Romania Doesn’t Make the Dragunov: The PSL

This rifle is available at Rock Island’s next auction here.

When Romania vocally objected to the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, it lost some of its opportunities for technology transfer form the Soviet Union. The USSR had adopted the SVD Dragunov in 1963, and it was looking like Romania would be putting that weapon into domestic production alongside the AK, but after 1968 not so much. If Romania wanted a designated marksman’s rifle, it would be on its own to develop one. So, that’s exactly what the Romanian did.
They already had a very successful factory complex making Kalashnikov rifles, and so they decided to take that design and scale it up to the 7.62x54R cartridge. The result was the PSL, with a semiautomatic only fire control group and 10-round magazines. It also featured an automatic hold open on an empty magazine, a feature only seen on one other AK variant (the early Yugoslav M64). It was fitted with a 4 power LSO-2 telescopic sight; basically a tritium-lit copy of the Soviet PSO-1.
After the Wall came down and the Warsaw Pact disintegrated, the Cugir factory complex would sell the PSL (and many other AK variants) widely on the international military and civilian markets. This has resulted in lots of Romanian PSL rifles here in the US today.


  1. We got one of these a while ago. Initially I was very displeased with it, because CAI did a banana-build on mine due to their ham-handed riveting. It also had some feed problems until I got about 100-120 rounds through it, then it started working just fine pretty much by magic. I found Ian’s projection of 2MOA is about spot-on, but if you’re good with trigger jobs, doing nothing but polishing the sear surfaces can improve that to around 1.5-ish.

    Also important to note that the trunion will eventually crack on these if you use heavy-ball ammo, so stick to 147gr. milsurp or commercial stuff.

  2. “SVD Dragunov”
    That is redundant, it means Dragunov Sniper Rifle Dragunov.

    ” they decided to take that design and scale it up to the 7.62x54R cartridge”
    Kalashnikov also designed own self-loading sniper rifle for that cartridge (late 1950s):
    but it lost to Dragunov’s design, not to be confused with 21 century sniper rifle of [JSC concern] Kalashnikov

    • So tell me, what did Romanians do better? Or they set their standards lower? It may be that X pressed on side of magazine. It means “experimental”… until accepted as standard. 🙂

  3. What else can be better testimony to versatility of Kalashnikov’s designs? Here we have a rifle without any fancities altogether and it shoots like DMR.

  4. One idea on side: if Russians did not talk to Romanians for time being, where did they get 7.62R bore and chamber configuration? I bet from old Mosins.

    • “Russians did not talk to Romanians for time being”
      This spawn more general question: how much Soviet Union trust satellite states? Take for example:
      where Soviet Army units were sitting, although it was on territory of (nominally independent) People’s Republic of Poland.
      It should be also noted that exported military equipment of Soviet production [for example to Arab states] was often inferior (down-graded) in comparison to that for domestic usage, though it apply rather to bigger weapons (tank gun rounds, aeroplanes, AA missiles e.t.c.) than fire-arms
      Warsaw Pact countries generally gets full capable version, though some models of weapons were not allowed to be delivered outside Soviet Union, even for Warsaw Pact members.
      For that reason for example Czechoslovakia used own-developed BPzV Svatava
      armoured reconnaissance vehicle, instead of Soviet BRM-1K

      • It always intrigued me why Czechoslovakia developed their own combat vehicles, often in cooperation with Poland
        or Hungary.

        I some sense it may have contributed to national ‘pride’ (or rather sense of technical capability) but perhaps there were other factors at play such as suitability to road/ bridge network of particular country. When we talk about range of specification for vehicles and planes delivered to Arab world, then it gets really interesting. Sometimes we heard that e.g. MIG or Sukhoy planes were not up to snuff when compared with Israeli equipment. I tend to believe that they simply were not delivered in full range of Soviet capability. Thus to say that US originated planes were better than Russian does not make lots of sense.

        Trusting allies within WP was certainly a big factor and it had been proven thru example of 1968 invasion that it had huge role in decision making during that crisis. Soviets risked genuinely, up-to-that-time, warm feelings of Czech population for military-political objectives – and lost. The outcome resonates with part of population to this very day.

        • “It always intrigued me why Czechoslovakia developed their own combat vehicles”
          Some Soviet military vehicles were not available, even for WP members, like mentioned BRM-1K, so Czechoslovakia developed own counterpart – BPzV Svatava.

          ” When we talk about range of specification for vehicles and planes delivered to Arab world, then it gets really interesting. Sometimes we heard that e.g. MIG or Sukhoy planes were not up to snuff when compared with Israeli equipment. I tend to believe that they simply were not delivered in full range of Soviet capability.”
          Indeed, the weapons delivered were limited version, it is somewhat similar to demo version of software.
          Also keep in mind some aeroplanes might be identified wrongly when visual identification was used, for example it is not impossible to mistook Shenyang J-5 for MiG-17.
          Taking in account:
          (BTW: notice that soviet BM-21 Grad was firstly used in combat against PRC)
          it was logical for Soviet Union to not deliver blueprints of newest/best military equipment to PRC.

          • “BM-21 Grad”
            I recall reading Soviets used thermobaric ammunition. It resulted in massive Chinese casualties.

          • “thermobaric”
            I am not aware of such munition for BM-21, even if it was created I suspect it was later than 1960s and thus back them classic HE warhead was used, keep in mind that original HE warhead for BM-21 contain 18,4 kg of explosive and single BM-21 deliver 40 such rocket in around 20 second, though various other rocket were developed for usage in BM-21
   lists following rockets of Soviet/Russian origin:
            9М42 – illuminating
            9М28К – mine-layer, plants 3 AT mines, which will self-destruct after 16 – 24 hours
            9М519 – jammer, will interrupt wireless communication when fired (in fact 8 slightly different warheads, affects 1,5 – 120 MHz range)
            9М28Ф – HE, with ready fragmentation elements
            9М43 – smoke
            3М16 – mine-layer, plants 5 anti-personnel mines, which will self-destruct after 4 … 100 h (adjustable)
            9М521 – HE, with ready fragmentation elements
            9М522 – HE, with ready fragmentation elements, jettisoned warhead
            9М217 – cluster, HEAT, target-seeking
            9М218 – cluster, HEAT-Frag, contain 45 HEAT-Frag shells

  5. I had SSG 97 in store at one point. Dunno if it was for all SSG 97s but from what I saw was it was slightly different. Imported it from Germany and as for diferences a complete lack of a bayonet lug to comply with German laws for one and most importantly was in .308 Win with pretty interesting transparent polymer magazine. Dunno if this was all of them but was reminded of it as you mentioned it.

  6. In-the-2009-game-Rogue-Warrior-where-a-team-of-USN-commandos-infiltrates-North-Korea-during-the-late-Reagan-era, the Russian original SVD-1963 is rendered to resemble its Romanian clone the PSL by pushing the SVD’s magazine housing rearward to rest against the front of the trigger guard for ease of handling. Since it would be too labor-intensive on the development budget to render an extension plate in between the magazine housing and trigger assembly, the modellers instead went with moving back the magazine housing to immediately in front of the trigger guard.

  7. Remember 1989 Revolution! This was one of the weapons used by the diversion troops led by Ion Iliescu(KGB agent- accused for crimes against humanity) against innocent people that were peacefully demonstrating for freedom after Ceausescu fled from Bucharest. Sadly this particular weapon reminds us, as a romanians citizens, of one of the darkest and shameful periods of our history..

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