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ZK 383 submachine gun

[CZ] Samopal ZK 383

Bulgarian contract ZK 383, marked "Waffenfabrik Brünn" with a Bulgarian crest, produced in about 1942
(Author's photo via Royal Armouries Collection)

The Czech ZK 383 submachine gun was reputedly designed in 1933 by the Koucký brothers, however it did not go into production until 1938. It was manufactured at Zbrojovka Brno and the nomenclature for the gun stood for Zbrojovka, Koucký, 1938-3. In terms of design, the ZK 383 was essentially similar to the Steyr-Solothurn S1-100 submachine gun, in that it employed a long recoil spring that ran diagonally through the buttstock rather than inside the receiver. The rear pad of the butt hinged open to allow removal of the recoil spring. The bolt did not come into direct contact with the recoil spring; instead a long guide rod attached to the rear of the bolt ran through the stock and acted against the spring. The bolt was itself interesting as it was hollowed-out in the center. This was because it was designed to house a large removable dead weight which would reduce the fire rate to 500 rounds per minute when fitted. Alternatively, the user could leave the bolt center empty for an unmoderated fire rate of 700 rpm.

The ZK 383 was produced for the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge and fed from 30-round, double-feed box magazines. The magazine feed was at an upward-canted angle to assist with the feed mechanism. The rear sight was an adjustable tangent sight graduating to 800 meters. Another atypical feature of the ZK 383 was the inclusion of a bipod. This may have been in line with the Czech military theory surrounding SMGs at the time, which deemed that they would be effective suppressive-fire weapons due to their large cone of fire. Thus it is possible that the ZK 383 was conceptualized as a light support weapon.

The internal arrangement of the ZK 383 submachine gun, with the recoil spring in the buttstock and the bolt connected
to a hinged plunger which retracts into the spring guide. This is essentially similar to the Steyr-Solothurn S1-100.

The ZK 383 was offered for domestic and export sale. However the sales of this gun were complicated somewhat by the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Germans in 1939. The Germans took control of the Czech armaments industry and Zbrojovka Brno was reorganized into Waffenfabrik Brünn. As a German client factory, it could only sell to Axis-aligned nations. A major contract was made to Bulgaria where it was adopted by their Army, and sales were also made to the Waffen-SS whose ZK 383s were marked "H SS PF". Guns were also delivered to the Czech police, marked "V.Z. 9" (for "Vzor 9mm").

Zbrojovka Brno continued to sell the ZK 383 after the end of the Second World War and successful sales were made to South American countries such as Venezuela, Brazil, and Bolivia. Several variations of the design were also developed, including the simplified ZK 383P model with a vertical magazine, and the ZK 383H model with a folding magazine. These variants were not commercially successful and were made only in small numbers. Production of the ZK 383 had ceased by the 1960s.