The Romanian PSL Rifle – Feeling Nostalgic for the 7.62x54R DMR

I have to admit that I am a huge fan of Ian McCollum’s Forgotten Weapons videos.  On May 28th, 2018, he released “Romania Doesn’t Make the Dragunov:  The PSL”.  Being a fan of the PSL, I had to watch it:

As usual, Ian did a great job.  The PSL, or in Romanian, the Puşcă Semiautomată cu Lunetă model 1974 was Romania’s designated marksman rifle (DMR) in 7.62x54R and came about after they had a disagreement with the USSR and would not longer get access to the Dragunov design.

In a classic example of pragmatism, the designers at Regia Autonoma pentru Productia de Tehnica Militara, also know as  the RATMIL Cugir arsenal, upscaled the Kalashnikov rifle design to handle the larger round.  The receiver design is based on the RPK light machine gun with reinforcing plates at the rear and a bulged front trunnion.   To make use of the relatively old 7.62x54R cartridge, it used a 24.4″ long barrel whereas a typical AKM has a barrel that is about 16.3″ long.

In short, while some people refer to it as a Dragunov, it really isn’t the same design at all.  The Dragunov’s design is unique and more complex.  The PSL is essentially an AK-47 on steroids and it does a pretty good job for what it was intended for – being a DMR and providing supporting fire at longer distance targets vs. a sniper rifle.  A DMR has good enough accuracy to – say about 2-3″ MOA or better whereas a sniper, or precision rifle, will tend to be sub-MOA.

Paired with the rifle is a LPS 4×6 TIP2 ((Lunetă Puṣcă Semiautomată Tip 2, or “Scope, Semi-Automatic Rifle, Type 2”) scope that attaches via the receiver side plate.

Really, the PSL design was a success for the Romanians.  It was relatively inexpensive, rugged and did the job.  They actually wound up exporting it to a number of countries for military use including:  Afghanistang, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Congo-Kinshasa, Ethiopia, Iraq (after Hussein), Moldova, Nicaragua, North Korea, Pakistan, Somalia.

Here it is seen in the hands of an Afghan Army soldier:

In the following photo an Ethiopian solider is firing a PSL:

Of course, another market existed for these semi-auto rifles also – the United States.  It was imported under a variety of names including:  PSL-54C, Romak III, FPK and SSG-97.  They were all the same rifle more or less and might show modifications for importation such as removal of the bayonet lug or no third FCG pin provision in the receiver.  The PSLs in the US could have been assembled either at RATMIL or later after Romania joined NATO, the ARMS arsenal.  Note, there are also PSLs floating around built from kits on US receivers also with quality running the whole gamut from poor to excellent.


At any rate, part of the reason I wrote this is that I felt nostalgic.  I bought a Century Arms assembled PSL Sporter from Centerfire Systems in 2010.  Here it is next to a Yugo M70B1 for comparison and it has a Konus optic on a BP-02 SVD/PSL low center mount that is in line with the bore that I purchased from Kalinka Optics:

Contrary to rumor, the skeleton stock as the original design and not something they did for the US market.  The skeleton thumbhole profile was developed to reduce weight, withstand recoil and be relatively comfortable – hiding under the steel butt plate was a spring to dampen recoil.

I couldn’t leave the rifle along because I really wanted an SVD so I had to pick up a Rhineland Arms  unfinished walnut SVD conversion stock set – all it needed was the finish.  I used one of the Minwax cherry stains (I don’t recall which now I’m afraid) and the multiple coats of boiled linseed oil (BLO) on top.

One thing I did need to do was to carefully remove the gas tube cover retainers on both ends.  I carefull ground them off with my Dremel and then refinished the gas tube as you can see in the next photo.

I then drilled and tapped the receiver to hold a small piece of picatinny rail and took care not to harm the serial number and what not.   I figured the rail could be readily removed for inspection if ever needed.

So here was the end result including a Versapod bipod with claw feet:

I definitely am nostalgic about the rifle.  In one of those twists of fate, I had to sell it before I ever got to shoot it.  If I ever fell into a good deal on one, I would get it.

** Note, images that have a grey wood background, are of the Rhineland stock, the finished custom rifle or are in the shop are mine.  The other images are in the public domain and are from Wikipedia’s entry on the PSL.

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