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G&P Gas-Blowback Dragunov SVD Review

This is a review of the Gas-Blowback SVD Airsoft sniper rifle made by G&P. It’s an interesting and unique piece of equipment, and I’ll go over all there is to know about this interesting rifle.


First of all, if you haven’t already read it, you should read Mats’ review of the G&P Dragunov SVD over at Arnie’s Airsoft. He pretty much hits the nail on the head. I’ll not repeat his findings except to corroborate.

First Looks

I had to order the SVD special from a retailer since it’s not exactly an off-the-shelf popular item. It arrived nice and fast in a plain package, no manual.

The gun’s extremely solid, and based on the parts and internals, it’s clearly made from the real thing. Meaning it’s a real rifle converted to Airsoft. The base is a Chinese copy of the SVD, however – not an authentic Russian SVD. As such, the paint finish on the metal is not of the best quality and scratches somewhat easily – unlike the authentic Russian version. However the rest of the gun itself is of comparable quality to the Russian version. It’s the real deal, alright.

The Outsides

I settled down to take a look at my new gun. It had a few surprises for me.

The surprises

As received, the gun had some minor scratches on it, and a few paint flakes inside. Major scratches were present on the magazine/magazine well and the safety. Clearly the gun had been operated and was not new out of the box. 007 Airsoft tested it upon receipt to ensure it worked (which I appreciate) but there was more wear present than one would expect from a test firing. Possibly it has been oohed and aahed over at the overseas dealer’s for however long before I wound up buying it.

The stock had a wobble present, and the gas resevoir fill valve inside the handguard didn’t line up with the venting hole for filling! (I don’t know how the retailer managed to fill it for testing without leaking everywhere). In fact, the gas resevoir doesn’t fit well in the handguard, especially if you try to turn it so you can reach the fill valve! Much as I hate to, I’m going to have to carve a bit out of the bottom of the vent slot in the handguard to access the fill valve properly.

All in all, the gun’s very nice, though I was somewhat disappointed at the nicks and scratches and the stock wobble, and perturbed about the fill valve misalignment.

The Good

The gun is solid and looks and feels great. And the paint finish’s poor durability and the stock wobble is surely the fault of the real-steel manufacturer and not G&P.

However, I’d have hoped G&P would have fixed the stock wobble in the course of their conversion and building. Also the gas fill valve alignment problem seemed a shocking oversight.

All in All…

Much as I liked the gun, my enthusiasm was dampened somewhat at the first looks for the reasons mentioned above as well as because the gun itself was obviously not in new condition – all of which irritated me. Especially after spending as much as I did on it.

Despite that, none of those issues were show-stoppers. The SVD was finally mine! I tightened up the stock by shaving a little here and there to make it fit better, then doing a little creative shimming. The gas resevoir was turned as much as it could be while still allowing the handguards to fit around it. I can fill it with gas, but only BARELY. I will have to cut a notch out of one of the vent holes.

The gun is of course very solid, being all wood and metal. The only plastic/rubber is the O-rings and a gas feed tube from the gas resevoir to the internals.

The Insides

Naturally I eventually took it completely apart. We’ll skip ahead to this part since we’re on the topic of things I didn’t enjoy finding…

The internals are pretty much all brass. A couple more small disappointments awaited me upon disassembly.

Things I Didn’t Like to Find

  • The junction between the BB feed nozzle and the chamber (the feed nozzle screws in at a 90 degree angle) was sloppily cut. I smoothed out some rough edges that would catch and scratch BBs.
  • The O-ring on the BB feed nozzle was broken. This is not critical and hasn’t been fixed (I haven’t found a replacement).
  • The gas feed line (plastic) was rubbing badly on the bolt, which moves. This was causing gouges in the feed line. I fixed this by adjusting the seating of the line in the gas resevoir connector so it wasn’t twisting.
  • And the worst for last: The internal brass bolt interfaces to the big, original, real bolt by way of a protruding, somewhat thin brass flange. This flange takes a lot of stress since it is what moves and imparts inertia to the “real” bolt. So first of all, it’s a high-stress part that is made of thin brass (a soft metal) and the interface between this flange and the 2 pound or so bolt is… a steel metal set screw! The brass flange was getting chewed up!

Talk about bad design for that bolt interface! It’s doomed to failure – the eventual demise is only a matter of time and cannot be avoided by maintenance. Either the flange will deform to the point that it binds (the flange is part of the internal bolt, so it’s not like it can just be easily replaced) or it’ll just plain get chewed to pieces. And in the process, little brass bits are going to be sailing around the internal bolt and moving parts…

I “solved” the problem by replacing the steel set screw with a nylon replacement. Nylon’s softer than brass, so eventually the brass will cut deep into the the nylon – at which point I will simply replace it with another new nylon screw. Oh, and did I mention the flange has bevelled (ie “sharpened”) edges? (The better to cut into/get cut up…)

The Rest

Other than that, the internals look good. No leaks, apparently solid design. Things fit where they should, and they work. It’s no mean feat to cram semi-auto airgun internals into a real-steel! Considering the obstacles to design it’s a pretty nice job.

Overall?

The only obvious design problem is that of the bolt interface. Some assembly/alignment work on the other hand seemed sloppy (stock wobble, misaligned gas fill valve, misplaced gas feed line). You’d think that for such an expensive gun it would be built right and with care.

But thankfully, not one of those problems are issues that can’t be fixed in one way or another on the workbench.

Takedown

Unsurprisingly, the gun field-strips just like the real thing – because it is! Here is an HTML version of the real SVD’s manual.

You are limited to opening the handguard up to get to the gas resevoir (don’t really need to access this for cleaning, etc) and removing the receiver cover, which exposes the internal components. You can also remove the safety lever to drop out the trigger assembly (again, no real need to do this under normal circumstances).

You will not be able to do anything else (such as remove the bolt) without dismantling the internals. Meaning to get to anything else you’re going to have to unscrew parts and stuff. So, mostly we hope it doesn’t need to be done very often (or at all).

Performance

The gun uses a LOT of gas per shot, so the large (compared to GBBs) resevoir is a plus. But no one buys this gun out of concern for gas consumption! Cooldown might be a concern except that rapid-fire isn’t really in this gun’s nature. The gun chronos at a reasonably consistant 430-455 fps using HFC22 (green gas) and .20g BBs. When the gun runs low on gas, the blowback (and bolt) start to limp, but fps drops after the bolt’s movement indicates low gas. At the last gasps the muzzle velocity was down to 330-350.

Firing releases a noticeable expulsion of gas from the muzzle. This indicates wasted gas, but is kind of cool, actually. As mentioned, no one is going to be buying this gun out of concern for gas usage.

The gun is a gas blowback, but that doesn’t mean it has recoil like a GBB pistol. It would be more accurate to say that the bolt moves with each shot. The sound of the gun firing is more of a “Clack!” than anything else. The bolt is heavy, but I wouldn’t characterize the feeling as “recoil”. If the gun were a pistol with the same internals, you’d probably feel a much bigger kick. But it’s a rifle, and the weight of the gun eats up most of it.

The trigger pull is not bad. It’s satisfyingly light, but it doesn’t have a distinct breakpoint, since the trigger directly opens a valve that initiates the firing process.

On each trigger pull, a valve opens and gas expands inside the internal bolt, which pushes a nozzle forward (loading a BB into the chamber) then fires it. So there is no need (indeed no WAY) to “cock” the gun before the first shot. You just insert the magazine and pull the trigger.

The gun fires all but the last 3-4 BBs. Those familiar with AEGs are used to this.

I didn’t bother doing accuracy tests with the stock barrel since I planned to do some modifications in order to make it field-worthy. And of course, with no hop-up it’s anything but on the modern Airsoft field where hop-up is a matter of course.

The Breech and Chamber

The chamber consists of a rubber section, followed by the inner barrel. This is a setup seen in some old-school airsoft gas guns.

It’s important to pay attention to this part of the gun if you’re planning to add hop-up to it.

The essential pieces of the chamber assembly are as follows: PARTS OF THE CHAMBER AND INNER BARREL

As Mats says in his review on Arnie’s Airsoft, calling the gun usable for gaming out of the box would be a big lie. Hop-up must be had!

Adding Hop-Up

First of all, for anyone interested in this you should read the Hop-Up Guide with a translation from Japanese available at Classic Airsoft. The guide’s an older publication geared towards describing different hop-up methods. Many old-school guns had no hop-up and it was common for do-it-yourself style hop-up to be added to (or improved on) in guns. Nowadays the Marui style hop-up (called the “sheet” style in the guide) is pretty ubiquitous.

It’s possible to add hop-up. I designed what I wanted and had an experienced machinist make the modifications (along with a couple improvements). But it is not a trivial process. There are surely other ways to go about adding hop-up.

When originally deciding how to go about adding hop-up, after much reflection on my part I decided there were two ways to go about it. An easy way, and a more difficult way. I planned to try the easy way (minimal modifications needed) and if that wasn’t acceptable in results, go for the complicated way.

I actually wound up going straight for the hard way. So, I did not test the easy way – but here is the idea, straight from that hop-up guide. One of the diagrams pretty much fits the SVD’s chamber and breech design to a “t”.

The (Theoretical) Easy Way

The idea is to have a screw press down on the top of the rubber chamber – like one of the options shown here.

I in fact first intended to do this, but instead went straight to installing a more complex hop-up. (Update: In retrospect, I probably went overkill as it probably doesn’t really work any better.)

The Hard Way

I made the design and sent it to a machinist friend (and fellow Airsoft enthusiast) to do the modifications. He also did a few optimizations on my design.

It all involved cutting a slot and hole into the inner barrel to fit on an AEG hop-up sleeve. Then boring out the brass chamber so that the inner barrel plus a hop-up sleeve could fit in (originally it’s only big enough for just the barrel). Then putting screw holes to hold the barrel oriented the right way up (not a concern with a non-hopup barrel). Then installing a screw to push down on the hop-up sleeve – flush mounted of course, otherwise it won’t fit back into the gun. Oh yes, that original rubber chamber is removed so the nozzle feeds directly into the inner barrel. For best results hop-up should be imparted as early as possible in the path/acceleration of the BB.

The remaining pain is that to adjust the hop-up, you need to open the receiver cover, remove a retaining clip for the bolt return spring, pull the bolt all the way back… which JUST exposes where the hop-up adjustment is. You have barely enough room to stick a short hex wrench end in for turns of about 1/3 of a turn. See, the bolt can’t be removed without disassembling the internals. And the bolt sits RIGHT above where the hop-up is. And you can’t just drill a hole through the top of the bolt to make an access hole because the gas feed line runs through there. So set the hop-up where you want, then loctite it and leave it the hell alone. :)

Mats (the fellow who wrote the original review on Arnie’s site) did a similar mod to his SVD, but he replaced the stock SVD inner barrel with an AEG inner barrel (which has a comparable outer diameter).

Field Performance

I have noticed that the SVD is sensitive to over-filling with gas. If you fill the resevoir too much, it results in liquid gas being sent through the firing mechanism when you shoot. This causes cool-down and causes the piston and parts to “stick”. The sweet spot for gas fills seems to be around 4 seconds (2 two-second blasts) from empty. Not sure yet just how many BBs that actually is good for.

The performance, even with an added hop-up, is inferior to basic AEGs. The poor hop-up performance along with the inconsistency of some shots’ velocity due to the gas system are issues that are not yet resolved.

The Scope

Rather than the classic 4×24 PSO-1 scope, I ordered a modern 6×42 PSO-P scope from Kalinka Optics. It fits right onto the rail quite nicely.

The only drawback is that these scopes are a matte grey instead of black. But I don’t really mind.

Defining Characteristics

Extremely solid and authentic Airsoft version of a unique and attractive gun – with price tag to match! Not field-worthy out of the box due to lack of hop-up, but it has the potential to be modified to be field-worthy, but be prepared for a lot of work to do so.

What I Like

  • It’s made from an authentic Dragunov (well, the authentic Chinese copy, anyway)
  • It’s a gas blowback, and has an internal resevoir (no remote gas lines)
  • It’s incredibly solid
  • Good power, pleasantly consistant muzzle velocity

Things I Don’t Like

  • No hop-up built in
  • No simple matter to add hop-up
  • Sensitive to being over-filled with gas
  • Bolt assembly will eventually fail badly as designed (heavy stress from steel put on soft brass)
  • Gun appeared “used” when I received it
  • Some of the assembly seemed lacking – such as loose stock, misaligned gas resevoir, etc.
  • Disassembly is an involved process. No “field stripping” as we know it in the GBB world
  • It’s expensive! It’s in the same league as the high-end TOP LMGs (such as the M249)

Overall

The value of the G&P SVD comes from its authenticity, mostly. Real Dragunovs and their variants are unobtainable for normal people where I live due to existing gun laws, so some value also derives from a collector’s standpoint.

But the gun DOES have the potential to be at least somewhat field-worthy. Which is good, since I wouldn’t have bought one if I couldn’t use it to play with.

Final Words

Unless you’re a real fan of authentic Dragunovs, or would like a collector’s gun to keep, buying the G&P SVD would probably be a big mistake.

If you intend to use it in the field – well, unless you’re not afraid to put a lot of work into it to make it playable it also would be a mistake to buy. Adding hop-up is not quite as simple as one might expect – and it’s pretty much required for being able to use it in a game.

If you aren’t willing to put in the work to add hop-up to the G&P but simply MUST have a Dragunov, either buy the PDI version instead since it has a fixed hop-up and live with the remote gas supply, or get a TM AK-74S and Guarder Dragunov kit and get used to the idea that the result looks nothing like a Dragunov.

More Information

See this page for more info about the PDI gas version of the SVD, and the Guarder Dragunov conversion kit.