EAA has begun importing pistols from Zastava firearms in Serbia; I’m sure you have seen their ads in the gun magazines more notable for “Heather” the leggy blonde model than for the firearms. In the ads the Model 88 appears to be nothing more than a copy of the Russian Tokarev T-33, nothing to get excited about and I always spent more time gazing at Heather without giving the pistol any further thought.
According to the 4th Edition of “Pistols of the World” Zastava was founded in 1900 with help from Fabrique Nationale of Belgium. In their 108 years of existence they have manufactured one revolver and six semi-automatic pistols. Three of the pistols were direct copies of the Tokarev and only two of the six pistols are still being manufactured the Model 88 which I’ll call the “Baby Tokarev” and a cut-rate copy of the classic SIG design.
Well when I entered the gun shop/range on Saturday for my weekly expenditure of copper, lead, and brass, the EAA-Zastava Model 88 was sitting atop the highest shelf in their freestanding display case. I was immediately struck by two things: the quality of the finish and how small the pistol was. To give you some idea of size, it is about as big as the Colt Pocket Hammerless model 1903 and 1908 models. Interestingly enough the Browning-Colt designs were what the Russians were copying when they produced the Tokarev. It has the same barrel link as the Colt 1911 and the same barrel bushing as the first Model 1903 Pocket Hammerless pistols.
I had to stand on my tippy toes to see the price tag and was shocked to see that it was less than two and a half. I became recklessly curious to see if a $249.00 9mm pistol actually worked. The model 88 holds 8 + 1 rounds of 9mm, weighs 28 ounces, is 7 inches long with a 3.6 inch barrel, stands 6 inches tall and at the widest point, which is the grips, is 1.25 inches wide. The slide and grip frame width is .8 inches wide.
In handling the pistol a lot of what I saw and felt caused me to remind myself that it was only a $249.00 pistol, you can’t expect much. Two things that didn’t fit that expectation were the blacked finish and the accuracy at 21 feet which, due to running out of ammo, was all I could shoot yesterday. The handling qualities of the pistol were rather rough; for $249 you don’t expect a silky-smooth fit in terms of slide to frame and magazine extraction. The sights have three dots on the barely utilitarian Tokarev type front blade and rear “u” notch. The three dots seem to be almost an afterthought; the dot is so small I could not see it in indoor range lighting. I have since built up the front sight with some orange sight paint.
The rear notch is shallow which is not all that bad since the pistol, at 21 feet, seemed to be fairly well regulated. The notch needs to be wider and I will take a file to it as soon as I remember who I lent my metal files to.
I only had time and ammo enough to put 81 rounds through it and at least one round failed to properly feed in each magazine for the first several magazines. That began to clear up toward the end and I have to take into consideration that one, I was shooting the pistol dry right out of the box and two, even thousand dollar Kimber and Springfields require a lengthy shoot-in period. I anxiously await next weekend to see if the FTFs work themselves out of the pistol.
As I mentioned earlier the finish was better than expected and so was the short range accuracy:
These two targets were fired at from 21 feet with Remington 115 grain FMJ ammo. The target on the right was the first target shot out of the box and the one on the left was the second target.
The target on the left was shot with Remington 115 grain JHP ammo and the target of the right was a mixed magazine with 3 Speer Gold Dot 115 grain hollow points and 3 Corbon 114 grain +P hollowpoints. The Corbons hit at 2, 6, and 11 O’clock. None of these rounds failed to feed.
This pistol certainly is not going to win raves at the next BBQ but for someone on a limited budget this could provide them with basic protection. Another plus, God forbid, would be that if you were faced with having to shoot someone, you would not fret much about having to turn it over to the police like you would if it were your thousand dollar Kimber or Springfield status pistol.
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May 25, 2008, 09:28 PM
This is my 'older' M88. Other than low-capacity, I have zero complaints about it. The 'new' M88's seem to have only a grip change, eh?
Have you every experienced any failures to feed? Do you carry your 88?
May 25, 2008, 09:33 PM
So where can I get one . . . ? Have to have my FFL contact someone or does someone know a dealer that carries these?
May 25, 2008, 09:35 PM
According to their website your FFL can contact EAA directly if they do not have or cannot get one.
May 25, 2008, 10:37 PM
colt1903, do the grips come on and off like the Tokarev TT33 as well? I can't imagine the Tokarev magazines would work . . .
May 25, 2008, 10:50 PM
Hey Grimjaw, Budsgunshop.com has em for $229 delivered right now:
May 25, 2008, 11:05 PM
Grimjaw, that is a great question. It caused me to go out to the safe and look at and damned if I can figure it out. There are no screws in the grips just a large steel pin in each side which undoubtedly assists in their attachment. The manual is of little help. But quite frankly the grips are pretty functional. The checkering is done well and helps maintain a good hold and the recessed area at the top of the grips are perfect for the placement of thumb and trigger finger.
Even if you could get them off I doubt if you would be able to find any aftermarket grips for them.
In terms of the magazines, I doubt if a T33 mag would fit as this is a really scaled down version. Spare mags are available from EAA for $25.00 which is about $15 too much.
May 25, 2008, 11:13 PM
colt1903, I may be telling you something you already know, but the way you used to get Tokarev grips off was to:
- remove the magazine
- one side (can't remember left or right) will give you access to a flat piece of metal which pivots on that pin in the grip. One side of that flat piece of metal had a slit cut out of it, that you'd insert a thin punch or the like into and push up (I think, or maybe pull down). That would turn the metal piece enough to let you get the grip free of the frame.
- Once one side was off, it was the same procedure on the other grip, but much easier since now you could reach through the frame.
I didn't think standard Tok grips would fit, I was just curious.
I can't see clearly in your pictures, but it appears to have the same frame mounted 'safety' (the literature calls it a 'firing pin block' safety) as the M88 of old ironsights. Is that the case?
May 25, 2008, 11:38 PM
Thanks Grimjaw you are correct. The once you remove the magazine and look into the magazine well you can see a piece of metal in a "T" shape canted to the right. Pivot it to the left and it unlocks the left grip panel. Once off you can see the corresponding piece of metal on the right grip panel which is just the cross piece of the "T".
All we need to do now is convince Hogue to whittle up some nice checkered and contoured rosewood grips.
May 25, 2008, 11:44 PM
One last question then I'm done. ;)
At least one website says the M88 has an alloy frame, but I don't see how with a 28oz weight. Also, Zastava's website doesn't mention anything about an alloy frame. What say you?
Thanks for helping me get my exercise tonight. Seriously, I am always happy to talk guns even if it means several trips upstairs to the safe to check something out.
Mine is definately all steel. You would not know that from looking at the EAA website or the instruction manual (which also contained no information on grip removal). The manual does give a warning on just about every page that use of +P ammo void the warranty. This suprised me as this is a pretty solid pistol. Also I had a Norinco copy of the T33 (just traded it off recently) and the 7.62 ammo was certainly more robust than any 9mm.
The Corbon +P ammo was certainly accurate in the pistol, so I will probably carry that, but only shoot regular stuff at the range.
lee n. field
May 26, 2008, 11:21 AM
A tramp stamp on EAA's model.
:rolleyes: How classy.
May 26, 2008, 12:13 PM
My 'older' M88 is all steel and 27.3 oz., with mag, but unloaded.
Got the M88 in today. I agree with the observations that colt1903 made. I'll try to add to them.
- The finish is good, not great. No idea how durable it will prove to be. It reminds me of the finish on many Bulgarian Makarov PMs, maybe not quite as shiny.
- I've included pictures of a size comparison to a Glock 23. The M88 is thin through the slide and frame, although the grips could be a little thinner. There's no technical reason they couldn't be.
- Magazine woes. The magazine on mine does not fit flush. The magazine does not drop free. I wish they'd have included more than one magazine. I wish they'd used a different base that didn't protrude.
- As the pictures show, the manual safety is slide-mounted. When activated, it moves the hammer slightly back (hammer block?) Unlike the TT33, the M88 does NOT have a half-cock notch. I don't know if this pistol is any safer to carry loaded than the TT33, someone else will have to judge.
- The pistol also has a magazine safety. It consists of a flat spring riveted onto the left side of the frame inside the grips. On the end the spring is a extended piece that fits into a notch in the trigger bar. When the magazine is inserted, the spring moves allowing the trigger to be pulled. The magazine safety can be moved without damaging anything else, but I think it would be a permanent modification.
- The trigger is not good. If you're looking for a nice single action trigger, seek elsewhere. This one is not crisp, is not light, is not particularly short. Not sure about the reset.
- The recoil spring sure doesn't feel very substantial, but that may just be my imagination.
- Not that it matters, but the M88 has a two piece barrel.
I should have a range report soon. My initial impressions before shooting:
- Kinda makes me wish I'd kept my TT33.
- At least it was cheap.
- The Star BM runs about the same price and is only a few ounces heavier and just about the same size. Parts for either of these should be just as (un)available. Don't know that either will stand up to much +P.
June 4, 2008, 05:32 PM
The trigger pull on my measured 11 pounds but has gotten lighters over the last several shooting sessions.
The FTF issues are still with me. I think it may be hanging up on the hammer housing when the slide returns to battery. Does your hammer and housing fall out if you turn the pistol frame upside down after removing the slide? I stronger spring may help. I did not have any FTFs with +P ammo and I intend to shoot some more this weekend to see if that trend continues.
June 8, 2008, 10:48 AM
I've shot 145 rounds through a t&E sample with it behaving almost exactly like you describe. Falures to feed/go into battery are correctable by a light nudge on the back of the slide. The last 40 or so rounds were without malfunction. I had done some minor polishing on contact surfaces and buffed the rails a bit with valve grinding paste. This may shorten my break in period a bit.
The action module falls right out after the slide is off and I would be surprised if these things aren't completely interchangeable. The prongs on the front of the module serve as feed lips just like the original tokarev and the ejector is a step on the long one.
I weighed my trigger pull by suspending a five pound barbell wheel from the trigger and then finishing it off with an RCBS trigger pull guage. This was after shooting the 140 rounds Got right at ten pounds with a lot of creep. I plan to regard this as just one more safety feature.
The manual safety is substantial and blocks the hammer and locks the firing pin. Works like a Makarov, as I recall in that it is operated in reverse of what you expect from a 1911. This will take some adjustment in muscle memory.
I was fortunate to have a good run with the 88 yesterday running over 140 rounds through it without a malfunction. This was 100 rounds of ball and many different makes of hollow points, including some +Ps. I think I was around 300 rounds fired when it smoothed out. My full report is posted at the link in my signature. Another 150 or so rounds of smooth sailing and I will deem it dependable enough for carry.
June 9, 2008, 12:17 AM
that is a highly informative and well written article.
June 9, 2008, 12:32 PM
I pushed the round count to 240 , umc and independence 115 grain ball. No malfunctions since about round 100 and the feed cycle is completely smooth now. twenty five yard bench groups went from 4.5 to 5.5" for five rounds. The limiting factor is the creepy 10 pound trigger but I can't fault the way it makes effective looking center mass hits from two hand standing right out to 25 yards.
June 9, 2008, 05:24 PM
Sounds like we are in agreement. The M88 is not the prettiest or slickest handgun available, but it works and can provide protection to those who can't afford more.
June 9, 2008, 07:42 PM
I just shot 60 rounds of dpx thunder ranch. It catches on the bottom of the chamber and won't do. I'm hoping other jhps will Grouped 3.7" at 25 yards and the five speer gold dot :+Ps I had went into 2.9"
June 10, 2008, 02:57 AM
I just had a feeling of Deja Vu and then I realized I saw your post with the same pictures on the Bill's Forum earlier today.
June 10, 2008, 08:59 PM
Well, since I purchased the pistol there and shoot it at their range I thought it appropriate to talk about it on their forum.
June 12, 2008, 01:31 AM
Thanks very much for the review. I have been waiting to see a review before I ordered one of these. If you don't mind, I'd like to link to your review on a Tokarev site I frequent.
I've been a fan of the Tokarov for over 15 years, I bought a couple of the Norinco Model 213's in 1992 for $89.00 each. I'm still shooting one of them, the other is still sitting unfired in the safe as a spare.
A K Church
June 12, 2008, 04:02 PM
However, let me note that I make these observations as the owner of 3 Chinese Tokarevs, and 1 Soviet.
Americans have yet to deeply embrace the Tokarev, and none have really lasted on the US commercial market. So if these guns intrigue you, now might the time to buy one. If they are on the market in June 2009 is an open question.
The fact the importer is EAA also gives me pause. My experience both as an individual and as a part-time gunshop employee, is that their concept of customer service seems to derive from Soviet bureaucrat public service norms. I have never dealt with a less responsive importer.
My WWII Soviet TT33 was well used when I got it, and I didn't have it long. Another Chinese commercial was with me less than a month. Nothing wrong with it, I was offered too much money...
The two I developed a relationship were a 1987 purchase Chinese commercial and a nearly-new Sportarms pawnshop-purchased in 2004. Both were actually made at Arsenal 66, Mukden, Manchuria. This is the 66 in a triangle marking on the left frame rear.
The former I still have. the latter was a test bed for converting from 9x19 to 7.62x25.
The 1987 gun required no breakin at all. I tore it down the day I got it, lubed it with whatever was the then-current GI gun lube (LSA?), and then took it to the range and ran 50 rounds of late '40s Soviet ferrous core through it.
The 2004 gun got around 50 rounds run through it as a 9 m/m. Only one magazine, for $125 and a nearly new gun, what do you expect? White box FMJ. No hitches at all.
I converted the Sportarms gun with mismatch unfitted parts to 7.62x25 m/m. The slide was apparently Chinese commercial, the barrel Chinese military. The bushing and subframe were of unknown origin.
Once I got around sorting out the fact I'd idiotically put the magazine springs in the mags wrong, and installed a too-short firing pin, the mismatched pieces just ran like a team. I lubed it with Tuff-Oil polymer lube. 100 or so rounds once it was sorted out, no hitches at all.
The converted gun was given to a friend. He has reported no problems at all.
In summary, my limited experience with Tokarevs has included nothing resembling breakin requirements.
June 12, 2008, 07:47 PM
Jared just shot the 50 round Texas CHL demo with this one with a couple of rounds out into the 9 ring but most if them clustered in the x. (B27 target). It now runs smoothly with ball and I am still looking for a fully reliable JHP load. I get the impression that the action module would be a totally interchangeable drop in fit.
June 12, 2008, 09:57 PM
Certainly, go ahead.
June 12, 2008, 10:12 PM
Colt1903, thank you. I appreciate it.
June 12, 2008, 10:39 PM
How come most of the pictures that I see of the gun are always of the right side and not of the left side with the safety? I'd like to get a better look at the left side with the slide stop and safety.
June 12, 2008, 10:45 PM
Go back to the first page and look at the earlier Model 88 posted by "old ironsights". The hammer appearance and function is the same.
July 11, 2008, 01:15 AM
Has anyone done any trigger work on these? I took mine apart today and noted that the sear has a very rough finish. (I would have looked at it with the 16X loupe my wife has, but it was in the bedroom and whe was taking a long nap [jet-lag]).
I also noticed that the hammer hooks were slightly over .030" - wonder why there is creep? The hammer spring also appears to be quite robust. I'm thinking a little rotation on the bench belt-sander for it, and lowering the hammer hooks to .020". (Sorry the 1911 terminology, but everyone knows it).
I didn't check to see how positive the engagement was before I started the disassembly. However, I don't normally change the angle unless I have the Power Custom Series 1 adapter for it. Also, I'm conservative unless I know I can get replacement parts in case I screw it up. (Manufacturers like Ruger won't sell you engagement parts; you have to send the gun into them or buy after-market parts).
The other thing I noticed was the heavy trigger return spring. I think I can remove about half the tension on it and it will still function properly. I'll leave the sear spring alone for the time being.
I haven't shot this thing yet - I have jet-lag too, but in dry-firing I found the trigger pull to be unacceptable. I'm wondering, from those of you that have shot them: does it have any trigger-slap. I never shoot my CZ-52's nor my Taurus 85 because I hate the trigger-slap. (I'm surprised the surgeon that worked on my trigger finger ever graduated from grammar school let alone medical college).
July 11, 2008, 06:03 AM
Princi, no trigger slap that I remember. However, after 50 rounds or so, the slide on mine would tend to lock back after every round fired. It wasn't getting stuck on a round or having rounds nosedive. I think it's similar to what others guess, and might have to do with the trigger group.
Mine hits below POA about 4"-6" at 15 yards, but the group is tight.
July 11, 2008, 11:26 PM
I've got one of the M88's and I wouldn't use it on anything smaller than a man across a distance of a room. The one I have simply isn't accurate at all.
I've put in about 10 hours of polishing, grinding, and smoothing out the action of the thing, and it's still just a paperweight.
I'd have a better chance throwing it at somebody than trying to shoot them with it for self defense. I'm not a master gunsmith by any means, but I've had nothing but trouble with this gun, and it's simply junk.
I might have gotten the only one made on a Friday, but nothing I've done has affected anything except how smoothe the action runs. It still shoots all over the place.
A few days ago, I shot the M88 and it was all over the target. Then, I took my Smith 5903 and shot out the bullseye of the same target. I shoot at about 15 to 20 yards usually, and the M88 hasn't been any good at any distance I've tried it other than point blank.
I like the size of the gun, the way it feels in your hand, the ease of field stripping... it just won't hit anything... which outweighs all that other stuff. I shoot the same ammo in all my guns, and have zero trouble with them, but there just doesn't seem to be any POA that works with this pistol. For right now, it's a trade in... on the first opportunity.
July 12, 2008, 12:31 AM
it sound like accuracy with these comes down to a coin toss. This is Jared Schmidt qualifying target. Fifty rounds from three, seven and fifteen yards
July 12, 2008, 02:11 PM
Like I said... I probably got the one made on a Friday.
July 18, 2008, 07:39 PM
I took the M88 to the range this morning along with the H&K P30. I shot the M88 first, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Over the weekend I took the hammer to the belt sander and lowered it to .020" I also removed some of the metal from the hammer spring by putting it on the end of a punch and holding it at a 45 degree angle on the belt sander. Next I slightly reformed the trigger spring to make it a tad lighter. Before taking it to the range, my trigger pull was 6.5lbs - not exactly one of my 1911's.
At the range I was only shooting at 7 yards because I wanted instant gratification - i.e. I wanted to see the holes in the paper without optical assistance. The first 4 rounds were right in the center, and I was very pleased. Ahhh, didn't I load 5? Yup, it locked open with still a round in the magazine.
I lost track on the next couple of magazine, but it was frequently locking open with rounds in the magazine. I quickly deduced that the problem was not with the magazine. It appeared to me that the slide stop was too loose and during recoil was engaging the slide. Looking at the slide stop retainer, I noticed that it wasn't all the way forward. Well, no wonder!!!
I then found out that during recoil, the slide stop retainer was moving to the rear and wouldn't stay forward. Leaving the slide on the shooting bench, I took the frame into the club's shop. I first tried using long-nose pliers to squeeze the clip together to no avail. Next I removed the grips in order to remove the slide stop retainer from the gun. Putting in the vise, I was able to squeeze it near the base. That worked. (Just a little too well, I now can't pull it back with my finger to field strip, I'll have to use a plastic rod and hammer).
The results were good - no more slide locking back with rounds in the magazine, and except for a couple of times that I flinched (someone shooting next to me - hey, got to have some excuse), the target looked really good.
I didn't do as well shooting the P30. Most of the 50 rounds were slightly to left of center, and I pulled a couple with it as well. For some reason both the P30 and the Elite think my forehead is a target for ejected cases. Is this a H&K design flaw with 9mm? My Expert in 45ACP has never done that.
So, after 50 rounds through the M88, I'm fairly happy except my finger is sore. I knew I was going to hate that trigger.:cuss:
July 18, 2008, 07:58 PM
I then found out that during recoil, the slide stop retainer was moving to the rear and wouldn't stay forward.
The one I shot started out so tight that I had to use a instrument to push it back away fromt the slide stop. Later, it loosened enough that I could move it with my thumb. It never did get to the point of disengaging on its on but that's something to look out for.
July 18, 2008, 11:14 PM
Mec, it never moved so far to the rear as to completely disengage. If it did the slide stop pin would fall out. Try this:
Remove the slide and the magazine. Put the slide stop pin back in and then the slide stop retainer. Now looking at the retainer, move the slide stop up and down while looking at the retainer. Notice how the retainer opens and closes slightly? Now remove the pin and look at it. Notice that there are slots in it instead of just a round groove for the retainer to slide into. That is the key. The retainer doesn't just act as a retainer, it has a dual purpose of providing spring tension for the slide stop. The stronger the retainer's grip, the harder it is to move the slide stop up and down. The converse is also true: the less tension it applies, the easier it is for the slide stop to move up and down. If there isn't much tension the slide stop can easily move up and catch the slide.
Sorry, I should have done better making this clear in my last post.
July 19, 2008, 12:25 AM
A tramp stamp on EAA's model.
Fixed that for you.
August 9, 2008, 03:01 AM
I think someone stated it's an 8-shot magazine... Just checking to see if there's any chance it's longer like the Yugo M-58 9-shot mag?
August 9, 2008, 09:16 AM
the one I checked out had an 8 round magazine.
August 25, 2008, 12:12 AM
I hate to bring this up again, but after 10 hours of polishing inside my M88, and putting more rounds through it, I still think its a piece of junk. It shoots about 6" low at 15 yards, and it's not my shooting. I took my SR-9, my S&W 5903, and several revolvers to the range with me, and tatooed the center of the target... with the M88, I had to aim at the target's "chin" to hit it in the chest. I wouldn't use this gun for self defense unless I knew I could push it up against the target and pull the trigger.
I'm really ticked that I see all the glowing reports of how well the gun shoots from others, and mine is total junk. At least now, with 10 hours of grinding and polishing, the slide is smoothe, but it's about as accurate as throwing rocks.
...not saying I wouldn't buy another one, but only if I won the lottery... and then only with a "money back" guarantee.
August 25, 2008, 12:30 AM
I have not problem believing you got a lemon. Don't know how common that is. I went to great lengths to speed the break-in on my sample and still had to fire about 150 rounds before it became completely reliable with ball and round profiled jhps.
It did turn out to be more accurate than I expected given the ten pound trigger pull.
did your's finally become reliable?
October 2, 2008, 11:54 PM
3 days after receiving my M88 I sent it back to EAA. It would group but would shoot low. I shot 300 rounds through it one afternoon with 4 other good shooters. The gun never flinched with any round. However it shot way low. When we looked at the barrel over a piece of bench glass it appeared that the barrel was bent. This is a two-piece barrel, so who knows what went on in manufacturing.
I love the gun's overall feel, balance and size. Slim is the word. However, my trigger was 10 lbs even after 300 rounds. The whole action needs a friction removal job and the hammer spring is strong and maybe required.
Hopefully I get the pistol back Friday or Saturday.
October 3, 2008, 12:07 AM
the reliability you got makes it worthwhile to deal with the sighting bias. sounds like you got a good one.
November 2, 2008, 09:03 PM
Seems folks overlooked that the M88 is a modernized version of the Tokarev TT33. As such it has a decocker. I wish someone had explained:
1. if the M88 operates in DA mode after decocking.
2. Can the M88 be carried in condition 1 (cocked and locked)? Does it have a half cock feature or drop block feature?
3. if the M88 is the same size as the regular TT33 or is shorter. I'm guessing it's shorter. What length is the barrel. Nice comparison with the Colt 1903 and Glock.
4. Are slimmer after market grips available?
5. Will regular Tokarev 213 9mm magazines fit flush or will they stick out?
The M88 seems like a cool, rugged handgun.
August 18, 2010, 07:53 PM
I think I want to bring this back up, maybe some updates to be had?
August 18, 2010, 10:49 PM
I don't know about all the other owners, but I had a problem with web bite from the M88. I think that it was poorly designed, and could well benefit from a longer tang. I had been collecting Tokarevs, and added an M88 to the collection. I thought that it had promise, but definitely needed that longer grip tang to be a competitive pistol in the current marketplace.
August 19, 2010, 07:02 PM
Just found this thread by luck. I have a a couple of M88 questions if anyone care to answer them. First, Is the safety also a de-cocker? Second, do the mags drop free?
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