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The Tokarev SVT-38 and the Tokarev SVT-40 were two soviets semi-automatic rifles issued to the Red Army during the World War II, in 1945 the SVT-40 was replaced by the Simonov SKScarbine, that for it's time was replaced by the AK-47.


The SVT-38 (Samozaryadnaya Vintovka Tokareva - Tokarev Self-loading rifle) was originally adopted in the 1938 after more than 20 years of the research and development, done by famous Russian arms designer Fedor Tokarev. It was not a first Soviet semi-automatic rifle - there were the select-fire Avtomat of 1916 by Fedorov and also select-fire Simonov AVS-36 of 1936 by Simonov. 'Avtomat' was chambered for Japanese 6.5mm Arisaka round and was declared obsolete, and the AVS-36 showed some design deficiencies, so new rifle was adopted. After initial trials, it was updated and re-adopted in 1940 as a SVT-40. This rifle was made in relatively large numbers (more than 1 million made prior to 1945), and was originally issued as a standard infantry rifle, replacing the obsolete Mosin-Nagant 1891/30 bolt action rifles. Few SVT-40 were also manufactured in the sniper variant, equipped with scope mounts and telescopic sights, but accuracy was not sufficient, so only about 50.000 sniper SVT-40 were manufactured, and these were supplemented by the Mosin-Nagant sniper rifles. The SVT-40 had a somewhat controversial reputation. It was highly regarded by the enemies (Finns and Germans) and it was a very sought-after war trophy, re-issued to both German and Finnish troops. On the other hand, it was often considered unreliable and over-complicated by the Soviet troops (when comparing with old Mosin-Nagant rifles), but it was more to the poor training and maintenance, than to the rifle itself. Some better trained and educated Soviet troops, such as Sea Infantry (Marines, which always were some kind of elite in the Soviet army) used the SVT-40 with great deal of success. After the end of the World War II, most SVT-40 were quickly withdrawn from service and put into reserve stocks. Some rifles were later sold on domestic civilian market for hunters as a military surplus. Other than basic versions, there also were developed a shorter carbine SKT-40, and a select-fire AVT-40, but both seen very little service. Overall, the SVT-40 was in general no worse than the German Gewehr 43, and obviously better than earlier German Gewehr 41 semi-automatic rifles. It was the matter of training and education, and quality of the service of in the Soviet troops, that lead to the low popularity (in general) of this basically good rifle.


SVT-40 is a gas operated, magazine fed self-loading rifle. It uses a short piston stroke gas action, located above the barrel. The interesting feature of the SVT is that the gas block, along with front sight base and a muzzle brake, were produced as a single barrel extension unit. This greatly simplified the manufacture of the barrel, but the barrel extension itself unit was quite complicated to make. Gas chamber has 5 positions gas regulator to ajust the system for any conditions. The gas piston has its own return string and moved back for about 36 mm (1.5 inch) when gun was fired. It gave a quick and powerful stroke to the bolt carrier, which carried the bolt under it. Barrel locking was achieved by the rear part of the bolt, that tilted down to lock into the reinforced steel insert in the floor of the receiver. Charging handle was permanently attached to the right side of the bolt carrier. Detachable box magazine was made from sheet steel and hold 10 cartridges. SVT could be reloaded either by replacing the magazine or by using 5-round stripper clips of the Mosin-Nagant. Stripper clip guides were machined into the receiver top cover. Bolt system incorporated a bolt catch, that held the bolt group back when magazine was empty, to facilitate faster reloading, especially when using stripper clips.

Tokarev SVT-40

Both SVT-38 and SVT-40 were hammer-fired, with safety switch located behind the trigger. When engaged, safety locked the trigger. On the rare AVT-40 select-fire rifles, safety had an additional setting for full-auto fire mode.

The SVT-38 featured a two-piece wooden stock with separate upper handguard with small steel insert at the forward end. SVT-40 had an one-piece wooden stock with shorter forend and separate upper handguard. Front part of the stock was replaced by the sheet steel cover with cooling ports. Cleaning rod, originally stored in the groove at the right side of the stock at the SVT-38, was relocated under the barrel on the SVT-40.

Sights of the SVT consisted of the post type front sight, mounted on the sight base with circular front sight guard, and a tangent type open rear sights, mounted on the rear part of the barrel. Sniper versions were equipped with special detachable, see-through scope mounts at the rear of the receiver, so the scope was offset to the rear, allowing to use a clip-charging facility.

SVT-38 was equipped with detachable, knife-bayonet. SVT-40 was issued with similar bayonet, but with blade shortened to save weight. Unlike the Mosin-Nagant, the bayonets were routinely carried in sheaths, and attached to the rifle only when required.


Czech sniper Marie Ljalková posing with SVT-40 sniper rifle

  • Afghanistan
  • Cuba
  • Egypt
  • Finland
  • Nazi Germany
  • North Korea
  • People's Republic of China
  • Russia
  • Soviet Union
  • Ukraine
  • Vietnam
  • Yugoslavia
  • Warsaw pact Countries

See also

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