By Branko Bogdanovic
In 1950, the Yugoslav “Red Flag Enterprise” (or prewar “Military Technical Institute,” or “Zastava Arms” of nowadays), in Kragujevac, started the production of the Mauser M.1948 repeating bolt-action rifles, chambered for the standard Infantry Cartridge, Ball M.49 variant, designated as M49 (7.92x57mm or 8mm Mauser). The weapon was based on the prewar Yugoslav Mauser M.1924K (cavalry carbine equipped with a turned down bolt handle) with some details taken from the German carbine K98k (sling swivels). The rifle was with all conventional milled steel parts.
During the course of 1952-1953, the engineers of the Red Flag Enterprise simplified the rifle production by using sheet metal stampings for the magazine body, trigger guard and magazine floor plate (Mauser Rifle M.1948A). But, in 1952, the Infantry Arms Department of the General Staff announced a competition for choosing the sniper rifle for the Yugoslav People’s Army. At the beginning of the next year a test series of 4,618 sniper rifles were produced at the Kragujevac plant.
Basic ballistic performances of these rifles corresponded to the 7.92mm M.1948A standard infantry rifles. But, the sniper rifle was to some extant more accurate, that is to say, the best quality pieces were chosen from the manufactured weapons. These were equipped with precisely manufactured barrels, applying minor tolerances. The barrel was 23-1/4 inches (590.2 mm) long with 4 grooves, right hand twist with a twist rate of 9-1/2 inches (240 mm). The muzzle end of the barrel had a left-hand threading to accept suppressors.
Sniper M.1953 was an intermediate length action rifle (FN M.1924 action) with overall action length of 8.543 inches, with receiver ring diameter of 1.417 inches with a 1.1x12 tpi thread and magazine length of 3.2 inches. The bolt has three locking lugs, two at the bolt head and one at the rear part of the bolt. The turned down bolt handle is rigidly attached to the bolt body. The bolt has gas vent holes that are designed to move the hot gases away from the shooter’s face and into the magazine opening in the case of cartridge case or primer rupture. The three-position safety is a thumb-operated lever mounted on the bolt sleeve. The magazine is a two-row, integral box, with a quickly detachable floor plate. The fixed box magazines can be filled using stripper clips or with single rounds by pushing the cartridges into the receiver top opening. Each clip can hold 5 rounds, and is inserted into the clip guides machined into the rear receiver bridge. After loading, the empty clip is ejected automatically when the bolt is closed.
The rifle has a two-stage trigger with considerable take-up before the trigger engages the sear. Trigger pulls force – up to 5.6lbs (25N) with a rate of fire of 10 rounds per minute. The sniper M.53 iron sight line had a hooded post front sight (to reduce glare under unfavorable light conditions and add protection for the post), and a tangent-type rear sight with a V-shaped rear notch. The rear tangent sight was graduated for 1949 pattern 7.92×57mm cartridges from 200 m to 2000 m in 100 m increments.
However, the Army faced the problem of which optical sight to choose. Actually, in the course of 1947, the USSR sold to Yugoslavia a contingent of 4,580 sniper 7.62 mm Mosin-Nagant M.1891/30 rifles with PU optical sights (PU - pricel, ukorocheny, sight shortened). The PU sight was developed at the Kharkov Factory No. 3 NKVD (Harkovsky Zavod NKVD No. 3) during 1940 for Tokarev semiautomatic sniper rifles M.1940 (SVT-40). The production of SVT-40 semiautomatic rifles was discontinued in 1942 but the production of the optical sights PU continued to fit the repeating bolt-action rifles Mosin-Nagant M.1891/30. In order to be adjusted to the M.91/30, the elevation turret was replaced on the PU sights. PU 91/30 has a Bullet Drop Compensator (BDC) style elevation turret calibrated to the 7.62x54R cartridges utilizing the .310 caliber bullet. Sight is with 30 mm tube, total length 6-1/2 inches (169 mm) and weighs 270 g.; magnification 3.5?, field of view 4°30', exit pupil diameter 6 mm and exit pupil distance 72 mm, with standard ''German'' three-post reticule. Elevation turret is marked from 0 to 13 (from 0 to an optimistic 1,300 meters). Numbers correspond to the range in hundreds of meters - one graduation will move point of impact 10 cm (3.93in) at 100m. The windage turret is marked from -10 to +10 (-10, -5, 0, +5, +10). One graduation will move point of impact 3.93 in. at 100 m. The Kochetow system M.1942 mount was simplified to provide a basic “self zeroing” feature. A small knob in the anterior acted as a “ball and socket” for the mount and the rear of the mount was held in place by a large knurled thumbscrew through pressure. Vertical rough elevation was done with the use of an upper and lower set screw on the base as well. The base of the scope mount was affixed to the left side of the receiver by means of two locating pins and two screws. The screws were retained and prevented from loosening by two setscrews.
However, the PU optical sight designed for the distance up to 1,300m (intended for the rifles chambered for the 7.62x54R cartridge), was incompatible with the rifles chambered for the 7.92?57mm cartridge.
The Yugoslav army started developing the first plant for optical sights production within an improvised workshop; “Zrak,” located at Knezevac near Belgrade. A year earlier, near Sarajevo (Bosnia & Herzegovina) the factory Zvijezda for aircraft instruments production started to be built. Shortly afterwards, however, the decision was made to convert these factory sections to all types of optical instruments production. For that purpose, about the middle of 1951, the section from Knezevac was moved to the workshops near Sarajevo, and the factory as a whole was renamed as Zrak. The technological line was not completed until 1956 when series production of the optical instruments began.
Since the optical instruments factory Zrak of Sarajevo was still unfinished in 1953, the optical sights M.52 were being produced in Lublana (Slovenia) in the Enterprise TOS for optical and glass products (Tovarna opticnih in steklarskih izdelkov, TOS).
ON-52 (Optical Sight No.1 M.1952) has a Bullet Drop Compensator (BDC) style elevation turret calibrated to the 7.92x57mm cartridge utilizing the .323 caliber bullet. Sight is with 30 mm tube, total length 6 47/64 in (171 mm) and weighs 325 g.; magnification 3.5?, field of view 6°30', with three-post reticule. Elevation turret is marked from 0 to 10 (from 0 to 1,000 meters). Numbers correspond to the range in hundreds of meters - one graduation will move point of impact 10 cm (3.93in) at 100m. Windage turret is marked from -8 to +9 (-, -, -, -5, 0, +6, +, +, +). One graduation will move point of impact 3.93 in. at 100 m. The ON-52 sight has a blue anti-reflection (AR) coating.
At the Kragujevac plant, the M.1942 base of the scope mount, removed from the Mosin-Nagant M.1891/30, was affixed to the left side of the receiver of M.1953 sniper rifle with two locating pins and two screws. The scope mount was simply welded on the base and the large knurled thumbscrew was discarded. In this way, the scope mount was practically un-detachable from the receiver.
The sniper M.1953 were being tested on the firing range from April 5 to May 15, 1953. The Commission concluded that the weapon dissatisfied tactic-technical requirements and production was discontinued. The production of a completely new sniper rifle design 7.9mm M.1969 did not start at Kragujevac until 1969.
Caliber: 7.92 mm
Cartridge: 7.92x57mm M.1949
Length: 43 7/64 in. (1095 mm)
Barrel length: 23-1/4 in. (590.2 mm)
Rifling: 4 groove, right hand, 1 in 9-1/2 in. (240 mm).
Weight: 9 lb (4,100 g).
Weight with optical sight: 4lb 0.56 oz (1,830 g)
Feed system: 5-round stripper clip, internal magazine
Muzzle velocity: 2,395 ft/s (730 m/s)
Effective range: 547 yd (500 m) (with iron sights) 875 yd (800+ m) (with optics)
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