Project new polymer mags for VZ.58
Since the introduction of our project of plastic mags at the Gunexpert website, my mailbox has been filled up...
Therefore, I have decided to write this short article that should give answers to as many of your questions as possible, and explain any unclear issues, which saves your time as well as mine.
After having started with purchase of accessories for my first Sa vz. 58 (which means any kind of accessory regardless of its quality), and their subsequent sale on which I did not make any profit (a situation that is probably familiar to most of you), I found myself facing a “problem” what to use as a replacement for the original mag. Compared to the wide range of products for AK 47 or AR 15 my choice was rather limited: apart from variously shortened and connected classic aluminium mags and excellent 40 round steel mags for RPK and 75 round drum magazine “produced” by Gunexpert, there was nothing at the market to choose from.
Then I developed and made “adaptations” of transparent Promag magazines. After I destroyed the first five mags that were “demandingly” transported from the USA and declared at customs, I achieved the first positive results. Some people, who bought this mag from me thanks to the promotion of Gunexpert, were genuinely impressed, and I would like to thank them for their support. Those people, who were obviously angry, when I told them the price, should follow the subsequent recommendation: first, think up something, then try to make four-five pieces that you throw away, and finally produce something that really works and holds some shots...
And yet it is not what you need e.g. without bolt catch function. After lengthy discussions with rakeŤák and Fido and despite healthy scepticism, that I still have, I decided to make a magazine from scratch. Fortunately, I found a man, who can read my thoughts. We bought about 20 various mags, and he managed to transform my ideas into reality.
At this point, I would like to use an older article that we wrote together with Fido, so that you have at least a rough idea of the outcomes and the long way we had to go. Before getting to technical issues I would like to ask all experts among you to be lenient. I have never had the possibility of using Sa vz. 58 as a service weapon and as far as my education is concerned my profession does not by far have anything in common with armament industry or engineering.
From my point of view, a mag is a limiting part of the weapon, the functionality of which – supposing the weapon as a whole has a good construction – is influenced by factors like environment, handling, quality of ammunition etc.
The shape of a magazine is determined by shape of the 7.62 x 39 mm round. It is exactly the shape of the mag and the way it is fitted into the gun that leads to a lot of “problems”, when you want to fit e.g. a tactical vertical grip to a lower handguard, and have to find an acceptable compromise between the place where you put the grip and a safe and secure change of the mag, not to mention e.g. a grenade launcher. We found out that in this case we cannot do anything. We tried to “straighten” the mag. We made a type of mag that was not bent so much and used a slightly modified magazine follower from the original mag, but the narrower mag did not work properly. Then we tried to use a completely new magazine follower, but it was the same. Several defects that appeared convinced us that the primary function of the mag (i.e. to follow the round safely and securely) is more important than all tactical vertical grips and grenade launchers together.
The original mag is made of a relatively resistant aluminium alloy. Anybody who has ever tried to make a shorter mag and fix the bottom in a way it is fixed on the original 30 round mag will confirm the fact that this mag can easily be broken when you bend it (of course, unless it is heated). I can tell from my other experience of aluminium mags that the mags tend to wobble if the top part, which is fitted to the weapon, has worn out. This happens due to an interaction of soft and hard material and can temporarily be solved by spraying the mag with an abrasion-resistant paint.
The advantage of “aluminium soft” mags is that if the weapon falls to a hard ground, the risk of damage to the weapon itself is lower than in case of weapons with a steel mag. In view of these facts the type of plastic used for the production of mags plays a substantial role. The plastic has to be sufficiently strong and flexible but also wear-resistant in case of interaction with steel.
The mag surface has to provide for a safe grip when shooting, changing or pulling it out of the magazine pouch. I hope we managed to create a design that meets all of these criteria. On two sides of the mag there are counters showing the amount of ammunition available and a magazine follower of a different colour enhances legibility of the figures. In our opinion, any other “counters” would make the production more complicated (considering the magazine shape) and possibly lead to defects. However, I do not want to claim that magazines with counters from other producers do not function properly. We have just followed the golden rule “keep it simple...”
“Tactical loops” at the bottom of the mag should facilitate the handling of the mag when pulling it out of the magazine pouch. The leading producer in this area is of course Magpul. When designing the bottom with a magazine follower from “Magpul”, we were confronted with the problem of changing the mags caused by their shape, length, way they were fitted to the weapon and use of the tactical vertical grip. We decided to make a compromise, and used a flexible cordura strip that is pulled through two integral loops at the bottom of the mag. If anybody does not like this solution, it is possible to remove this strip easily
As far as magazine clamps are concerned it is possible to connect an unlimited number of mags – however we finally rejected this idea for couple of reasons. Basically, we considered two ways of connecting the mags. First, we tried to connect HK G-36 mags. The problem was that it was difficult to pull the magazine out of the pouch (the magazines got caught in the pouch clamps), which we verified in a discussion with professional soldiers who prefer using magazine without clamps in this type of weapon. Then, we tried to connect Sig Sauer mags by means of a plastic coupler. However, we found out that the same problem arises as in case of HK G-36 mag, and moreover there is one more part that you can lose very easily. Furthermore, the weight of two connected mags with 7.62 x 39 mm rounds considerably differs from the weight of mags with 5.56 x 45 mm rounds, which means that the weapon requires different handling. Besides that, there is the 75 round drum magazine, RPK magazine for 40 rounds and a 45 round aluminium magazine with bolt catch function. When we discussed possible ways of connecting the mags with professional soldiers, they preferred a quick change of mag from the pouch to change of connected mags, because the connected mags were difficult to handle in stressful situation.
However, we did not dismiss the idea of clamps completely. We are working on external clamps as are used in AK or M4/M16 magazines and are made of nylon, plastic, aluminium or steel. And last but not least high capacity magazines like Sure Fire also have a promising future in our PCs...
And what is on at the moment? We are doing the “certified” as well as our own prototype tests, and we are trying to continue the tradition of Czech and Slovak craftsmen of armament industry a bit. Our aim for the mag is to meet even the strictest criteria of “professional” as well as “amateur” users. The mags are produced in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, deliberately we did not decide for a low-cost production. Therefore, their price will be higher than the price of original magazines. However, they remain affordable because they are primarily determined for the Czech and Slovak market. The agreement with Gunexpert, that will have the exclusive right to distribute the magazines in the Czech Republic, is clear. The price will be published with launching the magazine on the market, and the production time is four to five months. What we want to offer is top quality not quantity. It will be a magazine that is nice and practical as if it has always been an integral part of your Sa vz. 58 - nothing more and nothing less. The whole production process – from testing, adjusting prototypes to testing mass-produced articles (with regard to their material, design, resistance etc.) needs money and time. What you can see in the following photos is final design of the mag and a photo of a working prototype fitted to the weapon.
Vlado and Martin