My first rifle was an Arsenal SGL-20, a green 7.62x39mm AK. While I wanted a decked out M16A4 or M4A1 type clone from Colt or BCM at the time, I was a poor PFC reservist. So $629 was more my speed.
That got me onto the path of enjoying com-bloc firearms at affordable prices. The one I kept trying and failing to save for (I was terrible with money in my youth and didn’t make much of it) was the PSL 54. This despite the fact that they were available for $499 on the shelf of my LGS and I remember seeing $449 at an online location where you wouldn’t get to pick it but it would arrive. They weren’t even charging extra for the 4x PSO-1 Optics at the time.
Oh what a mistake…
The PSL 54 followed the classic Kalashnikov problem solving method of “make the AK do it” that resulted in the RPK and PKM. The Dragunov is actually as different a rifle from the AK as the M14 is from the M1 Garand, but the PSL is just a stretched AK/RPK made to feed 7.62x54r.
If it isn’t broke, do not fix it. If it doesn’t do the thing, modify at little as possible and as simply as possible to do the thing.
The PSL and its aged but still full power rifle cartridge has seen worldwide conflict as a DMR-ish rifle. It certainly isn’t how the west builds a DMR but for the conscript and merc-volunteer types of Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East it is a step up from the iron sight AKs that users would adjust the sights on to turn up the ‘power’ of the gun. A little training and users can be effective to the 800 yards or so of a competent 7.62 NATO user.
It isn’t really accurate enough to be a solid marksman rifle, especially with the most widely available surplus ball ammo, and its capacity is half that of battle rifles. So it inhabits this weird niche of looking pretty cool with moderate, but sub-par, practical efficacy… like the M14. Better than a sharp stick, but modern solutions abound.
So if you are chasing an aesthetic or a vibe for fun, these are fun. They were super attractive when 7.62x54r surplus was everywhere too. I do regret not snagging one, although given my purchase and sell history at the time I would likely have not held onto it as I ought.
Anywho, PSL 54 readers. Give the 9-Hole crew their like too, don’t forget!