There have been many ideas revolving around conscripts and giving them weapon upgrades. Some suggest SVTs, some suggest a single DP28. Although the idea is more or less solid, tell me why would you ever go penals in T1 if cons had a weapon upgrade? Cons have the better snare IMO because of the superior range and mobility of oorah, can access molotovs, and then potentially the weapon upgrade.
Then there's the matter of their veterancy. The veterancy bonuses of conscripts are absolutely rediculous to compensate for the poor model and mosin stats. However when you take those mosins out and put something else those same crazy stats apply to the new weapon. I'm sure you remember the old conscripts and the old LMG34 combo... This can all be avoided of course, but it is more work you're asking for.
Now the PPSHs currently combined with conscripts are pretty strong, but mitigated by the poor DPS curve. It's the vet 3 RA bonus combined with the 3 ppshs that get tossed over when models die means their DPS doesn't really drop till they start going down to 2 models, similar to how weapon upgrades of other squads work, LMGs perticularly.
I'm not the greatest soviet player in the world, but from what I understand and what I've been told by top players is you go T1 and penals vs OKW normally, and you go cons into T2 against ostheer and pick a PPSHs commander. You don't go cons vs OKW because volks out perform them at every stage of the game, and penals work fairly well vs them. The added bonus of clown car flamer cheese, and potentially sniper which is difficult to handle vs a non sniper faction makes T1 actually good vs a certain faction.
On the other side of the coin you have cons who trade evenly with grens at minute 0 but tend to fall off when the LMG42s come online. However con ppshs allow you to charge and win even without oorah vs LMG42 grens which makes it very ideal vs ostheer in the lategame, so long as you arn't running into HMG42s.
I have a lot of issues with the soviet faction design and this is digging a bit into where there could arise potentially powerful meta changes. From 6 men, nondoctrinal sprint, and many other things cons are the strongest utiilty infantry in the game aside from maybe the jaegar command squad which is blatantly OP.
The absolute biggest concern here for me though is why would I go T1 when cons have a lategame upgrade, oorah, molotovs, snares, merge, 6 men, and model killing flares. But that is the problem with having multiple backbone infantry who all function as long range units.
Maybe somehow you balance the con SVTs to outperform the LMG42 at midrange but lose at long, that would completely nullify penals against ostheer. If they still perform beneath LMG42 grens then why even change it from now?
I think cons need rework as well as a large portion of the faction, but if we just hand them a no-brainer upgrade they'll be very difficult to handle IMO. I'm also concerned about the balance teams ability to apply changes like this. From my perspective, they seem to struggle to either apply the full concept of their ideas because they're inhibited by scope, or other balance members etc, or are not looking to apply universal balance. Either way it always falls short.
Hey, thanks for taking the time with such a thorough reply. I can see the issue here and there are of course a lot of factors that will be mismatched given the change I am suggesting. Tbh I don't really know how you could make Penals viable if you gave cons a weapon upgrade because then you would have to completely change the design of them to make them different and in any way effective. I agree with your statement on cons having some of the best utility in the game.
Like you say the scope of balancing is very limited and to come close to any more balance that we have right now will be really hard without a complete overhaul of the entire design of the different factions.
My problem is still though you in a fight vs. a gren with a con and you will just outright lose it with no ability to outplay at long range. A little bit of a lackluster answer here since I don't really know how you could change them without making penals obsolete.
Last thing in terms of the meta on certain maps you still go tier 1 sniper and penals vs. Wehr but you are right in tier 1 is blatantly better than cons vs. OKW because as you say the volks just outperform the cons in every way.