Dragunov Variations: Military SVD, Izhmash Tiger, Chinese NDM-86

The SVD Dragunov was the Soviet marksman’s rifle that finally replaced the failed attempt to issue the SVT-40 as a precision rifle. It was introduced in 1963, after about 5 years of development, and its scarcity in the United States has led to the development of a loyal and dedicated group of admirers. This, of course, has led to much spirited debate about the relative merits of the different variations of the SVD which have been imported into the US. Today, we will look at three in detail: a genuine Soviet military-issue SVD, a commercial Tiger SVD made in Russia, and a commercial Chinese NDM-86 in 7.62 NATO caliber (a commercial version of the Chinese Type 79/85 military rifle).

While these rifles really have negligible differences in actual shooting and handling performance, they do differ in some details. Specifically:

– firing pin
– gas regulator
– trigger mechanism (safety sear & disconnector)
– bolt machining
– mainspring and top cover
– receiver lightening cut(s)

Enjoy the video, and see the differences for yourself!


  1. “It was introduced in 1963, after about 5 years of development, and its scarcity in the United States has led to the development of a loyal and dedicated group of admirers.”
    In 1968 Dragunov designed .22 LR rifle, which purpose was training, it was called ТСВ-1: https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/ТСВ-1
    It is independent design, only patterned after SVD.

  2. Dragunov’s squad support rifle (sniper is misnomer) commands attention and respect. One reason is its uniqueness. If there is an equivalent in Western armies it would probably be modernised M14 or LMT AR10 style rifle in 7.62x51mm (so called sharpshooter) and SAR25, maybe. Russian military (Chinese already made step in new direction some time ago) is probably on verge of acquiring replacement in form of SVK (Samozaryadnaya Vintovka Kalashnikova), new development from Izhmash. As for me however, the image of Red Army infantry team is connected inextricably with SVD. It’s a symbol, it’s an icon.

    I have noticed that finish on Tigr’s receiver is not especially appealing; kind like Soviet era production which is shame.

    • I think the only more o less equivalent, in the same timeframe as Dragunov’s rifle, is the french FR F1 rifle.
      Same logic: give a precision/sharpshooter rifle to every squad. It did some good ”work” in the hands of the french military in the numerous small wars in Africa.


    • I think besides looking at comparative weapons/technology the comparison must be made between doctrine used by different militaries. I don’t think that a rifle like the Dragunov fits into the doctrine of every army. I’m not 100% sure of that but it seems that other militaries would use different weapons for area denial, suppression during assault or disengagement, etc.

      • Squad marksman rifles are required because individual aiming skills generally don’t matter much unless you have very long engagement ranges like the case with Afghanistan. The typical squad level skirmish today involves less “one-hit killings” and emphasizes more threat suppression (where your objective isn’t extermination but rendering the other party unable to fight effectively). If an opponent is unable to achieve a goal because his position is compromised by your marksman, he will require some means of countering the suppression other than his main weapon if he isn’t a machine gunner. I could be wrong.

      • The few NATO debates that​ I’ve read into, stress the logistical problems of supplying two different rounds.

        The debates in the 1950s had the British ideal Calibre people arguing for an intermediate calibre that allowed controllable full auto and which could replace the BREN, the No4 and the STEN.

        Studler’s argument from the united state, was that the energy delivered by .30-06 M2 ball at 2,000m represented an absolute minimum acceptable performance (.303 mkvii and mk viii and most of the various 8mm 198 grain spitzer loads actually gave flatter trajectory, less wind drift and higher retained velocities and energies than .30-06 m2 at all ranges beyond 600m).

        On that basis, NATO members were supposed to standardize, and to replace automatic rifles like the BAR and BREN, previous rifles, and SMGs with selective fire rifles firing 7.62 x 51,. Which was supposed to achieve everything.

        Even when the united state military bureacracy reneged on The standardisation that had been imposed on other NATO member states, by adopting the mess that is 5.56×47. The shibboleth that standardisation on a single round represented, still remained.

        In the light of that (almost religiously held) doctrine​, there appeared to be no place for a designated Marksman rifle, firing a cartridge that is optimised for longer ranges, within NATO.

        Additionally, there was a general strategy in NATO, that a Soviet incursion would be met with battlefield nukes. That the armies on the Rhine, were there to delay, and were too far out numbered by the Soviet armoured divisions, to actually stop an incursion if one had ever begun. In that sense, they were seen as disposable, and no great expense or care went into training or equipping them.

        Again, the idea of designated Marksman, did not fit.

        • “few NATO debates that”
          In Soviet Union in 1980s new sniper cartridge was developed: 6×49 mm,
          see photo-comparison to 5,45x39and 7,62x54R here:
          muzzle velocity for standard bullet (mass: 5 g) was 1150 m/s, which give momentum 5*1150 = 5750 that is very similar to 7,62×39 cartridge.
          Beyond machine gun described in link above, there were developed:
          ТКБ-0145К – bull-pup self-loading sniper rifle
          СВК and СВК-С – self-loading sniper rifle and self-loading sniper rifle with folding stock

          • Thanks Thanks​for the links 🙂

            It’s interesting to see that the designers in the former Soviet Union, appreciated heavy, long pointed bullets.

            Outside of select circles (this is one of those select circles),. People who speak English and have been over exposed to trashy gunzines, seem to have a religious belief in light bullets, at high velocity.

            Even if ranges are only to 250 or 300 yards and the targets are deer sized, the religion causes problems,

            Not the least of those being, that, even if the firer actually knows where the critter’s heart is, and can hit it (neither of which can be taken as a necessary truth).

            The combination of crappy mass market bullets and high velocity, results in “meat damage”. And it’s opposing complaint of insufficient blood trail to track an animal wounded in it’s lungs or its guts. Bubba complains both ways.

            Lack of anatomical knowledge and inability to hit the right spot, is automatically blamed on not flat shooting enough ( sighted for 250 m a fired to 300m .303 is within half a minute of the “flat shooting” .270 Winchester and.264 win mag all the way!). Or underpowered.

            Either way, the cure is generally assumed to be higher muzzle velocities, and trying to buy ability in the form of magnums firing light bullets.

            Results being more recoil, more flinching, and more animals dying slowly from big wounds in their guts, rather than quickly from a neat hole through the heart, and with zero meat damage.

            That same bubba religion of high velocity (and hence short nosed high drag bullets, unless aluminum nose fillers or aluminum cores a la cetme are used). Seems to pervade western military thinking as well.

          • “People who speak English and have been over exposed to trashy gunzines, seem to have a religious belief in light bullets, at high velocity.”
            I am not sure what gunzine mean, but I want to point that CultOfSpeed is not new, early example might be .250-3000 Savage in which 87 grain bullet was used instead of 100 grain to make it “3000”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.250-3000_Savage

          • “religious belief in light bullets, at high velocity”
            Which even, I believe, leaded to such… monstrosity, like .26 Nosler: http://www.chuckhawks.com/26Nosler.htm
            At first glance I though, Nosler simply has huge stockpile of .404 Jeffery cases and 6.5 mm bullets, but considering CultOfSpeed, it might be …intentional.
            (.26 Nosler is flawed in my opinion as it neck (6,58 mm) is shorter than bullet diameter (6,71 mm) )

          • Sorry, by gunzines, I mean gun magazines that are targetted to the hard of thinking. I’d better not name the obvious ones on Ian’s blog.

            Thanks for sharing!That 6.5 is at the silly end of the cult. And it’s getting shared with some friends.
            It’s not much different to a .22 eargersplitten loudenboomer (.416 Rigby/.338 lapua or .378/460 Weatherby necked down to .22).

            If barrel life is calculated on a bullet travel time basis, it’s going to be measured in fractions of a second

            And the light bullets needed to achieve the high velocities, result in increased drag and hence in increased wind drift.

            Range finders and trajectory calculators are common enough that trajectory isn’t very much of a problem.

            Estimating wind speed and drift is a problem

            Added to bubba, who can’t shoot for sh!T, can’t stalk game to within reasonable range (due to noise of burping from fizzy beer, and wheezing from lack of physical fitness…). And it adds up to wounded animals dying horrible deaths.

            Hyper velocity 7mms on the .404 case date back to the .280 Jeffery in the 19 teens and the 7 x66mm vom Hoffe super Express of the 1950s. They didn’t catch on a century ago, or sixty years ago either.

            It’s interesting that Fred Barnes, founder of Barnes bullets, experimented with the opposite of the cult of high velocity, with .227 inch bullets of up to 125 grains, and 6.5mm bullets, up to 200 grains. He needed rifling twists of one turn in about 5 1/4″ to stabilize them. They didn’t have high velocity, but they penetrated right through American Elk.

            I can’t remember whether I shared this http://www.geoffrey-kolbe.com/articles/art1.htm. Kolb founded border barrels, he has a doctorate in physics

            The gist of it is, for long range targets, use the highest ballistic coefficient bullets you can get, and forget about muzzle velocity.

            The South African guys, say that the only started to need to spend half a day tracking wounded animals, when the high velocity fad began. Before that, heavy bullets out of 7 mm, .303, 8 mm, 9.3mm etc did their job efficiency, with a heart shot.
            Their most popular cartridge for their ten or so species of elk and moose sized animals is .308 http://realtimedata.wixsite.com/bullet-behaviour/the-308w

          • “Hyper velocity 7mms on the .404 case date back to the .280 Jeffery in the 19 teens and the 7 x66mm vom Hoffe super Express of the 1950s. They didn’t catch on a century ago, or sixty years ago either.”
            vom Hofe, not Hoffe, there was also 7×73 Super Express vom Hofe introduced in 1931 – necked down .300 H&H Mag.
            Experience of past 100 years indicate that 7×64 Brenneke with bullets designed by Brenneke (TIG and TUG – Torpedo Ideal Geschoss and Torpedo Universal Geschoss) is suitable for wide range of hunting application: http://revivaler.com/the-7×64-brenneke/

          • 7×64 is a superb loading

            Too often it gets confused with the almost identical cased .280 Remington.

            The .280 could be loaded to equal the 7×64, but isn’t.

            SAAMI pressure standards down load the .280 (which is not chambered in any fragile old guns), and the religion of high velocity, means that commercial loads have lighter than optimum (and usually crappy quality) bullets.

            As you say, loaded in Europe and South Africa, with high quality heavy bullets, 7×64 is a first class performer on Eland, Wildebeest, zebra, and the half dozen other elk and moose sized animals the South Africans have.

            I need to get a reference from Andries (owner of Bullets Behavior blog, and thoroughly nice guy). Apparently Winchester’s retired long time ballistician, shared his opinion about many of Winchester’s and others sporting cartridge “developments” since the nineteen fifties, with a South African writer.

            If I remember correctly, the phrase “about as much need for it as there’s need for tits on a bull” came up about one class of cartridges. 🙂

  3. Hi Ian, tell me Karl didn’t put mine up for auction lol!! I had to have my NDM-86’s firing pin replaced by the imported (CDNN) as it did occasionally do unintentional double-taps as a result of the original free-floating pin. Ironically I wonder if the original trigger mechanism you mention being modified by ATF might have prevented this. Also, I’m pretty sure mine had the two position gas system as well, as I’m positive there was a slot on the housing for a .308 cartridge to rotate it. Whether this was functional or just a carry-over from the original design I do not recall. Aside from that I was told that 1800 NDM-86s were imported and I had heard that the .308 guns were originally a failed Pakistani contract, although I’ve never investigated this. Thanks for showing off those little differences that I always wondered about.

    • The lack of a firing pin spring causing slam fires seems a much more likely candidate.
      Especially if adding the firing pin spring alone cured the problem.

      Trust the tax bureacracy of the batfe, to get upset at an out of battery safety!

      Has anyone been hurt by out of battery firing?

  4. hi!!! name is “bubba,” to you, an american dumb as a ton of used bricks, according to you “enlightened” types.
    i bought into the 7mm mag craze, shooting the remington variety. handloader. i shot nosler 175 grain partitions, semi-spitzers, e.g., “almost round nosed” to about 2850 fps. in short, this is one “bubba” that did not believe in hyper velocity.
    they shot very accurately, and killed what i managed to hit.
    if there is any damned difference between the 7x64mm brenneke, and the .280 remington, i would like to know about it. any assertion that one is “superior” to the other, or that one is markedly different from the other, is simply based on cant. bullet weight, powder charge, and overall length depending on depth of seating the bullet accounts for any “difference” between them.
    i only wish that we “bubba” americans were as smart as all of you, and that i could learn to be as condescending and patronizing as you guys. life would be so much simpler, and better, ever so much sweeter, and we would all shoot a lot better. and, never miss. ever.

    p.s. you lambast the .223/5.56x45mm as an infantry round. i suspect that none of you have ever been shot with one. the ukrainians seem to do fine against russian infantry with them, and the “soviets” use a round for their infantry not dissimilar to the american “squirrel shooter.” so far, the ukrainians have killed about 105,000 or so russians, … , and, counting. i have no idea how many have been killed by the 5.56mm round, but i have heard no complaints leveled against it as an infantry round.
    p.s.s. how about a little humility out of some of you, and maybe an admission ever now and again that each of you doesn’t know everything, about everything. you spend way too much time talking to each other on a “level basis,” and a lot to time talking “down” to others.

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