The M85 NP might just be the best of both worlds.

The M85 NP might just be the best of both worlds.

Early this year, while perusing the quarterly catalog/flyer from Century Arms, I came across a product that piqued my interest. The Zastava PAP M85 NP is advertised as an AK-style pistol chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO feeding from standard AR-15/M-16 magazines.

An AK chambered in .223/5.56mm is not a new item. Such guns have been around for years. The biggest issue I’ve had with .223 AK’s is that they tend to be more expensive to own and shoot than the 7.62x39mm versions. Specially designed .223 AK magazines also have tended to be hard to find and rather costly. Why pay more for the privilege?

Standard configuration Kalashnikov pistols really don’t blow my skirt up, but the advent of the new M47 “stabilizing brace” has changed all that. To be quite frank, the new brace has changed the AK pistol from a quaint novelty to a practical tool.

The current situation with AR-15 magazines is quite positive. Manufacturers have caught up with all of the back orders and AR mags can be had at rather attractive prices. By the same token, .223 Remington ammunition is now plentiful and priced at pre-2008 levels.

Will It Work

I suppose the natural question on everyone’s mind when they seen an AK with an AR magazine sticking out of it is; “Will it actually work?” That was my quandary. Jarrad and I packed our range bags, plenty of .223 ammunition and a variety of AR magazines at head to the Mississippi Combat Training Academy.


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After launching somewhere around 250 to 300 rounds of .223 through the gun this past weekend, I can say “Yes, the gun will run.” But that’s getting ahead of things.

New ErgoGrip AK version fit the hand nicely.

New ErgoGrip AK version fit the hand nicely.

For testing purposes we had GI aluminum magazines from Brownells, PMags from MagPul, and even a SureFire MAG5-60 sixty round version. The test ammunition came from ASYM, Black Hills, HPR, Silver Bear and Winchester.

This particular PAP pistol arrived at my favorite gun shop with an SB47 stabilizing brace in place and the Krinkov-style muzzle brake attached. Both of those items are options.

Prior to departing for the range I attached a Galco SLC strap to the gun. The last modification I made was to swap the factory pistol grip for a new version from ErgoGrip. As someone with full sized man hands, I really appreciated the feel of the new Ergo pistol grip. The grips are inexpensive and easy to install; a definite two-thumbs up.

Some Good and Bad

The fabricated AR magazine well on the M85 is a bit snug for polymer magazines. The TAPCO mags fit very tightly and the PMags were a bit better. Aluminum magazines fit well. Other than the SureFire MAG5, the magazines did not drop free after hitting the release button.

As far as an Achilles heel, all of the PAP AK pistols I’ve encountered have the same issue; marginal sights. The rear sight has two settings; 200 and 400.  I can only assume that means “meters”. The front sight is standard AK design. Out of the box the gun shot low and left approximately eight to ten inches when fired from fifty yards. This is the same issue I had with the 7.62x39mm version. For the latter I exchanged the standard front sight with an XS Sights Tritium post and adjusted the windage with an AK sight tool.

Considering the .223 M85, I believe I’ll take another tact. My friend Troy Storch at Midwest Industries informed me that they do indeed have an aluminum replacement handguard for the PAP pistols.  Midwest also makes dedicated top covers for their handguards that are built for specific optics. Adding an Aimpoint Micro T1 should be just what the doctor ordered. Yes, you can indeed use an AK sight adjustment tool to drift the windage drum and tweak the elevation post. I suppose I’m just spoiled by using optics.

M85

We posted some sneak preview pictures of the M85 on our Facebook and Instagram pages that, surprisingly, created some confusion. Many people thought we converted the gun in house by adding a mag well. I knew I needed to get this initial review up sooner versus later. The upgrade with the M.I. rail system and a DuraCoat finish will follow at a later date.

As for manufacturer’s specifications, the M85 NP has a 10 inch barrel, weighs 6.4 pounds unloaded, has an overall length of 29.5 inches as you see it configured here. The gun is classified as a “handgun” and not available in any of the several Slave States in our Union (NY, CT, CA, NJ, MA, etc.) The Century Arms website states that they ship with two 30 rounds magazines. Mine arrived with Tapco versions. A hinged top cover is a classy touch and the bolt and charging handle are stainless steel.

The M85 NP will accept all AR-15 mag, including this 60 round version from SureFire.

The M85 NP will accept all AR-15 mag, including this 60 round version from SureFire.

Before sitting down to pen this piece we spend about three hours on the range with the M85 pistol. Several shooters took turns running the gun.

Not The Guns Fault

Two issues were encountered and neither was really the fault of the gun. A failure to feed occurred while using a surplus GI mag. The mag was in my range bag and got thrown into the mix. Upon close examination, I realized that I’ve had it since my first time on active duty in the USMC.

The second stoppage occurred with a piece of the Winchester USA (white box) brass stuck in the chamber. Close examination of the casing showed that the rim had failed (pulled off in one area). One of the other shooters with us that day had an identical experience with Winchester USA in .308. The case rim on the cartridge failed and it got stuck in the chamber. Sadly, QC on bulk training ammo seems to be in the toilet.

Other than those two issues, the M85 ran like a champ. The SureFire MAG5 60 round magazine fed the gun with no trouble at all.  Felt recoil was very mild and certainly no more than you might feel from an M4 type carbine. The manual safety was a bit stiff but not so much so that it could not be operated. That component has the bolt hold open notch that is common on Zastava AK’s.

While we are looking forward to much more range time with the M85 Np, we are pleased to report that the gun runs well, is built tough, and had a promising future. Word to the wise, if this gun interests you, order one sooner versus later. If recent events have taught us anything it should be that he who hesitates is lost.

Tell us your thoughts on AK pistols, the stabilizers, and anything else gun related in the comments below. Don’t forget to share this with your friends, too.

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Paul

Founder & President at Student of the Gun
Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.