The Czech ZH-29 found few takers during various evaluations in the 1930s.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
Emmanuel Holek designed the ZH-29 as a military-minded automatic service rifle. The rifle was born in the famous Czech Brno facility sometime in the latter part of the 1920s and gradually evolved to become a very capable automatic rifle system by the end of the decade. The design was based around a gas-operated action with a side-swinging bolt mechanism which provided a semi-automatic rate-of-fire during a period in history where the bolt-action rifle was still a primary frontline tool. The weapon was fed through a 5-, 10- or 25-round detachable box magazine which supported the repeat fire nature of the gun, allowing an operator to fire off successive shots from a steady ammunition supply without management of a cumbersome bolt handle. The weapon's primary caliber was the 7.92x57mm Mauser cartridge of German origination.
The ZH-29 was certainly of a conventional external design for the time, managing a solid wooden stock with wood forend. An ribbed aluminum section of forend was affixed to the rifle ahead of the wooden portion to protect the firer's hand from the heat of the barrel encountered through repeat firing. The receiver was metal and housed the required internal working components. The trigger was arranged under the receiver rear and protected by a thing oblong loop while the stock was ergonomically sound to accept the firer's dominant hand - within easy reach of the trigger unit. The magazine well was located well-ahead of the trigger group and protruded only a short distance down from the receiver which led to less snagging. Sighting was through an iron arrangement consisting of a folding rear installation and a front post just aft of the muzzle. Unlike many full-stock service rifles of the period, the ZH-29 left a good distance of barrel exposed by design. Sling loops were set under the shoulder stock and at the extreme forward end of the forend. Overall weight was a stout 10lbs with an overall length of 45 inches. The barrel measured 21.5 inches in length. Muzzle velocity was 2,700 feet per second which gave the weapon sound penetrative capabilities at range.
In practice, the ZH-29 never caught on with the many world armies that evaluated the type throughout the 1930s. The weapon was considered long and rather heavy during a time when thinking was beginning to shift to service rifles that were both shorter and lighter. Additionally, the exposed section of barrel was did not cleanly allow for a bayonet fitting which many European powers still sought in their designs. However, the heavy quality of the ZH-29 made it a very accurate firing platform and extremely robust in-the-field - leading a rather strong reliable presence. The repeat-fire nature of the rifle also proved it more capable than many of the bolt-action types then in frontline service - being able to fire from a larger magazine as opposed the common 5-round feed used widely.
Beyond its service in Czechoslovakia (and then under the Nazi German banner after the occupation of Czechoslovakia during World War 2), the ZH-29 found few homes on the global. Foreign operators went on to include Ethiopia, Taiwan and Thailand.