Cleaning up a rusted Yugoslavian M56 submachine gun

Earlier this year a reader from the Balkans told me that he had found an old rusted Yugoslavian M56 submachine gun and asked how he might repair it. I told him I was sure it was rusted beyond the point of ever functioning again and he would never get the bolt out of it.

Yugoslavian M56 submachinegun-1


It may shock some of you to know that I am not always right! Last week he emailed me to say that he had successfully cleaned the gun up. He did an impressive job as you can see below …



I have advised him to look into the legal ramifications of his find, and to turn it over to the authorities or destroy it is he cannot legally own it. It is almost never worth keeping an illegal gun, the penalties are just too high.

The Yugoslavian M56 submachine gun was in officially military service between 1956 and 1992, but saw action mainly after this period during the Yugoslav Wars that began in 1991 with the Slovenian Independence War and concluded in 1999 with the end of the Kosovo War. You can be sure there are many rusted Yugoslavian M56 submachine guns in and around the the former Yugoslavia, sitting at the bottom of rivers and buried in forest

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • dan citizen

    Nice restoration. I have encountered a few firearms in similar condition and was often able to salvage at least a few parts.


    Pssh, no.
    That thing was clearly used by our prehistoric ancestors to hunt all types of dinosaurs. How do you think all of the dinos dropped dead? A meteorite?

  • 101nomad

    Good job. What sub machine gun?

    • Steve Truffer

      Did you not see the title of the article? Yugoslavian (Zastava) M56.

      • Andrew

        What sub machine gun?

        • Steve Truffer

          See the title. Yugoslavian M56.

          • bbmg

            No idea what you’re talking about mate.

          • Steve Truffer

            Copypasta holds your divinations, sir.

          • Andrew

            What sub machine gun???

          • gunslinger

            it was a gecko .45 that also blades

          • Andrew

            What sub machine gun?

          • Lammo

            Tragic boating accident

          • BillC

            Finally, somebody gets it.

        • The Hun

          No- What’s on second.

        • dan

          darude – sandstorm

        • Ghost


  • M.M.D.C.

    “I have advised him to look into the legal ramifications of his find, and to turn it over to the authorities or destroy it…”

    Ugh. So painful and so pointless… nevertheless, the right thing to do.

    • iksnilol

      Why is it the right thing to do?

      • M.M.D.C.

        “It” being to get himself on the right side of the law? Because, as Steve said, the risk far outweighs the benefit.

        • iksnilol

          Not legal but as long as you shut up it is OK, loose lips sink ships and all that.

          Most people like keeping some nearby in case the country next to them tries to exterminate them all, like they tried 20 years ago.

  • Tactical Tightwad

    I watched a guy named Ajax22 restore a rusted solid 1911 on The High Road (with YouTube clips) last year.

    Here’s the YouTube playlist:

    • hkryan

      That’s pretty amazing stuff!

  • Commando Style

    Didn’t we tell you not to use that surplus corrosive ammo? Nobody ever listens to the keyboard commandos.

    • gunslinger


  • Azril @ Alex Vostox

    Hmmm…….I wonder. I wonder what cleaning tools used to restore this gun, Brasso? ShamWOW! ? Sand Paper?

    • JaxD

      You can start with diluted table vinegar. Not harsh, will take it down to bare metal.

      • iksnilol

        How much diluted? Also where can I find more info on fixing and restoring omd guns.

        • JaxD

          First an acetone soak to loosen and remove old oils and grease. Then soak in 50/50 vinegar/water. Wait an hour, scrub with brass brush. Add more vinegar if action too slow. Rinse. Repeat.
          Afterwards I soak in water with baking soda added. When bubbles stop, acid is neutralized. Rinse in clean water and dry quickly, to prevent rust flash.
          It’s kind of slow, but very safe. All liquids are flushable.

        • JaxD

          Here is a pic of a pistol I’m working on now. The color difference in the metal is from hardening.
          Now, the hard part. Polish and reblue.

    • gunslinger

      above…used a chisel, diesel, wd40 and some sandpaper

  • hydepark

    Wow. Awesome advice. Just negligently destroy history and property without a second thought. No, it’s okay, I write a blog so I’m a professional. What a dumbass. Why not advise him to demil it or donate it to the NRA or something? At least do some research before shoving your foot in your mouth and possibly causing someone to lose a tax write-off or a wall-hanger.

    • Chatterbot

      Yup, sending a gun from the Balkans to the NRA would clearly be the right solution here. Do you even read, bro?

    • Cymond

      “I have advised him to look into the legal ramifications of his find […]”
      Research is hardly what I would call “without a second thought.

      Donate to the NRA? This was in former Yugoslavia. Demil? Again, it would be wise to “look into the legal ramifications” because it may not be legal to even own parts in his country.

      • hydepark

        Guess I skipped the part about him being in the Balkans. But to say research the ramifications, “and
        to turn it over to the authorities or destroy it” in the same breath hardly seem compatible.

  • John

    I regret not saving the link but there was a similar restoration project where a guy found an SKS in the woods that had its stock rotted away. Restored it to working condition even though there was a thick layer of rust on it.

  • Cymond

    He should definitely “look into the legal ramifications” of possession, as well as the ramifications of reporting/surrendering it. A British military veteran was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 5 years in prison for illegal possession of a fiream after he turned in a sawn-off shotgun wrapped in a garbage bag that someone threw over his garden fence.

    • gunslinger

      walked away with suspended sentence.

      although it’s a bit crazy. he claimed he was sleeping with a detective and was harassed by others out of jealousy. if he rang the head of police, why not say, hey btw, i’m calling because there’s an illegal firearm that i discovered on my property? aside from inviting the man into your home…

      still a bunch of derp all around.

  • Станислав Горки Кесер

    Hello guys, thank you for the comments. It was all done with a thin chisel (for removing the heavy layers of rust), diesel (for initial lubrication, then WD40) and quite a few squares of coarse sandpaper…

    • Blake

      Awesome job Stanislav!

      Unfortunately you should probably take the full-auto sear & trigger group and at the very least store it somewhere “not in your possession” or destroy those parts.

      Probably your next step after that would be to find a lawyer in your country specialized in firearms legislation…

      • Станислав Горки Кесер

        Thank you very much = yes, I can say that gun is not in my possession, as you aptly put it 🙂

        A juicy bit of information you gun enthusiasts did not know, in Balkans, the most common punishment for unlawful weapon keeping is three months probation, or a fine.

        We have more weapons than Iraqi’s, due to that policy…

        • iksnilol

          Being from the Balkans myself I would not be surprised he stored it somewhere else.

          No reason to tell everything on the internet. Especiall when it can be traced.

          Ja nebi preporucijo da ga pokvaris ili predas vladi.

        • Seth Hill

          If you come across any more, I’m sure that there are people in the US that would be willing to take delivery of parts from them (gradually, over time).

        • mikewest007

          Hahahahahaha, I’m crying. Why didn’t anybody get an idea that bright up north over here?

    • Jj

      You know they sell a liquid solution that dissolves and eats rust but leaves the metal. Used it on my enfield. Got it at Home Depot.

      • Hammersmith

        I am sure you will find no Home Depo on his mountain – besides, all of the materials cost less than 2$, if you exclude work put in. Balkans are a very poor place, and I am sure the person in question wanted to get the weapon functional without spending anything. From what I see, he managed it. Good job.

        • iksnilol

          Not as poor as you would think. Definately not rich, mainly because of corrupt politicians stealing from the country.

          • billyoblivion

            Yeah, like you’ve got a monopoly on that.

      • Sledgecrowbar

        I was just typing that “this looks like a job for Evaporust”. Love that stuff. It strips bluing, not as fast as the Birchwood-Casey stuff, which is the same chemical but more concentrated (and more expensive, and in a tiny bottle), but it will strip it sure as anything. Leaves a nice, bright, bare steel finish behind, too.

    • Geodkyt

      You can go a LONG way with a nice long diesel soak. Been there, done that. (Doubt I would have had the balls to chisel off the scales, though. . . )

      Great job.

  • JT

    I’ve heard the Yugoslavians always keep a few extra guns on the side in case they ever need them 🙂

    • iksnilol

      No…No, we never do that. Just don’t dig in my garden or my fields.

  • gunslinger

    way better than “finding a bunker or safe” thread in popular gun forums!

  • iksnilol

    Why did you use the “Soviet” tag? You do know Yugoslavia never was a part of the Soviet Union?

    • Hammersmith

      Probably because its a modification of the PPS-43, uses the same ammo and the same curved clip.

      • iksnilol

        The M56 is a Yugo version of the MP40, had the advantage of better range and penetration compared to the 9mm MP40s.

        Still, no sense.

        • Guest

          It is way more similar to PPS-43, including the inner mechanism.

          • iksnilol

            No, it isn’t.

            It is true that both the PPS-43 and the MP-40 use the same mechanism (straight blowback, open bolt).

            The first one is a MP40 while the other one is the M56, they are almost identical, save for the curved magazine of the M56.

            The PPS while using a similar (same) mechanism is a different gun. You can see this primarily by looking at the receiver and the lack of a barrel shroud.

      • Miško

        M56 is further development of M49 and M51 SMGs, which borrowed a lot from Beretta M38 (operating mechanism) and PPŠ-41 (Mags and overall layout)

        The overall quality of these Yugo SMGs was far ahead of the Soviet counterparts but they were manufactured in peacetime and were more expensive

  • jonspencer

    A strong caustic solution removes heavy rust from ferrous metals. Powdered drain cleaners are the easiest way to make up the solution. Try small parts first to figure out the ratio of cleaner to water. Don’t put aluminum in the solution, it will be eaten up and just disappear. You might have to renew the solution several times. When mixed to a rust eating level, be careful as it will eat clothes and skin. Wear eye protection too. Don’t dump the used solution on the ground as it will kill anything that is trying to grow for years.

  • claymore

    Get a big plastic tub add water and some molasses from a farm store. Drop it in and wait agitating the mixture every so often and presto nice rust free weapon.

    Used all the time on old hot rod parts.

  • WildBillB

    but did it shoot?

    • Hammersmith

      Of course it did. Soviets (and Yugoslavs) built weapons with large tolerances, and from the pictures I see the spring is intact, and since the firing pin is a part of the bolt block ie does not move on its own, there is no reason that such a simple weapon that was made to last (seen the plastic that holds the trigger group? indestructible) would not shoot.

  • Justin_GA

    “I have advised him to look into the legal ramifications of his find, and to turn it over to the authorities or destroy it is he cannot legally own it. It is almost never worth keeping an illegal gun, the penalties are just too high.” –Thats why you burry it in your neighbors yard silly!

  • j


  • Seth Martin

    The thing probably still works…

  • macmechanic

    This is why you should pour motor oil in your gardens & flower beds

  • Boko Hos

    “I have advised him to look into the legal ramifications of his find, and to turn it over to the authorities or destroy it is he cannot legally own it” Is the imbecile writing these articles bucking for a job under Eric Holder or just the dumbest motherfucker that evre wrote a gun article?