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The DShK 1938 (ДШК, for Дегтярёва-Шпагина Крупнокалиберный, 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, in which case it was frequently deployed with a two-wheeled mounting and a single-sheet armour-plate shield. It took its name from the weapons designers Vasily Degtyaryov, who designed the original weapon, and Georgi Shpagin, who improved the cartridge feed mechanism. It is sometimes nicknamed Dushka (a dear or beloved person) in Russian-speaking countries, from the abbreviation.
The requirement for a heavy machine gun appeared in 1929. The first such gun, the Degtyaryov, Krupnokalibernyi (DK, Degtyaryov, large calibre), was built in 1930, and this gun was produced in small quantities from 1933 to 1935.
The gun was fed from a drum magazine of thirty rounds, and had a poor rate of fire. Shpagin developed a belt feed mechanism to fit to the DK giving rise, in 1938, to the adoption of the gun as the DShK 1938. This became the standard Soviet heavy machine gun in World War II.
Like its U.S. equivalent, the M2 Browning, the DShK 1938 was used in several roles. As an anti-aircraft weapon it was mounted on pintle and tripod mounts, and on a triple mount on the GAZ-AA truck. Late in the war, it was mounted on the cupolas of IS-2 tanks and ISU-152 self-propelled guns. As an infantry heavy support weapon it used a two-wheeled trolley which unfolded into a tripod for anti-aircraft use, similar to the mount developed by Vladimirov for the 1910 Maxim gun. It was also mounted in vehicle turrets, for example, in the T-40 light amphibious tank.
In 1946, the DShK 1938/46 or DShKM (M for modernized) version was introduced.
In addition to the Soviet Union and Russia, the DShK has been manufactured under license by a number of countries, including the People's Republic of China (Type 54), Pakistan, and Romania. Currently, it has been mostly replaced in favour of the more modern NSV and Kord designs. Nevertheless, the DShK is still one of the most widely used heavy machine guns.
In June 1988, during the conflict in Northern Ireland known as "the Troubles", a British Army Westland Lynx helicopter was hit 15 times by two Provisional IRA DShKs smuggled in from Libya, and forced to crash-land near Cashel Lough Upper, south County Armagh.
It is often claimed that the DShK could fire US/NATO .50-caliber ammunition, but the M2 Browning could not fire 12.7mm ammunition. This is completely untrue. Neither round is interchangeable, with their case length and head (cartridge base) dimensions completely different and will not chamber or function in the other weapon. The Russian ammunition is 12.7×108mm and the US is 12.7×99mm. The myth began in US weapons intelligence manuals referring to the DShK as being "12.7mm (.51-caliber)" and the assumption made that this was intentional to accommodate interchangeable ammunition.
- DShKM: modernized version
- Type 54: Chinese unlicensed production. Also produced in Pakistan with a Chinese license.
- Albania "DShkM" locally produced from a Chinese copy
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- China: Produced DShKM variant.
- Czechoslovakia: Produced DShKM variant TK vz. 53 which included a four barrelled version. (former user)
- Czech Republic
- Equatorial Guinea
- Iran: Manufactured DShKM variant named MGD 12.7.
- Iraq called the "Doshka" by Iraqis
- Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
- India Captured during Kargil War
- Ivory Coast
- Mali – Armed and Security Forces of Mali
- Niger
- North Korea
- North Vietnam (former user)
- Pakistan: Used by the Pakistan Army. DShKM variant produced locally.
- Romania Produce locally (still used with TR-85 tanks)
- Russian Federation
- Rwanda: Used by Rwandan Peacekeepers in Darfur.
- Saudi Arabia
- Sierra Leone
- Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
- South Sudan
- Soviet Union
- Sudan
- Sri Lanka: Used by Tamil Tigers. (former user)
- Yugoslavia: Manufactured DShKM variant. (former user)
The system consisted of two circular disks mounted side-by-side in a common framework. On the right, in front of the gunner, was a large "spider" sight that contained a line of small metal rings running from the center to the outer edge. On the left, in front of the loader, was a smaller disk with several parallel metal wires. In some examples, the sight was installed with the loader's sight on the right.
To use the sight, the loader/observer would spin his disk so the wires were parallel to the target's direction of travel. A shaft running between the two turned the gunner's sight to the same angle. The gunner would then sight through one of the metal rings based on the estimated range and speed.
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