Century’s VZ2008

Hands down, the AR-pattern carbine is perceived as the standard…

Hands down, the AR-pattern carbine is perceived as the standard today when it comes to military-inspired law enforcement patrol carbines.  However, there are some unique alternatives to the ubiquitous AR on the market today available from the former Soviet Bloc.

centuyIn fact, due to the drawing back of the Iron Curtain and the resulting collapse of the Soviet Union, US law enforcement officers now have access to a whole host of handy carbines chambered for the capable 7.62x39mm cartridge. One shining example of this is the Century International Arms VZ2008 carbine, a

US-legal variant of the Czech Vz. 58 rifle. The story of this handy little carbine based upon a Cold War-era rifle design is a rather interesting one.

With experiences gained in the bloody combat of World War II, the post-war Soviet Union saw a need for a new breed of high-capacity, select-fire rifles for their combined militaries. In fact, this desire on the Soviets’ part coincided with a new movement in firearm design driven by the earlier introduction of the German StG44 in 7.92x33mm — the word’s first practical fielded “assault rifle.”

The new “assault rifle” was clearly the way of the future. Bridging the gap between full-power rifles and high-volume-fire submachine guns, the assault rifle employed what would become known as an intermediate cartridge, a cartridge shorter and less powerful than a traditional rifle cartridge, but more powerful than a pistol cartridge. The result was a rifle that sported the close-range volume of fire of a submachine gun, while still retaining the ability to decisively hit out to several hundred yards.

This movement would ultimately become the predominant model of military rifle design for the next six decades with intermediate-cartridge-based assault rifles such as the M16 in 5.56x45mm becoming the standard for not only the militaries of the West but also for many of its law enforcement groups. However, it was not the only choice.

In the immediate post-war era, the Soviet Union set about a program of assault rifle development, resulting in the 7.62x39mm cartridge, first chambered in the SKS rifle. The cartridge proved to be quite capable, propelling a roughly 125-grain projectile at around 2300 fps (feet per second). However, the 10-round, fixed-magazine SKS did not fully fulfill the intended role of a true assault rifle.

Shortly thereafter, Mikhail Kalashnikov developed what would become one of the most influential assault rifle designs in history, known collectively as the AK-47. Sporting a detachable 30-round magazine, handy size, 7.62x39mm chambering and hardy reliability, the new AK solidly fulfilled this new role.

At the same time, the Soviet Union’s allied satellite states were also developing their own new assault rifle platforms. In most cases, as with nations such as Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, these states developed rifle variants quite similar to the parent Soviet AK-47 design. One glaring exception, though, was Czechoslovakia. And this should come as no surprise considering the fiercely independent nature of the people of that nation, as well as its well established and highly respected armsmaking tradition.

The Czechoslovakian design, dubbed the Vz.58 and adopted by that nation’s military in 1958, easily fulfilled the role of a true assault rifle, offering select-fire capability in a compact yet manageable package. However, it differed drastically from the Soviet AK in its design, its manufactured and—much to the dismay of Moscow—initially even it’s chambering.

In fact, the Vz. 58 as it was first developed was actually chambered for the German 7.92x33mm chambering of the StG44. However, after some decidedly intense pressure from the Soviet Union, the assault rifle was redesigned to chamber the standardized Soviet 7.62x39mm cartridge.

Different Designs
So exactly how did the Vz. 58 differ from a more traditional Kalashnikov design? At first glance, the Vz. 58 appears to be a basic Kalashnikov pattern rifle. However, a closer look reveals some distinct differences.

Whereas the first AK-pattern rifles and the later AKM variants sported stamped steel receivers to keep down both weight and costs, the Vz. 58 rifle featured a milled steel receiver. However, despite this fact, the svelte and handy Vz. 58 actually weighs roughly a pound less than a comparable Kalashnikov. In addition to being lighter, the Vz. 58 is also smaller and more compact than a Kalashnikov while still chambering the same powerful 7.62x39mm cartridge.

The rifles are also mechanically different. While the heart of the Kalashnikov’s rugged gas system is a substantial gas piston rod attached directly to a heavy bolt carrier assembly, the Vz. 58 sports a short-stroke piston system. Rather than a large, one-piece piston/carrier system like the AK, the Vz. 58 has a separate piston rod located in the gas tube above the 16-inch barrel.

As gas is tapped off the bore, the short-stroke piston is driven rearward a short distance to impact the front face of the rifle’s bolt carrier. This impact causes the carrier to move rearward to cycle the action. An interesting side effect of the design is the fact that the piston rod can easily be removed from the rifle for cleaning without having to disassemble the action of the Vz. 58 as you would on a Kalashnikov.

Internally, the Vz. 58 is also distinct from the Kalashnikov. While the AK employs a traditional rotating bolt locking system, the Vz. 58 sports a tilting locking piece in its bolt carrier assembly that locks directly into the rifle’s stressed-steel receiver. And the firing mechanism is even more radical, featuring a striker rather than a more common hammer. As the action is cycled, the rear of the striker is held by the sear. When the trigger is pulled, the disconnector is activated and the sear is allowed to release the striker to move forward under spring pressure to strike the base of the firing pin.

Operationally, the Vz. 58 is vey similar to a Kalashnikov, a quality no doubt appreciated by decision makers in Moscow who were likely agitated by the independent streak of the Czechoslovakian armsmakers.

As with the AK, simplicity is the key with the Vz. 58. To load the rifle, one rocks in the magazine from front rear until it engages the paddle-style magazine catch located at the rear of the magazine well. Once this is done, the user charges the action by retracting the reciprocating charging handle on the bolt carrier and releasing it to strip a round off the magazine.

The safety of the Vz. 58 deserves mention. As compared to the large and arguably clunky dustcover safety of the AK, the Vz. 58 sports a rotating lever thumb safety above the pistol grip. Other areas of note include the fact that the rifle features a last shot hold-open device actuated by an empty magazine. And the magazine itself is unique, being made from aluminum rather than steel (as with AK magazines).

Sights of the Vz. 58 would be familiar to anyone acquainted with a Kalashnikov, being made up of a sliding tangent rear assembly forward of the receiver. The front sight is a sturdy winged post assembly. Unlike latter day AKM-style Kalashnikov variants, the Vz. 58 has no means for conveniently attaching an optic.

The Vz. 58 was produced in two primary variants: a fixed stock standard model and a compact variant sporting a steel side-folding stock. The stock set material of the Vz. 58 is a unique wood-impregnated plastic material that was likely quite advanced in its day.

VZ2008 Details
Thanks to the efforts of Century International Arms, a US-legal variant of this fine design is now available on these shores. Dubbed the VZ2008, this carbine sports the side-folding steel stock and features a combination of original Czech and new US-made parts for legality.

The test sample I received from Century sported an evenly applied gray parkerized finish, and all controls operated smoothly. I noted that the threaded muzzle of the VZ2008 was topped off with a standard AK-style slant brake.

First picking up the VZ2008, I was struck by the light and compact handling characteristics of the carbine. With the stock folded, the 7-pound VZ2008 measures just over 26 inches long. This compact size, combined with the powerful 7.62x39mm chambering and 30 + 1 capacity makes it extremely well suited as a law enforcement patrol rifle.

The VZ2008 in quick order proved to be a quick-handling and fast-pointing little rifle. The folding stock was easy to operate by simply pushing up on a button at the base of the folding hinge mechanism. It locks solidly in both the open and closed position. In addition, despite its Spartan appearance, the steel stock proved to be surprisingly comfortable against my face.

Shooting Impressions
Once I had disassembled the rifle, inspected and oiled it, I reassembled it and headed out to the range with a selection of Wolf, Remington and American Eagle ammunition. Once I was set up on my Coyote Jake’s Bench with my Caldwell ZeroMax rifle rest, I started putting the VZ2008 through its paces.

Over the course of a few hundred rounds, the rifle performed without a hitch. Despite its light weight and compact dimensions, the perceived recoil of the 7.62x39mm carbine proved to be quite pleasant and manageable. Accuracy at 100 yards was also quite good; particularly considering the fact the rifle was tested with only the iron sights.

Although the AR may be the dominant military-inspired LE patrol carbine in this country, the Czech-inspired VZ2008 offers LE officers an extremely appealing alternative. Combining the added punch of the 7.62x39mm cartridge in a compact, handy and ultra-reliable package, the VZ2008 can easily fit the role of the ideal patrol carbine. Find out more at Century International Arms’ website: centuryarms.com or call 800-527-1252.

Load Comments
  • Karl Erik Jünger

    A point of correction here… the Vz 58 was originally chambered in the Czech 7.62×45 (same cartridge as the SKS-like vz 52) NOT the German 7.92×33 (aka 8mm Kurz) that the WW2-era Stg-44, Stg-45 and a couple other rifles fired.

  • TheOtherOtherWhiteMeat

    Wonderful rifle, I opted for a Ohio Ordnance Works VZ2000 Tactical version. Best in the world IMO. At least until I get to check out a semi TAVOR. And yes its better than an AR as well. uses short piston gas operation and can shoot any old dirty ammo ect. Where as the AR (except for a few new customs) uses a direct gas impingement tube sensitive to ammo quality and loadings. Better than the AK which has thin sheet metal receiver twisting and flexing along with a long piston recoil system rocking a pound of steel back and forth with each shot. Limits AK to Minute of Barn accuracy. This is THE rifle. Milled receiver, cold hammer forged chrome lined barrel(the Ohio version dont know about century), short piston recoil, striker fired like a glock pistol adds to accurate let off. It’s now available in other calibers as well.

    • dmaynard

      when you say stuff like “minute of barn” you are really showing your ignorance regarding the accuracy of the AK platform. I would suggest some further research by reputable sources that show just how much the accuracy of the AK is far better than people give it credit for.

      • TheOtherOtherWhiteMeat

        Actually it shows I know what i’m talking about when it comes to the majority of the AK platforms I have owned 5 different AK’s. Anyone who owns one and is honest will attest to it. I’ll give that a select few expensive milled AK’s can approach ‘minute of pie plate’. Lighten up fan boy.

        • dmaynard

          I’m not a fan boy, just seeking to correct ignorance where I find it. Your anecdotal experience with “owning AK’s” has no bearing on their actual inherent accuracy. That statement is erroneous because no one knows your ability to shoot the platform so there can be something to base your perception of accuracy upon.

          For example, if I owned 5 M1 Garand’s but can’t hit the broadside of a car with them, I would (incorrectly), via my anecdotal experience, conclude that M1’s are “very inaccurate” which has no bearing on the rifle’s actual performance.

          Anyone who is actually “honest” about the accuracy of the AK platform will state exactly what is intended about the rifle: that it is accurate to the degree it needs to be for the engagement range it was developed for. I will be the first to tell you it isn’t a marksman rifle, nor was it designed to be, and again your ignorant statements of “minute of barn” and “pie plate” can be easily debunked. For starters, Google Armed Defender Academy LLC, Larry Vickers, sonny puzikas, and Jim Fuller for honest discussions about AK accuracy.

          I’m not interested in some chest-beating flame war, but I am interested in actually spreading correct and “accurate” information about a given platform. If that makes me a “fan boy” then you misunderstand where I’m coming from.

        • dmaynard

          Well first off I love how when I point an inaccuracy in your logic (pun intended), that can be backed up by plenty of evidence (evidence not specific to your singular anecdotal experience), I’m instantly labeled a “fan boy”. I’m not a fan boy, I’m pointing out an inconsistency and dishonesty with your assessment of the inherent accuracy of the Kalashnikov platform. So for you, in your ownership of 5 Ak’s have experienced sub-par accuracy (which we don’t know what that really is because you haven’t defined what “accurate” is in this conversation yet), yet 100s of 1000s of AK’s used by trained personnel across the globe have a different experience with the accuracy of the platform, that doesn’t match up with yours. So yeah, you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

        • Wolfsbane

          I have to agree with dmaynard here.

          If you’re talking minute of barn or even minute of pie plate with an AK, you flat out don’t know what you’re talking about

          If you can’t consistently hit groups within the area of a CD or DVD maybe you ought to consider going airsoft. It sounds like that’s about your speed. The rest of us would prefer it purely in the interest of all our safety. I’m sure mommy will be happy to drive you down to the toy store to get a nice airsoft gun.

  • rrd308

    anybody know where to get new furniture l Nice quad rail,etc.

    • dmaynard

      zahal or czechpoint have good after market products

  • ken

    hi jim, should be a large slotted head.. need long screwdriver..want to get rid iof your folder??let me know…thanks

  • ken

    i just received my vz2008…its a trippy gun.ive heard about metal shaving etc inside the guns,,bullchit…mine was quite clean. i disassembled it/oiled it / reassembled it without glitch….havent shot it yet but cant wait. its compact, sleek, clean and semi nasty/menacing looking..it reminds me of my ak hunter…a wolf in semi sheeps clothing….hope it shoots as good as it looks…buy 1 if you can get 1…. enjoy..:)

  • I have a VZ-58, they are reliable, excellent and value for money rifle compared to ARs. Remember Vietnam war, M16 vs AKs are compared, AKs has a gas piston, which help eliminate carbon build up that causes jams, VZ-58 is gas piston riffle even thousand rounds still no jams. It can also be upgraded to a tactical rifle thru CAAs quadrail, front and rear tactical grips, night vision scope etc. And its 7.62 a lot of stopping power with 800kilometers still accurate for a sniper riffle.

  • I have one, they are excellent, reliable and value for money. Remember the Vietnam war, the M16 vs. AK47 with a gas piston is compared, gas piston rifles are more practical and reliable with no jams. The VZ-58 are with gas piston even with thousand rounds still no jams, it can also be upgraded with CAA quadrail, tactical front and rear pistol grip and with night vision scope etc.

  • Martin

    I have one of these rifles. I love this thing. I am already convinced I have no need to buy any other AK variant now that I have this thing. Not crazy about a side folder, and original stocks are available. What I see when I inspect this thing is an upgraded pistol gripped SKS, with emphasis placed on upgraded. I love simplicity; this rifle is just that.

  • Jim

    I have one and love it, but I have one problem. I want to replace the folding stock, but for the life of me, I can’t get the large screw holding the stock to loosen. Anyone have suggestions?

  • Just got this gun for 350.00

    Everything in the article is spot on.
    I have read a lot of blogs about this gun. Basically about what it isn’t.
    Here is what it isn’t:
    Look. If you want a good inexpensive gun that your not looking to upgrade or pack with bells and whistles. This is the gun for you.
    All i have shot through mine is Silver Bear.
    The only mistake i made was not ordering more mags.
    Buyer beware. Mags will need to be special ordered from Century arms or off of gun broker. AK MAGS WON”T WORK!!!

  • Jeff

    I have one of these weapons. It is a great shooter out to 300 yards. Smooth and reliable. Not one hick up at all. Nice gun.