The SVT-38, and later the SVT-40, were essentially the Soviet Union’s attempt to build their version of the M1 Garand. The M1 Garand was a semi-automatic rifle chambered in .30-06 and served as the primary United States service rifle throughout World War II. The M1 Garand had a much faster rate of fire than the standard bolt actions of other militaries.
The SVT-38, in contrast to the heavy and robust construction of the Mosin Nagant, was designed to be lighter weight with a gas operation design. Subsequently, it gained a reputation for needing to be cleaned regularly in order to fire reliably. Nonetheless, Soviet forces issued the rifle initially gained an advantage over the German soldiers armed with the Mauser K98, at least until Germany began issuing the STG44 and Gewehr 43 rifles in wide numbers.
The SVT 38 and SVT 40 fire the 7.62x54r round with a ten round detachable box magazine. They also came equipped with a muzzle brake, sight rails mounted into the receiver, and an adjustable gas system. The rifles gained a mixed reception from Soviet infantrymen; some loved the semi-automatic firing capabilities, while others felt that it was too long and cumbersome.
The SVT rifles were expensive to produce, and as a result they were never nearly as widely issued as the Mosin Nagant. Nonetheless, they were effectively the Soviet Union’s first primary semi-automatic rifle to see combat in large numbers.