CzechPoint SA vz.58 Carbine
In the early 1400s a man named Jan Žižka faced the might of the Holy Roman Empire. A reformationist general who pioneered combined arms warfare, Jan Žižka forged an unbeatable army out of peasants and freed serfs in what is now the Czech Republic. His infantry, armed with firearms, supported armored war wagons mounted with cannon, which in turn protected the infantry and light cavalry from charging German knights. Cavalry, infantry, artillery, and armored vehicles – the world had never before seen such an army.
The Czech contribution to the advance of firearms was so important that we still use language based on Czech terminology today. Words such as píštala and houfnice became pistol and howitzer in English, and the Czechs have become known for a tradition of quality and inovation their firearms. Czech-made firearms have been the weapons of choice for generations of soldiers around the world and, thanks to their surplus, I gained a personal appreciation for Czech Mausers and pistols while growing up.
Several companies are assembling semi-auto vz. 58 rifles from surplus parts in the US, but only D-Technik carbines, available from CzechPoint, Inc., are built in the Czech Republic and imported into the United States as complete rifles. I recently received three Sa vz. 58 rifles from CzechPoint. I also received an Sa vz. 61 Scorpion.
The first thing that I noticed upon opening the boxes was the quality of the packaging. I have become accustomed to receiving surplus rifles (and even many new ones) rattling around with assorted loose magazines in a grungy, smashed boxes; charging handles and barrels protruding from holes in the cardboard. The CzechPoint rifles are packed in sturdy boxes with fitted foam inserts. This is better than the packaging used to ship most expensive sporting rifles from major manufacturers. Inside each box, immobile in the foam insert, was an Sa. vz.58 carbine with a sling installed, two magazines, a cleaning kit in a pouch, and a DVD.
The Sa. vz.58 Military carbine is a semi-auto version of the standard Czech service rifle as it was produced from the 1960s through the 1980s. It wears a stock and handguard made of a red-brown composite material formed from wood-impregnated plastic. This material was strong, impervious to climate conditions, and cutting-edge when developed. The rifle I received was finished in the original military grey colour, with the original military muzzle brake welded on to bring the barrel to a legal 16″ length. It is also available in a more popular black finish.
Built from the 1960s through the 1980s, the folding version of the Sa. vz. 58 carbine was primarily used by airborne and special operations units. The folding stock is made of steel and has a sturdy push-button folding mechanism that locks up tightly. All controls can be reached with the stock folded. This rifle is available in either the original grey or popular black finishes and can be purchased with the correct military muzzle brake or a clean, low-profile barrel extension permanently attached. The folding stock in my photos is a surplus stock that I installed, and shows some wear. CzechPoint stocks do not show this wear.
The Sa. vz.58 Military Classic reflects the configuration of the earliest vz.58 carbines. The stock is made of beech, and is far less common than the later wood-impregnated plastic stocks. The stocks on these rifles are original surplus stocks and are beautifully restored with an oil finish. Having become accustomed to the rough finishes of currently available surplus rifle’s stocks, or the mass-produced modern sporting stocks, I was surprised and very impressed with the quality and feel of the stock and handguards on this carbine. This carbine utilized the more streamlined barrel extension instead of a muzzle brake.
My first impression of these carbines was of quality out of proportion to the cost. If this weapon was being produced by a US company offering it as a high-quality piston-operated alternative the AR-15 platform, I would expect a price tag of $1,500 to $2,500. It has the look, fit, and feel of a well-made firearm. Other importers or manufacturers offer rifles that are cobbled-together from parts by minimally skilled employees. Not D-Technik. Clearly, great care has been taken in the manufacture of these carbines.
Finish quality is excellent. The coating on the metal is smooth, even, and has proven very durable. The surplus beech furniture on the Military Classic looks new. The wood impregnated plastic furniture is also surplus, as that type of manufacturing is out of style, but obvious care has been taken to choose the best of the surplus furniture as there is very little noticeable wear. Magazines are refinished and upgraded, The sling is new, and the cleaning kit, while surplus, has been cleaned up and refinished.
My second impression, upon handling the carbine, was that these carbines just feel right. They balance well for me, aim naturally, and are a very handy length and weight. Even with it’s milled receiver, the Sa. vz.58 is almost a pound lighter than a stamped-receiver AK-47. The safety selector is easily manipulated with the firing hand without losing the firing grip on the weapon.
The Sa. vz.58 carbine functions via a short-stroke gas-piston system. Gas is tapped from the bore, operating a hard chrome-plated piston which pushes the bolt carrier back, cycling the action. The gas piston design is clean and simple, and is not prone to fouling. The short-stroke piston decreases recoil and does not cycle as violently as the long-stroke system of the AK-47.
The fixed charging handle is attached to right side if the bolt carrier at a slightly upward angle, making operation simple with either hand. The rear of the action is covered by a stamped steel receiver cover, and when the bolt is closed the action it completely sealed. When the bolt is open, the entire action is accessible, diminishing the likelihood of a malfunction and allowing easy clearing of any jam that might occur.
The safety selector is located on the right side of the receiver and is operated with the trigger finger if the shooter is right-handed. The selector is moved down to a vertical position to place the weapon on safe, and in this position can be felt by the trigger hand, making it obvious that the safety is engaged. To place the weapon in the fire mode, the selector is pushed forward to a horizontal position by the trigger finger as it moves toward the trigger.
The magazine is curved like the AK-47 magazine, but does not need to be rocked forward as far as the AK-47 requires when inserted and removed. The magazine is released with a paddle on the left side of the trigger guard and activates a bolt stop when empty to lock the bolt back after the last round is fired. Magazines may be changed or charged through the action with stripper clips.
The front sight on the vz.58 adjusts similar to the AK-47 for windage and elevation and the rear sight is a tangent leaf sight adjustable to 800 meters.
The bolt is locked by a falling breech lock which engages two recesses machined into the receiver. As the bolt carrier moves backward, it cams the breech lock out of engagement with the receiver to unlock the breech.
The most unique feature is the lack of a conventional hammer. The Sa. vz.58 is basically a striker fired weapon, or as some label it, a linear hammer design. The sear releases a striker which travels straight forward, pushing a floating firing pin into contact with the primer to fire the cartridge. This system has a shorter lock time than a conventional hammer, which tends to enhance a shooter’s accuracy.
Comparison to the AK-47
Many American shooters mistakenly believe that the v.58 is just another AK-47 clone. While the AK-47 and vz.58 share similar roles and are chambered for the same caliber, they are totally different weapon systems, as shown by this brief comparison:
- Both carbines shoot the Soviet 7.62×39 cartridge from 30 round magazines.
- Both carbines are simple and easily operated and maintained.
- Both carbines are designed to function in the worst environmental conditions with a minimum of maintenance.
- The Sa. vz.58 has a milled receiver, standard AK-47 receiver is stamped.
- The Sa. vz.58 is approximately 1 pound lighter than the stamped AK-47.
- The Sa. vz.58 magazines are half the weight of AK-47 magazines.
- The Sa. vz.58 bolt remains open after last round; AK-47 bolt does not.
- The Sa. vz.58 can be top-loaded with stripper clips; AK-47 cannot.
- The Sa. vz.58 uses a short-stroke gas piston; AK-47 uses a long-stroke system.
- The Sa. vz.58 is striker-fired; AK-47 uses a hammer.
- The Sa. vz.58 selector is operated without moving a hand from the weapon; AK-47 requires a hand to be moved.
The Sa. vz.58 shows much finer workmanship than most AK-47 style carbines. Lighter, shorter, and better balanced than the AK, the vz.58 clearly shows that attention was given to ergonomics in the design of this weapon. It has several important advantages over the AK-47. The selector lever is small and can be operated with the trigger finger without changing the shooter’s grip on the weapon. The selector lever on the AK-47 is very awkward to use in a tactical situation. After the last round has been fired, the vz.58 bolt stays open, and the magazine can be replaced with a loaded magazine or recharged through the action using stripper clips. SKS stripper clips work fine. The vz.58’s short-stroke gas piston system has less reciprocating mass and reduces recoil while enhancing accuracy and handling characteristics. Recoil is comfortable and straight back into the shoulder, more like the recoil of an AR-15 than that of the AK-47.
I have heard a lot of criticism of this weapon because it does not use AK-47 magazines. I think those who criticize the vz.58 for this reason are not truly thinking about their argument. The Sa. vz.58 does use proprietary magazines. So does the AK-47, the AR-15, and the M14. Most well-regarded weapons use proprietary magazines. The vz.58 magazines play an important role in making the weapon superior to the AK-47. Would we really want to lose that superiority just so we can use a magazine that was designed for a different weapon? I could understand if vz.58 magazines were expensive or rare, but they are easy to find and at least as inexpensive as most AK-47 magazines. They do not have to rock forward as far as AK magazines when inserted or removed. The vz.58 magazines are lighter than AK mags, show better workmanship, and, most importantly, hold the bolt open after the last round is fired. Who would want to loose that capability?
Availability in the United States
There are several companies in the US who are assembling some variation of the vz.58 from imported military surplus parts kits. Quality varies depending on the particular manufacturer’s standards. While some of these companies produce top-quality weapons, there is one important issue to consider. When the semi-auto version of the Sa. vz.58 carbine was first produced, a serious reliability issue came to light. When select-fire capability was removed from the weapon, many shooters experienced misfires. The misfires were dependent upon the particular shooter’s style of trigger manipulation. D-Technik spent several years identifying and solving the problem. D-Technik found and patented a number of solutions to the misfire problem before implementing the best solution and begining full-scale manufacturer of the semi-auto Sa. vz.58. Most companies manufacturing carbines from parts kits are either unaware of this issue or unable to address it due to D-Technik patents.
Our first choice is the CzechPoint Sa. vz.58 carbine manufactured by D-Technik in the Czech Republic. The CzechPoint weapons are the only vz.58s that are imported as complete firearms. They display typical high-quality Czech workmanship. More importantly they feature D-Technik’s solution the the semi-auto reliability problem. The CzechPoint Sa. vz.58 also uses the original chrome-lined Czech barrels of proper length, with a small permanently attached barrel extension or correct military muzzle brake to meet US barrel length requirements.
Probably the most well-known of the US-assembled parts-kit weapons is the Century Arms VZ-2008. While slightly cheaper than the CzechPoint carbines, the Century Arms VZ-2008 tends to show a varied quality of workmanship and is historically incorrect. Here is a comparison between the CzechPoint Sa. vz.58 and the Century VZ-2008:
- Sa. vz.58 has a chrome-lined barrel – vz.2008 is not chrome-lined.
- Sa. vz.58 has a five year warranty – vz.2008 has a one year warranty.
- Sa. vz.58 includes two magazines with the rifle – vz.2008 includes one magazine.
- Sa. vz.58 will soon have a side rail with shell deflector for rear mounted optics – vz.2008 does not have a side rail for rear mounted optics.
- Sa. vz.58 is available with different furniture stock sets (including original beech wood).
- Sa. vz.58 has a coated finish offered in black or gray (gray finished rifles are a match to the original military issued vz.58) – vz.2008 is parkerized.
- Sa. vz.58 has a lighter trigger pull as it uses one feather spring – vz.2008 is heavier as it uses two feather springs.
- Sa. vz.58 safety rotates forward to fire – easier to place in the fire mode quickly – vz.2008 safety rotates to the rear (not as quick and the hand must leave the pistol grip to rotate to fire).
- Sa. vz.58 is currently offered with a permanently attached muzzle extension or an original Czech military issued muzzle break – vz.2008 uses an AK slant break.
- Sa. vz.58 is manufactured by one factory dedicated to quality. It is a Czech manufactured rifle. Century outsources their manufacturing to independent gunsmiths.
For those who have vz.58s built from a parts kits, the semi-auto bolt may be purchased from CzechPoint to correct the misfire issue. Canadian vz.58 owners will also benefit by purchasing the semi-auto bolt, since the semi-auto vz.58s imported into Canada have the same misfire problem.
The Sa. vz.58 is an excellent weapon with modern features. Fab Defense, a manufacture of weapon accessories for the Israeli military, was the first to offer a full range of modern tactical accessories to increase the effectiveness of the weapon system. These accessories have been made available in the US through The Mako Group. We installed several of these accessories on our CzechPoint Sa. vz.58s for review.
The first change was the replacement of the original pistol grip on the two carbines. The AG-58 is an ergonomic pistol grip designed specifically for the vz.58. Built from reinforced polymer, it features a storage compartment with a removable insert designed to hold CR123A batteries. Installation is as simple as removing one screw, removing the original grip, and attaching the AG-58 with the supplied screw. The AG-58 Pistol Grip improves trigger manipulation due to better grip angle and shape.
The SA-58 is a drop-in replacement for the factory handguards. Featuring a top rail, bottom rail, and removable side rails, these handguards are constructed from a military-grade reinforced polymer composite. Fit is generally tight in order to guarantee a solid, no movement installation on the weapon. Some weapons may require slight fitting, depending on the build, but fit on the CzechPoint carbine was perfect. The upper handguard indexes with the lower to prevent movement of any installed optics or lasers. These handguards are light, attractive, fit the weapon well, and are not expensive.
We installed the VFR-VZ rail system on the second Sa. vz.58. Built for military use, it is designed to retain the zero of mounted optics. The VFR-VZ is machined from aluminum and has 4 rails, with the top and bottom rails extending forward of the handguard. The rail system is light and has large cooling ports to allow cooling of the barrel. The upper half replaces the factory gas piston tube. The two halve bolt together and are very secure. When shooting with an optic mounted I was unable to get the zero to shift by applying torque to the rail system. Use of iron sights is unaffected.
The original red buttstock starts to look a little odd once the carbine is wearing the black handguards and grip. The stock on one of the carbines was replaced with the SBT-V58FK collapsible buttstock kit. This kit consists of an M4 style receiver extension that has a recoil compensation system built into it and an Israeli GLR-16 buttstock. The recoil compensating extension is available by itself for those who wish to use a different stock. It works with any collapsible AR-15 style buttstock that fits a commercial tube. It is also available in a non-recoil compensating design.I will report on the recoil-compensation once I have an effective way to measure it.
A rubber buttpad on the stock provides an excellent grip against body armor and comfort under recoil, although these carbines have very little recoil to begin with. The GLR-16 stock has two quick-release sling attachment points, standard rear sling attachment points, and a single-point sling attachment point at the front. The buttplate swings open and reveals storage for two CR123A batteries. Automatic tension devices prevent undesirable movement of the stock on the extension, and the same stock fits both commercial and mil-spec receiver extensions tightly.
The stock is angled correctly for excellent ergonomics and the adjustable length of pull makes the carbine even more versatile than it was with the fixed stock.
The other carbine received a folding stock with an adjustable cheek piece. The UAS-VZP stock system is perfect for Sa.vz.58 carbines that have optics mounted. The adjustable cheek piece allows a perfect cheek-weld at the correct height for the mounted optic, but can be collapsed instantly for iron sight use. The joint is a rugged, streamlined design that is quick to operate with one hand. A button is pushed to release the stock from the locked position. The stock is held positively in the folded position and may be unfolded by simply swinging it out until it locks. In the locked position ther is no noticeable movement. The design is modular and can be switched to fold either left or right. The vz.58 can be fired with the stock folded. This stock also features a rubber buttpad. The thing I like most about it is that it doesn’t look like an M4. I really don’t think that every weapon needs to look like an M4.
Before shooting the Sa. vz.58, I mounted a Mepro M21 (self-powered reflex sight) on the top rail of the VFR-VZ handguard. Shooting in the desert in Arizona, I was able to easily spot the impact of my rounds and even without bore-sighting, zeroing took just a few rounds. After zeroing, for the sake of keeping my evaluation as scientific as possible, I shot a variety of targets, such as old soda cans, plastic bottles, and an expended smoke grenade that I found in the desert. At ranges up to 250 meters, I hit even small targets with ease. The balance and handling characteristics of the Sa.vz.58 carbine were very comfortable to me, and the weapon seemed to find the target naturally. Recoil was much more pleasant and less erratic than AK-47 rifles that I have fired. The muzzle brake seems very effective in controlling muzzle rise. The UAS-VZ stock gave me the height I needed for the Mepro M21 sight, and length of pull was comfortable. I was very pleased with how well the carbine shot.
Accuracy and reliability were excellent with the steel case Russian ammo I was shooting, but I have not yet shot to test accuracy. I will get some better ammunition and shoot for accuracy.
I will spend some time doing some more shooting with these carbines and report the results in the future, but my impression so far has been very good. I have to say the Sa. vz.58 has become one of my favorite firearms.
My conclusion? For a top quality, modern, piston-driven carbine with a heavier chambering than the AR-15 with better quality than the AK-47, the CzechPoint Sa. vz.58 is hard to beat. Modern accessories are easily available. Several ammunition manufacturers are making better loadings for the caliber than were available in the past. Maintenance simple. Controls are intuitive, balance is excellent, weight is light, and the price is right. Get one. You’ll like it.