Country of origin
1 015 mm
Practical rate of fire
Range of effective fire
The Vz.52 is a
Czechoslovakian semi-automatic rifle developed in the late 1940s and
fielded by that nation during the 1950s. It is a very similar rifle
to the Soviet Union's Simonov
that not only are they comparable in form and function, but also in
that both ultimately served only as short-lived stopgaps until
assault rifles became available. It nonetheless remains in service
with several nations and non-state groups, and still makes regular
appearances in combat zones around the world.
The Czechoslovakian Army took an interest in self-loading
rifles and intermediate-power cartridges during World War 2, a
combination of which was seen as a possible replacement for the
obsolete Mauser Vh.24 rifle chambered in 7.92x57 mm Mauser. The
Czechoslovakian armed forces had previous experience in acquisition
of self-loading rifles with the Zh-29 (which had not been produced
in sufficient quantity to fully replace the Vh.24, despite having
been in continuous production for a decade) in the 1930s, though its
production was shut-down in 1938 when Germany occupied
Though ultimately, wasn't until after the war that serious
developmental efforts took place. A new rimless 7.62x45 mm cartridge
was developed for this task, and in 1947, designs were submitted to
the Czechoslovakian Army for a selection of firearms chambered in
the new round. One of these was a self-loading rifle designed by two
brothers, Jan and Jaroslav Kratochvíl, who had also designed a
number of other firearms for the Czechoslovakian armed forces (which
included what would become the Vz.52 pistol, which is otherwise an
unrelated design to the rifle with the same designation).
As post-war reconstruction took a higher priority in
Czechoslovakia, development of the new rifle and cartridge proceeded
slowly, and it wasn't until 1952 that both were finally in service
with the Czechoslovakian Army. Though for all the time and effort
put into developing the Vz.52 rifle and the 7.62x45 mm round, both
were surprisingly short-lived in service with Czechoslovakia.
The layout and general appearance of the Vz.52 are very
similar to that of an SKS, but with a lot more "bulk" to its
proportions. The furniture is straight-through and wooden, with an
unventilated upper handguard that wraps tightly around the barrel,
with a steel bracket to the rear. A small indentation on either side
of the foregrip ensures an easier grip on the rifle, while a longer
groove in the foregrip on the right side accommodates the bayonet
when not in use. The trigger group has a complex shape, with the
safety located on its front edge, and the magazine release is
located ahead of the trigger group. The receiver is tall, with a
pronounced Browning Stop, and the charging handle is located on the
right side. A steel barrel cover extends forward from the front of
the upper handguard to the front of the lower foregrip, and
tapers-down in front. The rear sight is located on the front end of
the receiver, just in front of the action, while the forward sight
is bracketed directly onto the barrel just behind the muzzle.
The furniture is made of either beech or walnut, both with a
distinctive yellow-brown staining, while the metallic portions of
the Vz.52 are made of forged steel with a blued finish. The
buttstock is hollowed with a cell containing the weapon's cleaning
kit, which is accessible by removing the detachable metal cap that
covers the buttplate. The detachable magazines are made of aluminum.
Rifles produced at the Povaska Bystrica factory from 1952-56 were
stamped “SHE”, while rifles produced at the Uhersky Brod factory
from 1952-57 were stamped “AYM”.
The Vz.52 and Vz.52/57 are naturally very difficult to
visually distinguish, and it is almost impossible to tell them apart
at a glance. However, there are tell-tale details that distinguish
them. For example, the Vz.52 has a parkerized finish, a shallow
slope on the underside of the magazine, and no barrel crosspin in
the forward receiver, while the metal on the Vz.52/57 is painted
black, the slope of the underside of the magazine is noticeably
steep, and a crosspin was added to the front of the receiver. The
magazine itself may not be a reliable indicator however, as they are
interchangeable, and Vz.52 magazines are sometimes used in the
Vz.52/57 (see below).
The Vz.52 is gas-operated, with a tilting breechblock action
and a long-stroke gas piston. It is not a selective-fire weapon, and
can only fire one round with each pull of the trigger. Unusually for
a self-loading rifle, the Vz.52 ejects brass to the left, rather
than the right.
When the last round is fired, a bolt hold-open device locks
the action in it's open position, allowing the Vz.52's magazine to
be charged while still loaded into the rifle. This is accomplished
either by hand with loose rounds, or using 5-round stripper clips. A
groove on the front of the receiver cover guides stripper clips into
the correct position for reloading. The magazine itself may also be
quickly replaced, if a spare charged with ammunition is on-hand.
The magazines for the Vz.52 and Vz.52/57 are extremely
similar in design, and are actually partly interchangeable; a Vz.52
magazine may be charged with 7.62x39 mm rounds and loaded into a
Vz.52/57, though it has been noted that the Vz.52's magazine will
not feed as efficiently into the Vz.52/57 as the magazine actually
designed for the latter rifle. It is also possible to load a Vz.52
magazine charged with 7.62x45 mm rounds into the Vz.52/57, or either
of the two magazines charged with 7.62x39 mm rounds into the Vz.52,
but it goes without saying that the wrong rounds for the given rifle
will not chamber.
The sights consist of a hooded front blade and a v-notched
rear tangent. The rear sight is adjustable for between 100 m and
900 m, in 100 m increments.
The bayonet is knife-shaped and built into the weapon itself,
and folds laterally into a groove in the side of the foregrip when
not in use. Unlike the bayonet on the
SKS, it is easily removed for
Intense pressure from the Soviet Union for the
Czechoslovakian Army to adopt the more common 7.62x39 mm round
resulted in the Vz.52 being re-chambered for it, with the resulting
Vz.52/57 variant finally entering service in 1957. Though despite
the modification into the Vz.52/57 configuration, it didn't last
much longer in service, as the
Vz.58 assault rifle developed as its
replacement was fielded the very next year. By the end of 1959, the
Vz.52 series was fully withdrawn from frontline service, with
reserve units gradually relinquishing their own rifles over the
following years. Most of the Vz.52s (including large stocks of
rifles still chambered in 7.62x45 mm) were donated or sold-off to
nations and militant groups allied with or sympathetic to the
Eastern Block, where they soldiered-on for many years.
One of the most enthusiastic buyers of the Vz.52 was Cuba,
who purchased a very large number of them when the Communist
government came to power. Cuba acquired the original Vz.52, in
7.62x45 mm, as well as the 7.62x39 mm Vz.52/57. Exactly how many
Vz.52s were imported by Cuba is unclear, though a possible
indication is Fidel Castro's order of 400 000 spare magazines from
Czechoslovakia in 1961.
Cuban troops made extensive use of the Vz.52 in combat (or
provided these rifles to combatants) during numerous conflicts; for
example, the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961, the 1960-65 Congo Crisis,
the Bolivia Insurgency, the Yom Kippur War, the Ogaden War, the
Angolan Civil War, the US Invasion of Grenada, the South African
Border War, and the Nicaraguan Civil War. The Vz.52 has also been
one of the main firearms of the Cuban MTT militia ("Milicias de
Tropas Territoriales", meaning "Territorial Troops Militia") since
their establishment in 1980.
Despite its simple operation and relative obscurity, Vz.52s
have made numerous appearances on the battlefield. This includes
conflict as widely chronologically spaced as the Vietnam War, the Ogaden War, the Invasion of Grenada, the Soviet-Afghan War, the
Somali Civil War, and ongoing conflicts such as the Afghan War, and
the Syrian Civil War.
Though nowhere near as widespread as the competing SKS, the
Vz.52 has turned up in some rather interesting locations. Its known
operators include Cuba, Czechoslovakia (later passed-down to the
Czech Republic and Slovakia), Egypt, Indonesia, Israel, Grenada,
Guinea-Bissau, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Syria, and Yemen. The Vz.52 has
also been given in large quantities to non-state militants around
the world, and is particularly common among such groups in Africa.
The Vz.52 has been retired from front-line service in Czech
Republic and Slovakia, though it is still employed as a ceremonial
rifle in these nations. For example, Vz.52s with chrome plating and
dark wood furniture are the official longarm of the Prague Castle
There is also a growing civilian market for surplus Vz.52s as
well, illustrated by the fact that the Shotgun News magazine
advertised a chamber adaptor for the Vz.52 in the early 1990s, which
would allow it to fire the 7.62x39 mm round like the Vz.52/57
(however, such adaptors were tried before on other rifles, and
failed --- see the
M1 Garand article for a prominent example).
Interestingly, many Vz.52s on North American civilian market were
"bring back" weapons that were captured by US troops in Grenada, and
legally transported back to the US.
The Vz.52's days on the battlefield are numbered though,
as relatively few were produced, spare parts are becoming scarce,
7.62x45 mm ammunition has always been scarce, many were never
produced or remanufactured in the Vz.52/57 configuration, and they
are enormously outnumbered by the more recognizable SKS. How long it
will remain in service remains to be seen.
Original production model, chambered in the Czechoslovakian 7.62x45
Vz.52/57: Vz.52 re-chambered for the Soviet 7.62x39 mm M43
cartridge. These replaced the Vz.52 in production, and very large
quantities of existing Vz.52s were converted to Vz.52/57 standard.
This German weapon was effectively the first operational assault
rifle. It's operating method was incorporated into the Vz.52.
M1 Garand: The Springfield Armory M1 Garand was one of the
first successful semi-automatic battle rifles, and a number of its
design elements were incorporated directly into the Vz.52.
Vz.58: Czechoslovakian assault rifle similar to the
in layout, but having an operating method closer to that of the
StG-44 and Vz.52. It gradually replaced the Vz.52 rifle in
Competing Soviet battle rifle with many similar attributes. However,
it has a fixed magazine, and uses a tilting bolt mechanism in its
operation, rather than a tilting breechblock.
There are also a pistol and a light machine gun with the
designation "Vz.52", which also hail from Czechoslovakia; they are
designated as such because they also entered service in 1952, and
are otherwise unrelated to the Vz. 52 rifle.
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