The SVD (Russian: Снайперская винтовка Драгунова, Snayperskaya vintovka Dragunova), "Dragunov sniper rifle", is a 7.62 mm semi-automatic sniper rifle, developed in the former Soviet Union. It was selected as the winner of a contest that included three competing designs: the first was a rifle designed by Sergei Simonov (known as the SSV-58), the second – by Alexander Konstantinov (prototype designated 2B-W10) and the third rifle, the SVD-137 was a design by Evgeny Dragunov. Extensive testing of the rifles in variable environmental conditions resulted in E. F. Dragunov’s design being accepted into service in 1963. At the same time an initial pre-production batch of 200 rifles was assembled, and from 1964 serial production was carried out at Izhmash. Since then, the SVD has become the standard squad support weapon of several countries, including those of the former Warsaw Pact, among them Poland (since 1966). Licensed production of the rifle was established in China (Type 79 and Type 85) and Iraq (as the Al Kadesiah).
The SVD 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. The weapon is fed from a curved box magazine with a 10-round capacity and the cartridges are double-stacked in a checker pattern. 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 rifle's receiver is machined to provide additional accuracy and torsional strength. The SVD 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.
The SVD's barrel is ended with a slotted flash suppressor. The barrel’s bore is chrome-lined for increased corrosion resistance, and has 4 right-hand grooves with a 320 mm (1:12.6 in) twist rate. The barrel is not rifled throughout its entire length; only contains lands and grooves. Later the twist rate was tightened to 240 mm (1:9.4 in) which slightly deteriorates the accuracy of fire with regular cartridges and reduces the muzzle velocity to . This was done in order to facilitate the use of tracer and armor-piercing incendiary ammunition. These special bullet types required a shorter twist rate for adequate stabilization.
The rifle features mechanically adjustable backup iron sights with a sliding tangent rear sight (the sight can be adjusted to a maximum range of 1200 m) and 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, 4x magnification and 6° field of view) mounts to a proprietary side rail mount. The PSO-1 scope includes a variety of features, such as a bullet drop compensation (BDC) elevation adjustment knob, an illuminated rangefinder grid, 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 PSO-1 sight enables targets to be engaged at ranges upwards of 1300 m; effective ranges in combat situations have been stated at between 600 to 1300 m, depending on the nature of the target (point or area target) quality of ammunition and skill of the shooter. A capable marksman should be able to expect ≤ 2 MOA consistent accuracy with appropriate ammunition. 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-6 and can be used to engage targets at night. The SVD 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.
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 which travels at the same 830 m/s, but it has a lead core projectile. The rifle can also fire standard 7.62x54mmR Mosin-Nagant ammunition with either conventional, tracer or armor piercing incendiary rounds.
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.
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, Russian >"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 SVD 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 9x53mm cartridge and later in the 7.62x51mm NATO round for export. In the early 1970s Izhevsk introduced the “Tigr” (Tiger) hunting rifle with a fixed thumbhole stock without a cheekpiece and chambered in 7.62x54mmR Russian, 7.62x51mm NATO, and 9.3x64mm Brenneke. They were originally produced individually but since 1992 they have been made serially in batches.