Part 1: Two Rivers Arms Yugo M76 Rifle – Out of the Box

In 1975, Zastava Arms was approached by the Yugoslavian military with a need for a designated marksman’s rifle (DMR) that was semi-automatic and fired a full power round. Rather than license the Dragunov design, Zastava took a similar path that the Romanians did with the PSL – they took the base Kalashnikov design and scaled it up to handle a full size rifle round that they already had. In the case of Zastava, they chambered the rifle in 7.92×57 (8mm Mauser round). This put the effective range for human sized targets out at about 800 meters (875 yards).

The M76 is an interesting beast. When you pick one up, the first things you notice are that it is both heavy and long. Zatastava opted for a stiff, albeit heavy, milled receiver and a heavy barrel profile. The published statistics for the rifle put the weight at 4.6kg (10.14 pounds) – definitely not light. The barrel is 550mm (21.65 inches) long and the overall length is 1,135mm (44.69 inches).

All Things Yugo

This is where I enter the pictured. In 2006, I saw a photo in Shotgun News of an 8mm AK and thought it was a mistake! Over the years, I both learned more about the extended family of firearms based on the Kalashnikov design, the more I came to really like the Yugoslavian branch of the AK tree. I also very much wanted to own a Yugo M76 but a combination of budget (or lack there of) and reports of quality control problems by commercial US builders held me back.

A few things all came together to get me to finally move on having an M76. First, I got to know Two Rivers Arms over the years both by selling grips to them as well as their building some M72B1s for me. I knew they would do exceptional work. Second, TortOrt released their 80% Yugo M76 receivers and Tim at Two Rivers told me he could work with one of them. Third, I was able to source a complete kit with no furniture but a Green Mountain barrel from Apex and bought a complete Yugo M76 kit from Ivan Drago on GunBroker that did not have the barrel or the optic.

I need to mention something here – I just am not a huge fan of the offset scopes that the Soviets and Communist Bloc (ComBloc) countries came up with. I prefer something low, centered and … modern (gasp). When I talked to Tim at Two Rivers about my plans to not go with the traditional ZRAK 4x optic he was surprised. I already knew I wanted to use one of RS!Regulate’s mounting systems because they are simply the best most adjustable mounts out there. My first thought was to replace the factory optic rail on the receiver with more on an AKM style but we found out that the RS!Regulate AK-303M would have enough adjustment that we could use the factory rail. So, I ordered in the AK-303M lower rail and the AKR upper – RS!Regulate mounts are two piece so you can really dial in what you want.

This is the two piece RS!Regulate mount. The lower piece starts a fourth of the way down where you see a second Picatinny rail. That lower pieces is the AK-303M section. The upper piece is the “AKR” model and can be moved front to back and left to right on the lower allowing you to really dial things in. Pins are provided to lock the position in once everything is worked out.

By the way, on the RS!Regulate parts, either buy them direct or from a reputable vendor – not eBay or Amazon. There are cheap Chinese knockoffs/counterfeits that are for sale and not only is the quality poor but you are taking money from the small business who put in the hard work and money to make these.

Eventually, all of the parts arrive, I packed them in boxes and sent them to Tim at Two Rivers. Then the waiting part happened. With top notch builders, they are backlogged with work. In my case, I asked them to put the project on hold at one point, so all said and done, it was just shy of two years before schedules aligned and the rifle was completed. When Tim called to tell me he was wrapping it up after test firing it, I was pretty excited to say the least.

Out of the Box Impressions

Tim sent the rifle to my friend and FFL, Scott Igert of Modern Antique Firearms and as soon as it arrived, I went over to get it. Scott and I pulled it out of the box. Wow , was it big and cool. The diameter of the barrel was actually surprisingly big.

When I got home, I measured it. The rifle was just under 44-3/4″ long from the tip of the compensator to the top of the recoil pad on the buttstock.

Weight of the rifle without a magazine was 9.86 pounds. It was 10.42 pounds with an empty magazine. I instantly liked the heft as I like heavy rifles and the balance was pretty good. Granted there is a mile of heavy steel in front of the receiver but it was pretty decent.

Here are some photos of the base rifle. You may notice the trigger is silver – I did install an ALG Ultimate trigger (my hands down favorite AK trigger now) before I took these shots and will write up some of the modifications in following posts.

Look at that barrel and giant ejection port!
Here’s a good view of the M76 buttstock with the unique relief in the front. Note, you can interchange Yugo M70 and M72 fixed stocks with the M76 if you are ever so inclined. Then you have that giant unique grip. I wear XL-sized gloves and it is a handful.
It uses the same recoil pad as the M70 and M72 series rifles. Because of the weight and the gas action, I am not expecting a bad recoil.
There is just under 17″ of the 21.65″ barrel sticking out from the end of the wood (not the retainer) you see in the photo. The muzzle brake is integration with the front sight block (FSB) and not removable. The barrel is 0.845″ thick immediately in front of the handguard retainer.
The M76 has a gas regulator and is the silver dial you see above. It has three settings.
Unlike AK rifles, the M76’s muzzle brake is integral with the front sight block – it is not removable. It’s also interesting to note the threading for the attachment of a suppressor. Note the bayonet lug.
Let’s look at the other side now.
The side dovetail scope rail is unique and the RS!Regulate can accommodate it.
It uses a solid recoil rod assembly like the milled AKs and some RPKs use vs. the toggle wire assembly you see in AKMs. The increased rigidity of the recoil rod probably helps handle the heavier load plus aid in consistency of the bolt returning into battery. A number of us used to build AKMs with the milled rods to try and improve accuracy.
The M76 uses a 10 round box magazine.
There is one Achille’s Heel with the M76 (meaning the one weakness) is that the followers have a tendency to jam down hard when the bolt hold open (BHO) follower is hit from behind by the bolt. — that’s pretty ironic really. What happens way too often (in my opinion), is that the bolt hits the BHO causing a cantilever motion and because of an overly large gap, the front of the follower nose dives down into the mag body and it is not easy to get it back up but there is a fix. Note the very small tab just barely visible between the rear of the bolt body and the follower – I welded that in to limit the gap that allowed the nose dive to happen. I’ll write that up in a later post.
Nice shot of the Zastava logo and serialization info above the lightening cut.

I will be writing up my journey in upcoming posts and hope to take this rifle to the range in the near future. Definitely a big shout out to the gang at Two Rivers Arms for another wicked build! Thanks guys!

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