- On February 26, 1939, by decree of the Defense Committee of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR, the DShK (Degtyarev-Shpagina large-caliber) machine gun was adopted into service with the Red Army.

How was this legendary weapon created?

What tasks did the developers face?

— The initial impetus for the creation of large-caliber machine guns in different countries was the appearance of tanks on the battlefields of the First World War.

The first tanks had fairly thin bulletproof armor, which was designed primarily to protect against 7.62 mm small arms fire.

For this reason, the heavy machine gun was considered a promising and effective anti-tank weapon.

The first development of large-caliber machine guns in our country began in the mid-1920s in Tula on the basis of light machine guns and foreign-made cartridges.

However, these attempts did not lead to practical results, and Tula specialists launched development work to create an original heavy machine gun.

Their competitor was Vasily Alekseevich Degtyarev, who worked at the arms factory in Kovrov (future ZiD).

He began creating a heavy machine gun in the late 1920s after adopting the 7.62 mm DP light machine gun he developed.

Degtyarev decided, in essence, to scale the DP.

He used the same automation scheme in his first large-caliber machine gun and equipped it with a drum magazine with a capacity of 30 rounds designed by Alexander Sergeevich Kladov.

Naturally, a large-caliber machine gun required ammunition with certain weight and size characteristics and ballistic properties.

Such ammunition was created in 1930.

It was a 12.7x108 mm cartridge with fairly high energy and an armor-piercing bullet weighing 48 grams.

At the very beginning of the 1930s, comparative tests of Degtyarev’s product and samples of the Tula Arms Plant were carried out.

And, according to the military, Degtyarev’s machine gun showed higher efficiency.

The weapon was put into service under the name DK and was produced in small series.

However, by the time the DC appeared, it became obvious that the purpose of heavy machine guns would be to fight not only ground armored vehicles, but also enemy air targets, that is, aircraft.

At the same time, Degtyarev’s brainchild was poorly adapted to perform new tasks.

It had an insufficient rate of fire (360 rounds per minute) and bulky magazines.

Degtyarev had to modify the recreation center.

True, work on improving the machine gun was delayed due to the fact that the designer and his colleagues at the Kovrov plant were busy with other projects.

In particular, in the early 1930s they had to carry out tasks to create domestic aircraft cannons, machine guns for various purposes of 7.62 mm caliber, and the first submachine guns in our country.

  • Vasily Degtyarev and Georgy Shpagin at work on the DShK machine gun

  • © Plant named after.


The problem of adapting the recreation center to combat aircraft was solved thanks to the involvement of Georgy Semyonovich Shpagin, another talented Kovrov designer, who, like Degtyarev in his time, began working at a defense plant as a mechanic.

As a result, it was decided to abandon massive stores.

Instead, the machine gun received a more advanced belt power supply and a drum-type cartridge receiver.

Their creator was Shpagin.

Thus, the name of the designer was included in the official name of the DShK machine gun.

Ivan Nikolaevich Kolesnikov made a significant contribution to the refinement of the Degtyarev machine gun.

He designed a universal machine on which the DShK was installed.

The main element of the machine was a tripod and a removable wheeled platform with a shield.

A machine gun on a platform with a shield was well suited for fighting ground targets, and on a tripod - for shooting at air targets.

The DShK successfully passed all tests only in 1938.

The creation of the first large-caliber machine gun in our country, adapted for mass production, turned out to be so long and difficult.

  • DShK on a tripod

  • © Plant named after.


— Tell us in more detail about the characteristics and features of the DShK?

— As you said above, the DShK officially entered the arsenal of the Red Army after the release of the resolution of the Defense Committee under the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR on February 26, 1939.

The document was approved as “Top Secret”.

One of its points ordered the adoption of “a 12.7 mm machine gun on a universal machine with a ring anti-aircraft sight, developed by the design team of Comrades Degtyarev, Shpagin and Kolesnikov, under the name: “12.7 mm machine gun arr.


The same decree adopted several new cartridges for the machine gun: with armor-piercing, armor-piercing incendiary bullets, tracer and incendiary targeting bullets.

The automatic operation of the DShK machine gun operates due to the removal of powder gases.

Even in photographs of not very high quality, a stationary heavy barrel with a pressed-on ribbed radiator is clearly visible.

The fins increase the outer surface area and provide increased heat transfer.

This is the so-called air principle of cooling the barrel of a weapon.

Thanks to the heavy barrel with a radiator, the machine gun received fairly high characteristics in terms of accuracy and accuracy of fire.

It was also important that the vast majority of machine gun parts had either a pronounced prismatic rectilinear shape or were bodies of rotation.

This geometry made it easier to produce them even by production personnel not of the highest qualifications.

This was important, since the problem of training factory personnel in our country remained quite serious, despite the abundance and scale of the tasks facing the USSR.

The DShK machine gun of the 1938 model made it possible to fire at lightly armored targets at ranges of up to 800 meters, and at enemy firing points - up to 1,500 meters.

For unprotected ground targets, the weapon’s sighting range reached 3,500 meters.

For air targets, the DShK provided effective fire at inclined ranges up to 1500 meters.

The machine gun's rate of fire was about 500 rounds per minute, and the maximum flight range of a machine gun bullet was 7 kilometers.

At such a distance, it could hit infantry without personal protective equipment.

For shooting at ground targets, the DShK used a folding frame sight with markings from 200 to 3500 meters.

To combat air targets, an anti-aircraft sight with front and directional sights was installed on the machine gun.

— How did the DShK perform in the Great Patriotic War?

And how did he improve?

— Serial production of the machine gun began in Kovrov at plant No. 2 of the People's Commissariat of Armaments of the USSR in 1938–1939.

By the beginning of the war, Kovrov produced less than 2 thousand units of DShK.

Moreover, during the rapid advance of the Wehrmacht in the first months of the invasion, the Red Army lost most of these machine guns.

By January 1, 1942, only 720 DShKs remained in the active army.

  • Anti-aircraft machine gun crew with DShK

  • © Plant named after.


By the end of 1941, production was transferred to Kuibyshev (modern Samara), where it continued to be expanded.

By January 1, 1944, almost 8.5 thousand DShKs were in use in the Red Army.

During the Great Patriotic War, the heavy machine gun was used not only in the infantry version on the Kolesnikov universal machine gun.

For example, it became the main weapon for certain types of light armored vehicles, was installed on heavy IS-2 tanks, was used in anti-aircraft installations in the air defense system, and was used on ships and armored boats of the Navy and military river flotillas of the USSR.

The DShK was also mounted on GAZ-AA trucks and pickup trucks of the Gorky Automobile Plant.

In general, the experience of combat use of the brainchild of Degtyarev - Shpagin was successful and made it possible to determine ways for its further modernization.

Mainly Soviet engineers improved the performance of the machine gun.

During the Second World War, the design of the muzzle brake on the DShK was improved.

In particular, it began to be made from cast billets, which significantly reduced the labor intensity of production.

At the end of the war, a thorough modernization of weapons was already carried out.

It was entrusted to specialists from plant No. 525 in Kuibyshev.

The Kovrovites provided active assistance to them.

The result of joint efforts was the 12.7-mm machine gun of the 1938/46 model DShKM (Degtyarev-Shpagina large-caliber modernized).

  • DShKM on the machine

  • © Plant named after.


As part of this work, designers Yuri Sokolov and Alexander Norov developed a new power mechanism.

The tape receiver they created allowed military personnel to transfer the machine gun from right-hand power to left-hand power.

Previously, this was done by weapons workshops or repair companies.

Along with this, the DShK improved the barrel mounting scheme and a number of components and parts, which made it possible to increase the survivability of the weapon and the reliability of the automation.

The modernized version of the DShKM has gained great popularity in the world.

The machine gun is still used by the Russian army and is in service in dozens of countries around the world, where it has received many industrial and homemade modifications.

According to public data, thousands, if not tens of thousands of these weapons were produced.

— How effective was the DShK as an anti-aircraft weapon?

— It is difficult to answer this question without general statistical information about the number of air targets hit by fire from the DShK.

However, its fairly high effectiveness is indirectly evidenced by the widespread use of this machine gun throughout the war in the air defense system.

For example, during the war years, anti-aircraft machine gun companies were formed in the Red Army, armed with 18 Degtyarev-Shpagin machine guns.

As an anti-aircraft weapon, the DShK was used not only on a tripod, which was equipped with Kolesnikov’s machine, but also in special twin, triple and quad anti-aircraft installations, that is, each of them included 2, 3 or 4 machine guns.

For example, to protect the historical center of Moscow, an installation with three DShKs was installed on Sverdlov Square (now Teatralnaya).

This design ensured a high density of anti-aircraft fire.

As an anti-aircraft gun, the DShK was used on heavy tanks and self-propelled artillery mounts, as well as on pedestal and turret mounts on ships.

For the same purpose, the DShK was used in armored trains.

  • Combat work of the DShK crew in the Northern Military District zone

— Can the DShK be called the predecessor of Utes and Kord?

Is there some kind of “continuity” between these machine guns?

— The only thing that the 12.7-mm NSV “Utyos” and “Kord” have in common with the DShK is the purpose and the selected automation scheme - to remove part of the powder gases from the barrel.

In many ways, they are structurally different from the DShK, and in terms of mass they are noticeably lighter than it.

When developing the NSV and Korda, the ongoing changes in combat tactics were taken into account - in particular, the desire of machine gun crews for greater maneuverability.

To meet this requirement, the developers of Utes, adopted in 1974, abandoned the universal machine - a folding tripod machine and an anti-aircraft gun were adopted for it.

When developing the Kord machine gun, a new step was taken towards reducing the weight and increasing the mobility of the weapon.

This machine gun can generally be removed from the tripod and fired from a bipod.

To summarize, it should be noted that such a class of weapon as a heavy machine gun has proven its high demand in dozens of armed conflicts.

It can be installed on a wide variety of carriers and significantly enhances infantry firepower.