Text & Photos by Dan Shea
At the IWA 2003 show in Nurnberg, Germany, SAR had a booth set up. As I walked through the show, looking for new and innovative products to bring to SAR's readers, I was drawn to a very nice booth display, and found it was Zastava Arms from Yugoslavia. After some introductions and seeing some old friends, I was invited to come to Kragujevac, Serbia, to visit the factory facilities.
23 May 2003 - Kragujevac, Serbia: Tired from travel and overloaded with information from many museums and collections, SAR finally arrived at Zastava. Hundreds of digital pictures were burned with the help of the staff there, and much information was gathered. The General Director of Zastava Arms had graciously offered a full tour of the factory, and many people there helped with the gathering of models and history.
In the following pages devoted to Zastava Arms, we cover the past and current products. We decided to bring the entire Zastava military production to the readers of SAR as an Identification Guide, to put the models and features into the proper order. Yugoslav models of machine guns have long confused the West, and we are pleased to present this in depth analysis and ID guide.
Zastava Arms has reached their one hundred and fifty year anniversary as of October 2003, and that is quite an accomplishment, something they are proud of. SAR was invited back to attend the celebration, and we will bring that story to you later.
Yugoslav history and current events have dictated the direction of the factory and like most other industries, they must be able to adjust to new business climates. Zastava has traditionally had a balance of production that was 90% military arms and 10% civilian firearms. The new balance is 50-50. This is not the first time they have had to adjust; seventy to eighty years ago Zastava had a major change of directions, investing in new technology. This resulted in lowering costs and better quality product.
There has also been a change in focus on sporting arms, and they are looking forward to finally reopening the US market, among others. Zastava feels strongly they can stay competitive in sales of sporting rifles. There have been some problems- recently they had contracts for 28,000 hunting rifles and small quantities of the .50-caliber Black Arrow rifle, 12,000 CZ99 pistols and some of these contracts are in jeopardy and may be cancelled because U.S. distributors do not want to wait any longer for the duty to be removed. The 65% duty charge on exports to the United States has been a difficult obstacle to overcome. It is hoped that this punitive duty will be lifted soon.
To get a better picture of the effects of sanctions and economic policy, we were told what was previously a military secret. In 1969 Zastava had 2,300 employees, in the 1980s they had over 8,000. Today they have 3,590. That is a large cutback in force. Kragujevac is a community that relies on industrial production, and Zastava Arms is a main center of work here. Some help came from the government for people, and some went on their own into their own businesses. Before the recent NATO bombings, Zastava had some offers to convert to civilian manufacturing, with credits that had good interest rates. This was not available after the bombing; they lost 20,000 square meters of facilities. That was €60 million (About $65 million USD) in loss! The generally feeling is frustration, but they are thankful that in this part of the bombing there was no loss of life.
When we visited, Zastava was very busy. There were many projects going on, and we had a full tour of the facilities. There will be more information gathered from this trip in later issues of SAR. - Dan
Zastava Namenski Proizvodi D.P.
Trg topolivaca 4
Tel: ++ 381 34 336 077
Fax: ++ 381 34 323 683
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