Author Topic: SKS: HISTORY & INFO + additional links  (Read 80536 times)

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Frisco Pete

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SKS: HISTORY & INFO + additional links
« on: August 09, 2006, 01:51:55 PM »



The gas-operated Simonov military carbine (Samozaryadni Karabin sistemi Simonova obrazets 1945g, or Self-loading Carbine system Simonov of 1945) and its attendant 7.62x39mm M43 cartridge was hurriedly developed in 1943 in order to equip the Russian army with a handy medium-powered carbine with a high rate of fire to replace the awkward (in house-to-house and armored warfare), slow-firing Mosin-Nangant bolt action rifle and its rimmed 7.62x54mm cartridge, which dated from before the turn of the century. The Red Army was a firm believer in the value of massed firepower at short and medium ranges and already had whole battalions equipped with submachine guns. The SKS was planned to provide heavy firepower at longer ranges (up to 300 meters) than the submachine gun.

The SKS was developed by Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov (B. 1894), a staunch party member who was a master gunsmith and designer with the Federov design bureau. Simonov had submitted several designs for new Soviet rifles previously, with the short-lived AVS36 and the PTRS antitank rifle having been accepted. Simonov combined features of his previous submissions, notably the PTRS and the experimental SKS41, to produced what ultimately became the SKS-45. Prototypes were tested against the Germans on the First Byelorussian Front in 1944, but formal acceptance and production did not begin until 1945. Unfortunately for Simonov, his design lacked two crucial features: selective fire and a detachable box magazine; flaws that made it tactically obsolete in the eyes of military planners and tacticians pondering lessons learned from the Second World War.

As the SKS was coming off the production line, an army officer named Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov designed a new rifle that made the SKS obsolete. Kalashnikov copied SKS features such as the gas system, sights, and receiver cover, but he also included a detachable box magazine and selective fire mechanism. This design was adopted as the AK-47. However, the AK-47 didn't supplant the SKS in general Soviet military service until 1954.

Backward-looking design or not, the SKS rifle proved deadly effective in the hands of communist fighters in Vietnam and elsewhere around the world where Soviet or Chinese versions of the SKS were shipped to rebel forces.

Enormous numbers of these carbines have been made, and although it is no longer in service with Soviet forces, it has appeared in almost every Communist country in the world. It has been made, with slight variations, in at least seven countries; in Romania it is known as the Model 56, in Yugoslavia it is known as the M-59/66 (distinguished by a gas tube shut off valve for grenade launching) or M-59 (no grenade launcher), North Korea calls it the Type 63, and the East German version is the Selbstaqldekarbiner S or, more commonly, the ‘Karabiner-S', while in China it is the Type 56 Carbine or, sometimes, the M21 which designates a civilian export version (oddly enough, the Type 56 Rifle is the AK-47). China helped Bangladesh set up a plant to manufacture the SKS also. SKSs have been adopted by 22 nations, although it is no longer used in most countries as a front-line weapon. In addition, terrorist or "liberation" groups such as the PLO were supplied by various Communist countries. Despite the variety of countries that SKSs are manufactured in, they are basically the same, differing in only minor details with Albanian and Yugoslavian versions differing the most.


The U.S. ran up against the SKS in Vietnam, in the hands of the Viet Cong and NVA. By many reports, the SKS was the most commonly encountered rifle in use with the NVA regulars. The excellent reliability and combat qualities were well noted by American troops. Dozens of accounts make very favorable mention of the SKS and its dependability in the harshest of jungle conditions. As mentioned, the VC/NVA used it in conjunction with, and complimentary to, the AK-47. Fire discipline is critical in war, and by mixing the full-auto AK with the semi-auto SKS, a heavy volume of fire could be laid down continuously because the SKS could be reloaded faster and was shot at a slower more deliberate aimed fire pace. This way potential lulls in fire when the AK ran dry and the 30-round mag had to be reloaded (a much slower process than the stripper clip fed SKS reload) were covered. In addition, the SKS was somewhat more accurate. Anyone who encountered a well camouflaged ambush, like those that faced the Marines in the Khe Sahn Hill Fights, could attest to this effective and deadly mix.

A popular war trophy, thousands were brought home by returning G.I.'s. However, for a long time here in the U.S., it was basically an odd curio owned by a few veterans of an unpopular war, and also a war which lionized the AK-47. It was expensive to shoot too, that is, if you could find ammo for it!

Then a funny thing happened in the late eighties. With the thaw in the Sino-American relationship, the Chinese began exporting thousands of new and surplus SKSs to the U.S. at ridiculously low prices. SKS's sold for 80 to 100 dollars a pop. Cheap military surplus ammunition was imported also, with a 1200-round case selling for a hundred bucks or even cheaper if you wanted corrosively-primed ammo. All of this made for inexpensive high volume shooting. Word got around and soon the SKS was the biggest selling rifle model in America. Shooters loved its reliability and its accuracy in the field ("can't believe how well it shoots for a cheap gun" they would say). You even started to see them in pickup truck gun racks throughout the rural West as working guns. Many kids shot their first deer with one (The 7.62x39mm has near 30-30 ballistics). Soon a plethora of accessories debuted to improve or just personalize the SKS. You could make your SKS look like a hunting rifle or an "assault rifle." All of this on a ‘working man's' budget! Even Ruger saw the handwriting on the wall and came out with the Mini-30 – a Mini-14 chambered for the M-43 round (with no better accuracy than the SKS either) to capitalize on the SKS's popularity.

Unfortunately, the 'golden age' of the cheap SKS came to an end. Anti-gun zealots abhor semiautomatics, military guns, and inexpensive guns. The SKS is all of the above, and their popularity among the working class alarmed those who prefer an unarmed populace. Through their minion, Bill Clinton, a trade agreement was reached that banned import of guns and ammo from China. The BATF also ruled that bayonets on Chinese SKSs were verboten – if you have one on your Chinese SKS it needs to be removed to be legal. They also banned 7.62x39mm ‘Armor Piercing' (steel core) ammo. Nevertheless, imported surplus Russian SKSs and ammo took up the slack for a while, albeit at a higher cost. Next, Clinton signed a similar agreement with Russia and ended the import of those SKSs. Hollow and soft point and FMJ (from certain countries) ammo still continues to be allowed in, but there will be no more SKSs from China or Russia for the foreseeable future. Fortunately for us, surplus 1957 to 1960 vintage Romanian SKS's have been imported as of late, followed by the current surplus Yugoslavian Model 59/66 SKS's with the grenade launcher, giving Americans another chance to own one of these rifles. In addition, some of the rather different Albanian version have recently been imported. Though a bit crude, these are especially interesting to collectors.

Another alarming trend is for the news media to refer incorrectly to SKSs as "assault rifles" in an attempt to stir up fear in the non-gun-owning masses, so popular opinion will be in favor of their newest gun banning scheme. The SKS is no more of an assault rifle than Winchester's Model 100 autoloading deer rifle of the sixties, or your grandpa's Remington Model 8 autoloader of the roaring twenties. A true assault rifle has to meet all of the following criteria:
1) Weapon must be a carbine, for handiness.
2) Weapon must be selective fire in order to replace the submachine gun.
3) Weapon must fire from a locked breech.
4) Weapon must utilize an intermediate-powered cartridge. That is, a cartridge powered somewhere between the full-powered rifle cartridge and the low-powered pistol cartridge used by the SMG.
5) Weapon must utilize a large capacity, detachable box magazine. This allows the high volume of fire critical to the "storm gun" concept.
SKSs fall short in two of the above categories. The only true assault rifles in civilian hands are owned by FBI-approved Class III license holders, and dealers of legal automatic weapons. If the SKS had been a true assault rifle, the AK-47 might have never been adopted.


Gas-operated, the SKS overall is rather heavy for the cartridge it fires, and a bit cumbersome in design. It has a mechanism copied from the PTRS antitank rifle. A pressure cylinder sits above the barrel, and the bolt is locked into place by a tipping motion. The bolt has a slot for stripper clips. Reloading of the 10-round magazine can be accomplished very quickly using this method. The bolt locks back after the last shot. Operation is by gas tapped from the barrel and delivered via a tube mounted above the barrel to a piston-arrangement which shoves the tilting bolt backwards to cock the hammer and extract any empty in the chamber. A spring shoves the bolt forward when enough gas pressure has been bled off and the bolt picks up another round from the magazine and chambers it. All versions, except the Yugoslavian 59/66, have a chromed bore, which aids longevity and makes it easier to clean. This is due to the fact that, until recently, most com-bloc countries used corrosively-primed ammo. Because of the chromed bore you do not need to oil the bore to prevent rust in storage. The safety is fairly easy to use for right-handers, being a rotating lever near the trigger. Field-stripping is easily accomplished with no more tools than a pointed bullet, therefore providing easy maintenance.

The hinged bayonet, one-piece wooden stock, over-the-barrel gas tube, protruding slanted magazine, and square-backed receiver are also prominent features of the weapon. These give it a utilitarian, rather than a pretty look. As mentioned, loading can be done by stripper clips, or by pushing single rounds into the magazine. Unloading can be quickly done by releasing the pivoting magazine cover, swinging it away from the receiver and spilling out the rounds. Most (or standard) versions have a 10-round non-detachable magazine with a hinged floorplate.

There has been some controversy over the design of the SKS Carbine's magazine. Many feel the design was flawed because the magazine was not detachable. In fact, there are three reasons for designing a non-detachable magazine for the SKS. First, the Carbine was designed to be used by soldiers who for the most part had little or no technical education, and under high stress battle conditions. The loss of a magazine in such situations would have rendered the weapon next to useless. Secondly, the cost to manufacture detachable magazines far outweigh the cost to manufacture the SKS magazine assembly plus stripper clips. Third, the weight of a loaded stripper clip is far less than that of a loaded magazine, and so the soldier's burden is lessened. With practice, anyone can load ten rounds into the SKS's magazine as quickly as they can change magazines. Twenty round extended non-detachable magazines are also available, although feeding reliability is often a problem with these.

The short Chinese "Sporter" type uses the detachable 30 round Kalashnikov magazine. This version was developed with input from U.S. importers. Many aftermarket companies like USA Magazines make 30 round magazine that replace the stock 10 round mag and can be used in a detachable set-up. Feeding reliability may not be as good as the stock magazine, although this varies from magazine to magazine and may be remedied by a little file and feed lip work. These high-capacity magazines are the most popular aftermarket addition with most SKS owners. Aftermarket SKS detachable magazines are widely sold at retail stores, at gun shows, and via Internet web sites. However, many people are surprised when they learn that actually using one can often be a violation of Federal firearms law - It pays to check first on the legality of any modification, and buy later!!!. Check the "Survivors" SKS FAC link at the end of this post for in depth legal issues.

Because many of the small parts of the Chinese rifles are manufactured by small contractors, Chinese guns show a wider variety of finishes, with some parts, including the receivers, seen in both milled and the rarer 1963 stamped steel variations. The Chinese also developed a pinned-in barrel type to replace the screwed-in Russian style, used from 1967 on.

In summary, the SKS is a fairly simple traditional, some say uninspired, design, but the Soviets knew the need for simple, proven technology and robust design, and were under the stress of war at the time of its development. All in all, the Simonov has a reputation for being extremely tough and reliable under the worst combat conditions. It was designed and manufactured for use by conscript peasant soldiers who had a minimum of technical skills and training. As a result, it is not only very rugged, but simple to operate and repair, usually with common hand tools.

Don't be fooled by its utilitarian nature; with proper care, the SKS can give its owner more than a lifetime of service and still be capable of being passed on to several more generations of shooters to boot. The SKS-45 may not be a pretty gun, but it is built to last, not for decades but centuries.


Let's examine the different types and variations of the SKS 45 that we see here in the U.S. There are really only five countries of manufacture to consider at this time. As mentioned, they are China, Russia, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Albanian.

First, a look at the receiver and barrel. All Russian, Romanian, and Yugoslavian SKS's have a milled receiver/trigger guard and a barrel that is threaded into the receiver. Chinese SKS's made before 1967 also are milled/threaded. Later Chinese models will have a pinned-in barrel, and stamped trigger group, and a few even have a stamped receiver. The milled/threaded models are generally considered slightly more desirable as collectors, although both are equal in shooting ability and longevity. The stamped sheet metal receiver (1963 only?) is very rare and merits collector status. The Chinese are the only ones to convert some SKSs to a short version for the U.S. market, the "Paratrooper" with a 16.5" barrel instead of the standard 20.5" number.

The serial number of the SKS Carbine is stamped on the left outside of the receiver, opposite the ejection port on Russian, Romanian, and Chinese military SKS Carbines. The serial number is stamped on the left side, below the receiver cover on Chinese civilian production. Various inspection markings are usually stamped ahead of the serial number on the bridge, but may also be found behind the serial number. The right side of the receiver is usually unmarked. Yugoslavian SKSs typically have a six-digit serial number with no known numbering system. Most of the factory and attendant info was destroyed in the recent bombing campaign against Serbia. Albanian SKSs have the year of production incorporated into the serial number.
Russia: 2 Cyrillic characters followed by four numerals. AP1234
Romania: Two letters followed by four numerals followed by date GN1234-1959
China (varies): Typically 7-8 numerals. 12345678
Yugoslavia: 6 numerals 123456

Chinese military production receivers are marked with the producing factory symbol or other identification on the left side behind the serial number. The receiver cover of military-issue SKS's will have the serial number stamped on the back of the cover.

Chinese civilian production SKS Carbine receivers intended for sale in the United States are stamped with the model name, number, caliber, manufacturer and importers name and address. There usually is no number on the back of the receiver cover. Often they have "M21" stamped on the receiver. Chinese rifles after serial number circa 9,000,000 use a spike instead of blade bayonet. Production began in 1956 and first year serial numbers do not include the year designation as it was "0". Each following year, the designator was increased by 1. In 1957 then, the first year designator is "1," 1958 is "2," 1959 is "3," 1961 is "5," 1966 is "10," 1982 is "26," etc. The first one or two digits are the year designator, followed by a six digit serial number, i.e. s/n 4001376 is the 1,376 carbine manufactured in 1960.

As mentioned, Chinese carbines normally have an arsenal mark or factory code stamped on the left side of the receiver, such as a stylized 26 in a triangle, for example. There are upwards of 36 of these codes.

The Chinese characters by the serial number basically translate: "Type 56 Carbine" as illustrated:

As previously mentioned, if the SKS has a short 16.5" barrel, it is of Chinese origin. The importer usually referred to these as the "Paratrooper" model.  This is another unique, Chinese-only version of the SKS that were made by cutting the barrels of standard SKSs down to 16.5 inches.  Often a unique short bayonet accompanied these short guns.  They were made for, and at the behest of, U.S. importers and were never used by the Chinese military.

In addition, the Chinese are the only ones to make an SKS that takes the AK-47 high-capacity magazines. Imported to this country it was usually stamped "Sporter" or sometimes "Cowboy's Companion" (Navy Arms.) This version is also distinguished by having the bayonet lug ground off to make it legal. It usually has the short 16.5" barrel, although some 20.5" bbl. versions were made. It is usually referred to as an SKS - M or D or "Sporter" model. D, of course, stands for "detachable magazine".

Threaded barrels look like this:

While the unique to Chinese SKSs only pinned barrels look like this:

There is NO functional difference between the two types. However, the pinned version is easier to manufacture.

Romanian SKS's are all military issue and have the serial number below the ejection port, left side. Romanian SKS's will have the serial number and a dash, then the year of manufacture. After that will come the "Arrow with no fletchings in a triangle" symbol of Romanian origin (although copying the Russian Tula symbol.)

The receiver cover will have the serial number stamped on it's back. The necessary import information will be engraved or stamped on the barrel in the bayonet lug area on the right side. Romanian rifles use a blade bayonet. They are very similar to Russian carbines.

Russian guns, being the first in production, set the standard with the serial number under the ejection port, left side. The serial number is also repeated on the back of the receiver cover. In addition, Russian SKS's are stamped with the symbol of the manufacturer and the date on top of the receiver cover. There were two manufacturers; Tula, and Izhevsk arsenals. Tula's are the most common. The symbol for Tula is a "Arrow with fletchings in a star" [on left]; while the rarer Izhevsk is the "Arrow with fletchings in triangle in circle" [on the right.]

Russian SKS's use a blade bayonet. One will commonly see a square with a diagonal line through it on the receiver cover. This means the weapon has been overhauled or rearsenaled. Laminted wood stocks were a normal refurb item also.

Yugoslavian M59/66 SKSs are easy to spot and a bit different in that they incorporate a cylindrical grenade launcher permanently attached to the muzzle, a gas cutoff switch on the right side of the gas valve, and a "ladder-type" grenade sight mounted behind the front sight [pictured below].

Top View.
There is a night sight on the rear sight leaf and pivoted behind the front sight. These additions make it the heaviest SKS version, but easily recognized. These grenade launcher modifications came about around 1966; hence the '/66' designation. Before that time the Yugoslavian M59 was basically the same as a Russian or Romanian SKS in configuration. One slight drawback to the M59/66 is the lack of a chrome-lined bore. Mil-surp versions usually show some pitting and corrosion in the barrel from shooting corrosive ammo, varying from mild to severe, depending on care and storage of the individual rifle. Still, most owners report accuracy that is on par with all SKS types in general.  The technology for producing chrome and nickel existed in Slovenia’s steel mills (one of the former Yugo republics, now an independent state) in 1950.  But the technology of actually applying hard chrome in barrels, began after 1970 in Kragujevac factory.
First chrome barrels were produced in M70 automatic rifles ( Yugo Kalashnikovs), and Yugo automatic pistols Skorpion 7.62 mm M84 (version of Czech scorpion M61).  So, in short, Yugo had/has plenty of chrome, the know how just came late, after 1970.  It has nothing to do with Russians, cost prohibitive, or else according to Branko Bogdanovic, the Kragujevac factory historian.
The only other issue some 59/66 owners have is leakage of the gas shut-off valve. In general, most Yugoslavian owners are happy with their carbines and the M59, in particular, has some future collector value.

Albanian SKSs have an unusual elongated forend and a cocking handle similar to the AK-47 rather than the usual knob type. In addition, they have two holes/trapdoors in the buttplate rather than the usual one. Many feel that the machine work and general finish tends to be noticibly cruder than SKSs from other countries of origin. They also take a Chinese-style spike bayonet rather than the usual European blade type.

In general, sling swivel placement on the stock and bayonet type (blade or spike) mark most of the differences between the SKSs of different countries. The Yugoslavian 59/66 and Albanian SKSs vary the most from the Russian "standard". Some Russian versions sport a laminated wooden (replacement) stock, and the Chinese made a reddish-color fiberglass "Jungle Stock" for use in humid south-east Asia.

Arsenal markings for SKSs not currently imported except as a wartime "bring back" are:
North Vietnam:
North Korean:
East German:


Caliber: 7.62x39mm Russian (M43).
Barrel Length: 20.47" for standard model / 16.5" for "Paratrooper" version.
Weight: 8.5 lbs. for standard model / 7 lbs. for "Paratrooper" version. / 9.2 lbs. for the Yugoslav 59/66.
*Overall Length: 40.2" for standard model / 36.2" for "Paratrooper" version. / 44.1" for the Yugoslav 59/66.
Magazine Capacity: 10 rounds standard / 30 for Sporter D version.
(*without bayonet extended)


The SKS was designed around a new Russian cartridge – the 7.62x39mm M-43 cartridge. It was developed by B.V. Semin and N.M. Elizarov and adopted in 1943 (with no rifle to fire it in), and was inspired by a German-developed assault rifle cartridge called the 7.92x33mm Kurz. The German round fired a 125-grain bullet at 2250 fps and saw action against allied troops during World War II in the StG44 Sturmgewehr assault rifle, the world's first true assault rifle. Military arms designers were quick to notice that most effective rifle fire was within 300 meters and that the heavy, long, full-powered (30-06, .303 British, 8x57 Mauser, 7.62x54 Russian) rifles and cartridges were unnecessarily powerful. Yet, they wanted something more effective than the handy 9mm submachine guns. The medium-powered 7.62x39 could deliver effective fire to a maximum range of 300 meters, the ammunition was lighter, thus an infantry soldier could carry more rounds, and the semi-auto (and later full-auto) carbines designed around it were shorter, lighter, and handier in house-to-house fighting, use in and out of armored vehicles, and more controllable in the full-auto mode. Being short and rimless, it was more adaptable to semi and full-automatic designs than the rimmed 7.62x54mmR which had given less than desired reliability in various semi-auto designs already in use.

Original Russian 7.62x39mm specifications called for a 25-grain powder charge propelling a 122-grain .311-inch bullet from a 20.47-inch barrel at 2410 fps. Maximum overall case and cartridge lengths were specified as 1.52 and 2.20 inches.


The standard bullet diameter is .311" (as opposed to the U.S. standard .308"). However, .308" diameter bullets can be used, although they may (or may not), have a deleterious effect on accuracy.

The 7.62x39mm is an in-between cartridge, similar to the 30-30 Winchester. It is best limited to varmints (two and four legged), and deer up to 150 yards or so. Only soft point (or hollow-point) expanding bullets are legal, or desirable for hunting deer.

Imported military and surplus ammo normally uses a steel case that is brass plated or lacquered to protect it from rust, with Berdan primers normally being used. These cases are non-reloadable. This ammo is usually loaded with FMJ boattail bullets of between 122 and 124-grains of weight. Russian "sporting" ammo is either hollow-point, or soft point. Effectiveness of either of these bullets on deer is unknown. M43 ammo from Com-bloc countries occasionally suffers from poor quality control; thus, accuracy may be iffy. Cheetah brand ammo from Zimbabwe, and South African 7.62x39mm, among others, would be your best choice in order to maximize accuracy from your SKS-45, although these two suffer from off and on again importation due to troublesome government red tape.  Some report great accuracy from various Russian brand ammo, while most find it only has mediocre accuracy. Russian commercial brands include Wolf, Silver Bear, Brown Bear, and Barnaul.
Below is a picture of sectioned 7.62x39mm rounds.  As you can see there is a difference in bullet construction and powder types in the various Russian offerings:

SKSs do not have spring-loaded firing pins. They (except for a few early Russians) use a free-floating firing pin. While dry firing an SKS on occasion will not cause damage, sustained or repeated extensive dry firing is not recommended. If commercial or reloaded ammunition - usually with primers more sensitive than mil-spec because of a thinner cup and, sometimes, a difference in the primer mixture - is fired in rifles of this type, the free-floating firing pin can, and eventually will, result in a slam-fire ignition out of battery. The resulting detonation can lead to self-destruction of the firearm and anatomical damage of varying severity to the shooter. CCI makes a #34 mil-spec primer especially for reloading the 7.62x39mm and other military calibers.  See MODIFICATION section below for another way to deal with this issue.

In my chronographing, Russian HP ammo gave anywhere from 2390 to 2440 fps from a 20.5" barrel and 2345 to 2370 fps from a 16.5" barrel. Cheetah went from 2355 (16.5") to 2400 fps. (20.5") These velocities are basically up to M43 specification of 2410.

Let's examine the wound ballistics of the M-43 round. According to expert Peter G. Kokalis, actual military 7.62x39mm ball ammunition is found in two configurations.  Most prevalent is the 123-grain boattail bullet, which usually consists of a copper-washed steel jacket, lead and antimony sleeve, and a lead or mild steel core. (Soviet Type PS).  Several countries use a flat-based bullet of approximately the same weight with a copper-alloy jacket and lead core.  Serbian M67 ball ammunition, among others, would be typical of this type.  Muzzle velocity of both types is between 2330 and 2400 fps.

In the Russian PS boattail FMJ configuration, the 7.62x39mm bullet travels point-forward about 10 inches in soft tissue before significant yaw occurs. At that point the bullet will yaw to less than 90 degrees, then come back down to a point-forward position, and finally yaw 180 degrees, ending its travel in a base forward position. On abdominal shots, there generally is not a great deal of tissue disruption because the bullet usually passes through before yawing (where it starts to do major damage). This is mediocre performance that usually exhibit no greater tissue disruption than that produced by a .38 Special pistol bullet since, after 10 inches of travel without yawing, the bullet has generally passed through the abdominal cavity.  Of course this round is capable of inflicting such damage at far greater ranges than a handgun.  The lead-cored, flat-base bullet type is considerably more effective.  It commences its yaw cycle after only 3 to 4 inches of penetration.  This bullet reaches its maximum penetration of 23 to 26 inches traveling base-forward, somewhat flattened and retaining almost all of its original weight (two or three fragments are shed in the area of maximum cavitation).

Although the flat-based 7.62x39mm bullet is shorter (.930”) than the more common boattail projectile (1.040”), it will be expected to cause more damage to abdomen, liver spleen or pancreas because the bullet passes through these organs at a large yaw angle.

Remember, if we have neither mushrooming nor fragmentation, yawing is all that remains to maximize tissue disruption and enhance the bullet’s performance—always provided we do not sacrifice adequate penetration.
Russian sporting-type hollow-point, and any soft-point ammunition, will expand shortly after impact and do far more damage in living tissue, making it at least on par with the flat-base ammo although penetration would likely be somewhat less.


Simonov rifles are very easy to strip and maintain; a shooter can strip a Simonov down to its basic components without special tools; in theory, just a bullet tip and bare hands. In practice, a drift punch and rubber mallet are often a big help in releasing tight trigger group latches and re-latching the trigger group following reassembly. The gas tube and piston are as easy to clean as the bore. This ease of cleaning pays off in a more reliable rifle as well as one that lasts longer than those which are used with dirt and grit in them because field stripping is a chore the user foregoes whenever possible.

Field stripping and cleaning require only a cleaning kit which is occasionally supplied with the gun and is normally stored inside the trap door in the butt of the stock. The cleaning rod, if provided, is located under the barrel.

The following procedure should be used to field strip the rifle for cleaning:
1) Empty the magazine and cycle the action to check that both the magazine and the chamber are empty. The follower is then depressed to close the bolt. Place the safety on "safe" (up) position.
2) To remove the cover and bolt carrier assembly, the takedown latch on the right rear of the receiver must be wriggled out, moving in from left to right; this will allow the cover to be slid off the rear of the receiver. The recoil spring and its guide can then be pulled from the rear of the receiver along with the bolt carrier and bolt, giving access to the barrel and bolt carrier/bolt for most cleaning chores.
3) To remove the trigger group, the safety must be pushed forward and up (on safe). Then the small indent at the rear of the trigger guard can be depressed with a tool (punch) to free the trigger group. This also is a step used if you are replacing the magazine with one of the high capacity ones.
4) Releasing the trigger group will also free the barrel and receiver which can be removed from the stock.
5) The gas piston assembly can be freed by rotating the lever (at the left of the rear sight) upward and lifting on the upper handguard; care should be taken as the gas piston extension and its spring are under pressure in the space under the rear sight; they can go shooting out unexpectedly if not restrained. The handguard, gas tube, and piston can be removed by lifting them upward and pulling them free of the barrel. The piston can be removed from the front of the cylinder inside the upper handguard.
6) The bolt assembly is best left together. However the firing pin can be removed by drifting its pin out (from left to right); this also frees the extractor and its spring so care must be taken not to lose them since the spring is under pressure.
7) The recoil spring and its guide can be disassembled by retracting the spring backward and then pulling the spring retainer off the rod and freeing it. This
will allow the spring to be eased forward and freed.

Reassembly is basically the reverse of the above. Sometimes getting the gas piston extension and its spring back into the space under the rear sight is a headache. However, if a little care is taken, the two can be trapped with the release lever and then the handguard, gas tube, and piston carefully positioned to hold the two troublesome parts as the parts are reassembled while the release lever is locked.

Great care is needed if the firing pin has been removed; it can be inserted into the bolt upside down during reassembly. When properly reassembled, a small milled section in the pin will allow the cross pin retaining it to be easily pushed through the hole in the bolt; if the pin is upside down, forcing the cross pin through the hole will bend the firing pin and lock it in place. The rifle can then be reassembled, creating a dangerous situation since a slam fire will occur when a round is chambered, perhaps leading to uncontrolled automatic fire if more cartridges are in the magazine.

If one of the after-market 30-round magazines is to be used (USA brand recommended), the front of the magazine extension will go into the machined slot where the 10-round magazine was seated. Then the rear catch will be locked in place under the spring loaded magazine latch. To remove an empty magazine, pull the charging handle to the rear. The bolt will lock open on an empty magazine. Depress the magazine latch toward the trigger-guard and pivot the magazine out of the rifle. The bolt must be in the locked open position to remove or install the magazine.
When cleaning the rifle, care should be taken with the gas piston; the magazine and trigger group should be checked for debris. Clean the barrel carefully, and from the breech end if possible, try to avoid rubbing the cleaning rod against the bore. Use a muzzle guide if possible when cleaning from that end. Steel rods are preferable, but pull-through string cleaning rods will also work well. The SKS's bolt should also be cleaned, with special attention paid to the various crevices of its face. The firing pin and its hole in the bolt as well as the extractor are key parts to clean thoroughly.

Good cleaning fluids and lubricants abound. If you need to minimize gear, Break-Free CLP is possibly the best combination lubricant and cleaner available. It was created for the U.S. military rifles and can be used over a wide temperature range.

One important practice when using Break-Free CLP is to let the rifle sit for half an hour or so after cleaning since it takes a while for the lubricants to set up and offer their full field protection.

If you are shooting corrosively primed ammo, you will have to clean the bore throughly after every shoot. Shooter's Choice Bore Cleaner and surplus U.S. military bore cleaner are good choices for removing the corrosive elements left in the bore after corrosive ammo has been used. Caution should be used after shooting even non-corrosive marked Chinese ammo, it may be somewhat corrosive despite the label. Check the label on all foreign ammo, especially if it is really cheap, or better yet, avoid the noxious stuff!

Sometimes a dry lubricant is preferable to oils which can congeal in cold weather or collect dust and grit in dirty environments. Remington's Rem DriLube is an excellent example of this breed.

Whatever type of lubricant you choose, use it sparingly, since too much will collect dirt over time. The gas tube should be treated gently since a ding or even deep scratches can cause problems. Experts disagree as to whether the gas tube and piston should be lubricated. But to be safe, NO oil should be used in the gas tube since many oils can create scale in the tube when it becomes hot. When the piston is chromed, there is no reason to use a lubricant since the metal tends to be self-lubricating.

Check the rifle's bore after cleaning to be sure it's clear of patch threads and oil. Avoid getting cleaning fluids or oil on wooden stocks. If wooden stocks need to be treated, linseed oil is generally the material of choice.

Touch-up blue can be used to re-blue and darken the metal again. Oil on these spots tends to attract dirt. On blued or parkerized rifles, a light coating of oil or rust preventive, such as Shooter's Choice Rust Prevent, may be necessary to prevent rust.

Too much oil on internal parts can create problems; a thick coat of fluid doesn't actually improve lubricating properties and may actually cause excessive wear if grit becomes trapped in it.

Because oil can quickly deactivate ammunition and since chromed metal can't corrode or rust, rifles with chromed chambers and bores can be left dry without any lubrication inside the bore after they've been cleaned.

Obviously the cartridges and the magazine should be kept free from oil, and not handled with oily hands to prevent deactivation of the primers.

The barrel life of any rifle (including SKSs) will be greatly shortened if long strings of shots are fired without letting the barrel cool.


While the SKS is basically fine, as is, some may want to correct a couple of minor issues that the as-issued SKS has.
The first issue is that the SKS, like a lot of military semiautomatics, has a free-floating firing pin.  This can occasionally cause a slamfire depending on ammunition/primer used, and is also susceptable to sticking on occasion if care is not taken to keep things clean.  Murray's Gunsmithing has a spring-loaded firing pin that will replace the factory issue and should eliminate any problems.  See: on this forum or his site for further information on this and his other SKS-related goods.

The second issue is that many feel the standard SKS trigger is a bit hard, mushy, and often not very smooth.  A better trigger usually can aid a shooter in putting rounds on target.  You can get a serious improvement in the trigger by have someone who knows the rather unique SKS do some gunsmithing on yours.  SKSboards has had very good results from member Kivaari and he would be a recommended for a good SKS trigger job.  Kivaari: on this forum or at or email at:

"Survivors" SKS FAQ by L.E. Schwartz:
Yooper John's Gun Information - SKS Go to "GUNS" then "SKS".


Steve Kehaya & Joe Poyer: THE SKS CARBINE (CKC45g).
Peter Kokalis: FIGHTING FIREARMS magazine.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2009, 04:25:29 PM by Frisco Pete »
If there are guns in the room - one of them had better belong to you!


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« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2006, 02:28:41 PM »
Did you know Simonov helped Kalashnikov work on the AK-47 design? Heard it from him on the History channel's Tales of the gun: The AK-47.
You go for a man hard enough and fast enough, he don't have time to think about how many's with him; he thinks about himself, and how he might get clear of that wrath that's about to set down on him.

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« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2006, 05:45:30 AM »
I forget where I heard this but I heard that Stalin was the one that insisted on the non-detachable mag because of the previously mentioned advantages.  Otherwise Simonov would have used a detachable.
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« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2006, 03:26:00 PM »
The Chinese also made a selectfire version that used AK magazines. I wish some were imported before 1986, oh well.
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« Reply #4 on: December 25, 2006, 03:30:17 PM »
Some of the links do not seem to be working.  Check out my SKS section by going to then to guns and SKS!  You will enjoy them :lol:


visit my SKS site at

visit my SKS section

Frisco Pete

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« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2007, 09:53:10 PM »
Thanks for the heads up YooperJ.  I re-did the link to what you posted above and it seems to work now.
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« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2007, 01:41:29 PM »
which countries made paratrooper models was it a china only thing ????
im not too big on them so i wouldnt know
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« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2007, 03:00:31 PM »
Good reading! I love it!


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« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2007, 08:32:53 PM »
Great informarion. Thanks!

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« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2007, 07:20:46 PM »
which countries made paratrooper models was it a china only thing ?
It was made in China only at the request of U.S. importers.  Originally a couple of importers, like Navy Arms and others, had the SKS cut down here but worked out a deal with Norinco for them to make the mods over there (at less expense per gun).
It is one of the most interesting and handy SKS versions.
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Re: SKS: HISTORY & INFO + additional links
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2009, 05:57:50 PM »
Absolutely excellent write up.  Extremely informative for someone just getting into the SKS gig.  Hats of to you  =D>, as many of the questions i previously had (prior to reading this) are much more clearer now. Again, thanks.  I now know what to look for on various rifles of different origins.


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Re: SKS: HISTORY & INFO + additional links
« Reply #11 on: February 05, 2009, 01:32:41 PM »
That was a very interesting read for a newbie like myself.  I'm printing off the section about how to know where the guns are from b/c im headed to a couple area pawn shops this weekend.  Thanks


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Re: SKS: HISTORY & INFO + additional links
« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2009, 07:42:24 PM »
I was reading a book in Russian that had some history of the 7.62x39 cartridge and the SKS. The original cartridge was designed to have 20% less powder capacity than 7.62x54R. The original cartridge had a case neck with a case length of 41.0mm. The final bullet design was too pointy to meet the original cartridge length limit of 56.0mm. To keep the cartridge at 56.0mm the case was shortened to 38.7mm, called "39mm". The bullet had to retain enough velocity to penetrate a steel helmet at 1000 meters.

The Soviets found that high chamber pressures required greater attention to cartridge case thickness and hardness resulting in a high rejection rate and slow production. Because of this a fairly low chamber pressure was desired. The Soviets couldn't obtain the desired muzzle velocity at the desired chamber pressure until they copied Winchester spherical ball powder technology in 1949.

The original general issue rifle was the SKS with the RPD as the standard belt fed machine gun. Both have 520mm barrels. The AK-47 was  at first considered a special issue sub machine gun that used the same ammunition. In 1953 it was decided to make the AK-47 the standard issue rifle. This resulted lower velocities with the AK-47's shorter barrel. The Soviets weren't satisfied with the wound effect and accuracy of the first design 7.62x39. The change to the AK-47 was started in 1955.

The 7.62x39 cartridge was redesigned in 1960 with a new design steel core boat tail bullet at a slightly higher muzzle velocity but the bullet design has more drag than the first design and loses more velocity at distance than the first design ammunition. Before 1960 the Soviets used copper washed steel cases copied from WWII German technology but the Soviets found that the chemicals in the process were too toxic and went to enameled cases in 1960.

The military ball ammunition is made in steel core boat tail, lead core boat and lead core flat base. The lead core boat tail uses the same 1.040" long jacket as the steel core boat tail but has a larger air gap as lead is more dense than steel. The standard Romanian, Bulgarian and Chinese flat base lead core bullet is about .915" long and has more drag than the boat tail bullet. The Yugoslavian M67 flat base bullet is about .925" to .930" long and has more drag than the other flat base bullets. The Yugoslavian issied ammunition is loaded to a higher chamber pressure but has only a slightly higher muzzle velocity. Yugoslavia used an extruded powder and developed a slightly slower version of the powder for standard pressure "export" ammunition. Yugoslavia also made a copy of the Soviet ball powder used in their steel core M59 ammunition. Yugoslavia chose to go with brass cases. Finland makes a lead core bullet with no air gap. This bullet is about .845" to .850" in length and is the basis for most US-made FMJ bullets.

The Chinese flat base lead core ammunition sounds "louder" than Chinese steel core boat tail ammunition. It seems "hotter" but this may be a result of the increase in sound or it may be loaded slightly hotter.

The original first design ammunition was rated at 710 m/s from an AK-47 and 735 m/s from the SKS and RPD. The second design ammunition was rated at 715 m/s from the AKM and 745 m/s from the RPK. The current design is rated at 718 m/s from an AKM in both Russia and Poland and 725 m/s in Romania and Bulgaria. The Yugoslavian M67 is rated at 720 m/s from AK. The Yugoslavian standard pressure "export" ammunition is rated at 733 m/s from the Yugoslavian M72 RPK with a 542mm long barrel. The Chinese steel core seems to match the first design ammunition but is loaded with extruded powder. The flat base Chinese ammunition sounds and seems hotter.