The sky above us foretold of the coming rain, and as often happens here, the surrounding woods, thick as in a primordial world, seemed to grow darker by the minute. They are the kind of woods Tolkien would have written about and that make you wish for a big sack of bread crumbs. If one was prone to a loose imagination, he would consider that there were quiet watchful eyes in those woods, even today, noticing everything and rarely making a sound.
We had just finished training. The students had left a great deal of fired cases on the ground, and unlike in the worrisome west, nobody stresses about their effect on the environment. With huge bunkers of Cold War ammo available, the thought of reloading to them is as foreign to them as the creature in Alien. They lay where they fell.
This is Czech Republic, a free country, and we are training on an old secret Soviet base. According to the townspeople, there are many unmarked graves in these woods belonging to people who walked too close, strayed and saw what should not have been seen. Spy or fool, no one cared in those days.
Our anticipation of hot food and cold beer is interrupted by the rip and whistle of the Skorpion SMG. If you have heard the Skorpion fired without hearing protection, you will hear the rip of the gunfire, and then the whistle of the twenty brass cases as the fall to earth. I am told that in the old days in Czech, it was a song to the dead adversaries of the Skorpion wielding operator. I quickly turn and see that our host and representative in Czech Republic Ondra Mach's friend Hanzo has brought out some Cold War hardware. He held an SMG out to me with that satisfied Free Czech smile I have seen so often here.
Tempting a Cuban with a machinegun is like tempting an alcoholic with a bottle of Stoli, an over-eater with a buffet, a gambler with a slot machine, a....oh hell...you get the picture. Dinner can wait.
The SMG he handed to me was one rarely seen in the USA, but used around the world...the former communist world that is. It looks like an UZI and a VZ-58 went out for drinks and had kids. In point of fact, the VZ-25 was a source of inspiration for the UZI.
The CZ Model 25 (properly, samopal vzor 48 výsadkový ... submachine gun model year 1948 para) was perhaps the best known of a series of Czechoslovak designed submachine guns introduced in 1948. There are four very similar submachine guns in this series varying in buttstock and caliber configurations mostly. The primary designer was a Czech named Vaclav Holek.
The Sa.23-25 series utilize a straightforward blowback action, with no locked breech, and as most SMGs of the era, fires from an open bolt. It also uses a progressive trigger for selection of semi-auto or full auto fire. Lightly pressing the trigger will fire a single shot. Pressing further will yield full auto fire, until the trigger is released or the magazine is empty...whichever comes first. It is a simple and efficient system that does away with clumsy selector levers.
The Sa.23-25 series was also the first production-model SMG with a telescoping bolt. The forward part of the moving bolt extends beyond the chamber/breech, wrapping around the barrel. This feature reduces the length of the submachine gun significantly and allows for better balance and handling. Like the UZI, handling is improved by using a single vertical pistol grip that houses the magazine and trigger mechanism, roughly centered along the gun's length.
Our weapon was chambered in the ubiquitous Cold War caliber, the 7.65x25mm and is roughly the size of an UZI SMG. Rate of fire was a very pleasant and controllable 650 rounds per minute. Magazine capacity is a very Uzi-like 32 rounds (7.62mm).
One particularly interesting point is that all Sa 23-25 family SMGs have a built-in magazine loading device on the right side of the handguard. Designed to load box magazines from 8-rounds stripper clips the ammo comes in, it is a very fast way to get an empty magazine fully loaded and it adds no bulk to the weapon. A very nice touch. The 7.62 and 9mm models can be distinguished by the appearance of the magazine. 7.62mm models have magazines that curve forward slightly while 9mm models are vertical.
We spent our evening firing the VZ-25...and a few other things in the shadow of those woods, leaving the steel cartridge cases where they fell and loading the next one from the handguard. Czechs have had a hard time of it from both the Nazi's and the Soviets and everywhere around Prague you will see two things. One are monuments to the fallen. The other is the gleam of opportunity in their eyes. Czechs know that Freedom and Ecnomics walk hand in hand like two lovers on a stroll in the park. But they also know that in there somewhere, they will need a few good submachineguns.