May 13, 2019
At core basically a Mauser K98k built in Slavic regions, the M24/47 is a post-World War II update of the earlier M24. It is a Mauser 98 knockoff, if you will, that was manufactured at the Kragujevac Arsenal in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia and now Serbia) beginning in 1924.
After World War II, many existing M24s were rebuilt with new 23.4-inch barrels and stocks of walnut, teak, or other available hardwood. Since the project kicked off in 1947, the rebuilds were dubbed M24/47s. A lot of these rifles were churned out of the Kragujevac Arsenal—now renamed “Zastava”—continuing into the early ’50s. However, as the newer standard-issue Mauser M48 became readily available, most of the reconfigured M24/47 battle rifles saw little use.
As a result, M24/47s are typically in outstanding condition but have little sentimental value or historic panache. They are ideal shooters.
The bulk of M24/47 importation to the United States occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and many are in prime condition. It’s worth noting that the Yugoslavian arsenals, prepping the rifles for a half-century of storage, applied Cosmoline with shocking generosity. Removing it all effectively can be a monumental task.
Yugoslavia’s M24/47 features an intermediate-length Mauser-type action, a five-round staggered box magazine, a straight bolt handle, dual opposing locking lugs, and a full-length rotating claw-type extractor. A rather large hinged pull-catch at the left rear of the action allows bolt removal.
The safety is a three-position type. Rotated to the far right, it locks the bolt and blocks the firing pin. In the center position, the bolt may be opened to clear the chamber and unload the rifle, but the firing pin is still blocked. Like many battle rifles of yesteryear, when in this vertical center position, the wing-type safety also blocks the line of sight, serving as an instant reminder should the user forget to disengage the safety before trying to fire the rifle. Far left, of course, is the “Fire” position.
Like all others of its ilk, the M24/47 features a stripper clip guide and thumb cutout to facilitate rapid reloads. A cleaning rod resides beneath the barrel, and the three-quarter-length stock is fitted with a heat-guard upper half.
The sights are robust and effective for rapid work up close. Their somewhat coarse nature enables them to function in low light, but they don’t favor accuracy. A good rifleman with excellent vision may milk best-possible groups out of an M24/47, but as one friend pointed out, most M24/47s shoot better than their owner can using the issued sights.
Many moons ago, I worked at Gunnies Sporting Goods in Orem, Utah. During slow periods, I spent hour upon hour scouring the Cosmoline from various vintage firearms and categorizing them onto the used-gun rack. While for the most part I couldn’t afford many guns at that time, I was able to cherry-pick an M24/47 with a really nice bore. It’s the rifle used for this report.
A buddy sold me a case of original, corrosive ammo, and I took it out to function-test the rifle. My eyes were young then, and I recall being pleased with the accuracy, but I kept no details about how it shot.
This rifle has matching numbers—those that exist and are visible. Many M24/47s had the original numbers removed from the actions before rebarreling and restocking, so in this case there’s no telling precisely what the action was before the rifle was reworked.
To determine just what this rifle is capable of, I dug up a couple of non-corrosive factory loads and headed to the range. Hornady’s Match 196-grain HPBT is a premium, modern load marked “8x57 JS” in reloadable brass. The other load consisted of an inexpensive 170-grain FMJ bullet manufactured in Romania and sold under the HOTSHOT ammo label.
My middle-aged eyes don’t resolve iron sights like they once did, so before firing, I pressed Birchwood Casey’s aerosol-powered Sight Black into service. It gave the sights a nice glare-free matte black.
Controlling the trigger proved challenging. It’s a two-stage affair, with generous creep and crunch followed by a spongy release. According to my Lyman digital trigger scale, the first “take-up” stage alone weighs 5 pounds, and the second stage breaks at just over 9 pounds.
The Yugoslavians zeroed their battle guns at 200 meters with heavy bullets traveling between 2,400 and 2,500 fps. As a result, many modern loads with light bullets tend to group quite high at 100 yards. That proved to be the case with the Romanian surplus ammo. It didn’t group well, either, making it hard to pin down just how high it impacted, but it was in the neighborhood of 10 inches.
Hornady’s 196-grain BTHP load, however, hit right on the money and averaged a couple inches above point of aim at 100 yards—exactly what one would expect with a 200-yard zero. Even better, it shot well, averaging 2-MOA groups.
Recoil was just shy of zesty, which was a pleasant surprise considering the combination of the relatively heavy projectiles being heaved out the muzzle and the rifle’s unforgiving steel buttplate. I suspect that’s in part due to the modest velocities generated.
Reliability was sterling, but then, it is a Mauser. The ergonomics felt distinctly reminiscent of World War II, if such a statement makes sense. As an everyday shooter, only the trigger was unacceptable. If I were going to shoot this rifle a great deal and wanted to get good results, I’d take it to a gunsmith for a simple trigger job.
Although Yugoslavian M24/47s will never possess the panache or evoke the emotion of a Springfield M1903 or a German Mauser M98, remember the repurposed actions they are built on were pre-war Serbian Model 24s and Belgian M1924s. You can’t see beneath the sterilized surfaces and fresh markings, but there’s a good chance that the action—the heart of your rifle—did in fact see troubled times.
You may never know if yours saw battle, but you can bet it will take massive amounts of abuse and still do just about any shooting task you ask of it.