Shooting the Czech ZH-29 at James D Julia

The Czech ZH-29 is one of the first well developed semiauto military rifles – it was light, mechanically simple, reliable, and handled well, unlike many of its ungainly or excessively complicated predecessors. It only found two buyers, though, in China and Ethiopia, despite being tested by many major military powers. The production examples were chambered for the 8mm Mauser cartridge, and several sources claim that it was a quite uncomfortably painful rifle to shoot. I want to know, was that true?

To me, the recoil from the ZH29 was not particularly bad. It was similar to other selfloading 8mm rifles of the same approximate weight – noticeably but certainly not painful. That said, it did kick me in the cheek more than other rifles I have shot.

Unfortunately, the gas settings and ammunition were not cooperating on this occasion, and the rifle was short-stroking consistently. That was not a problem typical to the design, and ought to be fairly easy to resolve on this particular example, although I did not have enough time to address it myself.


  1. Seems like a distinctly problematic and weak locking system, when up or down is the obvious choice. Sometimes I can’t help wonder that some gun designers were heavy drinkers ?

    • “when up or down is the obvious choice”
      Weapon known as Goryunov* machine gun or SG-43 is another example of gas-operated/tilt/side.
      * to be precise it should be Goryunov-Voronkov-Goryunov machine gun as it was co-designed by P.M.Goryunov, V.E.Voronkov and M.M.Goryunov.

      “some gun designers were heavy drinkers”
      Isn’t that true for Lahti (designer of Husqvarna m/40 automatic pistol)?

      • After some thinking solution used in SG-43 might be legacy of Degtyarev machine guns (for example DP), in which locking was done by movement to sides – P.M.Goryunov worked earlier for Degtyarev. BTW: Does anyone tried to make gas-operated, tilt, diagonal design?

      • You are right, when comes to lockup, Goryunov is this kind of genre, but of course of totally different class. This thing appears to be well optimized with respect to discussion one number earlier – aka weigh vs. impulse.

  2. Was there any debate with the James D Julia people about trying different ammunition or adjusting the gas settings rather than posting a video of the gun not cycling? From your previous ZH-29 video the gas adjustment looks easy to change.

  3. Ian: Thank you for showing at least one right handed shot. On most of these rifles they are more interesting when viewed from a right handed shooting stance.

  4. Ian: I suspect that because the gun was designed for a right hand shooter the recoil and sight alinement would not be an issue for shooting it right handed. I wanted the video several times and it appears that the recoil is moving up and to the right each shot. That would of course mean that your cheek was in the way! Great video on an interesting weapon. Harry

    • I really dislike auto speed check, it should have read “watched the video” instead of “wanted the video”. Harry

  5. I really appreciate to see on FW a product which is supposed to be part my “cultural heritage”. In any case, if I did not know the true origin of this bit quirky rifle, I’d say it is French. They are known to think out of the box, sometimes in most unusual way – e.g. Famas.

    That funny sight alignment is probably meant for right handed shooter which had been default thru generations of service in Czech armed forces. Even in time of my service, there was no discussion about “left-handed preference”. Everyone was right handed by decree.

  6. Not too surprising that there’d by a moment’s hiccup with the angled sights. Someone (Fairbairn, or Jordan?) found that pistol shooters’ aim didn’t degrade when the sights were covered with tape. They were actually using the gun’s silhouette to line up with the target. I’m pretty sure this was for snap shooting of course.

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