THE ZASTAVA ZPAP 85 BY: NICK JACOBELLIS One of the most famous and iconic “bad guy” firearms of all time, that has also been carried by
numerous “good guys,” is the AK47/AKM, or simply the Kalashnikov. Even as more modern
designs become available, a number of government entities and private security companies continue to
issue and use different variations of Kalashnikovs. In some instances, AKs have been upgraded by
adding an optic, a tactical light and even a suppressor.
A STAR IS BORN The AK47, also known as the Kalashnikov Automatic Rifle, was designed in the 1940s and was
selected for its reliability when subjected to extremely adverse operating conditions. After the initial
design was further refined, the AK47 started to be issued to Soviet military personnel in 1947.
While not a totally unique design, the development of the AK47 was influenced to a certain
extent, by various operating features of other proven military firearms. This is nothing new in the
firearms industry and is by no means meant to detract from the brilliance of the AK design.
The first time I handled and test fired a Kalashnikov was when I worked undercover along the
Mexican Border and I purchased two AKs and 4000 rounds of Chinese 7.62×39 caliber ammunition
from an illegal arms trafficker. These AKs were reportedly from a shipment of 5000 Egyptian AKM
Maadis, that made their way into the U.S. via a west coast port of entry.
After purchasing these weapons and ammunition, my partner and I had to test fire these AKs, so
we could certify that these firearms were sold in violation of federal law. While confirming that these
AKs were in fact fully automatic imachine guns, I made the following observations: As someone who
trained with and or carried various semi automatic and select fire military caliber rifles, carbines and
submachine guns, I immediately noticed that the sights on the AK were unique to this design and unlike
what I was used to using. Even though this was the case I never had any problem delivering accurate
shot placement with any AK variant, including when operated in the fully automatic mode of fire.
AKs are also very user friendly when it comes to their weight, balance, ergonomics and
disassembly procedures. In fact, AK variants are one of the easiest firearms to operate and maintain and
are very “forgiving” when it comes to “needing” to be cleaned.
The ruggedness of the AK design also lends itself to being used in extreme operating
conditions. If you doubt this to be true, consider the harsh operating conditions in the Middle East,
Afghanistan, eastern Europe, Vietnam, Central America and Africa. Even the Israeli’s saw the merits of
the AK and ended up issuing captured AKs to some of their special operations personnel. The Israeli’s
then went on to include some of the rock solid operating features of the AK, when they designed their
now famous Galil rifle.
For various reasons that all make sense, AK variants in different calibers are one of the most
popular firearms in the U.S. As someone who has field tested a number of AK variants, including 47s,
74s, Krinkovs and SAIGAs in different calibers, I have my favorites. One of my favorite AKs is the
Zastava ZPAP 85 Pistol that is featured in this article for ARGunners. Here’s why. For starters, the
Zastava ZPAP 85 is built like a tank; a very well built tank. Even in pistol form, the ZPAP 85 is well
balanced, which makes it easy to carry, wield and fire. I also suspect that some end users will find the
Krinkov style sights, that are utilized on the ZPAP 85, to be more user friendly than standard AK sights.
While it may seem a bit awkward to shoot a firearm, that is basically a rifle minus a stock, in
reality the ZPAP 85 is very easy to shoot with precision. This can be easily accomplished by using a
two hand hold, that involves raising the ZPAP 85 to eye level and pulling the super smooth trigger once
you acquire your target. The ZPAP 85 can also be accurately fired from the hip or the chest level.
While evaluating the ZPAP85, a variety of targets were engaged at various distances. This
included, engaging different size targets at distances from 20 feet out to 50 yards from a standing
unsupported position. I should also mention, that the ZPAP 85 ejected brass an impressive 20 feet away
from my firing position and at a 45 degree angle.
The design features that make the ZPAP85 ideally suited to serve as a Personal Defense
Weapon, Home Defense Weapon, survival firearm and as a recreational plinker are, its superb trigger,
the fact that it’s chambered in 5.56 NATO/.223 caliber, its Krinkov sights and its weight and balance.
The compact nature of this design also makes the ZPAP 85 ideally suited to be kept accessible inside
a vehicle and transported concealed in a large backpack.
My extremely favorable opinion of the ZPAP 85 was echoed by my best friend Rick Batory. In
addition to growing up in Soviet controlled Poland, Rick served in a local sheriff’s department and
retired as a school district patrol sergeant. During the Global War on Terrorism, Rick conducted
foreign enemy weapons training for U.S. military personnel, that focused on the use of AK pattern
firearms. As a result of Rick’s familiarity with AKs, he was incredibly impressed with the Zastava
As far as features and specifications are concerned, the ZPAP 85 has a chrome lined barrel, a
stamped steel receiver, a corrosion resistant hard nickle chrome molly steel bolt carrier, a bulged
trunnion, a Krinkov style rear sight, a dual aperture front sight, a hinged top cover, a bolt hold open
notch on the safety selector, a wood forearm, an ergonomic synthetic grip and a 10 inch barrel. The
Zastava ZPAP 85 weights 6.6 pounds unloaded, is 19.3 inches in overall length and accepts different
capacity AK style (rock and lock) magazines, that are designed to reliably operate with 5.56
NATO/.223 brass cased and steel cased caliber ammunition. The ZPAP 85 also comes with one well
made 30 round polymer magazine.
SB TACTICAL TO THE RESCUE As I stated in my article on the CZ Bren 2M Pistol, SB Tactical is a company that embodies the
meaning of the famous saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Once ATF loosened its official
position on how Stabilizing Braces could be used, new products were developed that could be installed
on firearms that were designated as a pistol under federal law.
SB Tactical is a leading producer of Stabilizing Braces in the U.S. and currently manufactures a
variety of models for every firearm designated as a “pistol.” The SB Tactical Stabilizing Brace that I
selected for the ZPAP 85 is the AKTF. The AKTF is a left side folding brace that maintains the
compact nature of the ZPAP 85 Pistol design. Even when the brace is extended, the ZPAP 85 “pistol” is
still about as compact as a .223/5.56 NATO caliber firearm can be. The SB AKTF Stabilizing Brace
was installed by removing the back plate on the ZPAP AK pistol and sliding the two flat V shaped
extensions under the loosened pistol grip. Once the pistol grip screw was tightened, the AKTF
Stabilizing Brace was firmly held in position.
CLOSING REMARKS Simply put, on a scale of 1 to 10 the Zastava ZPAP 85 pistol is a solid 10. Installing the SB
Tactical AKTF side folding brace on this firearm elevated the ZPAP 85 Pistol two notches on a scale
1 to 10 and turned this ZASTAVA AK pistol into a solid 12. In fact, I was so impressed with this
firearm, I purchased the ZPAP 85 that I used in this field test.
Nick Jacobellis is a Medically Retired U.S. Customs Agent and a former NY police officer who was physically disabled in the line of duty while working undercover as a federal agent. To date, the author has published over 210 magazine articles and ten action-packed nonfiction, historical fiction, and fiction books: Controlled Delivery Books One and Two, The Frontline Fugitives Books I, II, III, and IV, Buck Banderas U.S. Marshal Books One and Two and A Special Kind of Hero. These books have received 5 Star reviews and are available on Amazon.com (US), and (UK). The K9 Academy is the author’s 10th book. The author was born and raised in Flatbush section of Brooklyn N.Y. and has an BS Degree in Police Science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice.