Zastava M91 Sniper Rifle: A Military DMR For The Commercial Market

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The Zastava M91 is a scaled-up AK from Serbia that's design was inspired by the famous Soviet SVD. It is a reliable and accurate rifle, but is it worth the price tag?

What’s An M91?

  • Designated Marksman Rifle Based On AK Action
  • Chambered For 7.62x54r
  • Current Issue DMR For Serbian Armed Forces
  • Presently Available Import From Zastava Arms

Many people are infatuated with the iconic appearance of the Soviet SVD Dragunov, and it's easy to see why. It is one of the most recognizable firearms in movies and video games, and it has been a part of the public consciousness since at least the Vietnam War. One could almost say that the SVD is unmistakable, but that’s not true. The SVD’s design is so prolific that it has been copied more than once, and people often do mistake these copies for the real thing. One of these SVD-inspired weapons is the Zastava M91, and while it may not be a genuine Dragunov, it's about as close as most people can get to one without putting a lien on their house.

M91 with original wooden furniture.
M91 with original wooden furniture. Photo:Wikipedia

Not An SVD

It's important to note that while the Zastava M91 and Cugir PSL are distinct designs from the SVD, both rifles were inspired by it in concept and appearance.

Like the SVD, Zastava M91s were designed as designated marksmen or sniper rifles for use with armed forces. They are both semi-automatic and chambered for the full-power 7.62x54r cartridge, and come outfitted with magnified optics. They both feed from 10-round detachable box magazines, but the magazines are not interchangeable between designs.

When Yevgeny Dragunov designed the SVD, he made it aesthetically similar to Kalashnikov rifles in order to remain thematically consistent with the rest of the Soviet arsenal. The internal design was completely different, however. The SVD utilizes a short-stroke gas-piston system, and the differences are apparent once the weapon is field-stripped. The Zastava M91 on the other hand is truly an AK at heart. Its action is a long-stroke piston system, the same as a normal AK but scaled up for the more powerful cartridge. This major difference in design means an M91 will never be quite as mechanically accurate as an SVD, but will have a comparatively more robust and simple action. That being said, both designs are sufficiently accurate and reliable for their intended roles.

M91 In Military Service

Adopted in 1992, the M91 replaced the Zastava M76 rifle in Yugoslavian/Serbian military service. It has seen action from the Yugoslav Wars to current conflicts in the Middle East. Over time, its design has been updated from the original SVD-styled wooden furniture to a more modern, synthetic design with Picatinny rails on the handguard.

The adoption of the M91 and its subsequent design changes were part of a larger push towards modernization being implemented by the Serbian Army.

M91, as imported by Zastava.
M91, as imported by Zastava.

Zastava's Import

The M91 is currently imported and sold by Zastava Arms USA. It comes with the modern-style synthetic furniture and includes a 4X24 POSP scope that mounts via a Yugo-stye scope rail. Its barrel is chrome-lined and just a bit over 24 inches long. M91s are imported with a tack-welded muzzle nut that can be removed for the installation of 14×1 LH threaded flash hiders.

M91 gas regulator and railed polymer handguards.
M91 gas regulator and railed polymer handguards.

It also features an adjustable gas regulator to help tune the system for any kind of ammunition or environment.

Worth It?

With an MSRP of $3,499.99, this is an expensive AK variant. It is also far cheaper than any genuine SVD that could be had on the second-hand market, so it's up to you to decide how badly your SVD-itch needs scratching. The M91 is a fine rifle, but speaking strictly about performance I’m not sure if it’s worth the price tag. There are more accurate and cheaper rifles available, with more practical features and chambered in more common calibers. If you’re shopping for something to get into precision rifle competitions with, you’ll be better off looking elsewhere.

The niche that the M91 fills in the US market is not one of performance, but style. This rifle is for those who want to LARP as an Eastern European sniper but can’t afford a real Russian or Chinese Dragunov. If that sounds like you, the M91 is a well-made and reliable rifle to do it with.

For more information on Zastava Arms, please visit zastavaarmsusa.com.


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