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SOURCE: THE PRINT

The long-awaited upgrade of the legendary Dragunov sniper rifle, commonly known in the armed forces as DSR, could soon be a reality as an Indian private company has come out with an indigenous solution that gives the weapon night-firing capability, besides other new features.

While the Russian manufacturer of the rifle, Kalashnikov, has also come up with an upgrade, the upgrade programme is mentioned in the negative import list put out by the defence ministry in August. The cut-off date mentioned in the negative import list is December 2020.

Bangalore-based firm SSS Defence has come out with an upgrade, which also brings down the recoil, besides giving it a bipod.

While the Northern Command has come out with a Request for Proposal for the upgrade of 90 pieces of the nearly three-decade-old rifle, the Army is estimated to have anywhere between 6,000-7,000 pieces.

What are DSRs?
Designed by a Soviet weapon designer, Yevgeny Dragunov, in the late 1950s, the DSR is a gas-operated short-stroke piston rifle.

The weapon was put through exhaustive testing across environments before the former Soviet armed forces began inducting them. By the late 1970s, the weapon was used in combat in several countries across continents.

The Indian Army has been one of the largest users of the DSR and its different versions have been supplied by Kalashnikov.

While Army officers still swear by the ability of the DSR that has an effective range of around 800 metres, they say that mission criteria and nature of operations has changed over time.

The weapons have largely not undergone any major modification except what is known as ‘Special Operations Modifications’.

The DSRs in service with the Indian Army, for the most part, don’t have the ability to operate with an inline clip on day-sight and night-sight together.

“In fact, the DSR does not offer a system to mount night vision at all. Even the sniper scopes that can be used in conjunction are limited to a 4x magnification and modern day sniper scopes can’t be mounted at all,” a source said.

Also, the weapon can’t use stability-imparting accessories like a bipod, the source added.

Older versions of DSRs, which populate the Indian Army’s arsenal, have wooden buttstocks and a recoil that affects accuracy and convenience of use.

Why is the Army looking at upgrading DSRs?
According to sources, the barrel of a DSR can easily fire up to 7,000 rounds and most have not done more than 3,000 each.

“This means that the rifle still has a long life ahead. It may not be a sniper weapon in the present day, but it is still a decent squad ‘Designated Marksman Rifle’ or DMR. The Army will easily take a few years to acquire and induct a more lethal sniper weapon with effective ranges of 1.2 km and above,” a second source said.

“The modern day sniper variants that the Indian Army plans to procure and have procured in limited numbers are intended for long-range targeting. Taking them into combat at intermediate ranges of 500m to 800m with expensive ammunition and high-trained snipers is the equivalent of taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut,” the source added.

What does the upgrade of DSR mean?
A DSR upgrade can help bridge the gap between the age-old precision weapon and demands of modern infantry warfare.

According to SSS Defence, its upgrade significantly reduces recoil with a new tactical buttstock with a built-in monopod and adjustable cheek rest.