By David Fortier & Donald Heald
Military small arm collectors and users tend to be a pretty opinionated bunch. You have your .45 or Die crew. Your Big Bore Battle rifle bunch. Your 30 round burst solves most anything thinkers. Your Buckshot is best believers, and your, if half your pistol isn’t plastic it’s antiquated junk preachers. One thing I have noticed though, is that most everybody will agree, sniping rifles are interesting. Few sniping rifles possess the animalistic sex appeal of the Soviet SVD Dragunov.
Known officially as the Snaiperskaya Vintovka Dragunova, the Dragunov is highly sought after by both shooters and collectors. Yet only a handful have come into the country from Red China, Russia, and now Romania. What most people don’t realize is that finding and buying a Dragunov is the easy, although expensive part. If your heart is set on rimmed cartridges, see-through stocks, and punching holes far, far away, then all you need to do is open your wallet, wide, real wide. The hard part is tracking down all the odds and ends you need to let the rifle perform to its full potential. This includes Match grade 7.62X54R ammunition (I’ve seen people feed Dragunov’s junk M.G. ball that would make a Mosin-Nagant puke, and wonder why it would only group into 2 MOA!), batteries for the illuminated scope (an easy one now that Kalashnikov USA has them in stock, call 1-800-784-5677), and ten round magazines. Magazine availability for Dragunovs has been on and off but always expensive.
Recently, magazines for the Romanian FPK/PSL version of the Dragunov have come onto the market at a reasonable price, usually around $39.99. I ordered 5, danced a happy jig when the Brown truck of Happiness arrived and snapped one into my Soviet Tiger Dragunov. It locked right in and looked perfect. When I performed a function check with dummy rounds however, it refused to feed. Confused, I tried another, and another. None would work. Upon closer examination, the Romanian magazines proved to be close enough to the Soviet mags to lock into the weapon, but different enough not to work. Our happy jig turned to cursing and fist shaking. Why are they different? Who knows, but they are different.
So I sat down with one of my cohorts, Donald Heald, and we compared the Romanian magazines to Soviet built ones. We could make them work, we decided. If they were built like flimsy M-16 magazines we would have shipped them back. The Com-block countries generally made their magazines so incredibly tough though there was plenty of meat to work with. Modifying magazines is NOT something I recommend as all to often they simply won’t work. In this instance I was pleasantly surprised. The modified magazines lock in and out of the weapon properly, and they feed FLAWLESSLY!
So if you or one of your friends is wondering why those darn Romanian magazines don’t work, relax. All you need is access to a Mig welder and someone who can run it. Other than the Mig it’s just basic hand tools, and a little patience(a pizza helps too!). So follow along as we show you how to keep your Dragunov happy as we give it a taste of Romanian food it’s sure to like!
1. CAUTION: always wear required safety equipment! Step one, take a working magazine(in our case a 5 round Russian magazine) and do a direct side by side comparison with a Romanian magazine to notice differences in the front and rear locking lugs. Field-strip the Romanian magazine. Clean and prepare surfaces for welding. Additional material is added to the rear lug by Mig-welding. Take your time and build the surface one weld at a time. 2. Benchgrind the rear lug to rough proportions once enough material has been added. 3. Hand file with a flat Mill Bastard file. 4. Sand the rear lug notch with a dremel tool equipped with a small sanding drum with a rough grit. This will create a hollow ground lug. 5. Square the shoulder of the lug with a dremel tool equipped with a stone wheel. After this, compare lug and notch to the Soviet magazine and trial fit in weapon. Adjust fit by adding or removing material as required. 6. Finish squaring the rear lug and notch with a fine tooth Rattail file. Trial fit in the weapon. Verify the magazine feed lip height is the same as with the Soviet magazine. At this point we discovered that the Romanian magazines were slightly LONGER than their Soviet counter-parts! Undeterred, we scratched our heads, took a long haul off our Coca -Cola Classics and ventured forth. 7. To fix this problem we used a dremel tool equipped with a fine cutting disk to cut a slot down the front corner of each side approximately one inch. Moving back 1/8 of an inch from the original top cut, we sliced a ‘V’ cut that ended where the original cut ended. Then we removed the wedge. 8. Place the functioning Soviet magazine and the Romanian project magazine side by side over the center of the vice with the rear locking lugs resting on top of vice jaws and the front lugs up against the inner face of the vice jaws. Draw the vice jaws closed until gently snug. This will set the distance for the length of the Romanian magazine. Gently slide Soviet magazine out without disturbing vice. 9. Tack weld both sides of the magazine just below the height of the front lug. Carefully check the magazine’s fit in firearm. 10. Place magazine back in the vice and carefully weld the seam closed. Beware of burn-through on the lower part of cut where the metal is the thinnest. 11. Using a dremel tool with a sanding drum, blend in the corners until the desired shape is achieved. Examine the inner corners of your weld and remove any slag or burn-through that would interfere with the movement of the follower. 12. It may be necessary to sand and polish the front strap of the follower. Check to make sure that the follower moves easily. Luckily, it seems that the Romanian followers are the same length as the Soviet followers, go figure. 13. Using a benchgrinder remove the feed ramp to just above the forward sides of the magazine. Then use a small fine grit sanding drum to duplicate the feed notches in the front strap of the magazine. Magazines in photo are from left to right, Soviet 5 rounder, our modified Romanian magazine, and original Romanian magazine. 14. Prepare the front lug surface for welding. Then using the outlined for the rear lug, add material to the front lug and grind to shape. Trial fit in the firearm making sure to keep the feed ramp the same height as the Soviet magazine’s to ensure proper feeding. Also make sure that the front strap height is the same as the Soviet magazine’s. 15. Final fitting for front lug should be accomplished by hand as per rear lug.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V4N1 (October 2000)