Besa ZB 53 Mk1

Designed in Czechoslovakia the ZB-53 was an air-cooled, belt fed machine gun which was used extensively by the British Army in WW2. Manufactured in England by B.S.A. (Birmingham Small Arms Co.) it was used mostly as a mounted machine gun for armoured vehicles and as a replacement for the water-cooled Vickers Machine Gun, it was both dependable and reliable.

The ZB-53 had been designed to fire the German Mauser 7.92mm round and due to the imminent war and the logistical problems associated with changing the design to accommodate the British .303 round, it was decided to leave things as they were. A consequence of this decision was that captured German ammunition could now be used.

A Mk2 version appeared in 1940 which was fitted with a selector to give two rates of fire, 800 or 500 rounds per minute. Further modifications to improve production rates and methods resulted in a Mk3 which was supplied as, either, a high ‘H’ or low ‘L’ rate model.

Larger and heavier 15mm version was developed based on the Czechoslovak ZB vz.60 and used as vehicle armament on light tanks and armoured cars. Over 3200 of these were eventually built before being declared obsolete in 1949.


Weight                       47lbs. (21Kg) empty
Length                       43.5in (1100mm)
Barrel length             29in (740mm)
Cartridge                   7.92 x 57mm Mauser
Action                        Gas Automatic
Rate of fire                800/500 rounds/min
Feed system             225 round metal link belt