The factual information on this page is a modified and condensed version of what you can read on Wikipedia. (Click here for the link to the Wikipedia SKS article.) I have added my own slant on things, here and there. I am not an SKS "expert," but have owned three SKS carbines: one Yugoslavian model and two Chinese models. I really liked all three. I only have one Chinese SKS now, and wish I still had the other two. (I have not yet learned the lesson NOT to trade or sell guns, I'm afraid!) The photos on this page are chiefly of my three personal SKS carbines. However I did "borrow" a few that I found here and there on the internet. If I have used a photo that belongs to YOU, please let me know if you would like me to remove it, or to credit you with it on this page. No offense intended to anyone, for sure.
My first SKS, a "Yugo" from Yugoslavia. A pretty rifle, arsenal refinished to excellent condition.
These Yugos get stored in cosmoline for decades, but they don't rust. Clean-up can be challenging!
The SKS is a Soviet 7.62x39mm caliber semi-automatic carbine, designed in 1945 by Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov. SKS is an acronym for Samozaryadniy Karabin sistemi Simonova. Within a couple of years, the Russians phased the SKS carbine out of first-line service, replacing it with the AK-47, but it continued to be used by Communist armies around the world, and is still in use today. It was exported, copied and produced by many former USSR nations, as well as by China, where it was designated the "Type 56", East Germany as the "Karabiner S" and in North Korea as the "Type 63". There are also models from North Viet Nam. For the past twenty years it has been inexpensive and easy to obtain in the United States (from $150 to $250), and has been called the "poor man's deer rifle." Prices spiked after Obama's election in 2008, however prices have receded somewhat lately (late 2009). The original Russian model is particularly collectible.
This is the SKS I own now. It is a very nice Chinese (Norinco) model. It DOES have a very small crack.
Most versions are fitted with an integral folding bayonet which hinges down from the end of the barrel, and some versions, such as the Yugoslavian-made M59/66 variant, are equipped with a grenade launching attachment. As with the American M1 carbine, the SKS is shorter and less powerful than the semi-automatic rifles which preceded it.
The bayonet is obvious in this photo. Also, the cylindrical grenade launcher fitting, on the end of the barrel.
They Yugo SKS carbines feature this grenade launcher, and usually a large fold-down "ladder" sight for the grenade.
Unfortunately, there are not many grenades available, and it is illegal to own them, in most cases.
The SKS is a military carbine (a short rifle) and not an "evil assault rifle." It does not feature automatic fire (it is not a machine gun), and the SKS magazine is low capacity and non-removable. The SKS cartridge is of medium power--the equivalent to the popular Winchester 30/30 deer rifle round--much less powerful than the also common 30-06 deer round.
Photo of a typical box of ammo for the SKS.
This usually comes 20 rounds to a box,
and sells for about $6.00 per box.
As mentioned above, the SKS does not feature a removable high-capacity magazine, as does the AK-47. The basic design of the SKS is semi-automatic and fixed-magazine in nature. The carbine's ten-round box magazine may be fed from a stripper clip, or rounds inserted one at a time. Rounds stored in the magazine can be removed by depressing a magazine catch (thus opening the "floor" of the magazine and allowing the rounds to fall out) located forward of the trigger guard. Many people have tried modifying their SKS to accept high-capacity removable magazines, but in most cases this is not a reliable modification. It's better to stick with the original magazine.
Here is a close-up of the original 10-round magazine of the SKS of my Chinese Norinco model.
Here you can see that the SKS cartridge (2nd from the top) is not really very large or powerful. The size is 7.62x39mm.
The large cartridge on the bottom is a typical deer-rifle cartridge commonly used by North American hunters.
The SKS has been unfairly portrayed by the gun-hating Liberal media as an assault rifle, which it is NOT.
Early Russian models had spring-loaded firing pins. But most variants of the SKS have a free floating firing pin within the bolt. Because of this design, care must be taken during cleaning (especially after long storage) to ensure that the firing pin does not stick in the forward position within the bolt. SKS firing pins that are stuck in the forward position have been known to cause accidental "slamfires" (uncontrolled automatic fire that empties the magazine, starting when the bolt is released). This behavior is less likely with the imported-from-Russia hard primer military-spec ammo for which the SKS was designed, but as with any rifle the user should properly maintain their firearm. The imported ammo is both cheaper, and safer (though perhaps slightly less accurate).
In this photo you can see the tip of the firing pin peeking out from its hole.
This firing pin, and the hole it resides in, must be kept completely clean.
The pin should freely rattle back and forth if you shake the SKS.
The Yugo SKS has a well rifled barrel, but it is not chrome lined. The bore of the Chinese SKS is plated with chrome for increased wear and heat tolerance from sustained fire and to resist corrosion from chlorate primed corrosive ammunition, as well as to facilitate cleaning. Chrome-bore-lining is common in military rifles. Although it can diminish practical accuracy, this is not a real limit on field grade accuracy in a weapon of this type.
This is the bore of the barrel of my second Chinese SKS. As you can see,
the chrome-plated bore is clean and smooth, and the rifling is clear and sharp.
The SKS is easily field stripped and re-assembled with no tools. The rifle may have a cleaning kit stored in a trapdoor in the buttstock, with a cleaning rod running under the barrel. In common with some other Soviet-era designs, the SKS trades some accuracy for ruggedness, reliability, ease of maintenance, ease of use, and low manufacturing cost.
A little history: During World War II, many countries (especially the Germans and Russians) realized that existing rifles, such as the Mosin-Nagant, were too long and heavy and fired overly powerful cartridges, creating excessive recoil. These cartridges, such as the 7.92x57mm Mauser, .303 British, .30-06 Springfield, and 7.62x54mmR were effective to ranges of up to 1,000 meters (1,093 yd); however, it was noted that most firefights took place at maximum ranges of between 100 meters (110 yd) and 300 meters (330 yd). Both the Soviet Union and Germany realized this and designed new weapons for smaller, intermediate-power cartridges. The German approach evolved into the Sturmgewehr 44 Sturmgewehr, or "assault rifle", which was produced during the war, chambered in the 7.92x33mm Kurz intermediate round. The Russians developed the SKS, and soon afterward the AK-47.
This is a photo of my semi-auto MAK-90, which is a Chinese version of the AK-47,
especially made for sale to the civilian market in the United States. The AK-47 variations generally
fire the same cartridge (7.62x39) that is fired by the SKS.
In 1949, the SKS was officially adopted into the Soviet Army, produced at the Tula Armory from 1949 until 1955 and the Izhevsk Armory in 1953 and 1954. Although the quality of Russian SKS rifles manufactured at these state-run arsenals was quite high, its design was already obsolete compared to the Kalashnikov which was selective-fire (automatic), lighter, had three times the magazine capacity, and had the potential to be less labor-intensive to manufacture. Gradually over the next few years, AK-47 production increased until the SKS carbines in service were relegated primarily to non-infantry and to second-line troops.
These are Bosnian soldiers, armed with SKS carbines.
The SKS fell out of service amongst the USSR client nations during the 1960s and 1970s, although the Chinese police and military forces continued to use it during the 1980s, and chromed, polished ceremonial versions are still used today in parades, There are a few Chinese reserve and militia units still using the SKS along with the Type 56 assault rifle. Vietnam still has military police units armed with the SKS. Many surplus SKS rifles were disposed of in the 1990s, and photographs and stories exist of SKS rifles used by guerilla fighters in Bosnia, Somalia and throughout Africa and South-East Asia during the 1990s and 2000s. Several African, Asian, and Middle Eastern armies still use the SKS. SKS rifles were manufactured by Russia, China, Yugoslavia, Albania, North Korea, Vietnam, and East Germany (Kar. S) with limited pilot production (Model 56) in Romania and Poland (Wz49). Physically, all are very similar, although the NATO-specification 22 mm grenade launcher of the Yugoslav version, and the more encompassing stock of the Albanian version are visually distinctive. Early versions of the Russian SKS and later Chinese Type 56s (produced 1965-71) used a spike bayonet, whereas the majority use a vertically-aligned blade.
Of interest to hobbyists and collectors (and there ARE many collectors):
There is some debate as to the relative quality of each nation's SKS production; The quality of Chinese SKSs varied significantly even among new rifles with some having screwed in barrels, milled trigger groups and bolt carriers with lightening reliefs cut into them being at the top end and cheaper rifles having pinned barrels, stamped trigger groups and slab-sided bolt carriers. Yugoslav types are generally considered to be better made than Chinese, yet the Chinese types typically have chrome lined barrels while the Yugoslav versions do not, resulting in some Yugoslavian rifles having bores in considerably worse condition than even the cheapest Chinese SKSs.
This is a photo of the second SKS I owned, a Chinese Norinco model. The person I bought it from had
substituted a modern synthetic stock with a pistol grip, and was trying to use after-market increased
capacity magazines. I liked the stock very much, however the after-market magazines generally don't work well.
The best magazine for the SKS is the original 10-round magazine, that loads from the top via stripper clips.
A photo of cartridges loaded onto stripper clips, ready to insert into the top of the SKS.
East German, Russian, and Albanian SKSs bring a higher price than those of other countries, the stock on the Albanian versions being of a slightly different manufacture and being rarer due to low production numbers. There were approximately 18,000 Albanian SKSs manufactured during the late 1960s until 1978, and of those, approximately half were destroyed.
As you can see, the Albanian handguard is elongated.
Most of the remaining East German SKSs had been sold/transferred to Croatia in the early 1990s. The interchangeability of many parts has resulted in rifles on the market that are a mixture of different parts of varying quality, sometimes including parts from different countries. Such rifles are usually referred to as "parts guns". A sporterized hunting version of the SKS is still manufactured in Serbia, by the Zastava Armory. It is designated the LKP 66, and features a "Monte Carlo" style one-piece stock, receiver mounted scope mount, modified trigger, and flush-fit seven-round magazine. It also has a redesigned front sight with no bayonet mount.
Follow these links for MUCH more information about the SKS carbine...
Shooter's Journal Reviews the Yugoslavian 59/66A1
The SKS Rifle
L. E. Schwartz’s SKS FAQ
Yooper John's SKS
Junior Doughty's Yugo SKS "Hog Rifle"
Survivor's SKS Boards (Give and Take between SKS Owners)
SKS: Simonov System Self loading Carbine
SKS Carbine Military Surplus Rifle Review
What is the SKS?
World Guns Article
The SKS carbine:an honest bargain
Collecting and Shooting the SKS Rifle
Dis-assembly and Re-assembly Instructions
Cleaning Your SKS
Yugo SKS Gas Valve Replacement
The Last Great SKS: Yugo 59/66 v.2
Yugoslavia's M59/66 SKS Sniper Rifles as used during the Bosnia Civil Wars
Vote For David's Instructions to Improve SKS Trigger
SailorCurt's SKS Trigger Job Videos (5)