Like most factories in occupied Europe, the Czech factories spent the first part of the war turning out arms for their German occupiers and the last part getting bombed flat by the Western Allies. Compared to the utter devastation in Germany, Italy, and Poland, however, the Czechs were in remarkably good shape after the war, and quickly set about re-equipping their army with modern weapons, including a brand new self-loading rifle: The vz 52 (vz being the abbreviation for “vzor”; Czech for “type” or “model”.) The Czech arms industry had a tradition of quality and innovation, and the vz 52 was no exception. Designed using experiences gathered during WWII, it was a rifle that spanned two eras: Its full-length wood stock, intricately machined steel receiver, and semi-automatic operation wouldn't have been out of place in the 1930s, while its intermediate cartridge and detachable box magazine looked towards the future.
LEFT: Detail of receiver and magazine. Photo by Oleg Volk.
The trigger mechanism and safety are nearly identical to that of the American Garand, while the gas system utilizes a short-stroke annular piston derived from that of
RIGHT: Side-folding knife bayonet. Photo by Oleg Volk.
Interestingly, the rifle was released as part of a whole suite of new infantry weapons in the early '50s by the Czechs, who hoped to get foreign currency in exchange. The weapons included an innovative pistol that used a roller-locking short recoil action to tame the potent 7.62x25mm Tokarev round, a general-purpose machine gun that was simply a belt-fed update of the proven Bren gun (another famous Czech design), and an innovative submachine gun featuring a bolt that telescoped around the breech and a magazine well integral with the pistol grip: both novel features that made for a compact weapon, and both features that would be cheerfully plagiarized by Uziel Gal when he "designed" his famous Uzi.
With this cornucopia of small-arms technical excellence poured at their feet, it is somehow unsurprising that the Soviets ignored it, and instead forced their own far cruder designs on the nascent Warsaw Pact. Meanwhile, most of the Czech weapons faded into undeserved obscurity, with sales slumping since both superpowers were essentially giving guns away to third-world nations who promised to be on their team. As a result, vz 52’s have turned up in the oddest corners of the world, flotsam and jetsam of the global arms market; they’ve been encountered in the hands of terrorists in
The CZ52 pistol is well-known to American shooters, having been imported in droves over the last five years or more. Its companion rifle is a little less recognizable, and many of those coming in recently have been barely shootable junkers. Most of the rifles have been painted with an ugly black substance bearing a remarkable resemblance to pickup truck bed liner, and these seem to run for $100 or maybe a little less, but a nice clean one could fall into the $200-$300 range. Loaded factory 7.62x45 ammunition for the vz 52 is scarce; the only source I could find online was Buffalo Arms. Unfortunately, their brass is known for splitting case necks, so for properly annealed, reloadable 7.62x45 brass, the source is Gewehr 98 of the blog Neural Misfires. His brass is correctly annealed and reports have casings lasting through ten reloadings or more.