AtoZ Cargo is a Korean outfit making Dragunovs. They are spring powered rifles (like spring cocked bolt-actions), and their site has both the original and modernized SVDs listed. These rifles are also known under the “King Arms” brand.
Look and Feel and Build Quality
To the casual observer, the AtoZ Dragunov SVD looks almost as authentic as my G&P SVD. The finish is a bit glossier on the AtoZ but visually there are only minor differences here and there. The look and shape is down pat, but the G&P still has the edge on detail. You’d have to be looking closely, or be doing a side-by-side comparison to really see the differences stand out, though. For example, the gas regulator (adjustable) is present on the G&P with moveable bits (the sleeve rotates and the lock knob moves) but on the AtoZ it is just molded as one piece. And of course on the G&P the wood and everything is all authentic. On the AtoZ it’s all either faked, or copied. But it is a very good looking gun.
Now, overall the AtoZ is it not as solid as the G&P. Many parts that are held captive or are otherwise solid on the G&P are simply held by a set screw or two on the AtoZ. For example, the flashider/front sight on the G&P is not going ANYWHERE – it might as well be one piece with the outer barrel. But on the AtoZ it is only held by one grub screw at the bottom. This motif is repeated here and there with the AtoZ. I recommend you stock up with some thread locker, and check things over regularly as part of your regular maintenance.
The stock and foregrips, while accurately shaped (the distinctive shape of the stock for example seems tough for some places to get right) are made of fake plasti-wood. The handguards and are a little loose (this might be the result of the bashing my gun got in shipping) but the stock is neither creaky nor loose. The plasti-wood looks and feels pretty fake, but seems serviceable. [Note – The plastic furniture was unharmed by the beating my gun took in transit. Now, I don’t know the exact angles or number of the impact(s) the gun took but the fact the stock didn’t break off suggests it is at least serviceable!]
The rest of the gun – receiver, receiver cover, barrel – is all metal (I think it is aluminum). Interesting side note: I think one of the strongest pieces of the gun is the receiver cover, believe it or not. On my G&P (and I believe on the real SVD as well) it is only a simple piece of stamped sheet steel. On the AtoZ I think it’s machined from a block of aluminum or something. It’s built, as they say, like a brick shithouse.
The gas regulator coming up from the barrel into the handguard ends just inside the handguard, so there is some room inside there for… well, anything small. If you want to tinker or insert a project of some kind this would be a good place. It’s where the gas resevoir lives on the G&P (remember, the G&P is gas powered but this is spring powered). Of course unlike the real gun, an Airsoft gun has no need of a gas tube. So the top half of the handguard is empty all the way back to the trunion (right under the rear leaf sight).
Now, the bolt assembly. The bolt is metal (aluminum, but with a white-grey coating of some kind on it – sort of like it is parkerized but is white and not grey, and feels “gritty” like emery paper).
Removing the receiver cover and pulling back the bolt allows access to the hop-up screw. The chamber has a set screw on the top side. The hop-up looks pretty solid and of good quality, it’s all built into the chamber (the blue thing in the picture).
Other than the color, which looks a little too white (but which a coat of grey automotive primer may fix) there is not much to say about the bolt other than that it holds the piston. This piston has a nozzle fixed into the front end, so the piston is also the nozzle. When you pull the bolt back, the piston (which looks a lot like an APS2 piston) catches on the sear in the trigger assembly, while a secondary spring returns the bolt forward, pushing a BB into the chamber in the process. Pulling the trigger releases the sear holding the piston. Nothing fancy here – functional and (hopefully) robust, but I expect the trigger pull will probably be heavy and maybe a little rough.
The piston head is bare metal, and it rests up against the bare metal front of the piston/nozzle in the bolt (meaning that upon firing, the metal slams into the metal). A rubber buffer here may be in order.
The cheek piece is removeable (like the real one) but it’s cheap-seeming. Cheaper than the real one, I mean. The latch especially seems fragile. It’s just some steel wire linked up in a simple latch; functional, but not especially durable. I would consider using some silicone to glue it on (semi-permanent) or at least tie some paracord around one of the latch loops so it doesn’t get lost if it falls off. Note that you can’t use the iron sights effectively if you have the cheek piece on – your cheek weld will be too high. So make up your mind before you go gluing anything!
On the real original SVD, the cheek piece is said to have had a habit of getting lost (or stolen) and a tied-up cloth or rag often served as a replacement. So if you like you could even consider losing it sort of realistic in a bizarre way. On the modern SVD, the cheek piece is attached, and can be rotated out of the way if needed. (I don’t know if AtoZ’s modern SVD offering replicates this or not.)
Finally, the scope. I had read somewhere that this gun came with an authentic scope made in Belarus. I don’t know about that, but I do know that scope packaged with my rifle is simply a cheap knockoff. There’s no use sugar coating it. All that can be said of the scope is that it looks like an SVD scope (an obvious knockoff, but still an SVD scope) and you can look through it at 4x and get a crosshair. For reference, I happen to own a real SVD scope (straight from Russia) and there’s just no comparing the two in any way. To be fair, the sight picture on the AtoZ scope is pretty clear and the rubber eyepiece is moulded at a distance such that use with goggles should not be a problem. Which is nice since it is an Airsoft gun. There is also a battery holder to hold watch-size batteries to power the illuminated reticle. I was able to fit “357A” Button Cells into the scope. The centre of the reticle illuminates red.
Now, unfortunately let’s be honest about this scope. It’s a junk knock-off whose only good point is the fact that it looks good on the gun. It suffers from very bad parallax (reticle drifts if you move your eye in relation to the scope) which is an extremely bad quality for a scope to have. Honestly, if I were buying it separately I wouldn’t pay more than 20-30 dollars at most for it. In fact, I can’t even sight it in properly for the gun’s BB trajectory – I can’t adjust the reticle to the right enough (if it is even moving at all, I wound the windage adjustment to both extremes and can’t say I see a real difference).
Now, the scope is a cheap knockoff — that’s not really so bad. You don’t need too much for Airsoft, after all. But there are two additional things about the scope that might offend purists:
- The Text : Might bother some people, but there is text on the scope (on/off; up; left) in English.
- The Reticle: The reticle is a fairly vanilla crosshair. Now, this is nothing bad in itself, except that if you are a purist you will want the “Dragunov reticle” which is almost as distinctive as the gun itself. See my Dragunovs and Dragunovs in Airsoft page for more information about the scope and reticle. Now, for the record this didn’t really bug me – I had seen the AtoZ web page which shows the reticle so I knew what to expect (I even figured it was likely to be a cheap imitation) but if you’re expecting the SVD reticle on the SVD scope you’ll be disappointed.
Strong and Weak Points
Time will tell just how strong or weak any percieved point is, but one thing to keep in mind is that there are a large number of pieces that are kept where they are by a set screw and friction. The flashider and the outer barrel are two of them.
This brings me to one specific build point I would like to mention. Unlike the G&P (which has the outer barrel and receiver attached together as one piece), the AtoZ has the receiver and barrel as separate pieces. The outer barrel is set about an inch into the receiver and is held in place by four set screws in a collar. This isn’t much of a junction for such a long gun. I believe the handguards, which are pressed in from the gas block and receiver ends, should provide some flex strain relief, but there isn’t any other retention or strain relief – particularly from the “pull barrel out” direction which could occur when you sling the rifle muzzle-side up. I am not sure objectively just how weak or strong this joint is but it seems prudent to avoid putting too much flex or “pull out” stress on it. I’m sure it’s stronger than many plastic guns out there, but on the other hand long term effects of slinging the gun for example (which flexes the barrel-receiver joint as well as “pulling” on the barrel if you sling muzzle-up) are not known. Some means of additional strain relief for this part might be in order, depending on how much your gun goes through.
If I may say a few words about the strong points – some of the individual pieces are quite robust, and the black finish seems pretty durable. And as previously mentioned, the furniture is poor-looking plasti-wood (not as good looking as the KSC Beretta M93R grips – which some people hate, and not as good as TM’s plasti-wood) but it certainly seems tough enough to handle any skirmishing you might do. You can improve the look with some paint, too. See the guide here: Improving the look of your AK furniture. I and others have used this paint method with excellent results.
Firing and Performance
One thing I will say is that the hop-up is very nice, and it sure shoots nice and straight! I normally play with a bolt-action (APS2) and this compares very favorably. The adjustable hop-up is very nice.
Cocking is really no big deal, but maybe I’m used to using a bolt-action. I have read people bring up the cocking issue (suggesting it will be hard to cock) but I’m scratching my head on that one. Put the stock up to your shoulder, pull the handle, and let it slide back. Nothing to it, though you do need to apply a little bit of oomph. I can’t imagine anyone actually having trouble with it.
Now a word about VELOCITY since everyone loves FPS. Well, I have to disappoint you in saying I have not chrono’d it, but on the other hand I believe it is probably shooting around 350-400+ (assuming a .20g BB).
The trigger is very heavy and a little sloppy, but functions fine. If you’re picky about trigger pulls you won’t like it, but it’s hardly the worst trigger out there.
The only item remaining to say is that there is no bolt-hold-open or anything, so you have no means to tell when you are out of ammo without actually firing or looking in the magazine. With the APS2 the bolt won’t close when you are out, but no such luxury here.
Choices for those wanting a Dragunov SVD in Airsoft have always been slim, but now they are less slim. My G&P SVD has so far required nearly endless workbench tinkering to even be somewhat playable, the PDI SVD is impossible to get (and is external gas powered), and the Guarder SVD conversion kit for a TM AK produces something more like a Frankenstein’s monster than an SVD.
But now there is another SVD option available – it is manually cocked, but the straightline simplicity of the design is kind of nice, and I like the idea of a gun that needs only BBs (no gas, no batteries, no cords, etc). However this means it is not semi-automatic, unlike the real SVD (or the PDI or G&P).
While many of the individual pieces of this gun appear solid, how they are all fit and held together COULD be an issue in the long run. Set screws hold things by friction, instead of parts being screwed together or being anchored by roll pins which would make the joints orders of magnitude stronger. But, to be fair – it is probably stronger than your average plastic gun, and time and use is the real test of what is and isn’t durable. You could certainly do worse than an all-metal framed gun.
So there is the scoop on the latest addition to Dragunov SVD options in Airsoft. Those of you with an eye for such things will notice the small things like the cheap, moulded rear sight. The cheek rest latch is the simple wire I referred to. Also the scope is clearly a knockoff. But all in all, it’s a fine reproduction and more than field-worthy.