It has been said that the American criminal justice system is the second worst on the planet. It’s simply that everybody else ties for first. The same could likely be said of our gun laws. They are indeed ridiculous, but compared to most of the world, they could be much worse.
As the result of our disjointed amalgam of regulations, we find ourselves with the PAP M85 PV from Century International Arms.
Century has brought American shooters some fascinating weapons. From inexpensive HK clones to Uzis, bargain-priced .22s, Kalashnikovs galore, and an amazing array of tactical handguns, Century can always be counted on to come up with cool iron priced for the Common Man.
And it’s in this vein that they have introduced a new pistol version of the Combloc AKSU carbine.
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ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES
During the Vietnam War, it became apparent that U.S. forces required a shorter, handier version of the M16 service rifle for Special Forces, dog handlers, Aviators, and others. The resulting carbine, the XM-177E2, sported a collapsible stock and ten-inch barrel. Several evolutionary iterations later, this weapon became the M4 that is now ubiquitous in the U.S. military arsenal.
Coincident with much of this development, a similar process was unfolding on the other side of the world. In the mid 1970s, Combloc forces transitioned from the AKM in 7.62x39mm to the AK-74 firing the then-revolutionary 5.45x39mm cartridge. A more compact version of this rifle, with side-folding skeletal steel stock and titled the AKS-74, was soon introduced for use by Airborne forces.
Intended to meet a comparable Mission Essential Needs Statement (MENS) as the XM-177E2, Soviet designers produced a true carbine version of this weapon designated the AKSU or AKS-74U, depending upon whom you ask.
This compact weapon launched service standard 5.45x39mm rifle ammunition from a submachine gunsized platform. Principal changes from the standard-sized service rifle included a barrel shortened to ten inches, the same skeletal stock as the AKS-74, and a newly designed captive top cover that pivots on the trunnion block. Additionally, the rear sight was moved about 4.5 inches rearward and mounted on the top cover to allow for a longer sight radius on the shorter barrel.
At this point our tale intersects with gun laws. In the United States, a weapon must possess an overall length of at least 26 inches and a barrel length of at least 16 inches to earn the designation of rifle or long gun. These rather arbitrary dimensions may seem arcane, yet running afoul of them is good for ten years in the Big House and a $10,000 fine.
Oddly, so long as it does not possess a shoulder stock, a handgun can be most any size, weight or barrel length imaginable. The new PAP M85 PV neatly falls into this tidy niche.
I am a fairly avid student of politics yet have a difficult time keeping up with what exactly became of the former Yugoslavia. One of the interesting byproducts of the breakup of this Cold War-era nation state is a thriving arms industry.
The PAP M85 comes from the Zastava factory in Serbia, so their pedigree for quality is fairly well established. As the weapon is built entirely overseas, it must adhere to a variety of design constraints to remain in compliance with import laws.
In the case of the PAP M85 PV, the chassis is a classic AKSU chambered in 5.56x45mm and sufficiently emasculated to meet the definition of a handgun in accordance with U.S. firearms laws. While the resulting hybrid is a bit awkward and unusual, I must admit that it is quite easy on the eyes.
The PAP series of guns come chambered in 5.56x45mm (M85 PV) as well as 7.62x39mm (M92 PV). Aside from the magazine geometry, the weapons are externally identical. Significant features that differentiate the PAP guns from the milspec AKSU include lack of a buttstock, obvious lack of a fully automatic function, and inclusion of a simple thread protector permanently affixed in place of the AKSU’s conical flash suppressor.
WHAT’S UNDER THE HOOD?
Disassembly is standard AK with a twist. Disassembly and maintenance of a Kalashnikov assault rifle are child’s play. The weapons are legendarily robust and have outfitted regular armies, freedom fighters, terrorists, and malevolent children across the globe for more than half a century.
Having used AKs of countless flavors both within and without the military, the only mildly challenging aspect of maintenance that I have experienced is replacing the top cover after disassembly. While not truly difficult, it can at times take a little body English to get the cover to seat on some Kalashnikov variants.
The PAP negates this problem through the use of a hinged top cover that drops in place perfectly every time. After replacing the bolt and recoil spring assemblies, the operator need only pivot the top cover down and give it a sharp rap to seat it in place.
The only other difference I noted is that the gas tube assembly is retained by a top-mounted detent rather than the pivoting lever of the typical AK rifle. Otherwise, stripping and reassembly are unremarkable. The thread protector is tack welded in place.
BUT HOW DOES IT RUN?
This weapon is a solution to a political requirement, not a tactical one—and it shows. At 6.4 pounds, it is grossly heavy for a handgun. Without a shoulder stock, the innate accuracy potential of the chassis is effectively negated. Any serious student of small arms would employ the weapon with both arms outstretched, sighting grossly over the top of the weapon.
But before you genuine gunmen dismiss it, appreciate that in this configuration it is surprisingly effective. Hits on man-sized targets at CQB ranges are not challenging, and the 35-round magazine keeps the weapon running in semiauto long enough for you to get bored shooting it. There is no recoil worthy of the term.
The M85 PV maneuvers quickly indoors, and the terminal effectiveness of the 5.56x45mm cartridge, even out of a ten-inch tube, eclipses that of .45 ACP from your $2,000 tricked-out 1911.
Magazine changes are classic AK— tip the mag forward to engage, then rock it back to seat in the magwell. The included magazine is a nondescript polymer version of what appears to be a Galil mag.
The standard safety lever incorporates a square cutout so the bolt may be manually locked to the rear for inspection. The charging handle is a rigid part of the bolt assembly and reciprocates with the action. The bolt, barrel, and gas piston are chrome plated as are most Kalashnikovs.
ON THE DOWNSIDE …
Like most things in life, there is a downside. For some unfathomable reason, the M85 PV lacks a rear sling swivel, so there is no way to carry the weapon any appreciable distance. A single-point sling attached to the rear receiver trunnion would make carrying a breeze and greatly enhance controllability. Adding such a contrivance is theoretically possible but mechanically challenging without swapping out the rear trunnion in its entirety.
In addition, without a flash suppressor, muzzle flash from the pistol-length barrel is readily visible from outer space. Likewise, the muzzle blast will loosen your fillings. Cut loose with the thing indoors without hearing protection and you’ll be answering the phone for a month when it’s not ringing.
I scraped up five different ammunition brands and, after about a ten-round break-in period, the PAP digested them all without a hiccup. I cannot get too wrapped around the axle over accuracy in a weapon of this sort. If you need to pick off targets at 100 meters with this, you are in dire straits indeed.
There is a nice luminescent flip-up accessory front sight, and the rear sight is optimistically flip adjustable for 200 and 400 meters. From a rest, the PAP 85 shoots as well as a typical handgun due to its rifle sights and ten-inch barrel, and I will leave it at that.
Surprisingly enough, in practical use at typical handgun ranges, the M85 PV groups as well as the HK USP .45 that I use to defend my family from stuff that goes bump in the night.
WHO WANTS IT?
Most folks who buy one of these guns will buy it to play with at a shooting range just for giggles. It fills that mission perfectly. This diminutive pistol/rifle/whatever will turn heads at any civilian range and is an entertaining little bullet hose.
A hobby gunsmith could use the chassis as a starting point for an extremely cool registered NFA Short-Barreled Rifle (see FIREARMS ALCHEMY: Stonewall Krebs SBR AK, May 2013 S.W.A.T.). This would involve doing the paperwork, adding a muzzle attachment, and exchanging the rear trunnion for a milspec version with a buttstock. It would take time, a fair amount of cash, and some not-insignificant technical skill. Once you add a muzzle device, there’s also the imported parts count issue to consider.
But in one arena, the M85 PV could render excellent practical service right out of the box, and that is as a truck gun. I live in the Deep South. If you don’t have a pickup truck down here, you likely either just moved or are hopelessly lost.
Whether you want to be the guy at the range with the coolest new Kalashnikov handgun-on-steroids or the hobby gunsmith with a hankering for a nifty AKSU project, the PAP M85 PV is your new go-to tool.