CZ BREN: A modular and reliable piston-operated selective-fire rifle

Czech soldier firing CZ 805 BREN A1 assault rifle Czech soldier firing CZ 805 BREN A1 assault rifle
A Czech soldier in action, demonstrating the power of the CZ 805 BREN A1 assault rifle (Photo: XY)

The CZ BREN is a cutting-edge assault rifle unveiled in 2009. It is designed to fire 5.56×45 rounds and utilizes a gas piston system to harness the powder gases generated during firing. Its rotary shutter carrier makes it a reliable and efficient weapon. Developed in collaboration with the Czech Army, the CZ BREN was created as a replacement for the aging SAMOPAL vz.58. Its advanced design and performance capabilities made it a top choice for partial rearmament of the Czech Army in 2009.

Introduction

The Czech Ministry of Defense procured 17,678 CZ BREN assault rifles for its special forces, reconnaissance battalions, and rapid deployment units. The deliveries were completed in 2015. By 2020, the CZ BREN will entirely replace the outdated SA vz.58 rifles by acquiring additional units.

SAMOPAL vz. 58 at shooting range
SAMOPAL vz. 58 at the shooting range (Photo: Czech Army)

Small quantities of the CZ BREN have been exported to various countries, including Mexico, Moldova, Slovakia, and Egypt. The rifle’s advanced design and reliable performance have made it a sought-after weapon by military forces worldwide.

Design

The CZ BREN is a versatile and adaptable firearm that operates on gas and can be fired in semi-automatic and automatic modes. This rifle is chambered for 5.56×45 mm NATO standard ammunition, with its design inspired by the Heckler & Koch G36.

The Army Replacement Rifle program transformed and was rebranded as Project 805, when in fact CZ 805 BREN was born. The military did not plan on replacing the entire army’s rifles; however, the special forces were equipped with Bushmaster M4A3 carbines. Anticipating a gradual re-arming process, CZUB created new specifications in late 2005. As a result, Project 805 was transformed into the CZ XX and later renamed the CZ S805.

The CZ S805 was developed in two variants – ‘A’ models chambered for intermediate calibers like 5.56×45mm NATO, 7.62×39mm, and 6.8mm Remington SPC, and ‘B’ models chambered for larger calibers such as 7.62×51mm NATO and .300 Winchester Magnum.

Its modular construction allows for easy conversion between different calibers, including 7.62×39 mm and 6.8×43 mm. To make the conversion, the shooter only needs to replace several components, such as the barrel, gas piston unit, breech block, and magazine housing. Three barrel lengths – 14.5 inches, 16 inches, and 18 inches – are available for each variant, enabling the CZ BREN to quickly transform into a carbine, rifle, light machine gun, or squad sniper rifle.

CZ 805 BREN A1 with EOTech sights and NATO magazine conversion
The CZ BREN A1 is equipped with EOTech sights and housing conversion for NATO standard magazines (Photo: XY)

The modular conversion system for each caliber consists of four detachable components: bolt assembly, barrel, magazine insert, and magazine. The CZ BREN was initially designed to be available in three versions: carbine, standard assault rifle, and light machine gun/marksman rifle.

The CZ BREN is an assault rifle with an aluminum receiver with several polymer components. Upon its initial release, the weapon faced criticism from soldiers who found it too heavy, poorly designed for comfort, and lacking in stability and accuracy. Additionally, its cocking handle does not lock in place once all ammunition is spent, which can be a drawback compared to other modern rifles.

To accommodate both right- and left-handed shooters, the CZ BREN is equipped with an ambidextrous cocking handle and trigger group. The fire selector switch has several modes: semi-automatic, two-round burst, full-automatic, and safe. The spent casings are only ejected to the right, but a case deflector is in place to direct them away from left-handed shooters.

The CZ BREN assault rifle typically uses 30-round capacity magazines, with alternative options of 20- and 100-round magazines also available. Early CZ BREN was equipped with transparent magazines that were interchangeable with magazines from the German Heckler & Koch G36. The magazines could be clipped together for faster reloading. Later models were supplied with standard NATO STANAG M16-type magazines.

A French legionnaire brandishing G36 rifle
A French legionnaire brandishing an HK G36 rifle (Photo: XY)

The rifle features a polymer shoulder stock that can be folded to the right side without obstructing the ejection port. It is also adjustable in length, and some later production models have added cheek pads for improved comfort. The shoulder stock can be removed entirely without affecting the weapon’s operation. The pistol grip can be fitted with different backstraps to cater to the shooter’s preference.

The CZ BREN assault rifle is equipped with an integral Picatinny-style rail on the top of the receiver, allowing for the attachment of various sights, scopes, and night vision devices. The effective firing range of the weapon is approximately 500 meters.

In addition to sights and scopes, the CZ BREN can be outfitted with a multi-purpose knife-bayonet, the CZ BREN G1 40mm under-barrel grenade launcher, and other accessories. The rifle also can mount a sound suppressor.

Variants

The CZ BREN A1 is a standard assault rifle that is more compact and closer to a carbine than a full-sized assault rifle. The CZ BREN A2 is a carbine variant with a shorter 277mm (10.9 inches) barrel. The CZ BREN S1 is a semi-automatic version for civilian use.

 A Czech paratrooper holding a CZ 805 BREN A2 carbine rifle
A paratrooper of the Czech armed forces proudly displays their trusty CZ 805 BREN A2 carbine (Photo: XY)

CZ BREN 2

The CZ BREN 2 is a newer and more advanced iteration of the CZ BREN rifle. In 2015, Česká zbrojovka Uherský Brod (CZUB) announced the introduction of this lighter and improved variant, addressing the challenges faced by its predecessor.

CZ BREN 2 with 11 inch barrel
The CZ BREN 2 with a compact 11-inch barrel, perfect for close-quarter combat (Photo: XY)

The CZ BREN 2 boasts several refinements, including a reduction in weight by 1.1 pounds, a streamlined cocking mechanism, a more straightforward cleaning process, and a more durable, adjustable, and lightweight folding stock. These modifications were implemented based on feedback from soldiers in the field.

CZ Bren 2 rifle adopted by the French GIGN special forces unit
The French GIGN (National Gendarmerie Intervention Group) has adopted the CZ Bren 2 chambered in 7.62×39mm as their standard rifle (Photo: XY)

In 2016, the Czech Army confirmed its purchase of 2,600 CZ BREN 2 rifles and 800 CZ G1 grenade launchers, citing a need for improved security and responsiveness to the migration crisis and heightened threats in Europe and Egypt. The procurement was made under an urgent requirement procedure in late 2015.

Technical specifications

Country of origin:Czech Republic
Manufacturer:Ceska Zbrojovka
Entered service:2009
Caliber:5.56 x 45 mm
Weight (empty):3.49 kg
Length:875 – 930 mm
Length (with folded stock):?
Barrel length:360 mm
Muzzle velocity:?
Cyclic rate of fire:750 rpm
Practical rate of fire:40 – 100 rpm
Magazine capacity:30 rounds
Sighting range:500 m
Range of effective fire:500 m
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