In America the AR15 is king. Damn near every shooter has one nowadays and every gun store seems to have a whole wall of them for sale at any given time. Across the Atlantic however in the Czech Republic, a nation with anomalous gun laws (relative to the restrictions of many other European countries) and a strong shooting community you will find that the people are as familiar with the VZ58 rifle as American shooters are with their AR15s. The VZ58 has always intrigued me as the Czechs managed to avoid some form of an AK variant as a service rifle during their time as a Soviet satellite state, perhaps due to their strong arms making tradition dating back hundreds of years. Nearly every Czech firearm I have ever handled has been fantastic, both hand and long guns and I have embraced all firearm “Czechnology” (horrible pun) since I have yet to get a lemon. When our editor Phil said I could review the VZ2008 from CAI I was thrilled, and I knew my curiosity would finally be settled and I eagerly awaited getting the gun so I could beat it up. I knew exactly what I was going to put this gun through too; 700 rounds, five mags at a time, and no cleaning. While the AK is famed for its reliability, I was curious to see if the Czech design was as good.
The VZ2008 is an American made copy of the VZ58 in order to get around import laws and 922r. The receiver is American, and the barrel is American, but other than that I am not sure what parts come from where. I do know that this gun is unlike any gun I have ever played with before. I assumed it would be a bit AK like with very loose tolerances, sloppy shooting and handling characteristics, etc. but boy was I wrong. In contrast to the AK, the VZ58 is better in the following ways according to Czechpoint:
- All vz. 58 rifles possess a milled receiver; the vast majority of AK-47s are stamped.
- Even with the milled receiver it is almost one pound lighter than a stamped AK-47.
- The bolt of the vz. 58 stays open after the last round in the magazine has been fired.
- The vz. 58 can be reloaded with stripper clips while the magazine is inserted in the rifle.
- The safety is more ergonomic making a faster first shot possible with the vz. 58.
- The ejection port is HUGE. There is no chance of an empty case getting stuck in the action of the vz. 58.
- The vz. 58 gas piston can be removed or exchanged without tools.
- The alloy magazine of the vz. 58 is half the weight of the steel AK-47 magazine.
- The vz. 58 is striker fired unlike the hammer fired AK-47. This reduces the number of parts and possible points of failure.
To me those are all desirable features and I can confirm them all. While it looks like an AK at a quick glance, so much so that in the film Lord of War they used 3,000 real VZ58s in a scene because it was cheaper than renting 3,000 prop guns, it shares nothing in common aside from the caliber.
Anyways lets get to it. My favorite feature is perhaps the fact that the gun can be loaded with SKS stripper clips. I wish the ammo I used came on strippers so I wouldn’t have destroyed my thumbs loading mags!
This photo shows the striker in the cocked position:
And the fired position:
The gun is also easy to disassemble and breaks down very easily. There are two pins that are captive (like an AR15) that you remove to take off the gas tube, piston, and bolt/carrier group.
As you can see above, the gun appears to be some sort of AK/SKS/Walther P38/FAL hybrid. It uses a short stroke piston, SKS style carrier, AK cartridge, and to explain the P38 bit you need to see the locking piece close up:
The small bit lowers into two grooves machined into the receiver to lock the bolt like a giant P38 or Beretta M9 (hard to explain but if you have seen an M9 barrel you can kind of visualize how it works).
Anyways enough technical details. It was time to open the spam can and get to work. I dug out a can of “Mil Spec” ammo from Russia for this that was just Brown Bear packaged so you have to use can opener to get to it.
So I opened all the packages and went to the range with a total of 700 rounds. First I wanted to get the accuracy test out of the way so I set up some targets at 100 yards to see how she would do.
I shot a total of five 5 shot groups at the far paper targets in the photos above and the results were decent. The sights were way, way off (it was hitting several feet high) and I did not have a proper sight tool, so I had to use some Kentucky windage, aiming at a set point low on each target to get on paper. Regardless I thought it did okay for an amalgamation of surplus Cold War parts and US made components. It is definitely minute of man but I would like to get the sights dialed in and try again.
So at least the rifle was consistent with an average of 3.720 inches. Again though, I expect I could do better if it was less windy, the sights were dialed in, and I really, really went out with the intention of testing for accuracy rather than reliability. However, when it comes to service rifles I generally place more emphasis on the reliability section of the reviews and test accordingly.
The accuracy test took 25 rounds, so I had 675 more to go and blew through the first set of mags with no problems at all, getting more and more familiar with the recoil impulse and handling characteristics. I also had no cameraman, so all the action shots in this article were taken by setting my camera’s timer to 10 seconds and just hoping for the best:
Notice I started wearing gloves because the grips got very hot very fast and the bakelite or whatever the furniture is made of seems to be a damn good conductor of heat. I had a great bit of fun nailing bowling pins, steel gongs, self healing targets, and rapid firing into paper silhouettes. Anyways I made it through 350ish rounds and thought I would tear her down to see what the buildup looked like on the internals and the piston. I was surprised at how clean the gun was:
Anyways I let everything cool down and got back to it. Man were my thumbs sore as I had to load 23 mags up as I depleted them, but the shooting more than made up for the inconvenience!
I have not had this much fun with a semi-auto rifle in a while and putting all 700 through the VZ2008 was incredibly fun. I was sad when I got to this point:
But happy that it made it through all 700 rounds, in quick succession with no cleaning or oiling of any kind. Here are some photos of the guts after the test was complete:
For 700 rounds, that is not much buildup at all and I was impressed to say the least.
Now for the bullet points:
- 700 rounds, no cleaning, no problems at all
- Battle rifle accuracy that I am sure I could improve
- At $699.00 this rifle is an absolute steal
- Came with a bayonet, scabbard, sling, five mags, and a cleaning kit
- Minimal buildup after shooting
- Easy to take down
- Surplus parts available for low prices
- Ejects to 1:00 consistently, away from other shooters
- Not nearly the aftermarket of the AK platform (the dominant 7.62×39 platform)
- Not super friendly for left handed people (the mag release only has a provision to be accessed on one side)
- The furniture gets very hot very fast
- Not enough people know about these!
So that’s that. In my opinion at $699.00 the VZ2008 is one of the best deals on the market today if you are in the market for a semi-automatic 7.62×39 rifle, and I know that I will be buying one to add to my collection.