The Dragunov SVU (Russian: Снайперская винтовка укороченная, Snayperskaya Vintovka Ukorochennaya, Short Sniper Rifle) is a bullpup configuration of the SVD sniper rifle. The SVU was developed to meet the needs of the security forces of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, such as OMON. The SVU was first seen in usage in the First Chechen War. Originally, the plan was to just slightly modernize the aging SVD, but they eventually realised that the configuration of the weapon would have to be completely altered, leading to the creation of the SVU.
A muzzle brake was added which could absorb up to 40% of the energy and an elastic butt stock with lamellar spring was non-rigidly attached to the receiver. The acoustics of the rifle were also improved by adding a sound suppressor that could reduce the level of sound by 150 decibels thereby making it easier on the shooter. The other main improvements made to the SVU over the SVD include replacement of butt stock, pistol grip, trigger and the mounting for the sight, and shortening the barrel by 100mm achieved perfect balance for the weapon.
Around 1991 the Russians developed a slight variant of the SVU, the SVU-A. Whereas the SVU is semi-automatic, the SVU-A (the a stands for automatic ) is a fully automatic rifle. In this rifle the center of gravity was increased by the addition of a forward extended bipod mounted on the receiver. Developing 20 and 30 round magazines increased the capacity of the magazine so that it could be used effectively in full automatic mode, and better optics were incorporated into the SVU-A to replace the previous units which were left almost untouched since the SVD.
Though it has folding iron sights, the SVU is almost always used with the PSO-1 scope with illuminated reticle but other Russian scopes can also be mounted. The PSO-1 reticle is almost unique in the world of sniper scopes, in that its rangefinders are in the lower left, chevrons for bullet drop compensation are found in the middle, and stadia marks for windage to the left and right of the center reticule. The reticle is also illuminated by radioactive tritium instead of a small battery-powered lamp. The SVU also comes with an adjustable bipod. It has an integral flash hider and suppressor. A bayonet may be fitted under the forestock. Although the effective range of the weapon is only 400m (most modern sniper rifles have an effective range of around 1000m), the fire rate of 30 rounds/min in automatic mode make up for this. However, the rate of fire in standard sniper mode is only around 5 rounds/min.