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EAA-Zastava Model 88

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by colt1903, May 25, 2008.

  1. colt1903

    colt1903 Well-Known Member

    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.
  2. old_ironsights

    old_ironsights Well-Known Member

    Newcomers to the 88

    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?

  3. colt1903

    colt1903 Well-Known Member


    Have you every experienced any failures to feed? Do you carry your 88?
  4. grimjaw

    grimjaw Well-Known Member

    So where can I get one . . . ? Have to have my FFL contact someone or does someone know a dealer that carries these?

  5. colt1903

    colt1903 Well-Known Member


    According to their website your FFL can contact EAA directly if they do not have or cannot get one.
  6. grimjaw

    grimjaw Well-Known Member

    colt1903, do the grips come on and off like the Tokarev TT33 as well? I can't imagine the Tokarev magazines would work . . .

  7. CptGonzo

    CptGonzo Active Member

  8. colt1903

    colt1903 Well-Known Member

    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.
  9. grimjaw

    grimjaw Well-Known Member

    Thanks CptGonzo!

    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?

  10. colt1903

    colt1903 Well-Known Member

    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.
  11. grimjaw

    grimjaw Well-Known Member

  12. colt1903

    colt1903 Well-Known Member


    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.
  13. lee n. field

    lee n. field Well-Known Member

    A tramp stamp on EAA's model.

    :rolleyes: How classy.
  14. old_ironsights

    old_ironsights Well-Known Member

    My 'older' M88 is all steel and 27.3 oz., with mag, but unloaded.

  15. grimjaw

    grimjaw Well-Known Member

    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.


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 8, 2008
  16. colt1903

    colt1903 Well-Known Member


    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.
  17. mec

    mec Well-Known Member

    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.

    Last edited: Aug 29, 2010
  18. colt1903

    colt1903 Well-Known Member

    Thanks MEC,

    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.
  19. mec

    mec Well-Known Member

    that is a highly informative and well written article.
  20. mec

    mec Well-Known Member

    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.

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