In the 1950s, the Czech military, going their own way as usual, took a look at the Soviet AK-47 and decided, while the AK was nice, they could do better. The result was the Vz-58, which, produced by CZ, became one of the best modern rifles of the 20th Century.
After World War Two, the military of Czechoslovakia was, for better or worse, integrated into the Soviet-backed Warsaw Pact organization largely by fault of 1945 battle-lines and a deal made among the Western Allies in Yalta before the final defeat of Hitler. The Czechs had a robust military industrial complex prior to the war, making their own Mauser rifles, ZB light machine guns, and CZ-series pistols by the thousand.
Well membership in the Soviet super-friends club brought certain standards that all junior members were expected to follow. This included using Soviet-designed weapons systems to ease commonality in the (eventual) war to 'liberate' the rest of Europe.
The Czechs looked at the two 1950s Russian designs, the SKS-45 and the AK-47/AKM and decided that, while they were nice, they just were not for them. This led first to the Brothers Kratochvl-designed Vz.52/57 rifle (which is very similar to the SKS), and then to something a little more...zippy.
Design of the Vz.58
Chambered in 7.62x39mm, the standard small arms round of the Warsaw Pact, the select-fire, gas-operated Vz.58 had a rear pistol grip, forward handguard, and 30-round detachable magazine. This caliber choice was the first use of the round by the Czech military with the exception of converted Vz. 52 rifles. As such, it was classified "7,62 mm samopal vzor 58" ("7.62mm submachine gun model 1958").
Designed by Jiri Cermak, the rifle used a striker-fired mechanism with falling breechblock; the action incorporated a short-stroke gas piston for reliability. This produced a military-grade assault weapon capable of a blistering 800-rounds per minute as long as the ammo supply lasted while weighing just 6.8-pounds.
The Vz-58 and the AK are often confused, as they look similar, however, other than the same general layout and caliber, the guns are vastly different. For a detailed side-by-side comparison of the two, check out Michael Killebrew's excellent website with component to component checks.
These guns are simple, accurate, and reliable. Constructed with a milled receiver rather than a stamped one (such as the AK) they are often credited with being stronger and more accurate. With a huge ejection port and gas-piston action, the odds of having a FTF or FTE are greatly reduced. Further, they are designed to be used and maintained by recruits with little training (including the removal of the gas tube without tools!)
Who from the Polenar Tactical team can conduct a proper disassembly/assembly faster? Manca or Ziga? Either way, it's fast.
Getting your own
Well, the thing is, CZ made nearly a million of these guns from 1959 until the 1990s. These guns served not only the Czech military but also that of a dozen international allies, being frequently exported during the Cold War to states such as Angola, mired in East v West conflict.
While a few select-fire tried and true Vz.58s were brought into the U.S. before 1986 (when private sales of machineguns to civilians was banned by the Hughes Amendment), these guns are super rare.
Like $15,000 rare.
However, there are semi-auto versions made by (CZ-competitor) Czechpoint/CSA Arms and the (sometimes-derided) Century Vz 2008.
The 2008 is a semi-auto clone of the Vz.58 with Czech components married up to a U.S.-made receiver and barrel. These guns are out there for $400-$500 which compares nicely to entry level AKs and ARs.
Giving some range time to a Vz.2008.
Then of course, there are parts kits etc. that you should...Czech out.
When comparing these to an AK platform there are some pluses and minuses. For instance, AKs have a huge amount of spare parts and accessories that the Vz just can't match. However, the Czech gun is by design lighter, and if you look around you can find parts and mags on the cheap-- just be sure to look around and stock up before the supply dries up.
Either way, it's hard to go wrong in the AK vs Vz argument.