28 Mar 2020

“Known but to God”

Rudyard Kipling, celebrated British poet, too old to fight in WWI, encouraged his son, Jack, to enlist in the British Army.

Jack was killed in the fighting. Badly mangled, his body was never recovered.

It was subsequently a bereaved Kipling who coined this cheerless phrase that adorns so many unidentified WWI gravestones.

Snipers and Sharpshooters:

Optically-equipped bolt-action Mosin-Nagant rifles adequately served the Soviet Army through the end of WWII, particularly in the hands of celebrated Soviet snipers (many of whom were women) in the fighting around Leningrad and Stalingrad, but that rifle represented WWI technology, and Soviet war planners were anxious to inaugurate an autoloading sniper/sharpshooter system.

“Sniper versions” of Soviet SVTs, the creation of Russian design genius, Fedor Tokarev, were unsuccessful. The tilt-bolt system employed by the SVT is not inherently accurate enough to qualify. So, equipping this rifle with long-range optics represented an exercise in futility.

That same inadequacy was shared by the FAL, STG44, and a number of otherwise excellent infantry rifles.

In 1958, another Russian design genius, Yevgeny Dragunov, designed an acceptable autoloading sharpshooter’s rifle (chambered for 7.62x54R) that was reasonably light, yet would hold 2moa under field conditions. It was officially adopted by the Soviets in 1963.

Dragunov users were expected to hit reliably out to 800m. Standard optic was 4x.

In the opinion of most, the Dragunov was never a “Sniper Rifle,” but as a “Designated Marksman’s Rifle,” it was, and is, unequaled!

There are outward similarities between the Dragunov and the Kalashnikov, but the Dragunov is a substantially different system (short-stroke, adjustable gas system with rotating-bolt). There is no parts interchangeability between the two systems.

The Dragunov’s bolt has three locking lugs (Kalashnikov has two), for enhanced repeatability.

A few Dragnuovs (“Tiger” version) have been exported as hunting rifles.

The Romanian PSL looks similar to the Dragunov, but it is actually just a scaled-up Kalashnikov, also chambered in 7.62x54R.

The Soviets were loath to make Dragunov technology available to Romania, owing to Romania’s reluctance to support the USSR’s invasion of Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) in August of 1968.

Still, the PSL enjoys a very good reputation for accuracy and durability.

The Soviets did make Dragunov technology available to the Chinese, and the Chinese continue to manufacture their own version.

In our modern era, the Dragunov may be considered “old technology,” but it continues to faithfully serve, and few other “Designated Marksman’s Rifles” can match it, even today!