The VSS "Vintorez" is a silenced sniper rifle that makes use of a permanent silencer assembly as well as specially-developed subsonic ammunition. The type shares nearly the same contours as the AS Val silenced assault rifle which was developed at the same time. Key markers between the two systems is the VSS's use of a slightly different subsonic cartridge, a fixed, skeletal wood shoulder stock and a long range scope. The VSS entered service with Soviet/Russian special forces in 1987 and has since seen broadened use by internal security forces as well as a regular army. Involvement in combat has been noted in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the 1st and 2nd Chechen Wars and, most recently, the 2008 war against Georgia. Design of the VSS is attributed to Petr Serdjukov with manufacture being handled by the fabled Tula Arms Plant.
The silenced sniper rifle certainly has its value on any battlefield. Its inherent nature allows for quiet operation of the system against targets at range whereas the aforementioned AS Val assault rifle is useful at closer ranges. The VSS primarily relies on two key factors in its success - the specialized cartridge and the integrated silencer. The cartridge is the 9x39mm SP-5 which essentially breaks down as a rifle-caliber 7.62x39mm case with a widened neck to accept a 9mm bullet. It is a heavy cartridge and categorized as "subsonic". The AS Val assault rifle follows this same design initiative in its use of the 9x39mm SP-6 round though the VSS cartridge is an armor-piercing grade cartridge which sets it apart. As in the AS Val, the VSS utilizes a permanently fixed silencer over the barrel and this serves to lower the muzzle velocity of the exiting rounds. While this also lowers the audible frequency of the weapon, it also restricts its range - the trade off of silenced weapons. However, the actual audible sound produced by the VSS is something akin to a whisper in actual operation - perfect for taking out unsuspecting sentries.
Beyond its silenced capabilities, the VSS is more or less a conventional rifle system. It sports a boxy receiver with the charging handle and ejection port set to the right side of the body. The pistol grip is integrated with the hollowed stock which features two large loops, the forward most one being for the firer's hand. The hollowed nature of the stock lightened the weapon's overall weight. It is fixed so there is no prospect of making the VSS more compact during maneuvers but it makes for a more sturdy and stable platform in the long run. The VSS can, however, be broken down into key components for scheduled travels. The parts are contained in a provided hard case. The trigger unit is large and very Kalashnikov in its function and styling. The trigger loop is large enough to fit a gloved hand which is always an important consideration when supplying special forces elements. The magazine fits into the magazine well ahead of the trigger unit with the magazine release noted just aft of the well itself. The VSS fired from 10- or 20-round detachable box magazines. The forward handgrip is similar in design to the AS Val rifle, completed with a small area forend before the silencer assembly. The silencer assembly itself is basically tubular in its appearance with a rear sight affixed to the base portion (the section meeting the forend area) and a front sight fitted over the muzzle. The iron sights are adjustable and can be used to back up the standard-issue PSO-1-1 telescopic sight which is fitted over the receiver rear and connected to the gun from supports mounted along the left side of the body. Additionally, the VSS can be fitted with accessories or other scopes such as night vision.
Overall, the VSS weighs in at just under 6lbs and sports a running length of 35 inches with an 8 inch barrel being used. The firing action is of gas-operation with a rotating bolt. The gas cylinder is mounted over the barrel as seen in nearly all Kalashnikov weapons. Rate-of-fire is listed at 800 to 900 rounds per minute with a muzzle velocity of 951 feet per second. Like the AS Val before it, the VSS features just two firing modes - semi-automatic and single-shot. Effective range is out to 400 meters with a maximum range slightly further (at the expense of accuracy).
The "VSS Vintorez" name comes from the Russian "Vintovka Snayperskaya Spetsialnaya", translating to "Special Sniper Rifle" - which is exactly what the VSS represents.