeding from AK mags no less… A lot of countries did consider AR-10 however. It worked well in 7.62x39mm, being very controllable (unlike in 7.62×51). Major factor in most countries decision not to adopt it was same as Yugoslavia’s – too high tech for late ’50/early ’60s.

            “Next, adopting G3, when you already have PAP in 7.62×39 ?”

            Again you are making assumptions w/o any facts…
            SKS was never considered satisfying weapon. Initial M59 was produced in large troop trials amounts and that was it. Full auto, magazine fed version (M59/61) was rejected during first trials as “obsolete concept”, just like M14 and BM-59 were. Only reason for M59/66 production was that automatic rifle introduction was horribly late after problems with M64, but that is after those tests.
            So it was not “PAP or G3”, it was “which automatic rifle” will be selected as a main future weapon.
            Oh, and G3 was also in 7.62x39mm, so technically it is rare G-32, but inscription on weapon says just “G-3″…

            It was clear from the start,imo, what is actually obtainable and that everything reasonable points in AK direction.
            With a 20/20 hindsight yes, but not at that moment. There were problems where AK was not liked (it was milled at that moment, for once, same reason vz.58 was disliked). In second trials one of the “not must, but desirable” requirements was that gun be of the stamped steel construction and G3 fit there ideally.

            But knowing of Yugo’s balancing between East and West, thats why I said its not completely unrealistic that they maybe fantasized they are gonna get these western rifles by some crazy cheap deal,
            Nothing about fantasies, practically every new gun that could be acquired was acquired and thoughtfully tested. Includes things like M16A1 in 1967, XM-177 in 1968 and Stoner 63 in 1968-69. BTW, all those guns survive in PPU collection… It was much harder to acquire Soviet weapons than anything made in the west, first AK-74 was acquired from Iran in 1980., being capture from Afghanistan.

            They were very pragmatic and I believe would struck a deal, although I dont know if, or how much, Soviets would be angry with their fellow “socialist” country using western rifles.
            What Soviets thought was irrelevant after 1948. Don’t forget that Yugoslavia was one of the early adopters of MP-5s, first examples were tested in 1973. and large scale order was placed in 1977. Only way Soviets could exert “pressure” is offering things at lower prices. Hence T-54/55s were acquired instead of M48s as originally planned or AMX-30 (plans for which were ditched because whole program was 5+ years late)…
            FFS, Yugoslavia was license making western helicopters, even selling parts made to France (which then installed them in their own helicopters), Soviets could do nothing about it.
            About ammo sales to the US during Vietnam war and how not a single weapon that went to North Vietnam… lets not even talk about it. 😀

            Story is incredibly complicated, I have researched it for 15+ years (including visits to archives in the most of ex-Yugoslav republics) and there are still a lot of unexplored things… One day there will be a book on topic, but don’t expect it any time soon. 🙁

    • Saw the video… hmm, what to say. The rifle was intended for not much over 300m (bbl lg. = 15.6″). We were shooting standard course of 100 (single shot) and 200m (short burst). We were land-engineer battalion; rifle was intended more for self-defence. One guy I know was with mechanised infantry; they were shooting twice as far. Their rifles were with solid stock, ours were side-folders. Side-folder is handy, you can wear it slung on your back during training and not even realise it is there.

  3. If you simply assemble Chermak without a locking element, he will not be able to feed the cartridge into the barrel.
    If you try hard, then it’s possible (I haven’t tried this) to get him to shoot.
    But this is the mission for the Darwin Prize. 😉

    Good rifle.
    Not as reliable as the AK, but it shoots much more accurately.

    • Lock piece has no role in feeding. I did not read/ hear vz.58 would be more accurate over AK, but the guy in ‘9-hole’ video (Henry Chan) is supportive about the trigger feel. Some men who served in Csl. military praised it as well, but that might have been because of lack of comparison. From my limited experience, I cannot say one way or the other – but it was not bad. Sights and their use are little challenging as with all open/ notch sights.

      • “Lock piece has no role in feeding”(C)

        Besides what he does when positioning the part that feeds. 😉
        I do not know if this was a feature of a specific rifle, but when loading from the magazine, it was jammed.

        • Aaa, you might be right Stiven.

          When feeding round with properly set-up Action assembly, because Lock maintains Bolt forward, everything goes as expected. If Lock is missing, stripping comes too late and feeding of round may not be completed and therefor may cause a jam. You win! 🙂

          In truth, I did not have a chance to verify it in practise.

  4. I guess that if you were re-designing for today’s civilian market, you’d have something like Browning/Winchester 1895 style 2 piece firing pin with the back half in the locking block and a disconnector / out of battery safety that required the locking piece to be in the locked position before it allowed the hammer to be released.

    • There is no hammer.
      There is an auto-shooting lever, which serves as a fuse against premature firing.

      If there is something to improve, this is how the bolt carrier interacts with the bolt when moving forward.
      Now this place causes a lot of spurious friction. This is the reason for the low reliability in dust and the like.

      • The auto-sear is present among others also on FAL rifles. This creates a headache to those, who are supposed to pass or to prevent these rifles into hand of civilians. For instance, in Canada the RCMP listed FAL as “prohibited” long time ago. In contrary, the vz.58 (after importers did necessary alterations) was passed as “unrestricted” until very recently. Now is among “prohibited”, although for different (largely political) reason.

        • Forgive me for diving into political claptrap, but the idea that stripping ordinary law-abiding civilians of “assault weapons” will prevent mass killings is really naïve. Far more people have been murdered with stolen pocket pistols than with “assault weapons.” It appears that the government believes an assault rifle somehow “magically hypnotizes people into becoming serial killers.” JUST KIDDING!

          • Good part of Canadian public has ingrained hostility toward firearms. For them it is simple: “gunz ‘r bad”! A politician who forces the anti-gun agenda has their vote. Reasoning will not influence them.

        • You do not understand your own benefit.
          This stimulates the national economy. Creates new jobs and accelerates commodity circulation. LOL
          Since the newly manufactured receivers are made using the wrong technology and do not have the original user properties. Like strength, durability and other “little things.”
          So it was with all replicas of receivers made in the USA. SIGs, Kalashnikovs, Zastavas…
          Chermaks is no exception.

          • I do not associate with former country, so what they do is up to them; I personally do not have part in it. Further, the importers/ distributors are supra-national entities (e.g. Czechpoint I am not sure how much of benefit if any reaches the country of origin.

        • Several models of pump action shotgun have parts which fulfill all of the roles of “auto sears”

          It would be interesting to see the panic from state sector bureaucracy if someone produced manually operated versions of the VZ58

          Drawing the domains of logical consistency and of firearms legislation on a Venn diagram would show only minimal overlap. Perhaps that’s actually a good thing?

  5. Having watched hundreds of these vids; I can now reveal the perfect gun… It resembles a trombone with skateboard wheels and sails on it. Hmmm, maybe I’ve invented a time machine… Patent pending, he he.