VSS Vintorez: Russia’s Silent Sniper Rifle

The VSS (Special Sniper Rifle) Vintorez was one of two dedicated silenced rifles developed in Russia in the 1980s. The Vintorez was given a very good barrel and intended for precision shooting, while the AS (Special Assault rifle) Val used the same action and suppressor, but had a pistol grip and folding stock, and was intended for use as a typical carbine. Both were chambered for the 9x39mm round, which came out at subsonic velocities to ensure very quiet operation. Both designs also included a selector switch.

The example I am looking at today is a commercial-sale version of the modernized VSS-M. The modernized version of the rifle replaced the smooth top cover and AK-style receiver side rail with a picatinny railed top cover, as well as revising the handguard design. The difference between the commercial and military versions is simply the lack of a selector switch (commercial is semiauto only) and the lack of a detachable stock (on the military version the stock can be removed much like a Colt Thompson stock).

Internally, the VSS and AS are very different from the Kalashnikov design. They use a linear hammer much like a vz58, and a six-lug rotating bolt. The gas system is a long-stroke piston, and the barrel has four rows of ports just a few inches in front of the chamber. The suppressor consists of an initial expansion chamber filled by the barrel ports and then a series of five very simple baffles.

Doctrinally, these rifles were intended to replace the use of suppressors and subsonic 7.62x39mm on standard AKM rifles, although only for special operations sort of troops (not standard Army recon). While very quiet and effective, they are liable to overheat quickly under sustained fire, and were not deemed appropriate for uses where they might be drawn into a conventional infantry battle. Instead, they went to groups like special police and intervention teams who were basically intended to deploy, shoot a couple bad guys in a blockaded building, and then return to base. By today, they have been generally replaced by newer designs, but like so much else, they have both appeared in the fighting in Ukraine.

Many thanks to the IRCGN (Institut de Recherche Criminelle de la Gendarmerie Nationale) for allowing me access to film this very rare rifle for you!


  1. The straightforward and practical simplicity of the VSS is quite striking, right down to the internal mechanism and function of the suppressor.

    • I wonder what made the designers choose the liners striker?
      Judging from this video, it has a pretty weak hammer spring, and an audiaciously long lock time?

      • I’ve heard that people prefer the linear striker for better accuracy, as all the movement is in line with the bore. A couple of Marine Sniper School graduates I know were all taught that the bolt-action Remingtons were preferred for sniper work to the semi-auto M110 due to the hammer falling causing some slight movement of the rifle…

        Personally, I never really saw that as an issue, but someone might have come to a similar conclusion when designing the VSS. YMMV, and all that.

        One of the things I wish designers would do is at least make a record of where the hell they got their ideas from, and what they were thinking with their design features. I’d dearly love to know what the background and sourcing was for the AR-10’s ergonomics, for example…

        • “(…)make a record(…)what they were thinking(…)”
          I must warn you that in case of military-related development in 1980s inside USSR not all documentation was published. In case of Pyotr I. Serdyukov comprehend known patents https://findpatent.ru/byauthors/288764/ if you want to detect whyabouts of decisions made.

  2. винторез is device for cutting threads, for example https://www.stankiproma.ru/product/staczionarnyj-elektricheskij-vintorez-zpm-50/
    VSS https://kalashnikovgroup.ru/news/vintorez-_35_let_v_stroyu was spawned by НИОКР «Винторез» (НИОКР = научно-исследовательские и опытно-конструкторские работы, adjectives from science, research, trial, constructor followed by works) which then was extended to weapon itself. Same way AN-94 got its’ name.

    • I’ve never heard of any complaints with vz58 regarding sustained fire.

      The issues with the VSS and sustained fire I’d suspect are rather more related to the silencer.

  3. I’ve seen 3 versions Vintorez BCG (2×2 cam lugs, 2 cam lugs, 1 cam lug), several versions of recievers and barrels, 2 different strikers and 1 linear hammer. Each indicates more clearly the engineering issues in their (VSS/AS/SR-3) designing and updating process.

  4. Ian, I think you made a mistake. The spring on the barrel is not for holding the sights at zero. It is to stop the vibration of the buffer plate and prevent the noise caused by the vibration.

    • When you put the buffer plate and the barrel together out of the suppressor tube, you actually put the plates in the wrong direction, back end to front.

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