Question of the Day: What Gun Would Vasily Zaitsev Have Used If He Could Have Used A Modern Rifles?

Singling-out AR-style rifles as “weapons of war” is like criticizing Yana Blanki for being female. All guns have their roots in war. The concept of a gun is a military concept. The civilian disarmament agitprop trying to make a moral/practical distinction between single-action bolt guns and semi-automatic rifles would be laughable if gun owners were allowed to laugh at the post-Sandy Hook gun control hysteria. Perhaps the best illustration of this point: Vasily Zaitsev. Using a bolt action Mosin Nagant, the Russian sniper took out some 400 enemy troops. Less well publicized: Zaitsev personally trained snipers who killed another 3000 Germans. Anyway, if Zaitsev was fighting the same war but had access to a modern rifle and scope, what set-up would he choose?

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Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

84 Responses to Question of the Day: What Gun Would Vasily Zaitsev Have Used If He Could Have Used A Modern Rifles?

  1. avatarHinshelworld says:

    He would probably still use a Mosin…

  2. avatarborekfk says:

    Zaytsev used a Mosin, Simo Hayha used a Mosin with no scope, so they would still probably use Mosins. Or an SVD.

  3. avatarO.E says:

    He’d use a combine harvester, stolen of course from Ukrainians.

  4. avatarKarl says:

    Something from Accuracy International. Or in the city a Remington R11 RSASS would be a fine rifle to use. As Far as Optics hell anything from Nightforce, Schmidt and Bender, US Optics take your pic. But on the RSASS a 2.5-10 power would be ideal I think.

    • avatarBilly Wardlaw says:

      He’d use whatever he could get his hands on because he was fighting an invading army for his homeland and way of life. He’d use a brick & a tire iron if it came to it. And I’d do the same.

  5. avatarAlphaGeek says:

    Accuracy International AX338 in .338 Lapua Magnum with a Schmidt & Bender variable scope.

    If one wanted to argue for use of ammo readily available in the battlefield supply chain, then the same rifle/optics in 7.62×51.

  6. avatarNate says:

    Suppressed AI AWM .338 Lapua.

  7. avatarSwarf says:

    What is it, like six and a half feet between the front and rear sights? Hard to beat a Mosin for iron sight accuracy.

  8. avatarMatt says:

    Two Mosins.

  9. avatarGov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    If I were him, it would either be a .338 Lapua or .50BMG.

    According to Wikipedia:
    A McMillan Tac-50 .50 BMG sniper rifle was used by Canadian Army Corporal Rob Furlong of the PPCLI to achieve what was then the longest-range confirmed sniper kill in history, when he shot a Taliban combatant at 2,430 meters (2,657 yards) during the 2002 campaign in the Afghanistan War.[2] This record was surpassed in 2009 in Afghanistan by a British sniper, though using a .338 Lapua Magnum (8.58×70 mm) rifle.[3][4] That record was surpassed in early 2012, when an unknown Australian sniper recorded a kill at 2815 meters (3079 yards) using a .50 BMG M82A1[5]

    Why snipe at 300 yards when you could be sniping at 3000?

  10. avatarJSIII says:

    Most of his shooting was Urban so the ranges were not extreme. Probably a Dragunov.

    • avatarbontai Joe says:

      That was my first thought also. His style of shooting would not work well with a 30 pound .50 BMG type rifle. And the muzzle blast from the .50 and the .338 Lapua would risk giving away his position.

      • avatarJason Lynch says:

        …which is why we have a suppressor for the L115A3 – you’ll never “silence” a .338 Lapua, but it’s a handy option for the sniper to reduce firing signature.

        Personally I’d think Zaitsev would get issued a SVD now, and use what he was given.

  11. avatarMilsurp Collector says:

    A Mosin with a Timney trigger.

  12. avatarAnonymous says:

    > What Gun Would Vasily Zaitsev Have Used
    > If He Could Have Used One of Today’s Rifles?

    It doesn’t matter.

    If given a choice between

    [ ] Vasily Zaitsev with a blunderbuss, or
    [ ] your typical TTAG reader with the latest high-speed-low-drag tacti-cool sniper weapons system,

    I’d rather have Vasily on my side in a fight. He’d be a bad-ass sniper no matter what you put in his hands.

  13. avatarLoyd says:

    I’m going to throw my vote in with the Mosin crowd. Or some other simple platform. Zaitsev and Hayha could turn a slingshot into a weapon of mass destruction. It’s the man, not the gun.

    • avatarAlphaGeek says:

      I think everyone voting Mosin has kind of missed the point of this QOTD:

      Anyway, if Zaitsev was fighting the same war but had access to a modern rifle and scope, what set-up would he choose?

      I don’t think the Mosin even remotely qualifies.

      • avatarHinshelworld says:

        I’m saying even if he had access to a modern rifle he would still use a Mosin…

      • avatargloomhound says:

        “Question of the Day: What Gun Would Vasily Zaitsev Have Used If He Could Have Used A Modern Rifles?”

        The question was could have used, not HAD to use a modern rifle.

      • avatarmountocean says:

        The question of the day is dangerous. Our weapons today are no more lethal than they were 70 years ago. The man makes the sniper system. Just like the man makes the police officer or the man makes the lunatic spree shooter.

      • avatarSwarf says:

        That’s the joke.

  14. avatarDan Y says:

    He would decide to use which ever rifle the soviet army issued to him ;). Having said that….Dragunov!

  15. avatarSteve in MA says:

    I’d guess an SR-25 with a supressor

  16. avatarDracon1201 says:

    He was an urban sniper. He could have worked an AR-10 style system pretty well, especially with those 25rd Magpul mags.

    Edit: Or he could have used a compact SRS in .308 with a red dot since he likes low power optic set ups like me.

  17. avatarNobody says:

    ED: Sorry. YouTube embeds screw-up some mobile devices.

  18. avatarMy name is Bob says:

    It’s not the rifle, it’s the man. Haven’t y’all seen hikok45 ringing steel at 200+ yards with iron sights on a pistol?

    • avatarAlphaGeek says:

      And giggling like a giddy schoolgirl when he nails one on the first try. With a gun that he’s shooting for the first time that day.

      • avatarWhilemyTZgentlyweeps says:

        Hickock45 never ceases to amaze. I have a S&W 642 that I hit can hit a target with at 25 feet, and I always thought that was half way decent given the unpleasant recoil, muzzle flash, and 1 3/4″ barrel. Then, one day, I watched Hickock45 hit the gong with his j-frame – over and over again. It’s not normal. It is the type of shot that it so far to the left of the bell curve in ability that it approaches the level of “hey, look at me, I’m the f*ing Batman.”

    • avatarRopingdown says:

      It’s good to see someone really enjoying their work. Depressing but good. To feel less miserable I’ve convinced myself he has some kind of electric gong-ringer and a remote. Jeez is he good.

  19. avatarAharon says:

    That was a good if bleak film. The opening scene with the Soviet replacements crossing the river in boats while the battle raged was incredible. I recall the instructions the Soviet troops were given since there was available only one gun for two men (to paraphrase: “two men team up and when the first man gets killed the second man is to pick-up the gun and move forward”.

    Why? Two men called Hitler and Stalin representing authoritarian police-state governments that egotistically shoved their political ideologies onto their politically-weak citizens like state religions.

    • avatarint19h says:

      >> I recall the instructions the Soviet troops were given since there was available only one gun for two men (to paraphrase: “two men team up and when the first man gets killed the second man is to pick-up the gun and move forward”.

      I hope you realize that the whole scene, from those words, down to troops charging and being gunned down by their own MG when they retreat, is a figment of the movie director’s imagination. The war was harsh, and officers would sometimes shoot people who ran (that’s what their TT was for), but the movie is a grotesque exaggeration.

      • avatarRopingdown says:

        That, until October, 1944, the Soviets sent NKVD (internal secret police) teams with machine guns to mow down those who tried to desert is not at all a figment of the director’s imagination.

        • avatarjwm says:

          And “labor battilions” sent ahead of Russian tanks to clear mines by detonating them with their own bodies. Germans had to develope mines that were pressure sensitive to get tanks instead of men.

      • avatarWLCE says:

        have you read about mamayev kurgan?

        there is nothing exaggerated about that movie and i would certainly say the gore was grossly under portrayed.

        the 13th Guards rifle Division (manned by 10,000 soldiers typical of a Soviet Division) was ground down to 280 soldiers after mamayev hill, which ultimately changed hands several times. horrific, horrific carnage and suffering.

        the worst nightmares of war were realized on the eastern front. starvation, disease, corpses, and cannibalism not to mention the icy hell. stalingrad made every other battle in human history look like a small, harmless skirmish.

    • avatarJason Lynch says:

      I’d also recommend “The Ninth Company” for a Russian war movie, loosely based on a nasty skirmish at the end of their Afghan war. Well worth a look if you can find it.

  20. avatarjmk says:

    he used a 4x-scoped version of the standard-issue infantry rifle firing the standard-issue cartridge.

    fast forward to now and apply the same conditions: therefore, his weapon would be similar to our standard issue, probably something like the full length USMC M16A4 w/acog.
    however, more likely candidates are the SAM-R, SDM-R, or SPR Mk12 – all M16-based but accuracy enhanced with variable, but still relatively low-powered scopes.

    given zaitsev’s long-range kills, it’s also fair to consider an m14-based DMR or a mk 25. but those are non-standard, highly specialized rifles. further, his kills were made with the standard issue infantry round, 7.62×54, which is much more suited to extended ranges than 5.56×45.

    • avatarjmk says:

      i showed my US bias – seems like the closest modern day russian equivalent is still the long-serving SVD.
      http://englishrussia.com/2011/12/10/what-it-is-like-to-be-a-sniper/

    • avatarRopingdown says:

      I thought the issue PU scope was 3.5x, but that’s not important. His Stalingrad shooting was relatively short range. Why not a contemporary Russian item? The spin-off of the VSS Vintorez, namely the Автомат Специальный Вал, would seem a good choice for Zaitsev. Vasily’s Stalingrad shots were mainly at 100-200 meters and building-to-building. The AS Val shooting subsonic 9×39 SP6 Armor Piercing has been rated highly effective to 300 meters, and provides a full-auto option should the need arise. The Val comes with a good-quality 4x scope and night sights. The stock can be folded, the rifle slung over the back, so that a distance rifle can be carried during periodic relocations. The choices for a good distance rifle are legion, as are suitable scopes. For a Russian in need of an accurate suppressed scoped rifle highly accurate and lethal under 300 meters, the Val would be most suitable. It was chose by what one presumes was a very highly trained sniper to take out “Grandpa Hassan” last week in Moscow. See http://rt.com/news/king-russian-mafia-killed-112/ for a photo.

      • avatarjmk says:

        dead sexy, but both platform and cartridge are too exotic.

        zaitsev was a “regular sniper” using the commonly issued sniper’s weapon.

        i think the real answer to the QOTD is simply, “SVD.”

        • avatarRopingdown says:

          At least the AS Val is Russian, currently in RF military service, modern, and suitable. I don’t get the “sexy” of guns, just the ‘suitable,’ but maybe 60-year-old Steven Seagal with his 27-year-old girlfriend is on to something? Eastwood liked to take girlfriends shooting. I guess I’m slow? Ah, I’m married. Same thing as slow, perhaps.

  21. avatarscarebear45 says:

    .408 Chey-Tac M200 Intervention with some Schmidt & Bender Scope and 16″ LaRue OBR w/ a Leupold SPR-type Scope

  22. avatarRalph says:

    You gotta dance with the one that brought you. He’d still use a Mosin Nagant 91/30.

    After all, 400 dead Nazis can’t be wrong.

  23. avatarMilsurp Collector says:

    In all seriousness I bet he would’ve used an SVD. Heck anything semi-auto that fits the “DMR” role would’ve worked in the concrete jungle of Stalingrad.

  24. avatarCasey T says:

    I think he would use a light weight rifle. Probably a 308 style sniper rifle. I don’t think he would want to lug around a 50 cal or shoot a 338 Lapua.

  25. avatarBen H says:

    Probably a Lobaev SVL in .408 CheyTac with a Kahles scope or a Barrett M99 in .416 with a Leupold, both are ridiculously accurate rifles and he could engage at equally ridiculous ranges.

  26. avatarAPBTFan says:

    A Russian OTs-48K.

    Same Mosin goodness but more compact for the urban sniping he did. There are plenty of world-class sniping systems but trying to manhandle one of those big’uns through bombed out buildings and rubble would be a disadvantage.

  27. avatarLance says:

    Today? A SVD or SVS. But most WW2 Vets in the USSR would stay with there Mosins Nagants.

  28. avatarMD Matt says:

    I’d say either a m14 or psl.
    military varient battle rifles in major calibers.

  29. avatarAgincourt says:

    “All guns have their roots in war.”

    Is that so. Tell me the war roots of the Beretta 692 please.

    • avatarCarlosT says:

      People fired shot out of blunderbusses, arqubuses, and muskets even before there was a separate category as “shotgun”, or thought of doing anything so effete as sporting clays.

    • avatarThomas Everett Haynes says:

      The blunderbus
      Smokeless powder.
      firearms in general…

  30. avatarMikeP says:

    Under the literal conditions of the question, I’d say a Dragunov. Semi-auto, 10 round detachable mag, chambered in the same round all his fellow Ruskies were using in their Mosins.

  31. avatarGreg Camp says:

    Why not the Mosin-Nagant? Given the choice, he’d use the weapon that he was most familiar with. My image of his type is someone who went to war because his country told him to fight, someone who sees a rifle as a tool, not a work of art. We have the luxury of choice, but a soldier needs to work with what’s at hand.

    • avatarCarlosT says:

      While Mosins are around today, they’re not what’s “at hand”. As other people have said, if he were in the Russian military today, what’s at hand would be a Dragunov.

  32. avatarAir Force TSgt says:

    Dragunov, USSR made with pride.

  33. avatarSwarf says:

    We are totally Bill Brasky’ing this guy.

    “Why if Vasily Zaitsev were around today, he would break apart a cinderblock shithouse, salvage the rebar and– using his dick as the mandrel– forge his own barrel using the heat of his legacy as fuel. Here’s to Vasily!”

    “Vasily!”

    “If Vasily were here today, he would quench that barrel with the blood of the sixteen wolves he had for breakfast and form a stock out of his grandmother’s pelvis. His grandmother loved him that much.”

    “Vasily!”

    “Do you know how Vasily made his trigger group?”

    “How?!”

    “He didn’t. When Vasily wants to kill a man, he puts a round in the chamber and teabags a picture of Hitler. His rifle then kills the nearest Nazi.”

    “Vasily!”

  34. avatarMr. Lighter says:

    My guess would be some sort of battle rifle with no scope. Possibly a sound suppressor as well, if he had access to it.

  35. avatarWilliam says:

    Umm… how come all these “Hot Israeli Chicks” look Nordic? Do you have an aversion to dark, lovely, Semitic-looking jews? Some are nicely hairy, if you know what I mean. In special places.

    Just asking.

  36. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    He’d be using something chambered in 7.62x54R or whatever the Russians are issuing for full-powered ammo these days. Whether or not that’s a Mosin can be up for debate. There’s nothing wrong with a Mosin, certainly, they obviously worked. The Finns showed that they’re capable of so much more by simply adding a little TLC to them, like a better barrel.

    All the boutique rifles listed above have two downsides:

    1. Logistics. Where’s that boutique ammo going to come from? He’s in the business of killing, not target practice. He’s not going to keep his brass and reload. Worse, every time he fails to police his brass, he’s left a calling card when the enemy starts looking for where he took the shot.

    Men who win wars win because logistics supported them. Battles can be won by individuals with heroic sacrifice, but wars are won on logistics. That means the guys on the pointy end of the spear need food, water, fuel, ammo, clean/dry socks, etc. Boutique weapons do nothing but throw a wrench into the logistics of a military force.

    2. They’re far more than needed. Urban combat sniping ranges usually aren’t 800+ meters. They’re often very close. If there’s an improvement I’d vote for over the Mosin, it would be to chop back the barrel a bit and add a can to hide the bloom. A full-length Mosin must be a pain in the chops to lug around in the rubble as he did.

    • avatarMalikknows says:

      Excellent points all. In my view, no matter how much he loved his mosin nagant, no way he would have chosen a bolt action rifle, esp. at the ranges he was firing.

  37. avatarpat says:

    He would NOT be using a Mosin. The post was ANYTHING, right? There have been improvements in the last century or so (in both range and accuracy). It would be some kind of bolt for real distance and maybe a super semi for up close and multiple targets.

  38. avatarkarl hungus says:

    im gonna go with the same… except free float the barrel, mill off the sight and add a target crown, and add a supressor. sploosh.

  39. avatarAlek Kristola says:

    He’d use whatever Simo Hayha aka ‘White Death’ used. 505 confirmed kills in less than 100 days. So it looks like a Mosin is the way to go. That and don’t mess with the Finnish.

    • avatarpat says:

      In 2013, why go with something made in the late 19th century? What about the Mauser, Enfield, and Springfields made during that period?
      Its a great gun for $100 or so, but too many people on the forum are selecting this because they purchased one.
      No better choices………..REALLY?

  40. avatarJustice06RR says:

    M1A for long range work, and a Suppressed 300Blackout M4 for CQB =)

    • avatarpat says:

      M1A is a nice BATTLE rifle (I have one, though just a standard that aint pimped out to be something it aint) that unless used at a pretty close range against multiple targets, you would really want a bolt SNIPER rifle for best accuracy….especially at longer ranges.

  41. avatarJim says:

    Software trumps hardware – Zaitsev with a slingshot was probably more lethal than your average person with the latest tacticool AR.

  42. avatarMichael says:

    Not a single comment mentions modern body armor. The ragheads dont have enough of it or dont want it so even our vets forget Type IV stops AP 30-06. Most of what you see in a gun show today is to kill animals only, including terrorists and criminals. Head shots can be stopped too. With Zaitzev on the loose a national military would don police full body armor after kill 50 or sooner. Vasily would need to shoot 50 bmg raufoss, probably with an M82A1for speed.

  43. avatarGreat Scot says:

    I’ll be radical here. I’ll suggest a Short Magazine Lee Enfield, probably restocked. Here’s why:
    Magazine or stripper-clip fed
    Incredibly accurate for a WW2 rifle
    Can be rechambered for the more popular .308, rather than .303 British
    Reliable as f**k
    Can be restocked into a polymer stock.
    I know this is just for the rifle, but I think Vasily’s sidearm should be a Makarov PM because:
    Reliable as f**k, again
    Light, as it is rather compact
    Won’t get in the way when moving, as is small
    Plenty of magazines can be carried.
    If he needs a fifty, maybe a Barrett.
    Up-close-and personal has to be the Vector SMG
    Knife, obviously the Fairbairne & Sykes Commando knife.
    Silent work, AS Val
    Hope you like this loadout idea, a bit radical, though. No-one else mentioned an SMLE, good gun. One of the few I’ve had the chance to hold a deactivated model of, too.

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