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PAGE 2 (2006)
 

GUN MART/ December 2006

Wood Stock Festival

by Pete Moore

 

Pete Moore investigates two wood-stocked versions of the Saiga hybrid straight-pull AK (Kalashnikov) family

It’s probably my army history – combined with my long interest in automatic weapons and past ownership of a good number of military self-loading rifles – that makes me a sucker for any form of hybrid straight-pull. Yes, I know the drill when it comes to accuracy; if the design can’t shoot a half decent group then what good is it ? And also, is yanking that cocking handle for every shot as satisfying as just squeezing the trigger and letting the gun do the work for you ? Of course not, but there is still a good deal of satisfaction and pride in ownership and despite their mandatory, manually operated build, using something that approaches the equipment we had pre-1988 is still enjoyable.

To clarify the situation, there are two types of straight-pull rifle available to the British shooter. The first are the ‘true’ mechanisms that have bee made/designed in this format and typified by the Blaser R93 and the Schmidt Rubin K31. The bolt is pulled and pushed to feed and primary ejection is not a concern. This is the initial effort required to unstick the fired case from the chamber.The second are what I term as ‘hybrid’. Based on military designs – Cold M16, AK-47, M14 etc – they have been manufactured with no way of being self-loading. So for every shot, you have to manually cycle the action. And due to the fact they were never originally intended to be used in this role they can suffer from hard extraction and most designs are heavily dependent on the quality/power of ammunition they are fed. However, what they do offer is an exact facsimile of the originals (which many people, myself included, do like) and more importantly a high-capacity, detachable magazine. Which for some disciplines is very useful and for others just plain convenient or even fun !

The Great Divide The hybrid, straight-pull family has a natural equipment divide – AR15s and everything else. The generic AR15 is by far the most popular and accurate machine that can be dressed up rather like the Ruger 10/22 to suit the most jaded and specilised tasted/needs. They are, however, expensive, with a typical example costing a minimum of £1000 ( not including optics), and usually a lot more. And in truth these rifles are far from practical, as in most cases they are too heavy and in fact more suited to a tactical sniping role as opposed to that of a true Practical Rifle. I’m not knocking it as I’ve just got myself a new AR from Southern Gun Co and it’s got all the go-faster bits.Everything else includes the Ruger Mini 14 and Mini30, a few M1A copies (US M14), some FN FALs and the Saiga M3 and M4 series, which are based on the Soviet AK-47. And if the competitve AR15 is a racehorse, then the AK is a carthorse, in terms of being rough, tough and ready to go. And unlike the AR there’s not usually a lot you can do with a Saiga to make it shoot or look better.

Original Sin The Saiga M3, as first distributed by Sabre Defence Industries, caused quite a stir when it appeared at an early Phoenix meeting. Cheap and simple, it had that delicious feeling of original sin about it. But they were factory manufactured as manually operated rifles, so street legal. But like the AK-47 they were a short/mid-range option only and showed poor to average accuracy, although they sold well. As at around £500 they were affordable and to many who wanted something for 100/200 yards work with a high fun factor, they were ideal.As a former real AK-47 owner – the classic model with the wood furniture and under-folding butt – I did not care too much for the M3 with its horrible short butt and plastic stock. And though liking the concept, I always hoped that someone would do something about the look. Since that time we have seen the M3 offered not only in the original calibre of 7.62x39mm but also in 223 Remington. Later the M4 appeared with a manual hold open catch, which was an advantage. But the truth was they were too short in the butt and low in the comb with a skinny forend. They did, however, include an integral optical mount and dedicated X4 and X6 Russian-built scopes are avaliable. But the cramped length of pull and subsequent awkward head position did little for performance, as did the primitive nature of the optic itself.However, a phone call from FSU Connections who deals in Saiga rifles informed me that they were offering M3s and M4s with proper wooden furniture and also a new butt pad that would improve the length of pull.

Good Wood The two rifles, though marked up as Saiga M3 and M4, are based on the AK-74(fixed stock) and AKS-74 (metal side-folding stock), both showing the large and efficient muzzle compensator, though in both cases they are chambered in 7.62 x 39mm, as opposed to the Russian version of 223 Remington, the 5.45x39mm. The rifles started life with the standard synthetic furniture and FSU Connections have sourced the original AKM laminate design made from either pine or birch. The forend shows raised bars that fill the hand, the pistol grip is marginally wider /deeper and the butt, though as short as the synthetic unit, is wider and offers a better head support.The M3 offers the triangular steel butt, with a synthetic pistol grip and wooden forend as described. And it was this gun that had a slip-on rubber butt pad, which I believe is a military accessory for rifles fitted with an under-slung, 30mm grenade launcher to absorb some of the kick. However, it solves a lot of the problems associated with what has always been a design that could do with a longer butt. And being wide offers a far more practical feel in the shoulder. Small changes, you might think, but the fatter the forend, better length of pull and more comfortable fir transform this rifle for both iron sights and scope use. Plus, cosmetically they look more traditional and to my eyes a whole lot better. FSU also supplied a folding bipod that clamps around the barrel.In terms of operation and controls, you can’t get much simpler than the AK. The cocking handle is on the right and reciprocates with the action, so tou just pull it back and release to feed and eject. On the right side of the receiver is the large safety lever, which flicks up (parallel to the bore) for safe (S) and clicks down for fire (F). The magazine release is a large lever at the front of the trigger guard. Sights consist of a U-notch tangent rear, optimistically graduated from 100-1000 metres and an adjustable post in the classic A-frame base up front. This allows you to set base zero and a tool should be supplied for the job. On the left of the receiver is the optical mount, which was designed for night vision equipment. But there is a range of scopes that can also fit.Feed is by what looks like the standard 30-round (banana ) magazine, though inspection shows it has been blocked to limit its capacity to just ten. Annoying, but looking at the way it has been done, not too hard to convert back. A synthetic 10-round mag is also included.

AK Overview These guns are rough and ready looking with a basic blacked finish and the wood showing a heavy coat of varnish. What always surprises me is the trigger, which is far better than you might imagine. It shows about ½” of take-up followed by a surprisingly smooth and crisp release of around 4lb.And though in the same category as an AR15, the AK is not in the same class, as it fires the intermediateM43 cartridge which uses a .310” calibre, 123-grain bullet doing around 2300fps. In terms of effective range, 300 yards is about the limit to try and hit a Fig 11 target.However, we must take the AK for what it is, which is a simple and reliable design that may not be able to shoot sub ½” groups, but offers a cost effective gun for use at ranges commensurate with its ability. Equipped with iron sights as standard, the gun is good to go from the box and this is how I approached the AKS-74 version, albeit with the recoil pad on to improve handling. The AK-74 variant was fitted with the bipod and a 1” scope mount and shot for group, again using the pad.Ammunition went to Prvi Partizan’s (PPU) standard M43 load as described, which these days seems to be the easiest7.62x39mm to get hold of in quantity.

Iron and Glass Given that a half-decent Lee Enfield No4 MK IV should be able to hold a 2x4” rectangle at 100yards with iron sights, we have a yardstick to go by. Shot prone /supported the AKS pretty much duplicated performance, with the occasional flier. Which is not bad considering the No4 uses a 25” barrel. So we could assume that, given the foresight doesn’t block out the target, 300 yards is not an impossibility on a Fig 11. Most noticeable was the better feel and comfort provided by the butt pad, though the steel stock wa a bit hard on the cheek. Were this my rifle, I would put a strip of foam there.I fitted the AK-47 with a Luger 1.25 – 4 x 20 compact, which suited the general build nicely. Straight away the improved length of pull and wider butt gave a far more practical feel to the rifle and with care, groups came down to two inches. Not stunning for an Ar15, but for an AK pretty damn good – though I don’t think that this would extend the effective range at all, just improve the hit ration.

The rifle proved easy to run with no primary extraction problems, which is not surprising given the short / tapered cartridge case. The snappy recoil was also less evident due to the butt pad and also the compensator.

As I said before, the AK design is what it is, so one should have no illusions about it. But if you are into this sort of kit or want a short-range fun rifle then it’s well worth a look. Especially since you can now get the wooden furniture, which gives it that look, and the butt pad, which really does improve shootability

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GUN MART/ October 2006

Dragon's breath

by Pete Moore

 

Pete Moore tests the folding stocked compact 'airborne' version of the Russian Dragunov SVD sniper rifle

Writing this review I was reminded of John Northmore's comments last month concerning the Moision Nagant 1891/30 Snayperskaya, in relation to their Dragunov SVD, which eventually replaced the old bolt-action as the Soviet Forces sniper rifle. After doing numerous tests on SVDs in the past I have concluded that it's an awkward gun to use, as the scope sits too far to the rear of the action. This meant the shooter had to move their head to a most unnatural position to get any form of sensible eye relief. It was also a bit kicky, though not unbearable, so it was with mixed feelings that I accepted the SVD S from Importers FSU Connections Ltd.

The S-model is intended for use by airborne forces and to this end shows a side-folding stock and slightly shorter 22" barrel; apart from that it's identical to the full-length (24" barrelled) SVD gun. The other obvious difference is the short, M16-style flash hider/muzzle brake, as opposed to the long cage-type of the standard gun, and there is a slight reduction in muzzle velocity (around 70 fps). Regardless of version, these rifles are an unusual addition to the small choice of hybrid,.30" cal straight-pulls now available to the British shooter.

Concept Rifle
The SVD is unusual for a sniper rifle in that is uses a self-loading mechanism, as opposed to a turn bolt, and is also very light. This might not help its long-range ability, but it is an eay gun to carry and its 10-shot magazine makes it a handy fighting rifle too. The nearest Western gun to also offer this concept is the American M14, though I reckon that old war horse is a tad more accurate and a bit more of a shooter. No matter, for our needs the SVD represents an off-the-shelf alternative for shooters who want a 30" cal Practical-type rifle - especially as the civilian straight-pull version of the M14, teh M!A!, is all but impossible to get these days and the 308 AR10 is just a bit too big and heavy to be taken seriously for anything but prone supported work.
The SVD looks like a long AK47 with its over-barrel gas tube, A-frame front sight and U-notch tangent rear. And one of the strengths of this design is the fact that by re-positioning the rotary comb/cheekpiece pad you can switch your head position for scope or iron sight use - even with the glass fitted. Aldo the 4 x 21 PSO-I scope has a quick detachable mount and offers a moving image reticule with an illuminated function. And if X4 is too low then there's also a 6 X 24.

Built and layout
The SVD S tips the scale at 4.7 kilos (10.3ilbs) but I have to say it feels lighter, with an overall length of 44.7" open and 34.5" with the butt folded. In truth this facility has little use for the sports shooter, apart from looking cool. The build is solid with a machined steel receiver, with only the top cover being pressed plate. The pistol grip and long handguard are made from black fibreglass reinforced polyamide. The front sight is a slim post set in a windage/elevation adjustable block with a ring-type protector. The rear is a basic U-notch tangent graducated from 100-1200 metres, with a ll the base zeroing being done on the front unit.
Chambered in the old Russian 7.62X54mm R (rimmed) the SVD offers a detachable, 10-shot magazine, so making it reasonably competitive in relation to the other 308 PR guns. The 7.62X54 offers a fat tapered case and shows no bad habits with primary extraction at all. As you might imagine the action stroke is quite long and I have always felt like I'm reaching just that bit too farto get my finger on the slim cocking handle. However, this could be sorted by fitting one some sort of drop-back handle, like you might find on a Mk Speedmaster from SGC. But from the box the SVD S comes with no such frills, though as we shall see there is a dedicated bipod for it...
Unlike the AK47, the S-model has an automatic last round hold-open facility, which is a bit of a bonus, certainly for unload/reload drills. The safety is is a long hinged lever that swings up for SAFE and down to FIRE. Stiff and noisy in operation, this design will remain the same until the Russians decided to move away from Mikhail Kalashnikov's design i.e. when hell freezes over !
Moving back we have a short/round pistol grip, then the skeleton stock. This is controlled by a plunger at the rear right of the receiver, which when pressed allows it to fold and lie alongside the right of the action, where it's locked by a catch. To this is fitted the rotary comb/ cheekpiece unit and there's a sling swivel on the left by the hinge and a fixed loop up by the redundant gas block.

What a relief !
The length of pull is surprisingly good and on the SVD S they seem to have cured the problem of eye relief that was apparent on the standard fixed stock version. Inspcetion shows that the scope can be positioned further forward on the integral rail on the left of the action, which makes the head position a lot better.
The PSO-I scope is a fixed focus unit and offers an illuminated reticule, which is controlled by a rubber-covered toggle lever at the front of its integral mount. It includes an integral/sliding sun shade and front rubber cap , at the rear is a removeable bellows-style eye cup. For those used to Mil-Dot etc the reticule is a litte different ! T-shaped, it consists of a slim central post which rises up to a horizontal bar with an inverted chevron aiming point in the middle.Either side of these are 10 divisions then long flat lines out to the periphery. In the lower left sction is a basic rangefinding grid marked 2,4,6,8 and 10. Doubtless set up for the height of a MK ! human, all you do is place the figure head to feet in the grid and where it fits is the range in hundres of metres. Research shows that the SVD should be capable of 1000m on man-sized (Fig II - type) targets. I think that's a little ambitious with a X4 scope, but practically it should be good for 600m without any real problems.
I have seen other styles of POS reticule that show four chevrons in a ladder set-up on the 6 o'clock position, as opposed to the one of the test optic. This would be preferable as it givees a number of aim points;certainly useful on an ETR course of fire.
Like the old Russian PU scope POS-I offers a moving image reticule, so moves in fromt of your eyes as you dial the correction. This then means you have to adjust into the error - rifle shoots right, move the aim point right, so the barrel swings to the left when you re-aim. Likewise range: rifle shoots low, drop the aim point to bring up the barrel.
This all works for the military no doubt, but I reckon that if a decent rigid mount with a picatinny rail could be sourced it would allow the fitting of more sophisticated Western optics with a subsequebt improvement in performance and acceptability. Though a solid design the PSO-I scope is very limiting in what it offers, especially as the reticule might end up high right or low left in the view when it's zeroed, which is a bit annoying to say the least !

Shoulder Thumper
The SVD bipod, though a little primitive in execution, offers height-adjustable legs and a can facility. Given the design of the rifle you can't float the barrel, so anything that attaches to the tube is going to have a detrimental affect on accuarcy and consistency. So the pod clamps to the end of the receiver, which is machined for the purpose. This then gives a stable support and has no influence on the barrel harmonics at all...not bad for the Russians.
So with much improved eye relief leading to a better shooting position I was expecting good things from the SVD S. Ammunition was kindly supplied by Henry Krank & Co Ltd in the form of Prvi Partizan (PPU) 182-grain BT/FMJ. This is certainly heavier than the 150-grain, Russian Service load and it showed.
A lot of how a gun recoils and shoots is about stock geometry; get it right and you can get some real sweet shooting even from a heavy calibre and light rifle, but get it wrong and it's a boneshaker. I'm sad to say that the SVD S with the 182-grain PPU is not the most pleasant rifle to shoot. Odd, as the kick of the standard SVD with the same load is noticeable but nowhere near as harsh, even though its .4lb lighter. Th old Nagant Sniperskaya proved no real problem either.
Literally grinding my teeth and eventually putting a pad under my jacket to take some of the sting out of the rifle, I found it could shoot pretty well. Groups at 100 yards averaged out at 1.5", so in theory Fig 11's would be possible at 600 yeards (9" spread) and with a bit of care 1000 would be achievable with highr power optics (15" spread).
In fairness, a 150-grain load might offer less kick and is vertainly what I would pick, as I wouldn;t fancy shooting a 100-round + PR course with the 182-grain PPU fodder. I might actually try reloading as I have some Hornady 150-grain A-MAX, and I reckon you could make an accurate and resonably recoil-friendly reload, given some experimentation.
Felt recoil aside, which I think is curable by reloading or ammunition selection, I quite like the SVD S. The eye relief situation is good and the straight pull action smooth, easy and most importantly reliable; certainly when compared to a comparable 308 gun. But in many ways its optice let it down a little, and the option of a decent 1" Picatinny-type base to allow the use of something more conventional and modern would go a long way to the rifle gaining greater acceptance. This applies to the 223 Rem and 7.62 X 39mm Saiga M3/M4 too. TO my knowledge there are three impoerters of these Russian rifles - Sabre Defence, FSU Connections and Decade Firearms - and not one of them has ever bothered to offer impervements. With improved cocking handles and scope mounting any one of these would be far more acceptable to today's shooter

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GUN MART/ July 2005

Snayperskaya Vintovka Dragunova

by Pete Moore

 

Pete Moore looks at a straight pull derivative of the famous Russian Dragunov SVD sniper rifle from Russian Military (FSU Connections Ltd)

The Dragunov SVD (Snayperskaya Vintovka Dragunova) is an unusual rifle given its intended role as a sniper's weapon. I think in some ways the words 'designated marksman' perhaps sum up its function better ! Designed in the early 1960s by Yevgeniy Dragunov and Ivan Samoylov (looks like Yevgeniy got all the fame) the rifle came into Soviet service in 1965. Up until that time the USSR had used the Model 1891-30 Moisin Nagant Snayperskaya Vintovka with a 4 x PU and later a PM scope on top for their sniper rifle. In the 2nd WW the self-loading Tokarev was also used in that role. Both obviously chambered for the standard infantry/machine gun cartridge - the 7.62 x 54mm R (rimmed), a round not dissimilar to our own 303 nd possibly the only rimmed .30" cal cartridge still in military service today...

The SVD is a self-loading mechanism and as is plain to see it is based on the AK-47 system in some ways, thought blessedly it's not capable of full-auto fire and uses a short stroke gas piston. Given the development of sniper rifles in general, the SVD does appear a little dated, as most nations have gone for hi0precision bolt-actions, as opposed to self-loaders.

Probably the Dragunov's nearest relative is the old US M14, as accurised guns with scopes on board were used in Vietnam and beyond by sniper teams.They are still in evidence today with some Marine Recon teams and US Special Forces. THe M14 was originally designed as a service rifle which it still fulfills very well; whereas the SVD was built for that job from day one.

Technically a self-loading mechanism is considered less accurate than a manual bolt- action. So what are the advantages of a rifle like the SVD in a sniper role ? Like the M14 the answer is versatility ! Yes they can shoot up to 600 yards and a bit more and accurately enough to hit man-sized targets. But if pressed they are at their heart self-loading rifles with a reasonable magazine capacity, so can be used as such for self-defence too. Whereas the low capacity and slower bolt-guns, though more accurate;are not the sort of piece you would willingly bring to a gunfight. A good example of this thinking is the American Knight Armament M25. Essentially a big M16 chambered in 7.62 Nato; it makes the perfect support weapon for a sniper team. As with its 20-round capacity you can fight with it, but is accurate anough to reach out to 600-yards + for a sniper role.

SVD in the flesh The Dragunov has always been considered a bit of an exotic in the UK and though I've shot with them in the past, I never sawone available, even in the old self-loading days (Pre-1988). However, since the SLR ban of 1988 and the later rise of the hybrid straight-pull rifle for PR use, equipment like the generic Russian AK47 is now readily available. A few months ago a looked at the 04 Tigre; a shorter and more sporting version of the SVD and I can;t say that I was that impressed. Accuracy was OK, thought not helped by the scope and felt recoil was most unpleasant. So when Oleg from Russian Military rang me and asked me if I would like to take a look at a real Dragunov I was keen but cautious.I say 'real' as this SVD was fitted out as the military version. with the full length 262 barrel, cage-type flash hider and a 4 x 24 scope near identical to the military PSO-1 sniper optic. As can be seen the Dragunov is a distinctive rifle; with its skeleton butt, which shows a rotary comb/cheek piece and the long skinny barrel. Earlier models used birch furniture, but the current guns use a black synthetic.The first thing you notice is the weight and length of the rifle, at 48" it ain't short, but at 9.9lbs including scope it's not heavy either. Typically it's short in the butt, which I have found makes for a less than natural head/scope poistion. THis is unavoidable as the optic has an integral mounting system that fits onto the dovetail base on the left side of the receiver. In other words short of making up some butt extenders you have to live with the eye relief good or bad ! Saying that I found the PSO-1 - type glass was far easier to get on with than the 6 x 24 I fitted to the Tigre 04.

Iron & Glass The SVD comes as standard with iron sights, which are of AK47- style. The front is a post in a ring protector on a transverse dovetail set on a low A-frame, this offers base zero in elevation and windage. The rear is a U-notch/tangent type graduated from 100-1200 metres. These can be used with the optic fitted. Like the old Nagant Snayperskaya Vintovka with its original, side-mounted PU scope it's set quite high for that purpose. Earlier wood-stocked guns used a removable butt comb to allow youto get your head down far enough to use the irons, or up for the scope. THis SVD uses a padded, rotary comb, which positions just off to the left of 12 o'clock for scope use and turns to 3 o'clock for iorn sights. On what is quite a basic weapon this is a rather nice feature and adds to its shootability.The pistol grip is short but deep and a forward filler block gives a comfortable trigger finger position with the pad automatically falling onto the blade. THe forend is round and hand-filling. This rifle came with a detachable bipod that clamps to slots in the forward receiver - more of that later...The trigger pull broke at 4? lbs and was smooth and easy; a bit too easy in fact, as thre's about ?" of take up then without any real warning of the break. This did take come getting used to and I did some dry-firing practice to make sure I got my finger and brain educated.Feed is by the distinctive looking 10- round magazine. As can be seen it shows a strange looking re-curve shape to it. Research shows that this was probably the hardest part of the design to perfect, as it has to feed that big/tapered rimmed cartridge. Like the AK, the mag latch is at the rear of the well and pushed forward to release. insertion is a bit fiddly, as you have to get the front lug just right; again practice is the order of the day.The straight-pull action usese the existing SVD cocking handle on the bolt carrier and the large safety catch on the right side of the receiver. This flips up for the SAFE and down to FIRE and as ever is awkward and stiff to operate. One improvement over the 7.62x39 AK47 is the fact that the Dragunov offers an automatic last round hold open, which is a blessing.

Bipods and Scopes The bipod for the SVD is a blessing in some ways. The design is primitive with a C-clamp that locks it to the forward receiver. The legs are sprung but held together by a steel clip that simply pops off. They have to be squeezed to a position where thay are free and can be swung up and down. They are also height-adjustable and rubber-tipped. The mounts offers a degree of cant, certainty enough to account for uneven ground. When not requirred the pod folds up/forward under the forend and there's plenty of space to get your weak hand in for unsupported work...The unusual positioning of the bipod is by far the most logical place to put it, as it leaves the slim barrel completely free of any pressures or external influences.The scope is dedicated to the rifle and as I said clamps to the rail on the left of the receiver. This 'fixed four' has a pre-set focus and offers external dialling turrets with a moving image reticule, which can be illuminated.So adjustment is always into the error. For example if the rifle is shooting left then the reticule has to be moved to the left to bring the point of impact over to the right. It takes a bit of getting used to, certainly when compared to our Western dial-in-the-direction turrets...The actual reticule is also unusual. What you get is three chevrons (one above the other in the centre. The top one is flanked on the left and right by 10-graduations. So what you appear to have are three separate aim/range marks with lead marks to account for wind and/or moving targets. Below this is a range finding grid graduated from 100 to 400 metres. The Russian military PSO-1 scope is rated out to 1300 metres, which is a bit optomistic for a X4 optic. However, the three aiming chevrons can be used at any elevation drum setting to give 100m increments in range. For example with the elevation drum set to 10 the chevrons will give 1100,1200and 1300m aim points accordingly. So by trial and error you can work out what setting will correspond to any three distances and with the generous movemetnt of the elevation drum you pretty much have it all covered. For the PR shooter this is certainly attractive. Also you can wind in windage correction too. Zeroing proved easy with the reticule just off centre and slighting low in the view at 100 yards.A word on scope mounting. The locking lever should be facing you as you slide the mount on to the receiver dovetail. It then pushes forward until it stops. In this position swing the lever forward and bear down on it so the locking lug slides under the mount's base and engages. From the box the scope was a loose fit one the rifle, but this is easily adjusted. The locking handle is splined to the shaft and can be removed then repositioned so that more tension is applied to clamp the mount tight to the dovetail as it swings forwad to engage.

Load Up For the test I used Prvi Partizan 182-grain ammo kindly supplied by Henry Krank & Co Ltd. This approximates the weight of the 7.62x54mm R Ball D round (185 grains). As opposed to the Ball L and Ball LPS at 152-grains. The old Nagant cartridge is no lightweight and with the nominal 180-grain load recoil is most noticeable. Saying this though the extra 2" of barrel, flash hider and bipod did make the SVD a lot more shoulder-friendly than the Tigre.Filling the magazine requires the rounds to be slid in from the front under the feed lips, as they won;t clip past them as with the 7.62 Nato mag. Insertion is a bit fiddly until you become familiar with the technique and typically the mag noses in at the front then is snapped back to seat and lock.Reaching forward grasp the cocking handle and pull it back all the way and let it go and it will feed and chamber the first round. And that's what you do for each shot. In use I found the handle way too small and also too far forward. A drop back/dog leg design would be preferable. And if you don't do it quickly you run the risk of an empty case bouncing back into the ejection port off your hand. This is also a common problem with the 7.62x39mm Saiga M3 series. Having said that, the SVD was smooth to cycle with no hesitation on chambering or ejection, and certainly better in use than some 308 Win,AR15-style rifles I have used that showed hard if not impossible extraction characteristics. Some of this I put down to the more chamber-friendly shape of the tapered 7.62x54mm R case.As I said before, recoil was noticeable but not unbearable, though I wouldn't want to shoot a full day's PR match with the 182-grain ammo. A 150-grain load would be far more sensible if you wanted to get a lot of rounds down range.Performance was around MOA, which I thought was very good. Though the bipod was a bit slack when compared to something like a Harris. This is a rifle you have to work at to get good performance - the shorter butt makes for a less than ideal eye relief position. The trigger though not heavy needs experience to make the break the same each time.

Conclusions This is essentially a dead copy of the military SVD and I would like to try one for an extended test with a modified cocking handle, extended butt and 150-grain ammo. On that point if you are going to reload for the 7.62x54mm R then be aware that the bore size is .310-.311" and not -308". Correct size bullets are available from various outlets - Prvi PArtizan being one, who also offers Boxer-primed brass

At the end of the day, the Dragunov is interesting, unusual and exotic and certainly capable of shooting up to and beyond the needs of Practical Rifle disciplines. It also comes in about £200 cheaper than the 04 Tigre and that includes the PSO-1 style scope and in my opinion is more shootable too

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