Soviet Sniper Interview
"While Hidden, I See and Destroy" -Soviet Sniper Motto Снайперская
The following is an excerpt of an interview between American gun writer David Fortier and an ex-Soviet sniper.
"I had a chance to interview a former member of the Soviet Army who served in Afghanistan for 16 months in 1986-1987. He currently resides in the U.S. and was a very down-to-earth and honest guy. I will be frank, I grew up thinking that one day we'd be fighting these Godless commies in Europe, and that the only good commie was a dead commie. You know the drill. Then I had a chance to sit down and drink vodka with a bunch of Soviet Naval Infantrymen. To my surprise they were down to earth, funny, and a lot like me. It was from that first meeting that I started to research and write on Soviet/Russian firearms.
My new friend here was drafted into the service when he was 19. He had a background in martial arts, Judo and Sambo, and was sent to Airborne School. He made 24(!!!!) jumps during his training. During rifle training his marksmanship abilities were noted and he was asked if he would like to try shooting the SVD Dragunov sniper rifle. He said sure, and when he saw it for the first time he was blown away by how it looked. (I admit....it is the sexiest looking rifle I have ever seen too). He trained with it only out to 400 meters, and only on static targets. Basically he was given all the ballistic tables to learn, some shooting time, and then was expected to pick everything up on his own at his unit. Nice eh? Most of the training was spent learning how to jump....and they never jumped once while in Afghanstan! He was selected out of Airborne school for a Special Forces-type unit that did recon work and ambushes.
When he got to his unit in Afghanistan he said he was lucky because he was issued a rifle that had never been in the field before and still had its cheek piece and rubber eyecup. Usually these items were lost or stolen (he said people would steal the cheekpiece as it would fit an AKS-74 so he had to sleep with it) with cheek pieces being replaced with tourniquets wrapped in electrical tape.
The rifle was nicknamed the "oar" by the troops due to its length and its looks. There was one sniper per platoon and he functioned in what we would refer to as a designated marksman or sharpshooter. During ambushes he stayed with the rear support element (PKM machinegun) and fired in support.
OK, the nitty gritty: How far did he and could he engage? He engaged past 1000 meters in support, firing at heavy weapons, trucks, and personnel. At 600-800 meters (660-880 yards) he felt that he could reliably hit a man with one shot with the SVD. The weapon? He liked it very much, and felt that it was quite accurate and effective. During training (and I have heard this exact same thing from another source) they were told that if you fired and missed your target, human nature would often cause that person to freeze for a couple seconds, due to the proximity of the shot, during this time a semi-automatic rifle allowed you to make your correction and get off a follow-up shot. He liked the rifle, and owns one here in the US now. He just wished that more than one were issued to his platoon. (Later in the war up to 6 were issued per platoon.) On the optics he felt the PSO-1 was quite servicable and thought the reticle extremely effective. This I gotta agree on, I think the PSO-1 has one of the best sniper reticles out there. It ranges easily with the choke rangefinder, provides ranging using the Mil system if you desire, has 10 Mil marks on either side for windage or lead corrections and is illuminated. I was surprised that he did not feel hindered by it being only 4x and he actually liked the extremely large Field Of View.
Ammunition? He thought the 7.62x54R was quite effective. He shot both the 7N1 sniper load and the 148 grain LPS ball. The 7N1 is a 152 grain FMJBT designed specifically for use in the SVD. It has a velocity of 830 mps or about 2723 fps and is designed specifically to increase leathality. It has an airpocket in the nose with a steel "knocker" behind that and finally a lead plug in the base. Upon hitting a target the steel "knocker" moves forward into the airspace and destabalizes the projectile. I sent some of this ammo off to a friend who owns an ammunition company and he was quite impressed after disecting one."
After 6 months he transfered to different duty and carried an AKS-74. He really liked the AKS-74 and its round and said it was effective at 400 meters. Thought the 5.45x39 did everything it needed too, was accurate, light, and did the deed well.
Interestingly he also carried, of all things, a Stetchkin machine pistol, when he was lugging the SVD. Carried it in its stock/holster in a outside pocket of his pack. When they were clearing houses he'd sling the SVD because of its length and pull out the Stetchkin and mount its stock. Though he never had to shoot anyone with it, he thought it was accurate out to 200 meters and extremely controllable on fullauto. He had no love for the AKSU-74 (Krinkov) though. Said they were widely issued to truck drivers and tank crews and the like, but were binned whenever they got the chance to get a regular AKS-74. I was surprised by this, but he didnt like it."