Russia is well known for producing several of the most popular rifles the world has ever seen, such as the Mosin Nagant and SKS. Russian-made weapons are almost universally known for their robustness, durability, and reliability. It’s predominantly why Russian made weapons have been in service with militaries all over the world for over the last seventy years.
Today Russian-made weapons can be found in great abundance both when it comes to modern made weapons and surplus weapons that are in wide circulation with American civilians.
Here are the greatest Russian made rifles of all time:
The Dragunov SVD is a semi-automatic DMR, or designated marksman’s rifle, which is chambered in the 7.62x54r cartridge. Like the AK-47 and AK-74, the Dragunov was widely adopted by the Soviet Union (later Russia) and numerous other countries and remains in wide use today. It features a ten round detachable box magazine for fast reloads.
The Dragunov can be used as a DMR, as a sniper rifle, or as a squad support weapon. It was designed to provide a much longer effective range over the AK-47 while also offering semi-automatic capabilities to give troops a faster rate of fire.
The exterior design of the Dragunov has a manual of arms very similar to the AK, but the internals of the guns are quite different. Many people believe that the Dragunov is simply an ‘AK sniper rifle’ but this is simply not true when it comes to the mechanisms of the gun.
Many people who see a rifle that looks like an AK-47 assume that it’s automatically called an AK-47. But the truth is that the only true AK-47 is the original AK-pattern rifle that was released in the year 1947. There have been many, many variants of the AK-47 made since then in a wide variety of configurations and calibers, but they all have different model names (such as the AK-12 or the AKM or the AK-74 and so on).
The original AK-47 was the brain child of Mikhail Kalashnikov. During World War II, the Germans had fielded the first true assault rifle, called the STG44. By definition, an assault rifle is any rifle or carbine that fires an intermediate round and has selective fire capabilities. In an era where slow-firing bolt action rifles were the norm as infantry weapons, the STG44 gave the German soldiers issued it a major advantage on the battlefield.
The Soviet Union captured several STG44s during the war and were impressed the weapon, and immediately set out to design a similar rifle that would replace the aging Mosin Nagant bolt action rifles, which had been in service in the 1890s. Kalashnikov submitted the winning design in the form of the AK-47, and over one hundred million were built. Chambered for 7.62x39mm, which has ballistics very similar to the .30-30 Winchester, the AK-47 served as the basis for the AK-pattern rifles, which are the most widely distributed firearms in history.
The Mosin Nagant served as the standard issue rifle for Russia (later the Soviet Union) from the early 1890s up until the adoption of the AK-47 in the late 1940s. It’s a five shot bolt action rifle that fires the 7.62x54r round, which has ballistics very similar to the .30-06 Springfield round. The Mosin Nagant can also have its rounds loaded either individually or by a stripper clip.
While crudely made, the Mosin Nagant is also incredibly durable, reliable, and accurate in adverse conditions. Nearly forty million were made and they were widely distributed throughout the world. Even today, Mosins are in use as sniper rifles in conflicts such as the Syrian Civil War. Tens of millions also hit the surplus market in the United States, and are routinely available at a very low cost. The Mosin is popular with American civilians as a collector’s item, a range piece, and a hunting rifle.
The Mosin Nagant is most well known for being the primary service rifle for the Soviet Army in World War II. The primary M91/38 rifle was standard issue, but more compact M38 and M44 Mosin Nagants were also widely issued.
The SKS was originally designed in 1944 to replace the Mosin Nagant. It’s a semi-automatic rifle that fires the 7.62x39mm round, the same round as the AK-47, and is loaded with a ten round stripper clip. The SKS saw very limited action in World War II, not being issued until 1945, and afterwards it was overshadowed by the AK-47, which became the main service rifle for the Soviet military.
That being said, millions of SKS carbines were still made and used as both secondary weapons for the Soviet military and were widely distributed to Soviet allies. The carbine is well known for its reliability like the AK-47, and features a gas piston rod to cycle the action and a spring loaded bolt carrier.
Today, the SKS is widely available on the United States surplus market and is popular with U.S. civilians, while also being used by numerous countries and insurgent forces throughout the world as well.
The AK-12 is an assault rifle chambered for the 5.45x39mm cartridge, while the AK-15 is chambered for the 7.62x39mm. Both rifles are manufactured by Kalashnikov and the AK-12 in particular was adopted as the main service rifle for the Russian army.
The AK-12 simply represents the latest iteration of the AK-series of rifles. It began development in 2011 under the company Izhmash, which later developed into Kalashnikov. Later, Izhmash would develop into the company Kalashnikov (a Russian company separate from Kalashnikov USA in the United States).
The AK-12 is a selective fire rifle with fully automatic, two round burst, and semi-automatic modes. It is designed to be more advanced and cheaper to build than previous versions of the AK rifle. It features a gas operated, long stroke piston system, a rotating bolt, and a Picatinny rail over the dust cover for adding optics such as red dot sights, magnifiers, and scopes, and another picatinny rail under the handguard for adding flashlights, lasers, or vertical fore grips. The rifle is also designed to be fitted with a bayonet, a grenade launcher (specifically the GP25 under barrel grenade launcher) and suppressor.
The AK-12 also has a cyclic rate of fire of seven hundred rounds a minute, which is a hundred rounds per minute faster than previous versions of the AK rifle.
The AK-12 and the AK-15 are also identical, with the only differences being the difference in calibers as noted above.
The AK-74 was designed in the 1970s as an upgrade over the AK-47 and AKM rifles. The biggest difference is the change to the 5.45x39mm round, which is more accurate and has superior ballistics and less recoil in comparison to the 7.62x39mm. Otherwise, the main features between the AK-47 and the AK-74 are virtually identical.
The AK-74 quickly became the new standard service rifle for the Soviet military and was put to the test in the Afghanistan War of 1979 to 1989, and today is used by more countries than the AK-47 or AKM series of rifles. Today, the AK-74 lives on as the main service rifle of the Russian Army in the form of he AK-12.
A smaller and more compact version of the AK-74 is called the AKS-74U. It features a folding plastic stock to Mae it even more nimble in tight conditions.
The AKM was designed as an improvement over the AK-47, and served the Soviet army from 1959 until the adoption of the AK-74 in the 1970s. The AKM features a number of upgrades over the AK-47 to make it even more suitable for widespread adoption.
To this end, the AKM features a steel stamped receiver over the milled steel receiver of the original AK-47, overall simplified manufacturing methods, an enhanced barrel for superior accuracy, and a reduced weight.
Most of the changes from the AK-47 to the AKM are internal, and when looking at the rifles from the outside they are virtually identical. Most people who see the two rifles together cannot tell them apart.
The Chukavin rifle currently serves as the standard issue sniper rifle for the Russian military, replacing the Dragunov SVD, which had been in continuous service for several decades. Also known as the SVC, the Chukavin is available in the following calibers: 7.62x54r, .308 Winchester, and .338 Lapua Magnum. The .338 version in particular has an effective firing range of almost seventeen hundred yards.
The Chukavin was unveiled in 2017 and quickly adopted as the new sniper rifle for Russia. The internals of the gun are based off of the AK series of rifles. It also features a Picatinny rail on the upper receiver and another on the hand guard to add iron sights, optical scopes, lasers, and so on. It also features a bipod, sound suppressor, flashlight, laser designator, and a free floating barrel for superior accuracy over the Dragunov.
The SVT-38, and later the SVT-40, were essentially the Soviet Union’s attempt to build their version of the M1 Garand. The M1 Garand was a semi-automatic rifle chambered in .30-06 and served as the primary United States service rifle throughout World War II. The M1 Garand had a much faster rate of fire than the standard bolt actions of other militaries.
The SVT-38, in contrast to the heavy and robust construction of the Mosin Nagant, was designed to be lighter weight with a gas operation design. Subsequently, it gained a reputation for needing to be cleaned regularly in order to fire reliably. Nonetheless, Soviet forces issued the rifle initially gained an advantage over the German soldiers armed with the Mauser K98, at least until Germany began issuing the STG44 and Gewehr 43 rifles in wide numbers.
The SVT 38 and SVT 40 fire the 7.62x54r round with a ten round detachable box magazine. They also came equipped with a muzzle brake, sight rails mounted into the receiver, and an adjustable gas system. The rifles gained a mixed reception from Soviet infantrymen; some loved the semi-automatic firing capabilities, while others felt that it was too long and cumbersome.
The SVT rifles were expensive to produce, and as a result they were never nearly as widely issued as the Mosin Nagant. Nonetheless, they were effectively the Soviet Union’s first primary semi-automatic rifle to see combat in large numbers.