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The Czechs are pretty well known for their firearms designs. With the CZ-75 as the poster child for their firearms industry; it’s pretty safe to say they know what they’re doing over there in the land of the Slavs. After all these years of playing around with their various versions of firearm preeminence I oft wondered, why don’t they have a machine gun? Well, this humble scribe wasn’t doing his research because it turns out they do, and it’s a monster.

Palling around with at the Lucky Gunner shoot with Dave Liddy of the Scout26 blog we found ourselves waiting in line to shoot the mighty Ma Deuce. Problem was the line was longer than a John Bonham drum solo. So we took off for greener pastures and shorter lines when we found a wooden platform with a gun writer ignored machine gun hammering away at any commuter vehicle stupid enough to be parked in the line of fire. It was throwing grease in twenty different directions and smoking something fierce. Looking at the pile of spent cases building at the base of its tripod we immediately noticed it was shooting the formidable 7.62x54r, at a rate of 700 rounds per minute.  To say it piqued our interest would be an understatement.

“What kind of gun is that?” we asked as the owner pulled the smoking barrel off the receiver to cool down. “Czech UK 59” he responded with more than a little hint of pride.  Researching this weapon later in the day I discovered that the UK Vz.59 was a general purpose light machine gun designed in the 50’s and still in use by Czech forces to this day. With its light barrel with bipod installed it served in a light squad assault weapon role like our modern M249. The other option (the version we shot) featured a heavy barrel with tripod to be used in a medium machine gun role.

“Would you let us shoot it if we linked some rounds?” Dave asked him. The owner looked around at the unopened cases of surplus 7.62x54r sitting around and replied, “Why sure” while handing us some empty links. Dave and I spent the better part of the next 30 minutes feverishly linking rounds together using a Cold War era tool that while troublesome at times, proved to be pretty effective once you got a rhythm going. Sitting there loading rounds repetitively we had plenty of time to ogle the classic sexiness of the Czech MG.

First off you notice the wood. I have in the past touted the warm fuzzy feeling that a wood stock makes me feel and this gun was no exception. Plastic stocks can be harsh, cold and utilitarian whereas a good wood stock makes you feel comfortable and welcomed. This UK 59 was no exception. Following the wood, you had the rest of the metal parts coated in the classically simplistic dark parkerized finish. Like a 50’s era Rat Rod, this thing screamed badass. The sights were your typical folding rear leaf and hooded front post, but let’s be honest, were we really going to use them?

Ogling and linking done; the owner of the beast re-installed the barrel and applied a liberal amount of Break-Free to the breech before closing it up and pulling the starting end of the links through the bolt. First thing you notice is that there is no charging handle. In fact, the grip serves as the charging handle. Push a lever on the left side, engage the trigger and rack it towards the business end before pulling it back with a satisfying click. Now you’re ready to rock ‘n roll.

Crouching in behind the comfortable butt stock, I let her rip. The trigger was much lighter than what I had experienced on other class IIIs that day, but it seemed just about perfect for this gun. With just enough resistance to let you know that very soon you would be loosing a volley of 181gr projectiles down range. Mounted on the tripod, quick accurate bursts were easily attainable although I don’t know if that would have been the case had we been shooting the lightweight bi-podded version. Decent accuracy turned out to be pretty achievable once you got the hang of it. Unfortunately, getting the hang of it took up most of the ammo, but I was able to hit the same relative area of an offending mini-van with some level of accuracy by the time I was done.

Unfortunately, due to its age and overuse throughout the day it tended to not feed correctly every once in a while. While this was an annoyance, it was easily rectified by repeating the charging process that utilized the pistol grip. This is the one glaring flaw I found with this particular weapon system. While the location and action used for clearing any feed issues was ergonomically excellent and allowed you to keep both hands in on the weapon; I couldn’t help but imagine trying to work that function while lying prone in the dirt. What seems like a good idea when it’s mounted on a tripod could easily lead to trouble when you had to cant the weapon forwards to clear a jam while lying on the ground. Having to take your sights off target like that could lead to some unfortunate consequences on the battlefield.

Out of ammo, covered in oil, gunpowder and giddiness, I relinquished control of the smoking weapon back to its owner and thanked him for the privilege. The UK Vz.59 definitely hearkens to a bygone era when status quo for a squad automatic weapon was wood furniture and a don’t screw with me round in the chamber. It’s a far cry from the M249 SAWs and M240Bs we’re used to seeing in the modern battlefield, but it obviously still gets the job done, as long as you find yourself wandering around the woods in an Armáda České republiky uniform. Cheap to feed and a blast to shoot with parts kits going for around $800. I think I may need to raid my daughter’s college fund.

Czech UK Vz.59 (Univerzální kulomet vzor 59) Heavy Barrel

Designed 1956-1959
Manufacturer Zbrojovka Vsetín
Weight 20.5lbs
Length 47.8in
Barrel Length 25.6in
Cartridge 7.62x54r
Action Gas operated; tilting breech block
Rate of Fire 700-800 rounds per minute
Range 100-2000 meters
Sights Folding leaf rear; hooded front post

[Special thanks to Dave Liddy for running the video camera and Lucky Gunner for putting together the event.]

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    • You’re right, thanks for catching that. I apparently like to mix up my slavic nations that start with C

  1. This is why I have a “happiness is a warm machine gun” bumper sticker on the back of my truck, Ryan. You’re making me miss my M60 and giving me flash backs! Seriously, the only thing the owner needs is to condition his wep with some militec 1. My semi RPK used to hang up when hot until I conditioned it, now it is smoother than a Southern politician on election day. The only thing I don’t miss about carrying the M60 is the belts. There are pro’s and cons for each way, but the RPK type option of interchangeable magazine feed with the AK is well thought out. Battlefield availability of ammo/magazines is always a plus. Running through a hundred round belt is a blast though!

    • The only thing I missed about carrying the M-60 was…. well, that it was frickin’ heavy. I got yelled at once at ROTC Advance Camp (Ft. “Smiley,” Kansas) because I put the thing over my shoulder instead of carrying it at the ready. Of course, we were the second or third platoon in a company sized movement, so it really would not have made that much difference anyway – the lead elements in the column were a few hundred yards ahead of us.

      • I have a son who is stationed at “Fort Smiley”. The redeeming feature is decent 4×4 salvage yards within an hours drive. Otherwise he would be bucking for a transfer.

  2. A skydiver from Prague jumped out of a plane. His chute didn’t open, yet he survived.

    He was a Czech, he bounced.

  3. You know the English Bren of WW2 fame was of Czech origin. And I believe the Brits used them up until at least the 80’s.

    • We used the Bren on vehicle mounts during the 1991 Gulf War & IIRC they remained in service with UKLF until 1994/5.

    • You can see a few similarities between the vz59 and the Bren (Brno/Enfield) such as the muzzle flash hider , the barrel change handle, grip and stock, even the recoil action. The Bren was .303 rimmed but when it went to 7.62 NATO rimless it was called the LMG.

  4. Ryan, my man! The 7.62X54R is a badass round on a par with the .30-06. How badly did this Czech typewriter beat you up?

    • Just some general soreness, but nothing real bad. The tripod helped mitigate most of that. I definitely had some red marks from where the stock had pounded into my shoulder though.

  5. My Gramps was on peace keeping duty in Czechoslovakia after the war. He wanted to look like hot stuff, so he picked up a Czech pistol off the assembly line and carried it as a sidearm. Never bought bullets for it, just wanted to look like an MP. He figured if anything actually happened, he would prefer to blast away with his Garand. So basically he has a 60+ years young pistol in mint condition that has never been fired. Czech guns are great.

  6. I just purchased a UK59 and would like to purchase a tripod. Does anyone have any idea where one could be found? Best to all,

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