With a growing worldwide move towards the "bullpup" configured assault weapon, the Russian military has since taken delivery of the Dragunov OTs-03 SVU ("Short Sniper Rifle") series sniper rifle beginning in 1994. For decades, Soviet military forces (and its many global customers) relied on the tried-and-true Dragunov SVD series for its long-range sniping requirements, believing in its semi-automatic action over traditional bolt-action types. The weapon was adopted in 1963 and noted for its accuracy while firing the proven Soviet 7.62x54mmR rifle cartridge through a 10-round detachable box magazine (unlike Western counterparts using a bolt-action usually with a 5-round magazine capacity). In this way, the Soviet SVD was more akin to the modern-day category of "Designated Marksman Rifle" (DMR) - though it could effectively assume the role of dedicated sniping nonetheless. An exceptional system for its time, a modernization was inevitably required for Russian elements as it continued to resurgence from the Cold War years.
The OTs-03 entered production through the Central Design Research Bureau of Sporting and Hunting Arms. It sports an unloaded, un-accessorized weight of 3.6 kilograms with a 34.2 inch overall length and barrel assembly measuring 20.4 inches. As with the SVD before it, the SVU is chambered for the 7.62x54mmR rifle cartridge, a proven man-stopper, and fed from a 10- or 20-round detachable box magazine. The action is of a gas-operated arrangement coupled with a three-lug rotating bolt system similar to the one found on the SVD. Indeed, the SVU can be considered a modernized, bullpup form of the storied SVD. Muzzle velocity is listed at 2,700 feet per second.
The bullpup configuration receives its name by the relocating of the action and magazine feed aft of the trigger unit. In this way, the weight of the weapon is now concentrated at the shoulder and a full-length barrel can be retained while a more compact overall design form is achieved. However, such an arrangement generally limits positioning of the ejection port at the right side of the weapon, favoring right-handed shooters over left-handed ones. Additionally, the shorter protrusion of the barrel can see the support hand accidentally pass in front of the barrel when firing - though this is more a fear associated with bullpup assault/automatic rifles in-the-field. Bullpup weapons, due to their enlarged receivers which integrate the shoulder stock, cannot feature a folding stock which is used to increase portability.
To the keen observer, the SVU retains some of the physical qualities of the preceding SVD design. The gas cylinder is identified over the barrel while the pistol grip is set at the midway point of the design aft of the ringed trigger system. A polymer housing (with horizontal venting slots) is set over the grip handle. The receiver/shoulder stock is seen with the usual oversized fire selector switch. A large ejection port is featured just aft of the pistol grip along the right side of the weapon. There is a butt pad for some comfort against the shoulder while an internal spring in the stock also works to dampen some of the recoil effect. A bipod can be affixed to the underside of the weapon for frontal support, freeing the support hand to manage the (optional) sight fitted over the polymer housing ahead of the receiver. The barrel is capped by a specially-designed muzzle brake which is intended to reduce recoil by as much as 40%. This can be replaced by a sound suppressor for more clandestine operation (though not entirely a "silent" weapon in practice). Folding iron sights (featuring a rear folding U-notch and front ring post) are retained as back-up to the standard installation of a PSO-1 series telescopic sight (complete with tritium illumination).
Original production forms of the SVU were designated simply as "OTs-13" and these featured semi-automatic fire only. The OTs-13A SVU-A was then introduced with a full-automatic action which allows it to function more as a traditional Designated Marksman Rifle/Battle Rifle if the situation requires it. To date, the SVU family has seen issuance to Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs personnel and purchase by the Yemeni Army. Russian forces combat-tested their newly-minted SVU systems during the First Chechen War (1994-1996).
Manufacturing Central Design Research Bureau of Sporting and Hunting Arms - Russia
- Close Quarters Battle (CQB) / Personal Security
- Frontline / Assault
- Long-Range Precision
868 mm (34.17 in)
518 mm (20.39 in)
7.94 lb (3.60 kg)
Iron Front and Rear; PSO-1 Telescopic Sight
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