There are those that live in “denied” areas that don’t legally have the choice of getting a detachable box magazine fed firearm like an AK, AR, M1a, HK, CETME, et al. Also – there are those that wish to have a “lower profile” longarm that doesn’t have a large magazine protruding out the bottom, nor a pistol grip – but rather a longarm that is wood and steel. Then there are those that for a variety of reasons don't really want a detachable box magazine fed firearm, but rather like the simplicity of clip fed rifles. For these people the choice usually comes down to two firearms. The SKS and the M1 Garand. Both these firearms have BTDT many times and have proven themselves in battle. That cannot be said of any other semi-auto that doesn’t take a detachable box magazine.
Lets compare the "venerable" M1 Garand to the "lowly" SKS. I say this because anyone who has actually held and fired a M1 Garand, knowing its history, recalling the movies we have seen, the books we have read, the heft of a Garand is a thing to remember. I mean, “come on!” – we won dubbaya-dubbaya-two with this rifle! We conquered Germany and Japan with John C’s invention. Conversely – the SKS lacks any “good guy” history at all – in fact – our ENEMIES carried/carry the SKS!
However - anytime we wish to do an accurate comparison - we must leave our emotions at the door and look only at the facts. It is a fact that I have sent many hundreds of rounds down range threw both rifle types – and feel somewhat qualified to offer a factual comparison of what both rifles can do when viewed from a “fighting” perspective. In a spirit of full disclosure I have fired neither rifle in a combat. Although I have trained men to utilize various longarms including both the SKS and M1 Garand.
When doing a comparison of this nature (fighting longarms) must recognize that there are three components that make-up a fighting firearm system. The first is the cartridge the longarm fires, the second is the longarm itself – and the third the way the longarm and the person firing it “fit together”.
So lets look at a comparison of the cartridges and we will start with external ballistics, i.e. what the bullet does when it leaves the muzzle.
The M1 fires a 150 grain .308 caliber bullet traveling at ~2700 feet per second when it leaves the muzzle. When sighted in with a 200 yd zero total drop at 300 yds is 13 inches. Past 300 yds and you need to adjust the sights to compensate for bullet drop.
The SKS fires a 124 grain .311 caliber bullet traveling at ~2400 feet per second when it leaves the muzzle. When sighted in with a 200 yd zero total drop at 300 yds is 17 inches. Past 300 yds and you need to adjust the sights to compensate for bullet drop.
As one can see there is not a huge difference between the two – but a slight edge should be given to the M1 external ballistics.
Both projectiles will pass through vehicle doors and windows; will shoot through interior and exterior walls, bricks and cinder blocks, etc. Since the M1’s projectile is heavier and has slightly more velocity it does have a slight advantage when hitting things other than bad guys.
So now lets look at terminal ballistics – how bullets perform when they hit flesh.
Here is the average wound channel of the M1 Garand M2 ball round (actually it is the nearly identical .308 M80 ball round – which was made to duplicate the M2 ball round.) It is the third one down from the top. The scale at the bottom is in centimeters, with 20 being the average chest from front to back, and the 30 being the average chest from side to side.
Here is the SKS M43 wound channel – it is the second from the bottom:
Note that with either bullet - until the bullet travels nearly 20 centimeters it leaves only a .30 caliber hole. In other words – both are about equal when it comes to stopping fights.
Now lets look at the individual rifles themselves.
We will again start with the Garand. It weighs in at ~9.75 lbs, give or take .5 pounds. It is just shy of 44 inches long. The SKS is ~8.5 lbs (a bit heavier if using the Yugo variant with the integral grenade launcher) and is just over 40 inches long. In other words – the SKS is lighter (by about 1 ¼ lbs) and shorter (by almost 4 inches). The length and weight difference will be discussed more in the “rifle + shooter” section below, but suffice it to say for now that the SKS has the edge here.
For a detailed look at each rifle we will start at the muzzle and work back to the buttstock. The M1 front sight is protected by a set of “ears” and the SKS front sight is protected by a “ring”. Both are well enough protected. The M1 front sight is flat, while the SKS front sight is round. On the target range the M1 will produce a finer sight picture, but on a two way range – one will never notice a difference. In other words – a tie here.
On the SKS – the front sight is moved to establish Battle Sight Zero – then elevation is adjusted with the rear sight to shoot beyond 300 meters. Moving the front sight can be a pain as there are no “clicks” to check movement – but once zeroed – you are good to go.
The SKS has a folding bayonet. The M1 has a bayonet lug. Take the bayonet off the SKS. Tie here.
Both rifles have wooden stocks. Tie here.
Rear sights. The M1 has an excellent aperture rear sight that is adjustable for windage and elevation. The SKS rear sight is a notch type that is adjustable for elevation only once zero has been set with the front sight.
The M1 has a sight radius of 28 inches while the SKS has a sight radius of 18 inches. The M1 is MUCH easier to establish zero and is the clear winner when it comes to sight design. (The addition of the TechSight http://www.tech-sights.com/sks.htm
will take the SKS sights to the next level – as it is a aperture rear sight that also brings the sight radius to 28 inches – same as the Garand.)
With regards to the trigger pull – the Garand has a pull weight of around 6 pounds – and is the opposite of the SKS. The SKS is around 7 pounds with has a LONG pull that feels like dragging a brick over rubble. (Anyone that has an HK longarm will feel at home with the SKS…..) The Garand definitely takes the “trigger” competition.
Safety – the Garand’s safety is in the trigger guard and it pushed towards the muzzle with the trigger finger. The SKS’s safety is on the right side of the trigger guard and is rotated down to go to the fire position. Some SKS’s have a safety lever on both sides – and in this configuration – the SKS is the clear winner – but most SKS’s have the safety on the right side. Even though the SKS is VERY ergonomic – the fact that the Garand’s is “ambidextrous” pushes it into the winner category here.
Length of pull – the Garand has a length of pull of 13” with the SKS coming in with a 12.5” length of pull. Tie here.
Buttplate – both have a steel butt plate that also contains the cleaning kit in the stock.
Both rifles are known to be both reliable and durable. This is established by the fact that rifles that survive years of combat must be both reliable and durable.
How does the M1 and SKS “fit the shooter”?
I find it interesting that both rifles share a similar manual of arms. Both are top fed (Garand via an “en bloc clip” and the SKS via a “stripper clip”), both have the bolt actuator on the right side, both bolts lock back after the last round is fired and neither can be “topped off” during a lull in the action without some serious dexterity.
Both rifles shoot about 4 MOA, both rifles shoot a .30 caliber projectile.
Most men that I approached on the subject of “feel” agree that the M1 “feels” better in the hands than the SKS. I happen to agree – but this is a personal thing, so it is a fact for the individual, not a common fact.
On the other hand, the lighter weight of the SKS makes it alot easier to carry for any distance/length of time. Then if one chose the "para" version of the SKS - it is even easier to carry due to its shorter overall length and even lighter wieght. Of course there are verions of a shorter Garand - nicknamed the "tanker" version - but these by and large suffer from reliability problems - where the shorter SKS doesn't.
If I were to count up the score, based upon the above facts, the M1 comes out the clear winner. Taken as a whole – it is my OPINION that the SKS will do everything about 85% as well as the M1. The only area where the SKS is the clear winner is in overall length and weight.
Well, not the ONLY area. The other area is Cost.
For most of us – we have responsibilities to provide for our families. You know, shelter, food, clothing, transportation, doctor’s fees, etc. So our discretionary income (what is left over from our responsibilities) is limited. (Note that satellite and cable TV, etc is not included in what we need to provide for our families.)
Currently (December 2008) a M1 through the CMP will run you between $500 and $600 dollars. On the open market a M1 will be in the $800 to $900 range – depending upon your local area.
A SKS will be somewhere in the $250 ~ $300 dollar range. .
Ammo tells a whole nuther story. The M1 Garand was made to work with a very specific set of parameters with regards to ammo. In other words – if you go to Wal-Mart and buy some .30-06 ammo that wasn’t designed to be shot through your M1, odds are you will damage your M1. Currently (December 2008) .30 ’06 ammo that is mil spec, designed to be shot through a M1 is approximately $0.75 per ROUND. That is right – seventy-five cents per trigger pull.
The SKS on the other hand shoots whatever 7.62x39 ammo you care stuff into it. And ammo right now (December 2008) is around $0.25 per round.
In other words – a M1 Garand plus 4,000 rounds of ammo (1k for training right now to get your skills up to par, 2k for future training, and 1k for a “rainy day”) will set you back the better part of four thousand dollars.
The SKS with the same amount of ammo will run you less than fifteen hundred.
By going the SKS route – you will have saved two thousand five hundred dollars.
Bottom line – you will get a rifle that has 85% of the capability of the Garand (while being shorter and lighter) for 38% of the cost.
So – which rifle is the real winner? That is for you to decide. (I have sold my Garands but not my SKS’s………but I still get a smile on my face when I handle or shoot a Garand!)