The project to develop the PSL commenced after the Soviet Union ceased sharing technical information and exporting military equipment (including the SVD Dragunov) to Romania, as a consequence of the latter's refusal to join the Invasion of Czechoslovakia.
PSL rifles were originally made at the Regia Autonoma pentru Productia de Tehnica Militara - RATMIL Cugir arsenal in Cugir, Romania. After a consolidation of military arsenals when Romania joined NATO, production of the PSL is now at the SC Fabrica de Arme Cugir SA (ARMS arsenal) in Cugir, Romania which is completely retooled with all brand new state-of-the-art equipment.
The PSL rifle's primary purpose is to be used by a platoon level designated marksman to engage targets at ranges beyond the capabilities of the standard issue AKM carbines. It is built around a stamped steel receiver similar to that of the RPK light machine gun; having a wider forward section enabling a strengthened, more substantial front trunnion. The PSL's operation is the same long stroke piston action of the Kalashnikov family of weapons. Its appearance is similar to the Dragunov sniper rifle yet not one single part interchanges between the rifles.
The PSL is chambered for the same venerable 7.62×54mmR (rimmed) cartridge as the Dragunov, and feeds from a ten-round detachable box magazine. The magazine used on the PSL differs from that of Dragunov models in that it is stamped with an X shaped pattern on the side, rather than the waffle style stamp found on the Russian and Chinese magazines. The magazines, though they are similar in shape and size, are not interchangeable between the Dragunov and PSL without modification.
The PSL has been in service in Romania since the 1970s and is widely sold on the world market. They are frequently encountered in Iraq where they appear to be quite popular. The simplicity of the rifle makes it ideal for soldiers to use and maintain. The action, being a variant of the AKM's, is extremely reliable despite lack of maintenance, and is particularly forgiving of sand and other debris. The scope's reticle pattern is easy to use and makes range estimation quick and reasonably accurate without any mathematical calculations necessary. With some simple instruction an average individual can be issued a PSL and successfully engage targets at ranges that far exceed the accurate capabilities of non-scoped assault rifles like the AKM, AK-47, etc. Accuracy varies greatly, however, between individual rifles to a greater extent to other rifles in its class, probably due to insufficient quality control during the manufacturing process. In the hands of a capable shooter and with quality ammunition such as 7N1 and 7N14 a PSL is capable of 1 Minute of angle (approximately 1" at 100 yards) or less while the rifles on the other end of the spectrum are only capable of about 3 MOA.
PSL rifles have some notable features, the skeleton stock is somewhat similar to the Dragunov's but includes an interesting corrugated and spring-loaded stamped steel buttplate. When the rifle is fired this helps reduce the felt recoil to a degree. The cheek riser on the comb of the stock is angled to benefit the right-handed shooter primarily. Some owners feel the cheek pad is not high enough to adequately attain a rigid cheek weld and have to make do with a chin weld.
The butt stock is much shorter than most Western shooters are used to. This is because Romanian soldiers often operate in very cold climates and wear thick winter coats while operating. In theory, a rubber stock extender is to be fitted during warm weather but one is not issued with the rifle.