History and Background

For the design of the 7.92-mm power driven machine gun ZB-80, credit is due the Czcchoslovakian arms producing company of Ccskoslovenska Zbro-jovka Akciova Spolecnost v Brne, of Brunn, which is popularly known as Brno ZB or ZB because, obviously, of the unwieldy official name of the company. This plant was established after World War I when the victorious Allies were interested in the establishment of a small-arms manufacturing plant on a par with the Skoda facilities for making heavy armament. The location at Brunn was decided on as a factory already in existence there had previously made weapons and two-cylinder automobiles. In 1922, the plant was converted to small arms production by a combination of funds; 75 percent of the stock was held by the Czech Government, 20 pcrccnt by the Skoda Works and 5 percent by employees of the ZB plant.

France extended a helping hand, as the first machine gun built by the new firm was the Model 1922 light Hotchkiss built through the cooperation of French Ordnance engineers who had been ordered to turn over to the new company their latest drawings on this machinc gun. In 1924, ZB introduced a prototype weapon {ZB 24) of their own design, officially identifying it by the year of its appearance. This weapon was a composite of many sound automatic weapon principles that had been proved by combat in other guns, such as Berthier, B. A. R. (Brownings, Hotchkiss, and Chatellerault. A demand for a light machinc gun by the Czech Army gave the company the needed opportunity for which it had been waiting, and from that time on the ZB Company has progressed in unbelievable strides.

Fortunately for the company, there was a wrealth of skilled technicians available to assist in design and fabrication.

The modern and highly efficient ZB Plant was taken over by the Germans early in World War II and operated under the name Waftenwerke Brunn A. G. The Germans, long noted for their low regard for the professional skill of others, especially when compared with their own, admitted that the Czech engineers were producing weapons as fine as any in the world and paid them the unusual compliment of allowing them to continue their production without being completely restaffed by their own engineers. The Wehrmacht had acquired not only two huge manufacturing arsenals but also gun secrets of the Allies which had been developed in the ZB plant sincc 1922.

With the fall of Germany and the seizure of the Czech plants by the Russians, the Soviets for the first time had in their hands the one factor lacking in their automatic armament program all through World War II—the manufacturing "know how" whereby wreapons could be mass produced to a close manufacturing tolerance, and metallurgy and heat treating could replace bulk or mass. Under the domination of the Soviet Union, the ZB facilities furnished arms to the Russians under the designation "Peoples' Enterprise," a suffix widely used for satellite war plants.

The ZB-80 was in the prototype stage at the time of the German invasion of Czechoslovakia. The model, pictures, and drawings had earlier found their way to the United States and a gun of this type had been demonstrated to American authorities. However, data given in this chapter are derived from brochures prepared in the ZB plant.

Evidence is conclusive that the ZB—80 prototype was designed with a 7.92-miri bore for the sole purpose of conducting tests with ammunition that was readily available and comparatively cheap. The prototype included all features necessary for scaling up the weapon to cannon dimensions.

Figure 8-1. Left side view of Z3--8Û, power-driven machine gun.
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