My brother-in-law flew in for some fishing recently. As we were fishing, the talk turned to his need for a home-defense carbine. Because he is assigned to an Air Force base in California, our talk revolved around things like off-list lowers, bullet buttons, and featureless builds. This set me to thinking about practicality.
“I like the AR-15, and I think everyone should have one,” I told him, “but in your situation, I would consider something else. Instead of trying to fit an AR to the restrictions you are dealing with, you need a rifle that can work well within those restrictions. I have a rifle to show you when we fly out of here.”
When we got home I grabbed a carbine and put it in his hands. “This,” I said, “is the carbine you need in California. The design is modern, ergonomics are good, quality is top-end, and it is reliable.”
“Does it have to have a bullet button?” he asked.
“Doesn’t matter. It loads from stripper clips.”
The rifle was, of course, the Sa vz.58.
The vz.58 is my recommendation for a home-defense or general semi-auto carbine for use in California, or anywhere else with detachable magazine restrictions. The vz.58 was a rifle that was designed in that transition period between bolt-action and early semi-auto rifles that were designed to be loaded with stripper clips, and modern-style semi-auto or select-fire rifles that are designed to be reloaded by changing magazines.
Like the M16/AR-15 and the AK rifles, the vz.58 is designed to be reloaded by dropping an empty magazine and inserting a loaded magazine. Unlike the M16 or the AK, the vz.58 can also be loaded with stripper clips. Since ammo was packaged on stripper clips, I suspect that the Czechs saw two advantages – first, a stripper clip guide built into the rifle made loading magazines easy, as each could be inserted, loaded, and removed, but more importantly, in a prolonged fight, when all of a soldier’s magazines were emptied, he could reload quickly using stripper clips.
The advantage for California, Connecticut, and New York residents is that with a bullet-button magazine release and a ten-round magazine, the vz.58 can be loaded more quickly from stripper clips than from a magazine.
The vz.58 has a number of advantages, such as a lighter weight and better balance than the AK, an open action that allows positive ejection and easy clearing of any jam, while being completely sealed when the bolt is closed, without relying on dust covers or safeties to seal the action, and the ability to easily use modern grips, stocks, and optics. The rifle is tough and reliable and looks good as well. The like the AR-15 and other modern rifles, the magazine followers activate a bolt catch, holding the bolt open when the last round is fired. The recoil is comfortable and straight back into the chest, instead of rising and twisting like an AK, keeping the muzzle down and on target.
The quality of the Czech Small Arms vz.58, imported by CzechPoint, is very high, on par with anything being built today. Anyone who is familiar with Czech engineering recognizes that quality and precision are paramount to Czech engineers and manufacturing. The current vz.58 rifles from CzechPoint feature complex, precise machining, Lother Walther barrels, and excellent fit and finish. When compared to competing firearms, this is a firearm whose retail price is less than would be expected.
The vz.58 operates using a short-stroke piston, which is an excellent design for reliability and accuracy. The action is a falling breech-block style. The non-rotory bolt is locked by a breechblock, which is unlocked by the initial rearward motion if the bolt carrier during cycling. The vz.58 does not use a traditional hammer. Instead, a spring-loaded striker is released by the sear to strike a short firing pin. Some have described the striker as a linear hammer.
There have been several companies that have assembled surplus parts kits, but the best of the semi-auto Sa vz.58 carbines are built by Czech Small Arms in the Czech Republic and imported by CzechPoint in the US. These include the rifles sold by CZ USA, and those which were marked D Technik – they were all distributed by CzechPoint and built by CSA (previously under the D Technik name).
CzechPoint supplies several rifle models in both 7.62×39 mm and 5.56 mm, designated as Liberty models, already configured for sale in California, Connecticut, and New York. The compliant magazine catch can be removed in minutes and replaced with a standard release, so shooters from these states can use a standard mag release and magazines when traveling outside their states, or if they move to a free state. There sis really no other rifle that matches the advantages of the Liberty vz.58 rifles for residents of ban states. It is one of only a few semi-auto rifles that can be sold in Connecticut, since that state requires disassembly of the action to remove a magazine. Since the stripper clip guide was designed for 7.62×39 stripper clips, the 7.62×39 Liberty model would be my choice for use in a ban state.
There is a full range of modern accessories available for the Sa vz.58. The following is my preferred configuration:
I prefer the CSA LPM side-rail mount for mounting an optic in the rearward position. Most current CzechPoint vz.58 rifles ship either pre-drilled and tapped for the side rail, or with the side rail installed.
For those who prefer, an optic can also be mounted forward on the top of the handguard, if a solid rail system is used.
For me, the only choice is the FAB Defense AG-58 pistol grip. (see photo above) It is designed for the proper shooting grip angle, and to provide better control when manipulating the weapon with one hand. It includes a storage compartment with battery insert. A simplified version without storage compartment is also made by CSA under license and is available from CzechPoint. Click here for details.
My preference for a stock system is the FAB recoil-compensating system with steel Galil-style hinge. However, the Galil hing is quite expensive, and the polymer hinge will work just as well. If optics are being used, then the stock should have a cheekpiece.
If recoil compensation is not desired, then my preference is the UAS stock from FAB Defense. The UAS stock looks right for a non-AR rifle like the vz.58, and folds very thin. It also comes in versions that use either the robust polymer hinge or the steel Galil hinge. If using the polymer hinge, I set it up to fold to the right, which is best for a right-handed shooter. Both styles of stock systems may be seen in the photo above. There are non-folding versions available as well.
The SA-58 handguards are a great choice for these rifles, especially if the CSA optic mount is used. They are inexpensive, tough, and keep the rifle light. They fit tightly enough that a mounted optic remains accurate.
If an optic will be mounted on the handguards, however, I recommend the VFR-VZ rail system. This is the only rail system that mounts the way it does. It does not use the normal mounting pin method used by the stock handguards and other rail systems. Instead, it clamps solidly to the receiver and the gas block, resulting in precision and repeatability. Zero does not shift even when the top rail is removed and replaced.
The VFR-VZ rail system is unique in another way. The vz.58 is well-known for heating up its handguards, since the gas is exhausted into the area inside the handguards. This is not an issue with stock handguards, but aluminum handguards tend to heat up too hot to hold, and more critically, heat mounted optics, resulting in eventual failure of the optics. The VFR-VZ replaces both the top handguard and the gas tube, as it has a built-in gas tube. It redirects the gas and keeps the rail system cool, keeping the shooter’s optics and hand cool as well.
You can’t go wrong with the Czech military-style muzzle brake. It looks right and works well. It is standard on some models, or can be ordered from CzechPoint.
If I lived in a restrictive state such as California, the CzechPoint Sa vz.58 would be my carbine of choice. I would have a couple. Come to think of it, I live in the free state of Alaska, and I still have a couple, so I would recommend that anyone anywhere take a close look at these carbines.
CSA Sa vz.58 Carbines and Pistols, as well as vz.61 Skorpions and other Czech firearms are available in the US from CzechPoint USA.
FAB Defense vz.58 accessories are imported by The Mako Group.
California Law is supplied by liberal, anti-constitution politicians in the state of California and we encourage and stand behind all California gun owners in their struggle to recover their state. We will always do all we can to support you, even if it means jumping through hoops to ship firearms to California, or spending extra time to prepare and ship magazine rebuild kits, or whatever else is necessary to support California shooters. However, we cannot give legal advice pertaining to the convoluted and confusing CA firearms laws.
This article first appeared on the 7.62 Precision Blog and is re-published here with permission.