The Zastava M88 owes its legacy to the Tokarev semi-automatic pistol series of Soviet Russia debuting in the 1930s. While that series of pistol went on to see extended action, the Soviet sphere of influence throughout the Cold War was readily apparent in places like Yugoslavia. Zastava Arms served as a small arms producer for over 100 years and took to production of the Tokarev as the 7.62mm M57 and, later, as the much improved, redesigned M70 chambered for the handgun-friendly 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge. The 9mm cartridge was a proven man-stopper with smaller weapons and this move also opened the pistol up to interested parties on the export market. The M88 series was, therefore, an evolved version of the M70 and appeared in 1988.
By all accounts, the M88 stays relatively faithful to the Tokarev series with the exception of the 9mm cartridge. The action is semi-automatic with a Browning-type slide running the length of the pistol. The spring-loaded magazine is fed into the bottom of the handgrip and holds eight ready-to-fire cartridges. Sights are found at the rear and at the front of the weapon. The trigger system is solid and ergonomically curved while sitting within a thick trigger guard. The sides of the handgrip are covered in wood furniture while the rear sides of the slide have the widely-accepted vertical lines intended to provide a firm hold when managing the slide. Empty cartridges are ejected through a port atop the slide. The M88 is, therefore, a very conventional semi-automatic pistol design with little flare but a solid design foundation.
The M88 was initially delivered for use to Serbian military, police and security forces though its reach, it seems, was rather limited. It was also offered to the civilian market with unknown success and eventually was distributed within the United States through European American Arms, Incorporated. For the American market, a version chambered to fire the .40 Smith & Wesson cartridge was also made available to discerning shoppers. For the Serbian military, the M88 was ultimately replaced in service by the newer CZ 99 family of semi-automatic pistols. The CZ 99 has seen better success worldwide and is similarly seen in versions chambered for the9mm and .40 S&W cartridges.
The M88 was developed into one other production form designated simply as the M88A. This version differentiated from the original M88 by installation of an external safety mounted to the slide assembly.