Ohio Ordnance's VZ2000 is a 7.62x39 semiauto with a Czech accent.
Ohio Ordnance's VZ2000 is built around a U.S.-made machined steel receiver, but it's still super light, quick to the shoulder and fairly controllable in rapid fire.
Recently I taught a foreign weapons class for a group of cavalry scouts preparing to deploy to Iraq. Weapons covered included a variety of Kalashnikovs (AK-47, AKM, AK-74, AK-74M), RPK squad auto, SVD, Romanian PSL, FAL and others they are likely to encounter. I was surprised by what rifle turned out to be the universal class favorite. To a man, these 19 Deltas were all taken by the lone Czech Sa vz. 58 V they had a chance to train with.
"Now that's what I'm talking about!" one of the NCOs commented as he handled the light folding stock 7.62x39 rifle. Throughout the course it was the one rifle that never spent any time in the rack. As soon as one soldier finished a drill with it, another one scooped it up.
Although at first glance the 7.62mm samopal vzor 58 (7.62mm submachine gun model 1958) resembles a member of Mikhail Kalashnikov's Avtomat family, there is no relation. Designed by a team lead by Jiri Cermak, work on this project began in 1956 at the Konstrukta Brno facility in Brno, Czechoslovakia. The new design was developed to replace the older vz. 52 and obsolete vz. 24s then in service.
Offically adopted in 1958, more than 920,000 examples were produced for both domestic and export. Three main types were produced. The standard model was the vz. 58 P (pechotni or "infantry") with a fixed butt manufactured from a wood impregnated plastic. Less common was the vz. 58 V (vysadkovy or "airborne"), which sported a metal sidefolding stock.
The least common was the vz. 58 Pi (pechotni infracervenym zamerovacem or "infantry with infrared sight"). This added an optics rail to the left side of the receiver for a night sight, along with a bipod and conical flash suppressor.
The Czechs have a reputation for building high quality weapons, and the vz. 58 is no different. It's both well-designed and very nicely made. A gas-operated piece, it utilizes a short-stroke system, unlike a Kalashnikov. Another difference is the use of a falling breech block rather than a rotating bolt, as utilized on the Russian weapon.
The Czech weapon's trigger mechanism is also radically different, not only from the Kalashnikov but most other rifles as well. Rather than having a conventional rotating hammer, the vz. 58 is striker fired.
Like the early Kalashnikovs, though, the vz. 58 was chambered for the Soviet standard 7.62x39mm M43 cartridge. Feed was from fairly light alloy 30-round magazines. A selective-fire weapon, this Czech assault rifle had a cyclic rate of approximately 800 rounds per minute.
Although not as technically simple as the Kalashnikov, the vz. 58 still proved to be a reliable and effective weapon. Exported to various countries, it's interesting to note it was fielded by Vietnamese Special Forces during the 1979 Chinese invasion. The Chinese were impressed enough by captured examples to incorporate the striker firing mechanism into their latest QBZ-95 assault rifle.
But let's move from the past to the present. Although semiautomatic Kalashnikov variants are hugely popular, there is growing interest in semiautomatic variants of this classic Czech design. CZ-USA recently began importing the VZ-58, which was profiled in the May/June 2008 issue of Rifle Shooter.
The rifle shown here, a VZ2000 offered by Ohio Ordnance Works Inc.,is another example. Built using original Czech parts on a U.S.-made receiver, the VZ2000 is a well-constructed piece sure to appeal to anyone interested in military firearms.
Our review sample arrived fitted with a fixed stock. Along with the rifle were four 30-round magazines, mag pouch, sling, cleaning gear, bayonet and a folding stock. Built on a machined steel receiver and fitted with an original .vz 58 barrel, the VZ2000 looks much better than your average Kalashnikov.
Picking up the VZ2000, the first thing you notice is the light weight. At only 6.4 pounds, it's a very quick handling piece that is comfortable in the hands. The bolt handle is located on the right side of the weapon and, unlike an AK, the VZ2000 does feature a bolt hold-open latch.
The safety is located on the right side of the receiver and is fairly easy to manipulate with your trigger finger (right-handed) or thumb (left-handed). The magazine release is an AK-style paddle.
Sights are similar to an AK's and consist of a post front sight adjustable for windage and elevation and an open notch rear tangent. The rear sight is calibrated from 100 to 800 meters and has a 300-meter battle sight setting marked U (univerzalni).
One interesting feature is a stripper clip guide that is machined into the bolt carrier. This allows empty magazines to be quickly reloaded using stripper clips.
Another nice feature is the folding stock, which is easily mounted in place of the fixed stock. A simple, durable and fairly comfortable unit, it features cast-off like an expensive shotgun to make the weapon more comfortable. A much more durable design than the underfold stocks utilized on AKs, it locks up solid with no wobble.
For testing I ditched the fixed stock and mounted the sidefolder. This makes for a compact package barely 26 inches long with the stock folded. With the stock unfolded, length is still only 34 inches.
The rifle zeroed without incident and shot acceptably well off the bench at 100 yards. Average group size for five five-shot groups using Wolf Performance Ammunition's 122-grain FMJ load was three inches. Average velocity for 10 shots measured with an Oehler 35P chronograph came in at 2,330 fps.
Running it through drills showed it to be quick to the shoulder, fast handling and capable of rapid hits on steel inside of 100 yards. Recoil was similar to that of an AK, but the pulse was a bit different due to the short-stroke gas system.
One nice feature is that the bolt locks back on the last round. The safety proved easier to manipulate than your average rack-grade AK but not as user friendly as an AR. Due to the magazine release being protected, though, magazine changes are a bit more difficult than with an AK when firing left-handed.
I finished testing by engaging steel silhouettes at 100, 200 and 300 yards. Again, the VZ2000 performed well during these drills, providing rapid hits when I concentrated on the sights.
All in all, I came away fairly impressed by Ohio Ordnance Works' VZ2000. Mated to a good domestic 7.62x39mm load, the VZ2000 would provide very good terminal performance on medium-size game or for defense. Price is a bit steep at $1,250, but for your money you get an extremely well-made and well-built rifle.