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In situations where greater range, accuracy and power than a traditional AK is needed, the answer comes in a Romanian-made semi-automatic precision rifle dubbed the PSL. Chambered in the more powerful 7.62x54R rimmed cartridge, the PSL series provides greater long-range capabilities than the AK and has seen action on both sides of the War on Terror.
Despite its widespread use around the world, the Romanian PSL series of rifles suffer from a serious case of mistaken identity. Due to generally similar exterior lines and similar roles, this rifle is often confused with the SVD rifle and many times incorrectly referred to as a Romanian “Dragunov.” In reality, the two rifles could not be more different.
Unlike the SVD, the PSL’s basic design is based off of the tried-and-true Kalashnikov rifle, although significantly enlarged and reinforced to accommodate the larger, more powerful cartridge.
As a result, the PSL represented a polar-opposite design approach from the SVD. The heart of the PSL is an elongated and reinforced stamped-steel Kalashnikov-style receiver. To handle the increased impulse stress of the full power rimmed 7.62x54R cartridge (which produces performance similar to the .30-06 Springfield cartridge) over the Kalashnikov’s standard 7.62x39mm intermediate cartridge, the PSL’s 11-inch receiver features several reinforcement points over a standard sheet metal Kalashnikov-style receiver.
At the rear of the receiver are two riveted reinforcing plates where the stock meets the receiver to help the rifle withstand and spread out the heavier recoil of the more powerful cartridge. At the forward part of the receiver are two RPK-style raised reinforcing ribs around the rifle’s trunnion area, also to help add strength to the receiver. A stamped-steel top cover features reinforcing ribs in the latter-day AKM style of the Kalashnikov.
The mechanism of the PSL’s semi-automatic system of operation is also quite different. While the SVD featured a short-stroke gas piston system, the PSL employs a large, heavy bolt carrier assembly with an affixed gas piston like the Kalashnikov. In fact, the large assembly measures just under 18 inches in total length, resulting in a large mass of metal slapping back and forth during cycling. A rotating bolt head locks into a stressed-steel trunnion housed within the stamped-steel receiver.
By their nature, rifles such as the PSL and even the SVD represent a radically different approach to precision rifle design than their Western counterparts. With the PSL being born during the Cold War era, the Soviets’ view of the role of the designated marksman had a significant impact on the design of this rifle.
Whereas Western military doctrine for rifles employed in this role calls for precision rifle designs that place a premium on extreme accuracy, the Soviets focused more on rate of fire and portability. And the PSL is representative of this mindset with the overall weight of the rifle (including the PSO-1-type optical sight) coming in right around 10 pounds. As a result, the semi-automatic rifle is practically a lightweight when compared against Western designs such as the Marine Corps’ M40 series of rifles. And, feeding from a detachable box 10-round magazine, it offers a great deal of rapid firepower.
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