Zastava M70 ZPAP: An AK for AR Guys

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.

Testing the effectiveness of the ZPAP at 277 Yards.

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.

Fireball courtesy of TulaAmmo.

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

Click HERE to visit Zastava Arms

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About the author: CitizenHush is the Bob Ross of 2A Twitter. A Virginian by birth but Texan by the Grace of God, Mr. Hush enjoys firearms and firearm technology.Dislikes include: Strong opinions on Cast Iron skillets, politicians, and Brass Goblins. When he’s not blasting feral hogs in Central Texas, you can find him either on the range or living his best life as a suburban ranch hand.

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Leo June 4, 2021, 7:48 am

    There is nothing wrong if you will own both AK and AR, I do and many. Also enjoying to shot any of them, I prefer Arsenal’s and Vepr’s in AK world. Also steel AK ammo is cheaper and available even while covid.

  • Mike June 1, 2021, 11:51 am

    The Zpap is a great Ak47 but in my opinion the polish WBP Fox 🦊 AK47 is BADASS!!!

  • Ro Gal May 31, 2021, 10:03 pm

    IMHO the M70 ZPAP is a one of the best performing AK rifles dollar for dollar! I don’t own one, but put a lot of rounds downrange using my brother’s M70. That said, I’ll stick with my AR platform for a host of reasons, first one being the weight of the rifle and then the ability to carry more ammo.

  • Jake May 31, 2021, 9:18 pm

    I hear good things about the Yugo AK but in my experience the milled Polytechs, whether milled MAK 90’s or AK47-S, are the Cadillacs of AK world. The Norinco and Poly stamped AKM’s, Type 56-S or MAK 90 punch far above their weight as well. I don’t think they have been imported for many years, but if you can get a good deal on one it will run circles around stuff like WASR’s.

  • Donald R Perry May 31, 2021, 2:34 pm

    Good info – Don

  • Blue Dog (he/him) May 31, 2021, 11:40 am

    I doubt you’ll ever be able to make an AK that makes an AR guy happy, or an AR that makes an AK guy happy. They get to a certain point where they define desirable characteristics in an assault rifle by their preferred format; AR guys wants accuracy and AK guys are looking for reliability and simplicity. An AR guy might get an AK as a toy but he’d probably never consider it for his primary arm for hunting or target shooting, like his AR. Similarly an AK guy might get a cheapo AR as a toy but would never consider it for… whatever it is AK guys do – waste steel cased, corrosive ammo on public land? AR guys and AK guys are every bit as tribal as Ford and Chevy guys used to be a generation ago.

    Realistically, ARs and AKs are different tools for different purposes. ARs are better suited to more precise work and AKs are better for getting a lot of lead out there fast, wherever “there” is. AKs are about as perfect of a skirmishing weapon as exists now, especially with select fire capabilities. The greatest advantages of the AK are macroeconomic in nature; the ease of producing large numbers of them cheaply without the need for specialized manufacturing facilities and the ease of outfitting and training an army of underfed Eastern European conscripts the first time off the beet farm. For the average redneck buying one or two or twelve at a retail store or gun show, they are not going to get to use that select fire or those macroeconomic benefits.

    • Kane June 4, 2021, 12:04 pm

      And then there’s those dorks that do NOT like either the AK or the AR.

      • Robert Adams June 5, 2021, 2:16 am

        You mean us Czech dorks: Vz58, CZ bren 2MS, 805 etc.
        (I am American, just for clarity). A 12″Vz58 with a Zhukov stock is my “go to” these days.

        • Kane June 6, 2021, 10:06 pm

          Nah, I mean Demshevik dorks that over and over again call for “common sense gun laws” but cannot give one example of a gun law that defies “common sense.” I like Czechs and all those pastries.

  • Doug Riding May 31, 2021, 10:40 am

    I’ve always found AK’s to be ‘too front heavy’, ‘too top heavy’, and ‘too damned heavy’ for my tastes…

    Like Lynn, my initial experience with AK’s was ‘down range’ of ’em… That will definitaly cloud your judgment !

    BUT ! I have found a new love… My ‘ARK’… I built an AR in 7.62X39, & I just LOVE the thing ! It’s just like an AR but it ‘speaks with authority’… The only downside is the magazines, but when I use 10 rounders, you don’t even notice the difference !

    Happy Shootin’ Lynn !

    • Give Me Freedom May 31, 2021, 2:27 pm

      I also have an AR-15 that shoots 7.62 x 39 ammo. I did not want an AR-15 for the longest time as I dislike the 5.56 x 45 round. Now you can get about any caliber in AR-15 or in AR-10.

      When the .300 AAC Blackout came along I got an AR-15. Later I sold the upper assembly and most of my magazines and ammo to someone else who wanted to get himself an AR-15 for all the likely coming chaos in this nation. This is when I got an AR-15 in 7.62 x 39. Get “C-Products” or “Duramag” brand 7.62 x 39 AR-15 magazines that are thirty or twenty round full capacity. Mine work great and without flaw when loaded to twenty-eight or nineteen rounds.

      7.62 x 39 is a good round out to about 280 to 300 yards in range with a sixteen inch or longer barrel. From about 300 to 430 yards it is a less effective round but still somewhat effective.

      • Jay Smith June 1, 2021, 9:29 am

        Ditto on the AR in 7.62×39 . I bought an STI , the replaced the barrel for a stiffer ( non M4 contour ) barrel. I wanted caliber commonality with my Galil /AK . The Galil wears a forend that has 2 rails ( similar to above) for lower grip & a Holosun . Polished bolt ( not handle ) with an soft aftermarket trigger with a bit too much take up. But the action is butter on grease smooth ( not gritty/grindy like most I’ve racked). It is accurate at 100-150 & torso accuracy to 150-200 yards . The STI AR is better , obviously, out to about 350 . Suppressed , with a heavy buffer / spring. ( no adjustable gas block.). My only regret was not waiting until the Mutants came out . An AR that takes AK mags with an adjustable gas block ?!?! Damn.

    • Robert Adams June 5, 2021, 2:29 am

      Cz dork here: Buy Duramag( 3rd gen.Cproducts). 20rnd 762×39 mags. Then; save your pennies and pre order an 11″ PWS 762×39 upper,get the mod2(no forward assist or mod1 if you like forward assist). They do not loose their value and you can run them like dogs.

  • Lynn Dornan May 31, 2021, 9:13 am

    Never been a fan of the AK but enjoyed your review M70 ZPAP. After being shot at by AK’s for more months than I care to total may have more than a small part to do with my hesitation to dive into the AK market. Who knows what the future will bring. May find myself looking for 7.62 x 39 ammo some day😂😂

  • triggerpull May 31, 2021, 8:53 am

    I was out shooting an AR the other day when a young buck showed up with a new Zpap. After he got his first shots down the barrel he vary graciously offered to let me look it over and give it a try. I do have a PSAK which shoots well and has never failed me–but this M70 is clearly in a league of it’s own. The precision of machining and options for attaching accessories is something I’ve never seen on an AK. On the subject of recoil, his zpap came equipped with the model 74 style muzzle brake which in my opinion makes the felt-recoil and follow-up ability about the same of that of a 5.56 AR. The bolt is also chrome-covered or solid SS–I’m not sure which–but it is more robust and noticeably smoother than any AK or SKS I’ve owned or shot. An outstanding AK.

    • CitizenHush June 1, 2021, 1:38 am

      thanks for reading- They’re great guns for sure!

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