Whether you’ve encountered the Dragunov in the field, a documentary, or even in the Call of Duty videogame franchise, it’s no secret that the semi-automatic Soviet-era rifle is one of the best firearms ever to be designed and produced by the Russians. From its natural appeal and aesthetic in its wooden stock to its reliable long-range accuracy, today, we’re going to discuss a bit of the historical context that went into designing this rifle!

Standard SVD Dragunov. HokosCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Who Designed The Rifle And Why?

In response to the rising usage of submachine guns on the battlefield, the Red Army thought they were losing important high ground leverage in engaging enemies long-range. While these submachine guns (SMGs) were definitely effective in close-range, trench combat, SMGs do not offer the same long-range cover fire infantry soldiers needed to push forward with gaining objectives.

Some of these SMGs included the infamous World War II PPsh-41 using the 7.62x25mm known as the “papasha” (daddy) gun, which uses the same rounds as the Tokarev pistol. Machine guns like the DP-28 and DS-39 were also standard, high rate firearms that could lay sufficient covering fire, however sacrificing accuracy for the rapid-fire rate.

The armies of the West had rifles that could shoot at ranges exceeding Soviet weapons, which meant Russian troops would have to advance over several hundred yards under accurate fire before their own weapons could be employed.  In a close-in fight, like an urban environment, the AK had a distinct advantage in house-to-house fighting, but in closing in on that town or city, they faced getting shot to pieces by longer-ranged Western small arms.