Zastava M88A Review

Zastava M88A Review

This morning I got to spend some time at the range with an old friend and his newly acquired Zastava M88A.  This is a Serbian made pistol that is generally considered military grade and chambered in 9mm.  As promised, I fired the pistol a few times in order to provide a review for those of you considering an inexpensive addition to your collection or a starter gun for some folks.

The Price

The Zastava M88A is selling right now for less than $200 at most firearms stores in the USA.  When you purchase the Zastava you receive a cardboard box with no padding, a wire brush, two magazines and one pistol.  If you were looking for molded plastic contoured to the shape of the weapon and special places for storing other items then you are going to be sorely unimpressed, possibly even disappointed.  The thing to remember is that you just forked over $200, not the standard $450-$600 that we spend on most handguns.

The Condition

Even factory new this weapon looks old.  It’s not clean and it’s not lubricated.  You will certainly need to take the time to tear it down and clean it, then apply liberal amounts of lubrication when you put it back together.  My buddy, who is very new to firearms, didn’t know that he needed to do this so the weapon arrived at the range with nothing more than a snort of WD-40 into the receiver.  Not a good start, but also a good chance to really see how durable this weapon is and how well it fires under difficult conditions, simulated of course.

The Magazines

We loaded up both magazines and remarked at how loose the springs seemed.  One was worse than the other, and later we would have to open it up and stretch the spring, but at the time we decided to see if we could ride it out.  All loaded up the magazines felt very small, thin and quite possibly “delicate” compared to the hunk of metal they were meant to feed.

The Pistol

The Zastava M88A is actually quite small in your hand.  Even with the magazine firmly seated my hands swallowed it like a compact carry weapon.  The weight however was quite a surprise.  This is a heavy pistol for it’s size in my opinion.  When you look at the specs you will find it is actually heavier than my .40 cal Ruger SR40, which is considered heavy even though it is a larger pistol.

Features of the Zastava

The Zastava M88A features a slide release, large flip/slide safety and ambidextrous magazine release.  Racking the slide is a bit of work, but considering this one had not been cleaned and oiled, that may be something that goes away with proper care and maintenance.  One interesting thing to note is that the pistol will NOT dry fire without the magazine in place.  I didn’t try to fire with a chambered round and no mag, perhaps next time I’ll remember to try that out.  The metal sights on the Zastava have absolutely zero dots or anything else to assist in aiming.  Just like my old Daisy BB gun, it’s a simple as lining up the metal bar all the way across and letting it fly.

Firing the Zastava

This gun shoots STRAIGHT.  I lined up for a shot dead center between the eyes from about 25 feet and I’ll be darned if I didn’t look like old Wyatt Earp when that hole appeared in the red dot center.  I shoot really well, but I was really NOT expecting that kind of accuracy from the Zastava.  A few more shots down the range and it was pretty obvious that this weapon was on the mark.  The trigger is mushy and a bit grainy and the small frame of the pistol makes it harder to control when it kicks, but again, it’s damned accurate….when it fires.

The Problems

We ran into a few different issues with the Zastava during our outing today.  The first issue was that the pistol started misfeeding.  After the spent casing would eject the next round wasn’t being chambered.  You pull the trigger and instead of a satisfying BANG followed by hole in paper, you get NADA.  When the misfeeds didn’t harass us we would get stovepipe ejections on spent casings or, towards the end of the day, issues with the magazine not staying seated in the pistol when the slide is cycled.  All in all the problems started outweighing the fun and we had to put the Zastava away.


I really don’t know how well the Zastava performs when it is properly cleaned and oiled.  That being said the Zastava’s claim to fame is that it is a military grade pistol that is meant to operate under extreme conditions and without anything more than a battlefield cleaning.  At this time although I feel it is a very accurate weapon, I don’t feel it is an entirely reliable weapon.  In my line of business, reliability is the bread and butter.  Pulling your Zastava on an intruder or attacker will scare most people away, but if the person persists you better hope that this is one of the times that your Serbian sidearm decides to play well with others.

I wouldn’t recommend buying this one unless money is by FAR the motivating factor.  I would probably steer someone toward the Hi-Point instead.  I know my buddy is already considering trading up after firing my Ruger SR40.

3/5 – Look and Feel

5/5 – Accuracy

3/5 – Ease of Maintenance

4/5 – Shooting Enjoyment

2/5 – Reliability

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One Response to Zastava M88A Review

  1. JClayhill says:

    I have had a Zastava M88a for about 6 months. Mine also shoots dead on. Unlike the above review, I’ve had no problems with any of the different types of ammo I’ve run through it and found it to be very reliable. It shot great right out of the box even before a good cleaning. The trigger isn’t as nice as my CZ 9mm, but after a few rounds you don’t seem to notice it. It is a small gun, but not like those uncomfortable cracker jack box guns where you can only get two fingers around the grip. Very nice fit for a medium to large sized hand. I haven’t noticed any problem with the weight of the gun. It’s so thin and easy to conceal it isn’t a factor to me. If you like a single action auto type gun it would be hard to beat, especially for the price (paid 220 for mine).

    It was impossible to find spare magazines for my M88a, so after reading a Norinco 213 mag would work I bought one and tried it. It wasn’t perfect would not seat properly in the gun. I had to file it in two different areas to adjust it, but now it works fine. Until they start importing regular M88a magazines it looks like the only option, but expect to do some adjusting.

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