Gun Review: The Dragunov Sniper Rifle

When discussing some of the most capable long-range rifles available in the modern world, one in particular comes to mind.

Whether or not you appreciate some of the similarly designed knock-offs or replicas, this is a gun in which the opportunity to buy a real one warrants pawning your spouse’s car, taking out a second mortgage, or whatever else you need to do to buy it as the opportunity will never present itself again in your lifetime.

Yes, this discussion is about the Soviet-made Dragunov Sniper Rifle. NATO weapons may be more efficient in 2018, but the Dragunov set the bar for balance and performance in long-range sniper fire with both the weapon and the optics when it was first introduced in 1963.

The Dragunov was first conceptualized in 1958 and after design, engineering, and testing, came into service in 1963. During the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were in a tight arms race, although each side hoped a full-scale war could be avoided. The United States was far ahead of the USSR in nuclear technology and manufacturing techniques, yet was still working with the M-1 Garand and M-1 Carbine when Russia introduced the Dragunov — which proved far superior in terms of range and accuracy than any other weapon available at the time. The stock, action, magazine, and barrel are perfectly balanced to allow the shooter to absorb the recoil, and the (at the time) newly developed optics included a 4x PSO-1 telescopic sight with each gun.

The Dragunov was never intended to replace the AK-47 as a standard issue military weapon, but was meant to supplement the regular soldiers in the hands of a talented sniper. As such, some of the originals are still in use by military forces in 3rd world countries who typically rely on older AK-47’s or Chinese-made guns. The original Dragunov design is still being produced in China and Russia, but with upgraded modern plastics for the stocks and alloys provided by modern technology for the metal parts. It is still one of the best made guns in the world, equivalent to the medium range M-14 (.308 caliber) sniper rifles used by U.S. Marines and Navy SEALs.

The first point of note when studying the Dragunov is that it uses a 7.62x54Rmm cartridge, the same as the Mosin-Nagant Russian service weapon until the AK-47 was developed after WWII. That’s a .30 caliber bullet, a hair larger than the American .308 with power slightly under that of a 30-06. That makes for a heavy bullet to carry, and a clumsy round to load compared to the standard 7.62×39 AK round or the NATO 5.45. Nevertheless, it works well for power and range as snipers use their weapons.

What the Dragunov is most known for is its accuracy at a range of well over 500 meters in a semi-automatic platform with a .30 caliber bullet, a feat accomplished in 1963 which can only be conducted with modern technology in the most detailed of manufacturing environments.

This is one of those weapons firearm enthusiasts dream of taking to a range — even if they can’t bring it home.

~ Firearm Daily

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