This rifle was designed by Yevgeny Dragunov in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It won competition against two other competing designs and was adopted by Soviet armed forces in 1963 as SVD. Full-scale production of this rifle commenced in 1964. It became a standard squad support weapon in service with the Soviet armed forces. Also it was exported to Warsaw Pact countries and Soviet allies. Currently it is used by Russian and at least 30 other countries. It was license-produced in China. A copy of this weapon was produced in Iran. Since its introduction the SVD has seen action during countless wars. Production of this rifle still continues in Russia.
The SVD is a squad support weapon optimized for medium-range rapid fire combat. In Russia it is considered as a sniper rifle, however it is inferior in terms of performance to most Western sniper rifles. It is a tactical rifle, than a true sniper weapon. The SVD is not ment for highly trained sniper teams, but for designated marksmen to extend a fire reach of a squad. It can engage targets beyond the reach of Kalashnikov assault rifles. The whole concept behind this weapon is that an average individual with some simple instructions can successfully engage targets. It is worth mentioning that during the Cold War, Soviet Army had no dedicated sniper rifle in its inventory other than SVD due to its doctrine.
This tactical rifle is chambered for 7.62×54 mm rimmed ammunition. It is a standard ammunition used by rifles and machine guns. The SVD uses specially-designed sniper grade ammunition for precision shooting. It is much more accurate than standard ammunition. With this special ammunition the SVD is as accurate as American M24 and M110 sniper weapons. The SVD can also fire standard 7.62×54 mm ammunition with reduced accuracy. Standard ammunition is available in conventional, tracer or armor-piercing incendiary rounds.
The SVD is a gas operated weapon. Its internal mechanisms have a number of similarities with Kalashnikov assault rifle. This weapon proved to be reliable and tolerant to abusive use. This rifle has a manual safety. The barrel is relatively thin to save weight. Soviets and Warsaw Pact countries did not use marksman weapons with heavy barrels.
The SVD is a semi-automatic weapon. It has a higher rate of fire and can make much more aimed shots comparing with bolt-action rifles. However there are some drawbacks of semi-automatic design. Spent cases are ejected sideways and can disguise the shooter.
The original SVD has a wooden handguard and skeletonized wooden stock. The stock has detachable cheek rest. Current production version, the SVD-M, has black polymer stock and handguard.
The SVD is fed from 10-round magazines. The rifle comes with four spare magazines.
This rifle comes with a PSO-1 optical sight. It has 4x magnification. The scope’s reticle pattern is easy to use and makes range estimation quick and reasonably accurate without any mathematical calculations. Also there are backup iron sights. Sighting range is 1 300 meters with optical sight and 1 200 meters with backup iron sights. The optical sight is side-mounted and does not block the iron sights. So the shooter can use any sight at any time. Range of effective fire is up to 800 meters. However most typically it is used at ranges up to 600 meters.
A knife-bayonet can be fitted to this rifle. That is another feature uncommon to sniper weapons.