Until Tokarev developed the SVT-40 rifle for Russia, no combatant military had succeeded in coming up with a gas system for a semi-automatic service rifle that was both light enough and simple enough to warrant adoption for use during World War II. While the U.S. had the M1 Garand, the Germans and the French were far behind. And although Tokarev's SVT showed great promise and was unique to the time—its gas system is still widely copied today—the rifle itself was not considered a success, and during the course of the war the Russians decided to continue using its bolt-action Moisin-Nagant. Thus SVT production throttled down and in 1945 was discontinued altogether. So while the idea of semi-automatic and selective-fire firearms in the hands of Soviet infantrymen was new, ultimately, it was the AK-47 that later fully realized what the idea of the Tokarev could have been.
Learn more in this “I Have This Old Gun” video segment from a recent episode of American Rifleman TV.