The Zastava Arms M76 sniper rifle is based off of the same Kalashnikov action as seen in the preceding M70 series of automatic weapons, each based on a preceding form of the Soviet-era AKM/AKMS. The major differentiating quality between the Soviet and Yugoslavian designs is the latter fits a muzzle mount to accept a single-shot grenade launcher attachment. The M76 borrows much of the M70s design but instead of chambering for the 7.62x39mm Soviet cartridge, it relies on the more powerful and proven 7.92x57mm Mauser breed. As such, the M76 is oft-compared with the form and function of the Soviet/Russian SVD sniper rifle family. The M76 was designed in 1975 and issued beginning in 1976 to specialists of the Yugoslavian Army and served within a variety of warring parties throughout the violent and deadly Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s concerning Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia. Since then, the type has been replaced - at least in the Serbian Army - by the newer Zastava Arms M91 sniper rifle series chambered for the original and readily available Soviet 7.62x54mmR cartridge.
The M76 can be fielded as a designated marksman rifle (DMR) or sniper rifle as required by the field commander. A designated marksman works in conjunction with an infantry squad, utilizing additional marksman training to engage targets at further distances with precision than the range available with a carbine, assault rifle or squad support machine gun. For the role, the designated marksman makes use of the repeating action found in modern semi-automatic rifles. In contrast, snipers are dedicated battlefield units that typically work alongside a spotter in a two-man team and are charged with taking out very specific targets of value utilizing a very specialized set of battlefield survival skills. Snipers, therefore, can make use of semi-automatic rifle systems or manually-actuated bolt -action rifles.
The M76 is a gas-operated, semi-automatic fire only rifle system that is designed specifically for the specialized sniper role. As such, optics are encouraged and backed by the traditional Kalashnikov-style sighting installations. The scope mount is fitted to the top of the receiver (via a side rail) and can accept a variety of optics as required including electro-optical types (the tritium-illuminated ZRAK M-76 4x5.10 is rather typical and based on the Soviet PSO-1 4x24 series). The outward design of the M76 is decidedly Kalashnikov and looks as nothing more than a modified AK-47 assault rifle with a longer barrel, shorter magazine and scope mount as opposed to simply copying the appearance of the SVD. The pistol grip, solid stock and forend all showcase the traditional Kalashnikov wooden furniture and the cocking handle is set to the right side of the body, as is the ejection port. The M76 makes use of a gas-operated firing action with the gas cylinder located conventionally over the barrel assembly. The magazine is a straight 10-shot detachable box. The semi-automatic firing nature of the M76 allows the operator to fire off ten consecutive rounds against a target without the need to reload and realign the target in the scope. Lengthwise, the M76 measures in at 44.7 inches with the barrel being 21.6 inches. Unloaded weight is 9lbs, 4oz and muzzle velocity is rated at approximately 2,300 feet per second.
Unlike other competing Kalashnikov copies - or Kalashnikov-inspired copies - the Zastava approach to their M76 has yielded a sniper weapon system that is both highly reliable and robust and relatively inexpensive to produce in the quantities required. As with the original AK-47 assault rifle, the operation of the M76 and similar Kalashnikov systems is deemed to be rather basic, allowing just about any lightly trained warfighter to engage and neutralize a given target with ease.
At one point it was thought that Zastava had offered export versions of their M76 chambered for the 76.2x51 NATO and 7.62x54R Soviet standard cartridges but this claim has not been proven to date.
Beyond the Serbian Army, the M76 has seen service use in the armies of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Macedonia. North Korea has produced the type locally as the "JeoGyeokBoChong".
Manufacturing Zastava Arms - Yugoslavia / Serbia
Bosnia and Herzegovina; Croatia; Iraq; Macedonia; North Korea; Serbia; United States; Yugoslavia
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