Treasures Are Out There (If You Bring the Right Map)

Although retreating Nazis abandoned most Slav manufacturing facilities, the arms complex at Kragujevac was targeted and systematically levelled in October of 1944, destroying the German Mauser K98 tooling and preventing equipment from falling into Yugoslav hands.  It’s no surprise that in response at the end of WW II Yugoslavia recognized the urgent need for a national self defence program. One of the initial actions undertaken was the development of an arms industry to re-equip its military.

Developing their own design based on the Mauser K98 obliged Yugoslavia to acquire weapons tooling and fabrication equipment from Hungary, the USSR and Czechoslovakia to initiate manufacture at home. This all took time.  Some suggest that this Yugo Mauser was a knockoff of the German K98 but there are enough discrepancies between these two to identify them as separate weapons.

To jump-start the fledgling Yugoslav program a contractual arrangement was struck with the celebrated Fabrique Nationale d’arms de Guerre or FN  based in Herstal Belgium, to produce the Yugo Mauser to the new specs. Full research and development geared towards the fabrication of working prototypes for the Yugoslavian1924 were undertaken from 1945 to 1949. Throughout the development cycle of the Model 1924, Yugoslavia lacked credible domestic manufacturing capability, thus the astute move to contract their Mauser re-design to Fabrique Nationle, a respected maker long revered for the superiority of its weapons.  Finished product from short FN pre-production runs was available in early 1950.

FN contracted the rifles to exact specs.  They were celebrated for the value-add of the highest quality steel, milled parts and meticulous attention to detail by veteran gunsmiths and expert stock makers. They simply did not put out mediocre rifles.

Fabrique Nationale had an initial production run of 50,000 Model 1924 Mausers in 1950 and this was the first weapon granted a Yugo-specific designation … in principle.

Yugoslavia’s choice perfectly harmonized with the contractor FN as Fabrique National d’arms de Guerre had been incorporated in 1889 in Hersal Belgium to build 150,000 Mauser Model 89 rifles for their own military.  Accordingly the firm already had extensive know-how and tooling for this family of weapons.

And FN’s manufacturing expertise for this model would ultimately migrate with the Yugoslavian Model 1924 Mausers production to the Zastava factory, an established Eastern European armaments manufacturer.  In the interim there were thousands of superior variations of these rifles produced by FN and BRNO.  They are beginning to finding their way to the collector market.  This rifle is simply a good investment as it is quality but tested and proven in the field and prices have steadily outpaced weapon supply for the last 20 years.

Model 1924 Mauser Rifle    Secondary Market Only

The Yugoslavian Model 1924 Mauser Rifle (1945-1950) by FN demonstrated exquisite post-war European craftsmanship, more pronounced than other Mauser rifles. In some examples the grained wood has deep swirls brought out by expert finishing and has proven as rugged as it is good looking.
The individual parts were milled as opposed to stamped, polished separately bearing a distinctive uniform deep bluing and wood that benefited from the experience of the FN woodworkers.

Quantities of the FN Mausers were built with walnut buttstocks and are arsenal finished and now finding their way into collections.  The fit and finish was noteworthy as the rifle was graded (G) to (VG).  A significant achievement for a new weapon and a fine example of quality workmanship.

Model 24 Mauser Rifle    Secondary Market Only

Eventually manufacturing was repatriated to Yugoslavia to inaugurate production on the latest design, the Yugoslavian Model 24 Mauser Rifle (1950-1952).   This represented the first domestic military weapon produced post WW II for the country.

It is claimed that the Model 1924 and the Model 24 are clones and other than some marking differences are identical weapons.  The market however tells us that the M 1924 commands a higher price than the Model 24. Parallel production occurred with minor stockpiles of the Model 1924 but those weapons are becoming more and more difficult to locate.

After the Model 1924 all of the designs were engineered by the rebuilt Preduzece 44 (Zastava Arms) Factory in Kragujevac in what is now Serbia and stand in some respect as a reminder that the lineage of a fine old gun maker such as FN is not achieved rapidly.  Zastava had a deep history with 12,000 employees at the commencement of hostilities.  Zastava also had the misfortune to have its complete infrastructure, buildings, tooling and machines demolished by the Nazis.  It takes time to get new lines with new weapons working properly and the Model 24 is often believed to have suffered as a result of this.

Model 24/47   Model 24/48   Model 24/52    Secondary Market Only

The pragmatism of post war necessity was to utilize whatever local wood available for stocks. This created a noteworthy wood range on Yugoslavian Mausers, some very desirable and other combinations just plain hideous.  Teak and birch was one in particular that caught my eye.

The FN series, unique once again, included many walnut stocks for military weapons, which is admittedly a difficult concept for me to grasp. Fabrique Nationale worked with high end wood and had stocks in inventory. Business was not booming for arms makers in the 50s with war surplus readily available so FN prudently depleted existing inventory, thus walnut. Just good business in that perspective.

Yugoslavian Model M 24/47 and Model M 24/52 (1947-1956) and all of its iterations were produced after the War by Zastava and, in their own little way, each weapon varies to some degree from the original design.  The details of these differences are incidental; the condition of these weapons will basically determine value over model definition.

The Model 24/47 was the first post war Yugoslavian Mauser produced.  The M-24 inscription is in Cyrillic and numeric while the M-24/47 is in Cyrillic only with model designation and different crests. 

Yugoslavian Model M 24/47  Model M-24/52 were claimed to be different due to minor cosmetics as the designations of 48 and 52 were added indicating the initial year of manufacture. Cresting and language were different but there were other more subtle changes.  These anomalies (mostly in the vein of those detailed above) apply consistently and make them unique.

Yugoslavian Model M-48A: 1952-1956 Available

Production cost rationalization to entered the equation when Zastava stamped magazine floor plates, barrel bands and trigger guards and the claim still persists that these weapons are identical with the exceptions of markings.  It should be noted that the parts are not all interchangeable and this rifle is considered surplus by collectors and, in consequence, they are often sold below market prices. This is the first major variant of the Yugoslavian M-48 Mauser pattern rifle.

Most models of Yugoslavian Mausers are becoming an interesting investment as they adapt to respectable field guns and are worth evaluating as an asset the next time you see Military Mausers advertised.  As always though, and particularly with guns, cars and guitars, caveat emptor.