The Zastava M.59 carbine (the official designation was Poluautomatska puška 7,62 mm M.59, or Semi-automatic rifle M59) was a licensed copy of the Soviet Simonov SKS carbine, produced by the factory Crvena Zastava Kraguevac between 1960 and 1967. In 1966 the Yugoslav army adopted a modified variant of this carbine, known as the Poluautomatska puška 7,62 mm M.59/66, or PAP M.59/66 in short. The troops called it a “Papovka”. In USA surplus versions of these carbines are generally referred to as the Yugo SKS (Yugoslavian SKS).
Production of the M59/66 carbine lasted until about 1986, both for domestic military use and for export. In JNA service it was partially replaced by the Zastava M70 assault rifle. A slightly modified version, known as the M59/66 A1 carbine, was fitted with the luminous night sights on folding bases. The Zastava M59/66 carbine, also colloquially known as the “Yugo SKS”, differed from its Soviet ascendant by having a permanently installed spigot-type grenade launcher at the muzzle end of the barrel. There were several other changes necessary to safely and accurately fire rifle grenades.
There also was a rare “para-sniper” version of both M59 and M59/66 carbines, fitted with the 4X Zrak On-2 telescope sight. Not terribly accurate, these carbines nonetheless permitted a more effective “mid-range” fire as the optical sight allowed for better target identification and recognition.
Starting early 1990s, plenty of surplus M59 and M59/66 carbines were sold on civilian markets in USA, Canada and many other countries.
The M59/66 carbine is a semi-automatic, gas operated weapon. It uses a short stroke gas piston, located above the barrel. The gas block has a manual gas cut-off, which blocks the flow of the powder gases to the gas piston when firing rifle grenades. The controlling knob of this cut-off also doubles as a lock for the grenade launcher sight in its folded position. The breech is locked via the vertically tilting bolt. The receiver is machined from steel, and has a detachable top cover, which is held in place by a lock at the rear of the receiver. Barrel has no chrome lining.
The integral magazine has capacity of 10 rounds, and can be loaded through the top of the action using the stripper clips or loose rounds. The bolt hold-open device has no separate manual release, and to disengage it one has to pull the bolt slightly rearward and then release it over the loaded magazine. The bottom of the magazine can be opened down and forward for a quick and safe unloading, or for maintenance and cleaning. The grenade launching blank rounds are manually loaded one by one straight into the chamber of the barrel.
Manual safety is located inside the trigger guard, to the rear of the trigger.
The M49/56 carbines are fitted with a U-notch iron sights, marked for ranges between 100 and 1000 meters. A folding blade-shaped bayonet if fitted to each gun.
A spigot type grenade launcher is permanently attached to the muzzle of the gun. A ladder-type grenade launcher sight is attached to a front sight base. When not in use, this sight is held flat against the barrel. To fire rifle grenades, user has to rotate gas cutoff knob from the right side of the gas block to its top, closing the gas flow and simultaneously releasing the ladder sigh so it could be raised to the firing position. A rubber recoil-cushioning buttplate is added to the stock. The blank rounds, required to launch grenades are stored within a hollow tail of each grenade, under a plastic removable plug.