A Sniper Rifle is Born in Russia - Part 1

Soviet Sergeant Mikhail Surkov, the best and most prominent sniper of World War II, killed seven hundred and two German soldiers and officers – the entire Nazi battalion!

Lyudmila Pavlyuchenko, the most successful female sniper is credited with three hundred and nine kills.

Twenty of the best Soviet snipers took the lives of eight thousand five hundred Nazis – that’s three German regiments!

Hundreds of thousands of German troops were indeed killed by Soviet snipers.

However, a sniper is not some athlete-shooter who crawls the battlefield under his own unguided direction, killing the enemy from an ambush.

Every sniper has to first master the craft of a soldier: able to belly crawl hundreds of yards, run fast, learn camouflage and concealment techniques and, of course, shoot perfectly from any position. Snipers studied the operation and design of the rifle’s sight to determine and estimate the range to the target, wind velocity, the target’s speed and quickly perform necessary calculations. They worked hard on observation and concentration techniques, practiced firmly holding their hand and slowly squeezing the trigger. By the end of the training course Soviet snipers were required to perform such exercises as shooting at a distance of 1,000 meters against a machine gun target, killing a sentry at 800 meters, shooting a chest target at 500 meters, and a telescope lens at 250 meters.

Moreover, snipers had to have the skills to fight as infantrymen – i.e. operate small arms, machine-guns, and anti-tank rifles. These soldiers studied the techniques of bayonet fighting, throwing grenades and Molotov cocktails.

Indeed, a sniper was one of the most fearsome warriors on the battlefield!

Therefore, 428,335 snipers graduated from the USSR’s Universal Military Training during World War II, on top of that, 9,534 elite snipers were trained by the Central Command. Some 1,885 female snipers, graduates of the female sniper school, fought in the Great Patriotic War. Just one female sniper company of the 3rd Attack Army killed 3,012 German soldiers and officers on its way from the town of Velikiye Luki to Berlin.

The main weapon of any sniper is the sniper rifle. In World War II it was the prominent Mosin rifle, fitted with a sniper sight, and the Simonov self-loading carbine with the same sight. They demanded much better quality of the barrel than was used with standard models. And snipers got the best. But in a modern dynamic battle a bolt-action rifle no longer complied with the tactical requirements. So in 1963 the Dragunov semi-automatic rifle was adopted and remained the main sniper rifle of both Soviet and Russian Armies for nearly fifty years.

During that time the military strategy and tactics evolved: the Global War theory stepped down in favor of local conflicts and counter-terrorist operations, which required new combat techniques and new weapons. Big wartime battalions were replaced with Special Forces groups; ambushes, raid and infiltration tactics forced away conventional firing lines and trenches. Under those conditions the role of a sniper dramatically increased. Today, the sniper is not just an elite shooter, but being skilled in camouflage and concealment, self-control and equipped with perfect optics, he is also an ideal scout, a forward observer, and a spotter. And these elite soldiers needed an elite sniper rifle able to accurately hit any target at long-range distances. But Russian arsenals had no such rifles…

For a few years there was a long discussion in the press that the Russian small arms production was in deep crisis. They said Russia was hopelessly behind the West in the production of barrels and consequently could not produce any accurate sniper rifles. TV showed foreign rifles that could be adopted by the Russian Defense Ministry. It was argued that there was no hope to catch up with the West, and it’s time to buy foreign small arms; and that Russia needed a true revolution in firing-arms production to reach a new level.

So when a year ago some media suggested that an elite-rifle production plant would soon be established in Moscow, it frankly seemed utopian at the time. That was impossible! There was no production, no machines and tools, no specialists and technologies. There are no miracles!

And then at a shooting competition, renowned firearms expert and master shooter, Alexei Sorokin, was introduced to a new rifle marked with an unrecognized logo – ORSIS – Firearms System. And, after the competition it became clear that Russia now had it’s own precision rifle manufacturer.

Part 2… coming soon!