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An Ethiopian soldier practices with the Dragunov as part of a joint exercise with American troops

The Dragunov (Драгунов) is a Russian sniper rifle, more formally known as the Snaiperskaya Vintovka Dragunova (Снайперская винтовка Драгунова), which translates into English as 'Dragunov Sniper Rifle', and is often abbreviated as SVD (СВД). It was the world's first purpose-built military sniping rifle, and is common throughout the former Eastern Bloc.

Based on the Kalashnikov rifle family (AK-47 and variants), the design for the Dragunov was requested in 1958 and delivered in 1963 by Evgeniy Fedorovich Dragunov (Russian: Евгений Федорович Драгунов). It fires a cartridge dating back to 1891 - 7.62 x 54R Russian "rimmed" cartridge from the early Mosin-Nagant bolt action design - with the semi-automatic gas actuated design of the AK-47. The weapon was commissioned in order to extend the range of a typical Soviet infantry platoon, and was required to be cheap, rugged and effective at its intended job. Long after the demise of Russia's command economy, it remains in production, testament to its success.


The Dragunov SVD


The Dragunov SVD features Russian 7.62×54 mm 'Rimmed' cartridge, firing at approximately 830 metres/second. Although the rifle is lethal at ranges above 1000m, it is not really intended or designed for ultimate accuracy and can only reasonably engage targets at up to 500m. Accuracy is noticeably worse then other purpose-built sniper weapons, achieving groupings of 5 centimeters at a distance of only 90 meters. However, the weapon handles nearly as well as an AK-47 and is designed to be very durable; it has a bayonet socket for close-quarters combat.

Technical data

  • Caliber: 7.62×54R mm Soviet
  • Length: 1225 mm
  • Barrel: 610 mm
  • Mass: 4.31 kg (unloaded with scope)
  • Magazine: 10 rounds
  • Operation: Gas operated; semi-automatic fire
  • Range: 800+ m (1200+ m with scope)
  • Muzzle velocity: 830 m/s
  • Rifling: 4 grooves, right spin


The SVD comes standard with a PSO-1 (4×24) scope, a purpose-build device which includes a battery-operated reticule and a passive infrared filter. Others are available, increasing the optical power to about 9×. The SVD also comes with a bayonet, which is mounted in a similar fashion to the AK-47. There is also a chin rest, a carrying strap and magazine pouch.

This weapon features non-detatchable iron sights for instances of scope failure, a feature that does not exist on most sniper rifles.

The weapon also comes with basic cleaning utensils and maintenance tools.

Battlefield Use

While the Soviet army was in operation each squad was issued one man with an SVD. Soldiers issued a Dragunov typically are specially trained for the weapon. They move with their squad and are intended only to increase the range of their infantry squad up to and above 600 m (without a Dragunov, the effective range of a squad when the rifle began production would have been 300 m with AK-47s). As such, it is not a sniper's rifle in the general sense, but an early example of a designated marksman's weapon.

Designed with the simple purpose of extending a squad's range, the weapon is rugged and durable. This shows in the fact that it is designed to have a mounted bayonet and has backup iron sights in case the scope fails. The rifle's reliability is still recognized, and the weapon is still fielded by the Russian army and Russian law enforcement agencies.


Initial versions of the Dragunov SVD featured wooden stocks and rifle butts; but have now developed into polymer stocks to aid reliability and prevent corrosion. The weapon also generally has a chinrest mounted for use when looking through the scope.

There are also numerous carbine versions with shortened barrels for paratroopers and a folding stock to shorten the rifle further for carrying.


  • USSR/Russian: SVD (also featuring carbine versions); SVU
  • Chinese: Norinco NDM-86
  • Romanian: PSL (military version); Romak-3 (sporting version) Based on RPK light machine gun, not original SVD design.
  • Yugoslavian: M76 (which resembles an SVD, but its inner workings are more like an AK-47)

See also

External links and sources

ja:ドラグノフ狙撃銃 de:Dragunow-Scharfschützengewehr sl:Ostrostrelna puška Dragunova pl:Karabin SWD


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