The rifle fires 9x39mm cartridges specially developed for the VSS. Based on a 7.62x39mm case as used by the AK-47, the new SP-5 and SP-6 rounds are necked out to 9mm, using a heavy, subsonic bullet. Combined with a very effective suppressor, the subsonic ammunition allows very quiet firing. The SP-5 (ball) and SP-6 (armour piercing) bullets are long and heavy, and the latter can defeat most modern body armours at ranges up to 400 metres. The VSS is generally a popular weapon, with its stealthy operation and the great lethality of the heavy 9mm bullets.
The VSS is gas operated, select-fire weapon. The receiver is machined from solid steel for greater strength, and features AK-style charging handle and safety switch. The integral silencer can be removed for storage, but the weapon should not be fired without it fitted. A rail on the left side of the receiver accepts standard Russian sighting equipment, usually the 4X PSO-1 scope graduated fro 9X39mm ammunition. Backup iron sights are also fitted, graduated up to 400 metres. The wooden skeleton stock can be removed for storage and is fitted with a rubber butt plate.
The VSS Vintorez weighs 3.41 kilograms fully loaded with a scope. It carries 20 rounds in a detachable box magazine. The effective range of the weapon is limited to 300-400 meters, and is capable of 700 RPM fully automatic fire.