(This is a reader-submitted review as part of our gun review contest. See details here.)
It’s big, it’s bad(?), and it’s back. The Zastava N-PAP was initially reviewed here on May 10, 2013. But I’ve had a substantially different experience with mine since that initial review. I’ve put many more rounds through my rifle than the original reviewer did. Let’s just say my experience with the rifle has lead me to exclaim, “Nyet! Rifle not fine!”
I have owned and shot the rifle for over two years now and purchased it just as the market was recovering from the post-Newtown panic in February 2014 for $529.95. At that time AK-pattern rifles were still somewhat scarce and I wanted something that was reported to be reliable and have nice wood furniture. As of today the N-PAP’s price has risen $100+ and is currently out of stock at Aim Surplus and Atlantic Firearms, no doubt in part to prioritization of military purchases in Europe and a high demand in a post-tragedy panic-purchasing America.
The Yugoslav variant of the venerable Kalashnikov design came about because of the government’s desire to develop their own rifle domestically. In 1970 the army funded the mass production of the M70 series rifle which then became the standard infantry rifle of the Yugoslav People’s Army. The civilian-legal N-PAP semi-automatic sporting rifle is a direct descendant of the M70 series assault rifles and is often referred to as an M70 pattern rifle.
Out of that development phase came the incompatibility with “standard” AK parts from the rest of the world: the rear trunnion with the no-tang stock interface, the recoil spring guide lock, the three-holed handguards, and the non-standard side-rail for mounting optics. Though manufactured by Zastava, internet chatter suggests that US-sold N-PAPs aren’t held to the same manufacturing standards as M70s made for national defense contracts. It is your job as a consumer to know the limitations of any arms you purchase, and as always, caveat emptor.
I bought the N-PAP to fill a niche in my firearms collection. I needed a Kalashnikov to bang around with in the woods and as a symbolic act of defiance to those who would strip us of our constitutionally protected rights. I had read about the N-PAP cheek slap and (lack of) aftermarket and made what I thought was a well-informed decision to purchase the gun figuring I could overcome the cheeky slap from the PAP.
The rifle was sent to my FFL from Aim Surplus and it looked just like the stock photos on Aim. The one in their ads could have been the exact rifle shipped to my FFL. Kudos to Aim for having a decent photographer on staff to catalog their offerings. The wood stock set was evenly colored and in great shape from the factory. Official sources say it is teak, but internet speculators say it could be birch or beech.
You may have noticed by now that I refinished the wood on my rifle. Three generous coats of Sedona Red 222 and eight to nine light coats of satin spray poly turned my M70 variant into a semi-gorgeous deep reddish-brown beauty.
The factory finish on the handguards and stock stripped off evenly enough but the stock took stain differently than the handguards. You can see the difference in the pictures that show the factory stock refinished. Instead of blaming Zastava for using inconsistent wood, I can admit that I probably just screwed up refinishing the buttstock.
The receiver, barrel, sights, and pistol grip had no blemishes aside from the burrs on the magazine well. In order to be compliant with import laws the receivers are brought into the United States with a magazine well that only accepts single-stack magazines. The importer (Century Arms) goes to work and opens the magazine wells up to accept standard AK-pattern magazines.
I filed off the burs and am happy enough with it, since it was more of a nuisance than anything, especially when running an oily rag over it during cleaning. The burs did not affect fit and function at all. Earlier generation N-PAPs came from Zastava with a single-stack bolt and had functioning issues with double-stack magazines – not so with these newer ones.
The front sight base is not canted, though there was a small ding on it that exposed the metal underneath the finish. Racking the action gives that distinct and satisfying CLACK-CLACK. The plastic factory grip is comfortable and ergonomic enough that it doesn’t need to be replaced.
The N-PAP comes with a Tapco G2 trigger which has a slightly rounded hammer-face compared to Kalashnikovs that come with non-US-made fire control groups. The rounded hammer-face allegedly removes the much loathed trigger slap you might get from a straight profiled AK hammer.
When the rifle had less than 400 rounds through it, pulling the bolt back slowly resulted in the bolt carrier group binding on the rounded hammer-face of the Tapco unit. A whack to the receiver would send it home. Some internet gunsmiths reprofile their Tapco hammers to reduce the friction between the carrier and hammer, though by removing the hardened surface of the hammer the softer metal is exposed and will wear more quickly. For me this was a self-resolving issue and after about 400 firing cycles the problem disappeared.
Rocking the magazine into place, slipping off the safety, and racking a round into the chamber should be a simple thing, especially for a rifle that was designed to be operated by the lowest common denominator in Russian society. Actually it wasn’t as easy as that. Factory new, the safety lever was tighter than a tick with lock-jaw. I worked the safety hundreds of times before I shot the rifle and it did not loosen up.
I continued to work the safety every time I broke the rifle down for cleaning, but it gave no indication it would ever loosen up. Eventually I had enough and took 220 grit sandpaper to the nubbin on the inside of the safety lever. The safety now functions within what I would consider normal operating parameters. Now it’s not too tight and not too loose and doesn’t make you want to cuss.
The trigger also gave me issues straight out of the box. The first time firing the weapon was on family land in northern Wisconsin in February. The first magazine I put through the gun required that I manually reset the trigger after each shot. Using my Google-fu I learned that a common issue with AK-pattern rifles revolves around the twisted hammer spring interfacing incorrectly with the legs of the trigger.
Thirty minutes later, and after a cluster-cuss of frustration brought upon myself with a needle-nose pliers and a flathead screwdriver, my N-PAP’s trigger was consistently resetting after each cycle of the bolt. Since then the fire control group has functioned 100%, though it should have been sent that way from the factory.
The ergonomics of the rifle fell into place with what I expected based on internet reviews and early adopters. I knew there would be some sort of cheek slap, but I figured I could overcome it with some ethnic German stubbornness (read: pigheadedness) and testicular fortitude. It turns out I was wrong.
The comb built into the stock was specifically made for using an optic. Since I had purchased the rifle for iron-sighted blasting at fifty or fewer yards, I was experiencing the N-PAP slap every pull of the trigger. It took about six slaps (more like punches) for me to realize that something must be done.
The slap occurs because, in order to get any sight picture, the user must press his cheekbone unnaturally firmly onto the comb of the stock. That, combined with the movement of the action as the gun cycles and the factory slant brake affecting the balance of the recoil, leads to a very effective punch to the face.
Internet operators who operate operationally with their bone-stock N-PAP will tell you to either suck it up or to jut your head past the comb and hunker your nose up to the top cover. I shot the rifle with my nose to the top cover and it was as unnatural as a chunk of Velveeta cheese. Here in Wisconsin we like our limburger stinky, our curds fresh, and our AKs to not punch the crap out of us without sniffing the top cover everytime we pull the trigger.
I ordered up a Tapco AK-74 style muzzle brake thinking it would tame the recoil enough to mitigate the slap. The brake looked better than the slant brake that came from the factory, but failed to take away the pain received from pulling the trigger.
Because of this I better understand why aftermarket support for any rifle is so very important. I wanted a wood stock with a better profile, so I called up Assault Weapons of Ohio (an unfortunate name, I know) and spoke with Chris. I bought a surplus M76 stock from her with all of the hardware attached for about $85 shipped. I refinished it to match the rest of my furniture, installed it, and voilà, no more cheek slap. Fortunately the M76 stock (which now permanently lives on the rifle) took the color just like the handguards and turned my Peggy Bundy into a Joan Holloway.
The M76 stock came with sling attachment hardware, which was noticeably absent on the factory stock. Since I purchased and upgraded (read: made useable) my N-PAP, the aftermarket has exploded for M70 pattern rifles and has since solved the cheek slap, as well as other replacement offerings for other stocks, handguards, and gas tubes.
At this time it appears Century has taken these issues to heart and has made another generation of N-PAPs with US-made Warsaw stocks available (via Atlantic Firearms), along with an improved buttpad and sling attachment hardware pre-installed by the importer. Purchase this newer-generation rifle if you don’t like getting punched in the face, and don’t want to diddle around in the aftermarket.
The last small gripe I have deals with one thing that hasn’t impacted function whatsoever, but is noticeable nonetheless. The magazine release lever. It is small, tight, and willing to cut you up if you don’t deliberately move it to remove a spent magazine. Unless you are wearing gloves in cold weather when you shoot I recommend using a fresh magazine to actuate the lever and simultaneously knock out the empty magazine. Here in the Frozen Tundra we wear gloves eight months out of the year so it isn’t such a problem for me.
Disassembly is a snap and is bog standard Kalashnikov, except for the recoil spring guide lock.
This rifle likes having its buttons pushed. Depress and hold the guide lock button, and while you hold it, push in the recoil cam to release the top cover and recoil spring assembly. The recoil spring guide lock holds in place both the top cover and recoil spring assembly.
The top cover is easily removed along with the recoil spring assembly, bolt carrier, and bolt. After that just spray down the components with your favorite gun cleaner and wipe down the bolt carrier and internals. This model does not have a chrome-lined bore or bolt carrier group so keep that in mind if you plan on burning through corrosive ammo.
The pistol grip feels natural in hand and the rifle points well once you replace the factory stock. The Tapco G2 trigger has consistent take-up and breaks cleanly when pulled, giving the shooter an audible reset “click” along with some physical feedback through the trigger blade. Once the hammer-spring was adjusted the trigger became reliable, and now that it’s functioning I swap it out for an aftermarket example.
There is a night and day difference in comparison to a mil-spec AR-15 trigger. The recoil impulse of the N-PAP is strong but not harsh, though enough to throw you off the iron sights. The recoil is in no way painful and is more subdued than a twelve gauge with light bird loads, though when rapid firing the gun will jostle you a bit. Even after 900+ rounds downrange packing grease continues to work its way out from underneath the side mount optic rail.
Beside the initial issues with the trigger reset this M70 variant has been 100% successful. No stuck steel cases, no failures to feed or failures to eject. I do however have concern for the longevity of this model. There has been significant peening on the tail on the end of the bolt carrier, and even an odd bit of peening on the bottom of the carrier where it slides across the hammer when it cycles.
For accuracy testing I pulled a Nikon 2-7x scope from my slug gun and mounted it to the N-Pap with an eBay knock off of a popular scope mount. Most mounts require modification to properly attach to the optic rail on the N-Pap. I couldn’t justify dremeling and possibly ruining an expensive piece of hardware when I only bought this rifle for iron sighted blasting. Lock-up was tight and and I have no reason to doubt the rigidity of the mount.
Throughout the life of the rifle I have fired over 500 rounds of TulAmmo hollow points (branded as Herter’s and sold at Cabela’s) and 400+ rounds of TulAmmo FMJs, with a smattering of Hornady Z-MAX. As stated before, all round functioned flawlessly; the hollowpoints never once caused a hiccup in the firing cycle. For accuracy testing I lasered 50 yards and rested the rifle on my range bag while lying prone.
I shot three five-round groups of each cartridge and then used the OnTarget Precision Calculator to measure the max spread and minute of angle (MOA) at 50 yards. The results are less than impressive and it looks like I have a 3+ MOA gun with decent factory ammo. The best groups are noted in the captions below each target collection image. I wasn’t expecting great accuracy, but I was hoping one of these Hornady offerings would have been in the neighborhood of 2.5 MOA. Please do note that the Hornady SST and Z-MAX bullets are essentially the same save for the colored tip. Variations in accuracy are due to the powder charge, shooter, or both.
My issue with the trigger was relatively easy to resolve and my complaint about the magazine release lever is lessened by the use of gloves. These days you can’t expect premium features and build quality for the cost of the N-PAP. Be realistic about what your needs are and you might find the N-PAP sufficient.
As a plinking rifle it has served me well. Testing the accuracy potential has been a let-down and I would only recommend this rifle for taking medium to large game within 100 yards using the Hornady SST or Z-MAX rounds. I could bring the N-PAP into my deer season rifle rotation, but I have other more accurate and reliable rifles that would do a better job (Anyone here heard of the 300 blackout?).
The best parts about owning this rifle are the satisfying CLACK-CLACK the action makes and the cheap plinking fun it brings. Would I buy this rifle again? Nyet. I wouldn’t want to go through the hassle of making it useable all over again. Does this gun fit the bill for an acceptable AK-pattern rifle? Maybe yes, maybe no. Your mileage may vary.
Specifications: Zastava N-Pap
Magazine: 30 rounds (with smaller and larger capacities available)
Weight: 9.0 lbs (with M76 stock and Tapco AK-74 muzzle brake), 10.4 lbs (with optic mount and scope)
Barrel Length: 16.3”
Overall Length: 37.5″ (with M76 stock and AK-74 muzzle brake)
Sights: Irons or a scope with the addition of a mount
List Price: $629.95 – $679.99 (if you can find it in stock)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style: * * * * ½
A Kalashnikov with good wood furniture is something to drool over. From the factory this was a four-star gun. With the M76 stock and refinished furniture I give it another half star.
Customization: * * * ½
Since it was purchased, the aftermarket support for this model has expanded significantly. Look to these companies for practical and tactical doodads to make your rifle cooler looking or useable: Ironwood Designs, Magpul, Tapco, Midwest Industries, and ACE.
Reliability and Long-Term Durability: * * ½
The trigger issue was quickly remedied without the need for a gunsmith. And while I haven’t experienced any issues whatsoever since then, I have to give this rifle a 2½ star rating because of the potential for failure indicated by peening on the carrier and bolt.
Accuracy: * *
This rifle is less accurate than many other competitive options. If you are looking for accuracy in a Kalashnikov, look elsewhere.
Overall: * * ½
Looks can only take a rifle so far, and reliability, accuracy, and long-term durability have to take it the rest of the way. If you have a deep desire for an AK, you may want to pass on this model, or at least save the serious business for other more accurate and reliable rifles.