Sometimes it seems that the AK family of rifles is to American shooters what soccer is to sports: incredibly popular elsewhere. The AK is simple, and when it comes to guns that is an excellent trait, one that has fueled the AK’s popularity worldwide. Fortunately AKs are catching on in the U.S., and so have aftermarket accessories that make AKs more user-friendly. Longtime fans of the AK are well aware that not all are alike—this is one gun that comes in many variants. With over 100 million AKs produced (with and without a license) in more than two-dozen countries, a fair amount of local flavor tends to creep into the design. The M70AB2 rifle, produced by Century International Arms with original and U.S. parts, is a faithful reproduction of the AK variant made in the former Yugoslavia. During the Cold War, the Eastern European nations under Soviet influence were expected to maintain a certain amount of weapons uniformity. All of them basically adopted an AK variant—some of which were more faithful than others—as their issue rifle. Yugoslavia in particular has historically been, shall we say, a non-compliant region. This very disparate collection of distinct ethnic and religious groups was largely held together by force, from the period just prior to World War II until the collapse of the Soviet Union. The civil war that followed brought repressed ethnic tensions to the surface, resulting in the breakup of Yugoslavia into several nation states.
The original Yugoslav M70AB2 was manufactured in Kragujevac, in what is now Serbia, at the famed Zastava Arms factory. Zastava has been in the arms-making business since 1853 when it produced its first cannons. It also produced some other very well-known Yugoslav firearms, including the M24 Mauser, the M48 Mauser and the distinct M59/66 SKS rifle. From the late 1960s to the early 1970s, Zastava adopted the AK-pattern rifle and was tasked with meeting the needs of the Yugoslav military. This very specifically called for grenade-launching capabilities, while other distinct changes over the standard Russian AK were also implemented.
Century Arms Yugo M70AB2 rifle is a 7.62x39mm semi-automatic (as opposed to select-fire) rifle with a long-stroke gas-piston operation, a rotating bolt and a detachable, 30-round box magazine. This particular model comes standard with an underfolding metal stock and a synthetic pistol grip and handguard. Century also offers several other variants of this rifle.
As the M70 was designed to be able to fire rifle grenades (using blank ammunition), it needed the ability to withstand a good deal of pressure. The rifle’s stamped-steel receiver is actually based on an RPK receiver, and being that it is thicker than the standard AK’s, it has a distinctly bulged front trunion. The RPK is the designated squad automatic weapon for many nations and is basically a long-barreled AK with a bipod and larger magazine capacity. As part of the grenade launching system of the M70 series of AKs, there is also a gas cut-off device. This device, which looks like a lever, is located at the front of the gas system and above the handguard. It rotates upward to prevent any gasses from entering the piston area and directing all gas pressure forward out of the barrel. In combination with the front sight, the gas cutoff (graded from 50 to 240 meters) also conveniently doubles as a sighting device for rifle grenades. Though the rifle grenades are obviously not available, a grenade launcher attachment is. You can secure it to the threaded barrel by simply replacing the slanted muzzle break. It is certainly possible to fire standard ammunition with the gas shutoff in place, but don’t expect the action to cycle. Needless to say, firing rifle grenades produces a lot of additional pressure inside the receiver, enough to blow off the steel receiver dustcover on top of the rifle. To prevent this, the engineers at Zastava added another thoughtful feature: a plunger at the rear of the receiver that locks the takedown tab on the rear recoil spring assembly. This tab also holds the receiver cover in place. In order to remove the cover and disassemble the rifle, the plunger must be depressed, and this also applies to reassembly of the rifle.
Another distinct feature of the M70AB2 is the elongated handguard with three, instead of two, cooling slots. This addresses one of the AK design’s drawbacks, which is the standard, short handguards don’t do a very good job of protecting the support hand from barrel heat under sustained fire. A longer handguard offers the shooter a greater purchase area and better protection.
The Yugoslavs also seemed to be ahead of the curve in considering the needs of troops in low-light combat situations. The steel front and rear sights have a secondary flip-up option that features phosphorous or tritium inserts to aid in aiming. These inserts are long gone, but enterprising individuals should have little trouble painting new phosphorous in the sight indentations. Like most AKs, the rear sight is adjustable for elevation, from zero to an optimistic 1,000 meters. Note that, unlike many other AK rifles, the M70AB2 does not have an optics rail interface mounted on the left side of the receiver, probably because it would interfere with the metal underfolding stock. Those wishing to mount an optic on this rifle will have to consider one of the many aftermarket rail mounts that replace the top handguard or the rear sight. Using a rail adapter that replaces the receiver cover may require some fitting as there is a slight cutout for the plunger that secures it at the rear.
The typical AK, like many modern military rifles, has a chrome-lined barrel. This extends the life of the barrel by preventing corrosion and fouling, especially when using questionable ammunition from various sources. Chrome-lining does have one drawback, however. As the chrome is applied it leaves an uneven surface inside the barrel, which negatively affects accuracy. The effect is slight, and since reliability trumps pinpoint accuracy in combat rifles, it has been deemed an acceptable trade-off.
However, the Yugoslavs, for unknown reasons, decided not to chrome-line the barrels on their AKs. Likewise the Century M70 does not have a chrome-lined barrel. With modern ammunition and proper maintenance, this is not an issue. Also, while the AK is not known for its accuracy, the non-chrome-lined barrel should in theory produce better results downrange.
Many will also appreciate the original underfolding metal stock since it reduces the rifle’s overall length to 26 inches. For transportation and vehicle ingress and egress, this makes the gun very handy. It also can be fired with the stock folded, which is very welcome in tight confines. There is a large button on the left side of the stock, where it joins the receiver that serves to lock and release the stock. The shoulder section easily folds out of the way and deploys quickly for shoulder-firing. But what the stock has in convenience it lacks in comfort, and securing a good cheekweld can be a challenge. The underfolding stock also features a sling attachment point on the release button, which allows for the use of a single point sling. For two-point sling carry there is a corresponding sling attachment point at the front of the gas system. This is farther forward than the front of the handguard, where it is found on most AKs. An ergonomic synthetic pistol grip is very comfortable and provides a firm hold. It matches the synthetic handguards well. As mentioned, the threaded barrel has a removable slant muzzle brake, which helps direct gasses upward and to the right, countering muzzle climb. It does not, however, reduce muzzle flash, so some may prefer to install an aftermarket flash suppressor. The barrel also features a bayonet lug and comes standard with an under-barrel cleaning rod. The M70AB2’s remaining controls are all standard for an AK and very simple to master. The right-side safety selector is easily pushed up for safe and down for fire. The one-piece bolt carrier and handle are very smooth and easy to operate and also doubles as a forward assist. The ambidextrous magazine paddle-release is slightly larger than those of many AKs, making it easier to use. The TAPCO trigger group functioned well with only a slight amount of travel and a relatively clean break at 4 pounds.
I found the fit and finish of the M70AB2 to be outstanding. The matte black Parkerized finish was smooth and very evenly applied. The stock, handguard, grip and bolt all are well made and fit tightly together. The magazine well also exhibited tight tolerances and held the mags in place with no rattle. On the range the M70 handled very well. The handguards did a good job of keeping my hand cool during some rapid-fire strings, and the rifle functioned flawlessly with only one minor hiccup: One fired steel case of Russian ammo failed to extract and got stuck in the chamber, requiring a sharp hit on the charging handle to pop it out.
For accuracy I tested the M70AB2 at 100 yards from a benchrest, using three different types of ammunition (including Russian ammo) and iron sights. While I believe that a scope would have produced better results, I was not disappointed. The average group measured approximately 3 inches, which is fairly standard for most AK rifles.
The M70AB2 from Century Arms represents an excellent value for anyone interested in an AK rifle and offers some distinct and unique features that set it apart from other AKs. With easy-to-find magazines and the many available aftermarket accessories, the M70AB2 can be a handy and powerful rifle that is there when you need it and easily stores away when you don’t. For more information, visit centuryarms.com or call 800-527-1252. ★
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