November 5, 2015: Adam Szczepanik – Strategy Page
Last week the Czech Republic approved an emergency $50 million order for new weapons. This was caused by the recent tensions between NATO (which the Czechs belong to) and Russia (which the Czechs fear). One of most significant parts of that order consists of 2,600 CZ 805 BREN assault rifles in different variants, in addition to 800 underbarrel grenade launchers, thousands of sights, and other related equipment.
This rifle, produced locally in Czech Republic since 2009, was already in the process of slowly becoming new standard rifle for Czech army and also select police units, replacing the 1950’s era VZ.58 assault rifle. This was cold war era 7.62x39mm weapon weighing 3.1kg (6.83 pound). It was 845mm (33.26 inch) long with a 30 round magazine and side folding stock. Although it resembles the AK-47 in appearance it shares no common parts with it, even their magazines are not interchangeable. It is capable of single shots and fully automatic fire. While quite popular and well regarded for its quality and compact dimensions, this rifle was starting to show the limitations of its aged design, in addition to incompatibility with NATO standard ammunition and accessories.
Priced at approximately $3400, the new, modular CZ 805 in the most common A1 configuration, is a 5.56x45mm weapon firing NATO standard ammo. The 3.6kg (7.93 pound) rifle is 670-910mm (26.3-35.8 inch) long and has an adjustable stock (folded\fully extended). It is a gas-operated rifle and is fed from 30 round magazines made of translucent polymer that is compatible with STANAG and G36 magazines, including 20, 30 and 100 round ones.
The assault rifle has fitted a Picatinny rail on the top of receiver with more rails running on the sides and the bottom of the forend. Thanks to this the CZ 805 will accept a wide variety of additional sighting equipment, like red-dot or telescope day sights, night sights, laser sights, in addition to folding iron sights which are meant for use when proper sights are unavailable. The rifle has an ambidextrous safety/fire selector switch that can be set to single shots, two round bursts and fully automatic fire.
So far the only variants of the modular weapon are the A1- full length assault rifle, and A2 - shorter barreled carbine one. The variants can be easily switched once the parts become available thanks to quick change barrels. Further planned variants include a long barreled DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle) one and a heavy barreled SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon). Versions in different calibers are also planned, including 7.62x39mm, and 6.8mm SPC. There is also a heavy B variant planned, designed to use heavier, full power rifle rounds, like 7.62x51NATO and .300 Winchester Magnum, but its development is not continuing because of lack of prospective buyers.
The underbarrel grenade launcher ordered for the CZ 805 BREN is CZ 805 G1, also Czech produced, and was designed with this rifle in mind, as the shared designation suggests. This 2.23 kg, 413mm (16.25 inch) long, 664mm (26.14 inch) with stock, single shot, rear loaded, single shot 40x46mm grenade launcher can be mounted on a rifle’s underbarrel rail or used as a standalone weapon. The rear loading allows it to use grenades of all lengths, which allows it to fire all kinds of anti-vehicle, anti-personnel, specialist and non-lethal rounds.
Even though not as compact as the weapon it is replacing, the CZ 805 is a long due technological step forward for the Czech Army, and it is already having some success on the international market too. The CZ 805 is already being used by the Slovak Army (which used it in combat in the Afghanistan War), Mexican Federal Police, Egyptian Police, Moldovan internal troops, in addition to Czech Army and law enforcement. A civilian, semiautomatic variant of the rifle is also a major possibility for increasing its sales.