Yugoslavia's M59/66 SKS Sniper Rifles as used during the Bosnia Civil Wars


True Sniper rifle? 

Information obtained from an ex JNA Sniper indicates my rifle as pictured above was known to have been used as a designated marksman's/observer's rifle as part of a M76 Sniper team and is correct with the rear mounted M89 Scope, though usually this setup was used on the Yugo M82 RPK rifles.  More likely the optics on these rifles are a field expedient addition with locally available optics added by a militia member or freelance sniper. SKS rifles are not normally considered to be precision firearms and certainly not sniper rifles, but one must consider that combatants in this war had to be resourceful. Many, especially on the Muslim side used any weapons or optics they could find. At the onset of the war the Muslim militia often only had one rifle per two persons. Most professional snipers targeted only military personnel, but there were large numbers of freelance snipers during the Bosnia conflict. Unfortunately civilians including women and children were often targeted by these freelance Snipers on both sides. A rifle used as such probably should actually be considered an assassins rifle rather than a sniper rifle. An example of one tactic using a scoped rifle that was reported during the war, was to shoot out the windshield of a leading vehicle of a motorcade to stop them for a grenade attack. Most of these older rifles with optics were known to be used as sniper's weapons, but probably used in other ways dependent on the mission at hand. 

Here are a couple examples of Yugo SKS rifles that had optics. One found in the Interordnance imports from Croatia and the other in the Century Arms shipment from Bosnia. 

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Great pictures provided by Gene Whitehead on the left. Note the extended butt pad on Gene Whitehead's rifle. This may suggest use of a scope needing longer eye relief such as a ZRAK M76 Sniper scope.  Great picture provided by Gene! Rifle pictured at right was done by Eric Weyant and is the rifle now in my personal collection. Thank you Eric!



It is believed there were about 30 or less Yugoslav M59/66 SKS rifles imported  into the United States from Bosnia and Croatia that came outfitted with various scope mounts. Optics were missing and only the mounts were present on any of them. Reportedly Inter-Ordnance found Less than 10 rifles fitted with early ZRAK ON-2 scope mounts. These resemble a reverse PU Russian mount. The Inter-ordnance rifles were first spotted in their initial inventory before importation. Later in the Spring of 2002 Century Arms apparently sorted from their inventory about 20 Yugo SKS rifles that had various mountings for optics. These were offered through their "Odd Lots" listings, but apparently only about one rifle was allotted per customer representative and most of the few rifles available were quickly sold to customers before the Odd Lots listing was even made public. Apparently some may have slipped by the importer with shipments of regular SKS rifles. At least one regular Yugo SKS came to a dealer and out of the importers box with a rail mount welded in place. 

These rifles had a variety of mountings including the ON-2 mount and various Rail Mounts. The rail mounts were mounted both toward the forward part of the receivers and others to the back part of the receivers. The mounting location probably was dependent on the type of scope used and the original purpose of the rifle. Actual number of these rifles with mounts imported into the United States is not truly known. There is no supporting documentation, only speculation.  It could be less than thirty or as many as 100. Whatever the number is, these original variants of the Yugoslavian M59 SKS rifle are certainly rare finds and collectors should make an effort to keep documentation of the original importation with each of these rifles to verify the imported configuration. Even if there were as many as 100 sniper SKS rifles imported into the United States, that is still a small percentage of 15,000 to 40,000 total SKS rifles imported. Fakes and representative reproductions will be easy to make and will certainly show up in the collectors market. Inter-ordnance advertised and sold a Yugo M59/66 SKS Sniper Rifle with a 6x42 Russian sniper scope mounted. These are nothing more than sporters made up by Inter-Ordnance for the American market but nice rifles just the same.

A few more examples

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Sniper in my collection with scope rail mounted at rear of receiver believed to be a field expedient mount for a M89 scope.  Picture of Vic Thomas's SKS sniper with forward mounted scope rail. M89 or M76 scope could have been used, but these most likely used Yugo Produced Night Vision optics. Scope rail on Ken Buch's Yugo Sniper. Note this one has 5 mounting screws instead of the 4 of the others.  The reverse PU mount for the ON-2 Scope. Picture provided by Gene Whitehead.


Post-5-73605-SKSSniper.jpg (80463 bytes) Post-5-73606-skssniper2aa1.jpg (272628 bytes) At left is a restored Sniper rifle in Paul Pelfrey's collection. It came out of the importers box with the mount welded in place. Thanks Paul.



Above is yet a different type of mount. Appears to be a different version of an ON-2 mount. Thank you to Craig
Houchins for the pictures of the mounts on his Yugo Sniper. 

Rail Mounted Optics

The rail found on most of the imported Yugo SKS snipers is 14mm wide. This is the same width of the Russian scope rails for the SVD and AK series of rifles. The only problem is the lack of a center groove for the stop pin of the Russian set-up therefore Russian optics are not correct. There was a known issue SKS variant used by the Serbian military intended for urban counter terrorist work. This SKS rifle used Yugo produced Night Vision Optics and optional silencer. The rail found mounted forward on some of the SKS rifles pictured on this website are believed to be for these night vision optics. Phillip Bryant provided me some information on the Yugo Night Vision from an SFOR Theater manual printed in 1997. 


"Passive Individual Weapon Sight, Model PN 5x80
Range: 600 m personnel; 1.8km vehicles

The passive night sight model PN 5x80 was first
observed in the
former Yugoslavia in 1978. The PN 5x80 was observed
again in
1981, mounted on the M73 sniper rifle. The PN 5x80 is
used for
night observation and small-arms firing. The sight
uses a
three-state intensifier coupled with fiber optics and
has a bright
-source protection feature that turns the intensifier
off in periods
of excess illumination. As soon as the operating light
level is
regained, the device turns on automatically."

Picture of  Passive Individual Weapon Sight, Model PN 5x80

from the 1997 SFOR Theater Manual

I have lost the Picture provided by Phillip Bryant of the Yugo Night vision optics from teh 1997 SFOR Manual, nor do I know how to get in touch with him. Anyone who has any picture of this scope or Phillip Bryant if you see this,  I sure could use a picture for the website. help please. 

 Though these rifles with the forward mounted rails are known to have used the Yugo Night vision optics, another, but less likely possibility is a field expedient use of a ZRAK ON-M76 scope. The eye relief would be correct and the mount used with the ON-M76 scope on the M76 snipers will also fit this simple mounting rail. There would have been a problem with the range finding capability of the M76 scope on an SKS. The M76 sniper scope has a range finder reticule for the 8mm cartridge and so best used on it's intended rifle the M76 Sniper and was used on some M48 Mauser rifles. For examples of the ON M76 optics see the companion webpage on the M48 Sniper Rifles linked at the bottom of this page. A small number of the SKS snipers imported from Bosnia had the attached rails for optics mounted at the rear of the receiver. These are believed to have been a field expedient rifle used with the ZRAK M89 2 1/2 power optics. These rear mounted rail was perfect for the M89 scope system as they needed a shorter eye relief as used on the RPK series of rifles and thus worked well mounted as far rearward as possible. The Zrak M89 scope is ideal for the SKS as it is factory made with a range finding reticule calibrated for the 7.62x39 SKS cartridge.  At  2 1/2 power, it is an ideal scope for the short range of the 7.62x39 round. There is some variety in the rail mounting by length or hole placement, so not sure if these rails are universal or field expedient for mounting a M89 Scope on the SKS. They could just be original night vision optic rails modified for use of the M89 scope. The thickness of this simple rail mount perfectly centers the M89 scopes on an SKS. The original rail provided by the ZRAK factory with each M89 scope was designed for the M82 RPK rifles. The original M89 rail can be adapted for use on an SKS rifle and has been found on a couple of the imports, but it will not correctly center the M89 scope on an SKS rifle causing accuracy problems at longer ranges.   Note the the M89 scope and mount slides from the rear onto the original factory rail. With the simple thick rail seen on most of the SKS snipers, the M89 scope mount slides on from the front requiring a very tight adjustment of the mount's lockup. Except for the early days of the war, rifles became plentiful during the Bosnia conflict. Optics where more scarce. As indicated by the variation in mountings, most of these SKS sniper rifles were probably field expedient conversions done only after the optics were located by Militia members or individual riflemen. The M89 scope was probably the scope most seen on the Yugo SKS sniper rifles. 


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Zrak M89 Scope mounted on Ken Buch's Yugo SKS rifle.  Picture of Zrak M89 Scope from Jason Denny Export scope cap on left, Serbian scope cap on right. 


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ON-M89 Scope with original Tritium plate for low light use.  

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7.62x39 range finding reticle in M89 Scope


ON-2 Scope Mount

The ON-2 Mount and scope is an early optics mounting made by Zrak of Sarajevo Bosnia made before the outbreak of the Bosnia and Croatia Civil Wars of the 1990s.  The ON-2 mount resembles a Russian PU mount secured by a ball and socket arrangement as used on the Model 91/30 Mosin Nagant Sniper rifles, but mounted in reverse.  One might think that Russian optics could have been used with this mount, but that is very unlikely.  Other than arms supplied by Iran, Malaysia, and Turkey shipped throughout the war into Bosnia through Croatia, the Bosniac Muslim Militia used weapons already on hand, repatriated from the Yugoslav Territorial Defense, or perhaps captured from the Bosnian Serb Military.   Yugoslavia had vast munitions factories and weapons storage in place before the war and had plenty of weapons available to support the Bosnian Serb forces. A small number of Russian forces actually took part in the International Peace Keeping force in Bosnia. Furthermore, The Russian PSO/PU is very tall and using that setup on an SKS would be very uncomfortable to shoot. The ON-2 is an old scope now out of production by Zrak. Examples of the Yugoslav made ON-2 scope would have certainly been available in the region or still found mounted to Military or Territorial Defense weapons in Bosnia. These older scopes would be very hard to come by today as most found by IFOR were destroyed. The ON-2 used a robust mount and another theory is that some older night vision equipment was mounted using the ON-2 mounts. 1960's era night vision scopes were big and some what short range making the SKS an ideal rifle for this use. 

Picture of Zrak ON-2 Scope and mount from Paul Tamony

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bos_flag.gif (15599 bytes) kenbuch2ok.jpg (29789 bytes)
Old coat of arms based on the former Muslim flag, with a bend and six fleur-de-lys.  After the war,  SFOR replaced this coat of arms as the Serb and Croat populations were not properly represented by arms based on the Muslim flag.    

Fleur-de-lys as found carved on Ken Buch's SKS sniper indicating Muslim soldier usage. Many of the Century arms rifles have various militia made markings indicating import from Bosnia.  Collector Paul Pelfrey has a well used Yugo SKS 'not a sniper' that has Visegrad scratched into the stock. A Town in Bosnia that reported "ethnic cleansing" or act of genocide at the onset of the war. A mass grave was excavated there.  Many SKS rifles from Ohio Ordinance show markings indicating import from Croatia and still retain Police confiscation tags. 

? Other optics used ?

   Sold on Ebay auctions was a RPG scope that had been modified by the Bosnians for sniper usage on an AK rifle.  It was removed from a Yugo AK rifle in Bosnia and brought back to the United States by an SFOR soldier.  It is feasible this scope could have been used mounted to an SKS also. Mounted on an SKS the scope is offset to left and prevents the spent casings from damaging the optics.  Unfortunately an SKS with this mount would be awkward to shoot placing the scope very high, but it would still be a plausible configuration as the Bosniacs were very resourceful.  Another possibility is a commercial scope. Phillip Bryant spent two years in Bosnia. One contact of his in the Bihac region informed him that they used 4X commercial optics on their SKS rifles. Several other contacts indicated they used anything they could get their hands on. Though none have been found in the recent import of SKS rifles from Bosnia or Croatia, commercial ChiCom 4x scopes were reportedly obtained and used in Bosnia. Perhaps even supplied by sympathetic IFOR Soldiers. Bosnians were quite resourceful, so again, anything is possible. 

An interesting rifle from the same imports from the Adrian Van Dyke collection. 

This rifle may have used RPG7 optics. Anyone know?

Adrian I have lost the two pictures of your rifle. If you see this please email them to me as I would like to add them back to the restored website. 



A Nice set of Yugo SKS Sniper rifles from Richard in New York and yet another mystery mount

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This is a great set of pictures from the collection of "Richard in New York". Click on the image for the full page. 

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One of Richards rifles has a Mystery scope rail. It is wider than a standard Zrak optics rail. Do you know what optics will fit this?


Here is a set of Yugo SKS Sniper rifles submitted by a Gregory Kupar of PA. One rifle using the original M89 scope rail.

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Some nice wood on this one! 

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Zrak Scope mounting base with four mounting screws. 

sksb.jpg (192156 bytes) 

At first thought this carving might have been related to the Flag of Independent Bosnia in 1878 used during it short time of independence. Thus symbolic for the events of the 1990s. But most likely it was related to Turkish Mujahideen in Bosnia. Same symbol is on the current Turkish Flag.

skssniper.jpg (162393 bytes)

This is also a ZRAK mount, but this mount was designed for an AK style rifle. The stock would have had to be inletted for the mounting plate under the wood line. 

Old news photos of the Bosnian Army Muslim Brigade

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* Click Here *  Yugo SKS rifle accessories, parts and  other yugoslavia  related militaria for sale

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From a friend on the C&R listserve: 

"What is war about, pain death and destruction. The Question one might ask is
what type hardships did this rifle see and undergo...Never glorify war,
understand what men are forced to do for their country and their
survival. Yours is not to approve, yours is to teach living history to others.
Every sword has two edges , every story two sides, you hear what your told
to hear, your duty is to hear the truth weather you approve or not of
what you find." Powers I. 

A big thank you to everyone who provided the above pictures and information. Also thank you to both http://www.gunboards.com/ and http://www.milsurpshooter.net/. Without these websites and their forums contacts with other collectors about these rifles would not have been possible.  

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