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|Type||Heavy machine gun|
|Place of origin||Czechoslovakia|
|In service||1937–1960s (Czechoslovakia)|
|Used by||see users|
|Mass||21 kg (46 lb) empty|
|Length||1.105 m (43.5 in)|
|Barrel length||0.736 m (29.0 in)|
|Rate of fire||500–800 round/min|
|Feed system||225-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 the World War II by the armies of Czechoslovakia (as TK vz. 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 by Václav Holek and Miroslav Rolčík of the Zbrojovka Brno works as a replacement for the Schwarzlose machine gun of World War I origin. Based on the earlier vz. 35 machine gun, the prototype was tested in 1936 and the following year the new machine gun was adopted by the Czechoslovak Army with the designation TK vz. 37 ("Heavy Machine Gun Mark 1937"). It was introduced as the standard machine gun of Czechoslovak LT-35 and LT-38 tanks. Czechoslovakia exported the gun to Romania, Yugoslavia, Argentina, Afghanistan, Iran and China (large numbers used during the Second Sino-Japanese War), while UK bought a license 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.
Czechoslovak Zbrojovka Brno and then Zbrojovka Vsetín produced the gun in large quantities until the 1950s.
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.
- Biafra: At least 20 were sold to Biafra in 1967.
- Nazi Germany
- United Kingdom: Besa machine gun
- Romania: 5,500 purchased by mid-1943
- Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
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