Serbia’s Zastava Arms, best known for their AK-pattern M70, have been developing a new rifle for the past couple of years. Back in 2017, TFB reported that they were working on a new rifle chambered in a 6.5mm cartridge. The Zastava M17 is designed to be a more modular rifle, based somewhat on the company’s M05 rifle, which has a railed forend.
The M17 has an AR-style charging handle, rather than the conventional AK handle, it has a monolithic dust cover/gas tube cover with a full-length top Picatinny rail. The rifle also has an adjustable folding ACR/SCAR style stock. Zoran M Susic, Zastava’s marketing and research manager, told Jane’s that “the base for the modular M17 modular AR is the Zastava M05 in the calibre 7.62×39 mm, the system of the Kalashnikov, which is the standard calibre of the Serbian Army and many other countries”.
The new rifle also has a quick-change barrel mechanism with Susic noting that the barrel can be “replaced in less than 60 seconds by a new barrel which fires 6.5×38.7 mm rounds using at present a 20-round magazine, but that this is expected to be replaced by a 30-round magazine in the future”.
In addition to the AR-style charging handle the rifle’s controls are ambidextrous with safety/selector switches on both sides of the receiver. Previous photos, dating back to 2017, show a forend with MLOK points and a 6 o’clock Picatinny rail, the new photos show the rifle with a ribbed rail cover.
Serbian soldier with M17 in DMR configuration (source)Interestingly, it appears that the rifle is now chambered in a proprietary cartridge, 6.5×38.7mm, rather than the original 6.5×39 mm Grendel cartridge. The new round has been developed by Serbia’s Prvi Partizan, an ammunition manufacturer. The new round reportedly has better ballistic characteristics, with a flatter trajectory and more kinetic energy on target out to 800m, according to the Serbian Ministry of Defense.
The New rifle has previously been seen in rifle, carbine and DMR configurations. Check out our original article on the M17 here.