Ceska Zbrojovka vz. 59
General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG)
The Model 68 is a general purpose machine gun of Czech origin.
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Throughout the 1950s, Czechoslovakia evolved their General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) design beginning with the vz. 52. This gas-operated weapon held the unique ability to be fed by way of ammunition belt or magazine and was chambered for the local 7.62x45mm cartridge. The following vz. 52/57 brought about support for the widely-accepted 7.62x39mm Soviet cartridge and, by the end of the decade, the design was refined once more to become the vz. 59 - now chambered for the 7.62x54R (rimmed) Soviet rifle cartridge offering better penetration at range. Design work on the type spanned from 1956 into 1959 (attributed to Zbrojovka Vsetin) with adoption forthcoming in 1959. It remains in use with the modern Czech Army (2013) which was formed after the peaceful split of Czechoslovakia following the collapse of the Soviet Union (the Slovakia forms the other half opposite the Czech Republic).
The vz. 59 dropped support for magazine feeding, instead focused exclusively on a proven (and simpler) belt-fed operation which enhanced both function and construction. By and large, the vz. 59 was nothing more than an improved vz. 52 brought up to a more modern fighting standard. As a GPMG, it was assigned several battlefield roles for Czechoslovakia such as squad light machine gun, stationary heavy machine gun and vehicle coaxial machine gun. A light barrel (591mm long) and bipod produced the squad light machine gun form under the designation of vz. 59L ("L" = "light") while the heavy machine gun form was given a heavier, longer (694mm) barrel for the sustained fire role. These versions were typically mounted atop a conventional, adjustable tripod. The vehicle-mounted (coaxial) version was actuated via a solenoid and adopted as the vz. 59T. The vz. 59 line accepted 50- or 200-round belts and utilized the same gas-operated action with tilting breechblock function. Rate-of-fire was 750 rounds per minute with a muzzle velocity of 2,700 feet per second. A barrel changing feature was standard to prevent overheating.
An export-minded variant was developed in later years, chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO-standard rifle cartridge. These appeared as the vz. 68H and retained all of the form and function of the original Czech design.