RPD 7.62x54mm light machine gun

01. Original name RPD Degtyaryov Light Machinegun (ручной пулемёт Дегтярёва – Ruchenoy Pulemet Degtyaryova)  
02. Other official names 7.62 KK54 RPD (Finnish Army designation); Type 56 (Chinese manufacture); Type 56-1 (Chinese manufactured final variant 5). Type 62 (North Korea manufacture)  
03. Popular names RPDM – RPD Modefitsyrovanny(“Modernized”) used to describe the significantly improved variant 4  
04. Chamberings 7.62x39mm M43 (intermediate) rimless cartridge; inspired by Germany’s 7.92x33mm Kurtz (short) round designed for use in their Maschinenkarabiner 1942 (MKb42), and subsequent Maschinenpistole 1943 (MP43). 5.56x45mm NATO variant developed by Israeli Military Industries (IMI)  
05. Designed by Vasily Alekseyevich Degtyaryov . Degtyaryov, a Russian engineer specialising in weapons design, was born in 1880 in Tula (home to the Tula Arsenal). Repeatedly honoured by Stalin for his work, he died in Moscow in January 1949. Throughout his life he led a series of weapons maintenance, repair and design teams, prior to heading up the first Soviet Firearms Design Bureau, and becoming Major General of the Engineering and Artillery Service. He designed the RPD to replace his DP light machinegun (standard Russian issue from 1928, built around the full-power 7.62x54mm rimmed rifle cartridge), with a lighter, faster firing, more reliable weapon using a smaller, intermediate rimless cartridge type  
06. Design date 1943-45  
07. In service date(s) Approved for issue 1946. Full production from 1953; Russia/Warsaw Pact primary frontline service issue 1953-1960 (until progressively replaced by RPK). Both RPD and Type 56 sold/distributed widely across Asia, Middle East and Africa; remaining in formal frontline service until mid-1980s  
08. Adopted by 63 countries, including all Russian satellite/Warsaw Pact states, and China  
09. Production quantities No reliable figures exist, but said to be in excess of 3 million  
10. Mechanism Gas operated, open bolt, locked breech system. On/Off safety to right of the trigger. Sighted 100m-1000m in 100m increments; foresight adjustable for elevation and rearsight with (protected) windage drum attached to the topcover, above the feed-tray. Ammunition is fed via a bespoke, non-disintegrating, 50 round belt system (the Chinese issued in 25 round belt lengths). These can be hand-fed, or fed from a 100 round cylindrical drum (2 x 50 round belts linked together). A number of improvements were made over the course of 5 variants, the most significant being Variant 4 which improved smoothness of operation, and reliability under adverse conditions  
11. Weight 7.4kg (16.3lbs) empty / 9kg with a loaded belt ….2kg lighter than the DP it replaced (& almost 3kg lighter than the British Bren Mk1 & 2, 1kg lighter than the Bren Mk 3 & 4, and 0.5kg less than the later L4 7.62mm LMG)  
12. Mountings Integral folding bi-pod, attached to the barrel. No provision for pintle or AA mount  
13. Practicality in action Overall, this is a very robust and, in its variant 4/5 form, very reliable squad /section light machine gun. It is easy to operate, and simple to maintain, though more expensive to manufacture than the RPK that succeeded it.. The ‘starter’ belt has a unique loading tab attached, allowing the operator to position the 1st round without having to raise the top cover (the tab is simply pushed through from the left side, then pulled across the feed tray from the right side until the first round engages the feed mechanism). Whilst it was possible to link additional 50 round belts, uninterrupted fire of more than 100 rounds risked serious overheating of both barrel and mechanism, and Russian soldiers were trained to avoid this. However, many users report burning hands on hot barrels/gas tube due to the small size of the wooden fore-grip. The RPD rate of fire of 650-750 rounds/minute (150 more than the British Bren/L4) still enabled a trained soldier to shoot reasonably accurate 2-3 round bursts out to between 500 & 800m  
14. Comments / Other information Some still held in formal government reserve stocks, but replacement with the lighter, simpler RPK, and the move away from 7.62x93mm round in favour of the 5.56x45mm NATO or 5.45×39 Russian calibres, has seen the majority sold off or redistributed. RPD variants have seen use in most recent conflicts, and are still widely used by African and Asian militia/guerrilla movements, where the commonality of round with the older AK series rifles remains a significant and important practicality. . RPD 7.62mm Light Machine Gun (USSR) (WW2) Introduced in the 1950s: chambered for the 7.62 x 39mm round; uses a non-disintegrating metal belt in 50 round connectible sections; cyclic rate about 700 rpm; Weight unloaded 15.6lb; fixed barrel. Eventually replaced by the RPK (bipod-equipped, magazine-fed, long barrel version of the AK serried rifles).