Tokarev SVT-40 Self-Loading, Semi-Automatic Rifle
At least 1.6 million SVT-40 rifles were produced, some seeing action even as recently as the 2nd Chechen War.
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Small arms ingenuity was an area that the Soviets held something of an advantage in over their German counterpart in the decade leading up to World War 2. One keen example of this was in the AVS36 - Avtomaticheskaia Vintovka Simonova - designed by S.G. Simonov - a self-loading service rifle with semi-automatic fire, giving the standard infantryman a distinct advantage in sustained fire over that of those still using bolt-action rifles. A soldier with an automatic rifle and healthy ammunition count made for a more efficient fighting unit and, in collection with other battlefield implements, provided much in the way of tactical flexibility. However, the AVS36 was a complex beast that did not lend itself well to the rigors of fighting - it proved prone to failure, particularly of her internal moving parts, when firing the powerful 7.62x54R Russian cartridge. Additionally, general issues with dirt and dust making their way inside further complicated operation. As such, the AVS36 was a short-lived "success" that eventually gave way to the SVT-38 series designed by Tokarev.
The SVT-38 (Samozariadnyia Vintovka Tokareva) was brought online in 1938 and immediately replaced the AVS36 series in Red Army service. The weapon system was from the mind of F.V. Tokarev who also delivered the useful TT series of pistols in the early 1930s. The SVT-38 featured a gas-operated firing action with a locking block cammed downwards against a cut recess found on the base of the receiver. The stock was a two-piece unit while the barrel was capped with a six-baffled muzzle brake to help contend with recoil. A ten-round detachable magazine was fitted underneath the receiver, ahead of the trigger unit and the forward wooden handguard was complimented by a sheet steel covering over the barrel to protect the firer's aiming hand. A cleaning rod was rather unusually affixed to the right side of the buttstock.
However, despite being the "newer" of the two designs, the SVT-38 was nary an improvement over the AVS36 series for it suffered from the same fragile nature of its forerunner. The fragility stemmed from a design attempt to keep the new rifle as light as possible and this, unfortunately, led to its inherently powerful firing action (and subsequent recoil) literally breaking the internal components apart. Additionally, as the AVS36 before it, SVT-38 components also suffered from the general rigors of everyday combat that included exposure to dust, dirt, debris and generally accepted abuse. In 1941, the six-baffled muzzle brake was refitted with a two-baffled design to help offset some of the recoil and muzzle blast while several were also modified with mounts for the fitting of scopes for the sniper role. Regardles, the SVT-38 was a limited improvement and would only see production into 1940 before being replace by the similarly-minded SVT-40.
The SVT-40 sported a heavy wood frame (single banded as opposed to double in the SVT-38) with a protruding metal barrel system, integrated ergonomic grip and attached buttstock. The wooden forend, shortened on the SVT-40, was slotted along the sides for a better forward grip and there were four horizontal vents cut into the upper forward portions for heat dissipation of the barrel. Circular venting on a sheet metal covering was wrapped around the barrel further ahead of the wooden forend. The barrel was capped by a six-baffled muzzle brake and a forward sight post was visible for accurized fire. The receiver held all the major working internal components, which were essentially the same as in the SVT-38 series. The curved trigger sat within an oblong trigger guard and the 10-round detachable magazine was fitted just ahead. Spent cartridges were ejected from the right side of the body. A flip-up rear sight was set ahead of the magazine feed along the top of the receiver. The cleaning rod was now relocated to a more traditional placement underneath the barrel.