The Twins: A Czech Sa Vz 58 Review
You may remember me writing some time back about my disappointment in the horribly made and extremely jam-prone M1 Carbines that I purchased for Chris and I last year. Horrible rifles. Shoddily made. I’ll never buy anything from Kahr again.
But, I did need replacements for them, and those replacements have arrived, and are all kitted out–while still being California-legal.
The rifles are Czechoslovalkian Sa Vz 58 civilian rifles. The handguards, grips, and buttstock are aftermarket accessories from Israeli Arms, who make a complete tactical package–several of them, actually, for the VZ 58. The accessories are all polymer, and are made to what seems to be a very high level of quality and craftsmanship. When it comes to stuff for guns, you gotta hand it to those Israelis, boy.
Unlike most other states, unfortunately, California has very restrictive–and quite stupid–firearms laws regarding rifles. According to the California Penal Code:
12276.1 (a) Notwithstanding Section 12276 [which contains a list of specifically prohibited models of rifle, such as the AK-series rifles], “assault weapon” shall also mean any of the following:
(1) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any one of the following:
(A) A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
(B) A thumbhole stock.
(C) A folding or telescoping stock.
(D) A grenade launcher or flare launcher.
(E) A flash suppressor.
(F) A forward pistol grip.
(2) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.
(3) A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches.
Alas, the California version of the VZ 58 has a fixed, 10-round magazine (any rifle or pistol magazines, fixed or removable, with a capacity greater than 10 rounds are strictly prohibited in California), and the overall length, with the stock fully collapsed, is 32.5″.
The “foregrip” is actually a bipod, as you can see. And the magazine accepts loading from the same stripper clips that the SKS uses.
You may notice that the rifle has a very AK-like look, but that’s entirely coincidental. When the Soviets demanded that all Warsaw Pact countries standardize around the 7.62x39mm intermediate rifle cartridge, the Czechs were unamused, since they had an inordinate fondness for the 7.62x51mm round. Apparently, the Czechs believe that when they shoot you, you should know you’ve been shot. Or, maybe, never know at all.
The Czechs were also unamused by the idea that the demand to switch to the AK round also came with the Soviet expectation that their client states would also buy the rifle that chambered it, the AK-47. The Czechs have had a world-class reputation as gunmakers for centuries, and they were unimpressed by the AK. So, they accepted the ammo requirement, then let the world-famous Brno arms factory produce a rifle to fire it, the Sa Vz 58. Other than the cartridge, and a similar gas piston/op rod mechanism, the rifles are completely different. No parts are interchangeable with the AK. The parts are all CNC-machined, instead of stamped. It fires from the closed-bolt position.
Unlike the AK, it is not a side-ejecting rifle. Instead, the bolt carrier exposes a huge, honkin’ “ejection port”, which is actually about half of the upper receiver. I can’t even imagine how you’d get a stovepipe or ejection jam.
The gas piston is in a separate chamber from the short operating rod, very similar to the SKS gas system, so the receiver is isolated from gas system. The chamber and barrel, by the way, are also chrome-lined.
Another nice feature is the design of the safety, which pokes down below the receiver. This means that, even in total darkness, you can feel that the safety is engaged as soon as you grasp the pistol grip. Flock it up with your trigger finger, and you’re ready to rock and roll. In a safe and approved manner.
The sling is also from Israeli Arms. It’s the tactical sling the Israeli Army uses so you hang the weapon across your chest, and bring it up to firing position, if needed, in about a second.
It’s about as accurate as any rifle firing the 7.62×39 round can be, with low recoil, and decently fast target aquisition, especially with a reflex sight mounted on the picatinny rails on the top of the forward handguard. It’s really a hoot to shoot.
It’s reasonably priced, built like a tank, and is still about 1.5 pounds lighter than the AK.
It’s really a very nice rifle, and I highly recommend it, especially for those of you who don’t like the AK, but who despise the lightweight round and nasty direct-impingement gas system of the AR15-series rifles.