SKS

The Samozaryadnyi Karabin Sisyemi Simonova Obrazets 1945g, or SKS45 (commonly just called the SKS),was designed by Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov around the then new, intermediate powered, 7.62x39mm M43 cartridge. It was adopted by the Soviet military forces shortly after WW II.

The SKS was superseded as a front line Soviet firearm within only a few years by the AK-47, but has been manufactured in a number of countries, and used by the military forces of at least 21, as well as various insurgent groups. The variants most commonly seen in the west are from Russia or the PRC (China). Both of these nations ceased shipping SKS rifles to the USA during the mid-1990s, thanks to efforts by President Clinton. But when the Bush, Sr and and Clinton anti-gun laws faded into the sunset, unrenewed by both Congress and the latter President Bush, the SKS once again became plentiful and less expensive.

While the AK-47 improved on the SKS design, the SKS is still extremely inexpensive to produce (eastern bloc Communist military doctrine inclined towards throwing lots of expendable soldiers and weapons at the enemy, overwhelming with sheer numbers rather than quality) and yet reasonably accurate under battlefield conditions. The SKS is about half as accurate as an M-16, but costs about 1/10 as much to produce. It's still plenty accurate to stop a person (or deer, or mountain lion) at 200 yards (the standard battlefield "zero" distance").

I've been told by Chris Wardrop of Lafayette, IN, that some of these rifles have milled trigger assemblies, while others have assemblies that were stamped and spot welded. I'm not sure which is the better version, or how to tell without disassembling the rifle.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are the major differences between the Chinese and Russian SKS?
    The basic rifles are the same. Differences tend to be more by armory and when the weapon was produced. There was at least one batch of Russian SKS carbines with press fit safeties (no spring). These quickly became useless. I have heard rumors of Chinese guns slam-firing (acting like automatic weapons) but have yet to see any proof of this. I suspect it's a rumor started by people who don't like "commie guns".

    There are a few minor differences. Chinese paratrooper rifles have the sling swivels on the side of the rifle instead of the bottom (this is the type I bought). Another common Chinese feature is a bayonet which folds under the rifle.

  2. I've heard they are illegal.
    Between Presidents Bush (Sr.) and Clinton, they became more scarce, and many combinations of modifications could make them illegal. They were classified as "assault rifles", which they are not! Assault rifles are selective fire - they can be set to fire in either semi-automatic mode or full-automatic mode. No rifle available in the USA to civilians without special, difficult to get licenses has been fully automatic since the 1930s!

    But some combinations of stock, bayonet, clip, flash suppressor and other items were, and may still be, illegal. You should check with the BATF before modifying an SKS to assure you are not doing something illegal. Yes, changing the style of stock on an SKS could at one time instantly change you from a hunter or person trying to defend their home into a horrible terrorist or serial killer. Perhaps you should just hurl yourself in front of a BATF tank now and save the government the expense of tracking you down!

    Or, for an overview (not BATF guaranteed for accuracy) of what is or is not legal, check out http://www.recguns.com/Sources/OutII.html .

    Of course, if you live outside the USA, in more "enlightened" countries such as England, Australia or Japan, you won't have this problem. If so, I'm terribly sorry. And I hope we learn the lesson before it's too late for us, too.

  3. How accurate is it?
    I haven't been to a long range yet, but my impression from magazines (and my friend's hunting experience) is that at 200 yards, all hits should be within 3 to 5 inches. Not great, but good enough for most of us. At 100 yards, mine will group about 2 inches with common, Russian (Wolf) ammo.
  4. How many rounds does it hold?
    The rifle comes with a 10 round clip attached. It's normally loaded from the top with stripper clips (the bolt stays open once the clip is empty). Larger, detachable, "banana" clips are available which hold 15, 20, or 30 rounds. To use these you have to partially disassemble the rifle, but it's not hard to do.

    This brings me to what I consider the one major deficiency in the SKS. The clips have a big metal part sticking out in front at the top. This makes the clips slightly bulkier than those for the AK-47, and drives the cost up. In 1996, at the Austin gun show I attended, 30 round AK clips were going for $5 to $7; 30 round SKS clips were anywhere from $15 to $20. This makes stripper clips an attractive option. Of course, an SKS is so much less expensive than anything else in its class, you can probably afford a couple of extra 30 round clips!

    Since the ban on importing these clips expired, prices have gotten more reasonable. I recently bought one for (IIRC) $12.95 at a gun show, which wasn't much more than an AK clip.

  5. What about ammo? Wal-mart doesn't seem to have any.
    You may have to call around. Wal-Mart sometimes carries it. But you may want to order a case. We usually get 3 or 4 people together to order a case from whoever has it cheapest in "Shotgun News". Last time I looked, you could get 1200 rounds for around $150 or $160. That's "surplus", of course. Be sure and look for non-corrosive primers.

    Ammo is usually 20 rounds per box. Retail here is anywhere from about $4.50 or $5 per box for Russian Wolf brand ammo to $15 - $20 for high quality ammo (which should improve accuracy to about 2 or 3.5 inches at 200 yards).

  6. Is it good for hunting, defense, etc?
    Sure. I got mine primarily to protect our children and animals from predators in the area (we lived in the boonies when I bought my SKS), but it also works for self defense. I have a friend who hunts deer with his once or twice a year, and he's happy with it.

    This is definitely a military rifle. There's a safety on the trigger guard, but no clip safety - if the clip is detached but a round is chambered, the rifle will fire if the trigger is pressed (unlike most modern, non-military rifles).

  7. How does the 7.62x39 compare to the .223 and .308 (7.62x51)?
    It's not as powerful as the .308; at longer ranges it's going to drop more and have less stopping power. But unless you are after something really big and/or nasty, at ranges under 300 yards or so, it's plenty. The .223 may produce a bigger wound since it may fragment inside the target.
  8. Where can I get one?
    At most gun shows, I'd expect to find at least a couple of people selling these. "Shotgun News" has ads from a number of places who sell them, and several places on the Internet sell them. Also, better stocked local gun shops, and some pawn shops.
  9. What about parts?
    Parts are plentiful. If you're really worried, buy two - they're inexpensive! I bought mine in 1996 for under $100. All of the places noted above will carry after market parts - synthetic stocks, scopes, clips, etc.
Some of the historical information for this article came from the Feb. 1998 issue of ``American Rifleman''.

Last updated: 21 October 2007

Copyright 1995, 1998 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.

Miles O'Neal <meo@XYZZY.rru.com> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514