ASG: Zastava Arms M91

Soviet sniper doctrine (unlike western, NATO doctrine) prescribed sniper in every infantry squad. Naturally, these snipers (more accurately name would be designated marksmen) are not specially selected and trained soldiers, but rather infantrymen with good results on firing range. Lack of screening process and training dictates that their rifle should not be overly complicated, nor for combat application nor maintenance. Semiautomatic rifle fits this description perfectly. Dragunov constructed SVD (Sniperskaya Vintovka Dragunova- Dragunov’s Sniper Rifle) which was adopted as official sniper rifle of Soviet Army in 1963. Combat application in Afghanistan, Chechnya and thousand minor conflicts around the world confirmed SVD’s ruggedness and superb performance. Footnote: Iraq manufactured domestic copy of SVD, called Tabuq, which is taking its sad and deadly toll in the Sandbox.

About nomenclature in this article and to avoid confusion: this product is a replica of SVD. Why is this review titled Zastava Arms M91? It is quite simple, really. Serbian manufacturer Crvena Zastava, now called Zastava Arms, manufactures their version of Dragunov called M91 and Action Sport Games holds licensing rights for Zastava Arms products in airsoft. It is a clever move on ASG’s part to re-label AtoZ’s product with licensed name.

Despite SVD’s passing resemblance to AK, they are worlds apart. This passing resemblance was and still is exploited in airsoft, as -until year or two ago- conversion kits were simplest, cheapest and really only viable way to own an airsoft SVD. Marui’s AK were used as base and while resemblance was there, it wasn’t quite right. Experts frowned upon wrong magazines and receivers, both donated by Marui (compatible) AK replicas.

G&P released beautiful, but flawed replica SVD. Lack of HopUp limited its usefulness and until ATOZ (also A2Z or A to Z) unexpected introduced a spring replica of SVD our choices were severely limited. AtoZ is located in the south of Korean peninsula and their only product is for time being is SVD replica. Atoz is constantly upgrading their SVD replicas- reviewed model is from the 3rd series.

When you first lay your eye on the AtoZ SVD you are bound to be impressed. You gaze upon long, black, sleek replica, which looks exactly as those, seen on TV news. As mentioned, it is long. In fact, it is very long, all together impressive 122 cm (48 in). When you pick it up you notice nice weight and annoying squeaking of the fore arm. It is made out of black, textured plastic material with correct ventilation holes. Reasons for squeaking are partially attributed to its length and partially to rear sight. Rear sight is positioned deeply into the fore grip and prevents full fixing ring to fully enclose the fore arm. If you are really annoyed, you probably could tinker around and fix the squeakiness.

With notable exception of stock and fore grip (both made out of black plastic) everything is metal. Owners of Atoz V1 and V2 SVD’s complained over thick and squeaky skeleton stock, which is remedied in V3. Stock ends with metal cap, sling swivel is also metal and located almost all the way to the back of the stock.
Cheek rest is fixed to the stock with metal clamp. It is almost impossible to use scoped SVD without cheek rest. And on the contrary, if you use it without optics, it is impossible to aim trough sights, as you head rest too high. Caution is advised- cheek rests are hard to come by and I doubt that metal clamp secures cheek rest safely enough.

Rear leaf sight is adjustable and marked with numbers between 1 and 12 (in increments of 100 meters). Even with real SVD, 1200 m mark (1312 yards) is very optimistic.

Front sight is protected by protective shroud and fixed to the barrel in the same manner as Marui’s AK47 front sight. Single grub screw is securing front sight and flash hider. It is wise to check from time to time tightness of screw, which is found hiding in the bayonet lug. I even suggest that you glue it with thread locker.
Receiver cover is secured with lever, which is simply swung downwards in order to remove it. Removal of receiver cover is not frequently needed, only when adjusting HopUp or changing the spring.

No markings are present on the replica with the exception of Made in Korea sticker. Dragunov has reached similar iconic status as Automat Kalashnikova- it is readily recognized. Most people, even if they don’t know the name they describe it as “that Russian rifle.”

Magazine is inserted just like magazine in the AK- front end first, magazine release secures the magazine. Magazine is seated in the well very securely with no wobble. And now feature which I don’t particularly care for- magazine is made out of plastic. It is tough, it looks fabulous, but I would still prefer a metal magazine. Capacity is 25 BBs with effective capacity of 23 BBs (2 BBs are not fed and fall out when changing magazine). Magazines have another rather annoying feature: magazine must be empty in order to remove it from the magazine well.

Optical sight is mounted on standard side rail. Note that side rails for SVD and Dragunovs are different and not compatible- this is important if you decide to purchase scope yourself. Simplified explanation: SVD’s scope has a full clamp (as shown on the picture); AK clamp has a slit, running in entire length of the clamp. Side mount retains zero of the scope and enables to adjust position of the scope. Scope has attached rubber eye piece in order to assure optimal distance between the eye and the sight; however, you will have to get rid of it as it is not possible to use sight with protective goggles.

POSP 4×24 (its military version is called PSO-1 2×24) is not exactly unknown. Truth to be told, its heyday as a top optical sight are long gone, but it is still an excellent product. Numbers in the name reveal that is has 4x magnification, which is optimal in airsoft; front lense has 24mm diameter and offers 6 degrees of field vision. Reticle is adjustable by windage and elevation with simple turning of adjustment knobs (aka towers). Aiming in less than ideal light conditions is enabled by illumination. Two button batteries provide red illumination of the reticle.
We tested original Belarus optics and all markings are stenciled in Cyrillic letters. Touch of originality, if you will.

Reticle is classic PSO reticle with “arrow” chevron. Vertical line of arrow chevrons is bullet drop compensator; windage is adjusted with help of horizontal lines. Range finder is located in lower left quadrant; number 1,8 denotes height of average person in meters. Estimation of range is possible by placing the person under the reclining lines (vertical line is used as base) and reading out the the number, which gives estimation of range in meters (don’t forget to multiply the value with 100). Not very useful in airsoft, but interesting nonetheless.

AtoZ SVD is relatively simple spring replica. Stock spring propels BBs with velocities around 420 fps, which was promptly changed with Systema M160 spring. Change of spring is very simple and quick. Discussion regarding AEG springs in AtoZ SVD is heated; most stores are claiming that it is possible to use AEG springs in this replica.

As mentioned, stock spring was replaced with Systema M160 spring. Chronograph readings of newly upgraded replica showed exit velocities with .20 g BBs as high as 475 fps, which is very close to the allowed limit for bolt action replicas and we didn’t further search for stiffer spring. Apparently, not every spring is appropriate. We were obviously lucky, but this this is not (always) the case. Link courtesy of Red Alliance.

There is some confusion about diameter of installed barrel: I was certain that diameter of preinstalled barrel is 6,04mm, since accuracy is superb. However, several of our readers who have access to equipment warned me that diameter is bog standard 6,08 mm. Nevertheless, accuracy is superb, even with standard barrel. Cocking the replica is much less strenuous than cocking usual bolt action sniper replicas. Namely, cocking handle forward on the receiver and cocking demands much less strength unlike replica bolt action snipers, with bolt handle located at the end of the receiver.

Even with M160 spring is cocking of the replica smooth and it is possible to cock it without too much strain- even when prone. In order to keep tension of the spring it is not wise to keep replica cocked for prolonged periods of time.

Trigger pull is stiff, but the point of piston release is clearly pronounced. It takes several magazines to exactly know the point, where the piston is released.

Hopup is adjustable with small hex key. As mentioned, receiver cover must be removed in order to adjust HopUp. At first I thought that it is not possible to remove the cover with optics attached, but you soon learn that it is not needed to constantly take off and reattach optics if you want to remove the cover. HopUp retains its setting and does not reset itself.

Naturally, it would be a sin not to try this replica in airsoft skirmish. Although AtoZ SVD is very solid, I didn’t indulge myself with sling. Again, replica is sturdy enough and can be easily compared to the metal replicas- it was a personal preference of a very clumsy person.

If you have already seen AK replica you already know basic operation of replica SVD. Safety lever is located on the right side of the receiver. Replica is secured with safety lever in upper position. All you need is to move the safety lever into the lower position, cock the replica, aim and fire. While it is possible t cock the replica while safety is on, I advise against.
One of the most impressive features is how easy is to cock the replica- yes, it is worth to mention it over and over again. Due to relative smallness of the cocking handle your fingers will hurt after several magazines’ worth of shots. You will need good gloves.

Shooting with AtoZ SVD is quiet affair; operator will hear only vibration of the spring and slam of the piston, target won’t even hear that. When tested in actual airsoft combat everyone was extra careful not to show himself as it was quickly punished. We used .28g BBs, with effective range of 65-70 meters (213-229 feet), which is considerable range.
Naturally, it means that airsoft sniper have to obey the sniper rule, with no-fire zone. Secondary replica is a must- it would be glorious if somebody introduced replica of AP Stetchkin…

Despite newly offered replicas of Russian weapons (Ak74SU, RPK etc) sniper replicas are still very rare. Conversion kits are possibility, albeit poor; G&P manufactures beautiful replica of SVD, plagued by lack of HopUp. I dare to say that AtoZ Dragunov is only viable option, if you choose to use your replica out of the box, with little to no modification. Atoz SVD/M91 is very good choice for a replica sniper rifle. It is not cheap by a long shot; on the other side, it is not prohibitively expensive and your money is well spent.
Yes, it is not perfect. If anything, lack of markings is one of the more easily corrected problems. Magazine should be upgraded to metal. And if we follow that train of thought, cocking it for every shot is tiresome. But than again- in the current form it is very good replica with excellent performance. Ultimately, this is exactly what we want.

Test item provided by ActionSportGames

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