I admit, I have a soft spot for nostalgic guns. I like modern guns, but there’s something about a gun with classic lines that catches my imagination. So when I first saw this Zastava M85 variant with its little Mauser action and oil-finished walnut Mannlicher stock with the steel Schnabel fore-end cap, I just had to hold it in my hands.

It turned out to be quite a practical little rifle. The Zastava M85 is the rifle formerly imported as the Remington 799, and now brought into the country under a new name by Century International Arms. It’s a small-action Mauser, true to its namesake’s double-lug form, with a claw extractor and standard left-side bolt release. It’s very lightweight, at just over five pounds empty, and comes in .22 Hornet, .223/5.56, and 7.62x39mm. I chose 7.62×39 as my caliber of choice, I suppose because I’ve never before shot a bolt rifle in that caliber.

Overall the metal and wood on the M85 is well-finished, though the stock’s checkering is a little shallower than I would prefer. Its overall length is just under 38 inches and it has a light 18-inch barrel, a rear sight that’s adjustable for both windage and elevation, and a hooded ramp front sight. There’s a modern thumb safety, a gracefully-shaped trigger guard, and hinged floor plate. The magazine holds four 7.62×39 and the whole gun is scaled down to match the smaller calibers it’s chambered for. The full-length Mannlicher stock is walnut with a thick rubber butt plate, and includes front and rear QD sling swivels. Surprisingly, the stock has pillars in the wood, though they aren’t bedded in.

In 7.62×39, the M85 is fun to shoot. Its light weight and fast-handling characteristics, combined with the light recoil of the cartridge, work well together. The trigger is reasonable, though not up to the quality of all the improved triggers that recently have taken the bolt-action world by storm.

Accuracy is reasonable. I scoped it with a Bushnell AR 1-4x and low mounts, a suitable arrangement for a lightweight rifle in this caliber. I didn’t expect sub-MOA groups from a Mannlicher-stocked rifle in a caliber not known for accuracy, and I didn’t get sub-MOA groups. What I did get was reasonable hunting rifle accuracy—groups that averaged around two inches at 100 yards. The 7.62×39 cartridge isn’t a long-range rifle round, and that level of accuracy is certainly adequate for the round’s capabilities.

The Zastava M85 is certainly different from the standard offering in modern bolt guns. There is no synthetic stock, no modern box magazine, no high-tech metallurgy, and no modern blade trigger. The M85 is a rifle built as rifles were once built, from wood and steel and with a time-tested action. It won’t appeal to everyone, but there is a market for a more traditional rifle like this. I’m impressed, and beleive this would make a very nice rifle for a youth shooter or smaller person. The caliber I chose is certainly capable of taking deer-sized game within a reasonable distance, and the rifle is easy to carry, comfortable to use, and fun to shoot. It’s a modern rifle with a nostalgic flair, a reminder of times past; a quality rifle for those who don’t want the same rifle everyone else has.

Image by Dick Jones

What's Your Reaction?

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  • Jackson Landers

    Sizing it up as a youth rifle, what is the length of pull?

  • Razor

    Nice rifle! I also love the 7.62×39. I use a sks for deer hunting in thick woods.

  • cmblake6

    I WANT ONE!!!! That thing is gorgeous, and I know this gun shop…

  • cmblake6

    Oh, and those ratings? I’m going to disagree just a bit. 5, 5, 4. 5. That’s just me though. I do love a small ring Mauser in such a caliber.

  • jay

    Is this actually a controlled round feed or a push feed? I’ve seen another review of the monte carlo stock version that said it was push feed.

  • Dan wally

    I have one. Love it so far. Stock needs more finish and checkering to be cut deeper. I am partial to mannlichers. It is not much larger than a 10 22. It is push feed sako style extractor. The bolt is not the smoothest. Metal finish is good.

    • Jack

      I used lapping compound on mine and worked the action for a couple of days and wow it smoothed up nicely, but a good cleaning is required afterward .

  • JayKay

    I bought one and am disappointed. The follower spring broke after 20 rounds and having hard time finding a replacement.

    • Xrider

      Same here,a 7.62X39, bought it from CIA. I have been looking for a follower spring, while waiting for CIA to get me one. About 10 rounds thru a new rifle a couple of months ago, and that’s it, no follower spring to be had.

  • Bought one. It’s junk. Will not eject half the rounds. Bolt has a very sloppy fit and some parts look like they were finished on a bench grinder.

  • Ron Moffett

    I bought one of these. It is a beautiful gun. Bluing is great. I put Danish oil on the stock and it looks great too. Only complaint I have is with the bolt which is very stiff and difficult to operate. Hoping that after many rounds downrange it will loosen up. It can also be very difficult to close. Feels like head space could be off.