Tabuk Sniper Rifle

The Tabuk Sniper Rifle is an Iraqi Semi-automatic designated marksman's rifle, made from a modified version of the Zastava M70 assault rifle, itself a variant of the AKM. The Tabuk Rifle, like all the AKM and Dragunov SVD derivatives made in Iraq, was manufactured at the Al-Qadissiya Establishments using machinery sold to Iraq by Zastava Arms of Yugoslavia, at a time when power was still firmly in the hands of Saddam Hussein.

Tabuk Sniper Rifle
Class Manportable
Type Rifles
Manufacturer Al-Qadissiya Establishments
Origin Iraq
Country Name Origin Year
Iraq 1978
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Iraq 1978 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Al-Qadissiya Establishments 1978 View

The differences between the Tabuk and the Yugoslavian M72 are few; the semi-auto-only mechanism of the Tabuk is not a visually obvious difference, but is perhaps the most important. This feature dictates the rifle's role as one of precision fire and not suppressive fire. It is also important as it prevents poorly trained individuals from subjecting the barrel of a rifle intended for precision to full-auto fire, which would shorten that rifle's useful life.

A more visible difference is the much lighter barrel fitted to the Tabuk. The M72's barrel is finned at the rear near the hand guards and is far heavier than that of the Tabuk (or that of a standard AKM). The thickness of the M72's barrel exists to facilitate heat distribution via mass and cooling via surface area. Since the option to fire full-auto has been omitted (and it is not typical of eastern bloc long range precision rifles to use heavy barrels for accuracy) the Tabuk, like the SVD and the PSL, has a relatively light barrel.

The Tabuk differs from the M72 in some other ways. It has provision for mounting optics, though this is not an unusual accessory on Eastern Bloc weapons, and it has a skeletonized buttstock with a cheek piece. A third difference, and perhaps the most important (though not definitive) visual cue when identifying the Tabuk, is the conspicuous lack of a bipod. The M72's bipod, which is not detachable from the M72 (though sometimes removed by undisciplined troops), is quite obvious from afar when attached. It was likely removed from the Tabuk design to enhance mechanical accuracy and reduce weight, though had it been retained it might have added useful stability (practical accuracy) for long range work.

Since it is essentially an accurized, scoped M72, the Tabuk is chambered for the M72's primary caliber, 7.62×39. This is advantageous as it allows the Tabuk to use the same magazines as the AKM, and AKM Magazines are well made, plentiful, and easy to replace if lost.

Because the Tabuk is chambered for the Soviet M43 or 7.62×39mm cartridge, it cannot technically function as a sniper rifle (by western standards). With a maximum effective range of only 600m (based on trajectory), the Tabuk should instead be considered a designated marksman's rifle. That said, and considering the urban terrain upon which these rifles are typically fielded, this quibble is purely semantic.

The Tabuk is, within its given range, every bit as effective as the Dragunov or PSL if used precisely. At the far end of its effective range it is decidedly less lethal than its higher velocity counterparts due to the round's combination of stability and low velocity, giving it less reach than the 7.62×54mmR caliber SVD. It visually resembles an RPK, which may make identifying enemy snipers more difficult. Likewise, its acoustic signature mimics that of an AKM.

Type Semi-automatic Sniper rifle,designated marksman rifle
Place of origin Iraq
Service history
In service 1978 – current
Used by Ba'athist Iraq
Wars Iran-Iraq War, Persian Gulf War, Iraq War, Syrian Civil War
Production history
Designer Zastava Arms
Designed 1970s
Manufacturer Al-Qadissiya Establishments
Produced 1978-current
Weight 4.5kg
Length 1110 mm
Barrel length 600 mm
Cartridge 7.62×39mm
Action Gas operated
Muzzle velocity 740 m/s
Effective firing range 800 m
Feed system 10–20 round box magazines
Sights Telescopic sight and Iron sight

End notes