Yugoslavia's AKM Zastava Arms M70
By Michael G. Dhooghe

There have been millions of AK47s and AKMs produced by many countries since its introduction to the Russian arsenal. Many of the AKMs produced can essentially be considered clones of the original Russian design. Some may have a slight cosmetic variation or other minor difference that would go unnoticed except to the trained expert eye. This is definitely not the case with the Yugoslavian AKM, designated the M70 series. It stands apart from the typical AKM.

The M70 series is manufactured by Zastava Arms and is still in production today. Many of the differences in the M70 are quite dramatic and can be noticed by even the newest student of small arms. This article is going to examine the fixed stock version of the M70: the M70B1. There is also an underfolding stock version, the M70AB2, which is identical to the M70B1 except for the stock.

At the heart of the M70 is its unique receiver. In fact, the M70 could be considered a sort of AKM/RPK hybrid. The reason for this is that although the M70 is based on the AKM, it is actually built upon a receiver similar to the RPK light machine gun. The RPK has a larger, more robust trunnion than that of the typical AKM. It is built stronger to handle the increased use that a light machine gun is expected to endure, but in order for this larger trunnion to be used, the receiver must be enlarged for it to fit. These enlarged areas can be seen on the M70 as bulged-out, rectangular humps sticking out of the receiver directly behind the lower hand guards, beneath the ejection port. These bulges are obviously not present on other AKM receivers. In addition to the beefier trunnion, the receiver’s sheet metal is the thicker 1.5mm, not 1.0mm as used by many countries. By using the stronger trunnion and thicker sheet metal, the M70 has the strength and durability of the RPK, but is wrapped up in the smaller AKM package.

Upon further inspection of the receiver, a small button, not normally found on an AKM, will be seen near the upper rear left corner. This button, the recoil spring guide lock, provides a small, but very useful feature. At first, it may seem like an insignificant addition, or even an inconvenience when taking off the top cover, since the button has to be depressed before the recoil spring guide can be completely pushed in. Its convenience is quickly realized once the top cover is put back on. When the back end of the recoil spring guide is slid into its slot in the rear of the receiver, it is prevented from fully seating by the lock. This allows the top cover to be easily placed on the receiver without having to fight the recoil spring guide’s rear protrusion. Once the top cover is in place, the lock button is pushed, releasing the recoil spring guide into place, thereby locking the top cover down.

The M70B1’s receiver also differs in its rear rivet pattern due to the fact that the stock is uniquely attached to the gun. The M70B1 does not have the typical tang(s) which protrude from the rear of other receivers. In attaching stocks this way, screws are screwed into the stock vertically through hole(s) in the tang(s), securing the stock to the receiver. In the M70B1, the stock is attached with a long bolt, inserted in the rear of the stock, which runs the length of the stock into the back end of the receiver.

The stock has a rubber recoil pad, usually absent on most other AKMs, but it is thoughtfully included from the factory on the M70B1. Recoil on an AK can be quite jarring, however, the recoil pad does much to absorb it, which makes shooting vastly more pleasant and increases hit probability. While the pad dampens recoil, it also has the added benefit of increasing the rifle’s length of pull. AKs have long been notorious for a short length of pull, which can make them uncomfortable to shoot and can negatively affect shooter accuracy. The M70B1’s stock is already about an inch longer than a typical AKM, add to that the thickness of the recoil pad, and the length of pull is now over 1-1/2 inches longer than the average AKM.

The stock and hand guards are made of teak wood. Teak is a dense hardwood which is very durable and pleasing to the eye. To maintain the wood and to prevent it from drying out, an occasional wipe down with teak oil is recommended. The pistol grip is a black synthetic polymer which is contoured to comfortably fit the hand.

The beautiful teak wood compliments the excellent fit and finish of the rifle. The metal parts have a deep, uniform blued finish and is beyond what is to be expected for a military rifle. In order to assure a high standard of quality control, many of the parts are serial numbered together. In addition to the receiver, the rifle’s serial number appears on the gas tube, stock, top cover, bolt, bolt carrier, bayonet, and bayonet sheath. Another hand etched number, differing from the serial number, is used internally at the factory. This number appears on the trunnion, recoil spring guide, and gas tube. Aesthetically speaking, the M70 has to be regarded as one of the most attractive of all of the AKMs.

Lying on top of the upper hand guard is the grenade ladder sight, which is usually one of the first things noticed and commented on about the rifle. The M70 uses a unique gas block with an integral flip-up grenade sight. When the sight is flipped up for use, it shuts off a valve inside the gas block stopping gas from entering the gas tube, thereby preventing possible damage from occurring to the firing system. This also allows all of the expanding gas to propel the grenade, which would be sitting on a muzzled-mounted, grenade launching adapter. With no gas to operate the action, the rifle obviously becomes a single shot rifle at this point. The sight is marked with two sets of numbers. At each “rung” of the ladder sight, there is a number to the left of the sight and one to the right. These numbers designate the range, in meters, for a specific grenade to which that sight is calibrated. The left set of numbers (240, 175, and 100) is marked with a “T”, standing for “trenutna tromblonska mina”, which is their M60P1 fragmentation rifle grenade. The right set of numbers (150, 100, and 50) is marked with a “K”, standing for “kumulativna tromblonska mina” which is their M60 antitank rifle grenade.

In addition to the unusual grenade sight, there is also a uniqueness to the rifle’s own sights. On both the front and rear sights, there is a flip up night sight which can be utilized in low light conditions. These night sights consist of dots which glow in the dark when charged by a light source beforehand. There are two dots for the rear sight, one on each side of the aperture, and one large dot for the front sight. Currently, the latest versions of the M70 are available with tritium inserts for a continuous illumination in low light conditions.

The AK47 and subsequent AKM pattern rifles have always lacked a last shot, bolt hold open feature, where the bolt locks to the rear upon firing of the last round in the magazine. The M70 series rifle itself does not have one either. The Yugoslavians have, however, come up with a novel way of accomplishing this task through their magazines. At quick glance, Yugoslavian AK magazines look like any other AK magazine, but upon closer inspection a significant difference can be seen. Looking at the rear portion of an empty magazine, near the feed lips, the hump in the follower, which makes for the staggered cartridge layout, sits up against the feed lip as would a cartridge. When the rifle fires the last round in the magazine, it is subsequently ejected, and on the forward return of the bolt, the bolt is snagged by the follower and held open. With any other AK magazine, the bolt would have passed unobstructed over the follower and gone into battery.

The disadvantage to this setup for a last shot, bolt hold open is that once the magazine is removed, the bolt slams shut. When a fresh magazine is inserted into the rifle, the bolt has to be retracted to the rear to charge the weapon as would any other AK. Yugoslavian magazines can be used in all other AKs and the bolt hold open feature will work in that rifle. A caveat though is that if the follower from a Yugoslavian magazine is used in a non-Yugoslavian body, the bolt hold open feature will not work. In typical AK magazines, there are two small bumps sticking inward from the magazine walls, just below the feed lips. These bumps prevent the follower from going all the way to the top of the magazine. These bumps are not found on the Yugoslavian magazines, thus allowing the follower free movement all the way to the top of the magazine. Compared to other AK magazines, the Yugoslavian magazine is fairly rare in the US, thus commanding a premium price.

The fire control system is of the standard AK system. It incorporates the five piece hammer retarding system to allow the bolt sufficient time to completely lock-up, thus preventing an out of battery detonation. As a result of delaying the hammer, the rate of fire is slightly decreased. On the side of the receiver, by each of the firing mode positions, is etched a letter designating the mode. At the safe position, there is a “U”, standing for “ukoceno.” Fully automatic is designated by an “R”, for “rafal.” Semiautomatic is shown with a “J” for “jedinacno.”

Although the country of Yugoslavia no longer exists, its unique AKM assault rifle still does. The Yugoslavians broke the proverbial AKM mold when designing their rifle. It has many great features not found on other AKMs. Coupled with an attention to detail and high quality manufacturing, this AKM variant is second to none.

Zastava M70B1 Specifications

Caliber: 7.62x39mm
Operation: Rotating bolt, gas operated, select-fire
Cyclic rate: 620 RPM
Weight, empty: Approximately 4.2 kg (9.3 lbs.)
Length, overall: 900mm (35.4 inches)
Width: 64mm (2.5 inches), including the 25mm (1.0 inch) bolt handle
Height: 175mm (6.9 inches)
Barrel: Hammer forged, non-chrome lined, 4 grooves with right hand twist, threaded muzzle for attachments
Barrel length: 415mm (16.3 inches)
Magazine: 30 rounds, double stack, two position feed, detachable box with integrated bolt hold open device. Weight, empty: 0.360 kg (12.7 ounces)
Sights: Adjustable front post with flip-up night sight, adjustable rear aperture sight with flip-up night sight.
Sight radius: 394mm (15.5 inches)
Finish: Blued
Furniture: Teak wood stock and hand guards, synthetic pistol grip
Status: Currently in production
Manufacturer: ZASTAVA ARMS, 34000 Kragujevac, Trg Topolivaca 4 Street, Serbia & Montenegro. Phone: 381 (0) 34 336-077. Fax: 381 (0) 34 323-683, URL: www.zastava-arms.co.yu. email:zastavanp@ptt.yu

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V8N10 (July 2005)
and was posted online on May 10, 2013


Comments have not been generated for this article.