Tokarev rifle or Samozaryadnaya Vintovka Tokareva, as
the Soviets refer to it and abbreviated to SVT, loosely
translates to, "self loading rifle-Tokarev."
This weapon was first introduced into Soviet service
as the SVT-38. The 38 referring to the year of submittal
to the Peoples Commissar of Armament in 1938. After
prolonged and repeated trails against other designs
and systems of operations, primarily those of Simonov
and Rukavishnikov who both submitted promising designs,
the Tokarev design for a self loading rifle was awarded
first place in the competitions. The rifle was adopted
for production on February 26, 1939. This was a questionable
decision as the Simonov designed weapon used less material
and time to produce, as well as being lighter both in
loaded and unloaded overall weight. It is reported that
Stalin himself intervened in the selection process to
award the contract to his favorite armament designer,
Feodor Vasilyvitch Tokarev.
production of the SVT-38 began on July 16, 1939 with
regular production utilizing small parts for actual
assembly commencing on the 25th of July. Mass production
of the rifle began on October 1, 1939, after some assembly
flaws were worked out and some parts were simplified
to accommodate mass production. The first three rifles
from this initial mass assembly were sent to the Peoples
Commissar of Armament, B.L. Vannikov, and the Central
Committee of the VKP and Peoples Defense Committee.
SVT-38 was basically a sound weapon. It utilized a two
piece stock joined at about the mid point by a square
peg fitting into a corresponding square hole in the
forend. The cleaning rod was inletted into the right
side of the stock in very much the same manner of the
earlier Simonov designed AVS-36 , but the inlet was
in the center of the stock instead of the top edge.
A spring-loaded catch in the end of the T shaped folding
handle secured the rod in its inletted groove, the retaining
end being metal reinforced with a depression for the
spring loaded button to engage. The threaded end of
the rod is protected and secured by the rear end of
the muzzle extension. The barrel bands had a bend or
, "loop," that helped to retain and guide
the rod. The SVT-38 utilizes two-barrel bands, the rear
being slightly larger to accommodate the thicker portion
of the stock.
handgaurds of the rifle, there are two, are made of
wood and pressed sheet metal construction. The short
stamped sheet metal is found directly behind the muzzle
extension/brake and covers the gas piston and cup assembly
that drives the operating rod. Four round holes are
spaced along both sides to aid in cooling the barrel
and venting of the gas system. Five oblong or oval slots
are spaced along each side of the wooden handguard to
assist in barrel cooling also. The handguard is much
longer than it's revised version found on the SVT-40.
Sling swivels were found under the rear of the buttstock
and on the bottom of the muzzle extension/brake on the
rear portion. The muzzle extension/brake housed the
front sight base and hooded front sight as well as the
gas piston and regulator that protruded from the front
of the humped section that covered the piston. The gas
system had five different adjustment positions to accommodate
weather conditions and ammunition. They were marked
1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.5, and 1.7. A special wrench was used
that corresponded to the pentagon shape of the regulator.
This tool was used to remove the muzzle brake and gas
safety of this rifle is a simple flag type that is located
behind the trigger. It rotated down from the side to
block the rearward movement of the trigger. The muzzle
extension/brake had six vertical slots that deflected
the escaping gases up and to the rear slightly to diminish
recoil and muzzle flash. It is reported that some early
muzzle brakes have eight slots but I can not confirm
this. The front sight was a hooded or globe type like
on the Mosin Nagant bolt action rifle and had a screw
adjustable post for elevation. The tool to accomplish
this was a T shape key cut out to mimic the post shape.
Adjustment was done through a hole in the top of the
sight that also allowed light to pass on to the post.
This tool was also used to remove the cross bolt of
the stock when the field stripping the weapon. Windage
was accomplished by drifting the dovetail base of the
sight. Rear sights were of a tangent type and graduated
to 1500 meters in 100 meter increments. With standard
Soviet type D ball ammo, 2545 FPS were attained.
The rifle is 122cm ( 48.02 inches ) in overall length
and weighted 3.95kg ( 8.75 lbs ) unloaded. It's barrel
length is 63.5cm ( 24.9 inches ) long with four groove
rifling and a right hand twist. The rifle operates on
the rearward motion of the piston rod driving the bolt
to the rear to eject the spent shell casing and strip
another round from the ten shot detachable magazine.
This magazine differs from the later SVT-40 magazine
in that it utilizes a cup type bottom which is retained
by two tabs that engage holes in the side walls of the
magazine. The magazine catch was of a fixed paddle shape
protruding down from the magazine to well behind the
magazine. Some SVT-38's were used as sniper and I only
know of only three such weapons being in US collections.
The SVT-38 was not widely used in the sniping role,
as the rifle was only in production on a mass scale
for some six months. The sniper variant is virtually
identical to the standard model exteriorly. The difference
lies in the greater attention to the fit and finish
of the stock and a more thorough polishing of the bore
and the chamber. The receiver is further modified by
the milling of a retention notch to retain a specially
designed scope mount.
The mount engages a rail or groove milled into each
side of the rear portion of the receiver. The mount
was seated under some spring tension from a circular
"button" inside the mount and locked into
place by a small key that slid through the mount engaging
the notch and passing out the other side. It was locked
into place by a small ledge or catch on the top of the
key that snapped up when seated fully. The mount comes
together in the rear and curves upward and forward to
create a cradle for the scope. The rings are hinged
and tightened down by one screw in each ring. A recessed
area in the center of the mount corresponds to the raised
area of the scope that houses the windage and elevation
knobs. This centered the scope in the correct position.
The scope was a newly designed short scope of 3.5X and
utilizes the traditional European three-post reticle.
The optics were manufactured on machinery purchased
from Zeiss Jenna of Germany. There were no provisions
for focus adjustments on this scope. The scope is 167.39mm
( 6.59 inches ) long and has a field view of 4 degrees.
The windage knob has ten settings, 0 for no wind and
five marked + for adjustment to the right and five marked
-- for movement to the left. The elevation knob is marked
0-13 for less than 100 meters to 1300 meters, in increments
of 100 meters. These scopes are generally thought to
have been put into service in 1940, but one known specimen
is reported to be dated 1939. The last year of production
of the Tokarev scope was in 1944
production began in late 1939 possibly October and November.
Production of the AVS-36 was curtailed on May 16, 1939.
Tooling and personnel for the new SVT-38 was not in
place until late 1939, with full mass production getting
underway in the early part of 1940 possibly in January/February.
An Ishevsk produced SVT-38 is truly a rare piece as
production was only run for a few months when it was
decided to again modify the design to the SVT-40 configuration.
Production on a full scale for the SVT-38 ran from October
4, 1939 to April 13, 1940 when it was decided to modernize
the design from field experience and production difficulties.
A lighter, simplified version of the rifle was created
and called the, "7.62 Tokarev system self loading
rifle 1940 model." Total production of the SVT-38
is reported to be around 150,000 , but taken in to account
the limited time in production on a full scale was only
some six months as well as the Soviet propensity of
padding the numbers, a more realistic assumption would
be less than 100,000 rifles were produced. Most of these
weapons were lost, damaged, or rebuilt into SVT-40's.
new design and production changes improved the rifles
operation and reliability as learned from the Winter
War experience with Finland. These changes were as follows:
Stock changed from a two piece to a one piece and made
from Arctic Birch. The handguard was shortened and stamped
sheet metal extensions were used on the top and bottom.
The cleaning rod was simplified and placed under the
barrel and passed through a redesigned bayonet lug that
used a spring catch to retain the rod. The magazine
was shortened slightly and now used a stamped plate
type floorplate held in place by a stamped lip on the
magazine body. The magazine release was now stamped
instead of milled and folded up along the trigger housing
to prevent accidental release. The magazine locking
lug was split to save machine time. The receiver was
shortened and the muzzle brake was also reduced in size.
The bolt carrier had lightening cuts added to reduce
weight. The bayonet was shortened and scabbard to match
it, although it still retained it's cutting edge up.
The scabbard was in fact just a smaller version of its
predecessor. The bayonet was again modified in the later
half of 1940 to a cutting edge facing down and a new
stamped sheet metal scabbard with reinforcing "fins"
at the top. A new way of retaining the belt strap was
also introduced on the new scabbard.
modifications were to the barrel bands, two being replaced
by one that also served as the retainer for the sheet
metal handguards. The forward attachment point for the
sling was also moved to the side of this single band
from the muzzle extension/brake. Later modification
of this band in late 1942 and early 1943 replaced the
swiveling loop with a fixed bar like on a K-98. Finger
grooves were also added to the forestock.
of the SVT-40 on a mass scale began on July 1, 1940,
with the simultaneous curtailment of the Mosin Nagant
Model 1891/30. It was the Soviets intention to arm all
infantry units with the new self-loading rifle. This
explains why early war dated Mosins are difficult to
find. Production was slow at first but still ahead of
its forebearer, the SVT-38. This was due in part to
streamlining the production method and simplified parts
as well as the worker's experience. The new SVT-40 was
122cm ( 48.0 inches ) in overall length and 3.9kg (
8.5 lbs. ) unloaded. It now has a 62.5cm ( 24.60 inches
) long barrel that retained the same four groove right
hand riffling. Its sights were set to 1500 meters and
the muzzle velocity of the type D ball ammunition was
now 765mps ( 2524fps ). SVT-40 production in its first
month was reported at 3,416. In August 8,100 rifles
were completed and another 10,700 and 11,960 in September
and October respectively. No production figures are
shown for November and December but an educated guess
would be 14,000 for November and 18,000 for December,
This would bringing the 1940 production to around 66,000
rifles. Ishevsk started production slightly later than
Tula, perhaps in the fall, as they had to cease production
of the SVT-38 and retool for the model 1940. Both arsenals
produced the rifle right up to the beginning of 1942,
when the order was given for Ishevsk to begin production
on the Mosin Nagant on a full scale basis again. Tula
produced the rifle until the order was given to cease
production on January 3, 1945.
Kovrov arsenal also produced the SVT 40 in a supplemental
role beginning in the later part of 1940 and ending
in 1941, less than a year later. At that time the Kovrov
arsenal concentrated on producing machine-guns and airborne
cannon for the Air Force. The Kovrov arsenal is located
some 260 Km east of Moscow and up until recently discovered
information was not associated with Tokarev production.
It should be noted that the Kovrov arsenal was initially
set up in 1916 by the Danish machine gun maker Madsen
to produce their weapon but the arsenal was left unfinished
due to the revolution. In 1916 Vladimir G. Fedorov was
sent to complete the project and organize the work force
for production of his light automatic rifle the "Automat".
The arsenal was completed in 1918 and at the request
of Fedorov, Vasiliy Degtyarev joined Fedorov at the
arsenal to work on his machine gun designs. Degtyarev
invited the brightest and best armourers from Sestroyetsyk
to join him. Those that did received a large stipend
in reward. Sestroyetsyk arsenal at that time was nothing
more than a large repair/refurbishment depot,
as most of the skilled labor and machinery had been
moved from the arsenal. The Tokarev SVT40 rifle produced
at Kovrov is a prime collectable and rarely encountered.
It was erroneously assumed the arsenal stamp that Kovrov
used was that of the earlier Sestroyetsyk as the fletched
arrow logo is so similar.
German Army , or Wermacht, used captured SVT's extensively
throughout the war. They were used in such great numbers
that the German High Command issued German ID numbers
for them. The SVT-38 was known as the SIG.258(r), the
SVT-40 as the SIG.259(r), and the SVT-40 Sniper Rifle
was designated the SIG.Zf260(r). On April 17, 1942 ,
the German high command issued order number 1384/42-AHA/In(VII)
pertaining to the , "Use and sighting of the Russian
self loading rifles." The order was in two parts,
the first being regulation pertaining to captured weapons
and sighting in at 100 meters using the Soviet 7.62mm
s.S.(r) ammunition with a yellow tip. The second part
concerned with special instructions on firing three
shots and measuring the grouping for acceptable tolerance.
That tolerance was to be within 10cm. If after the first
three shots further sighting was to be done, only single
shots totaling four were to be done for a total of seven
cartridges expended. If further adjustment was to be
done, the rifle was to be sent to the regimental armourer.
Rifles that required repair or further adjustment were
stamped with a Waffenampt , or test eagle, on the receiver,
bolt carrier, barrel, or the stock. The German troops
were very fond of this rifle and used them until they
ran out of ammunition. Eventually they were abandoned
in favor of the German designed self loaders.
was decided that the SVT-40 would be used as the Red
Armies sniper rifle in April of 1940, replacing the
Model 1891/30 PE Mosin Nagant and therefore the production
of the bolt action Mosin was halted. All SVT-38's and
SVT-40's had the optical sight mounting rails on the
sides of the receiver until late 1942. Some SVT-40's
have been observed without these rails most of which
were Ishevsk production of 1941 dated guns as well as
some Tula produced weapons in 1940-41. These
non railed rifles of early production are very few in
number and are a prime collectors item for the Tokarev
fan. Rails ceased to be milled into the receivers of
the SVT-40 in October of 1942, and the Tokarev was removed
from production as a sniper rifle at this time; however,
the SVT was used until the end of the war as a sniper
rifle. Production of the SVT-40 snipers were approximately
7,000 in 1940, 34,710 in 1941, and 14,200 in its final
year of service as the Red Army's primary sniper rifle
in 1942. The bolt action Mosin Nagant model 1891/30
PU sniper rifle was reintroduced into production in
February of 1942 as the main sniper rifle of the Red
Army. It is believed that very few PE sniper rifles
were produced early on in 1942 in the side mount variation
until the newly designed PU model could be put into
mass production in the summer of 1942. A 1942 dated
PE is extremely rare as very few were made in this stop
gap time frame. One known example of this rifle was
produced at the Ishevsk arsenal. Finish is very rough
on many Mosin's that were made in this time frame as
many rifle receiver and barrels had very poor machining.
Some of the very early PU mounts have two "lightening"
cuts on the mount instead of a single large one and
they were slightly larger. The early PU scopes have
a square block type housing for windage and elevation
knobs , very much like the earlier PE scope. This was
later modified to being round like the SVT scope.
SVT-40 was a competent sniper rifle but was plagued
by problems with first shot inaccuracy. It was found
in testing that a 10 to 15 cm discrepancy was evident
in patterns fired at 100 meters. The "flyer"
consistently being the first shot. It was determined
that the barrel shifted longitudinally along with the
receiver. Further stock work did not alleviate the problem.
It was also determined that the scope mount needed to
be attached more securely to the ifle. These problems
were too severe to continue production until solutions
could be found.
SVT-40 was also modified to be capable of automatic
fire. This version was called the AVT-40 or Automat
Vintovka Tokarreva as it translated from its Soviet
name "Automatic loading rifle-Tokarev model 1940."
This rifle was identical to its semi automatic cousin
, except for the additional cut out in the stock to
allow the safety to be swung over to the right side
to activate the full auto capability of the action.
The modified safety simply trips the sear and allows
the bolt to travel forward again without locking up.
It is reported that a fifteen round magazine was issued
with this rifle but none have been confirmed. This rifle
was a stop gap attempt to provide a supplement to the
squad machine gun, DP-28, which was just beginning to
be distributed on a wide scale. Its use in a fully automatic
mode was not a success as the gun was prone to parts
breakage and stock failures. It also suffered from a
tendency to jam spent cases in the chamber when hot.
This was probably not the fault of the rifle but the
poor wartime quality of Soviet ammunition. This was
remedied by "fluting" the chamber to aid in
extraction. This fluting is reported in Soviet documents
but upon inspection of all models it was found that
all have fluted chambers. It is possible that only the
depth of the fluting was changed at this time. Stock
were also beefed up and different types of wood were
experimented with to solve the cracking problems that
occurred at the wrist. All of these problems were never
solved and the AVT was removed from production soon
after it started in August of 1943.
of the carbines in the Tokarev style was undertaken
on a limited basis in September of 1940. Trials were
conducted with a carbine version of the SVT-38 but were
updated with the curtailment of production for this
model and an updated version was submitted using the
new SVT-40 design. An order for 3,000 carbines was placed
in July of 1940. This carbine in it's factory configuration
was 166cm ( 45 inches ) in overall length and 3.6 kg
( 7.93 pounds ) unloaded. It had a 47cm ( 18.5 inch
) barrel and retained the wooden handguard with one
cooling slot in the rear. The rear portion of the next
slot was neatly dovetailed in to provide strength for
the barrel band. The barrel band retainer was also carefully
inletted into a new position. The cleaning rod was also
of a shorter length. Production ceased soon after it
started in 1941, probably due to the German invasion.
carbines were produced in limited numbers and are sometimes
refereed to as "field cuts." These were modified
full-length rifles done in 1941 and 1942. It is assumed
that these hastily cut down rifles were made due to
battlefield damage to the barrel , or its was done to
meet the demand for a short self loading rifle during
the savage street fighting of Leningrad and Stalingrad.
These carbines show rough modifications to the metal
handguards that were cut down to an inch or so to accommodate
the now cut down barrel that measured only 16 inches
or less. The wooden handguard was also modified from
the rear in some instances. These carbines in most cases
do not have a rear barrel band retainer and cleaning
rod. The gas port is also crudely cut into the barrel
standard accessories for the SVT-38 and the SVT-40 as
well as the carbines were essentially identical. The
rifles were supplied with one tool/cleaning kit in a
canvas roll type pouch that folded over onto itself
and buttoned shut. It has a button hole on the top to
be fastened to either shirt pocket or trousers. Each
kit consisted of a takedown tool that disassembled the
muzzle brake, adjusted the gas regulator, aided in cross-bolt
removal from the stock and acted as a firing pin protrusion
guide. It also was used as a wrench to remove the gas
piston for cleaning. The front sight tool was shaped
like a "T" and also was used for cross bolt
removal. The rod collar, handle and jag as well as a
brush for the chamber and a pick for the gas port that
doubled as a punch rounded out the kit. The differences
in these kits for the SVT-38 was the omission of the
rod collar and handle as the cleaning rod already had
these. The combination tool was also slightly larger
but the same shape. A double slotted pull thru for a
patch was standard in the 38 kit but not in the 40's.
Snipers used a modified combination tool that resembles
a large key. It has a circular hole in the middle with
a slot on the bottom that allowed it to completely disassemble
the muzzle brake as well as the muzzle nut for a through
cleaning of the baffles. Each kit also contained one
oilier of a round shape. Oilers that were produced at
Ishevsk have an arrow in a triangle, the secondary arsenal
proof, embossed on the front.
rifle was issued with three magazines, two of which
were carried in a magazine pouch. Early pouches were
of canvas and leather construction but later changed
to all leather. The pouch had a large single compartment
divided by a piece of thick leather to create a front
and back and to separate the magazines so that they
could not rattle against one another. An interior securing
strap crossed over diagonally and held the magazines
firmly in place. It ecured to a large brass grommet
that also secured the cover flap. Each magazine was
numbered to the rifle on the bottom of the magazine
body. Directly after the serial number was a period
followed by either a 1, 2, 3. These numbers corresponded
to the number of magazines issued to that serial numbered
rifle. This was true of both SVT38 and 40 magazines.
for the SVT-38 were initially made of all leather in
a belt like fashion. Strap and buckle type attachments
on each end to engage the sling swivels. These also
provided length adjustment with the longer of the straps
being the front or muzzle end. Two leather loops retained
the strap ends when adjustment created extra material.
Later on a canvas and leather sling was issued with
the body of the sling being canvas. One end utilized
the strap and buckle type arrangement while the rear
used a leather end retained by a brass keeper or sling
button. The early model 40 sling was initially leather
but much shorter as the front sling swivel was moved
considerably back toward the butt. Later canvas issued
slings of a course weave and colored either kakhi green,
white or tan as well as navy issued grey/blue were used
and identical to the leather sling in configuration
and length except the attachment points were leather
and the body of the sling canvas. The length of a SVT-38
sling is 54 inches with the body of the sling measuring
36 inches by 1.25 inches wide. The SVT-40 sling is also
54 inches tip of strap to tip and is found in a tight
weave canvas at 1.25 inches wide a looser weave type
a little wider at 1.5 inches. The differences between
the two is the body of the SVT-40 sling is only 29 inches
long, a full seven inches shorter than the 38's. These
are just guidelines as I encountered subtle difference
in measurement amongst the six slings used for the measurements.
The retaining loops on some later SVT-40 slings may
be omitted. Some early war expediency slings use a leather
thong to tie the straps rather than a buckle.
rifles that saw service with the Soviet Marines had
a rear sling slot instead of a swivel and special slings
were developed for this rifle . One looks like a SVT
sling in the front attachment area while the rear has
no strap, just a loop utilizing a leather sling keeper
like a Mosin Nagant. Another version of this sling uses
an attachment like a regular SVT in the rear but a leather
strap comes off at a 90 degree angle with a retaining
buckle that goes thru the slot and looks very much like
a K98 set up. This set up enabled the rifle to be carried
flat on the back with out the sling twisting. Carbines
used the standard model 40 sling.
rifle also had a bayonet issued to it. Sometimes the
rifle's serial number will appear on the wooden grip
panels. The model 38 bayonet was a long knife type being
14" in blade length. The blade was polished and
the muzzle ring and pommel were blued. It used a scabbard
of steel and fastened to the belt by a simple leather
loop fastened by four brass rivets. The model 40 used
two different bayonets as discussed earlier in the text.
The blade length of these bayonets are 9.5" with
one having the cutting edge up (extremely rare) and
the other down. The finish on these blades ranged from
all polished to polished and blued pommel and muzzle
ring to all blued. The all blued version is the least
encountered of the three. Both Ishevsk and Tula arsenals
produced bayonets. There is no mention that I can find
that Kovrov produced bayonets but one lone example has
been found and bears the Kovrov logo failtly on the
blade shank. Bayonets that were captured and saw service
in the Finnish Army are not normally marked but two
examples have been reported marked with a small [SA]
on the blade. These would be the exception to the rule
and are extremely scarce. Some Finnish bayonets of the
SVT series have been observed with the date and place
of capture engraved onto the blade or grip panels. I
have one such example in my collection from a battle
in 1941 for the recapture of the Isthmus from the Russians
by Finnish forces.
were issued a canvas and leather action cover that also
covered the scope. Leather scope caps were also issued
for protection of the optical lenses when not in use.
The scope cover has leather end caps sewn to the canvas
and belted through the trigger guard while the scope
was mounted to the rifle. It attached with either a
buckle and strap or a strap and grommet made of brass.
The cover could also be rolled around the scope and
mount for protection when it was not affixed to the
rifle. A long thin pocket on the exterior of the cover
housed the special combination tool as well a lens cloth
and any optical information. A leather flap closed the
pocket by either a leather button or a brass grommet.
It is rumored that a drag bag or field bag was issued
with each sniper rifle also. Wooden transit chests like
those for the British No.4 T have also been observed
in a Soviet publication.
the current importation of these historic rifles many
rare and collectable SVT's have become available. The
initial import of Tokarev's in the early 1950's from
Finland, who captured some 15,000 rifles and reissued
10,000 of them, was the only availability of these rifles
until now. Rebuilt model 38's into 40's, sniper models
as well as the rare Kovrov produced guns. Even late
production rifles of 1944, the last full year of production,
can occasionally be discovered. These rifles are a joy
to collect and even more so to shoot, their gas system
and muzzle brake taming the recoil. When in good shape
they are surprisingly accurate. It was my intent to
be informative in this article so that a novice would
have a broad beginning in understanding the rifles and
their collectability. This article is by no means meant
to be the end all say all on the SVT's. There are always
exceptions and a collector always knows that as soon
as you say there are none one will show up!
luck in collecting,