The RP46 was the final major update of the Degtyarev light machine gun, and it would be used until supplanted by the excellent PK series of guns. The RP46 was intended to improve the mobile firepower of Soviet infantry by giving them a light machine gun more capable of sustained fire. The pan magazines were replaced by a clever belt feed mechanism that attached to an existing DP’s magazine catches. It was driven by the action of the charging handle, which on a DP reciprocates with every shot.
Because the top cover hooked into the existing front and rear magazine catches, a slot was added to the rear end of the barrel shroud which was engaged by the RP46 carry handle. This way, the weight of the gun when being carried was not supported by the mag catch. The conversion was backwards-compatible with existing pan magazines – the top cover could be removed just like a magazine.
(1949) Russian RP-46 manual (Russian)