The Dragunov sniper rifle (formal Russian: Снайперская Винтовка системы Драгунова образца 1963 года Snayperskaya Vintovka sistem’y Dragunova obraz’tsa 1963 goda (SVD-63), officially “Sniper Rifle, System of Dragunov, Model of the Year 1963”) is a semi-automatic sniper/designated marksman rifle chambered in 7.62×54mmR and developed in the Soviet Union.
The Dragunov was designed as a squad support weapon since, according to Soviet and Soviet-derived military doctrines, the long-range engagement ability was lost to ordinary troops when submachine guns and assault rifles (which are optimized for close-range and medium-range, rapid-fire combat) were adopted. For that reason, it was originally named Самозарядная Винтовка системы Драгунова образца 1963 года “Self-Loading Rifle, System of Dragunov, Model of the Year 1963.”
It was selected as the winner of a contest that included three competing designs: by Sergei Simonov, Aleksandr Konstantinov and Yevgeny Dragunov. Extensive field testing of the rifles conducted in a wide range of environmental conditions resulted in Dragunov’s proposal being accepted into service in 1963. An initial pre-production batch consisting of 200 rifles was assembled for evaluation purposes, and from 1964 serial production was carried out by Izhmash, later called Kalashnikov Concern.
Since then, the Dragunov has become the standard squad support weapon of several countries, including those of the former Warsaw Pact. Licensed production of the rifle was established in China (Type 79 and Type 85) and Iran (as a direct copy of the Chinese Type 79).
The Dragunov is a semi-automatic, gas-operated rifle with a short-stroke gas-piston system. The barrel breech is locked through a rotating bolt (left rotation) and uses three locking lugs to engage corresponding locking recesses in the barrel extension. The rifle has a manual, two-position gas regulator. A gas regulator meters the portion of the combustion gases fed into the action in order to cycle the weapon and sets the recoil velocity of the gas-piston system. The gas regulator can be set with the help of the rim of a cartridge. The normal position #1 leaves a gas escape port opened in the form of a hole that lets some combustion gas escape during cycling. Position #2 closes the gas escape port and directs extra combustion gas to the piston increasing the recoil velocity of the gas-piston system and felt recoil. It is used for when the rifle does not reliably cycle due to carbon fouling build-up in the gas port, when shooting in extreme cold or high altitude or using low powered ammunition.
After discharging the last cartridge from the magazine, the bolt carrier and bolt are held back on a bolt catch that is released by pulling the cocking handle to the rear. The rifle has a hammer-type striking mechanism and a manual lever safety selector. The firing pin is a “free-floating” type and, as a result, some soft-primered ammunition had the reputation of causing a “slam fire” event. Thus, military-grade ammunition with primers confirmed to be properly seated is recommended for the Dragunov and its variants. This appears to have solved the “slam fire” issue.
The rifle’s receiver is machined to provide additional accuracy and torsional strength. The Dragunov’s receiver bears a number of similarities to the AK action, such as the large dust cover, iron sights and lever safety selector, but these similarities are primarily cosmetic in nature. These cosmetic similarities can lead to mis-categorization of the Dragunov as an AK variant.
The barrel profile is relatively thin to save weight and is ended with a slotted flash suppressor. The barrel’s bore is chrome-lined for increased corrosion resistance, and features 4 right-hand grooves. It is not rifled over its full length but partly over a length of 547 mm (21.5 in). In the 1960s, the twist rate was 320 mm (1:12.6 in). During the 1970s, the twist rate was tightened to 240 mm (1:9.4 in), which reduced the accuracy of fire with sniper cartridges by 19%. This adaptation was done in order to facilitate the use of tracer and armor-piercing incendiary ammunition Link Bracelet, since these bullet types required a shorter twist rate for adequate stabilization.
The weapon is fed from a detachable curved box magazine with a 10-round capacity and the cartridges are double-stacked in a staggered zigzag pattern.
The rifle features mechanically adjustable backup iron sights with a sliding tangent rear sight (the sight can be adjusted to a maximum range of 1,200 m (1,312 yd)). The iron sights can be used with or without the standard issue optical sight in place. This is possible because the scope mount does not block the area between the front and rear sights.
The Dragunov is issued with a quick-detachable PSO-1 optical sight. The PSO-1 sight (at a total length of 375 mm with a lens cover and sun shade, 4× magnification and 6° field of view) mounts to a proprietary Warsaw Pact side rail mount that does not block the view of the iron sight line. The PSO-1 sight includes a variety of features, such as a bullet drop compensation (BDC) elevation adjustment knob and an illuminated rangefinder grid that can be used up to 1,000 m (1,094 yd), a reticle that enables target acquisition in low light conditions as well as an infrared charging screen that is used as a passive detection system. The current version of the sight is the PSO-1M2. This telescopic sight is different from the original PSO-1 only in that it lacks the now obsolete Infra-Red detector georgia football uniforms. The PSO-1 sight enables area targets to be engaged at ranges upwards of 1,300 m (1,422 yd); effective ranges in combat situations have been stated at between 600 to 1,300 m (656 to 1,422 yd), depending on the nature of the target (point or area target) quality of ammunition and skill of the shooter.
Several other models of the PSO sight are available with varying levels of magnification and alternative aiming reticules. Rifles designated SVDN come equipped with a night sight, such as the NSP-3, NSPU, PGN-1, NSPUM or the Polish passive PCS-5. Rifles designated SVDN-1 can use the multi-model night scope NSPU-3 (1PN51) and rifles designated SVDN2 can use the multi-model night scope NSPUM (1PN58). Non military issue commercially available adaptor mounts that attach to the Warsaw Pact side rail allow use of Picatinny rail-mounted aiming optics.
The Dragunov has a vented, two-piece wooden handguard/gas tube cover and a skeletonized wooden thumbhole stock equipped with a detachable cheek rest; the latter is removed when using iron sights. Newer production models feature synthetic furniture made of a black polymer – the handguard and gas tube cover are more or less identical in appearance, while the thumbhole stock is of a different shape.
The barrel is semi free-floated, since it is connected by a spring-loaded mechanism to the handguard/gas tube cover so the handguard can move with the barrel during firing.
For precision shooting, specifically designed sniper cartridges are used, developed by V. M. Sabelnikov, P. P. Sazonov and V. M. Dvorianinov. The proprietary 7N1 load has a steel jacketed projectile with an air pocket, a steel core and a lead knocker in the base for maximum terminal effect. The 7N1 was replaced in 1999 by the 7N14 round. The 7N14 is a new load developed for the SVD. It consists of a 151 grain projectile that travels at the same 830 m/s, but it has a sharp hardened steel core projectile. The rifle can also fire standard 7.62×54mmR ammunition with either conventional, tracer or armor-piercing incendiary rounds.
The Russian military has established accuracy standards that the SVD and its corresponding sniper grade ammunition have to meet. Manufacturers must perform firing tests to check if the rifles and sniper grade ammunition fulfill these standards. To comply to the standards, the SVD rifle with 7N1 sniper cartridges may not produce more than 1.24 MOA extreme vertical spread with 240 mm twist rate barrels and no more than 1.04 MOA extreme vertical spread with 320 mm twist rate barrels. When using standard grade 57-N-323S cartridges, the accuracy of the SVD is reduced to 2.21 MOA extreme vertical spread. The extreme vertical spreads for the SVD are established by shooting 5-shot groups at 300 m range. The accuracy requirements demanded of the SVD with sniper grade ammunition are similar to the American M24 Sniper Weapon System with M118SB cartridges (1.18 MOA extreme vertical spread) and the M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System with M118LR ammunition (1.27 MOA extreme vertical spread).
A number of accessories are provided with the rifle, including a blade-type bayonet (AKM clipped point or the AK-74 spear point bayonet), four spare magazines, a leather or nylon sling, magazine pouch, cleaning kit and an accessory/maintenance kit for the telescopic sight. Also included is a cold weather battery case with a “shirt clip”, with a permanently attached cord [approximately 24″ long] ending with another battery case cap that has an extension to press against the internal contact in lieu of the battery to complete the circuit. Placing the external battery case into the shooters’ clothing close to the body keeps it from freezing; using the clip ensures it remains in place. The clamp-style bipod attaches to machined-out reliefs near the front of the receiver, it literally grabs the two cut out areas and securely mounts with a large round sized head on the clamp bolt able to tightly attach the bipod. The legs are individually adjustable [as opposed to fixed length found on many rifles and LMG’s] and can be folded and stowed in a forward position negating the need to remove the bipod before placing the rifle into the canvas carrying case. Interestingly enough, the two legs are held close together with a “J” shaped clamp attached to one leg and swung over the other leg
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. Original Soviet/Russian SVD bipods fetch a very high price when they rarely appear on the market.
In the early 1990s, a compact variant of the SVD designed for airborne infantry was introduced, known as the SVDS (Russian: снайперская винтовка Драгунова складная, short for Snayperskaya Vintovka Dragunova Skladnaya, “Dragunov Sniper Rifle with folding stock”), which features a tubular metal stock that folds to the right side of the receiver (equipped with a synthetic shoulder pad and a fixed cheek riser) and a synthetic pistol grip. The barrel was also given a heavier profile, the receiver housing was strengthened, the gas cylinder block was improved and a ported, conical flash hider was adopted worlds best water bottle.
The SVDS also comes in a night-capable variant designated SVDSN.
In 1994, the Russian TsKIB SOO company (currently, a division of the KBP Instrument Design Bureau) developed the SVU sniper rifle (short for Snayperskaya Vintovka Ukorochennaya, “Sniper Rifle, Shortened”) offered to special units of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD).
The SVU, compared to the SVD, has a considerably shorter overall length because of the bullpup layout and shortened barrel that also received a triple-baffle muzzle brake with an approx. 40% recoil reduction effectiveness. The rifle was equipped with folding iron sights (rear aperture sight in a rotating drum) and the PSO-1 telescopic sight.
A variant of the SVU, designed with a selective-fire capability and using 20-round magazines, is called the SVU-A (A – Avtomaticheskaya).
The SVDK is a Russian SVD variant chambered for the 9.3×64mm 7N33 cartridge. The SVDK is mechanically adapted to use dimensionally larger 9.3×64mm Brenneke cartridges.
In 1998, Poland adopted a modernized variant of the SVD designated the SWD-M, which uses a heavy barrel, bipod (mounted to the forearm) and LD-6 (6×42) telescopic sight.
Another variant of the SVD is the Iraqi Al-Kadesih. The 7.62×54mmR Al-Kadesih rifle is not to be confused with the Iraqi 7.62×39mm Tabuk sniper rifle. The Al-Kadesih, while cosmetically similar to the SVD, is essentially a hybrid of the SVD and Romanian PSL rifles and has some key differences with the SVD that prevent parts interchangeability between the two rifles. The Al-Kadesih has a unique pressed-metal receiver which is longer than that of the SVD, although the overall length of the rifle is similar to that of the SVD. It is fitted for the Soviet-era PSO-1 optical sight. Further, the barrel is pinned, rather than screwed, to the receiver, although it is of the same length as that of the SVD. The fore-end has four longitudinal slots on each side instead of six short slots. Another readily visible distinguishing feature of the Al-Kadesih is that the magazine has an ornamental relief pattern showing a stylised palm tree.
The Dragunov also served as the basis for several hunting rifles. In 1962, the state armory in Izhevsk developed the Medved (Bear) rifle, initially chambered first in the 9×53mm cartridge and later in the 7.62×51mm NATO round for export. In the early 1970s, Izhevsk introduced the Tigr (Tiger) hunting rifle with a fixed thumbhole stock without a cheekpiece. They were originally produced individually, but, since 1992, they have been made serially in batches. Today, they are available with shortened (520 mm) and full length (620 mm) barrel, different stocks (including SVDS style folding stock) and chambered in 7.62×54mmR, .308 Winchester, .30-06 Springfield or 9.3×64mm Brenneke.
The Dragunov is an original rifle design for several reasons. First, it was not meant for highly trained and specialized sniper teams, but rather for designated marksmen. After the introduction of the SVD, the Soviet Army deployed designated marksmen at the basic motorized infantry rifle platoon level. Those designated marksmen were often chosen from personnel who did well in terms of rifle marksmanship while members of DOSAAF. Such marksmen were estimated to have a 50% probability of hitting a standing, man-sized target at 800 m (875 yd), and an 80% probability of hitting a standing, man-sized target at 500 m (547 yd). For distances not exceeding 200 m (219 yd) the probability was estimated to be well above 90%. To attain this level of accuracy the sniper could not engage more than two such targets per minute.
Once the rifle had been produced in sufficient numbers every platoon of Warsaw Pact troops included at least one Dragunov rifle marksman. In the German Democratic Republic arsenals alone, there were almost 2,000 Dragunov rifles. In Warsaw Pact troop formations, the Dragunov marksmen were widespread among the regular units. To fulfill this role, the SVD is relatively light for a sniper rifle, but well balanced, making it easier to use in a dynamic battle. It is also semi-automatic, a trait it shares with the German Heckler & Koch PSG1 and US M21, so as to allow rapid fire and quicker engagement of multiple targets. As with all precision-oriented rifles, the user has to take care not to overheat the barrel and limit the use of rapid fire. In order to fire effective API ammunition, its accuracy potential was slightly downgraded by shortening the twist rate, another uncommon priority for a pure sniper rifle. It has a relatively light barrel profile; its precision is good, but not exceptional. Like an infantry rifle, there are mounts on the barrel to fix a bayonet. The standard AKM bayonet can even be used to cut electrified barbed wire. Lastly, the rifle was meant to be a relatively cheap mass-produced firearm.
These features and unusual characteristics were driven by the tactical use doctrine of Dragunov armed marksmen, which was: from (just behind) the first line targeting high-value targets of opportunity and providing special long-distance disrupting and suppressive fire on the battlefield, even with sudden close encounters with enemy troops in mind. A relatively small number of marksmen could assist conventional troops by combating or harassing valuable targets and assets such as: key enemy personnel like officers, non-commissioned officers and radio operators, exposed tank commanders, designated marksmen and snipers, machinegun teams, anti-tank warfare teams, etc.