Machine Gun Drill Times — Warsaw Pact Czechoslovakia

How quickly can you get your MG into operation? These were the standards of the Czechoslovak People’s Army for bringing the Universal MG vz. 59 into operation, as published in the Handbook for NCOs in 1975 (p. 175).


This is in the LMG mode — prone, with gunner and AG, ready to fire from the march. Here’s what “assuming the prone position for firing the MG” looks like in a scan from the handbook:


The Czechoslovaks clearly believed that having a year’s experience on the gun shaved a couple seconds, and that having use of an AG versus doing it yourself was worth four seconds.

Time Norms for Preparing the Universal Machine Gun vz. 59-L for firing (times in seconds)
Prone Firing Position 1st Year* 2nd year
Outstanding Good Satisfactory Outstanding Good Satisfactory
Collective effort of gunner and loader 10 12 14 8 10 12
Either gunner or loader solo 14 16 18 12 14 16
Taking cartridges or belts from a closed box 22 24 26 20 22 24
* (after completing initial period of training) Translation © 2016

Why no “3rd year”? Like all Warsaw Pact (and most Continental European NATO) Armies in this period, it was a draft army. For an infantry gun bunny, there was no third year!

Having to crack the box was considered an eight-second penalty.

The manual also includes  table of times for breakdown and reassembly, and similar tables for the vz. 58 rifle. There’s considerable information on exterior ballistics, plunging fire, etc. The Czechoslovak People’s Army placed great store in mastering weapons. Firing was initially at bull’s-eye targets, but by the time the gunner or crew had been introduced to tactical employment of their weapons, silhouettes were used. These roughly resembled the US E-type “full” and F-type “head and shoulders” silhouettes, plus “group” targets comprising a pair of full-silhouettes, or a full-silhouette next to a head-and-shoulders job.

Because it’s an NCO’s handbook, there’s a little bit of information on how to conduct fire control of crews, elements, and squads, also.

8 thoughts on “Machine Gun Drill Times — Warsaw Pact Czechoslovakia

  1. Brad

    What is your opinion on the advisability of right hand feed vs left hand feed for belt-fed GPMG in the LMG role?

    1. LSWCHP

      Now that’s an interesting question, not that you were asking me. I’m voting for the left hand feed of the M-60 because that’s what I’m familiar with. AG on the left just seems natural to me. Cocking handle on the right means you have to take the master hand off the pistol grip to charge the weapon though, which is not so good. Still, IIRC the PKM feeds from the right and has the cocking handle on the right which is the worst of both worlds.

  2. Martin

    This brings up old memories. I was one of the last years of the compulsory military service in after-split Czech republic. At this time (1999-2000), it was all financially constrained and taking only one year.
    So I shot just one full magazine of blanks from the (at least it was a full auto :-)) Vz58, and then 9 live rounds within the whole year, during 3 shooting range visits. On the other hand, I was not in a combat unit.

    But on one of these visits each of us was given the opportunity to shoot one live belt segment (50 rds) with the UK-59 in LMG configuration and that was quite a nice experience. There were also some tracers mixed in the belts so we could see what the bullets do (even after the impact). We had some standing figures at 300 meters, so we basically sprayed them with short bursts.

    While each of us was given a training in dis/assembly of Vz58, most of us didn’t have any experience with the UK-59, we were just told how to cock it and shoot. We did have a machine gunner in the company, IIRC the poor guy had to clean the LMG after that visit. :-)

    Oh, and because of the location, we were visiting the Sellier & Bellot shooting range at Vlasim.


    I’ll start by mentioning that we were jungle fighters, coming from several decades of experience in close range jungle combat via New Guinea in WW2, through Malaysia, Borneo and SVN. Tropical jungle is often (not always) unbelievably dense and visibility is usually almost non-existent, so we trained almost exclusively for contact at ranges from arms length to around 50 metres. At those ranges, rapid and aggressive response to contact is essential. Things are obviously different on the wide open steppes, or mountains, or forests or whatever of Czechoslovakia.

    Our response to contact was for the guy in contact to identify the direction of the enemy via screaming “CONTACT FRONT” for example, and the entire section would *immediately* return suppressive fire in the designated direction with everything they had, while simultaneously running forward and laterally to get off the X, firing, going to ground, firing, crawling, firing, observing, firing, passing information and firing. While all that was happening, the section commander would be seeking information, assessing the situation, passing information back to the platoon commander, and starting to direct the fire and movement of the section, while firing. The thing is, every member of the section who was able to do so returned fire the instant they were informed of the direction of contact. We were an aggressive bunch.

    I spent most of my career as a section commander, and the point of all that waffle is that I was astonished by these figures, because if my gun group had ever taken 8 seconds, let alone 12 or 20 seconds, to get themselves into action I would’ve….I dunno what I would’ve done. Probably shot the bastards myself.

    The specific tactical circumstances I’ve described probably explain part of of the difference in expectations, but I suspect that there’s also a big difference between the performance of highly motivated, volunteer western professionals and communist conscripts.

    Thanks again Hognose, for providing this wonderful website with all the esoteric technical information and vastly knowledgeable and experienced commenteriat. As with the BAR vs MG34 post, it brought back a lot of memories, and made me realise that the way I used to do it sure isn’t the way everybody else does it, which is a surprise, funnily enough.

  4. Bush in Oz


    Like LSWCHP mentioned, thank you for this website, it really is great reading both the technical and other shooting/military articles that you upload. I know that you have mentioned a couple of times about how frank and direct Australians can be at times.

    Along those lines you may be interested in this newspaper article about the legal inquiry into the Sydney terrorist siege of last year. It has the evidence by the first Police SWAT officer through the door at the siege….”THE first officer to storm the Lindt Cafe said he saw Man Monis immediately and shouted: “There’s the c..t. Shoot him.”

  5. Tennessee Budd

    Bush, that sounds a reasonably apt description, coupled with an excellent imperative. He was, & that’s what needed doing. Good officer!

  6. RSR

    Very interesting post. Have a direct link or Czech language version of the title of this book?

    Thank you.

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