EXCLUSIVE: The Century Arms Zastava M70A
Serbian Technology At It’s Finest!
By J.B. Wood
The Zastava M70A features an all-steel frame. It tips the scales
at only 2.2 pounds when fully loaded!
If Fedor Vasilevich Tokarev were still around, he would be amazed — and pleased, I’m sure — his pistol design from 1927 is still being made. A little history lesson here: After official testing in 1929, the original Tokarev pistol was adopted by the Russian military and became its official sidearm in 1930. It was very slightly redesigned in 1933.
After World War II, versions of the pistol were also made in China, and in several USSR satellite nations — including Poland, Romania, and what was then Yugoslavia. The Yugo version was notable for having a slightly taller grip-frame and a 9-round magazine. For those who like to use the Tokarev for practical purposes, it became a go-to firearm.
Over the years, there’s been an occasional surplus pistol available now and again. Today, thanks to Century International Arms, we have brand-spanking-new production handguns from the Zastava factory in Kragujevac, Serbia. Chambered in the original 7.62x25mm, it’s offered as the Model 57, or, as the one pictured in this feature, the Model 70A in 9mm.
Russian gun designers have always kept in mind two factors: Siberian winters and congealed oil. Because of this, the classic Tokarev has a full-reach, non-inertia firing pin. In the new Zastava production, this factor has been addressed by the addition of a superb slide-mounted manual safety.
When turned downward beside the clearly marked big “S,” the system blocks the firing pin, shields its head from the hammer face and disconnects the trigger bar from the sear. Bottom line: If you’re carrying with a round in the chamber, heed the warning in the well-written manual, and use the manual safety!
For those who are “green” and fail to check the chamber when unloading, there’s a very effective auto-safety to block the trigger bar when the magazine is taken out. Alas, this darling of the legal weasels is mounted on a mainframe cross pin, and is not routinely removable. So, just know it’s there, and plan accordingly. It does have some use: If the magazine is stored separately, the pistol can’t be fired.
This small laser sight from Century Arms attaches to the frame
magnetically. J.B. noted recoil didn’t affect it.
J.B. couldn’t get over the fact this little laser sight from
Century Arms had a retail price of around $55!
Some writers have dismissed the Tokarev as merely a copy of an earlier Browning design. I have always vehemently disagreed. I will say though, Tokarev wisely borrowed the linked falling-barrel locking system — along with countless others since! And, cosmetically, the general outline is similar to Browning’s FN Model 1903. Otherwise, the Tokarev is entirely different.
One striking example is the en bloc firing system, a separate unit containing the hammer, sear, disconnector and the attendant springs. When the slide is off the frame, the unit can simply be lifted out, for cleaning or other maintenance.
This presents an interesting question: Charles Gabriel Petter used a similar system in his design of the French 1935 Service pistols. Did he, perhaps, see a Tokarev, or just think of it separately? We’ll never know.
The other features of the Zastaca M70A are all pure Tokarev. Construction is all-steel, and the finish is a nice European blue. The internally latched grip panels are polymer, with vertical ridges. The push-button magazine release is in the usual location, on the left side at the rear of the triggerguard. An external latch holds the slide open after the last shot.
The rowel-type external hammer has a good projection at the top, to make cocking easy. Both front and rear sights are dovetail-mounted, so lateral adjustment can be made simply. The sight picture consists of U-notch and square post. On top of the slide, the area from the front sight to the ejection port is lined to prevent glare. On the longer grip-frame, there’s ample room on the frontstrap for all three fingers of the average hand.
This 5-shot group of 2.5″ came from 15 yards —
more than adequate for home- or vehicle-defense.
Seven yards, 1-hand hold. Note the fifth shot, just below the “A” in “Champion.”
The smooth, rounded trigger has no annoying ridges. On my pistol, the easy take-up is about 1/8″. According to the Lyman Electronic Gauge, let-off is 6 pounds, with minimal over-travel. My M70A is brand-new, so it will likely settle in at around 5 pounds with some use. This is a good level for practical use. It’s not supposed to be a serious target pistol.
Even so, it did well at the range. I tried it with several loads, and it had no problem with hollowpoints. At 7 yards, with a 1-hand hold, it put four rounds in the 8″ black and one low left. Cartridges were 115-gr. JHP Plus-P loads from Black Hills Ammo. Even with this hot load, the felt recoil was minimal.
Using a 2-hand hold and a casual rest, I tried one target at 15 yards — an MTM Shooting Stick. The cartridges, a 123-gr. full-jacketed load from GECO of Germany, printed a neat 2.5″ group, well centered, with two in the “1” ring.
I also tried a great little accessory from Century Arms, a very small laser sight able to magnetically attach to the steel frame. It worked perfectly, recoil didn’t loosen it and this marvelous device has a retail price of around $55. Now, the other important figure: the pistol itself sells for about $299.
The 10-shot M70A is a little large for deep concealment, but it would be an excellent option for car or home. With a fully loaded magazine, it tips the scales at 2.2 pounds, feeling awfully comfortable in the hand.
The push-button magazine release is in the usual location, on the
left side at the rear of the triggerguard. Safety is shown on safe.
Takedown of the M70A is straightforward. Just be sure you
have the proper tools to avoid a headache!