Type Light machine gun
Place of origin Soviet Union
In service 1944–present
Used by See Users
Wars Vietnam War, Cambodian Civil War, Cambodian-Vietnamese War, Iran-Iraq War, Afghanistan, various conflicts in Africa and Western Asia
Designer Vasily Degtyaryov
Variants RPDM, Type 56, Type 56-1, Type 62
Weight 6.6 kg (14.55 lb)
Length 1,037 mm (40.8 in)
Barrel length 520 mm (20.5 in)
Rate of fire 650 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity 735 m/s (2,411 ft/s)
Effective range 100—1,000 m sight adjustments
Feed system Non-disintegrating 100-round segmented belt stored in a drum container
Sights Open-type sights with rear sliding notch and semi-hooded front post, 596.6 mm (23.5 in) sight radius
The RPD is a 7.62 mm light machine gun developed in the Soviet Union by Vasily Degtyaryov for the intermediate 7.62x39mm M43 cartridge. It was created as a replacement for the DP machine gun chambered for the 7.62x54mmR Mosin rifle round.
Work on the weapon began in 1943, participating in the design process were: Vasily Degtyaryov, Sergei Simonov and Alexei Sudayev. Among the completed prototypes prepared for evaluation, the Degtyarov design proved superior and was accepted into service with the Soviet armed forces as the 7,62 mm Ручной Пулемёт Дегтярёва, PПД (RPD, Ruchnoy Pulemyot Degtyaryova or "Degtyaryov light machine gun") model 1944. Although the RPD was ready for mass production during the final stages of World War II, large scale delivery of the weapon did not begin until 1953. After the introduction of the Kalashnikov-pattern support weapons such as the RPK and PK machine guns in the 1960s, the RPD was withdrawn from most first tier units of the former Warsaw Pact nations. However, the RPD remains in active service in many African and Asian countries. Apart from the former Soviet Union, the weapon was manufactured in China (as the Type 56), Egypt, North Korea (Type 62) and since 1956—Poland, where it was built by what is today the Łucznik Arms Factory in Radom, as the ręczny karabin maszynowy D (rkm D) or "hand-held machine gun D".
 Design details
The RPD is an automatic weapon using a long-stroke gas operated piston system and a locking system analogous to other Degtyaryov designs, consisting of hinged flaps set in recesses on each side of the receiver, which are controlled by inclined surfaces on the bolt carrier assembly. The weapon fires from an open bolt. The RPD is striker fired (the bolt carrier acts as the striker) and features a trigger mechanism that is limited to fully automatic fire only. The bolt is equipped with a spring-loaded extraction system, while a fixed insert in the receiver housing serves as the ejector. Spent cartridge casings are ejected downward through a chute in the bolt carrier and receiver. The RPD has a manually operated lever-type safety mechanism that secures the weapon from accidentally firing by blocking the bolt catch when engaged.
A captured Fedayeen weapons cache of Russian RPD machine guns.
The machine gun feeds from the left-hand side from a segmented, open-link metal belt (each segment holds 50-rounds). Two combined belts (linked by cartridge), containing a sum total of 100 rounds are stored in a metal container resembling a drum, attached to the base of the receiver. The feed system is operated by a roller connected to the reciprocating bolt carrier assembly and the belt is moved during rearward motion of the bolt carrier.
The weapon is equipped with a non-removable barrel with a 3-position gas adjustment valve, a folding bipod, wooden shoulder stock and foregrip, pistol grip and open-type, mechanically adjustable iron sights. The sights are composed of a front post (adjustable in both windage and elevation) and a notched rear sight mounted on a tangent with a sliding elevation adjustment knob and marked with range indicators from 100 to 1000 m (graduated every 100 m). Certain machine guns were fitted with a side rail (fixed to the left side of the receiver), used to mount the NSP-2 night sight.
The firearm consists of the following major groups and components: the receiver and barrel, bolt, bolt carrier, feed tray and feed cover, the return mechanism and the trigger group and stock. Standard accessories supplied with the weapon include: ammunition containers, extra belts, a cleaning rod (attached to the left side of the receiver), cleaning kit (stowed in a compartment inside the stock), sling and pouches for the ammunition drums.
A U.S. Marine sights in with the RPD.
During its service life, the weapon was modernized several times. Initially, the gas block was modified as was the rear sight, where the windage adjustment knob for the rear sight was moved to the left side of the notch. Later, the RPD was modified with a non-reciprocating cocking mechanism with a folding charging handle (replacing the fixed charging handle connected to the bolt carrier) that does not move during firing. The feed port received a dust cover, which when open, serves as a feeding ramp for the ammunition belt. This version of the light machine gun was produced mainly in China and Poland. A further modified variant (sometimes referred to as the RPDM) includes an extended gas cylinder and a recoil buffer mechanism in the stock. Late production RPD variants also had the fixed drum attachment removed (instead, the ammunition container was “hung” from the feed port cover) and feature a folding cleaning rod, that is stored in the weapon’s butt (in the Chinese Type 56-1 variant).