The Rimfire Report: TFB Reader Builds a 22LR Dragunov Sniper Rifle

Luke C.
by Luke C.

Hello and welcome back to another edition of The Rimfire Report! This ongoing series is all about the rimfire world and its many different types of firearms, ammunition, shooting sports, and history! Last week we talked a bit about the new TacSol Owyhee Takedown in 22 Magnum. The Owyhee Takedown in 22 Magnum is something I’ve been waiting for for quite a long time. When it comes to survival rifles, a lot of emphasis is usually placed on making them compact, but not very powerful – at least in the rimfire world. Now we have access to a small rifle about the size of a Ruger 10/22 takedown, that can not only accept suppressors, but can also mount optics, and stow extra gear (yes even ammo but only loose rounds) in a convenient lightweight package that can still pack a punch. If you missed out on that review, you can check it out here. This week we’re getting back to one of our long-time readers Axel from Germany. You’ll remember Axel from our previous coverage of him and his neat Sci-Fi rifle design made from two Marlin Model 60 rifles. Well, this time he’s back at it again with another one of his passion projects but this one is just a bit closer to earth – it’s a 22LR Dragunov (SVD). Today we’ll take a look at what he’s done to accomplish this and hopefully, this will give some of you at-home gunsmiths the inspiration to tackle a project like this on your own.

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The Rimfire Report: TFB Reader Builds a 22LR Dragunov Sniper Rifle

The SVD – Snayperskaya Vintovka Dragunova, or literally ‘Dragunov Sniper Rifle’ is what we would call today a “designated marksman rifle.” Designed in the Soviet Union beginning in 1958 by Yevgeny Dragunov, the rifle was selected from three total designs submitted for a dedicated squad support weapon for all Warsaw Pact countries.

The Dragunov is chambered in the old but still ubiquitous 7.62x54R cartridge that some of the Soviet Union’s other rifles and light machine guns were also chambered in. The Dragunov rifle shares a lot of similarities with the AK. It features a gas-operated rotating bolt semi-auto design, just scaled up to accommodate the 7.62x54R cartridge. The rifle feeds from a 10-round box magazine, and was typically fielded with a day scope but could also be used with iron sights or night vision optics.

The rifle is probably most easily recognized with its signature wooden stock and handguard, but throughout the rifle’s 60-year service life, it’s gone through a couple of modernization projects with the most advanced variant of the SVD being the new SVDM which only entered service in 2018.

While Axel hasn’t built himself a full-size SVD, he has built a 22LR Dragunov that was entirely inspired by the actual rifle. Much like the actual Dragunov, the 22LR Dragunov is about as rare to find out in the wild – you probably won’t be seeing one anytime soon. Below is a quote from Axel regarding his reasoning behind wanting to start this project:

I was looking for some info online and instead of what you are looking for, other stuff pops up that’s interesting as well and you get side tracked…
Here it was a .22 Dragunov rifle and people were asking for a dedicated build but there was none out there.
Then I was thinking about me walking down the aisles at Shot Show which I have done for a couple years.
And I discover a .22 Dragunov! Walking closer I can see the ejection port in the “bolt carrier” and I am already bored cause I know what they did there.
I wanted to build something that would trigger my interest, turning that rifle upside down and inspect it closely to figure out how that works.
Essentially Axel wanted to make something that actually looked and somewhat operated like a real SDV, rather than just a cheap imitation with a different rifle inside and a plastic shell or skin suit that just looked like the Dradunov.

Axel’s 22LR Dragunov

Axel’s 22LR Dragunov is made from a swath of parts both off-the-shelf and machined that he’s done himself. The rifle’s receiver is made from a C02 Airsoft rifle, as is the bolt which has been modified to accept Axel’s custom parts. The rifle features a 26″ barrel and feeds from a 15-round Black Dog magazine that has been fitted into the airsoft rifle’s magazine.

Axel’s bolt is a two-piece design and is a bit more complex than it needs to be simply because Axel refused to compromise on the ejection location and angle. Since the Bolt Carrier has a shroud on the right-hand side that would normally prevent the spent casing from ejecting in the proper direction (to the right-hand side) a couple of his friends suggested either a left-hand ejection, downward ejection, or simply machining a hole into the side of the bolt carrier.

All of these options were simply unacceptable to Axel so he came up with a clever solution that involves way more parts than is probably necessary (his own admission) and manages to somewhat reliably eject the casings out of the existing space, and most importantly, on the correct side of the rifle. The spring-loaded ejector knocks the spent casing forward and to the right which (hopefully) clears the opening left by the bolt carrier.

“Complexity at the Cost of Reliability”

Axel has provided us with a full video breakdown that gives us a detailed look at the guts of the gun, as well as some of the hurdles he’s had to overcome to even get the rifle to function at all. Towards the end of his 15-minute long video, Axel demonstrates that the rifle does indeed work, but that it is spotty at best, and necessitates the use of CCI Stingers in order to have any hope of cycling.

A couple times it worked with CCI mini-mags which is my reference ammo for selfloaders, but it’s still what I call borderline function.
BTW – bolt carrier travel is 70mm which is about double as much as with regular selfloading .22’s.
– Axel’s comments and thoughts on why the rifle’s reliablity is what it is

The Beauty of Do-It-Yourself

Axel’s somewhat functioning 22LR Dragunov is quite impressive – mostly because we’ve got nothing else like it on the market and we likely won’t have anything like it on the market anytime soon. 22LR replica guns are quite popular in Germany because they’re easier to obtain. GSG is well known for making a lot of dubious quality 22LR reproductions of WWII and Cold War era guns, but so far they haven’t made a Dragunov replica in 22LR just yet.

Obviously, Axel wasn’t willing to wait around for someone else to do it so he went and did it himself. Axel’s attitude is one that is so desperately needed within the firearms community and it is one that often leads to some of the coolest and most groundbreaking projects within the industry. I very much hope to hear and see from Axel again when he shows us his next big project, and I’d once again like to thank him personally for continuing to share his projects with us here on The Rimfire Report!

Luke C.
Luke C.

Reloader SCSA Competitor Certified Pilot Currently able to pass himself off as the second cousin twice removed of Joe Flanigan. Instagram:

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