By: Greg Chabot
Photos: Sasha Steadman
In 1968, the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia. Romania refused to participate in the invasion, and as a result, the USSR refused to supply military equipment and technology to Romania as punishment.
Due to Soviet sanctions, the Romanian military had to turn to internal sources to supply weapons to their troops. Having a need for a DMR (designated marksman rifle) at the squad level and unable to buy the SVD (issued DMR to the Warsaw Pact), from the USSR, Cugir, the state-owned arms factory, set about to design their own designated marksman rifle.
They came up with the PSL (Pusca Semiautomata cu Luneta, scoped, semi-automatic rifle). Often mistaken for the SVD, the PSL is an entirely different weapon system in both operating system and construction. Developed in the early 70s, the PSL was adopted by the Romanian Army in 1974 and exported to various countries. It is still produced today and is used in conflicts worldwide. The PSL is also imported for civilian sales in the United States. They range from surplus kit guns to newly manufactured from Cugir, depending on the importer.
My first experience with the PSL was in Baqubah, Iraq in 2004. My unit had a need for designated marksmen, but no DMRs were available in the supply chain to equip them. So, like good American soldiers, we improvised and procured PSLs from our Iraqi counterparts, using them to stop attacks and support missions as needed throughout the battlespace.
Differences between PSL and SVD
I will quickly cover some of the differences between the PSL and SVD (sniper rifle) to help readers tell the difference between the two.
1) PSL has a stamped receiver; the SVD is milled.
2) Different stocks in shape and length.
3) Magazines though similar do not interchange. SVD has a waffle pattern; the PSL has an X stamped on it. Both have a 10-round capacity and are chambered for 7.62x54R.
4) Issued scopes are different; the PSO-1 on the SVD has a battery-powered reticle for low light conditions. The LPS 4X6 on the PSL uses tritium. Both use a similar offset rail mount.
5) PSL uses the long stroke piston of the AK family. SVD uses a short stroke piston operating system.
The PSL was designed to be a simple, robust squad-level DMR that can hold up to the rigors of the battlefield. It is an easy weapon to maintain, like most AK-based rifles are. The 24.4” barrel is of a pencil profile with a bayonet lug and removable muzzle brake. Note: Surplus weapons might have the brake welded on and lug ground off. OAL of the weapon is 45.3” with a weight of 9.5lbs unloaded. The stock is of a unique design, with a spring butt plate to absorb recoil. The stock has a 12.5” length of pull that shooters with longer arms might not like. Ergonomics are really a personal choice with this weapon. I have been using one since 2004, and it works for me. Though long, I find the PSL easy to maneuver and aim under stress. The trigger is of a two-stage design; sample broke cleanly at 4.5 pounds with some overtravel. Bolt locks back when the magazine is empty, eliminating the dreaded “Deadman’s click.” The muzzle brake is of a simple but effective design.
Zeroing the LPS 4X6 scope
I recommend a 100 meter zero for this weapon to start out. Set the elevation turret to 3 and windage to 0. Using the top center chevron of the reticle, fire five rounds from a supported position. The rounds should hit 5.5 inches above point of aim, which means the rifle has a 300 meter zero. If the group is off, loosen up the two screws on the elevation turret and adjust as needed. Same for windage: after zeroing at 100 meters, it is recommended to verify zero at 300 meters.
Understanding the reticle
The LPS reticle uses a BDC with 10 mils delineated to the left and right of the top chevron. The other three chevrons are for 1,100, 1,200, and 1,300 meters with the BDC elevation set at 1,000 meters. The number on the elevation turret corresponds with distance in meters. On the lower left is the range finder; it is a choke style, which is delineated in 100-meter increments from 200-1,000 meters. To use, place the feet of the target on the flat line. Where the head hits the upper curve line is the range to the target. The BDC is calibrated for 148 grain ball. It is important to know your corrections if shooting heavier ammo. Why ball ammo? Designated marksmen operate at the squad level and resupply off the machine gunners.
For testing, various weights of surplus ball ammo was used, along with some commercial hunting ammo. All shooting was done from supported prone using a ruck. Ranges varied from 100 to 300 meters. No complaints about reliability – whatever this weapon was fed it shot without issue. The PSL gets a bad rap by many in the accuracy department. A PSL with decent ammo in good condition should be expected to shoot from 1 ¾ to 3 MOA. With match ammo and an excellent crown and bore that can be cut to 1 ¼ to 1 ½ MOA. This also depends on the shooter doing his or her part.
With the pencil, barrel groups will open-up when the barrel gets hot. Sample weapon shot 2 MOA consistently with 148gr surplus ball. Groups opened up with the heavier ball ammo to 2 ¾. Best group of the testing was with 150gr Privi Partizan at 1 ¾ MOA at 100 meters. Overall, I was happy with the accuracy of this weapon. If you want precision rifle results, go buy a precision rifle. In the hands of a skilled shooter, this weapon is lethal out to 600 yards and a serious threat at 800 yards with sniper grade ammo. I recommend keeping a log with this weapon to find what loads are most accurate with your rifle.
I really enjoyed shooting this weapon, as it holds both good and bad memories from my deployment to Iraq. Would I trust my life to the PSL? Yes, I trusted this weapon, as did my brothers in arms on many missions. Not once did my PSL let me down in the heat of battle. For urban combat, the PSL is effective and deadly, even in the hands of barely trained terrorist. Gear happy shooters will look at the PSL as an outdated Cold War relic. I see the PSL as a simple, easy-to-use rifle that gets the jobs done. Having been on the giving and receiving end of this weapon, I will always have the utmost respect for it.
Big Thanks to the War Room and NorArm Tactical.
Greg Chabot is an Iraq Combat Veteran freelancer, writing from New Hampshire.