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ZB-53, Vz.37
TypeMedium machine gun
Place of originCzechoslovakia
Service history
In service1937–1960s (Czechoslovakia)
Used bySee Users
Production history
DesignerVáclav Holek
ManufacturerZbrojovka Brno
Produced1936–early 1950s
Mass21 kg (46 lb) empty
Length1.105 m (43.5 in)
Barrel length0.736 m (29.0 in)

Cartridge7.92×57mm Mauser
Calibre7.9 mm
Rate of fire500–800 round/min
Feed system225-round metal link belt

The ZB-53 was a Czechoslovak machine gun. A versatile weapon, it was used both as a squad support weapon, as a mounted machine gun for tanks and other armoured vehicles, and on fixed positions inside Czechoslovak border fortifications. Adopted before World War II by the armies of Czechoslovakia (as Těžký kulomet vz. 37, heavy machine gun model 37) and Romania, it was also license-built in the United Kingdom as the Besa machine gun. Following the German invasion of Czechoslovakia, large quantities of the weapon were captured by the Wehrmacht and used during the war under the designation of MG 37(t).


The ZB-53 was designed as a private venture by Václav Holek and Miroslav Rolčík of the Zbrojovka Brno works as a replacement for the Schwarzlose machine gun of World War I origin. Czechoslovakia purchased 500 for testing giving them the designation Vz.35 ("1935 Model").[2] Based on these tests some improvements were requested and the improved ZB-53 was adopted by the Czechoslovak Army with the designation TK vz. 37 ("Heavy Machine Gun Mark 1937").[a] It was introduced as the standard machine gun of Czechoslovak LT-35 and LT-38 tanks. Czechoslovakia exported the gun to Romania, Yugoslavia (1,000 pcs in March-April 1940), Argentina, Afghanistan, Iran and China (large numbers were used during the Second Sino-Japanese War[3]), while UK bought a licence and started to produce its own version, known as the Besa machine gun (over 60,000 pieces made). During the German occupation of the factory, large numbers were produced for the Waffen-SS until 1942.[4]

Czechoslovak Zbrojovka Brno and then Zbrojovka Vsetín [de] produced the gun in large quantities until the 1950s.[citation needed]

The weapon was a gas-operated, belt-fed, air-cooled machine gun that served both the infantry support and vehicle weapons roles. The machine gun was delivered in three variants: infantry machine gun (on heavy tripod), heavy bunker machine gun (with heavier barrel, marked "O") and for armoured vehicles (marked "ÚV"). It was designed to withstand five minutes of constant fire, after which time the barrel had to be changed due to wear. Although modern, the weapon was prone to jamming due to a complicated rate of fire selection mechanism.[citation needed]


Reenactment of Czechoslovakian soldiers with ZB vz. 37

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "TK" stands for "těžký kulomet", heavy machine gun, while "vz" means "vzor", Model


  1. ^ a b "Arms for freedom". 29 December 2017. Archived from the original on April 7, 2018. Retrieved 2019-08-31.
  2. ^ Popenker, Maxim (27 October 2010), "ZB 53 / Vz.37", Modern Weapons
  3. ^ Jowett, Philip (20 Nov 2013). China's Wars: Rousing the Dragon 1894-1949. General Military. Osprey Publishing. p. 306. ISBN 9781782004073.
  4. ^ "MG 37 (t) & VZ 37 & ZB 53". iwm.org.uk. Imperial War Museum.
  5. ^ Bhatia, Michael Vinai; Sedra, Mark (May 2008). Small Arms Survey (ed.). Afghanistan, Arms and Conflict: Armed Groups, Disarmament and Security in a Post-War Society. Routledge. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-415-45308-0.
  6. ^ Jowett, Philip (2016). Modern African Wars (5): The Nigerian-Biafran War 1967-70. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-1472816092.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Popenker, Maxim (27 October 2010). "ZB 53 / Vz.37". modernfirearms.net.
  8. ^ Rob Krott (April 2000). "The Bay of Pigs Museum: Playa Giron, Cuba". Small Arms Review. Vol. 3, no. 7. Chipotle Publishing. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  9. ^ Smith, Joseph E. (1969). Small Arms of the World (11 ed.). Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: The Stackpole Company. p. 300. ISBN 9780811715669.
  10. ^ Laffin, John (29 Jul 1982). The Israeli Army in the Middle East Wars 1948–73. Men-at-Arms 127. Osprey Publishing. p. 8. ISBN 9780850454505.
  11. ^ "Their Blood Waters our Freedom". Youtube.com. 25 January 2020. Archived from the original on 2021-12-15. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  12. ^ Rottman, Gordon (2010). Panama 1989-90. Elite. Vol. 37. Osprey Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 9781855321564.
  13. ^ Mark Axworthy, London: Arms and Armour, 1995, Third Axis, Fourth Ally: Romanian Armed Forces in the European War, 1941–1945, p. 29
  14. ^ Alejos Cutuli, Félix A. (May 2012). "La Coruña Military Museum". Small Arms Review SAW.
  • Andrzej Ciepliński; Ryszard Woźniak (1994). "Encyklopedia współczesnej broni palnej: Od połowy XIX wieku". Encyklopedia współczesnej broni palnej (in Polish). Warsaw: WiS. ISBN 83-86028-01-7.

External links[edit]

Media related to ZB vz. 37 at Wikimedia Commons