Automatic rifle ZK 383

Calibre: 9 mm, overall length: 875 mm, barrel length: 325 mm, weight: 4.83 kg, muzzle velocity: 365 m/s, cadence: 500 or 700 rounds/min, loading: box magazine for 30 rounds

The Czechoslovak ZK 383 submachine gun is one of the lesser known types. It was very little used outside Eastern Europe. Its combat use was limited to the Eastern Front, where it was used in the war against the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the ZK 383 was an important type in its time. Due to its quality construction, it was produced from the late 1930s until 1948. The design of the submachine gun originated in the early 1930s. It was manufactured by the world-famous Zbrojovka Brno. The company became famous especially for the design of the machine gun, which became the forerunner of the British Bren.

The ZK 383 was a relatively long and heavy weapon, which differed from other submachine guns by, among other things, the bipod under the barrel, used in several versions.The bipod was based on the tactical philosophy of the Czechoslovak army, which viewed the submachine gun as a kind of light machine gun. This view was in direct contradiction to the general evaluation of the submachine gun as a weapon for close-range combat. However, the different tactical concept was accentuated by what was probably the most original feature of the submachine gun, which was the possibility of firing two cadences, 500 or 700 rounds/min. The change in cadence was achieved by removing or inserting a separate block weighing 0.17 kg into the breech – with the block removed, the breech moved faster and the machine gun fired at a higher cadence. The lower cadence was applied when the weapon was supported by a bipod, when the submachine gun was used more as a light machine gun. Higher cadence was chosen for the submachine gun as an assault weapon.

This technical concept did not take hold anywhere else except in the ZK 383 submachine gun. It seems that even the users of this weapon did not use the possibility of selecting the rate of fire very much. In Bulgaria, the submachine gun was introduced as a standard service weapon (it was still in use in the Bulgarian army in the early 1960s), but by far the largest proportion of ZK 383 submachine guns produced in 1939 went to the German army.

Samopal ZK 383
Samopal ZK 383

After the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939, the Germans found intact production lines for the ZK 383 submachine gun and so kept them in operation for their own use. The Brno armoury was intended to produce weapons for the SS units, which used the ZK 383 submachine gun only on the Eastern Front. The weapons of the SS units were marked as Model 9. The SS weapons units considered them sufficiently effective and introduced them as standard armament. A part of the produced submachine guns remained in the occupied Czech lands, where they were used by the police. In this case, it was the ZK 383P version, which did not have a bipod.

Besides Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Germany, the ZK 383 submachine gun was also used in Brazil and Venezuela, but these countries did not take any significant numbers. In many respects, the ZK 383 was too complex a weapon for the tasks assigned to submachine guns in general. The assumption of the Czechoslovak army that the ZK 383 would also serve as a light machine gun led to the loading of the weapon with many unnecessary design elements.

The two modes of firing with a burst and a bipod have already been mentioned. The submachine gun could certainly do without the complex mechanism that allowed barrel swapping. The breech mechanism of the submachine gun was made by milling from high quality steel, the breech return spring was housed in the stock and was slightly inclined to the axis of breech movement. The ZK 383 submachine gun was undoubtedly a very reliable and advanced weapon, but it was too complex for its task.


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