ZB 26 light machine gun (Czechoslovakia)
Caliber:7.92x57 mm Mauser
Length: 1168 mm
Length of barrel: 600 mm
Feeding: box magazine, 20 rounds
Rate of fire: 500 rounds/min
In around 1921 the Czechoslovak army also started a quest for a light machine gun. Earlytrials included foreign designs such as Berthier, Browning BAR M1918,Darne, Hotchkiss, Madsen and St.Etienne, and several domestic designs.Of those, the most important was the Praha II LMG, a lightweight, belt fed weapon built at Česka Zbrojovka (CZ) Praha (Czech Arms factory in Prague) and designed by brothers Vaclav and Emmanuel Holek. In thefollowing year the Holek brothers abandoned the belt feed in favour of a top-feeding box magazine, and the resulting weapon, known as the Praha I-23, was selected. Since CZ-Praha was a relatively small factory with limited industrial capabilities, it was decided to transfer the production of the new light machine gun to a more advanced arms factory in the city of Brno, known as Zbrojovka Brno, or ZB in short. This transfer resulted in a long series of court trials over royalties,between the owners of the design (CZ-Praha) and the manufacturer(ZB).
Despite the legal troubles, manufacture of the new weapon had commenced at the ZB factory by late 1926, and it became the standard light machine gun of the Czechoslovak army by 1928.Universally known under its factory designation ZB26 (the militarydesignation in the Czechoslovak army was lehky kulomet Vzor 26,or LK Vz.26 in short), this LMG became one of the most success fulinfantry small arms of the inter war period. It is believed that the ZBfactory turned more than 120,000 ZB-26 guns between 1926 and 1939 in avariety of calibers (the most popular being its original 7.92x57Mauser). It was exported to twenty-four European, South American andAsian countries, both in its original form and in the slightly improved ZB30 version. Large batches of ZB light machine guns went to Bolivia,Bulgaria, China, Rumania, Turkey and Yugoslavia. Exports continued upuntil 1939, when Hitler’s Germany took over Czechoslovakia. The Germans quickly recognized and adopted a good weapon when they saw it, and the ZB26 immediately became the MG 26(t) in German service. The Waffenwerke Brunn (the German name for ZB during the occupation) kept turning out the ZB26 LMG in significant numbers, and these machine guns were issued to Waffen-SS and various occupation forces. It must also be noted that the ZB26, in its improved ZGB33 version, eventually became the Bren,an extremely successful light machine gun widely used throughout the British Commonwealth between the late 1930s and the 1980s.
The ZB26 is a gas operated, air cooled, selectively fired, machine gun. It has a finned, quick-detachable barrel and fires from an open bolt. Theaction of the gun is powered by a long-stroke gas piston, located below the barrel. The gas block is mounted at the muzzle end of the barreland also serves as the front sight base. The action is locked bytipping the rear of the bolt (breechblock) upwards, and into a lockingrecess in the receiver. The return spring is located in the butt of theweapon, and is connected to the bolt carrier / gas piston via a longrod; additionally, there is a short spring buffer located around thereturn spring at the juncture of the receiver and butt, which softensthe impact of the bolt group at the end of its rearward stroke. Thecharging handle is located at the right side of receiver and does not reciprocate when the gun is fired.
The ammunition feed is from top-mounted box magazines. These are made from sheet steel and holdonly 20 rounds in a two-row configuration. The magazine housing has asliding dust cover which is slid forward to load the gun. Spentcartridges are ejected downwards. The ejection port is normally closedwith its own dust cover which opens automatically once the trigger ispressed. The trigger unit permits both single shots and automatic fire,selectable through a safety / fire mode selector lever situated at theleft side of the pistol grip. The gun fires from an open bolt and thespring-loaded firing pin is operated by a projection on the boltcarrier, once the bolt is fully in battery and locked.
Because ofthe overhead magazine, the sight line is offset to the left, and thefront sight is mounted on a base which protrudes upward and to the leftfrom the gas block. The rear sight is attached to the left side of receiver, and has a range adjustment mechanism controlled by a knurledrotating knob. Standard furniture consists of an integral folding bipod, which is attached to the gas cylinder tube, and a wooden buttwith a spring-buffered buttplate and a folding shoulder rest plate.Despite the fact that the ZB26 was intended for the light machine gunrole, it was also offered with a sustained-fire tripod, and providedwith a sufficient supply of full magazines and spare barrels it couldserve (to some extent) as a medium machine gun. The same tripod wasalso adaptable for the AA role.
ZB30:an improved version of the basic design, which appeared in 1930. Basic improvements included the addition of a gas regulator to the gas blockand a barrel of somewhat different shape, with a changed interface with the receiver (so the barrel cannot be installed improperly). Other changes include different markings on the safety / fire mode selector.The ZB30 was manufactured under licence in Rumania, Yugoslavia and Nationalist China.
ZGB33: a modified ZB30 adapted to use rimmed British ammunition (.303 British / 7.7x57R). Basically, a prototype for the British Bren machine gun.