Russia Hints at SVD Replacement (That We’ll Never Get to Shoot)

sk-16 svd replacement

Looking at this rendering it’s possible to make out a small port above the chamber. This may be what redirects gas from the gas trap system to the action. (Photo: TFB/Popular Mechanics Russia)

Russia’s Popular Mechanics has the story on a new, possibly SVD-derived potential Dragunov replacement. The SVD, or simply Dragunov, was the first successful semi-automatic designated marksman’s rifle and it has been in service for over 50 years–and it’s starting to show its age.

The proposed replacement rifle, the SK-16, is a sleek, modern carbine with a flattop rail for optics. The SVD uses the older side-mount rail for optics which are heavier, more complex and sometimes less stable mounting methods for scopes, a critical part of any designated marksman’s kit. The SK-16 also has a folding, fully-adjustable stock and free-floating handguard for improved accuracy.

It appears to have a barrel length in the 14- to 16-inch territory, much shorter than the SVD’s 24-inch barrel, and did we mention it is chambered for 7.62 NATO/.308 Winchester? This is a major departure from the Dragunov standard which fires the venerable 7.62x54mmR cartridge.

sk-16 (2)

The SK-16 is certainly eye-catching, although the Dragunov will always have a special kind of class. (Photo: TFB/Popular Mechanics Russia)

There are a few theories to explain this since 7.62x54mmR is still a capable cartridge. Designed for the Mosin-Nagant rifle, 7.62x54mmR was originally expected to perform out to laughably-long range back in 1891, out to 2,000 meters or nearly 1.25 miles. Over time the cartridge has been modernized and is still in use today to good effect. So why change it?

One explanation is that there are few modern 7.62 NATO options produced domestically for Russian special forces. While there are AK-based 7.62 NATO/.308 Winchester options produced in Russia they have all the shortcomings of the Dragunov and none of its advantages. The SVD is not based at all on the original Kalashnikov pattern, it is an accuratized design with a short-stroke recoil system and milled steel receiver.

For Russians to get a modern semi-automatic 7.62 NATO/.308 Win. rifle, they have two options: import or innovate, and the Russian small arms industry has always favored innovation over importation. But there is an even simpler explanation for the move away from 7.62x54mmR–it’s a rimmed cartridge.

Unlike 7.62x54mmR, 7.62 NATO/.308 Win. use a rimless case which feed more reliably and offer higher capacities than the rimmed cartridge. It also opens up a lot of other options for more cartridges compatible with .308 Winchester cases. If you’re making a truly modern long-range carbine you might as well start with .308 Winchester, it opens a lot of doors without compromising on performance.

That’s not the only surprise with the SK-16. While photos of early prototypes clearly have gas piston systems, according to The Firearm Blog, the current-production SK-16 uses a gas trap.

Gas traps use special muzzle devices that channel gas from the end of the barrel back to the operating system after the bullet leaves the barrel. These were used in early automatic firearm designs but largely discarded in favor of other gas operation systems because of gas trap reliability issues.

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It sounds like Kalashnikov Concern developers Demyan Belyakov and Evgeniy Erofeev have overcome these problems to build a precision gas trap rifle. From the renderings it looks like the SK-16 channels gas back to a small port above the chamber which cycles the action. Gas trap actions stay locked until the bullet leaves the barrel so these could theoretically be very accurate guns if the system works.

Not that very many Americans will be able to shoot one of these guns anytime soon. The SK-16 is a Kalashnikov Concern gun which means that due to sanctions, it cannot currently be exported to the U.S. Sanctions were put in place against Russia after the Russian annexation of Crimea last year targeting the Kalashnikov Concern specifically.

Even if Russia hands over Crimea today it would be a surprise if those sanctions were lifted. As Russian hostilities towards U.S. military forces continue and even increase in aggression, sanctions seem likely to stay in place for the long run.

But the rifle itself is interesting nevertheless, and we hope to at least see it in photographs if it does get adopted as the SVD’s replacement.

{ 12 comments… add one }
  • viper snake in spanish January 27, 2017, 6:01 am

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  • Amy June 9, 2016, 10:40 am

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  • derwurst June 5, 2016, 8:10 am

    The reason there is an Embargo on these Russian weapons is because of a POTUS generated Executive Order and to my knowledge of the US Constitution any POTUS generated Executive order is not the law of the land. When is the SCOTUS going to get some balls and rule that the validity of POTUS generated Executive Orders are NOT laws of the land.

  • Rollin Scholz June 3, 2016, 11:49 am

    Thank you Mr Schultz
    Your comments are both accurate and articulate
    Many of my friends are crediting me forYour comments ,
    While I agree with your every word . I cannot take credit for them.
    Thank you
    Rollin Scholz

  • m June 3, 2016, 10:18 am

    In that Russian magazine or publication, that model soldier sure looks like an imaging of western troops.

  • Rollin Shultz June 3, 2016, 7:53 am

    Decent article on a potentially fantastic firearm, however I find you comments about Russia/Crimea objectionable “Even if Russia hands over Crimea today it would be a surprise if those sanctions were lifted. As Russian hostilities towards U.S. military forces continue and even increase in aggression, sanctions seem likely to stay in place for the long run.”
    Firstly because it regurgitates Western MSMedia rhetoric that implies Russia did something wring in accepting the vote of nearly 95% of the Crimean/Russian people to rejoin Russia as they feared they would end up the same as the Eastern Ukrainians who have been constantly shelled by the new USA installed regime in Western Ukraine.
    Secondly because the part of the statement about Russian aggression is an outright lie and any awake, American Patriot knows that if anything, US imperialism and constant machinations for regime changes in any country which offers resources worth stealing or makes moves to free itself from the “Petro Dollar” is the true aggression causing the constant state of war we face.
    I would expect better from any writer contributing to this website than what your remarks belie. It is not that I am “pro Russian”, it is that the first line of defense against any aggression isn’t firearms, it is “information”. Those who limit themselves to “Western Corporately Owned Media” remain uninformed and therefore easily manipulated. It matters little how well you can shoot, if you don’t know which way to point the gun.

    • Mick June 3, 2016, 9:00 am

      Well said, information is a powerful weapon !

    • James June 3, 2016, 4:38 pm

      So…if Russia moved a few thousand troops into say….Oklahoma and then organized a vote and the majority of Oklahomans chose to join with Russia rather than stay in the U.S., that would be OK too?

      • Douglas Riding June 3, 2016, 10:04 pm

        I seem to remember that several southern States ( capital S ) voted to leave a union they had joined sometime before, thinking that they would still have some control over their own destinies… Alas, when times, & the political climate changed, and those people voted to leave that collective; A war was forced upon them with terrible consequences that continue to this day… Perhaps those loyal Russians who had settled in the Crimea for the past 70 years, thought that, that country now belonged to them ! I guess that’s a lesson for unfettered immigration !!!

    • Tony June 16, 2016, 5:34 am

      Well said, it’s good to know that people are waking up. It’s the beginning of a first step, now we got to be aware of the infiltators and truth twisters out to keep us in the dark.

    • E W Ingalls January 31, 2017, 8:51 am

      I’ve been to Moscow and Kyv with a black passport. I was in Moscow when Russia invaded Georgia. As for your input Sir, I would politely say “bullshit.”

      • Jason Carreiro August 6, 2017, 9:03 pm

        Georgia attacked South Ossetia first, triggering retaliation from Russia. Ukraine had a coup that tried to disenfranchise most of the ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea by using corruption as a pretext to ban the entire party of Regions.

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