The Arms company Zastava released the M76 in the mid-1970s. Since then it has become the standard issue rifle for snipers in the Serbian army. During the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, it was used by several sides; it saw action in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.
While the body of M76 is virtually identical to the Kalashnikov AK-47, the rifle featured several modifications. Fire is purely semi-automatic. The barrel has been elongated and strengthened so that the 7.92x57mm Mauser cartridge, which is well suited for long-range use, can be used. Though the M76 fires its bullets at a relatively modest 730 m/s (2395 ft/s) muzzle velocity, the 7.92 x 57 IS cartridge loaded with aerodynamic efficient 12.8 gram (198 gr) military sS ball bullets still offers a supersonic reach of ≈ 910 m (995 yd) under ICAO Standard Atmosphere conditions at sea level (air density ρ = 1.225 kg/m³).
Both the stock and the pistol grip have been modified to make them more comfortable for the shooter. In newer production models the wooden furniture is replaced with synthetic polymer material which offers some storage space for accessories like a cleaning kit and reduces the M76 overall weight by approximately 0.5 kg.
The rifle features mechanically adjustable backup iron sights with a sliding tangent rear sight (the iron sights can be adjusted to a maximum range of 1000 m).
In addition to the regular iron sights, a side-rail on the left wall of the receiver has been added to accept various telescopic sights and night optics.
The typical scope used is a ZRAK M-76 4x 5°10’ scope originally produced in the ZRAK factory in Sarajevo, Bosnia.This optical sight is similar to the PSO-1 4x24 sight used on the Russian SVD rifle and the Romanian I.O.R. LPS 4x6° TIP2 4x24 sight used on the PSL rifle. The reticle illumination of the ZRAK M-76 4x 5°10’ is provided by (radioactive) tritium. The tritium light source has to be replaced every 8-12 years, since it gradually loses its brightness due to radioactive decay.
The M76 is relatively accurate for a semi-automatic rifle. It can achieve 1.5 to 2 Minute of arc or MOA consistent accuracy with appropriate ammunition. Under normal conditions a maximum effective range of 800 m (875 yd) against man sized targets for an average sniper is achievable. The dispersion at 900 m (984 yd) is described as 50 x 50 cm (19.7 x 19.7 in), which is ≈ 1.9 MOA. Under optimal atmospheric and environmental conditions excellent marksmen might use the M76 up to 1000 m (1094 yd). Recoil is described as being modest.
In recent wars, it gained the reputation of an extremely reliable and capable weapon and was intensively used in all combat situations.1
Like with all precision rifles, the user has to take care not to overheat the barrel.