a semi-automatic sniper rifle/designated marksman rifle chambered in 7.62×54mmR and developed in the Soviet Union.
The Dragunov was designed as a squad support weapon, since according to Soviet and Soviet-derived military doctrines the long-range engagement ability was lost to ordinary troops when submachine guns and assault rifles (which are optimized for close-range and medium-range, rapid-fire combat) were adopted. For that reason it was originally named Dragunov’s Semi-automatic Rifle.
It was selected as the winner of a contest that included three competing designs – by Sergei Simonov, by Aleksandr Konstantinov and by Yevgeny Dragunov. Extensive field testing of the rifles conducted in a wide range of environmental conditions resulted in Dragunov’s proposal being accepted into service in 1963. An initial pre-production batch consisting of 200 rifles was assembled for evaluation purposes, and from 1964 serial production was carried out by Izhmash.
Since then, the Dragunov has become the standard squad support weapon of several countries, including those of the former Warsaw Pact. Licensed production of the rifle was established in China (Type 79 and Type 85) and Iran (as a direct copy of the Chinese Type 79).
The Dragunov is an original rifle design for several reasons. First, it was not meant for highly trained and specialized sniper teams, but rather for designated marksmen, spread in every basic infantry unit. In every platoon of Warsaw Pact troops, there was at least one Dragunov rifle marksman. In the German Democratic Republic arsenals alone, there were almost 2,000 Dragunov rifles, while in many Western armies there was not even a single sniper rifle except in special forces units (as example, in the Italian Army until the 1990s), but in Warsaw Pact troop formations, the Dragunov marksmen were widespread among the regular units. To fulfill this role the rifle is relatively light for a sniper rifle but well balanced, making it easier to use in a dynamic battle. It also is a semi-automatic rifle, a rare feature for accuracy oriented rifles in the 1960s (except for customized ordnance, like M1 Garands), to allow rapid fire and quicker engagement of multiple targets. In order to fire effective API ammunition, its accuracy potential was slightly downgraded by shortening the twist rate, another uncommon priority for a pure sniper rifle. Its precision is good but not exceptional, also because it has a relatively light barrel profile. Like an assault rifle, the rifle has mounts on the barrel to fix a bayonet. The standard AKM bayonet can even be used to cut barbed wire. Lastly, the rifle was meant to be a relatively cheap mass produced firearm.
These features and unusual characteristics were driven by the tactical use doctrine of Dragunov armed marksman which was; from (just behind) the first line targeting high value targets of opportunity and providing special long-distance disrupting and suppressive fire on the battlefield, even with sudden close encounters with enemy troops in mind. A relatively small number of marksmen could assist conventional troops by combating or harassing valuable targets and assets such as: enemy key personnel like officers, non-commissioned officers and radio operators, exposed tank commanders, designated marksmen and snipers, machinegun teams, anti-tank warfare teams, etc.