The DShK 1938 (Cyrillic: ДШК, for Russian: Дегтярёва-Шпагина Крупнокалиберный, romanized: Degtyaryova-Shpagina Krupnokaliberny, "Degtyaryov-Shpagin large-calibre") is a Soviet heavy machine gun with a V-shaped butterfly trigger, firing the 12.7×108mm cartridge. The weapon was also used as a heavy infantry machine gun, where it was frequently deployed with a two-wheeled mounting and a single-sheet armour-plate shield. The DShK's name is derived from its original designer, Vasily Degtyaryov, and Georgi Shpagin, who later improved the cartridge feed mechanism. It is sometimes nicknamed Dushka (a dear or beloved person) in Russian-speaking countries, from the abbreviation.[16] Alongside the American M2 Browning, the DShK is the only .50 caliber machine gun designed prior to World War II that remains in service to the present day.[17]

12,7-мм станковый пулемёт ДШК образца 1938 года (3-1).jpg
TypeHeavy machine gun
Place of originSoviet Union
Service history
In service1938–present
Used bySee Users
WarsWinter War
World War II
Korean War
Chinese Civil War
First Indochina War
Operation Trikora
Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation
Vietnam War
Laotian Civil War
Dhofar Rebellion
Cambodian Civil War
Cambodian-Vietnamese War
Sino-Vietnamese War
Six-Day War
Yom Kippur War
Western Sahara War[1]
Angolan Civil War[2]
Iran–Iraq War
The Troubles
Lebanese Civil War[3]
Chadian–Libyan conflict[4]
Somali Civil War[5]
Tuareg rebellion (1990–1995)[6]
Gulf War
Yugoslav Wars
Rwandan Civil War[7]
Kargil War
Iraq War[8]
Wars in Afghanistan[9]
Cambodian–Thai border dispute
Operation Enduring Freedom
Liberian Civil Wars
Operation Linda Nchi
Chechen Wars[5]
First Libyan Civil War[10]
Northern Mali conflict[11]
Second Libyan Civil War
2014 pro-Russian conflict in Ukraine
South African Border War
Syrian Civil War[12]
Sri Lankan Civil War
Iraqi Civil War (2014–2017)[13]
Yemeni Civil War (2015–present)[14]
Conflict in Najran, Jizan and Asir
2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine
Production history
DesignerVasily Degtyaryov, Georgi Shpagin
ManufacturerTula Arms Plant
Unit costUS$2,250 (2012)
Produced1938–1980 (Soviet Union)
No. built1,000,000
VariantsDShK 38/46
Type 54
Mass34 kg (74 lb 15 oz) (gun only) 157 kg (346 lb 2 oz) on wheeled mounting
Length1,625 mm (5 ft 4.0 in)
Barrel length1,070 mm (42.1 in)

12.7×99mm (Romania)[15]
ActionGas-operated, flapper locking
Rate of fire600 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity850 m/s (2,800 ft/s)
Effective firing range2,000 m (2,200 yd)
Maximum firing range2,500 m (2,700 yd)
Feed system50 round belt


Requiring a heavy machine gun similar to the M2 Browning, development of the DShK began in the Soviet Union in 1929 and the first design was finalised by Vasily Degtyaryov in 1931.[18][19] The initial design used the same gas operation from the Degtyaryov machine gun, and used a 30 round drum magazine, but had a poor rate of fire. Georgy Shpagin revised the design by changing it to a belt-fed with a rotary-feed cylinder, and the new machine gun began production in 1938 as the DShK 1938.[18][20]

During World War II, the DShK was used by the Red Army, with a total of 9,000 produced during the war.[18] It was used mostly in anti-aircraft roles on vehicles such as the GAZ-AA truck, IS-2 tank, ISU-152 self-propelled artillery, and the T-40 amphibious tank.[18] Similar to the PM M1910 Maxim, when deployed against infantry, the DShK was used with a two-wheeled trolley, with which the machine gun weighed a total of 346 pounds (157 kg).[21] After 1945, the DShK was exported widely to other countries in the Eastern Bloc.[22]

In 1946, an improved variant was produced, with a revised muzzle and feeding system. Named the DShK 38/46 or DShK-M, over a million were produced from 1946-1980.[18] The gun was also revised to become more reliable, and easier to manufacture.[23] The new DShK was produced under license in Pakistan, Iran, Yugoslavia, Romania and Czechoslovakia.[18] China produced their own variant of the design, designated the Type 54.[24]

After World War II, DShKs were used widely by communist forces in Vietnam, starting with the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. While not as powerful as anti-aircraft cannons, the DShK was easier to smuggle through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.[18] DShKs were a major threat to American aircraft in the Vietnam War,[22] and of the 7,500 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft lost during the war, most were destroyed by DShKs.[18]

In June 1988, during The Troubles, a British Army Westland Lynx helicopter was hit 15 times by two Provisional IRA DShKs smuggled from Libya, and forced to crash-land near Cashel Lough Upper, south County Armagh.[25]

DShKs were also used in 2004, against British troops in Al-Amarah, Iraq.[26][non-primary source needed]

Rebel forces utilized DShKs in the Syrian civil war, often mounting the gun on cars. In 2012, the Syrian government claimed to have destroyed 40 such technicals on a highway in Aleppo and six in Dael.[27]

The DShK began to be partially replaced in the Soviet Union by the NSV machine gun in 1971, and the Kord machine gun in 1998.[17] The DShK remains in service, although it is no longer produced.[28]

The weapon was used by Ukrainian forces in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine to shoot down Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones. The DShKs are fitted with a searchlight when attacking drones, which MANPADS have been unable to destroy. As many of the DShKs have been left over from the Soviet Union, they have been both cost-effective and one of the most reliable methods of destroying drones.[29][30][31]


The DShK is a belt-fed machine gun that uses a butterfly trigger.[22] Firing the 12.7×108mm cartridge at 600 rounds per minute, it has an effective range of 2.4 km (1+12 mi), and can penetrate up to 20 mm of armor up to a range of 500 m.[18] The DShK has two "spider web" ring sights for use against aircraft. It is used by infantry on tripod mounts, and is deployed on tanks and armored vehicles for use against infantry and aircraft; nearly all Russian-designed tanks use the DShK.[28]


Non-state usersEdit


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Francesco Palmas (2012). "Il contenzioso del sahara occidentale fra passato e presente" (PDF). Informazioni della Difesa (in Italian). No. 4. pp. 50–59. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-06-12. Retrieved 2018-06-12.
  2. ^ Fitzsimmons, Scott (November 2012). "Executive Outcomes Defeats UNITA". Mercenaries in Asymmetric Conflicts. Cambridge University Press. p. 217. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139208727.006. ISBN 9781107026919.
  3. ^ Neville, Leigh (19 Apr 2018). Technicals: Non-Standard Tactical Vehicles from the Great Toyota War to modern Special Forces. New Vanguard 257. Osprey Publishing. p. 15. ISBN 9781472822512. Archived from the original on 26 October 2018. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  4. ^ Neville 2018, p. 16.
  5. ^ a b Neville 2018, p. 24.
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  7. ^ "Rwandan government soldiers fire 12 June 1994 heavy artillery at".
  8. ^ Neville 2018, p. 30.
  9. ^ Neville 2018, p. 26.
  10. ^ Neville 2018, p. 35.
  11. ^ a b Cherisey, Erwan de (July 2019). "El batallón de infantería "Badenya" de Burkina Faso en Mali - Noticias Defensa En abierto". Revista Defensa (in Spanish) (495–496).
  12. ^ Neville 2018, p. 37.
  13. ^ Vining, Miles (May 7, 2018). "ISOF Arms & Equipment Part 3 – Machine Guns". Archived from the original on September 25, 2018. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  14. ^ Neville 2018, p. 38.
  15. ^ "Cal.12.7 x 99 mm Machine Gun" (PDF). Cugir Arms Factory.
  16. ^ Green, Michael (2022). Red Army Weapons of the Second World War. Pen and Sword. p. 25.
  17. ^ a b Rottman, Gordon (2010). Browning .50-caliber Machine Guns. Osprey Publishing. p. 72.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i Roblin, Sebastien (2018-11-10). "How a Deadly Russian World War II .50 Caliber Machine Gun Blasted its Mark into History". The National Interest. Retrieved 2021-12-03.
  19. ^ Willbanks, James (2004). Machine Guns: An Illustrated History of Their Impact. ABC-CLIO. p. 200.
  20. ^ Willbanks 2004, p. 109.
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  23. ^ Willbanks 2004, p. 121.
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  25. ^ Harnden, Toby (2000).Bandit Country: The IRA and South Armagh. Coronet Books, pp. 360–361 ISBN 0-340-71737-8
  26. ^ Mills, Dan (2007). "16". Sniper One. Penguin Group. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-7181-4994-9. They were Dshkes, a Russian-made beast of a thing that fires half-inch calibre rounds and was designed to bring down helicopters.
  27. ^ "الوكالة العربية السورية للأنباء". Archived from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2014.
  28. ^ a b Willbanks 2004, p. 134.
  29. ^ Parth Satam (January 5, 2023). "Ukraine Uses Powerful Searchlights & Anti-Aircraft Guns To Neutralize Russian Geran-2 UAVs Used During Night Strikes". www. Retrieved 2023-01-06.
  30. ^ THOMAS NEWDICK (December 13, 2022). "Inside Ukraine's Desperate Fight Against Drones With MiG-29 Pilot "Juice"". Retrieved 2023-01-06.
  31. ^ Sebastien Roblin (December 11, 2022). "To Stop Killer Drones, Ukraine Upgrades Ancient Flak Guns With Consumer Cameras And Tablets". Retrieved 2023-01-06.
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  33. ^ Thierry Vircoulon (2014-10-02). "Insights from the Burundian Crisis (I): An Army Divided and Losing its Way". International Crisis Group. Archived from the original on 2017-05-21. Retrieved 2017-06-12.
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  52. ^ "Ukrainian Modified DShK with Buttstock, Picatinny Rail, and Bipod in Ground Role". The Firearm Blog. 19 December 2017.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit