ZB26: The Best of the Light Machine Guns

The ZB-26 stands as one of the best magazine-fed light machine guns developed during the 1920s and 30s – it was a very popular gun for small military forces and many countries which did not directly buy it were strongly influenced by it. The Japanese Nambu Type 96 and 99 were heavily based on the ZB, the the British Bren was a direct evolution licensed from Brno.

The design dates back to 1921, when the Czech government began searching for a modern light machine gun. They tested pretty much all the guns available on the market at the time, and also solicited guns from Czechoclovak designers. Brothers Vaclav and Emmanuel Holek submitted their I-23 light machine gun, which would become the ZB-26 (LK vizor 26 in Czech terminology) and become the official Czechoslovak light machine gun as well as a popular commercial export for the ZB factory. More than 120,000 were made in several different calibers and sold to 24 countries between 1926 and 1939.

When the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia, they seized a huge number of these guns both from the military and guns still in the factory. This particular one was part of a Spanish purchase contract, but was completed under the oversight of Heinrich Krieghoff and supplied to German forces.

Mechanically, the ZB-26 uses a tilting bolt and a long stroke gas piston, in a combination that would be copied in many later designs. It is robust, accurate, controllable, and handy – a truly excellent all-around light machine gun.

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