During his work in the Chief Designer’s Office at Izhmash (now Kalashnikov Concern), Dragunov was personally responsible for 27 designs and acquired 7 inventor’s certificates. One of the Dragunov’s most famous creations is the SVD semi-automatic sniper rifle which became the standard issue weapon for army marksmen in 1963 and was subsequently recognized as the best sniper rifle of the 20th century.
Yevgeniy Dragunov was born on February 20, 1920 in Izhevsk into a family of gunsmiths.
In 1934, he enrolled at the Industrial Technical School, the institution that trained specialists for the local arms factory. Dragunov was a serious competitive shooter, and by the time of his graduation, he was already a first grade instructor. After finishing school, Yevgeniy was assigned to the Izhevsk Machine-Building Plant, where he began working as a manufacturing technician at the stock-making shop. His first project was developing the technology to update the bayonet for the Mosin rifle.
In the fall of 1939, Dragunov was drafted into the Red Army and sent to serve in the Far East. After two months of service, he was appointed to the school of junior AIR (artillery instrumental reconnaissance) officers. Shooting proficiency helped Yevgeniy in his further service. After graduating from the school, he was appointed its gunsmith. Upon the outbreak of the war, the institution became the Far Eastern Artillery School, and Dragunov became its chief gunsmith. He would serve in this position until his discharge in the fall of 1945.
In January 1946, Major Sergeant Dragunov returned to the Izhevsk Machine-Building Plant. The HR department decided to attach Yevgeniy to the Chief Designer’s Office as a research technician.
In 1948, the designer began the work to update the 1891/30 model sniper rifle with a PU sight on a 1942 mount developed by Dmitriy Kochetov. The resulting rifle was designated as MS-74. It boasted high precision and underwent range testing. The rifle was recommended for putting into production, but the project never progressed beyond that stage.
In 1949, Yevgeniy Dragunov developed and put into production the S-49, his first high-precision sporting rifle. In 1950, it helped the USSR national team set its first world record in shooting. That rifle was not yet fundamentally different from the standard army Mosin rifle.
In 1958, Dragunov was tasked with designing a semi-automatic sniper rifle that would use the regular 7.62×54R cartridge.
Later that year, he created the first sample, designated as SSV-58. The rifles produced at the Izhevsk plant aced the range tests and were recommended for military trials.
On June 3, 1963, after an array of modifications and tests, the weapon was adopted by the Soviet Army with the designation “7.62 mm Dragunov Sniper Rifle” (SVD). By creating the SVD, Dragunov laid extensive groundwork for the development of Russian sniper rifles. Since that time, the Izhevsk Machine-Building Plant has been producing the SVD. Its design spawned the popular Medved and Tigr hunting carbines.
In 1968, the TSV small-caliber rifle was developed under Dragunov’s leadership, intended for basic training of snipers. The rifle underwent trials, and a prototype batch was manufactured, but did not make it into mass production.
In 1971, Yevgeniy designed a compact submachine gun chambered in 9×18 Makarov, designated as PP-71, but this work would not be completed, as the Soviet Army, the plant’s only customer at the time, had gone sour on this weapon type. Only twenty years later, Dragunov went out of retirement to resume work on the PP-71 at the Izhevsk Mechanical Plant to which the development was transferred.
The last weapon he worked on was the Kedr (Russian acronym for Yevgeniy Dragunov Design) 9 mm submachine gun adopted by the Russian Interior Ministry after his death, and in 1994, the Klin SMG, based on the Kedr pattern, was adopted; both models are now being manufactured in Zlatoust.
In 1964, the 7.62 mm Dragunov sniper rifle was adopted by the Soviet Army. In 1969, he developed a semi-automatic carbine to use 7.62×54R hunting cartridges. In 1971–1973, he designed a 9 mm silenced submachine gun; in the 1990s, it would be produced under the Kedr and Klin designations.
In the early 1990s, Izhmash designers developed a version of the SVD with the buttstock folding to the right side of the receiver; in 1995, it would be adopted by the Russian Armed Forces as the SVDS 7.62 mm folding-stock rifle.
Several years later, a street named after the legendary gunsmith Dragunov appeared in Izhevsk.