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Machine Gun, BESA
Besa 7.62 mm Makineli Tüfek.jpg
Type medium machine gun
Place of origin  United Kingdom
Service history
Used by  United Kingdom
Wars World War II
Production history
Designer Vaclav Holek
Designed 1936
Manufacturer Birmingham Small Arms Company
Variants Mark II
Mark III
15 mm
Specifications
Weight 47 lb (21 kg) empty
Length 43.5 in (1.105 m)
Barrel length 0.736 m

Cartridge 7.92 x 57 mm Mauser
Calibre 7.92 mm
Action gas automatic
Rate of fire 500/800 round/min
Feed system 225 metal link belt

The Machine Gun, BESA was a British version of the Czechoslovakian ZB-53 machine-gun, in the Czechoslovak army marked as TK vz. 37 ("TK" means "těžký kulomet", heavy machine gun. "vz" means "vzor", Model) and used by the UK for tank armament in World War II. The name came from the British company that took the license and produced the gun in the UK - the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA).

The gun came into use because an air-cooled, and therefore lighter, replacement was wanted for the Vickers machine gun.

BSA signed an agreement with Československá zbrojovka, akc.spol., the armaments company of Brno, in 1936 that allowed BSA to make the 7.92 mm ZB-53 under licence in the UK. The War Office ordered the weapon in 1938 and production began in 1939. Although it took the rimless 7.92 x 57 mm Mauser round instead of the rimmed .303 calibre round that was standard in British use, it was still adopted in its original calibre, i.e. 7.92 x 57 mm Mauser. This made the logistics of supplying machine-gun ammunition to the Royal Armoured Corps more complicated as the 7.92 mm Besa was used extensively as the secondary armament of all British-designed and British-built tanks that the British Army operated during the Second World War. However, it was considered by BSA and the relevant government officials of the Ministry of Supply that retaining the weapon in its original calibre was on balance less of an industrial, technical, and logistical handicap than making the necessary conversions of machine tools and other machinery to produce the machine-gun chambered for the standard British .303-inch rimmed round, especially as the chain of supply for the Royal Armoured Corps was separate to the other fighting arms of the British Army. In an emergency, the BESA could use stocks of captured German ammunition because it fired the same cartridge as the Kar98k rifle and MG-34 and MG-42 machine-guns.

The Mark II version entered production in 1940. It now had a selector to give high (around 800 rounds per minute) or low (around 500) rates of fire. As the war progressed the design was modified to be more economical to produce and speed production resulting in the Mark III version. This came as either an "L" (for low) or "H" (high) firing rate models.[1]

A larger, heavier (at 57 kg (125 lb)) 15 mm version, also belt-fed, was developed by BSA from the Czechoslovak ZB vz.60 heavy machine-gun as vehicle armament. It could be fired in semi-automatic mode as well as fully automatic. It was used on the Light Tank Mk VIC and on armoured cars such as the Humber Armoured Car Mark III.

See also

  • Bren gun - another ZB design taken on by the UK

References

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