Why are 100-year-old Degtyaryov machine guns in the spotlight in the Ukraine – Russia tensions?

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Frontier India News Network
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In Kiev, fighters of the territorial defense forces are being trained to use pre-war Degtyaryov machine guns of the 1927 model, says Maxim Buzhansky, deputy of the Verkhovna Rada. DP (Degtyaryov Infantry) is one of the first models of small arms created in the USSR. 

The law on the foundation of national resistance came into effect in Ukraine on January 1. According to the document, national resistance implies the broadest possible involvement of citizens in ensuring the country’s military security. The commander of these forces, Yuri Galushkin, stated that the number of units in peacetime would number 10 thousand military personnel; if necessary, it would quickly increase to several hundred thousand reservists.

Ukrainian territorial defense forces member training with Degtyaryov machine gun
Ukrainian territorial defense forces member training with Degtyaryov machine gun

“The fighters of the Kiev Terodefense were given a lecture on handling the 1927 Degtyarev machine gun of the year. And it’s not racing.

I think the second lesson will be Maxim 1883 and the Berdan rifle 1870. The third will have a sling and a bow for those who do not run away.

And all because brand new British grenade launchers will be taken to the warehouses of Lvov, which would then be sold to Africa,” he said in his telegram post.

“It was at this point that it became interesting what kind of school of machine gunners-reenactors was, and under what ammunition this miracle of technology was.

“I mean, is the ammunition also from 1927, or is there a newer one from the time of the Finnish War?” he added.

 The legendary Soviet machine gun DP

Since its inception, the Red Army has experienced an urgent need for light machine guns. There were no particular problems with the reliable Mosin guns and Maxim Guns. But the manual ones purchased back in the time of the Tsar were already worn out and often malfunctioned, but there was nothing to replace them with, and there were no spare parts. Attempts to purchase new machine guns abroad ended in nothing.

The idea was to remake the already mentioned “Maxim” into a Light Machine Gun, but it failed. The domestic designers began to work on a gun of their design. At first, nothing worked out: the selection committee rejected the developments, including the already experienced gunsmiths Fedorov and Degtyaryov.

Then Vasily Degtyaryov decided to convert the 7.62 calibre carbine he had created in 1915 into a light machine gun. Work began in 1923, and a prototype was ready the following year. Having studied it in practical shooting, the state commission rated the model positively but continued to consider proposals from other designers.

Later, in comparative tests, the Tokarev and Kalashnikov machine guns performed better since the Degtyaryov gun broke at the most inopportune moment and was withdrawn from the competition.

The failure did not deter Degtyaryov, he continued to improve his development, and by the fall of 1926, a new modification was ready. During continuous shooting, the model also showed unreliability, and so did the following two models that the designer created by the end of the year. But Vasily Degtyarev believed in luck and did not give up. In January 1927, his modified model showed good performance, and it was decided to produce an experimental batch of 100 units at the Kovrov Arms Plant.

Soviet Red Forces with Degtyaryov machine guns
Soviet Red Forces with Degtyaryov machine guns. Photo: 
Sergey Pyatakov/RIA Novosti

Red Army conducted trials with three models – the Degtyaryov machine gun, the German Dreyse machine gun and the MT machine gun (Maxim-Tokarev). This time, the Degtyaryov model won.

Without waiting for the results of military tests, on December 21, 1927, the Degtyaryov gun under the abbreviation DP (Degtyaryov infantry) was adopted by the Red Army. It was also designated as DP-27.

The Degtyaryov machine gun was designed for the 7.62x54R cartridge of the 1908 model. Its weight was 7.77 kg (without bipod) and 8.5 kg (with bipod). The magazine’s weight for 47 rounds (depending on the bullets used) ranged from 2.6 to 2.85 kg. The aiming range of the DP was 1500 meters, the rate of fire was up to 600 rounds per minute.

The DP was destined to become the most produced domestic machine gun of the Red Army. Its combat use began in 1929 during the conflict over the Chinese Eastern Railway (CER). Further, the DP was widely used in conflicts with Japan during the Soviet-Finnish and Great Patriotic Wars.

Over time, the machine gun was repeatedly upgraded and had several modifications like aviation (DA), tank (DT), company (RP-46), etc. The Degtyaryov machine gun was also issued to torpedo boats, motorcyclists and paratroopers. The DP was used as an anti-aircraft gun – against low-flying aircraft.

“Degtyar”, as the soldiers called it, was in service with many countries. The bulk was, of course, produced in the USSR, about 795 thousand pieces. In the Soviet army, the DP was used until the early 1960s, when it was replaced by the Kalashnikov light machine gun (PK).


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