Iconic and Unique: The UK Vz.59 General Purpose Machine Gun

    Very few service machine guns can compare in pure unique points to the Czech 7.62x54mmR UK vz 59 General Purpose Machine Gun, adopted in 1959 as the squad and platoon level belt fed machine gun of the Czech Infantry in the Warsaw Pact at the time. The weapon is still soldiering on today among the Czech and Slovak Infantry, although it is being slowly phased out by the FN Herstal M249 and Mk.48 machine guns.

    Thanks to our sponsors:

    Proxibid – Track Down Your Perfect Rifle On Proxibid.com

     Ventura Munitions – Retailer of quality ammunition.

    Savage Arms – The Definition of Accuracy


    Please subscribe!!! Click here.

    Please subscribe!!! Click here.


    Transcript ….

    – [Miles] Today we’re gonna be talking about the UK vz. 59 which is a Czechoslovakian design from the 1950s.

    Today’s video is brought to you by Marcolmar Firearms which allowed us the generous use of their facilities and we’ve been talking about them for the previous two episodes and of their machine guns and replications of machine guns.

    (gun shot) We’d also like to thank Ventura Munitions for the ammunition they provide us and various video reviews on TFB.TV.

    Please give them a shout-out.

    In addition to my friend Brush who helped with this video and helped with the production of making it.

    Thank you very much Brush I appreciate it.

    So down to business here.

    The UK vz. 59 stands for Universal Version of 1959 which was the year the machine gun was adopted.

    The belt fed machine gun was actually based on the vz. 52 light machine gun chambered in 7625x45mm.

    This is not the vz. 52 rifle for those of you who might be getting confused at this point.

    The Czechs had a large insistence in the 1950s to stick to their own designs and to stick to what they wanted to make to begin with.

    The Soviets tried pushing AKMs, Kalashnikovs, PKMs on the Czech Republic that was underneath Soviet influence but the Czechs refused and they wanted to do their own thing.

    Eventually they later on repented and they later adopted the 762x54mm cartridge however everything they had before that was chambered in 762×45, The vz. 52, the 858 rifle, and later on it was switched over to the 762×39.

    So the UK59 was chambered in 762×54 rimmed.

    There were two models, there was a light and a heavy barreled version.

    The heavy barrelled version was a little bit longer than the light one.

    There were around 24,000 made in the period of the 1950s to the 1960s.

    There’s also a 762 NATO version that was later on made to try to attract more customers outside of the Czech Republic.

    An interesting note about the UK vz. 59 is that it is still used unto this day within the Czech military.

    Although the Czech military is currently trying to replace it with the Mark 48 from FN Herstal.

    It is a open-bolt design that it based on the vz. 37’s gas system.

    It was also used by Slovak troops after Slovakia and Czechoslovakia split in the 1990s and it is still used by Slovak troops today.

    Now that we’ve looked at some of the history of the UK vz. 59, let’s look at some of the operating components.

    First and foremost we need to look at the pistol grip that is also the charging handle for the system.

    The original machine gun version of the UK59 you have to press the trigger in order to release the catch forward.

    It’s a little precarious but it seems to work out in the machine gun version.

    However with the semi-automatic version, there is no trigger pressing here, and Marcolmar had to redesign the bolt to accommodate a semi-automatic only version that would be allowed to be approved by ATF.

    You have to press a lever on the left side of the firearm.

    Notice during the course of fire that the trigger actually also actuates a dust cover for the machine gun underneath as well.

    As you press the trigger with each round, the dustcover flips on and then flips off the machine gun.

    So this is how the UKM and the UK59 work.

    You’ve got your receiver, This is milled by the way, you’ve got your carrier, and then you’ve got your bolt head.

    So this fits in here.

    This is the forward position.

    And this is the rear position.

    Coming back into the bolt.

    And this is when it’s locked.

    So to fit it in, first you have your receiver here and it fits in just like so.

    Now this has to be in the forward position for it to go forward or else…

    (clicking) Stuck.



    That’s in there.

    So now that it’s inside the receiver it’s in the lock and you can see it’s cammed in those two little spots.

    There we go.

    Here it’s locked.

    Here it’s not.

    All right so first things first, you’ve got this hammer or striker.

    The striker part, this goes in the upper portion.

    And you can fit it in right back there.

    And so as you can tell the striker goes forward and fires the firing pin.

    Boom, when it’s released.

    Now it’s fired from closed bolt position so that means the striker is back here.

    It lets go, the spring goes forward, it hits it hits the firing pin, that’s the cartridge, the gas pushes back on the piston, bam, that unlocks it, it goes to the rear.

    At the same time it goes back, drops the shell out through the bottom and loads a new round in from the top.

    From the feed part.

    So unlike other machine gun designs the feed tray system is very different.

    Now the Czechs had to use the Soviet ammunition but they didn’t have to use the Soviet belt.

    The belt is a non-disintegrating, push-through tab which means you could push the belt in after closing the feed tray and then pull it from the other end and then the rounds will place themselves correctly.

    The feed tray cover actually doesn’t have any moving components within it.

    All it is is a simple cover.

    The actual moving components are the actual belt and the actual underlying components of the machine gun itself.

    The belt is configured in such a way that it actually helps to push the rounds out of their individual placements into the chamber.

    So although the machine gun could be fired from a bipod mount the machine gun could also be mounted on a tripod.

    The original tripods had a lot of intuitiveness built into them.

    They could double function as an anti-aircraft mount, a prone mount, or sitting mount.

    The anti-aircraft mount we unfortunately weren’t able to take the tripod out and show you but you can see other videos on the Internet showing how the tripod works.

    Essentially you have to take the various legs apart and you put them in this weird contraption and what you get is a standing mount that you can actually shoot from.

    In here we’re showing you how to take the tripod apart and facilitate it for movement use.

    This would allow a soldier to take the tripod down and move it from position to position.

    Also note that the connection point for the tripod is actually on the top of the machine gun instead of on the bottom like many other machine guns are.

    What this does is it puts the machine gun at a lower vantage point and so you can get lower to the ground and have more cover with it.

    Of course the Czechs had to compensate for this by making a taller rear site to compensate for the tripod being in their way.

    And you could traverse and elevate the machine gun either finely or crudely on a wide range of areas.

    All this adjustment was done with your left hand without ever having to move your head from the machine gun or your other hand.

    The rear sight ladder for the UK 59 had to be elevated because it had to clear the tripod mount that would be attached to it.

    It had elevation tick marks that went up to 2000 meters.

    In addition it had an elevation point on the left and it had a wind adjustment on the right.

    Bear in mind their front sight could be adjusted as well.

    When not in use it flipped down against the top of the machine gun cover out of use while during transportation.

    The butt pad of the UK 59 featured a shoulder latch that could be pushed up and down and could allow a gunner to have better stability when firing the machine gun from the prone.

    Bipods are of an extremely simple design and they had two positions.

    Either employed or racked up against the barrel.

    However the bipod could also be completely removed in case one needed to take them off and maybe switch barrels.

    For that you would have to change in case of an emergency.

    They also had very loose tolerances so the bipods didn’t collapse and bend over when putting a lot of pressure on them.

    The handle was very unique on the machine gun because it had essentially three positions.

    It had a sort of assault phase, an upper phase, a barrel-changing phase, and then you could swivel it between all these.

    This further allowed you to take the barrel off the machine gun when you needed to.

    You could put it in a different position, whatever position was best for you, just by simply rotating it and pressing the latch.

    Depressing the feed tray cover and pushing it to the right allowed the entire barrel fixture to come off entirely.

    This is one of the faster methods of changing a barrel among a number of machine guns in the world.

    The bolt could still be pressed forward.

    Putting it back on you just switch the latch to the left, and then in the open position, then press it down to continue.

    The UK 59 was fitted with an assault can that could fit a 50-round belt of 762×54 rimmed ammunition.

    Putting the assault can on the machine gun, it fixed on the right side, and it was latched to two little points next to the feed tray cover.

    This allowed the machine gun to be mobile and allowed gunners to run around with the machine gun if they needed to.

    For extended periods of time such as in a vehicle mount you could have an actual dedicated can that could have extended amounts of belts linked inside of it and that you could fire from for an extended amount of time.

    So you wouldn’t have to be confined to a 50-round assault can.

    I hope you enjoyed the video, guys.

    We really enjoyed making it, and we look forward to seeing you next time on the channel.

    Next time we’re gonna be talking about the Soviet PKM general purpose machine gun.

    However unlike the UK 59 we have here, the PKM that we’re gonna have in the video is actually gonna be fully automatic.

    Thank you very much and we hope to see you next time.

    (“The Stars And Stripes Forever”)

    Steve Johnson

    I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!