After Soviet occupation, Czechoslovakia was fortunate enough to continue its tradition of fine arms making; the only Soviet design adopted was the DShK. All other designs were of domestic origin, and largely featured the milled construction for which they were so well known. These designs included the vz. 52/57 LMG, the vz. 58 rifle, and of course the Uk vz. 59 Universal machine gun.
The Uk vz. 59 has several unique features:
Multi-position Carry Handle:the handle can be used to carry the gun, remove a hot barrel, and can even be locked in different positions on the left and right side of the gun, for bracing during fire, or in position for the front hand when held in a LMG assault mode.
Pistol Grip: the grip acts as the gun's bolt handle. The gunner simply pulls down on a lever with the thumb, and the pistol grip unlocks. It is then pushed forward until it locks into the bolt carrier, and then drawn to the rear until it locks the bolt in battery, and locks itself back into place. This feature allows the gunner to keep their hand on the pistol grip at all times, with their eyes on the target, and ultimately provides for quicker clearing and reloading that a conventional bolt handle.
The Czechs have long been considered some of the finest and most innovative arms markers in the world. Zbrojovka Vsetín had been developing innovative light machine gun designs long before the outbreak of WWII. Perhaps the most famous of those designs would become the ZB. 26/30, which would ultimately become the Bren LMG. Considered by many to be two of the finest LMGs of WWII, both guns were gas operated, magazine fed, milled construction, and were used by both sides of the war in Europe. The guns were heavily machined, extremely robust, accurate, and very easy to repair in the field.
Even during German occupation, the ZB26 continued in production and was fielded by Nazi troops; of course
the Bren was used by Britain in not only WWII, but continued to serve in various forms through the Falklands
War in the early '80s. This Czech design was revolutionary in its day, and exhibited old world manufacturing
techniques in what was becoming an age of disposable stamped sheet metal guns.
The Warsaw Pact began an initiative to replace the RPD due to its limitations in the late 1950s. This
effort would see the development of two of the most successful GPMGs to date, the PKM and the
Uk vz 59. The Uk vz. 59 was developed as a gas operated, tilting breech-block, belt-fed, and milled
LMG. Its design was heavily influenced by the successful Zb. 26/30 and Bren gun lines, leading many
to call it "the belt-fed Bren." Developed in the 1950s for the Czech Army, the gun was designed to fire
the long-serving yet potent 7.62x54r rifle round. It was officially adopted by the Czech military in 1959,
and continues to serve to this day as the Czech Republic's primary LMG, albeit now converted to
7.62x51 due to their entrance into NATO in 1999 (typed now as the Uk vz. 68).
This machine gun is one of the rarest ever fielded by any army of the former Soviet Union. Reportedly
there were less than 24,000 of these LMGs ever made, versus for instance the PK/PKM at over
1,000,000 units worldwide. The UK vz. 59 weighs just over 20 lbs., its weight and cyclic rate of 700-800 RPM make it one of the most controllable LMGs in any country's arsenal.
Push-through Belt: while many belt fed guns today have a push through belt, not many use a rimmed cartridge! The belt acts as its own feed ramp for the round, as the cartridge is pushed through the belt into the chamber.
The Uk vz. 59 has served with Czech forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Kosovo, and has been
exported all over the world. American forces have run into them as well, unfortunately many
times on the receiving end of ts fire. Large quantities of these weapons are now found in Syria,
throughout Africa, and anywhere in the Middle East there is a current conflict. While it is a
relatively rare LMG in the scope of worldwide weapons production, its design, manufacture,
and durability ensure that it will continue to soldier on in some form for many years to come.