By: Warren Gray
Copyright © 2023
“Special operations forces have been supplied with a batch of Chukavin sniper rifles
for testing in combat conditions of a special military operation conducted in Ukraine. The first reviews of the new shooting complex were positive.”
— RIA Novosti Russian news agency, September 14, 2022.
“The state-of-the-art, Chukavin sniper rifle outshines all similar weapons
accepted for service by the Defense Ministry…a new generation of
— Kalashnikov Concern spokesman, January 12, 2023.
For the past 60 years, the standard-issue, Russian sniper rifle has been the combat-proven, semiautomatic, Dragunov SVD in 7.62x54mmR chambering, with a 24.4-inch barrel, PSO-1M2 four-power (24mm) scope, and 10-round magazine. It’s been gradually upgraded and modernized, in the form of the newer SVDM with folding stock and a 21.7-inch barrel, or similar SVDS for paratroopers, with a 22.2-inch barrel, but it’s still markedly obsolete for the demands of modern warfare. The barrel is too long for troops transported in ground vehicles, or by helicopter, the choice of optics is extremely limited, and it’s only produced in one caliber, with a modest effective range of 875 yards. A newer, shorter, more versatile rifle was required.
The task of creating this new weapon began in 2016. The project was assigned to Andrei Y. Chukavin, a firearm engineer currently serving as the deputy chief designer of the Kalashnikov Concern for sporting and hunting weapons. Kalashnikov Concern produces 95 percent of all small arms in Russia, and also supplies weapons to 27 countries around the world.
His final product, the Chukavin SVCh (nicknamed “Microwave”) sniper rifle, was officially introduced in 2017, in three different versions, chambered for the venerable, 7.62x54mmR round, using standard, SVD magazines, or .308 Winchester, or .338 Lapua Magnum (LM), with an estimated, effective range of 1,640 yards! Barrel length for these free-floated, cold-hammer-forged barrels is 22.2 inches in 7.62x54mmR, with a 10-round magazine, or 16.1 inches, 18.1 inches, or 22.2 inches in .308 Winchester, with a 10-round or 20-round magazine, or 22-inch barrel in .338 LM, with a 10-round magazine.
The new Chukavin SVCh rifle features a full-length, Picatinny rail for attaching optical scopes or iron sights. It also comes with a Harris-style bipod, laser designator, suppressor, and barrel-mounted flashlight. Russian President Vladimir Putin even tested-fired an SVCh-7.62×51 (SVCh-308) rifle with Schmidt and Bender (German) scope at a Moscow range in 2018, hitting targets at 600 meters. Kalashnikov Concern cites the rifle’s accuracy as 1 MOA (1 inch at 100 yards.)
One of its most prominent features is the “single-plane design,” in which the collapsing stock, receiver, and barrel are all aligned in the same, linear plane, thereby reducing the perceived recoil of the rifle. It feels more like shooting a smaller-caliber weapon, even a rimfire, thus enabling the shooter to rapidly engage more targets in less time, while the rifle remains in a proper firing position.
The SVCh series underwent considerable testing and development over the next few years, and finally, in August 2022, Kalashnikov Concern announced that the rifle would be issued to frontline troops by the end of the year. As early as September 15, 2022, Boyko Nikolov reported for BulgarianMilitary.com that, “The latest Chukavin SVCh sniper rifle developed by the Kalashnikov Concern is being tested in Ukraine…According to the source, a batch (unnamed quantity) of the Chukavin sniper rifles was delivered to the Russian special forces operating in Ukraine – Spetsnaz, for an experimental, combat operation. The rifles are tested with a 7.62x54mm caliber cartridge. According to the requirements, the Chukavin SVCh should fire the first round, hitting a target at a distance of 1 km.”
But it wasn’t until the end of the year that Kalashnikov Concern actually admitted to combat testing of the SVCh rifle. Kalashnikov Group President Alan Lushnikov stated in late December 2022, “We constantly receive feedback from our military personnel who are participating in the special military operation…and we consistently make adjustments to our products based on the input about their combat employment. With regard to our new firearms already being supplied to the special military operation zone…these (include) the Chukavin sniper rifle.”
The special operations units using the Chukavin in combat may include the 2nd, 10th, 14th, 16th, 22nd, 24th, 45th, or 346th SpetsNaz Brigades, virtually all of which have been deployed to Ukraine over the past year. In fact, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the BBC news service on February 15, 2023, that, “We now estimate 97 percent of the whole Russian Army is in Ukraine. We haven’t actually seen this massing of a single force to punch through in a big offensive…at a huge cost to the Russian Army.”
As the brutal, never-ending war in Ukraine drags on relentlessly into its second year, we can certainly expect to see more and more combat testing of new weapon systems on the front lines, to ensure their efficiency and reliability under harsh conditions. The modern, Chukavin SVCh sniper rifle is just one of the latest firearms in a series of weapon experimentation in actual battle by both sides.
* * *
Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism and is an NRA member. He served in Europe (including Eastern Europe) and the Middle East, earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, four college degrees, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author, historian, and hunter. You may visit his website at: warrengray54.vistaprintdigital.com.