Zastava M84: Yugoslav version of the famous PKM machine gun

Author: Eric Sof

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The Zastava M84 is a popular general-purpose machine gun used extensively during the Yugoslav Wars. It is manufactured by the Zastava Arms factory in Kragujevac and features a gas-operated, air-cooled, belt-fed design that allows for fully automatic shoulder firing.

Introduction

The use of machine guns in various calibers has remained prevalent since the Second World War due to their high firepower and versatility in being mounted on vehicles, vessels, and aircraft. These weapons can provide significant support and are suitable for various tasks.

The Zastava M84 is based on the PKM machine gun initially developed in the Soviet Union. It is primarily used to destroy group and individual targets, neutralize enemy firearms in bunkers or fortified buildings, disable motorized and lightly armored vehicles, and destroy targets in the airspace. This weapon uses the 7.62x54R round, a powerful rifle caliber introduced in 1890 for Mosin rifles. Over the following decades, this bullet underwent numerous modifications and remains in operational service.

PKM Light Machine Gun
PKM is considered one of the best light machine guns ever produced in the world (Photo: XY)

Design

It uses a powder gas borrowing system with a rotating shutter as a locking mechanism. The gas borrowing system is conveniently located on the bottom of the barrel for quick and easy replacement if necessary. The shutter is rotated using two large cams. Like many machine gun systems, the Zastava M84 also fires from the shutter’s open position, which helps dissipate heat and prevent self-ignition of the bullet.

In field use, the Zastava M84 has demonstrated accuracy with minimal recoil, robustness, and reliable operation in all conditions. This is thanks to its gas flow regulation system, which can be adjusted to three positions.

Zastava M84 on tripod
Zastava M84 on tripod (Photo: XY)

The Zastava M84 machine gun barrel is made through the cold forging process and is chrome-plated and grooved with four right-handed twists. It features a handle for carrying the gun and a flame arrester with deep radial slots at the mouth of the barrel, both of which help to conceal the gunner’s position. The barrel also has a twisting step of 240 millimeters.

The M84 can be equipped with a tripod that can be adjusted to fit the dimensions of the shooter’s cover or used in a folding bipod configuration. The bipod is adjustable in height, and each leg is equipped with a platform for improved ground stabilization.

The M84 operates in automatic mode and has been shown to be most effective in combat at a range of up to 600 meters. Its effective range for firing live rounds is up to 1000 meters, and it can achieve concentrated fire at a range of up to 1500 meters.

According to the users feedback

For shooting and training purposes, the Zastava M84 can use various types of bullets, including common (steel core), heavy (lead body), marking, penetrative-incendiary, and penetrative-incendiary-marking grains.

The cartridge ejection port is on the case’s left side, while the bolt handle is on the right, above the grip. The weapon is fed through a magazine, which can be inserted on the right side of the case or placed in a box with a 100 or 250-bullet capacity. The box with ammunition is mounted on the stabilizer located at the bottom of the box.

The M84 is a version of the Soviet PKM that has several differences, including a non-hollow stock made of a different type of wood and a barrel with a slightly altered contour and weight, featuring different measurements at the gas port and forward of the trunnion in diameter.

Zastava Arms official

The stock of the Zastava M84 is fixed and made of solid wood, with a folding shoulder rest on the underside to assist the shooter in controlling fire. The main components of the Zastava M84 include the barrel, case with handle, case cover with barrel guide, mechanical sights, a gas chamber with the gas regulator, gas cylinder, return mechanism, bolt carrier with piston, shutter, trigger mechanism, stock, and legs.

Afghan Army Soldier with Zastava M84 in 2012
Afghan Army Soldier with Zastava M84 in 2012 (Photo: XY)

Sights

The Zastava M84 machine gun can be equipped with a passive sight with a magnification of 5×80, or an optical sight called the M80, manufactured by Zastava Arms, with a magnification of 3x. It can also be fitted with a night sight. It has also been often equipped with a Zrak 4×29 optical sight featuring a standard military reticle.

The sight is based on the successful English Trilux SUIT design and is widely used worldwide. The lateral mounting of the optics and the width of the stock may require the shooter to adopt a somewhat unusual position, with the stock held on the right shoulder and the left eye used for aiming.

Variants

The M86 is a clone of the PKT machine gun. It was designed to be mounted as a coaxial weapon on M-84 tanks and other combat vehicles. It lacks the original version’s stock, bipod, and iron sights and features a heavier barrel and electric trigger. The M86A, another version of the M86, is designed for external mounts and can be used dismounted.

M-84 - A Yugoslavia's version of the T-72 MBT
M-84: A Yugoslavia’s variant of the T-72 MBT (Photo: XY)

Users

The Zastava M84 machine gun, also known as the “Sower of Death” or “Ceca,” was widely used during the wars in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. It is known for its reliability, high firepower, and durability, as well as its resistance to various impurities, moisture, and extreme conditions. Its accuracy and thunderous sound during operations made it a highly valued weapon among soldiers.

Its relatively low weight and compact size make it easy for the shooter to handle and maneuver. It can be quickly switched between positions and used with various natural and artificial obstacles to set up a firing position.

Technical specifications

Country of origin:Yugoslavia
Manufacturer:Zastava Arms
Designed:1984
Produced:1984-present
Action:Gas-operated (rotating bolt)
Feed system:Belt-fed with 100 and 250-round belts
Barrel length:603 mm
Length:1190 mm
Weight of tripod:4.5 kg
Weight:13.3 kg
Rate of fire:700-800 rounds per minute
Effective range:1000 m
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