The Soviet DP-28 Was a Brute-Simple Machine Gun
But its big, round magazine posed problems
In the mid-1920s the Soviet military realized it needed a new, locally-produced light machine gun. Vasily Degtyaryov had anticipated the demand. He began developing the DP-27 light machine gun in the early 1920s. Following trials and some modifications, the Soviet army adopted Degtyaryov’s gun in 1928 as the DP-28.
It was a simple gun. Early models had fewer than 100 parts. It featured a flapper-locked breech and was gas-operated by way of a long-stroke gas piston. It fed from a narrow, 47-round pan magazine, which gave it its nickname — “record player.”
The DP-28’s charging handle was beneath the receiver on the right-hand side. It ejected from the bottom of the receiver. It had a grip safety that protruded from just behind the trigger guard. The DP-28 weighed nine kilograms unloaded and fired between 500 and 600 rounds per minute.
Degtyaryov’s design was simple and mechanically sound. During the Winter War in 1939 and 1940, the Finns happily made use of any DP-28s they captured.
The gun did have drawbacks, however. The magazine was the weakest element of the design, as it was liable to damage — and that inevitably caused feeding issues. Moreover, the magazine was cumbersome and made the gun difficult to carry when loaded.
The bipod legs were fragile and its recoil spring was susceptible to heat. The spring was initially located around the gas piston, where it became a heat sink and tended to warp. To address this flaw, the Soviets modified the DP in 1943, re-designating it the DPM.
The DPM moved the recoil spring to the rear of the receiver. This necessitated a new stock design that incorporated a pistol grip. The DPM also had a stronger bipod, which attached to the barrel casing rather than to the piston housing. This change also improved the balance and handling of the gun when firing from the bipod.
The DP-28 spawned other variants, including the aircraft-mounted DA and the DT and DTM for vehicle mounts. In 1946, the Soviets tweaked the DP to feed from a metallic belt, calling this 13-kilogram version the RP-46.
The Soviet Union manufactured nearly 800,000 DPs and variants. The DP saw service into the 1960s with Soviet and allied forces. A few have showed up in Libya, Syria and Afghanistan in recent years.
Degtyaryov was a prolific designer. He developed the PPD-40 submachine gun, the PTRD anti-tank rifle, the ill-fated DS-39 medium machine gun, the initial design of the DShK heavy machine gun and the ubiquitous RPD light machine gun that ultimately replaced Degtyaryov’s earlier light machine guns.
Soviet premier Joseph Stalin made Degtyaryov a Hero of Socialist Labor in 1940. He rose to the rank of major general of engineering and artillery in the Soviet army before dying in 1949 at the age of 69.