As most of you are aware, RTI (Royal Tiger Imports, aka IO Inc.) imported a large number of diverse firearms from Ethiopia in 2019-20. I haven't bought anything directly from them in this batch of imports, since most of what I've seen posted on forums has been over-rated regarding condition (decent bores are rare) and over-priced.
This Czech produced, Ethiopian contract Vz98N popped up on the Gunboards WTS sub-forum a couple of weeks ago for a C-note less than RTI was asking for even their luck-of-the-draw non-matching offerings. It is
one of the RTI imports, but at least I was looking at pictures of the rifle that I would receive, so I knew what I was getting. It's matching (only the receiver and bolt were numbered on these guns), with a good bore that has some pitting but cleaned up well and has deep sharp lands and grooves. The biggest flaw with this one is that it has been over-cleaned. Apparently, Uli hired locals to clean the dung, dust and dirt off of these and perhaps they were fond of using wire wheels; the barrel bands look burnished, not bluing worn down to "in the white".
The Vz98N (Vz, Vzor: pattern. N, Němec: German) is identical to a German K98k in all of the key parameters, and in fact this one has a barrel and receiver with Eagle 63 inspection marks, but post-war Czech Lion proof marks. They fitted these with the late war style cupped butt plate with a bolt takedown hole in lieu of the early war standard takedown disc (grommet) in the buttstock. The Mauser Oberndorf designed stamped one-piece winter triggerguard
and floorplate was never implemented during WWII but it was used by the Czechs. The Czechoslovakians post-WWII needed cash, and they were willing to sell (clandestinely) to anyone, even if the recipient country was embargoed by the West (Ethiopia and Israel). This included Israel, Ethiopia, Iran, East Pakistan (latter-day Bangladesh), etc. The Ethiopians had a long-standing relationship with the Czechs post-WWII, purchasing small arms and even setting up an ammo factory in Ethiopia.Punch Line
: Of course the unique feature of this rifle that shows the Ethiopian origins is the "St. George slaying the dragon" stock disc that was a symbol of Emperor Haile Selassie's regime. I found a North African languages expert at the University of Washington and paid a modest fee for a translation. It's in a classical Ethiopic language (and script) known as Gəʿəz. Full translation below.
Gəʿəz: ቀዳማዊ ፡ ኃይለ ፡ ሥላሴ ፡ ንጉሠ ፡ ነገሥት ፡ ዘኢትዮጵያ ፡፡
Transliteration: qadāmāwī ḫayla šəllāse nəguša nagašt zaʾityoppyā
Meaning: first power-of the-trinity king-of kings of-Ethiopia
Translation: Haile Selassie I, the Emperor of Ethiopia