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VSS Vintorez: Russia’s Silent Sniper Rifle

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The VSS (Special Sniper Rifle) Vintorez was one of two dedicated silenced rifles developed in Russia in the 1980s. The Vintorez was given a very good barrel and intended for precision shooting, while the AS (Special Assault rifle) Val used the same action and suppressor, but had a pistol grip and folding stock, and was intended for use as a typical carbine. Both were chambered for the 9x39mm round, which came out at subsonic velocities to ensure very quiet operation. Both designs also included a selector switch.

The example I am looking at today is a commercial-sale version of the modernized VSS-M. The modernized version of the rifle replaced the smooth top cover and AK-style receiver side rail with a picatinny railed top cover, as well as revising the handguard design. The difference between the commercial and military versions is simply the lack of a selector switch (commercial is semiauto only) and the lack of a detachable stock (on the military version the stock can be removed much like a Colt Thompson stock).

Internally, the VSS and AS are very different from the Kalashnikov design. They use a linear hammer much like a vz58, and a six-lug rotating bolt. The gas system is a long-stroke piston, and the barrel has four rows of ports just a few inches in front of the chamber. The suppressor consists of an initial expansion chamber filled by the barrel ports and then a series of five very simple baffles.

Doctrinally, these rifles were intended to replace the use of suppressors and subsonic 7.62x39mm on standard AKM rifles, although only for special operations sort of troops (not standard Army recon). While very quiet and effective, they are liable to overheat quickly under sustained fire, and were not deemed appropriate for uses where they might be drawn into a conventional infantry battle. Instead, they went to groups like special police and intervention teams who were basically intended to deploy, shoot a couple bad guys in a blockaded building, and then return to base. By today, they have been generally replaced by newer designs, but like so much else, they have both appeared in the fighting in Ukraine.

Many thanks to the IRCGN (Institut de Recherche Criminelle de la Gendarmerie Nationale) for allowing me access to film this very rare rifle for you!

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