During its 1990s modernization, Yugoslavia introduced the M91 sniper rifle manufactured by Zastava Arms of Serbia. Zastava has maintained a long-running history dating back to 1853 and has since designed, developed and produced a plethora of small arms of various types including hand guns, rifles, automatic weapons, submachine guns and machine guns. The M91 was formally adopted into service in 1992 and currently sees use today with some 4,000 units having been delivered.
Outwardly, the M91 shares much of the same design lines of the Soviet-era Dragunov SVD sniper rifle series of the 1960s, a weapon featured so prominently during the Cold War years. Inwardly, the system owes much to the tried and proven Kalashnikov action is actually more closely related to the AK-47 than the SVD itself - much in the same way the similar Zastava M76 series originated. The M91 is a gas-operated weapon system chambered for the 7.62x54R cartridge. Key to the operation of the rifle is its semi-automatic action which does away with any sort of manually-actuated bolt lever common to sniper rifles of this class. Instead, the weapon fires one cartridge with each trigger pull without any other operator interaction. As such, the firer can loose several shots in rapid succession against a target making the M91 sniper element a broader tactical tool on the modern battlefield - the M91 is therefore fit for both sniper and designated marksman quality units. The weapon is fed from a 10-round detachable box magazine fitted ahead of the trigger unit. Muzzle velocity is rated at 2,592 feet per second with an effective range out to 875 yards (with optics installed). Optics are optional while back up iron sights are naturally part of the M91's design. There is a left-side fitted accessories rail for optional equipment as required. Overall length is approximately 47 inches with a barrel exceeding 24 inches in length. Overall weight is just over 11lb.
All told, the M91 shares a very similar appearance to the Soviet SVD including use of wooden furniture at various parts of the rifle. The receiver is all-metal as are its internal working components. The pistol grip, covered in wood, is integrated to the skeletal wooden shoulder stock which allows additional support. The pistol grip is of a stout design to ensure a firm grip and is fitted aft of the ring-encircled curved trigger system. The curved magazine is fitted ahead of the trigger and aft of the forend. Optics are mounted over the receiver. The charging handle and cartridge ejection port are both fitted to the right side of the gun body, favoring right-handed shooters to a certain extent. The forend is truly "Kalashnikov" in its design utilizing a two-piece wood assembly - one encapsulating the low-set barrel and the other covering the over-barrel gas cylinder. As with any weapon designed for long-range accuracy, the M91's barrel protrudes a good distance away from the front of the receiver and is capped by a slotted flash suppressor. A noticeable forward iron site is set just behind the muzzle.
To date, the sole operator of the Zastava M91 is the Serbian military. It has already seen combat actions through the bloody Yugoslav Wars (1991-1995) and the Kosovo War (1998-1999) to follow. The M91 will most likely maintain a fairly long service life in the Serbian military thanks to its stellar pedigree.
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