Croatian Bolt Hold Open Magazines for AK-47

Honestly, I am surprised that General Kalashnikov did not purposefully put in a bolt-hold open mechanism into an AK or its magazines. Recognizing the potential advantages of the system, the Yugoslavians built the functionality into their magazine. Sadly, Yugo magazines are expensive (I consider $25 expensive for an AK magazine) and can be harder to find.

Photo courtesy of WeaponTech, which has their own special followers that convert other magazines.

Photo courtesy of WeaponTech, which has their own special followers that convert other magazines.

Jerking the Trigger posted up a source for new Croatian magazines which are currently available for $10.95. The Magazines are in VCI (not cosmoline) to prohibit rust. The Croatian magazines are a direct copy of the Yugo design.

For those looking to modify their own. MrGunsnGear has a good video on the functionality of the magazines and the required modifications (Note- He uses Yugos, but they are functionally identical).

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • noob

    a nice feature for ranges that insist on hold open or chamber flag (or both) to show clear.

  • Esh325

    I’ve heard different reasons why some firearms didn’t opt for BHO’s. Less chance of foreign material getting into the chamber and jamming it up? Simplier/cheaper/ more reliable? But maybe being more reliable is a kind of a silly theory because I’ve honestly never heard of any failures in modern firearms being related to BHO’s. I believe one prototype of the Yugo AK actually had an integral bolt hold open, which they later opted for just a BHO magazine.

    • dp

      In my way of understanding, this is probably carry-over from pistols, therefore is supposed to speed up reloading. At the same token, and as you say there is more complexity and more things to go potentially wrong (consider how far you pull bolt at initial charging and how far from fresh round it is held by Hold-Open-Device as I am used to call it).

      • JNA

        Yugo AK’s function the same way as any other AK in that sense, as soon as you take down the magazine, the bolt carrier goes forward. The M70B1/AB2 doesn’t have a safety lever with a notch that holds the bolt open without a magazine.

        Also, almost every republic of the former Yugoslav federation including Croatia, had factories which produced AK (M70) magazines, so basically these recently produced ones are the real deal, since they never stopped stamping these.. i.e. they’re not a copy.

    • n0truscotsman

      They just didn’t want to include a BHO. Caveman simplicity.

      It IS the 21st century now, though. The stoner family should alleviate any concerns about any hypothetical reliability problems associated with a BHO devise.

    • Man pippy

      The BHO is a CRUTCH. It makes shooters rely on it to tell them when to change magazines. When instead they should be counting rounds and weighing the mag in their hand in the lull of battle.

  • dan citizen


  • ValleyForge77

    Imagine if Magpul were able to create their next gen AK MOE Mags with steel lockups/feed lips and a bolt hold open feature – for around $20/per. Ok, yeah, I’m dreaming…

    • RobGR

      Magpul could also just make followers to allow the BHO feature to be used on our old surplus mags. But I guess they don’t want our money, just like Arsenal doesn’t, at least in CA (change SLR to SRL for CA AK fiends!). US Palm could do it as well. I know they make a replacement kit.

    • n0truscotsman

      Supposedly magpul will release mags with steel lips and followers in the future. Im not sure when though.

      I wish Tapco and Pro-Mag would do the same, or if any future US company would just buy some surplus mags, chop them up and copy the damn things piece by piece.

  • bull

    i wonder if the notch in these×660/Primary/137/137198.jpg
    is in the right place to put the safety on then the mag holds the bolt open? then you could put the gun on safe. insert a fresh mag and remove the safety then the bolt will probably strip a fresh cartridge 🙂

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      That’s a Krebs Custom modified AK safety lever ( right-handed model ) that is designed to provide two additional features over the standard AK safety lever :

      1. It enables the firer to operate the safety lever using just his / her index finger while not having to change his / her hold on the pistol grip

      2. The cut-out or detent on the upper right just behind the end tab can be used to manually engage the cocking handle in the rear position, thereby locking the bolt in the full-open position.

      Krebs also offers an ambidextrous version of this safety lever in a slightly different configuration ( but retaining the same features ).

      • dp

        Mac demonstrates this device right here:
        I think it is really slick and lot better than stopping bolt on magazine follower.

        • DiverEngrSL17K

          Thanks for the MAC video post, DP — I have these Krebs safety levers installed on an AK-74 and a VEPR 7.62mm x 54R Tactical Sniping Rifle, and they work very well indeed.

          I would also like to add that I am not necessarily saying that a BHO-equipped AK is better than a standard one without. I have run through the different drills required for both configurations ad infinitum under a wide range of circumstances, including some involving extreme pressure, and have found very little difference in practice insofar as speed and functionality are concerned. It is just a matter of adapting to, and becoming proficient at, your chosen set-up.

          The same applies to the AR reloading drill vis-a-vis the AK reloading drill. While the former theoretically would seem to allow for quicker response, in reality there is little difference between the two when subject to battlefield conditions and pressures, assuming more-or-less equivalent proficiency. In that sense, both sides of the argument ( as we can see in this article ), are equally valid. As Echelon has implied, it is a matter of knowing the drill, and knowing it very well, as one should.

          As far as non-military usage is concerned, Noob made a very good point about the easily-visible safety clearance aspects of the BHO at the range.

    • M

      Unfortunately, I’ve thought of this too and came to the conclusion that the reason no one has done this is that the notch would be at the very tip of the safety. There is not enough metal holding the bolt back and would bend/fail over time

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        Good point, M. However, I can tell you that there should be no concerns about tip failure, at least as far as the Krebs lever is concerned. It is made from heavy-gauge solid steel and the ones I have used have shown no signs of wear after many cycles so far. Comparing the Krebs side-by-side with an OEM lever off of almost any decent AK, there seems to be very little difference in structural quality, so I think the original reason for not previously having a notched lever like this probably lies elsewhere.

        • J.T.

          “so I think the original reason for not previously having a notched lever like this probably lies elsewhere.”

          It lies in the fact that the safety lever for the AK is based on the one for the Remington Model 8 and thus doubles as a dust cover.

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            Good point , J.Y. — thank you. However, the notch in the Krebs lever is small enough that it does not compromise its secondary function as a dust cover while still providing positive engagement for the cocking handle in the BHO position.

            SNMP posted below that he thought that the original intention in not having a BHO for the AK was to keep the weapon simple ( fewer additional parts ) and to maximize prevention of debris ingestion. I did point out that the times when a bolt is held open under battlefield conditions are very brief in duration, and that the bolt goes back into the closed position when reloading is completed, so the likelihood of additional debris intrusion is minimal.

    • echelon

      No offense but I’m pretty sure somebody wouldn’t go to all that trouble in a firefight…I wouldn’t even go to all that trouble on the range.

      Just give me a regular mag and when it’s out I get a click and then I unlock, rock and rack and I’m ready to go. Not as fast as an AR reload, but a simple enough manual of arms…

    • Not quite. You’d have to retract the charging handle just a skosh to engage with the hook in any of these cut selectors I’ve handled.

      Otherwise, it would be extremely difficult to get mags in and out with the bolt locked open, because,m lacking an automatic BHO in teh rifle, what these magazines do is simply pin the bolt back with the magazine follower — i.e., the bolt is already IN the feedway, under tension.

  • DAN V.

    The title is in ebonics.

  • echelon

    These never made sense to me since the mag is what’s holding the bolt open and as soon as you remove the mag the bolt slams shut and you insert the new mag on the closed bolt and have to charge it again anyway.

    Without the gun having an internal mechanism that holds it open even with the mag out this is pointless to me.

    • Gadfly

      You would feel the different recoil and know the gun is empty as opposed to pulling the trigger and getting a click insteed of a bang.

      Yes the bolt closes when the mag is removed, but at least you can feel or see that the gun is now empty. That is a good thing.

      • echelon

        It’s a “meh” for me as far as reasoning goes. AKs and other guns without bho devices all run that way. I’d rather get the click, get the mag out, rock fresh and and charge rather than have to deal with the friction of rocking the mag out that is holding the bolt open and dealing with the closing of the action and then loading it and charging it again.

        I guess it’s just preference. I’ve seen just as many people pull the trigger on an AR or other gun and get the click and then reload so it’s moot to me.

        • Hank Seiter

          Going “click” could get you dead real quick. Think about what you’re saying. Unless you’re willing to do tactical reloads (and who can really count rounds when the SHTF?) all the time, any time you can feel your weapon telling you, “Hey, moron, you’ve run dry”, it’s a good thing.

      • Yellow Devil

        That’s true, and often on the range or out casually plinking, it is easy to “feel” that was your last shot. However, when your adrenaline is rushing and you are moving and shooting, it’s not always as obvious.

        • Man pippy

          Yep, that’s why SAS/DELTA change magazines before they are empty,

    • Mario AK

      The barrel gets better airflow, that’s as relevant as any other point…

      • echelon

        Ok…if I’m in a firefight or whatever I don’t really care about barrel airflow, come to think about it I don’t care about it even now…

        With all due respect I don’t think that’s relavant at all. The AK is a tank of a gun anyway…it doesn’t need any barrel airflow.

        • Mario AK

          Yes, a rifle needs to last for a single gunfight anyway, you’d do well serving in military logistics…

          • echelon

            I’m pretty sure if Kalashnikov and co. had thought it wise to have it hold the bolt open on the last shot they would have. As it stands the historical reliability of the AK is legendary so I just don’t think it’s a valid point. Even when they’ve gone back and added changes such as to the AKM, the AK-74, etc. they haven’t seen the need to add a bho option. Russian military theory is different than Western, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything as far as reliability goes.

            As far as attacking me and/or my intelligence personally? Thanks for that.

          • Mario AK

            I meant no offense, I understand your fascination with the weapon, but it’s no secret it’s a heavily compromised design… Also, the co. you’re talking about are captured German engineers, notably Hugo Schmeisser, comrade K. was probably just there to translate, or worse. The contemporary “improvements” are laughable as well… BTW, my name has no correlation to the subject

          • Mario AK

            Nothing against russians, just to float that out there, they were treated incredibly unfairly in the postwar era, and especially considering how cornered they are today as well…

          • snmp

            Soviet Union have not need the germans know how for build Sheet Metal Stamp weapons like PPSh-41 or PPS 42/43 . If you want realiable smg of Axis Power (WWII) take the Verretta 38A/42 …

          • echelon

            I wouldn’t say I have a “fascination” with it, but it’s design is brilliant for what it was meant to do. One has to bear in mind Soviet era military thinking to appreciate.

            In war everyone steals the spoils of the vanquished so it’s no surprise to see STG44-like features in weapons like the AK, G3, etc. How many handguns are a direct rip off of JMB’s design?

            There are now better ways to mount optics on the platform, more user friendly controls, etc. so I think the improvements have been positive while not compromising the initial design goals of the weapon…

          • Man pippy

            Given the Russians had tons of experience with automatic weapons like the PPSh-41 in WWII. Perhaps the SAS/DELTA practice of changing magazines before they were empty became common practice. So when the AK-47 was designed, a bolt hold open was seen as an unnecessary complication.

          • Hank Seiter

            Well sure, when you’re dealing with farm boy conscripts who are too stupid to close the bolt or the bolt cover in order to keep debris out of the chamber and the lower receiver. All firearms should have BHO devices, particularly those which may be used in defense of life. Though the “fog of war” of the “fog of engagement” may mask the feel of a weapon gone empty, I’m sure more often than not the guy driving the weapon will have some idea when his weapon has gone dry.

          • echelon

            I’m not disagreeing with you in spirit or philosophically, but reality is a different matter. I’m a lefty and I feel that ambidextrous controls should just be designed into every weapon since both lefties and righties will be using the tool and it has benefits such as being able to manipulate the tool with either hand in the case of an injury to the strong or dominant hand/arm, etc.

            But reality is not the same as what I want.

            In the case of the AK here it was designed without the BHO, save for the special Yugo model, so I don’t feel the need to use a magazine that wasn’t designed for it and doesn’t add to the ease of use or operation of the gun and arguably may actually detract from its’ usefulness…

    • Yellow Devil

      Zastava AKs has a cut in the select/cover lever that holds the bolt open to the rear when you manually place the rifle on safe. So this mag may be useful for that or other similar AKs.

      • echelon

        See my post below to a similar statement…who would do this just to change a mag? Especially in a gunfight? When seconds count are you really going to lock the safety up just to capture the bolt and then swap mags just so you don’t have to manually charge the handle?

        I wouldn’t even do that procedure at the range when the standard manual of arms is so simple in the first place. Let’s just look at it for what it is: The AK is not an AR. The AR holds the bolt open and with the drop free mag design it is arguably quicker to change mags. The AK wasn’t designed to work this way and these mags don’t change that fact. Sometimes these mags are harder to change out just because of the fact that the bolt is pressing up against the back of it.

        • Yellow Devil

          You train according to your equipment. It would probable make little to no difference with AKs whether or not it holds open during a firefight since, as you said, there is an extra step anyways to release the mag. The only useful reason I would use the bolt-hold open for my Zastava is to get it visually checked by the range safety.

          • echelon

            Range work and “two way range” work are two totally different things. If you trained to pull the bolt back, engage the safety so the bolt catches in the notch, pull out the empty mag, insert fresh mag, then release safety to disengage bolt and strip a round into the chamber – you are likely dead on the two way range…just sayin…

    • John

      The old Yugo M64 had a bolt stop w/ release lever that interfaced with Yugo mags and was located in front of the trigger guard similar to an ACR. Their AK mag is just a remnant of that design

      • echelon

        Yes I understand and used in conjunction with that particular model it makes complete sense. I just don’t understand why people want to use them on AK variants that do not have that feature…

    • n0truscotsman

      I agree strongly. They’re needlessly redundant to say the least.

      The price point is cheap, so i wonder if they work as well as the very inexpensive, but outstanding, romanian mags?

      • EthanP

        Again, it’s only utility was a range rule requiring an open bolt when the range was cold. A case in the breach was not an option. I used standard mags for shooting.

        • n0truscotsman

          Im with ya, although I believe a better solution is to have the BHO on the rifle, not the magazine. Some AKs (and the Vepr) do have this already. A fairly robust button type located by the trigger.

    • EthanP

      I got mine because some ranges require some form of bolt restraint when the line is cold.

      • echelon

        Ok. That’s a very specific reason. But I’d never go to a range that had that idiotic rule, so it doesn’t apply to me! haha. 🙂

    • Hank Seiter

      Not pointless at all. At least you can feel when the AK runs dry which I think is the most important attribute of bolt hold-opens. Nothing more frightening in a tight spot when the hammer falls on an empty chamber.

      • echelon

        I can see the merit in that wisdom, but nevertheless I see many people continue to pull the trigger on rifles that do have a BHO before they realize they need to change the mag. Under stress, unless you have developed an instinct or reflex to the “feel” of the gun running dry you’re still likely to pull the trigger on an empty weapon…

        In my mind it’s just part of the manual of arms in operating the rifle…

    • Big C

      Check into the vz58-2008! Great gun and built in BHO. No the mags aren’t interchangeable,but I got 5 30rd mags with mine,surplus mags aren’t that expensive.

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        Big C, that’s an excellent recommendation, although you might want to keep in mind that several of us already own or are at least familiar with vz.58’s ( and the century-built vz.2008 ). I myself have two D-technik / CSA vz.58’s and i will fully support you in saying that they are outstanding rifles by any measure. I think the focus of the discussion was simply on the merits — or otherwise — of having a BHO device in an AK, nothing more.

    • Since the bolt is held tight against the back of the magazine follower when these “hold open mags” are used, you have to remove the empty magazine against the clamping pressure of teh return spring. This is harder than in seems, and is just as likely to slow you down. . .

      • echelon

        Exactly the point I was making in another post on here…

  • iksnilol


    BHO is nice but not terribly important to me. I also am not a fan of Croatia but that is a story for another time (highly political).

  • dan

    Not buying anything croation ever…..

  • smartacus

    Im not surprised that General Kalashnikov did not purposefully put in a bolt-hold open mechanism into an AK or its magazines, since he didn’t actually invent them.

  • snmp

    bolt-hold open need more parts & that’s not in Red Army milspec … cause BHO more dirt in the weapon …

    BTW, Some Saiga Rifle and Zastava have the BHO

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      Point taken. Just for the record, the Molot VEPR-12 shotgun comes equipped with a BHO device as standard, along with an ambidextrous safety lever that also enables operation without having to remove one’s firing hand from the pistol grip, a magwell and several other useful features.

      • n0truscotsman

        There were some Saiga “converted AKs” in 7.62 (sold on atlantic firearms) that had the same bolt hold open devise. Its just a button type. Nifty devise in some respects. I don’t fault it for any reason.

        • DiverEngrSL17K

          I seem to remember seeing those on the Atlantic Firearms website quite awhile back — thanks for the jog to the memory! 🙂

  • EthanP

    I have a 20 round Chicom mag that has a hold open. It’s for a non AK but fits the AK. I don’t think they’r still available. Without any internal hold open parts, it works by jamming the bolt. It is harder to remove empty than the standart pattern. Mik Kalashnikov deliberately did not include a hold open. It permits dirt entry and is added complication and expense. As he put it “perfect is the enemy of good enough”.

    • EthanP

      PS: It’s for the Type 68 rifle. Little known outside of China it was issued to reserves.

  • Hank Seiter

    Actually, I was making my own bolt-hold-open AK mags twenty years ago. I noted “the dimple”, dremeled it out and lo and behold the follower can move a quarter inch higher and the bolt catches on the back of the follower. The problem is repeated contact between the bolt and the follower (unless it’s properly hardened) will deform the back of the follower after fifty or so uses.
    BTW, the Chinese had made a 20-round AK-style magazine for an indigenous tanker rifle of theirs some decades ago. It was not manufactured with the dimpled follower stop and it functioned in a similar way. When I bought four of them to try them out (they functioned well in all AK rifles) I was surprised to find the bolts being held back by the follower. A little reverse engineering and I pretty much figured out that it could be done with any Sov-Bloc or standard Chinese 20 or 30 round magazine. It’s pretty cool if you don’t mind the back of the follower getting banged up and it always surprises AK officionados at the range.

  • kent

    trust me AR shooters dont know their emty untill they try to shoot and they feel no trigger,the bolt staying back after the mag is removed is handy,but having the bho on the last round fired is really the POINT! If you dont realise that,well your still a novice…carry on