RPD Belt Loader
By Frank Iannamico
The RPD light machine gun was developed by Russian weapon designer Vasily Alexseyevich Degtyarev and adopted by the Red Army during 1953. The Ruchnoy Pulemyot Degtyaryova RPD LMG was unique because it fired the then new mid-range 7.62x39mm cartridge, with a muzzle velocity of 2,410 feet per second. The weapon became well known in the West when it was fielded with devastating effect against U.S. and friendly forces during the war in Vietnam. The RPD was manufactured in China, Poland, Egypt and North Korea. Long obsolete in the Russian army, the RPD was replaced in Soviet service in 1961 by the magazine-fed or drum fed RPK, a heavy-barrel version of the stamped sheet-metal AKM assault rifle. However, the RPD continues to see service in many third-world countries and in the armies of some former Warsaw Pact members.
The belt-fed RPD light machine gun is gas operated, fires from an open bolt and is full-automatic only. The weapon has an overall length of 40.8 inches (1036.20mm) and weighs 15.6 pounds (7.1) kg unloaded. The chrome-lined four-groove barrel is 20.5 inches (520.7mm) in length. A folding bipod is permanently attached to the end of the barrel. Although the published cyclic rate is usually quoted from 650 to 750 rounds per minute, the actual cyclic rate is closer to 800 to 900 rounds per minute.
Although a very good and reliable design, The Soviet conceived RPD light machine gun did have a few shortcomings. These included a gas regulator system that was difficult/impossible to adjust in the field when fouled, and a permanently attached barrel that is threaded into the receiver and pinned in place, and thus cannot be replaced by the soldier in the field. The design requires the operator to be trained to fire short bursts so the barrel is not overheated. The fixed barrel was a compromise to keep weight to a minimum, and the design simple. The RPD also lacks a carry handle, making it difficult to pick up and move quickly and awkward to carry over any distance, particularly if the weapon is hot from firing.
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