For years, the Russian military has relied on the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” — especially proven by its dogged use of weapons originating in the 1950s and 60s, since updated to fulfill modern roles but still retaining their basic designs from back in the day.
One example of that tendency can be seen in the continued use of the Dragunov SVD — a designated marksman rifle developed in the early 1960s from the AK platform, and still in widespread use with Russian infantry and special ops units.
Produced by Kalashnikov Concern (previously known as IZHMASH), this rifle has served its country and a number of export nations faithfully over more than 50 years.
Enter the SVCh Chukavin, a new and highly modern (compared to the SVD) DMR which Kalashnikov Concern hopes will finally replace the SVD and give Russian infantry units a formidable and versatile ranged weapon amidst a massive effort to modernize the Russian military and fully bring it into the 21st century.
The Chukavin is essentially a revamped and upgraded AK, using a similar firing mechanism to the AK -- a gas operated rotating bolt setup -- albeit with a short-stroke piston. Like the SVD, the SVCh variant is chambered for the 7.62x54R cartridge, but can also fire the 7.62×51 NATO round as well, and can be fed from the same box mag used on the SVD.
A second variant known as the SVCh-8.6, fires the .338 Lapua Magnum round, highly popular with a number of NATO member states. What makes this especially interesting is that previously, only elite Russian special operations units were known to use the western .338LM round — most notably the FSB’s Alpha Group, a counterterrorism unit, and the SOBR domestic “spetsnaz” unit.
With the development and fielding of the SVCh-8.6, this Western round will be now be available across the board to average Russian infantry elements, and not just top-tier special missions units alone.
Kalashnikov Concern boasts a 1 Minute of Angle or better accuracy with the rifle, and claims (with the right barrel and the right ammunition) a max effective range of around 1600 yards. Conversely, the the maximum effective range of an M110 Semi Automatic Sniper System is typically around 875 yards.
According to Kalashnikov Concern, the Chukavin was engineered to meet the current standard set by DMRs in use with Western military units today, such as the M110 SASS. Like many of its NATO counterparts, the Chukavin also comes tons of rail space for optics and add-on electronics, a modifiable stock, and can field a folding bipod as well.