Background on American Produced AK-47s
AK guys are quick to denounce non-Soviet or Eastern Bloc AK’s faster than you can say “hurr-hurr”. American-made and American assembled AK-47s often have poor reception within the AK community. Since the 2014 Russian Imports ban, US Importers have been put on blast for notable issues around cycling, out-of-spec components, and famously canted front sights.
One notable exception to this was the GF3 series AK-47 from Palmetto State Armory, quickly winning over the most critical members of the AK-47 community. Well, we have another contender and she’s a Serbian workhorse.
Out of the Box
The Zastava M70 ZPAP was one of the most popular rifles of 2020, frequently selling out in minutes. It bolsters supremely ergonomic ArchAngel furniture complete with a 5-position adjustable stock as well as a built-in cheek-riser. In addition, the ZPAP includes a cold-hammer-forged chrome-lined barrel and bulged trunnion. This is an important feature that sets the ZPAP apart because the CHF chrome-lined barrel improves the unfairly maligned accuracy of the AK-47 as we’ll shortly see as well as aiding in the ability to better withstand corrosive milsurp 7.62×39 ammo. If you plan to shoot corrosive ammo, you still need to clean your rifle to avoid degradation but the need to immediately spray it down after a range session is less of a problem.
Infamously, several AK-47 and AKM importers (who will remain unnamed) had some well-documented issues with barrel head-spacing eroding over time as well as premature receiver wear. The AK community subsequently dog-piled these importers into oblivion. The bulged trunnion assists in reinforcing the receiver allowing it to handle a longer sustained rate of fire.
Out of the box, the ZPAP feels incredibly familiar. The ArchAngel furniture allows you to adjust your length of pull as well as comb height to accommodate your natural firing position and stance.
Slapping Steel with the ZPAP
I’ve had this rifle for 6 months and ran through 3,000 rounds of cheap Monarch, Tula, and corrosive steel cased 7.62×39 with only one cleaning so far. The rifle has performed flawlessly without a single failure.
To test accuracy at distance, I went over to my local PRS facility and was able to ring steel silhouettes and 8″ gongs at 277 yards with no hiccups. While maybe not a precision round, 7.62×39 is plenty accurate for the majority of shooters.
I spent the rest of my time with the ZPAP testing and modifying various drills I practice with an AR-15 to see what body mechanics needed to change to accommodate the AK platform’s ergonomics. In short, not a whole lot. Most of what I do consists of Run & Gun courses of fire at my local Gun Club and low-light shooting. Reloads and manipulating the safety took some getting used to but that’s a function of the AK platform, not the ZPAP. I still believe the AR-15 is the most practical and ergonomic of modern rifles but the ZPAP held its own.
Speaking of modern rifles, a common complaint is that AK-47’s lack the customization options the AR-15 has. This is absolutely true. Standard AK’s often come with little more furniture than a wood handguard and stock. This has changed in recent decades but there is so much variance around the AK platform, standardizing accessories can be hard to find for your particular rifle.
Zastava has introduced modern features to the ZPAP including QD mounts on the stock, MLOK slots on the hand-guard, and a Picatinny rail running on top of the hand-guard. In addition, the ZPAP includes a safety notch for holding the charging handle open. I used MagPul Polymer magazines and South Korean surplus steel magazines with no issues. Neither of these magazines have last round bolt hold open followers so your mileage may vary.
One of my favorite things about shooting an AK is the recoil impulse. The rifle reminds you that you’re shooting with every trigger pull. The bolt cycling feels like a cozy locomotive engine tapping into your shoulder and it’s certainly an addicting feeling.
The recoil on the ZPAP is comparable to any other AK I’ve shot. The recoil is there but it’s not overbearing. The ZPAP is certainly heavier than a standard AR-15 but that’s true of the platform and not necessarily unique to the ZPAP. Running and gunning with the ZPAP was enjoyable but the added weight was certainly noticeable.
I’m an AR-guy through and through but Zastava has done something special with the ZPAP. They’ve taken a giant first step towards making an older, less ergonomic platform accessible to folks like me, who have grown accustomed to being able to customize their rifle in every way possible.
AK’s are effective rifles. They’ve certainly proven that over the decades but the Zastava M70 ZPAP is a fantastic and relatively modular rifle at an attainable price point (street price around $1000). I’ll put it this way: I’ve owned Romanian AKs, American AK’s and even a few Russians- I’ve since sold or traded all of them. I’ve bought 2 more Zastavas.