Zastava M91: Serbia Modernizes its DMR to 7.62x54R

After World War Two, Yugoslavia was left with a tremendous amount of German war material – enough that it cost to adopt the 8x57mm Mauser cartridge as its standard. The M76 precision rifle was developed for that cartridge, and saw substantial military use. By the 1980s, however, the decision was made to move to the Soviet 7.62x54R cartridge for machine guns and rifles like the M76 in the 1980s. The M91 was the result of a program to replace the M76 with a 7.62x54R chambered rifle, and it was adopted by the Serbian military as Yugoslavia broke up.

The original M91 rifles were made with milled receivers, as the M76 had been. This changed to a stamped receiver in 2012, and polymer furniture replaced wood. The rifle we are looking at today is a current-production M91 made at the Zastava factory in Serbia, and configured for commercial importation into the United States.

Thanks to Zastava USA for providing this rifle for filming!

39 Comments

  1. I often wonder how this rifle’s type of scope mount compares against a Picatinny rail in terms of holding zero and sturdiness

    • It returns to zero decades before picatinny or weaver rails were a thing. Only real downside is the necesary big mount on the side of the scope, that each scope needs. Picatinny e.g. is more space efficient in that regard, when you carry more than one optic with you like a day and a night optic.

  2. Although its called M91, make no mistake, I think, from what I know about that period, they have not been made and used until maybe end of the 1990s.

    • No, zero series was made in early-mid-1991. However army was in no hurry to replace M76, production of which was supposed to continue until 1995. according to 1990. general plan. Only after 1995. it was supposed to switch production from M76 to M91.

        • At least some of the zero series rifles saw use in Bosnia, on the Muslim side (I think those were examples sent to a military school in Sarajevo and left there, same way M80 and M77 rifles saw use).
          For Kosovo I have no data.

  3. Let’s ‘update’ from 1905 Mauser, to 1891 rimmed. How politics/economics etc. make a mockery of rational development in military firearms. At least it isn’t 8mm Lebel.

    • Let’s be fair to them, 8×57 wasn’t a primary service rifle cartridge in 1991. Everyone else was buying 7.62×51 NATO or 7.62x54R, so why pay extra for tooling and production of a “nonstandard” cartridge almost exclusively sold to hunters? Or why does America no longer wield .30-06 as a primary cartridge? Just kidding…

      • Yes, let’s ask, does any army like having to field more than two kinds of rifle cartridge at any time of day? I mean, there is the assault rifle, and then there is the battle-rifle, the platoon’s machine gun, and the sniper rifle. THERE IS NO SINGLE UNIVERSAL CARTRIDGE FOR ALL OF THE ABOVE!! And yet we also have to ask: why chamber a sniper rifle for a cartridge different from that used in the platoon’s general purpose machine gun?

        • I never heard or read about any such army. As for U.S. services you have 5 if I am not mistaken (versions of M855 consider as one). In armed forces of Russian Federation there are 5 as well.

    • Serbia originally used 7*57 mm Mauser cartridge. But with all the leftovers from WW2 they used 8*57 instead. Also introduced the M53 machine gun, which is a copy of the MG42.

      I still dream of a M76 in 7*57 mm though…

        • Due the amount of weapons in 7.9mm received as a war reparations and desire to standardise caliber with Czechoslovakia and Romania, members of the “Little Antante”

        • “(…)Serbia already switched before WW2 to 8*57.”
          In which year?
          If above holds true, I will must update my knowledge about Balkan countries/interwar period, as I was always thinking that in 1930s Serbia did not exist (land of current Serbia being part of Yugoslavia) and in 1920s Serbia did not exist (land of current Serbia being part of SHS Kingdom). Can you suggest any treatise on Balkan countries in 1930s?

          • According to the book “Serbian and Yugoslav Mauser Rifles” by Branko Bogdanovic”, p. 111, citing a French report of 1929, Yugoslavia (until that year Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes) had in stock:
            about 150000 rifles of Mauser design from Belgium, Czechoslovakia and its own manufacture,
            about the same number of French 8 mm Lebel rifles,
            185000 Austrian rifles in 8 mm Mannlicher, and
            034000 Russian 7.62x54R rifles.
            The total number of 7 mm rifles is not listed. Smaller numbers of Turkish rifles in 7.65 Mauser and Italian 6.5 Carcano were also at hand.

            According to Bogdanovic, as early as March 1923 a decision was made do standardize on the German cartridge.
            But as we know, a general use of the 7.9 mm began only after WW2 with the M48 rifles and the M49 cartridge. (No postwar manual I saw uses the interwar Czechoslovak invention of “7.92”)

            Considering that Mauser was excluded in Germany from the top secret 7.9 mm smokeless cartridge developed at state arsenals, it is really a pity that the “8 mm Mauser” myth is continued in this forum.

  4. Everything has been done to make it look like a Dragunov or a TIGR. Civilian market has been probably important owing to blocade against Russia. I saw Ian shooting it with a bipod under the forend. For Drag and TIGR it is strongly recommended to stay just ahead of the clip, position of the normal bipod beccause barrel is solidar of the handguards and not floating. When Ian makes some contorsrions in order to shoot left with something clearly done for right handed he cause some undue efforts. Anyway I have seen many pictures of Drag/Tigr with bipods at the clear front of the barrel ; not sure they did get the MOA they claimed. This can be an issue with this gun.

      • “(…)claimed less than 2 MOA for SVD.”
        Did for 7Н1 cartridge adopted in 1967 combined with SVD, but not in Western understanding of world: claim is as follows:
        Spread not greater than 10 cm (“old” twist: 1 in 320 mm) and not greater than 12 cm (“new” twist: 1 in 240 mm) at distance 300 meters.
        https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A1%D0%BD%D0%B0%D0%B9%D0%BF%D0%B5%D1%80%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B0%D1%8F_%D0%B2%D0%B8%D0%BD%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%BA%D0%B0_%D0%94%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B3%D1%83%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B0
        (any of these mean less than 2 MOA after feeding above data to correct trigonometry function)

        • From reading the performance criteria, namely line:

          “….если при стрельбе четырьмя выстрелами из положения лёжа на дальность 100 м все четыре пробоины умещаются в круг диаметром 8 cm”

          it appears that in fact at the time the standard was slightly more than 3 MOA in dispersion. Next thing to discuss is whether dispersion ought to e measured as deviation from point of aim OR total group spread.

          Either way, for practical purposes (such as DMR use) 4cm deviation from POA at 100m appears to be barely sufficient, but as a “sniper rifle” in Western perceprion it would not suffice.

          • These are for firing
            обычными патронами с пулями со стальным сердечником
            i.e. common cartridge with bullets with steel core, thus it is rather limitation of these cartridge, NOT rifle

          • Sure, I am aware that “пуля со стальным сердечником’ (bullet with steel core) do not have the same accuracy potential. I suppose that was factored in.

      • Last week end shooting at 200 meters three shots ;two holes joining, the third at 1 MOA. But I was quite good for that instant and the TIGR also. Problem with Drag/Tigr is heating if one shoots long series.

    • Remington was one time (before 2005) seriously interested in buying it or at least investing in it. Perhaps there is part of answer. Long time business strategy, as was that bombing.

  5. Hate to be picky, but that’s not a DMR. It’s a sniper rifle.

    For most of the C20th, a sniper rifle was simply a selected and/or accurized, scoped, version of the service rifle. Effective range max 600-800M. Used by a trained sniper (or for part of WW1 in the British Army, just kept in stores and issued to a good shot).

    That started to change when USMC and US Army in the 60s adapted Winchester 70 and later Remington 700 target rifles to the sniper role. But they co-existed with the less accurate but semi-auto M21. With snipers, not in the infantry section.

    The change continued through the hostage-rescue requirements post-Munich. PSG-1 etc.

    And changed big time after the British adoption of the AI rifle in the 1990s. A purpose-built weapon with much greater accuracy and therefore range than a re-purposed standard rifle. Then the use of bigger calibres like 338.

    In parallel in the 80s/90s, US SOF wanted a precision weapon with higher rate of fire than a bolt action. Hence SR-25 and it’s successors.

    Then came the DMR, as a requirement from Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The key difference is that a sniper rifle (anything from a Draguniov to a .50”BMG) is a rifle used by specially-trained snipers in a specialist sniper unit using special tactics.

    A DMR is issued at the section level to a marksman to add some reach. The DMR might also be used by snipers in certain circumstances, typically by the spotter in a pair. But that does not make it a sniper rifle. It’s just a rifle.

    Similarly, though, a Dragunov or similar remains a sniper rifle if it is issued to actual snipers.

    Final point: almost all sniping in WW1 and WW2 was at fairly short ranges, including urban. It took Vietnam to introduce the idea of the really long range shot. The invention or re-creation of the DMR at section level shows that there definitely is an important niche for precise fire at 300-600M that does not require contemporary high-end sniper skills and Ghillie suits and all that.

    • To be legitimate sniper rifle, isn’t there criterion of 1″ MOA spread? Yeah, Russians call it “snaiperskaya vintovka”, but that is in their parlance; they can call it what they want.

    • Local designation from the late ’80s is “PASP/Polu-automatska snajperska puska” – “Semi-automatic sniper rifle”. Sniper rifle is defined as optics mounting rifle selected for it’s precision used by snipers.
      Snipers are divided into:
      – “Odeljenski snajperista” – “section sniper” – that would be a squad marksman.
      – “Izvidjac snajperista” – “Scout sniper” – sniper from a recoinasance company. Unlike squad marksman which always moves with squad and supports it this is closer to a western definition of “sniper”, but is still formally integral part of the reconnaissance section (of the reconnaissance platoon/company, part of battalions/regiments or brigades).

      Now there are also “Teski snajperista” – “Heavy sniper” – 12.7mm M93 equipped. Currently every rifle company has 7-men section in the support platoon, with section leader and 3 sniper pairs, each pair with 1 x 12.7mm and 1 x 7.9mm sniper rifle.

      Also, with a development of M91 there was (slower) and paralel development of bolt action sniper rifle that army was also interested in. This was improvement of 7.9mm M69 sniper rifle and Zastava marketed it as M93 in 7.62x51mm and 7.62x54mm.
      http://tonnel-ufo.ru/eanglish/weapon/sniper-rifle-zastava-m93.php
      Yugoslavia also acquired number of Sako TRG 21 and Steyr SSG69 in 7.62x51mm during ’90s. Those were mostly used by various army special forces.

      • Good effort Bojan!

        Would please be able to supply data as to what was actual accuracy/ grouping or deviation from PoA requirement for Sniper Rifle (regardless of type) in Narodna Armija?

        Or alternatively, if you had data for latter Serbian Army it would be more fitting. After all, the M91 is in current inventory.

        I think that would help in settling the argument. Thanks!

        • Sorry, you cannot compare your gun journalist level “1 MOA” criterion, based on 5 shots or even only 3 shots with acceptance requirements for sniper ammunition. Acceptance in the U.S. is based on at least 90 shots (9 x 10 or 3 x 30), in Russia on at least 60 shots (3 x 20).
          For example, the U.S. specification for the M118 sniper cartridge as of 1991 requires an average mean radius of 3.5″ at 600 yd from 9 groups of 10 shot each. That is statistically equivalent to a 1.8 MOA 5-shot group.
          For the M110 sniper system, as of 2009, the upper limit is equivalent to a 2.1 MOA group at acceptance.
          A few groups of 5 shots cannot give any reliable information on dispersion.

  6. A few clarifications.
    This is not a development of M76, but rather a synthesis of parts from M77 (Yugoslavian RPK) and M76. It seems, that they understood that nothing really good would come of it, so they simply glued something from the available parts at minimal cost. At the same time, they repeated the mistake made in due time by Kalashnikov, when he tried to make a sniper rifle with a stamped receiver. It is natural that the result is below all criticism.

    The original design M76 with a milled receiver worked quite well. At least with a well-guided chambered for 308, they confidently provide less than 2″ per 100 meters.
    The mag is used not by Kalashnikov, but by Dragunov, who (at one time) borrowed it from Konstantinov sniper rifle.

  7. 7.62 x 54R? Really? Why not go for the tried & true .45-70 or maybe even the ,577-450 Martini Henry? O love old cartridges, but not that much!

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