For familiarization and refresher training on a weapon used in theaters of operation, or for collectors of Warsaw Pact or Vietnam-era weapons, the relatively inexpensive DSA RPD offers a faithful reproduction that can be shot and owned at a fraction of the cost of a registered NFA RPD.
I figured out rather quickly that “light” is a relative term when applied to machineguns. The “light machinegun” does indeed need to be light so that the gunner can move along with his squad mates during an advance. On the other hand, if the machinegun is too “light,” it will not really have many advantages over the rifles carried by other infantryman. The role of the light machinegun changed substantially when armies switched to assault rifles from bolt-action rifles. The light machinegun was expected to offer more accuracy and more sustained fire at longer ranges. Generally, this was accomplished by incorporating a bipod, better long-range sights, larger magazine capacity, and, in some cases, a stock designed to allow more comfortable firing while prone.
Prior to the introduction of the M249 SAW, the USA really didn’t have a light machinegun. The BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) and the M15 variant of the M14 were attempts to supply an infantry squad with a “faux light machinegun,” while the M60, which served the mission of a light machinegun for many years, was really more of a GPMG (General Purpose Machinegun), though some lightened versions used by special ops troops such as the M60E3 and M60E4 were more portable. As a result, my first real experiences with the true light machinegun were in foreign weapons training.
Feeding on the RPD 7.62x39mm is from the left side using a 50-round segmented metal belt. As the empty links come out of the right side of the weapon, they will drop free after all 50 rounds have been fired.
I fired the Soviet DPM, RPD, and RPK. I trained with the PK around that time, too, but it was more of a Soviet GPMG. I remember that my favorite was the RPD, which was a good thing, as I shot it more and gained some familiarity. Over the years I worked with foreign military and police units, encountering the RPD often enough that knowledge of its operating characteristics proved quite useful. For example, I worked with one African security team that included the RPD and RPK among their weapons. I always chose my position for observing live-fire counter-ambush drills carefully.