Romak PSL

Some time back I took a media report to task for claiming an Iraqi insurgent sniper used a “long-barrelled Kalashnikov”. The Russian sniper weapon of choice is not a Kalashnikov, but a Dragunov SVD. A week later, I linked to an Officers’ Club pic of an Iraqi army soldier and made a sarcastic (who, me?) comment about “long-barreled Kalashnikovs”.

On that post, a reader points out the Romanian PSL, which is “basically an AK tricked up to look like a Dragunov” and available in Iraq. To be honest, I don’t think I knew what a PSL was. I certainly didn’t realize how much it looked like an SVD.

Here’s a pic with the PSL (top), SVD (third), and cousins from a discussion board:

Like the SVD, the PSL is chambered for the 7.62×54 round, not the 7.63×39 fired by the AK-47. However, the PSL uses the AK-type gas piston, not the rotating bolt of the Dragunov. Given the variety of furniture and additional stuff you may see clamped onto weapons in pics, it seems to me that the easiest way to tell a PSL from a SVD is by the location of the magazine in relation to the trigger guard. Take a look at these:

Notice that the magazine release and magazine are right up against the trigger guard on the PSL (left pic) while there is a noticeable between them and the guard on the SVD (right).

Between the better cartridge and the longer barrel, the PSL is far superior than an AK-47, but it isn’t in the same class as the SVD. Still, the media report I noted might have been correct (in essence) about the “long-barrelled Kalashnikov”. Although it’s hard to tell, I do think that the pic on Officers’ Club is a Dragunov, though.

For a ton of pics comparing a PSL to a Tiger (sort of a “Dragunov Lite”) see, and for an in-depth write-up of the PSL along with a detailed “differences” pic, see Heads Bunker.

If any readers have anything to add, please do so.


  1. Does a rifle have to be made by Kalashnikov to be called a Kalashnikov, or does it merely have to copy one of their designs? What if it’s a copy, but with heavy modifications? That’s what I’m confused about. I suspect exact AK-47/AK-74 clones would still be referred to as ‘Kalashnikovs’ even if they were made in China, but the fancy ones in your picture look pretty different to me.

  2. Only a small detail: PSL is the abreviation of the Semiautomatic Rifle with Scope, and it is true, it is derivating from AK47.

  3. Correction to the operating system descriptions: Both the PSL and the SVD to the best of my knowledge use rotating bolts, as to the AK47/74. The difference lies in the gas piston and bolt carrier. In the PSL, kile the various AK designs, the gas piston and bolt carrier are a single unit. Gas expansion from the firing of each round pushes the whole assembly rearward to cycle the action. In the SVD, the gas piston and the bolt carrier are separate. Firing gases push the piston, which in turn pushes the bolt/bolt carrier assembly. The bolt assembly, thanks to momentum imparted to it by the piston, actually travels further, distance-wise, to the rear than does the piston. This type of system has better accuracy potential than that of the AK/PSL, because it has a smaller moving mass after firing.

  4. I’ve got a PSL and it’s a *fun* gun. A true Dragonuv *is* better, but if you’re within 800 meters (1/2 mile) it’s not likely to matter to you which one they have. They say they’re good out to 1,300 meters for vehicles. It’s big. It’s long (hard to find a case for the bugger). It’s loud. It puts the hammer where you want it to. I worked out that 800 meters is approximately the distance from the outside wall of one strip mall, across their wide parking lot, across the 4-lane road, and across the further wide parking lot to the outside wall of the opposite strip mall. Just a handy point of reference for when folks nearby want to know how far it is. PSL’s come and go in availability and seem to be back ‘in’ right now. SVD’s are hard to find and cost a *lot* more. If you can find one, get yourself a PSL. Ammo can be tough unless you’re willing to shoot corrosive MilSup. Apparently the cartridge reloads well but I’m not up to that yet. Do be certain to stick to the 147gr bullet the PSL / SVD was made for – the heavier (180/200) 7.62x54R that’s easier to find is for the Mosin-Nagant and will reportedly do bad things to a PSL/SVD.

  5. FWIW: The Iraqis also had a long-barreled ‘sniper’ version of their 7.62x39mm Tabuk assault rifle. The latter is a variant of the AKM.

  6. SVD is designed to be accurate to within 2MOA (2 minutes of angle, or 1/30 of a degree), but in practice can be made more accurate. M16s seem to be in the 2-3MOA range. I imagine M4s are a bit worse due to the typically shorter barrel (they’re usually carbines, right?). According to this, AR series rifles can be customised to be accurate within 1/2 to 2/3 of a MOA. Military rifles are mass produced, hence the 2MOA for the Dragunov and 2-3MOA of the M-16. The M-21 typically shoots under 1MOA I believe. I believe it’s derived from the M-14, which if properly handled can also consistently shoot less than 1MOA.

  7. I’ve had a Romak/SSG97 for a little more than a year now. I bought it from InterOrdnance. Overall it has been disappointing experience, especially given my strong desire to own one of these rifles. It consistently misfeeds and frequently fails to eject properly after a short period of firing (I’ve tried Wolf, Olympic, and some other ammo brands, no difference). My gunsmith couldn’t do anything with it – and that’s assuming you can find one that knows anything about the weapons. Additionally, the magazines are of poor quality and I have not been able to find good aftermarket replacements. All in all I wouldn’t recommend it, get an AR style instead, you’ll be happier.