Besa machine gun
The Besa Machine Gun was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 version of the Czechoslovak
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

The ZB-53 was a machine gun used by the Czechoslovak army designated TK vz. 37 and later used by German forces during World War II as the MG 37....

 air-cooled, belt-fed
Belt (firearm)
A belt or ammunition belt is a device used to retain and feed cartridges into a firearm. Belts and the associated feed systems are typically employed to feed machine guns or other automatic weapons...

 machine-gun, which in the Czechoslovak army was marked as the TK vz. 37 ("TK" means "těžký kulomet", heavy machine gun. "vz" means "vzor", Model). It was used extensively by the armed forces of United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 during the Second World War, as a mounted machine gun for tanks and other armoured vehicles, to replace the heavier, water-cooled Vickers machine gun
Vickers machine gun
Not to be confused with the Vickers light machine gunThe Vickers machine gun or Vickers gun is a name primarily used to refer to the water-cooled .303 inch machine gun produced by Vickers Limited, originally for the British Army...

. Although it required a rather large opening in the tank's armour, it was dependable and reliable. The name came from the Birmingham Small Arms Company
Birmingham Small Arms Company
This article is not about Gamo subsidiary BSA Guns Limited of Armoury Road, Small Heath, Birmingham B11 2PP or BSA Company or its successors....

 (BSA), who signed an agreement with Československá zbrojovka
Zbrojovka Brno
Zbrojovka Brno was a firearm and vehicle manufacturer in Brno, Czech Republic. They also made other products and tools- History :The firm was established in 1918.The Czech-Slovak investment group J&T bought an areal of Zbrojovka Brno in 2007.-Firearms:...

to manufacture the gun in the UK. The War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

 ordered the weapon in 1938, and production began in 1939, after modifications.

Although Britain's armed forces used the .303 British for rifles and machine guns, the ZB-53 had been designed for the German 8x57mm IS round - referred to by the British as the 7.92mm. Although it had been intended for the British to move from rimmed to rimless ammunition generally, with war imminent wholesale change was not possible. It was considered by BSA and the Ministry of Supply that the industrial, technical, and logistical handicap of converting the design to the 303 round was more onerous than retaining the original calibre, especially given that the chain of supply for the Royal Armoured Corps
Royal Armoured Corps
The Royal Armoured Corps is currently a collection of ten regular regiments, mostly converted from old horse cavalry regiments, and four Yeomanry regiments of the Territorial Army...

 was already separate from the other fighting arms of the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

. As a consequence, the round was not changed for British production. In an emergency they could use stocks of captured German ammunition, which was shared with the Mauser Kar98k
Karabiner 98k
The Karabiner 98 Kurz was a bolt action rifle chambered for the 8x57mm IS/7.92×57mm IS cartridge that was adopted as the standard service rifle in 1935 by the German Wehrmacht. It was one of the final developments in the long line of Mauser military rifles...

 rifle and MG-34 and MG-42 machine guns.

The Mark II version entered production in 1940. It was modified with a selector to give high (around 800 rounds per minute) or low (around 500) rates of fire. As the war progressed the design was modified to be more rapidly and economically produced, resulting in the Mark III version. This came as either an "L" (for low) or "H" (high) firing rate models.

A larger, heavier - at 57 kg (125 lb) - 15 mm version, also belt-fed, was developed by BSA from the Czechoslovak ZB vz.60 heavy machine-gun as vehicle armament. It could be fired in semi-automatic mode as well as fully automatic. It was used on the Light Tank Mk VI
Light Tank Mk VI
The Tank, Light, Mk VI was a British light tank, produced by Vickers-Armstrongs in the late 1930s, which saw service during World War II.- Development history :...

C and on armoured cars such as the Humber Armoured Car
Humber Armoured Car
The Humber Armoured Car was one of the most widely produced British armoured cars of the Second World War. It supplemented the Humber Light Reconnaissance Car and remained in service until the end of the war.-Development:...

Mark III.
Cartridge SA Besa 7.92 Mark IZ, IIZ
Cartridge SA Armour-piercing 7.92 Mark IZ, IIZ
Cartridge SA tracer 7.92 Mark IZ, IIZ
Cartridge SA incendiary 7.92 Mark I

External links

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