The venerable SVD “Dragunov” (after its designer, Yevgeny Dragunov) was one of the first successful squad designated marksman’s rifles ever developed, and it spawned numerous copycats and competitors. In the more than half-century after it was developed, however, virtually no successors to the design have been developed in Russia itself – until now. The Russian 164th edition of Popular Mechanics carries the story on a new precision carbine.
From Kalashnikov Concern designers Demyan Belyakov and Evgeniy Erofeev comes the SK-16, a very modern-looking rifle that – notably – chambers the American .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO round, not the venerable 7.62x54mmR round in Russian service since 1891.
The impetus for designing the new rifle came from the SVD’s age and lack of modern features. Modern optics that mount to Picatinny-type rails are incompatible with the SVD’s WWII-era siderail design, and the SVD cannot mount modern muzzle devices or suppressors. Further, the SVD is a long weapon, with a 24.4″ (620mm) long thin profile barrel. The SK-16 is a much shorter weapon, although barrel and overall lengths have not as of yet been released.
Mechanically, the SK-16 reportedly works in the same manner as the SVD, with one very notable difference: Instead of the ubiquitous gas port design used by virtually all modern gas operate rifles, the SK-16 uses a gas trap design that taps gas after it leaves the muzzle of the barrel, similar to the very first production M1 Garand rifles. The gas trap mechanism was selected to improved the accuracy characteristics of the rifle.
The SK-16 continues the trend of development of new carbines designed for longer-ranged engagements. The Russians and Chinese both have responded to Western developments in this area, and American planners are even considering standardizing on an ultra-long-range carbine.