March 2012

Two 7.62x54R Semiauto Rifles: Surplus Tokarev Beats PSL-54C

The Tokarev 1940 SVT showed old-world machining quality and shootability that aren’t duplicated by many current models, including a Romanian PSL-54C “marksman rifle.”

The Mosin Nagant bolt-action rifle was superseded by the need for a semiautomatic rifle firing the same potent caliber. Simonov came up with a design in 1936 that didn’t win universal approval, and shortly thereafter Tokarev came up with his models 1938 and 1940 SVT rifles (costing about $500 to 700 today), the latter version being one-half the subjects of this report. The other half is the more recent Romanian PSL-54C (about $700 without scope), which still takes the rimmed 7.62 x 54R cartridge. This rifle resembles the AK-47, and is in fact based on it. It was issued as a “designated marksman rifle.” Normally scoped, our test sample had only iron sights.

We shot these two rifles with Russian ball of two different types. Note that this ammunition is available inexpensively, and also with soft-nose steel-jacket bullets. Most armorers we know say to avoid soft-nose ammo in semiautos, so we did that. Most Russian-made ammo we’ve seen locally uses steel cases, but Norma has loaded it in recent years with brass cases, and still offers brass cases and bullets for the reloader. Several other manufacturers offer modern ammo with a great variety of bullet designs for this still very popular cartridge. All the bullets we’ve seen loaded in Russian ammo are steel-jacketed, even the soft-nose ones. Here are our test results.

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