The Samozaryadnaya Vintovka Tokareva is a Soviet semi-automatic battle rifle. The SVT-40 saw widespread service during and after World War II. Intended to be the new service rifle of the Soviet Red Army, production was disrupted by the German invasion in 1941 resulting in a change back to the older Mosin–Nagant bolt-action rifle for the duration of WWII. After the war new rifles were adopted by the Soviet, SKS and AK-47.
Fedor Tokarev created the basic design for the SVT rifle in the early 1930s.
After the war, SVTs were mostly withdrawn from service and refurbished in arsenals, then stored. In Soviet service, firearms like the SKS and the AK-47 as well as the later SVD made the SVT obsolete, and the rifle was generally out of service by 1955. Only a few SVTs were exported to Soviet allies and clients. Reportedly, some SVTs were used by Cuban revolutionaries in the 1950s. The Finnish Army retired the SVT in 1958, and about 7,500 rifles were sold to the United States civilian market through firearm importer Interarms. This marked the end of SVTs in regular service. In the Soviet Union, SVTs were kept in storage until the 1990s, when many rifles were sold abroad, along with several other Russian surplus military firearms. Currently the SVT is fairly widely available for collectors and historical enthusiasts, and is highly sought. In Russia, limited examples for civilian use have been sold as the ???-88 (OSK 88) with some variations in stock, barrel length and optics. The rifle's popularity is due to a combination of the inexpensive nature of its 7.62×54mmR ammunition, favorable aesthetics, historical significance, and pleasant shooting characteristics.
Despite its relatively brief service career, the SVT was a prolific rifle on the Eastern Front during World War II, and it had considerable impact on European battle rifle designs during and immediately after the war. The German G-43 was influenced by the SVT in its design, as was Simonov's experimental carbine during the closing stages of the war (which would later become the SKS). The FN FAL and its ancestor FN-49 employ the same locking mechanism and operating principle as the SVT, although as mentioned above, this is most likely coincidental. As a service rifle, the SVT had its problems, but so did contemporary semi-automatic rifles made by other countries. The main reason for the gradual downfall of SVT usage in combat was not its technical disadvantages; rather, the reason was that, with the immense, continual demand for rifles in the front lines, Soviet factories could produce other, simpler designs in far greater quantities in the same length of time it took to produce the SVT.