Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The Yugoslavian M59/66a1 was the last in a series of battle rifles for the Yugoslavian military. Based on the Soviet SKS carbine, the M59 was a close copy of the Soviet SKS with a stripper clip guide manufactured into the bolt and a blade type bayonet. In 1966, a 22mm NATO specification grenade launcher was added and the wepaon was renamed the M59/66. Flip up illuminated night sights were added a few years later to be called the M59/66a1.
The M59/66a1 retains the 10 round internal magazine of the original SKS, fed by a charger, or stripper clip. The 7.62*39mm cartridge is the same round used by the more well known AK-47 assault rifle that eventually replaced the SKS in most Soviet arsenals. It is unique, however, for its built on grenade launcher, launcher sight, and gas shut off valve. By flipping the valve button to the top position, the gas port is shut off and the grenade launcher sight is released and can then be moved to the upright position. Firing the weapon at this point will not cycle the bolt, meaning it has become a single shot weapon. This was to protect the weapon from damage when shooting the more powerful grenade launching blanks contained within the tail of the grenade itself. Today, while surplus grenades are hard to find, a variety of other objects may be fired with a suitable adapter, such as tennis and golf balls.
The example in my collection was manufactured in 1972. The bipod shown in the picture above is not standard and is not part of the rifle. The Yugoslavian M59/66a1 is a battle rifle, rather than a carbine, as the barrel is longer than standard due to the grenade launcher on the end. it is not an assault rifle, however, media outlets typically call it one. assault rifles by definition are capable of full automatic fire which the Yugoslavian rifle, nor any other SKS design, cannot do.
If not properly maintained the weapon can produce a "slam fire", and fire the entire magazine non-stop. This is because the firing pin has no return spring, and if gummed up by bad maintenance, can lodge in a forward protruding position which will set off the loaded round when the bolt is snapped closed on loading.