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The Tabuk Sniper Rifle is an Iraqimarker designated marksman's rifle, made from a modified version of the RPK light machine gun. The Tabuk Sniper Rifle, like all the AK-47 and Dragunov SVD derivatives made in Iraq, was manufactured at the Al-Qadissiya Establishments using machineries sold to Iraq, with the power at the time still firmly in the hands of Saddam Hussein, by Zastava of Yugoslavia.

Background

Zastava of Yugoslavia originally developed this rifle from its experience in making its M70 rifles (a variant of the AKM with some minor differences from the original), particularly the M76. All of the rifles in the M70 series share what is traditionally considered an RPK style receiver, that is the receiver is made with a thicker gauge of sheet metal formed over a larger and heavier trunion. While this does add to weight, it has a positive effect on durability which is why the modification came about (for the Russian RPK). The Yugoslavian RPK or M72, is the long barreled member of the m70 family, and is the weapons upon which the Tabuk is based.

The Tabuk, unlike the Yugoslavian RPK, has a 24.5" barrel including flash hider, the actual barrel length is closer to 21.4" - slightly shorter than a Soviet RPK, but much longer than a traditional AKM or the M70 (16.25"). The Tabuk, like the RPK has a provision for muzzle attachments in the typical Russian thread pattern of 14x1mm left hand thread, which means that it can accept several variations of soviet flash hiders and muzzle brakes, as well as soviet designed sound suppression devices.

Recent Reports

After incidents in Baghdad in the Summer of 2005 initial media descriptions of the Tabuk Rifle were misspelled in many media reports as "Tobuk" or "Tobok". Tabook/Tabouk (the latter two spellings are more correct transliterations of the Arabic تبوك ) is a common place name in the Arab world, as it was the site of an historically significant battle during the lifetime of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. The most common association is probably the capitol city of the Saudimarker province of the same name (Saudi Arabia maps county detail provinces)

In many of these reports, the Tabuk Rifle is described incorrectly as being based on the SVD Dragunov. Unlike the Kalashnikov (AK-47 and AK-74) rifles, which fire 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm rounds respectively, the Dragunov and its variants chamber the older 7.62x54mmR cartridge, adopted by the Russian Army in 1891 by way of the Mosin-Nagant 1891 rifle that, in various forms, was used through the end of World War II and beyond.

This would be an easy mistake to make, as the furniture of the Tabuk looks much like the Dragunov and has a longer barrel like that of the latter rifle's 620 mm/24.4 inches.

Design Details

The differences between the Tabuk and the Yugo RPK are in fact few; The semi auto only internals included with the Tabuk is a visually unobvious difference but perhaps the most important. It is this feature that dictates the rifles role as one of precision fire and not suppressive fire. It is also important as it prevents relatively untrained individuals from subjecting the barrel of a rifle intended for precision to full-auto fire, as such would only act to shorten said rifle's useful life.

A more distinguishing difference, and perhaps the most important visual cue, is the fact that the RPK's barrel is finned at the rear near the hand guards and far heavier than a standard AKM (or for that matter the Tabuk). The weight (thickness)of the RPK's barrel exists to facilitate heat distribution via mass and cooling via surface area. Since the option to fire full auto has been omitted (and it is not typical of eastern block long range precision rifles to use heavy barrels for accuracy) the Tabuk, like the SVD and the PSL has a relatively light barrel.

The Tabuk differs from the M72 in some other ways. It has the provision for mounting optics for one, though this is not an unusual accessory on eastern bloc weapons, and it has a skeletonized buttstock with a cheek piece. A third difference and perhaps the most important (though not definitive) visual cue when identifying the Tabuk is the conspicous lack of a bipod. The bipod, which is not detachable from the M72 (though sometimes removed by undisciplined troops), is quite obvious from afar when attached. It was likely removed to enhance mechanical accuracy, and reduce weight, though if it were left attached it may have added stability (practical accuracy) for long range work.

As it is essentially an accurized, scoped RPK, the Tabuk is subsequently chambered in the RPK's primary caliber, 7.62x39. This is advantageous as it allows the Tabuk to use the same magazines as the AK-47, and Ak-47 Magazines are well made, plentiful, and easy to replace if lost.

Because the Tabuk it is chambered in the soviet M43 or 7.62x39mm cartridge, it cannot technically function as a sniper rifle (by western standards). With a maximum effective range of only 600m (based on trajectory), the Tabuk should instead be considered a designated marksman's rifle. That said, and considering the terrain upon which these rifles are typically fielded (urban), this quibble is purely semantics.

The Tabuk is, within its given range, every bit as effective as the Dragunov or PSL if used precisely. However, from the point of terminal ballistics the soviet 7.62x39mm is too stable in tissue. At the far end of its effective range it is decidedly less lethal than its higher velocity counterparts due to the round's combination of stability and low velocity, giving it less reach than the 7.62x54R caliber SVD. It visually resembles an RPK, which may make identifying enemy snipers/designated marks men more difficult. Likewise, its acoustic signature mimics that of an AK-47. Being chambered for a relatively low velocity intermediate round, the Tabuk has poor barrier penetration and performance against body armor compared to weapons chambered for full-powered cartridges like 7.62x51 or 7.62x54R.

References

  1. 其他国家生产或仿制的AK. Retrieved on February 3, 2008
  2. Iraqi Al Qadissiya Tabuk Designated Marksman. Retrieved on August 26, 2008.
  3. Tabuk 7.62 mm sniper rifle (Iraq), SNIPER AND SPECIAL PURPOSE RIFLES. Retrieved on August 26, 2008.
  4. The Iraqi Tabuk. Retrieved on February 3, 2008.
  5. The Iraqi Tabuk. Retrieved on February 3, 2008.



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