In 2009 I was a Special Forces Weapons Sergeant deployed to Tal Afar, Iraq.  Being a Weapons Sergeant of course, I liked all the toys.  We got to play with all manner of pistols, sub-machine guns, sniper rifles, grenade launchers, machine guns, mortar systems, and more.  Being overseas with 24/7 access to connex containers filled with ammo and our own range was any gun nut’s dream.

We also had an arms room filled with captured foreign weapons.  This included a handful of Russian SVD Dragonov sniper rifles.  As someone who served as a sniper and attended the Army Sniper course at Ft. Benning, I had a particular interest in this rifle and in learning how it (along with the baffling PSO-1 scope) worked.

The SVD fires the 7.62×54 Rimmed cartridge, the same as the Russian PKM machine gun.  However, precision rifles require precision ammunition.  The bullet is just as important as the rifle, both designed to create consistent results when fired.  The US Army’s M24 and SR-25 can be fired with normal 7.62 ammunition that the M240B machine gun fires, but that would only be in an emergency.  An American sniper needs 7.62×51 LR rounds to maintain accuracy at long range.

According to the library of gun books that I lugged around with me, the SVD also fired specialized ammunition, a light ball round which you can tell apart from normal 7.62x54R ammo by its silver tip.  I managed to scrounge up some of these rounds buried somewhere in the arms room, grabbed an SVD, and headed out to the range to figure this thing out.