Aesthetic, simple, and deadly. The Dragunov sniper rifle is almost as iconic as its Kalashnikov brother. But what do you really know about this iconic firearm?
From warfare in the Iraqi deserts to being held in the hands of Rambo on the cinema screen, the Dragunov rifle (SVD) has developed a formidable reputation worldwide.
Today, we’re going behind the short-stroke gas piston of this Soviet-made sniper rifle crafted by a man born into unforgiving warfare as we cover eight fascinating facts surrounding the SVD.
The Top 8 Crazy Dragunov SVD Facts!
By the end of this article, we guarantee you’ll see the SVD in an entirely different muzzle flash light. Now, let’s begin!
It’s Not Actually a Sniper Rifle
Ok, if you’re not already writing an angry comment, let’s deal with the SVD-related elephant in the room.
The Dragunov SVD is not a sniper rifle, despite being commonly referred to as one by many people in the West and Russia itself.
Compared to Western sniper rifles, the SVD falls short regarding the accuracy and effective range.
It was designed as a designated marksman rifle to allow military units to engage enemy targets beyond the reach of their standard-issue Kalashnikov assault rifles
The Rifle’s Creator, Yevgeny Dragunov, Was a Child of War
The inventor of the Dragunov SVD, Yevgeny Dragunov, was lucky enough to be born after the Russian Civil War but just in time for the outbreak of WW2.
Born in the gun-manufacturing industrial city of Izhevsk in Russia, Dragunov was born into a family of gunsmiths.
His military service saw him picking up captured Nazi weapons from the front, which only inspired his later career as a gunsmith.
In 1959, after a decade of working for the Soviet Arms Design Bureau, where he mostly worked on sporting and civilian target rifles, Dragunov revealed a 10-round military sniping rifle, the SVD.
The Soviet high command liked what they saw, and Dragunov SVDs were accepted into the military service of the USSR in 1963.
Fun fact! Yevgeny Dragunov enjoyed a good smoke, and his favourite tobacco was Herzegovina Flor, the same as Josef Stalin.
It’s One Of The Most Widely-Used Marksman Rifles In Existence
In the Cold War, the 10-round short-stroke gas piston SVD was the marksman’s rifle of choice for the millions of battle-ready soldiers of the Soviet Union and East Germany.
The Berlin Wall might have fallen, but the SVDs reputation hasn’t. Today, the weapon remains one of the most widely-used rifles in use with global military forces.
You can still find the Dragunov in service use with everybody from Libya and Latvia to China and Bulgaria. And yes, of course, Russia still uses this gas-operated rifle!
There Are Chinese, Polish, Egyptian, Iraqi and Yugoslavian Variants
From Asia to Europe, the SVD design has been copied by several countries either under license or otherwise, such as:
- The Chinese Type 79/85: The Chinese SVD looks identical to its Soviet-produced mother, but it does have alternative dimensions meaning it’s impossible to change parts interchangeably. Some Chinese variants are exported in .308 Winchester. Rather than 7.62 ammunition, and are either called NDM-86 or EM-351.
- The Iraqi Al-Kadesih: The Iraqi SVD was heavily used against Coalition forces during the War in Iraq. It looks similar to the original Dragunov, but it’s a little longer, lacks a milled receiver, and the magazine comes with a kick-ass palm tree design stamped in the 10-round detachable box magazine.
- The Romanian PSL: Built under license during the Ceaucescu-era in Communist Romania, the PSL featured a strengthened breech and was modified to fire a slightly more powerful 7.62× 54mmR round.
There’s a Gold-Plated SVD For That Special Dictator in Your Life!
Since the dawn of warfare, the plundering of war trophies has been commonplace amongst the various armies of human history.
But few war trophies are as notorious as the gold-plated weapons taken from Saddam Hussein’s palaces during the War in Iraq. This really changes the meaning of iron sights!
Amongst gold-plated handguns and domestically-produced AKs, a small number of gold-plated SVDs were captured.
These were often lavish gifts reserved for major players in Saddam’s Ba’athist regime. Today, they can be seen in select military museums around the world.
It’s Hollywood’s Favourite Sniper Rifle
From Rambo III and Goldeneye to Black Hawk Down and American Sniper, Soviet SVDs are often Hollywood’s go-to “sniper rifle” of choice.
The SVD is also increasingly popular in the gaming industry and has featured in countless major gaming titles, from Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto to S.T.A.L.K.E.R and Hitman.
Here’s a handy list of all movies, television series, and video games where you can virtually see the iconic SVD weapon in action.
The SVD is a Veteran of More Than 27 Wars
Robust, easy to master, and deadly, the SVD has been heavily used in more than 27 conflicts worldwide.
“They often use variants of the long-barreled SVD rifle, which shoots higher-powered ammunition than the much more common Kalashnikov assault rifles. Their marksmanship has improved to the point of being good enough.”– Riflemen use Iraqi civilians as spotters and shields.
From the Lebanese civil war and the breakup of Yugoslavia to The War on Terror and the Russo-Ukraine War, there are few wars that the iconic SVD hasn’t made a violent appearance.
U.S. Soldiers Often With Dragunov Rifles, For Good Reason!
To prepare for all battlefield eventualities, U.S. troops often train with Dragunovs in case they’re required to pick one up from an enemy fighter and use it.
This training paid off for U.S. Army soldier Clinton L. Romesha who, during the infamous Battle of Kamdesh that saw hundreds of Taliban assault Combat Outpost Keating, picked up an SVD to defend the outpost and was subsequently awarded the Medal of Honor.
Conclusion: The SVD Has a Long Future In Its Sights
More of a designated rifle than a sniper rifle, the Dragunov is a well-built, powerful, and lethal weapon of the former Soviet Union that has found a place in the hearts of countless military forces worldwide.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Dragunov (SVD)
Still hungry for more information about the Dragunov? We’ve got your six with some cutting-edge answers to these frequently asked questions!
Is The Dragunov Sniper Rifle Accurate?
Whilst the SVD is often referred to as a sniper rifle, it’s more of a designated marksman rifle. Compared to U.S.-grade sniper rifles, the SVD struggles to keep up with accuracy levels and effective range.
In my experience, they have around a 2-inch overall accuracy rate at 100 yards. On the other hand, most American rifles at present hold in at 1 inch or under at the same distance.
What Caliber is a Dragunov
The caliber of a Dragunov SVD is 7.62×54mmR. However, some other combat variants made abroad may vary slightly, such as the Chinese variant that shoots a .308 Winchester round.
What Does SVD Stand For?
The SVD abbreviation stands for Snaiperskaya Vintovka Dragunova in Russian. In modern English, this translates to Dragunov’s Sniper Rifle.
Where Can You Find a Dragunov Sniper Rifle For Sale?
To legally buy a semi-automatic SVD, you can likely find one for sale through any reputable and licensed gun dealer.
However, Russian SVD variants are more difficult to find due to sanctions. Other SVD variants, such as the Romanian PSL or the Chinese Norinco variant, will be more commonly available.
What Is The Price of a Semi-Automatic Dragunov?
The price of a semi-automatic Dragunov SVD rifle is relevant to your location and whether you buy one with a scope or plain ol’ iron sights.
You can expect a high price tag for an original Soviet Union-made version in good condition, especially with recent sanctions affecting supply and demand.
Is There a Folding Stock Version of The Dragunov?
What Kind of Scope Does The Dragunov Come With?
The standard issue scope of the SVD weapon is the Russian-produced PSO-1, a 4×24 telescopic optical sight. The PSO-1 was introduced alongside the SVD in 1963.
Interestingly, the Russian PSO-1 came with an infrared detector to seek out generation-zero active-infrared night sight devices such as the American M2 optical sight.
There are also night vision scopes and a night sight that can be fitted to the barrel of the SVD.