The SKS (officially designated SKS-45) rifle has been used for over 70 years now. Its origins are Soviet, and it was designed by Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov, who was one of the USSR’s chief weapons designers and who is considered by many to be one of the creators of the modern combat rifle. The SKS rifle is still being used today, mainly in ceremonies and such, but at times it still sees military action.
The full designation of the SKS rifle is “Samozaryadny Karabin sistemy Simonova, 1945”. It was designed in 1944 and put into service in 1945. Even though it was later phased out in favor of the well-known (and all-around beloved) AK-47, it has a name which commands a certain respect. About 15,000,000 units of the SKS-45 were built during the time.
The SKS is a self-loading carbine, with an internal 10-round magazine. It has many variants (several of which will be brought up later in this post), but basically it loads by using 10-round clips which feed the mag. The 7.62mm (also known as 7.62 Soviet) cartridges, which were designed at the same time as the SKS rifle itself, were later used in other weapons. Mikhail Kalashnikov’s AK-47 was designed to fit that specific cartridge.
Some more numbers:
Action: gas piston, semi-automatic (internal 10-round magazine)
Weight: 8.5 lb.
Barrel length: 20”
A well-built rifle is already a great thing, right out of the box. There are times, however, where you feel that there is room for improvement. Accessories are a part of any rifle, really. The question is ‘are they necessary’? In some cases, you’d say yes. You’d argue that the added benefit and value outweigh the possible disadvantages, additional weight, bulkiness, etc.
Unlike a handgun, a rifle uses the shooter’s shoulder for absorbing energy, managing recoil, and basically helping to keep those follow-up shots from dispersing. Because of this, a good stock is certainly something which you will want to invest in. The original wooden stock is fine to use, especially if those kinds of stocks are something that you are used to. Some of them are better than many modern stocks, too, in look and feel. But, if you want to replace it, there are all kinds of options. Here are a few of them, at a glance.
ATI SKS Stock
A six-position, adjustable, foldable stock, made of top-quality polymer. It doesn’t snag, it requires only a bit of tampering (with some models), and it allows the shooter to operate the firearm from the closed/folded position. Comes with a recoil pad (a tad thin, but gets the job done), pistol grip, and Picatinny rail.
ATI SKS Monte Carlo Stock
A fixed Monte Carlo stock made of high-strength polymer. It includes a recoil-reducing butt pad and has the traditional Monte Carlo elevated cheek rest. The grip and forend are checkered to increase purchase, and the stock itself is coated, weather-proof, and scratch-proof. The Monte Carlo is classically meant for scoped rifles, but it is certainly not a must.
Tapco SKS Intrafuse
Adjustable polymer stock, which offers the shooter the option of shortening the rifle significantly. Fits all models of SKS, though in some cases slight modification may be needed. Lightweight and equipped with six positions, it is highly adaptable. Furthermore, there are a few models to choose form: cut for a bayonet or not, railed or not, and a left-handed folding stock.
Timber Smith Thumbhole Stock
For those looking for something sleek and modern which still retains an older feel, Timber Smith has some wonderful – and more expensive – wooden stocks for you to choose from. Laminated and fit with a recoil-reducing buttpad – It definitely seems like a solid investment.
A well-loved and popular version of the rifle is the bullpup model. Bullpup rifles have certain advantages, and when you combine the old-school SKS with the novel design of the 21st century, you have the ability to create a unique piece of weaponry. This is done with bullpup conversion kits. While some may say it is a desecration of a good weapon (that is, to replace the original with a bullpup design), there are those who claim the front weighs too much. Either way, as always, it is a matter of preference and personal taste/aesthetics.
Bullpup conversions are available from several companies, and two of the best ones are Shernic Gun Works (SGWorks) and CBRPS. Both of them offer a high-quality conversion to bullpup, but the price is often several hundred dollars. For those who are interested in truly bringing their SKS into the 21st century, the bullpup design is certainly the way to go.
The Yugoslavian variant has a special claim to fame, as it is the only variant of the SKS which allows the addition of a grenade launcher on the barrel. The M59/66 SKS – the successor of the Yugo M59 SKS – was designed and built to NATO spec, which is ironic considering Yugoslavia was a communist country. Other than the grenade launcher, the rifle is very similar to the SKS-45. Metal and hardwood all the way. The M59 was produced in 1959, and the M59/66 in 1966. It is chambered in 7.62x39mm, has a 10-round internal magazine, and it also has the option of attaching a bayonet. Of the various models (European and Asian alike) which are available, the Yugoslavian SKS has a place of honor.
There are a few Soviet variants of the original SKS, and they were produced mainly between 1949 and 1958. The more notable ones are the Honor Guard SKS, made with all-chrome metal parts and a lighter-colored stock, and the OP-SKS, which was a military rifle converted to civilian/commercial/hunting use. The OP versions of the rifle were produced later than any other variant.
Ah, China… they can replicate anything and everything – and they do! The Type 56 is a very popular model of classic rifle. The Chinese made many changes to the Type 56 over the years it was produced. The Type 56 carbines were taken out of active duty in China, but they still have a place in ceremonies and such. Other variants include the Type 68 with a stamped receiver, the Type 81 which offers a 3-round burst and optional folding stock, the Type 84 which accepts AK-47 magazines and has a significantly shorter barrel, and other types of commercial/hunting SKSs which were designed and produced over time.
You may also enjoy our Asian Firearm Overview
The Norinco is a type of Chinese SKS, named after the factory where it is (still) produced. In the years following WWII – the Cold War era – many Type 56 rifles were manufactured and distributed to various forces and nations around the world. The Soviets had the AK, and the Chinese had their 56. After production ceased at military weapons factories, arms manufacturer Norinco got hold of the official license to produce the Soviet replica. The Type 56 Carbine and Type 81 rifle are two models which are still produced, and they are still in service. They are wielded by militias and forces around the globe. Norinco manufactures a variety of weapons, small and large.
Mags for the legendary rifle are available mainly in 5-, 10-, and 20-round capacities, by several companies. There is also a 30-round mag and a – *gasp* – 75-round drum, for those who are interested. The AK-47-ish series of commercial/civilian SKSs are able to accept AK-47 magazines, which increases firepower significantly. As previously mentioned, the classic SKS – and the many variants and replicas – had an internal 10-round magazine and was fed by a clip.
Converting the rifle (whether AK-type or not) to accept detachable mags is a popular mod, and there are many shooters who choose to modify their SKS in that fashion. Stripper clips have their sense of nostalgia and old-
The SKS served the Soviets well, and before the AK-47 was created it was the pinnacle of modern warfare. Today it is still used, and this is not just by chance. Whether for hunting, for military ceremonies, for collecting, or for down and dirty combat – the SKS still has a place of respect and honor in the world. True, many of those who wield it nowadays are not close allies of the free world (as it were), but it continues to be a symbol of Soviet ingenuity, engineering, and production. It’s one hell of a rifle, no matter who is holding it.
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