The primary mission of this rifle is to extend the effective fire range of the Russian infantry squad up to 600 meters and provide fire support. First requested in 1958, it was put in production and accepted as a standard sniper rifle in the USSR military by 1963. Before being put into large scale production, it was one of the most exotic rifles in the world. It was the first rifle of its kind to be designed from scratch as a sniper's weapon.
Every infantry squad in the Russian Federation has one marksman carrying an SVD.
The Dragunov had been reported to be a very fine firearm by its operators, and it still continues to be in service around all of the former countries of Eastern Bloc.
Its production has been undertaken in Bulgaria, the People's Republic of China, Egypt, Hungary, and Poland. Most of the optical sights had been made in the Soviet Union and East Germany, and both the rifle and its optics have been cloned in China as the Type 79. Markings usually determine the country of origin. Since the SVD is more expensive to manufacture than the ubiquitous Kalashnikov, only a few countries have been able to produce the rifle themselves.
It has always been seen as an integral part of Russian infantry equipment - a tradition in the Soviet Army dating back to the early 1930s.
The SVD is a semi-automatic 7.62x54mmR precision rifle fed from 10-round box magazines. It features backup iron sights and has a bayonet lug. The rifle performs best with match-grade ammunition. The SVD is very light by modern sniper rifle standards, and it has an unsophisticated trigger.
The Dragunov's primary design included the skeletonized wooden stock and stamped steel magazine. Later modifications have the stock, handguard and magazine made from polymers.
There are a few variants of the SVD rifle. As noted above, later production of the rifle has some parts made out of polymer as opposed to wood.
This variant of the SVD has a shortened barrel and folding buttstock for airborne and mounted troops. The last "S" is for "Skladnoy" [Folding].
The Dragunov SVDK is a variant of the Dragunov SVD. It is chambered in 9.3x64mm instead of 7.62x54mmR. It is intended to be used as a beefed-up anti-personnel rifle. The receiver, bolt carrier group, and other parts have been beefed up to handle the more powerful cartridge.
It has the same short-stroke gas piston action with 2-position gas regulator and a rotary bolt with three radial lugs. The rear of its barrel is enclosed into a tubular steel jacket, which is concealed within polymer handguards. This relieves the barrel from the stress imposed by handguards and bipod, making it "almost free-floating".
The purpose of SVDK is to deal with targets which are too "hard" for standard 7.62x54mmR sniper rifles like SV-98 or SVD, such as assault troops in heavy body armor or enemy snipers behind cover.
The effective range of SVDK is cited as 600 meters.
The SVDK is fitted with adjustable open sights and can also mount telescope or night sights that are installed using an SVD-style side rail on the left side of receiver, using quick-detachable mounts. The standard optical sight is 3-10X variable power 1P70 "Giperion" telescope.