Marcolmar: Bringing Czech and Russian Beltfeds to the Civilian Market

    Marcolmar is a small but very dedicated company in northern Indiana that produces semi-automatic beltfed versions of historically significant small arms from the Soviet era. Tackling a very difficult task such as taking the Czech Uk.59 GPMG and turning it into a legal, semi-automatic, ATF approved firearm that you could purchase through an FFL isn’t a small task at all. The owner David Bane, brings his passion of military and small arms history to life, along with an outstanding crew behind him to back him up. In this video he takes us through the timeline of his company, and will be doing so for the next several episodes of TFB TV.

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    Transcript ….

    [coming soon]

    Transcript ….

    – Hey guys, so for the next several episodes we’re going to be looking at a company in northern Indiana by the name of Mark Holden Firearms and we’re gonna be looking at the reproduction semiautomatic versions of Czech and Russian machine guns that they make.

    They make them to a very high quality and we were able to spend some time with the owner at his range and at his company headquarters in northern Indiana.

    We’d like to thank Ventura Munitions for helping out with providing some ammunition that we used in various reviews that we have on the channel.

    I’d also like to really thank my friend Harris Brushnahan from 2-9 for helping me make these videos and really bringing these episodes to life.

    Mr. Bang, thank you very much for coming out today I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about your company and a little about the stuff that you do.

    – It’s great to have you.

    – Absolutely, so sir, could you please get us started on how you got into making PKMs and making these Czech guns and you’re in a very unique sort of position we were just with Two River Arms and they’re sort of a niche part of the firearms industry and we really wanna get to know your part of it as well because as being some of the only semi-automatic PKM manufacturers in the states, that’s certainly very interesting in a number of ways.

    So how did this all begin? – Well it’s a good question.

    I think where it all began, I became an FFL 25-30 years ago.

    And I was collecting guns, like a lot of guys, I ended up finding myself more attracted and drawn toward the Soviet weapons systems.

    I like their rugged capability, their simplicity, they’re easy to work on, and honestly, I’m not as young as you, but when I was your age, these were the guns that no one could get a hold of.

    You would page through Small Arms of the World and you’d see these Soviet weapons designs that you really couldn’t have access to.

    You couldn’t shoot, couldn’t see them, couldn’t hold them.

    I got involved with the PKM, started understanding the system itself, before long I got a phone call from our partners in the PKM project, which was Wise Light Arms.

    They’re no longer doing guns, to the best of my knowledge.

    They might be, but I’m not sure.

    I don’t think they are.

    But they called and we made contact, and they knew that we had some expertise with that gun system and they wanted our reaction to their design they shipped it up, I was lucky enough, like a lot of guys, to have some great friends in the firearms community and we actually took that gun took it apart and basically analyzed the system and said, look here’s where you really need to change some of your design.

    So we started out as a hired help to say, look at this design, tell us how we can make it better.

    But I saw in what they had done some amazing potential.

    So I said look, here’s basically 70 changes we think need to happen to this to make it reliable, make it robust, make it live up to the Soviet weapons’ legacy.

    – [Miles] And the end result of this was to create a semi-automatic PKM for the civilian market in the United States.

    – [Mr. Bang] Correct, and that’s where it ended up.

    Wise Light took our design changes, we marketed the guns for them.

    We gave them manufacturing input, and we ended up as a partnership.

    – [Miles] Can you talk about some of the intricacies of taking a fully-automatic open bolt weapons system and turning that into a closed bolt semi automatic civilian legal weapons system.

    What are some of the general parts, general challenges you have and issues that you run into? – [Mr Bang] Well it sounds simple, doesn’t it? Say it sounds simple that you could take an open bolt gun and turn it into a closed bolt but- and for those who don’t know, firearms operating systems would seem simple.

    But an open bolt gun requires a lot of modification and a lot of changes.

    The first thing that makes it very hard and for the average hobbyists to create a gun is having access to an open bolt gun.

    When we designed the UK59, we had access to a post sample, an original gun that we could actually look at, watch the operating characteristics, take measurements from, and decide what sort of clearances and what sort of operating mechanics were going to be required to make it semi.

    The second thing is, you’ve gotta find a way to ignite the cartridge itself, in an open bolt weapon, obviously it’s the closing of the bolt with either a firing pin built into that system that releases when the operation is locked, so you’ve gotta find out how to make that system open and close under firing, under recoil under whatever gas system you might have or roller locking, and then you’ve gotta find a way to ignite that cartridge and that means generally the addition of a striker and you’ve gotta find a way to retain that striker in a fire control system that is totally manufactured and different than what could be accommodated with an open bolt system.

    – Because you can’t put, by law with ATF, you can’t be able to put components of a class 3 machine gun into a semi-automatic turned gun.

    – That’s correct.

    Whenever we go- when we developed the UK59, we had to show the ATF tech branch how we significantly changed the design of the system so that it could not readily accept machine gun parts and be converted into a machine gun without a significant amount of work.

    And in that gun, for our owners and for people who are interested, the milled construction of the gun allowed us to increase the width of the rails, then we had to mill the bolt carrier to make it bigger so that it would fit into our receiver.

    Then we changed some radiuses at the front where the piston goes in so that if you put a full auto- even if you milled out those slots, it would not fully close on the gun.

    Then in addition, in the lower, we actually, I believe we were the first company to go and get the ATF tech branch to approve the pistol grip mechanism moving but the Czech guns, which one of the reasons we like it, they’re so neat in some of the features that they have.

    The bolt handle is the pistol grip.

    So the ATF had never in the past approved a moving fire control system.

    So it took quite a bit of work by…

    – [Miles] Talk about how did the PKM sales go, what happened there? – [Mr Bang] Well the PKM sales went phenomenal, it was a very interesting time in the gun market.

    There was a lot of money in the system, you hadn’t gone through the 2008, 2009 economic collapse, but we made 350 of those guns.

    We made Hungarians, we made Russians, and we made Romanian.

    Sales went very well.

    We sold out of all 350 odd guns in the space of about 3 and a half years.

    And they sold from anywhere from $5800 up to about $6800.

    And now we’re seeing an incredible price appreciation in the secondary market where you’ll see my Hungarians sell anywhere from 9 to 11,000 dollars and the Russians will tip 15,000 or more.

    – You mentioned earlier there are only two transferable PKM machine guns in the United States.

    – [Mr Bang] Well the only two that we know of, obviously, there’s the registry is an open information, open source.

    But there’s only two that we’ve heard of and it’s a very rare gun, I don’t of any transferable UK59s in the registry at all.

    – [Miles] Wow, that’s fascinating.

    So how did you make that jump from the PKMs to the UK59s because that’s an interesting story there and you went on to your next project.

    – [Mr Bang] Well, a lot of it depends upon availability of parts.

    That’s why frankly the surplus market is so integral to the firearms market in the United States.

    If we didn’t have a healthy and thriving surplus market, you won’t see a lot of these firearms designs make it into the civilian shooter’s hands.

    We were approached by Jerry Prosser at Recon Ordnance who had just procured a beautiful set of UK59 part sets from the Czech Republic.

    Jerry knew that our proficiency was Soviet weapons, Soviet-era weapons, and he also knew that we weren’t afraid of tackling a semi-auto belt-fed project.

    That is a whole- that takes a whole another level of engineering and capabilities and productions to handle a semi-automatic belt fed.

    So we were in active negotiations.

    We both, my partners and I, were familiar with the UK59 and we loved Czech weapons.

    Czech weapons, the UK59 is the rarest GPMG ever put into service in the former Soviet arsenal.

    The Czechs were allowed to keep it instead of converting into the PK and PKM machine gun, it’s also very unique.

    It still has a milled construction, which is very different than the stamped sheet metal disposable type gun that is sheet metal, and a lot of firearms aficionados are gonna go nuts when I say that, but as far as the military is concerned, sheet metal gun is a disposable item.

    Where the Czechs, they believe in milling and they believe in machining, and the receiver on the original UK59 was rated to five million rounds, originally.

    – Five million.

    – And the same thirty odd thousand, it’s disputed that total number of guns that the Czechs used, but they’re still in service with the Czech military today.

    They were made from the mid 50’s all the way to the mid 60’s, still going strong, been through multiple arsenal rebuild, and even after the Czechs went into NATO, they were converted from.54R into.308 and redesignated the UK68.

    – [Miles] Can you talk about how the success of that went and maybe some of the issues in it and but more importantly, what happened afterwards? – [Mr Bang] Well some of the issues were obviously whenever you’re reverse engineering a milled machine gun, we start with a 40lb block of steel.

    And it spends 8 and a half hours in our CNC machines.

    Some of the challenges we’re getting reverse engineering that receiver.

    ‘Cause the Czechs when they built that had countless machining operations on dedicated machines and we were coming back and reverse engineering that to be done on at one state…

    In one CNC with multiple operations and trying to get that just right so that any era parts from the maybe a part set that was built in the mid 50’s to a part set built late in the production run would all go together seamlessly.

    So that was a big problem that we had.

    The second was getting the ATF approval making sure that we could retain the pistol grip cocking.

    We had seen other providers trying to build a semi-auto UK with adding bolt handles and it wasn’t true to the design and Mark Hollmar is about producing what from the outside is basically indistinguishable from a machine gun.

    So you can be proud to own it, also with a high level of fitness finish.

    So we wanted to retain that pistol grip, cocking and it took quite a bit of work not that it was…

    It took quite a bit of development work and then submission to the ATF tech branch.

    And then was just sourcing the parts and getting everything done.

    We brought our barrels in from Germany we wanted machine gun grade, military grade barrels Lothar-Walther provided those for us making the small parts, then going through the parts that you know, this is surplus.

    So you might have a set that looked like it had never even been taken out in the field.

    And the next one looks like it had been used to hold a door open many times.

    And it needed a lot of work so we went through all the part sets and kept the best of the best and created the gun.

    – Wow.

    And then how did it sell afterwards? How many remain? – Selling’s been really good but it has been post the 2008 2009 and the selling price at 48…

    45-95 excuse me, has kept some people out of the market, but it has sold really good.

    We’ve delivered over 200 now all across the United States we only have of the original classic military model 26 or so of those left.

    – Thank you very much Dave for taking the time to talk with TFPTV about your company and the various products you have.

    You are really unique and we really wanna show our viewers the kinds of stuff that you have.

    – My pleasure, thanks for coming, Miles.

    – Absolutely, thank you so much.

    (marching music)


    Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

    Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at [email protected]