It was seen in a deleted scene from Rambo III.
The Dragunov was designed as a squad support weapon since, according to Soviet and Soviet-derived military doctrines, the long-range engagement ability was lost to ordinary troops when submachine guns and assault rifles (which are optimized for close-range and medium-range, rapid-fire combat) were adopted. For that reason, it was originally named Самозарядная Винтовка системы Драгунова образца 1963 года "Self-Loading Rifle, System of Dragunov, Model of the Year 1963." It was selected as the winner of a contest that included three competing designs: by Sergei Simonov, Aleksandr Konstantinov and Yevgeny Dragunov. Extensive field testing of the rifles conducted in a wide range of environmental conditions resulted in Dragunov’s proposal being accepted into service in 1963. An initial pre-production batch consisting of 200 rifles was assembled for evaluation purposes, and from 1964 serial production was carried out by Izhmash. Since then, the Dragunov has become the standard squad support weapon of several countries, including those of the former Warsaw Pact. Licensed production of the rifle was established in China (Type 79 and Type 85) and Iran (as a direct copy of the Chinese Type 79).
In the early 1990s, a compact variant of the SVD designed for airborne infantry was introduced, known as the SVDS (Russian: снайперская винтовка Драгунова складная, short for Snayperskaya Vintovka Dragunova Skladnaya, "Dragunov Sniper Rifle with folding stock"), which features a tubular metal stock that folds to the right side of the receiver (equipped with a synthetic shoulder pad and a fixed cheek riser) and a synthetic pistol grip. The barrel was also given a heavier profile, the receiver housing was strengthened, the gas cylinder block was improved and a ported, conical flash hider was adopted. The SVDS also comes in a night-capable variant designated SVDSN. In 1994, the Russian TsKIB SOO company (currently, a division of the KBP Instrument Design Bureau) developed the SVU sniper rifle (short for Snayperskaya Vintovka Ukorochennaya, "Sniper Rifle, Shortened") offered to special units of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). The SVU, compared to the SVD, has a considerably shorter overall length because of the bullpup layout and shortened barrel that also received a triple-baffle muzzle brake with an approx. 40% recoil reduction effectiveness. The rifle was equipped with folding iron sights (rear aperture sight in a rotating drum) and the PSO-1 telescopic sight. A variant of the SVU, designed with a selective-fire capability and using 20-round magazines, is called the SVU-A (A – Avtomaticheskaya). The SVDK is a Russian SVD variant chambered for the 9.3×64mm 7N33 cartridge. The SVDK is mechanically adapted to use dimensionally larger 9.3x64mm Brenneke cartridges. In 1998, Poland adopted a modernized variant of the SVD designated the SWD-M, which uses a heavy barrel, bipod (mounted to the forearm) and LD-6 (6x42) telescopic sight. Another variant of the SVD is the Iraqi 7.62 mm Al-Kadesih sniper rifle. The Al-Kadesih while stylistically very similar to the SVD has some key differences. The Al-Kadesih has a unique pressed-metal receiver which is longer than that of the SVD, although the overall length of the rifle is similar to that of the SVD. It is fitted for and uses the Soviet-era PSO-I Optical Sight. Further, the barrel is pinned, rather than screwed, to the receiver, although it is of the same length as that of the SVD. The fore-end has four longitudinal slots on each side instead of six short slots. Another readily visible distinguishing feature of the Al-Kadesih is that the magazine has an ornamental relief pattern showing a stylised palm tree.