Russian Sniper Report

Range Reports


Finland's Military

Finnish Defence Force

The following is an excerpt of an email I received from a soldier in Finland trained as a sniper.

Finnish sniper with SVD"It's not the equipment or the money, it's about training and that cold will..."
(Sniper in FInland - not the author of this email)

I am a special forces military sniper from Finland. One of our duty guns is the Russian Dragunov SVD, through which I have put several thousands of rounds. I must say as a sniper, I love this gun. Throughout most of Finland, engagement distances are moderate due to a low visibility caused by the thick forests and marshes which makes the SVD a perfect tool. The climate and terrain is sometimes quite harsh but the SVD is our choice because of the very low maintaining requirements, and above all its reliable...and that is mostly what it is all about in war. You need reliability to stay alive.

You may be surprised to learn that one of the main sniper weapons in Finnish military battlefield missions is the SVD. Our Special Forces snipers are mainly employed as rear security element in LRRP missions and assigned sniper duties within a given mission. The other main function is counterterrorist/urban assault sniping missions including hostage rescue and fire support.

Besides the SVD we have access to any available sniper weapon in the world, depending on the mission/target configuration. We have suppressed and silenced weapons of all kinds as well as .50 Barretts, Sako TRG 21 & 41's, and H&K PSG-1's to name a few. Normal Infantry sharpshooters use old modified Mosin-Nagant M39's (free floating barrels, wood stocks) also in 7.62 x 53R with German Kahles scopes. They also have some TRG's with Leupolds. Their training is quite different, as more battlefield support fire oriented with some countersniper abilities. We put a little more emphasis in to camouflage, movement, communications etc...

By the way, originally SVD stood for Semipolarnya Vintovka Dragunova, (NOT Snayperskaya Vintovka Dragunova), which means Semi-automatic Rifle Dragunov, indicating that the rifle was not meant to be a truly sniper' s weapon. It was designed to shoot accurate supportive fire beyond the range of the original AK-47 in the battlefield.

Finnish sniper with SVD

On the ROMAK-3:
I also own privately a Romanian military PSL made in 1994 and I wanted to bring out some opinions of my own into that seemingly never ending debate about SVD vs. PSL. Regarding accuracy: even though you can find the ROMAK-3 for about a fraction of the price of the genuine Russian SVD, you should buy it. Mine has a Russian military PSO-1 on it and 1PN58 with IR illuminator for night use. I have modified the grip a little and did a trigger job (easy because our service weapons are Sako and Kalashnikov assault rifles which have the same kind of action and trigger assembly).

Now both of these weapons are equally accurate!!! About 3/4 MOA groups constantly. PERIOD.

The world of difference is the ammo. Believe me we have tried it all, everything available. And what we use is the Lapua 7,62 x 53R with 148gr D- 47 bullet, which is the thicker version of the D-46 (also 148gr). It is boat-tail MATCH ammo for the old Mosin-Nagant and Finnish equivalents from the WWII- era.

I don't want you to think I'm biased because the ammo is Finnish too, its simply the most accurate for these weapons. A second choice is the Swedish Norma. The Russian silvertips to my knowledge (and our special forces sniper school's) were never intended to be accurate ammo for SVD and neither is it a match grade ammo for any 7,62 x 54R. Russians simply don't make match ammo for that caliber. It is just better quality normal ammo. (More consistent manufacturing tolerances, better powder and so on). It is somewhat accurate in SVD but not great. Russians have adopted those silvertips for their use because manufacturing match-grade ammo for the SVD would only give marginal results. Big country, big tolerances, you know. The tip is painted silver to recognize it from the other same caliber rounds, especially from WWII- era mass- production ammo.

When asked to clarify what "Silver tips" are:
I've been doing some research on your question about Russian Silvertips/ 7N14. The following is not the "ultimate" truth about this yet, but to my understanding Russian silvertips are those civilian soft cast metal bullets with a little milder powder charge as I mentioned before. Those 7N14's you mentioned are probably new "Snaiperskaya" cartridges made especially for SVD, but there is no such 7N14 marking in the cartridge case, so I'm still working on this.

Anyway that new snaiperskaya is still not yet even boat-tail ammo, so the accuracy is more consistent, but generally over 1 MOA. The "thing" in those cartridges is the powder and charge, which in Russia is said to be "the most suitable used for the SVD", which is probably right, because itÕs ballistics are somewhat identical to Lapua and Norma, and it stabilizes the bullet properly. The lack in accuracy depends still on bullet construction. By the way Sako and Lapua have also manufactured 7,62 x 53R ammo in boxer cases for competition purposes and I happen to have about 100 of them. They are accurate!

The reason why it is hard to obtain Match-grade ammo for the caliber is mainly bullet construction. The bullet is a bit thicker than average boat-tail match .308, which makes it a lower volume manufacturing product for any bigger ammunition factory. If you mean to reload your ammo, you can easily obtain powder and bullets, but Berdan primers are hard to get items. If you can get Berdan primers for the cartridge, you first have to invent a method of getting those used primers off from the two- priming hole case without harming it. We have most commonly used water pressure. You can use boxer primers in Berdan cases but it leads to primer pressure leaks and primer off-center problems which causes uneven burning and leads to fatal loss of accuracy ( "flys" [a.k.a. flyers], which means one single bullet tens of centimeters off target). Also the boxer primer sits a little bit too deep into berdan primer hole, which can cause a dud or an uneven pressure curve in powder burning. In Finland if a person can get his hands onto boxer primed cases you can definetly consider yourself as a lottery winner!

I also have an M39 in mint shooting condition. I use Lapua match ammo with D-46 bullet and that rifle is truly accurate and pleasant to shoot. I also own a Suomi submachine-pistol with 14 new barrels and shim-sets.

I was asked to add:
Everything I have stated is of my own responsibility and my own opinion and experience, not Finnish Army's or Government's official claim.