Part 4: Two Rivers Arms Yugo M76 Rifle – Fixing The Magazines

The M76 is a pretty wicked designated marksman’s rifle capable of firing 1.5-2 minutes of angle with the hard hitting 8mm Mauser round. It does have a pretty bad weakness however – the magazines can jam so hard you need a tool to get the follower to come up. There’s a solution and that’s what this post is about.

So, What’s The Problem?

Zastava designed the M76 with a bolt hold open (BHO) follower. In other words, the follower has a big lobe that blocks the carrier from going forward and thus locks the action open. Sounds great, right? It would have been if they had closed the gap between the follower and the magazine body and/or made the skirt of the follower longer.

What happens way too frequently is that when the carrier cycles forward, it hits the bolt hold open lobe of the follower causing the follower’s nose to dive down and jam the follower. Literally, the end result most of the time is that it is a bear to open the action and get the magazine to release — I found I needed to fashion a dowel to hit the rear of the follower to free it up. Not good.

Some guys report more headaches than others and I can’t readily tell you why. Maybe Zastava realized the problem and corrected it or maybe there’s enough variation in the gap between the magazine body and follower that it does not always happen. I have about nine M76 magazines and they all nose dived when hit by the bolt carrier practically every time.

The bolt carrier slams the follower down so hard that it can be difficult getting the magazine out of the rifle as well as releasing the follower.
A 3/8″ dowel can be hit with a hammer to pop the follower back into position. Yeah, this sucks.

Cleaning The M76 Magazines

I should point out that I bought about a dozen M76 magazines – some from Apex and some from Ivan Drago on GunBroker. They all had a ton of old cosmoline on them and a lot if was on really thick. I pulled the old paper and junk off the eight you see below and left the rest in storage.

Eight cosmoline laden M76 magazines. Some were almost full of the stuff inside. Some had old newspaper stuck on them as well.
I keep a 5-gallon bucket about half full of Ed’s Red cleaner around that I use to remove cosmoline and what not. Click here for the recipe. I let the crusty magazines sit in there for a couple of days because I had other stuff I was working on and the solution needs time to soften everything up. When I am done, I put the lid back on. It’s great for freeing up rusty parts too.
After the soaking in Ed’s Red to soften and even dissolve some of the crud, I disassembled each magazine and wiped them out. What a mess. No photos of that part but here you can see ones that are done and sitting in a box waiting for next steps.

The Solution to M76 Magazines and Nosediving

Let’s start with two things that didn’t work just so you know. My first try was to simply polish all the edges. That did not work and neither did adding Dupont Teflon dry lube.

My second try was to use sand paper to round everything over underneath the lips of the body and the outside edge of the skirt. That did not work either – even with polishing and Dupont Teflon dry lube.

So, with those two failures, I did some searching on the WWW and found that AKblue posted how he welded a small tab of 20 gauge (0.039″) sheet metal to the back of the follower to close the gap. That did work wonderfully for me and let me walk you through the steps.I went to all the big box stores in the area and nobody had 20 gauge sheet metal. I miss 20 years ago when I could go to a local steel store but they are all gone now.

1. I went to OnlineMetals and bought a 12″x12″ sheet of cold roll mild steel – nothing fancy is needed. 12×12 turned out to be way more than I needed. Shipping is what kills you so I wanted to only buy one time even if some experimenting was needed.

Nothing more exciting than a photo of a 12×12″ piece of 20 gauge sheet metal.

2. I needed to figure out some basic template so I could cut out a bunch of tabs to to then try different shapes with by sanding them down. Now I have a big belt sander – you could use a file or whatever works for you.

That high quality rendering is from an ancient CAD application called pen and paper. The back of the follower was over 0.7055″ wide – I think I just measured the back bent portion and not the sides so take this as a starting point and not an absolute.. Plus wait until you see the fancy ultra precise cutting method (that’s a joke by the way)! In terms of height, I measured about 0.525″ from the lower shelf to the bottom and then added a 0.25″ to have metal to grind down to a shape that worked so the tabs I cut were about 0.71″ wide and about 0.75-.8″ tall.
So much for precision – I used these shears to do the cutting due to the depth of the sheet, I allowed for the thickness of the cutter and clamped a straight edge to guide me from the front to the back. In this photo, the stuff is just sitting there for the photo – I did not have it laid out properly yet. I told you it was high tech, Note, I cut the sheet for the approximate 0.775 dimension.
I scribed the line for the 0.7050 dimension and cut it with my bandsaw. I wasn’t kidding when I said the dimensions were ballparks. I had two criteria I wanted to honor – the tab should not protrude from the top or sides of the follower and I wanted enough material at the bottom to do some experimenting and shaping on.
I then used a Dremel to remove burs. I did not want anything to hang up inside the magazine.
I sanded the back of the follower and sprayed both it and the tab with brake cleaner before welding just to get rid of any contaminants. This is a Harbor Freight 120 volt spot welder and it has the tongs on it for welding in AK rails hence the unique shape of the lower tong if you are familiar with them. If you don’t have a spot welder then I would drill or punch a hole in the tab and shoot a weld with a MIG, etc. I really am not sure if epoxy would hold up with this use case and am recommending true welding for reliability
I didn’t have much room to move the tongs around. I could get two heavy spot welds. This photo shows part of a third attempt but I settled on just two for the rest.
First off, the tab is way too long. I am maybe an 1/8-3/16″ at the base of that curve. You’ll also notice that I sanded the back so it would not drag on the magazine body. I polished all the parts using the little rubberized polishing bits in my Dremel.
I did apply a light coat of Super Lube grease to the back to help the parts get to know each other. After things wear in, I bet I will not need it.

You can see the tab. I made sure that the tab was below the lip of the follower. In other words, I did not want it protruding. I went around and polished all edges to make sure nothing would snag.
Here’s another angle – you can just barely see the tab.
Testing of the magazines was done with Realistic Snap Caps. These were great because they are just like the real 8mm Mauser rounds and I could confirm that feeding was okay.

Bottom Line

Welding in the tab did the trick. I think it works for two big reasons – it closed up a rather large gap at the rear that allowed the follower to tilt down to begin with plus by making the skirt of the follower a bit longer, it could not tip as much either. I don’t think the exact shape of the bottom of the tab matters a great deal but you definitely must debur and polish each By adding a bit of Super Lube grease to the back, everything slid very smoothly. I am assuming it will not be needed as parts wear in and time will tell.

Also, I bought way too much 20 gauge sheet metal. You could get by with a far, far smaller sheet. I thought I would have to experiment more and it turned out to be simpler than I thought.

When I went to range feeding was great and not one problem with the follower nosediving when the carrier returned on an empty mag. Problem solved.

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