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Samozaryadnaya Vintovka Tokareva, Obrazets 1940 goda
SVT-40 1941 Izhevsk 01.jpg

Type Battle rifle
Country of Origin USSR
Length 1226 mm, 48 in
Barrel 610 mm (24 in)
Weight 3.85 kg, 8.5 lb (unloaded)
Cartridge 7.62x54mmR
action Gas-operated, tilting bolt

Muzzle velocity 840 m/s (2,756 ft/s)
Effective range 500 m (550 yd)
Feed 10-round detachable box magazine
Service History
Used by Soviet forces
Wars World War II
Production History
Designed 1940
Production dates 1940-45
Number built ~1.6 million
Variants SVT-38, AVT-40

The Samozaryadnaya Vintovka Tokareva, Obrazets 1940 goda (Tokarev Self-loading Rifle, Model of 1940, Russian: Самозарядная винтовка Токарева, образец 1940 года) is a Soviet semi-automatic battle rifle, which saw widespread service during and after World War II.


[edit] SVT-38

A soldier of the Russian Liberation Army with the SVT-40.

The design of the rifle originated in the early 1930s when Fedor Tokarev gave up his attempts to design a recoil-operated self-loading rifle, and concentrated on the gas operating principle. Stalin had a great interest in semi-automatic infantry rifles, and in 1935 a design competition was held. The winning rifle was designed by Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov, and was accepted into service the next year as the AVS36. However, problems with the AVS quickly became apparent, and another competition was held, to which both Tokarev and Simonov submitted their improved designs. This time, Tokarev's rifle was chosen. It was accepted for production under the designation SVT-38, with hopes that it would become the new standard issue rifle of the Red Army. Ambitious production plans were made: production was anticipated to be two million rifles per year by 1942. Production began at Tula Arsenal in 1939.

The SVT-38 was a gas-operated weapon with a short-stroke, spring-loaded piston above the barrel and a tilting bolt. Thus it became one of the pioneers of this configuration, which eventually became widely used. There is some dispute about who exactly first developed this operating principle, as the SVT's mechanism considerably resembles Dieudonne Saive's contemporary designs; Saive would eventually design the FN FAL, which employs the same operating principle as the SVT.

The SVT-38 was a unique rifle by Soviet standards of the day. Soviet small arms were usually of extremely simple and robust construction, designed for use by poorly educated and sometimes poorly equipped soldiers. The SVT-38, in contrast, had been designed with weight savings in mind, including its wood stock, receiver, and action. Its gas-operated action was complex by Soviet standards, and was ill-suited to handling the detrimental effects of firing corrosive-primed ammunition without frequent cleaning.

The SVT-38 was equipped with a bayonet and a 10-round detachable magazine. The receiver was open-top, which enabled reloading of the magazine using five round Mosin-Nagant stripper clips. Normally, three magazines were issued with each rifle. Fairly advanced features for the time were the adjustable gas system, muzzle brake, and scope rails milled into the receiver. The sniper variant had an additional locking notch for a see-through scope mount and was equipped with a 3.5X PU scope. This instrument was slightly shorter than the otherwise similar PU scope used on the Mosin-Nagant M1891/30 sniper rifle.

[edit] Towards the SVT-40

The SVT-38 saw its combat debut in the 1939-1940 Winter War with Finland. The initial reaction of the troops to this new weapon was negative. Among the issues were that the rifle was too long and cumbersome, difficult to maintain, and the magazine had a tendency to fall out of the rifle. Some of these problems can be attributed to insufficient training and incorrect maintenance, but others were obviously the result of design flaws. Production of the SVT-38 was terminated in April 1940 after some 150,000 examples were manufactured. Subsequently, an improved design, designated the SVT-40, entered production. It was a more refined, lighter design incorporating a modified magazine release. The handguard was now single-piece and the cleaning rod was housed under the barrel. Other changes were made in an effort to simplify manufacture. Production of this improved weapon began in July 1940 at Tula, and later at factories in Ishevsk and Kovrov. At the same time, production of the Mosin-Nagant M1891/30 bolt-action rifle was discontinued. Since these factories already had experience manufacturing the SVT-38, production geared up quickly and an estimated 70,000 SVT-40s were produced in 1940.

By the time Operation Barbarossa {the German invasion) began in June 1941, the SVT-40 was already in widespread use in the Red Army. In a Soviet infantry division's TO&E, one-third of rifles were supposed to be SVTs, although in practice this ratio was seldom achieved. The first months of the war were disastrous for the Soviet Union, and hundreds of thousands of these rifles were lost. To make up for this huge loss, production of the Mosin-Nagant rifles was reintroduced. In contrast, the SVT was more difficult to manufacture, and troops with only rudimentary training had difficulty maintaining it. In addition, submachine guns like the PPSh-41 had proven their value as simple, cheap, and effective weapons to supplement infantry firepower. This led to a gradual decline in SVT production. However, when German soldiers (due to their initial lack of a reliable semi-automatic rifle) captured SVTs, they would usually prefer them over their own bolt-action K98k rifles. In 1941, over a million SVTs were produced, but in 1942 Ishevsk arsenal was ordered to cease SVT production and switch back to the Mosin-Nagant 91/30. Only 264,000 SVTs were manufactured in 1942, and production continued to diminish until the order to cease production was finally given in January 1945. Total production of the SVT-38/40 was probably around 1.6 million rifles, of which about 55,000 were the SVT-40 sniper variant.

In service, SVTs frequently suffered from vertical shot dispersion. For a sniper rifle, this was unacceptable, and production of the specialized sniper variant of the SVT was terminated in 1942. At the same time, the milling of scope rails in the receivers of standard SVT rifles was also discontinued. Other production changes included a new, simpler muzzle brake design. To supplement the Red Army's shortage of machine guns, an SVT version capable of automatic fire was produced in 1943, and was designated the AVT-40. It was externally similar to the SVT, but its modified safety also acted as a fire selector. A larger 15 or 20 round capacity magazine was reportedly designed for use with the AVT, but this is unconfirmed and there are no known examples. The AVT featured a slightly stouter stock; surplus AVT stocks were later used on refurbished SVTs. In service, the AVT proved to be a disappointment: automatic fire was largely uncontrollable, and the rifles often suffered breakages under the increased strain. The use of the AVT's automatic fire mode was subsequently prohibited, and production of the rifle was relatively brief. A shorter carbine version (sometimes called SKT-40) was designed in 1940 and was reportedly produced in small numbers; but again, this is somewhat disputed. As a field modification, standard SVT's were sometimes modified into a carbine configuration, with varying degrees of success and work quality. A prototype version chambered for the new, shorter M1943 round was developed, but was not accepted for production.

1941 SVT-40 with plumb bolt.

[edit] SVT outside of Soviet Union

The first country outside the Soviet Union to employ the SVT was Finland, which captured some 4,000 SVT-38s during the Winter War, and over 15,000 SVTs during the Continuation War. The SVT saw extensive use in Finnish hands, though malfunctions and breakages were common due to different Finnish ammunition and often an incorrectly-adjusted gas recoil system. Germany and other Axis countries captured hundreds of thousands of SVTs during the Great Patriotic War. As the Germans were short of self-loading rifles themselves, the SVT (designated as SIG.259(r) by the Wehrmacht) saw widespread use in German hands against their former owners. The Germans even issued their own operating manual for the SVT.

[edit] Legacy

SVT-40 Semi-Automatic Rifle made at Tula Arsenal in 1941

After the war, SVTs were mostly withdrawn from service and refurbished in arsenals, then stored. In Soviet service, new weapons like the SKS and the AK-47 quickly made the SVT obsolete, and the weapon was generally out of service by 1955. Only a few SVTs were exported to Soviet allies and clients. Reportedly, some SVTs were used by Cuban revolutionaries in the 1950s. The Finnish Army retired the SVT in 1958, and about 7,500 rifles were sold to the US civilian market through Interarms, the importer. This marked the end of SVTs in regular service. In the Soviet Union, SVTs were kept in storage until the 1990s, when many rifles were sold abroad, along with several other Russian surplus military weapons. Currently the SVT is fairly widely available for collectors and historical enthusiasts, and is highly sought. The rifle's popularity is due to the inexpensive nature of its 7.62 x 54 mm R ammunition, favorable aesthetics, historical significance, and pleasant shooting characteristics.

Despite its relatively brief service career, the SVT was a very prolific weapon on the Eastern Front during World War II, and it had considerable impact on European battle rifle designs during and immediately after the war. Weapons like the SKS, Swedish AG-42 and the German G-43 were obviously influenced by the SVT. The FN-FAL and its ancestor FN-49 employ the same locking mechanism and operating principle as the SVT, although as mentioned above, it is unclear whether they were actually influenced by the SVT. As a service weapon, the SVT had its problems, but so did contemporary semi-automatic rifles made by other countries. The main reason for the gradual downfall of SVT usage in combat was not its technical disadvantages; rather, the reason was that, with the immense, continual demand for rifles in the front lines, Soviet factories could produce other, simpler, designs in far greater quantities in the same amount of time it took to produce the SVT.

[edit] Resources

Gun Owners' Resource has the following relevant documents available for free download for the SVT-40 and/or its variants:
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[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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