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Dragunovs, and Dragunov Rifles in Airsoft

I know of only three ways to get yourself a Dragunov in Airsoft: the G&P version, the PDI version, and making one from a conversion kit and an AK-47. Depending on your particular pickiness, your choices may drop to two, or even none. (UPDATE: Actually you can also get the AtoZ Spring SVD.)

This is because the term “Dragunov” seems to be slightly generic, and refers to many different guns made by different countries that are all based, in one way or another, upon the original Russian design.

That’s why I’d like to start off with some information about the real Dragunov and its history. Those of you whose familiarity with the rifle comes mainly from the occasional photo on the web might be surprised to see that there are so many different Dragunov rifles out there.

Now, I’d love to make a “Real Steel Info” writeup that consists of equal parts wishful thinking, uncorroborated information, and plagiarism from other web sites and present it as as stone cold fact that I have known all my life as though I were some kind of expert. But instead I’ll simply share the information that I have seen corroborated in more than one place and read in actual books when possible. Plus sarcasm.

If you know better and spot an error on my part, please let me know so I can make a correction. Since, you know, I don’t actually have any real experience with any Dragunov variant – let alone the SVD – and am not likely to seeing as any Dragunov at all is 100% illegal where I am from.

The Dragunov Rifles

The original Dragunov SVD was created in Russia by Evgeniy Fedorovich Dragunov and is a distinctive firearm. It is still in service today (though modern versions have synthetic stock and foregrip replacing the wood, and other such differences).

A few words about the scope

The Dragunov (and indeed, other “commie” guns) use a scope mount style not compatible with western-style mounts. The scope mounts onto the side of the receiver (the scope and mount are one piece). The traditional Dragunov scope is the PSO-1, which is a 4×24 scope – with the distinctive rubber eyepiece and also with the distinctive “Dragunov” reticle. The eyepiece is designed to provide the correct eye relief distance and it in intended for you to place your eye right up against the eyecup. The eyepiece also performs a secondary function, one that wasn’t apparent until I used the PSO-P scope myself. The scope has a very narrow field of view, so to speak. Meaning that when you are looking in, slight movement to any side results in a black view (ie you can’t see through the scope) – much slighter movement than any other scope I have used, in fact. So the eyepiece helps you gain quick and accurate placement of your eye for a proper view through the scope in more than one way. It is necessary to install the eyepiece further onto the scope than usual for use with glasses or goggles, though.

Different modern scopes are available as well. The PSOP series is particularly commonplace today and is available in 4x, 6x, and even 3-9x adjustable zoom.

The reticle contains a sloped rangefinder calibrated for an average height man of 1.7 meters. That’s the number straight from the original manual; in stone age measurement units, that’s 5 feet 7 inches, or 5 feet 8 inches depending on whose web page you’re reading.

Simply fit the human inside the slope, then read the number off the top to get the range in hundreds of yards. Then dial that number onto the scope and you’re adjusted for the bullet drop at that range. Simple, straightforward, easy to use. The reticle also has chevrons (^ symbols) that denote pre-calculated bullet drop increments. There are various ways to use the chevrons, but the manual says they are pre-calculated for 1100m, 1200m, and 1300m respectively (assuming the elevation adjustment dial is cranked to the max elevation setting of 10.)

The newer adjustable PSOP 3-9×42 scope has an even more intuitive system. The numbers 3 to 9 are arranged like a clock in the reticle and double as a display of the current zoom setting, as well as rangefinder display. A rectangular box and line system in the reticle is calibrated for heights of .75m and 1.5m. Put the man into the box (or between the top of the box and a line, depending on which scale you are using), adjust the zoom of the scope until the man or object fits, and just like that – you’re zeroed for precalculated bullet drop at that range. Read the current zoom setting on the clock-like display in the reticle (an indicator moves with the zoom adjustment), and that’s your range to the person or object in hundreds of meters. Simple, easy to learn, easy to use.

Enough about the Scope

Like the AK-47, the Dragunov has been copied and manufactured in many countries around the world. This has resulted in a large “family” of rifles all called Dragunovs. They have names such as ROMAK-3, PSL, NDM-86, and so forth. The original Russian design seems to be uniquely referred to as the Dragunov SVD.

The Dragunov is a sniper rifle, but “sniper” has many different technical and operational definitions. The typical Russian soldier issued a Dragunov is also specially trained, moves with his squad, and his primary function is to engage at ranges to around 600m (extending the typical effective engagement range limit – which without him would be the maximum effective range of the AK assault rifle; being around 300m). This more closely fits the role of “sharpshooter” or “marksman” depending on how you think of such things.

Anyway, the Dragunov was designed with this certain purpose in mind, and it shows. It is a unique rifle and is quite distinctive in more ways than one.


Compared to other sniper weapons systems, the Dragunov’s accuracy is nothing special. I have read varying reports placing the accuracy potential of the Dragunov anywhere from 1.5 MOA to 2.0 MOA or so, depending on ammunition used. (For reference, the US Marine Corps apparently requires a minimum of 0.5 MOA, though that’s just something I read in a magazine.) For all you brainiacs out there: here are the details of the term “MOA”. For those of you who are not *that* interested but still curious, suffice to say that 1 MOA (Minute of Angle) equals roughly 1 inch at 100 yards, 2 inches at 200 yards, and so forth.

Just so you know, the handy “1 inch at 100 yards” ratio happens to be coincidence, not design. And it’s not actually one inch, but really close.

In any case, the Dragunov isn’t made to be capable of shooting dime groups from a grand out (3 shots at 1000 yards whose grouping can be completely covered by a dime. I read this somewhere too). It was made to be light, simple, rugged, reliable, mass-produced (ie cheap – its similarities to the AK required minimal re-tooling of production equipment), and made to be effective at ranges out to at least 600m (again, roughly double the effective range of AKs). The Dragunov SVD fit the bill very well – the design has been copied and copied, and the rifle remains in service today.

As an unrelated side note, the stock on the SVD seems a little on the short side for a rifle. I read a rumor that when wearing winter gear the rifle sits out the proper distance (being on top of the “padding” of the coat, etc). Not sure about that – seems a little odd to design a weapon that specifically, but it’s an interesting story. I think it’s probably more likely that the gun was designed with the stock a little on the short side to allow for the widest use with outdoor gear and the average person’s arm length – a stock that’s a little short is probably still better to use than one that’s too long.

Some Types of Real Dragunovs

Here are some of the different kinds of Dragunov rifles in existance. They are all clearly related, but as you can see when they are side-by-side there are quite a few differences.

Here is an AK-47 for comparison.

A Dragunov SVD.

Original Dragunov SVD

The original SVD with wood furniture is pictured above with an AK-47. Note that the similarity to the AK is really quite minor when compared side-by-side. Pay particular attention to the receiver design, note that the SVD is much more elongated looking, and the magazine sits further ahead than on the AK. The trigger is different too, and while you can’t see it here, from the top-down the receivers are very noticeably different as well.

The distinctive look of the AK-style selector switch and barrel/gas tube assembly go a long way towards making them look the same until you see them together!

Modern SVD

The modern SVD has a black synthetic stock and handguard and a new polymer magazine. Also the cheekrest is not removeable (meaning it won’t get stolen or lost in the field, both of which were apparently problems with the original. It was common to have a rolled-up cloth as a cheekpiece on an SVD). The cheekrest can be rotated out of the way to use the iron sights, which – like the original SVD – are lifted straight from the AK and, also like the original SVD, can be used with the scope attached.

Tigr

The Tigr is a sporting rifle version of the SVD, which was at least at one point imported into the USA. Some variations on the stock are known to exist. Most notable is that it is a carbine (ie shortened version), it has no flashider (flashinders being a mark of a banned “assault weapon” in the USA), and a 5 round magazine as opposed to the SVD’s original 10.

Norinco NDM-86

The Chinese-made NDM-86 is probably the closest in look to the Russian SVD. Reportedly, the paint job is of poor quality and durability (a particular spot on the receiver is struck by ejecting shells and is known to scratch badly as a result. Shell ejection on the NDM-86 – like the SVD – is violent and forceful; a characteristic of AKs). However, the metal and performance is said to be roughly equal to the Russian SVD.

The biggest difference you can see is in the magazine. This is because this particular NDM-86 is chambered in .308 Winchester (7.62x51mm) instead of 7.62x54R. This version sports a boxy mag, as opposed to the curved, cross-hatched designed one on the SVD (which took the maker over a year alone to reach final design).

Romak-3/PSL

Romania has two versions of their Dragunov – the PSL is the true military version and the ROMAK-3 which is the commercial version. Internally the gun differs from the SVD. The ROMAK-3/PSL uses the AK-style gas system, not the SVD’s short-stroke piston. I have also read that the ROMAK-3/PSL is in fact based on an AKM receiver. The stock, handguard, and flash hider all differ from the SVD. Note how the magazine well sits much closer to the trigger guard, like on an AK. The scope is also a Romanian copy of the PSO-1.

M76

Updated 2007-08-13
Yugoslavia’s Dragunov. While outwardly this rifle has a Dragunov-ish look, it has far more in common with the AK than the SVD. By far the M76 is the gun I found the least information about, so I’m especially thankful to a helpful reader who sent in the following information:

I was reading your article on Dragunovs and their variations in airsoft. I’d like to correct you on yugo M76. M76 is basically just enlarged AK, with almost identical working parts (except fire selector and small alterations of gas tube). On the outside resembles the Dragunov, but in my opionion it is far worse. Since it is only enlarged AK, the bolt is one massive piece of steel, which throws rifle off balance; sniper ammo in 7,9 was extremely rare and when it was [available]… I wasn’t impressed. The best part of this rifle is 4x scope, made by Zrak, Sarajevo.

You may ask how I know this- simple. I served in the Slovenian army, shot M76 quite a few times.

[He also kindly offered a replacement picture for the M76. The one I had before was very poor quality!]

I’ve taken a liberty to scan my old Soldier’s handbook pic. PS. Bipod is very rare and used only on export models.

Another reader with military experience in the Serbian army sent me a somewhat different opinion:

Most of the technical things [in the previous comments] are right but I can tell you this: I wouldn’t like to be sitting 600m away from an M76 sniper rifle!

P.S I was a sniper in Serbian army (scout unit). That it! If someone asked me about this rifle I would say: “It’s a good rifle”.

I think the last word will have to go to the fellow who emailed me the following and led to me updating this page for the first time in 4 years:

I wouldn’t agree with most of the [above comments]. I was a sniper instructor with Serbian Army and this is my opinion.

[M-76] was the most commonly used sniper rifle in Yugoslav conflict. It is decent squad sniper, and under fair weather conditions an average sniper can easily achieve a maximum effective range of 800 meters. According to the official Army data, it’s accuracy is 0,8 to1 minute of arc with appropriate ammunition. Recoil is very mild, and it’s ammo (Mauser 7,92 x 57) has very good wind resistance. This was the standard ammo in JNA (ex-Yugoslav army), until mid seventies and it is still very common in former Yugoslav republics. M-76 was most commonly equipped with 4×24 and rarely with 6×32, and 8×42 scopes made by Zrak Sarajevo. 4×24 is a copy of Russian PSO-1. Bipod “for the export version” is very rare, indeed. As a matter of fact it is as rare as an average Yeti. It is someone’s modification and not the standard issue.

If you are interested, you can see factory data on http://www.zastava-arms.co.yu/english/vojni.htm

Doubtlessly there are other Dragunovs and variations. But these are the only images I could steal, since I don’t have a scanner to scan magazine or book pictures and I don’t have any real ones to take pictures of.


Airsoft Dragunov Rifles

Dragunov Conversion Kit on a TM AK-47

This gun is an AK47 with a long barrel, an SVD flashider, a Dragunov-style skeletonized stock, and a handguard. Not included (but installed on this picture) is a short-style AK magazine.

The result is a gun that looks halfway between a ROMAK-3 and an M76 – and doesn’t look anything like an SVD. But it’s electric, full-auto capable, and with mild upgrades, will wind up costing you about 65%-70% of what a G&P SVD would.


Jin Gong SVD

This is an electric gun, basically a cheaper all-in-one version of a Marui AK with an SVD kit. (Jin Gong being a “budget” airsoft manufacturer.) A bipod is thrown on, too.

PDI Gas Dragunov SVD

I’ve seen some pictures of this one and heard a few legends. Most notable points are:
- Supposed to be an accurate model of the SVD
- External gas supply (tube runs from bottom of handgrip)
- Reportedly made in EXTREMELY low numbers (I read somewhere that the production run was only 100 – total hearsay rumor)
- Fixed hop-up
- Front end (barrel and handguard) can be completely removed (unlike real SVD)
- Scandalously high price. No numbers, but much more than the G&P apparently.

Here is some hearsay about it from the forums at classicairsoft.net:

Oh good grief!!! when you pay that much for a gun it should be built right! Whats up with some of the companies? I had a PDI Dragunov and the internals were SH!T poor design and shoddy materials, it had a two pound bolt assembly the was attached to a aluminum cylinder by a screw… needless to say, when you stop a high velocity 2lb wieght with a screw in a soft aluminum tube, things are bound to go wrong… all it would have taken was a basic knowledge of force vs materials to design the gun so it would last.. biyatches! 05/13/2003 20:03:42

G&P Dragunov SVD

You can read my own review of this gun here.

Distinguishing characteristics:

  • Highly accurate model of the SVD – it is made from a gutted real-steel. The entire gun is metal and wood. The paint finish is not great, though (possibly NDM-86 parts?)
  • Internal gas supply (fill nozzle in the handgrip)
  • Gas Blowback Operation
  • No Hop-Up

AtoZ Dragunov SVD

You can read more about this gun here.

Distinguishing characteristics:

  • All metal design (except for the furniture, which is fake wood).
  • Excellent, adjustable Hop-up design.
  • Craptacular plastic magazines.
  • Not as solid as the G&P.