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Tokarev SVT 40

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Tokarev SVT 40

This rifle was essentially Russia's answer to the M1 Garand, and was originally intended to replace the ageing Mosin-Nagant M1891/30 rifle in red Army service. The war intervened, however, so production of the Mosin-Nagant rifles continued until after the war. Nevertheless, probably around 1.6 million SVT 40 rifles were produced.

This was, however, not the first semiautomatic rifle in Russian service. Previously, the Red Army had adopted the ill-fated AVS 36 due to Stalin's personal patronage of his favourite weapons designer, Simonov. This was a select fire rifle firing full power rifle ammunition, and was reportedly crap. Tokarev then appeared on the scene in 1938 with his SVT 38 rifle, which initially fared little better. A few modifications later, and we arrive at the successful SVT 40.

This rifle was not beloved by Russian conscripts, but was adored by both Russian specialist troops (such as the Marines) and by the Germans who put them into service whenever they were captured. The possible reasons for this will be discussed later.

The rifle is short stroke gas operated, with a tipping block locking system, very similar in concept to the SLR/FN FAL. In many design respects, the SVT 40 is far advanced of the M1 Garand, the latter of which is little more than a consolidated and slimmed down mechanised gas operated bolt action. The feed is from detachable 10 round box magazines, which can be loaded in emergencies through the top of the open action with chargers. This is difficult however. The safety catch is a small hinged piece behind the trigger which hinders its rearward movement. At about 3.8 kg unloaded, the rifle is very light. To compensate for this, we have a GBFO muzzle brake which tames the recoil nicely and results in almost zero muzzle flip.

Onto the pictures... Click the links to view.

Whilst the rifle is extremely long, it is very well-balanced and is ergonomically well thought out. The action is quite long:

The muzzle brake is formed integrally with the gas block and sight block:

The muzzle brake diverts the muzzle blast to the sides and slightly upwards, making it unpleasant for bystanders and extremely noisy.

Stripping the breech group is carried out as follows. Firstly, push the dust cover forward slightly and disengage the end of the main spring guide. Then slide the dust cover all the way to the front and remove it.

Holding the middle of the front main spring guide, remove the main spring. Then retract the bolt and carrier, and remove it by rotating the whole thing anticlockwise slightly at the absolute rear of its travel.

Looking at the bolt and carrier, you can easily see the lugs and cam surfaces which cause the bolt to pivot up and down.

If desired, the trigger group can be removed by a swinging open the catch at the rear of the receiver, and pushing in the locking collar with a round of ammunition. However, getting this back in requires a mallet.

All the receiver group components separated and laid out:

The trigger has your typical Russian rollover-type pull, which feels very similar to a Mosin-Nagant. This type of trigger pull was favoured by the Imperial Russians, since they believed that it helped with instinctive shooting.

Removing the cleaning rod, front band, top handguard, and top gas system shield reveals the gas system:

Removing the operating rod and gas cylinder reveals the gas plug.

Unscrewing the gas plug and removing the five position regulator completes the stripping of the gas system.

The gas system of the SA80 is directly derived from this, the differences on the SA80 being that the regulator is integral with the gas plug, and that the gas system vents to stop the rearward travel of the operating rod. On the SVT 40, the rearward motion is stopped by a shoulder on the operating rod, so the only gas to escape the system is that which gets around the head of the gas plug. This means that the SVT 40 gas system is far cleaner than that of the SA80, since far less gas passes through it.

For the sake of interest, the tool roll contains (top to bottom): gas plug and gas regulator wrench, cleaning rod handle, Jag, pick (for getting crap out of bits), foresight/stock bolt key and guide piece. (apologies for the focus)

The rear sight is typical Mosin-Nagant type, as is the post and globe foresight.

Now, why was this marvellous piece of kit not liked by conscripts? It is this author's opinion that it is a training and motivation issue. this rifle is far more complicated to operate, strip, and clean that your bog standard Mosin-Nagant bolt action or PPSh submachine gun. Russian small arms ammunition contained corrosive primer compounds, as did British ammunition. This starts corrosion extremely quickly, and all gas affected parts have to be cleaned with water/alkali solution, otherwise they rust. Essentially, if you shoot your rifle at sunset and do not clean it, by sunrise the gas parts will have stiffened due to rust, and there will be rust in the bore.

The gas regulator is very small and fiddly and has to be set by eye, an extremely difficult task in the dark -- assuming you have not lost the damn thing. In addition, as standard only three magazines were issued, and the charger loading functionality is poor (even worse than on the Mosin-Nagant rifles)

If all of this is not done correctly, the rifle won't work properly. Hence its reputation for unreliability amongst the conscript troops. It was, however, well loved by well disciplined and well-trained troops, who could probably scab buckshee extra magazines. The Boxies loved it!

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