ZB-53, Vz.37
Type Medium machine gun
Place of origin 23x15px Czechoslovakia
Service history
Used by 23x15px Czechoslovakia

23x15px Argentina
Flag of German Reich (1935–1945).png Nazi Germany
23x15px Iran
23x15px Republic of China
23x15px Yugoslavia
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Great Britain
23x15px Kingdom of Romania
23x15px Yugoslavia

Wars Second World War
Second Sino-Japanese War
Production history
Designer Václav Holek
Designed 1936
Manufacturer Zbrojovka Brno
Weight Script error empty
Length Script error
Barrel length Script error

Cartridge 7.92 x 57mm Mauser
Calibre 7.9mm
Action gas automatic
Rate of fire 500/800 round/min
Feed system 225 metal link belt

The ZB-53 was a Czechoslovak machine gun. A versatile weapon, it was used both as a squad support weapon, as a mounted machine gun for tanks and other armoured vehicles, and on fixed positions inside Czechoslovak border fortifications. Adopted before the World War II by the armies of Czechoslovakia (as TK vz. 37) and Romania, it was also license-built in the United Kingdom as the Besa machine gun. Following the Munich Agreement the German Wehrmacht captured large quantities of the weapon and used it during the war under the designation of MG 37(t).

The ZB-53 was designed by Václav Holek and Miroslav Rolčík of the Zbrojovka Brno works as a replacement for the Schwarzlose machine gun of World War I origin. Based on the earlier vz. 35 machine gun, the prototype was tested in 1936 and the following year the new machine gun was adopted by the Czechoslovak Army under the name of TK vz. 37 (literally Heavy Machine Gun Mark 1937, as "TK" stands for "těžký kulomet", heavy machine gun, while "vz" means "vzor", Model). It was introduced as the standard machine gun of Czechoslovak LT-35 and LT-38 tanks. Czechoslovakia exported the gun to Romania, Yugoslavia, Argentina, Afghanistan, Iran and China (roughly 850 pieces used during the Second Sino-Japanese War), while Great Britain bought a license and started to produce its' own version, known as the BESA (over 60,000 pieces made).

The weapon was a gas-operated, belt-fed, air-cooled machine gun that served both the infantry support and vehicle weapons roles. The machine gun was delivered in three variants: infantry machine gun (on heavy tripod), heavy bunker machine gun (with heavier barrel, marked "O") and for armoured vehicles (marked "ÚV"). It was designed to withstand five minutes of constant fire, after which time the barrel had to be changed due to wear. Although modern, the weapon was prone to jamming due to complicated rate of fire selection mechanism.

Czechoslovak Zbrojovka Brno and then Zbrojovka Vsetín produced the gun in large quantities until 1950s.

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