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Zastava M59 PAP (Papovka)

Semi-Automatic Service Rifle [ 1964 ]

Zastava of Yugoslavia produced the classic Soviet SKS semi-automatic rifle as the M59.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 02/09/2023 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The general success of the original Soviet SKS semi-automatic rifle (detailed elsewhere on MilitaryFactory.com) prompted local industries within the Soviet sphere of influence to supply this same rifle to local forces. For the former Yugoslavia, the M59 - or "Papovka" (PAP = "Poluautomatska Puska" = "Semi-Automatic Rifle") - by firearms-maker Zastava was the localized, license-produced copy of the gun and appeared from 1964 onward. The type ended up being used in the South African Border War (1966-1990), the Angolan Civil War (1975-2002), and the Yugoslav Wars (1991-2001) and continues to pop up in the various ongoing regional conflicts dotting the globe today.

With the rights to produce the gun secured from Soviet authorities in 1958, design work took place from 1959 until 1961 and manufacture of the rifle spanned from 1961 until the fall of the Soviet Empire / dissolution of Yugoslavia in the late-1980s / early-1990s. Some 252,000 of the rifles were produced by Zastava and these were used by the Yugoslavian military to succeed an aging line of manually-actuated bolt-action Zastava M48 rifles.

The rifle is chambered in the 7.65x39mm cartridge firing from 10-round "stripper" clips set in the action. Operation is through gas utilizing a tilting-bold procedure which yields reliability by way of a semi-automatic internal action. Muzzle velocity is 2,410 feet-per-second with an effective firing range out to 550 yards, sighting being through a tangent sight arrangement or optics set. Unlike the original SKS, the M59 was given an ability to launch rifle grenades from the barrel.

The general arrangement of the rifle is traditional and a wooden stock runs over half the length of the gun. The barrel protrudes out front with the gas cylinder set over it. The muzzle is of the multi-baffled variety and the front sight is positioned just aft of the business end. Under the sighting section can be affixed a bayonet, hinged to fold under the rifle and point to the rear. The pistol grip is integrated to the shoulder stock and is seated aft of the trigger loop. The bolt handle is set over the right side of the frame in typical fashion. A shoulder strap can be affixed for ease-of-transport.

The rifle weighs a handy 9lb and features a length of 44 inches with the barrel making up 22 inches.

With formal service entry in 1964, the rifle saw some modifications added in 1966 to produce the M59/66 designation. The series remained in circulation with Yugoslav forces until 1991, coinciding with the breakup of the country into Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia, and Montenegro.

The rifle remains in service with the likes of Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, and Zambia while it has been given up by Angola and Namibia.

The SKS forms the basis for the Chinese Type 56 and the North Korean Type 63. It was known to East German forces as the "Karabiner-S" for its time.©MilitaryFactory.com
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Service Year

Yugoslavia national flag graphic


Semi-Automatic Service Rifle

National flag of Angola National flag of Bangladesh National flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina National flag of Croatia National flag of Macedonia National flag of Montenegro National flag of Namibia National flag of Serbia National flag of Slovenia National flag of Yugoslavia National flag of Zambia Angola (former); Bangladesh; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Croatia; Montenegro; Namibia (former); North Macedonia; Serbia; Slovenia; Yugoslavia (former); Zambia
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Accuracy / Precision
Long-range accuracy / precision capable; suitable for sniping, particularly when equipped with sighting aids.

Overall Length
1,120 mm
44.09 in
Barrel Length
550 mm
21.65 in
Empty Wgt
9.04 lb
4.10 kg

Iron Front and Rear; Optional Optics.


Semi-Automatic; Tilting Bolt; Gas-Operated

One shot per trigger pull; self-loading or auto-loading action aided by internal mechanism; trigger management (and initial cocking) typically required by the operator; subsequent shots are aided by the unlocked / moving bolt.
Gas-operated system is featured, typically involving a gas cylinder and rear-driven piston directing energy to the bolt component.
(Material presented above is for historical and entertainment value and should not be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation - always consult official manufacturer sources for such information)



Rounds / Feed

10-round stripper clips.
Cartridge relative size chart
*May not represent an exhuastive list; calibers are model-specific dependent, always consult official manufacturer sources.
**Graphics not to actual size; not all cartridges may be represented visually; graphics intended for general reference only.
Max Eff.Range
1,650 ft
(503 m | 550 yd)
Muzzle Velocity
2,410 ft/sec
(735 m/sec)

M59 - Base Series Designation; original production model of 1964.
Papovka - Alternative name (Poluautomatska Puska = Semi-Automatic Rifle).
M59/66 - Modified version of 1966; chrome-lined barrel assemblies.

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Images Gallery

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Image of the Zastava M59 PAP (Papovka)
Image of a Simonov SKS semi-automatic rifle.

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