Shortly after the Communists were victorious in their revolution and ousting of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, they set to strengthen their armed forces. The problems with Imperial Russian military thinking became obvious to the Soviets after they suffered more than 5 million casualties in World War One. The Russian’s only machine gun available at that time was the Maxim machine gun. The Maxim, while revolutionary in design, was problematic for several reasons. Chiefly, it wasn’t very portable and water-cooled, meaning the outside jacket of the weapon had to be refilled with clean water in order to prevent malfunctions.

That all changed in 1927 when Soviet weapons engineer Vasily Alekseyevich Degtyaryov submitted his prototype for what is commonly refer to as the DP-28 Light Machine Gun. His new design was exactly what the Red Army was looking for – a highly portable machine gun to serve in support of Infantry attacks. The new machine gun was made by the thousands at the V.A. Degtyarev Weapons Plant located in Kovrov, Russia. The city of Kovrov is located 166 miles East of Moscow, a location far enough behind Russian defenses that it allowed the plant to safely continue production of these guns even at the height of Operation Barbarossa – the Nazi invasion of Russia

Arms of the Soviet Union: DP-28 Light Machine Gun
Soviet Army in defensive position Summer 1942 (Image courtesy: guidearms.blogspot.com)

The apparent trademark of Soviet engineering is: if something is worth being built, it’s worth being overbuilt with as few parts as possible, and it must be able to function in terrible conditions. This thought process is evident in almost every Russian/Soviet design that I can think of, and it’s particularly prevalent in the DP-28. Comprised of less than 80 total parts, the machine gun was renowned for being able to function effectively in dirt, sand, and snow. The new machine gun, as well as being rugged and dependable, fired the same 7.62x54R cartridge as the standard issue Soviet rifle, the Mosin Nagant. In my opinion, this was an idea the Soviets borrowed from their World War One allies. The British and American forces both had light machine guns that fired the same cartridge as their main battle rifle.

Since it’s only available as a fully automatic weapon, the DP-28 isn’t a weapon that most readers will see at the range on the weekends. In the United States, thanks to laws such as the National Firearms Act and the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986, civilian ownership of machine guns is increasingly rare, and very expensive. That doesn’t mean they can’t be owned it’s just a matter of doing paperwork and procedure. If you are a firearms manufacturer with a BATFE Class 02/07 license, you can apply and build your own machine guns. OR  you can be lucky enough to have a friend with one. I am fortunate to be friends with James Foley of Arctic Arms, and he was kind enough to let us put some rounds down range with a 1944 produced DP-28. This trip to the range also afforded me the opportunity to ask him questions about its strengths and weaknesses.