The Czech-designed ZB-26 was China’s favorite light machine gun during the war with Japan in the 1930s and 1940s. Below is the second of two articles on this legenday weapon, excerpted with kind permission from the newly published book China’s Small Arms of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War (1937-45) written by Bin Shih and edited by Stanley Zielinski. For much more detail, not just about this gun but dozens of other weapons used in the Chinese army during World War Two, the book is a gold mine and warmly recommended. Click here for more information.
In zeroing the gun, each barrel had to be zeroed individually… If windage adjustment was required, it had to be done by moving the front sight. If the point of impact was too high or too low, a different front sight blade could be used. There were front sight blades in different heights issued with each gun. Before the gun could go on a combat mission, each spare barrel had to be zeroed.
The empty magazine was removed by the gunner, and the assistant gunner put in the new magazine. The assistant gunner was to keep track of how many magazines had been used and change the barrel on the 10th magazine… The ZB-26s were made with the best steel from Skoda. According to the The Machine Gun (a publication from 1950 by George Chinn), even if the barrel turns red-hot due to rapid firing, once can simply dump cold water on the barrel to cool it down without causing any damage.
The ZB-26’s magazine is inserted from the top. The expended cartridges fall out of the gun under the receiver. There is a dust cover on the ejection port, which automatically opens on charging the bolt. The benefit of having the empty cartridges fall under the gun is to prevent reflections off the cartridges reveal the gunner’s position.
Because of the top-inserted magazine, the line of sight over the barrel is blocked. The rear and front sights are offset to the left. The line of sight and bullet trajectory differs by about one inch. If the shooter put his cheek directly on the stock, the line of sight will be blocked so it is necessary for the shooter to put his left hand on the stock and rest his cheek on the back of that hand to create and appropriate offset from the stock. The line of sight will then line up perfectly with the shooter’s right eye.
Another benefit of the top-inserted magazine is that the ZB-26 can be fired very close to the ground. This greatly reduces the exposed profile to enemy fire.