This will be a multi-part series detailing the firearm relics that are currently being used in Syria, by rebels and ISIS alike.
Like you would imagine from any war zone, people are fighting with whatever they can get their hands on. The usual rules of warfare don’t apply when you have to scrounge for supplies, so it is not unheard of for each soldier in a unit to have guns chambered in different calibers.
They use whatever they can get their hands on…
The Czech VZ-52
I had to do a double take when I saw this picture. A child running across a Syrian battlefield, holding a VZ-52 with bayonet extended.
If you’ve frequented gun shows and find yourself drawn to the vertical gun racks holding C&R guns as much as I am, you’ve undoubtedly come across a Czech VZ-52.
I remember when I first saw it, I thought it was a SKS. And at first glance, the CZ-52 does look a lot like an SKS.
The bayonet, however, is the instant giveaway that it is not an SKS.
SKS bayonets, whether spike or blade designs, fold down and under the stock. The VZ-52’s blade bayonet sits flush along the side of the rifle’s wooden stock.
The receiver bears a striking resemblance to the SKS.
Rounds can be loaded individually, or by stripper clip into the detachable 10-rd magazine. The VZ-52’s side charging handle is eerily similar to the SKS charging handle.
The trigger guard, however, departs from the Combloc designs and turns to John C. Garand’s iconic design for inspiration.
The VZ-52’s trigger housing incorporates many of the features of the M1 Garand. For example, the VZ-52’s safety is right next to the trigger guard, similar to the M1 Garand. Shooters manipulate the safety with their index finger.
The gun was originally chambered in 7.62x45mm. If you’re thinking to yourself that you’ve never come across this caliber before, it’s not your fault. This ammunition was used briefly by the Czech military in its VZ-52 rifles and ZB-530 Light Machine Guns.
Here’s a side-by-side comparing the Czech 7.62×45 (left) to the Russian 7.62×39 (right).
Under tremendous pressure from Moscow to adopt the Soviet Union’s 7.62x39mm ammunition (used in the SKS and AK-pattern rifles), the Czechs eventually abandoned their 7.62×45 dreams and started producing the VZ-52/57 chambered in the more universal 7.62×39. Many of the earlier models were re-barreled as well.
Doing a little research, however, I found that many of the VZ-52s chambered in 7.62×45 were actuallt shipped to Syria and Cuba instead of being re-barreled. It was far easier to use the newly obsolete-guns as international aid instead of going through the painstaking process of updating them. One reporter in Syria came across rebels using VZ-52s that were, in fact, chambered in this obsolete 7.62×45 cartridge, lending proof to the theory that these rifles were taken from a government cache instead of imported.
(notice the blade bayonet and stock on the rifle carried by the man in the foreground.)
That means that the rebels must of captured a serious stockpile of ammunition…
I’d like to think that these rebels would be smart enough to choose a rifle that could be reloaded using ammunition gathered on the battlefield. But that is coming from someone who has the luxury of buying whatever rifle or ammunition I want. In a situation like this, I can imagine that “choice” matters very little. You use whatever weapon you can, even if that means running into battle with a 1952 Czech-designed rifle chambered in a cartridge no longer produced.
The sight of rebels running around with guns chambered in 8mm Lebel, 7.5 French, and 7.92x33mm Kurz shows that they will use whatever they can get their hands on. I guess that when death is around every corner, wondering about how you’re going to reload your rifle is a silly question to ask when you don’t even know whether you’ll even live long enough to reload your rifle…