Old Name, New Gun: The CZ 805 Bren Modular Rifle
Close But No Cigar
CZUB had no design resources to speedily accomplish a design like that, and so they decided to outsource the designing phase and hired Mr. Findorak again. This proved to be an excellent choice – in less than a year the rifle was not only designed, but prototypes were built and tested. This also proved unfortunately to be Findorak’s last design accomplishment, as he died prematurely in the fall of 2006, in his early 50s.
In November 2006, CZ S805 was first demonstrated to the Army’s chief of staff, General Stefka, but the Army again didn’t order any – instead they bought another batch of Bushmasters. After that, CZUB decided to go public with their new accomplishment, hoping that patriotically-inclined public would affect the military complacency. For three years the rifle was regularly exhibited during the IDET fair in Brno as well as Prague’s ‘Future Soldier’ conventions, but success proved to be elusive. The big change came upon in 2009, when finally a tender was opened for the Czech Army’s new battle rifle.
Meanwhile at the factory, the Findorak rifle design’s development had been overseen by Vitezslav Guryca, a CZUB designer since 1984, whose previous accomplishments included the CZ 97B; Czech first ever .45 ACP pistol. Testing of the Slavicin-made prototypes revealed minor problems with lock timing, trigger mechanism, buttstock, return spring assembly, and barrel change method. These teething problems were ironed-out by Guryca, assisted by the CZUB’s chief engineer Radek Hauerland, chief designer Pavel Mahdala, with Jaroslav Bachurek, Jiri Kafka and Vladimir Simek. They were also designing the whole armament subsystem around the new rifle, including a novel 805 G1 40mm underbarrel grenade launcher, as well as the 805 UN/BN bayonet.
Racing against the clock, the design team decided to curtail the modularity of the system, and press on with development of only the A platform (SCAR-L equivalent) with two barrel lengths, rifle (A1) and carbine (A2). These were initially provided in two calibers, 5.56x45mm and 7.62x39mm. The first A1 demonstrated in November 2006 to the chief of staff was a 5.56mm A1, but the first to be hands-on publically demonstrated was the A2 in 7.62mm (during the Future Soldier 2008). Later on, the program got curtailed once again – only the 5.56mm system was exhibited since then, from early 2009 on with a re-modeled upper receiver.
The Multi-Optional Rifle
The caliber exchange in the CZ S805 rifle requires changing barrel, gas system, bolt-head and a magazine well. The magazine well is a separate module of the lower receiver, connected by a T-slot and the rail and (since 2010) stabilized with a pin – the idea resembling the MGI’s Hydra exchangeable magazine well system. There were three magazine modules demonstrated so far, two for CZ’s own plastic magazines and one for the AR-15 (STANAG) magazine.
The proprietary plastic magazine is a really bulky affair, patterned after HK G36 magazines – the 5.56mm variant claims interchangeability with the German rifle. These are opaque, semi-transparent to allow quick bullet count, and fortunately do not copy the G36 integral magazine couplings. The 7.62 and 5.56 plastic magazines differ mostly in shape with the 5.56 being much straighter than the 7.62 banana. There’s even a joke about these, stating that the 5.56 is a ‘Euro banana’ (hinting at the infamous EU regulation on the shape of banana, stipulating it should be almost straight – because such shaped bananas prevail in former French Guyana), as opposed to the 7.62mm ‘real banana.’ An AKM-compatible magazine well was announced, but never demonstrated, while the factory dismisses the speculations about Sa-58 compatible magazine well being ever contemplated.
Bought At Last
In November 2009, the long-awaited tender for the new Czech rifle was organized, but despite 27 initial submissions, only two rifles were finally pitted against each other: CZ’s offer, now referred to as CZ 805 Bren and FNH’s SCAR-L, with domestic design being finally selected after a reportedly hot contest, decided by a narrow margin. The results were promulgated on February 1, 2010, and on March 18, after the FN’s Czech partner decided not to repeal the results, the ministry finally ordered 6,687 CZ 805A1 rifles, 1,250 CZ 805A2 carbines and 397 CZ 805G1 grenade launchers. Each rifle and carbine was ordered with Meopta’s ZD-Dot red dot sight and a set of BUIS, and for the special forces 1,386 ‘enhanced optical suites’ were ordered, consisting of Meopta’s DV-Mag3 daylight 3x magnifier, NV-3Mag night 3x magnifier and a DBAL-A2 (AN/PEQ-15A) laser target designator.
But before the first rifles hit the shelves of the Army stores, the military demanded several changes that arose from the qualification testing of the samples delivered as stipulated in contract by May 2010. First of all, somewhat surprisingly, the Army requested a folding-only stock instead of the factory-offered folding/telescoping stock – said to be awkward. The stock is held by a T-rail on the receiver backplate, and can be replaced any time, for any style – providing it is fitted with a proper attachment. Second change concerned stabilizing the magazine well with a pin. The third request called for replacement of the fixed pistol grip with one fitted with exchangeable backstraps, just like the ones so popular since all new pistols’ frames became plastic. Another change was introduced in the bolt head – the seventh locking lug was omitted. Initially, the seventh lug was deeply undercut by the extractor claw channel, and it could possibly crack, so it was eliminated and now there’s only six. All these changes delayed the date of the initial delivery to July 19, 2011, when the first 505 A1s and A2s with 20 grenade launchers were taken over by the Army, with 2,745 A1s and 926 A2s scheduled to be delivered during the latter half of the 2011, and further deliveries made until 2013, when the initial order would be fulfilled.
The Inner Life
The gas-operated rifle has a gas opening on top of the barrel, where gas block with bayonet attachment on the bottom is fitted. On top there’s a large ring, into which the gas mechanism is inserted. The gas mechanism consists of a one-piece gas piston (somewhat resembling the one of the Sa-58), complete with a self-contained return spring and two-stage gas regulator. The whole gas system is held in place by a lug in the form of the regulator shield. When the shield is turned to either of the two working positions, the lug stays firmly in the abutment cut into the gas block. But if the gas regulator is turned a full 180 degrees, there is a flat undercut in the shield, fitting over the top of the gas block, and the whole unit can be pulled clear for cleaning or replacement for other caliber’s set. No other procedures or tools are needed. Whoever struggled with a SCAR gas mechanism once would appreciate that immediately and immensely. The piston hits the boxy bolt carrier and makes it recoil, while the operating cam unlocks the bolt. The unlocked breech opens and the extractor extracts the spent case, while the spring-loaded rod ejector in the breech face tilts it to the right. Then the ejected empty hits the deflector, changes the rotation direction and flies clear forward and to the right. The ejection opening is far enough ahead to allow left-handed operation without the need to change the ejection direction. The recoiling bolt-carrier compresses the return spring set on a single guide rod, but not anchored rigidly in the back plate. There’s no magic at all in the operation of the CZ 805 Bren: as with about 75% of modern military rifles based on the AR-18, if you know one, you know them all. The only unusual thing is a firing pin automatic safety in the rear part of the bolt carrier – a spring loaded lever that hooks in the pin, holding it immobile to prevent AD from pin inertia. It operates just like the HK MP7 firing pin safety, being swept out of the way by the falling hammer.