Russian Spetsnaz units operating on the front lines of the war in Ukraine just received a new toy from Kalashnikov Concern. The Chukavin Sniper Rifle or SVCh is the new Russian sniper rifle meant to replace the aging Dragunov SVD, the very rifle it will be quite literally going to battle against.
Both Ukrainian marksmen and the foreign volunteers fighting alongside them have been very effective at dropping Russians with the SVD, a Soviet designated marksman’s rifle with a design almost 60 years old. In June of 2022, Ukrainian special forces reported killing 300 Russian troops with their SVDs as well as western weapons like it while using the very same Soviet sniper doctrine as their Russian enemies.
The Russians, however, feel they can level the playing field with a new sniper rifle. Built with input from Spetsnaz snipers in the field who have been bemoaning the inadequacies of their rifles, the new SVCh is almost completely divorced from the traditional AK pattern Russian arms have been known for. While this new Russian sniper rifle utilizes the same magazines as the Cold War-era SVD, all its other components are the products of innovative minds at Kalashnikov Concern.
Designed by Andrei Yurievich Chukavin, the SVCh comes in three varieties: 7.62x54mmR for internal troops as well as 7.62x51mm NATO and .338 Lapua Magnum for export. The wooden AK-style furniture of Soviet rifles past has been replaced by modern synthetic furniture inherited from western rifles for the sake of weight. As a result, the SVCh weighs 9.5lbs unloaded compared to the hefty 11.7lbs of an SVD. Despite wanting to make this new Russian rifle lightweight and modern, Kalashnikov made the curious design decision of building its receiver out of heavy steel which, according to them, was done for the sake of durability – even though an aluminum receiver would have done the job just as well as it does in modern western rifles without the added weight.
Aside from this one odd design choice, the SVCh is built with several features never before seen on a Russian sniper rifle. Taking design cues from modern western rifles, the stock is built in line with the receiver and barrel which minimizes muzzle rise. Housed in a free-floating handguard, the SVCh’s barrel is cold hammer forged, further refining its accuracy. Thanks to these western-style design choices, Kalashnikov has produced a Russian sniper rifle which they claim is capable of shooting 1 MOA groups or better, with an effective range of 1,640 yards. This is significant because to most firearms enthusiasts, the words “Kalashnikov” and “accurate” never go together.
Russian equipment has traditionally been designed with ergonomics taking a backseat. The SVCh has broken this tradition by incorporating a slew of improvements which would be considered on a western rifle, such as an adjustable cheek riser, folding stock, an AR-style safety selector, and a left-side charging handle. Like all newer rifles, it also has modern picatinny rails unlike its predecessors which were forced to mount proprietary optics on proprietary mounts.
On paper, the SVCh looks even better than the AR-10, America’s premiere DMR.
|Caliber||7.62x54R||7.62x54R||.308 Win (7.62x51mm NATO)|
|Barrel length||16 inches||24.4 inches||18 inches|
|Magazine||10, 15, 20 rounds||10 rounds||10, 20 rounds|
|Receiver Construction||Steel receiver||Steel receiver||Anodized aluminum, Teflon coated|
|Action||Gas-operated, rotating bolt||Gas-operated, rotating bolt||Gas-operated, rotating bolt|
|Effective Range||1,640 yards||875 yards||1,000 yards|
|Accuracy||1 MOA||1.5 MOA||0.5 MOA|
Vladimir Putin tried out the rifle himself and managed to make this grouping, hitting three out of five shots with a Schmidt and Bender riflescope, an optic so expensive it will never be provided to the ordinary snipers on the front lines because of its cost.
However, given the Russian government’s dubious reputation as well as its tendency to exaggerate or leave out information, it’s safe to say that they’ll cover up any failures the new Russian rifle will experience on the battlefield.