Thursday, November 18, 2010

Semi-Auto RPD's

The RPD (Ruchnoy Pulemyot Degtyaryova) was developed in the Soviet Union by Vasily Degtyaryov in the early 1940's.  By 1944 his design was accepted into service.  Vasily based the design of the RPD on the DP machinegun operating mechanism which was adopted by the Soviet Union in 1928.

The RPD uses a "long stroke" gas system and a locking system used in previous DP systems.  The locking system used two "flaps" which were pushed out and into recesses on either side of the receiver to achieve lock-up.  The original full-auto version fires from an open bolt, a system common to many light machinegun designs.  The gun fires from a reusable 100 round drum which contains two metal non-disintegrating belts of 50 rounds each (connected).  It is chambered for the 7.62x39 cartridge made popular my the AK-47 rifle.

Over the last few years custom gun makers and companies such as Vector Arms have offered small quantities of semi-auto converted rifles based on various demilled RPD kits which have been imported.  Egyptian and Polish made guns are the most common with the Polish kits being the most sought after.  The semi-auto rifles fire from the closed bolt position and use a simple striker assembly to fire the rifle.  The conversion is relatively unobtrusive and leaves the rifle looking identical to the full-auto military counterpart.  The disassembly is also nearly identical to the full-auto version, so much so DSA / Wise Lite actually supplies a reprint of a declassified U.S. military manual with their rifle.

Vector stopped making their semi-auto RPD about a year ago leaving the market void of manufactured semi-auto RPD rifles.  People were still buying the kits and having custom gun makers assemble them.

DS Arms recently announced they were be making semi-auto receivers for the RPD and contracted with Wise Lite Arms to manufacturer them.  DSA is currently selling these rifles on their website for $2,100.

I recently purchased one of the DSA guns and took it out to the range.  Unfortunately my copy suffered from failures to fire which I've documented in my video review (Part 1) below.

I've sent my rifle to DSA for warranty repair and hope to have it back soon so I can complete my review.

The RPD is an interesting piece of military history and it's great that we're able to buy semi-auto rifles based on this design.  The rifle has been used in wars ranging from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, and countless wars in between fought on every major continent.  It is worth mentioning that the RPD was never a very popular MG in the Russian military.  It was viewed as unreliable and required too much maintenance to stay running, much like the U.S. M60 machinegun.

I'll keep everyone posted via my YouTube channel as to the status of my semi-auto DSA RPD.

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