SKS: Good Enough or Get You Killed?

Author putting SKS through its paces.

The venerable SKS, a gun with such a long history. For a great many of us my age, this was our first gun. Many of us had no idea the history when we got our SKS, or maybe why our grandfather was giving it the side-eye. Hint, it might not have been solely because it was Chinesium, and an affront to the beautiful American hunting rifle. Just before the 1994 assault weapons ban, you could buy an SKS all day long at $75 to $90. Which included at a minimum a spam can of 7.62×39. And a lot of us could save that up from mowing lawns and selling cans, it being cheap even for those days. That is four Nintendo games plus two grandma birthday cards in ’94 dollars, which seemed like an excellent trade.

Folding bayonet deployed.

And so many of us did. There are absolute metric tons of SKS rifles floating around this country, and around the world. Which brings us to now. A lot has changed in the last 30 years in the US market, not to mention the 77 since the SKS was first prototyped. The SKS, much like the uber-cheap Hi-Point family of firearms, is often mocked as being for the poor. It is the subject of derisive memes, enough to make it a running joke in the tactical market. But conventional wisdom is not always correct. I reference it repeatedly in my latest book Prairie Fire: Guidebook for Surviving Civil War 2, as an acceptable solution. And I would bet a lot of you old hands would agree with me. So we set out this week to re-examine the SKS with a critical lens. In a world of modern whiz-bang rifles, is the SKS good enough?

Chest rig made in, surprise, China.

With an examination like this, we can safely start with the bad. And if we are being fair the SKS has plenty of bad. It only has a 10 round capacity and feeds off an internal box magazine. It does at least feed from stripper clips, but that is still ancient technology compared to a modern detachable magazine. The trigger is….well, 1943 Soviet in design. Combined with a cheap chrome-lined barrel, accuracy is not the rifle’s strong suit. It isn’t going to win at Camp Perry, promise you that. And while aftermarket solutions do exist, most of them are cheesy plastic aberrations that should not exist.

Set up for accuracy testing; bare bones.

But, the SKS does have strengths. And maybe those weaknesses aren’t all that weak. First, it is well known for reliability, much like the AK-47. I did have a single malfunction on camera, but I was also using 50-year-old surplus ammo. Even that stove pipe was simple to clear. Created for ill-trained conscripts and guerrillas, the SKS meets the Soviet guidance of works even when piss poorly maintained.

Just as at home in the wood shed as other tools.

Ergonomically, the SKS is surprisingly good. I hadn’t fired one in 20 years when I picked up my sample and had forgotten a few things. Even in the full-sized model, the balance of the SKS is impeccable. The stock fits the body well and is great for offhand shooting. Even if as a minor detail, your hand is on the folding bayonet when firing. Since the bayonet is not sharp in this section, you don’t notice while shooting. But it is a bit disconcerting when you pick it up.

Well designed safety.

It cannot be overstated how easy to use the SKS sights are. Once again, target audience. With a hooded front sight post for durability and simple notch rear, you can miss this detail. But the dimensions are perfect, and the SKS snaps to your shoulder with the sights naturally aligned. Easier to learn than the peep sights of a modern AR, though it might give something up in accuracy. For a battle rifle, especially to a newbie, I consider them an acceptable trade off.

Hooded front sight post.

The trigger, while as mentioned not exactly an AR Gold, is not all that terrible either. Yes, it has some take up. And some weight. But what it isn’t is crunchy, gritty, or really all that sloppy. It has a nice mechanical set point, that does allow for some reasonable accuracy. It might not be my first choice, but I have shot worse for certain. This may be helped by the fact my test model has had 50 years of break-in, but the point remains.

Very hopeful adjustable rear.

And on that accuracy- I wasn’t really sure what to expect. My test gun is ancient, and no telling how many rounds it has had poured through it. 7.62x39mm was basically free in the ’80s and ’90s if you are old enough to remember those days. So I set up for accuracy testing at 50 meters. I did cheat a little and use Hornady American Gunner. Hornady has in my experience been the gold standard for accuracy, even if it is like giving a mutt a T-bone in this case. I also shot unsupported prone, as the SKS doesn’t have a bipod adaptor, and I wasn’t gambling a bayonet on one of my expensive rests. And I was shocked to see the SKS turn in a 1.6-inch group at that range. I have AR’s, new ones, do worse with match grade ammo.

One piece bolt and bolt handle.

The stripper clips, while ancient, do work and work well. I had a little bit of drama to start with because I am an idiot and forgot there is a cut out on the bolt face to guide the stripper clip. Forgive me, the manual is in Chinese, and I haven’t shot one of these in 20 years or better. Once I remembered how to use my brain, the stripper clips fed very well, even without a lot of training time. What you saw on film was all my time with the SKS, no practice runs. This system might be old, but it is effective. Just like the M1 Garand, which the designer acknowledged was an influence on the SKS, which won a World War.

Hornady 123gr for accuracy testing.

It must not be overlooked that the caliber choice is an all-around winner. 7.62x39mm is large enough for deer, and certainly enough for bipeds. We have seen its effectiveness on the battlefield for a very long time now, and few would dispute its lethality. It might not be a 1000 yard cartridge, but it is absolutely deadly inside of 400 or so. The SKS is a little meatier than the AK 47 and has a wider buttstock. Both of which means it handles recoil better than its sexier sister. It might not have 30 rounds on tap, but this is still not insignificant.

Which yielded surprising results.

All in all, the SKS stands today as a good enough option, in my opinion at least. For anyone that didn’t grab a gun before now, it should not be overlooked. SKS rifles are still available, albeit 2020 price is closer to $350 or $400. Even at that though, it gets you a semi-auto rifle that does a pretty decent job in combat terms. Ammo, so far at least, is easier to get and at a more reasonable price. I never thought I would see steel case 7.62x39mm at 33 cents per round, but it is still more palatable than 60 cents for 556. If you are concerned about the days ahead, I have no problem calling this a viable option. And for God’s sake, buy an AR-15 and 5 thousand rounds after things calm down.

Used in Korea, the SKS is no stranger to harsh conditions.
Folding bayonet
With very strong lock up
Last round hold open
Ancient, but functional, interal magazine with floor plate.

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website,

{ 86 comments… add one }
  • Danny Smith March 28, 2022, 1:16 pm

    Since 1991 I have owned seven SKS carbines, the wife and I still have three. A Russian SKS45, Yugoslavian M59/66A1 and a Chinese Type 56, my first one in ’91 was a Norinco. In all those years we have never had an issue with any of them, no breakage or failure of parts.

    They are not as accurate as our other rifles but they are accurate enough to do what they were designed to do. As long as a shooter understands the capabilities and limitations of an SKS that shooter will not be disappointed. Altering them will not change that, only make them look different.

  • Don February 11, 2022, 9:23 pm

    After many years without an SKS I bought a Chinese model this last Monday. I used to be in the business in the 90s and bought them by the case for not much money. I couldn’t believe I actually paid $500 for a minty sample. When I mentioned it at another gun store they said I got a bargain. I looked on the internet and it shows I did get a good deal. I’ve had 15 of them, Chinese, Russian and Yugoslav. All of them worked just fine.
    When shot over a chronograph with Chinese steel core military ammo it gave the 2350 FPS, just like the published data. The SD was 7 FPS, which is pretty good for GI ammo. In fact it remains the most consistent ammo I’ve used. Too bad we can’t get it anymore. Accuracy with the SKS is better than AKs in general. I would feel under-gunned compared to having an AR. But if it was all I had, I wouldn’t feel totally without a serviceable weapon. It would be better to have an AR for a couple hundred dollars more, but the SKS is a great gun.

  • Patrick April 18, 2021, 6:07 pm

    I own 2 Chinese SKS rifles. I sent them off to Murray gunsmith for the spring loaded firing pin, throat job, and a rock solid scope mount. I mounted a Russian 3 power scope on them and they shoot three inch groups at 100 yards all day long. I will never sell them. I own an AR. I own an AK. I love my SKSs.

  • Steve January 3, 2021, 10:37 am

    Flip that bayonet over, she’s upside down.


  • Calvin Wing November 29, 2020, 1:09 am

    First off I have a Russian SKS which are for the most part a superior build quality. But you missed several important points. First it is a battle rifle which means that the barrel will withstand fire. Second I don’t know where you’ve been but Tapco makes 25 round mags that work quite well and are dependable. Third, at 100 yards with iron sights in an unsupported pron position I can place three round groups in under 1.5″. I can’t do that with the irons on any of my other rifles. Third, there are great polymer stocks on the market that turn the SKS into a near modern weapon. As for range, the 7.62×39 cartridge in an AK is accurate out to 750-800 meters. In an SKS that range is closer to 850-900 meters. Currently our military is out looking for a new cartridge with an 850 meter range to replace the 5.56. Rumors are it will be very close to the 7.62×39.
    Finally, I have an AR-15 that absolutely gets dirty and will let you down. I have an SKS that gets dirty and won’t let you down and an AK won’t let you down. Now which rife would you rather trust your life to? My SKS and AR side folder sit on the front row of my safe. The AR sits in far back corner.

  • Sam Meyer November 21, 2020, 10:33 am

    Just another silly, misinformed Clay Martin article. Apparently if your firearm isn’t an AR or AK, its just good for self defense if you’re broke or can’t get anything else. Wow – the ignorance displayed here is just amazing. Clay, when talking about relative accuracy you need to remember that us old grunts who served in ‘Nam were generally much more afraid of the SKS than the AK, simply because it is a MUCH more accurate firearm, 30 round detachable magazine notwithstanding.

  • renny November 20, 2020, 6:51 pm

    I have short arms, so mine fits me well ( unlike Commercial American rifles and shotguns ), recoil is light, the size is easy to cary through the woods- think win 94 accuracy is certainly good enough to deer hunt with , most of my deer have been taken with it

  • robert November 20, 2020, 5:48 pm

    Check out the picture in the snow. looks like Big Foot uses and SKS! Now that would make me run faster.

  • Terry J Reeder November 20, 2020, 5:27 pm

    An SKS tale

    Loved Clay’s antics with the SKS. Here’s my tale of one SKS that I owned, in fact, the only one I ever owned.
    I got the rifle in a trade along with a spam can of ammo. I’d heard all the stories about how tough and dependable the old clunker is so since it was just a playtime toy I decided to just shoot it.

    I cleaned it and lubed it when I got it in 93. I started making it the for sure one gun that always went to the range with me. Over the course of the next four years, I shot the hell out of it. I never cleaned it but did make sure my ammo was non-corrosive.

    I can’t say how many rounds I put thru the gun but it had to be into the thousands ( meaning more than one thousand but less than a hundred thousand) I went as far as to shoot it in a three-gun match at my gun club. I won’t say I won but I didn’t finish last. I shot that match using those 30 round mags that had a snout on them, they cost $17,00 and I had four. I used them exclusively for the entire four years. In that four-year period I had one, yes one, “ONE” fail to eject which I later found was the fault of the cheap and worn-out magazine. I scratched an X on it and continued to use it for fun shooting and it never had another glitch, go figure.

    The Chinese did make a 20 round mag just like the 10 rounder complete with the red star. I bought one but never bothered using it. They also made one in a Para version that took AK mags. I wanted that one but they are $$$, Seen one come thru my local gun shop but it was almost unissued and went out real fast for $600.00. I didn’t want it that bad.

    I became friends with a Jewish couple who decided to get something after a few asswipes did a drive-by of a camp out them and their group had. Nobody was hurt but some shots were fired that scared the crap out of them all.

    They had never shot a gun, either of them. I took them to the range with the SKS and a 22 auto pistol. Surprising me not at all she was the better student and the best shot. I was blown away but how fast she got it. I think his problem had to do more with the religious aspects of their faith. She asked him if he remembered the monument of the eternal flame that had the plaque reading “Never Again. They asked to buy the SKS so I sold it to them, for I think $175.00 Including that spam can of ammo.

    So, that’s my SKS tale, more than you cared to hear I’m sure.

    For arming a bunch of shooting virgins I’d do so with SKS’s after 10-22’s … We can debate the 10-22 part if you want. But a bunch of novices dumping 25 round 22 mags down range is not to be ignored

    My $0.02 worth.

    TJ Reeder

    Author, Writer, Storyteller, and in general ok dude

  • James Ray Griffin November 20, 2020, 2:31 pm

    I bought a Yugoslavian M53 model still in the packing grease when I was 20. Absolutely wonderful and fun shooting rifle. I personally have found the actual Russian and Eastern European models more better made and accurate than the Chinese versions.

  • David Kent November 20, 2020, 12:01 pm

    I have a Chinese one still in cosmoline and a Russian one that I “sportterized” (it was in rough shape) new springs and replaced the gas block that somebody didn’t clean after using corrosive ammo but the barrel was fine. As the article said it’s not a perfect shooter but better than satisfactory. The tapco stock and tapco 30 or 45 round magazines work beautifully and it is a blast to shoot

  • Winston November 20, 2020, 11:46 am

    Jerry Miculek has no trouble hitting targets at 200 and 300 yards with a Chinese Type 56 fitted with a “… cheap chrome-lined barrel.” as Martin worte without backing up his claim. The author of the article displays ignorant arrogance typical of a large segment of the gun press. Mr. Martin in his silly skull t-shirt is not a particularly good shot nor well-read.

    • Mike V November 20, 2020, 5:32 pm

      Ex sniper. Likely knows a little something on barrels.

      I don’t know that I would characterize them as cheap, they seem like any other military grade barrels. I’ve always had good luck with the Chinese and Yugo SKS rifles I’ve shot.

    • Phil November 20, 2020, 9:24 pm

      Winston – All Hail Winston…

    • Can November 21, 2020, 6:40 am

      Mr. Winston displays ignorance of Mr. Martin.

  • Ej harbet November 20, 2020, 11:10 am

    They are still used in the Russian federation as duty weapons by the guards of arms depots and reserve bases. My brother in law uses one.
    As for me I own one that id gladly go out the door with. It helps to have dexterity in order to quickly reload it which I have.i trust my choice and if I have to use it im going to do my best to introduce those rounds to enemy meat. As a plus mine still has the bayonet and my Korea vet dad tought me how to use it.

  • forrest November 20, 2020, 10:25 am

    The greatest feature I have found about the SKS is that the action parts rotate perpendicular to the barrel. The same is true for the VZ58. As a result, the recoil is directly upward with NO side rotation. I have fired five rounds at 50 meters with a spread less than 4 inches in three seconds. You aim, shoot and pull the trigger again as the gun falls vertically on the aimpoint in less than a second. Its not automatic, but deadly.

  • Bryan November 20, 2020, 9:05 am

    There’s still 3 of them sitting in one of the safes, a standard Chinese, a shorter Chinese “paratrooper”, and a laminated Russian. All three are as reliable as the sun coming up, outdated, sure, great guns, absolutely!

  • Phil November 20, 2020, 8:59 am

    Had a Russian SKS slamfire. I cleaned the bolt/firing pin out (filled with cosmoline). Now it works as it should. The trigger safety is loose. I noticed a spring fell out. It represents an era. And yes, one can hear them barking above the turbine engine and blade noise of an AH-1G Cobra in combat. I’m here to tell you.

    • Jim Desmond November 22, 2020, 4:54 pm

      Your comment about hearing them above Cobra engine noise prompted me to add this. During the relief of Khe Sahn, I was a scout pilot in A Troop 1/9th Cav, 1st Cavalry Division. We had troops on the ground working on relieving the NVA siege on the base. One of the ground Company CO’s called to report he was receiving fire from a sniper and asked if I could do something about it. Absolutely, I replied as I flew to the location of the fire. When I got there the sniper shot me in the hand via a round that came through the base of the cyclic and hit two fingers of my right hand. Fortunately, I was leaning back to stretch or the round would have hit me in the forehead after leaving my hand. To this day I have an image of the NVA in his uniform and me hearing and seeing the cycling of the SKS he was shooting at me. Sounds weird but I’m sure that’s what I saw and heard as we were only 10 feet or so over the guy.

  • Dave P November 20, 2020, 7:32 am

    I walked into the Western Auto store in my Missouri hometown on my 18th birthday and bought a Norinco SKS smothered in cosmoline. They had a crate of them back in the GM’s office with one cleaned up out front on display. Spent a summer’s worth of 4-H county fair earnings to pay for it. Thousands of rounds and memories later, it still has a home in my safe.

  • singleshotcajun November 20, 2020, 5:25 am

    Back when I had my C&R license I bought a bunch of Yugoslavian sks rifles and to me they are the pinnacle of SKS’s. Really wish I had kept one. During the Obama years I was knee deep in Service Rifle Match shooting and the prices my Chicom spam cans could bring along with my SKS rifles was too good not to sell.

  • Christopher Chason November 20, 2020, 3:25 am

    Clay Martin has done a fine job with his testing! I fully concur with his findings. I Bought a Chicom Norinco model in 1992 for $80.00, Brand-New. It shot good enough after getting the cosmoline out! It went into storage in 1999, after maybe 1500-2000 rounds, and stayed there until last year. Added a composit stock and converted to 30 Round Detachable Mags. Installed Bipod (I am not as young as I used to be) and the rifle still gives me 1″ groups at 200 meters – 3 rounds per group – with FMJ or HP ammo. And yes, it IS OLD Steel Case Russian ammo! Some of the ammo is 50+ years old. NOT AN ISSUE IF you stored it properly! STILL as LOUD as it was when New! WEAR YOUR PLUGS! I had ONE stovepipe in 300+ rounds! Keep it clean and lightly oiled, it functions nicely! (I have removed the spike-bayonet! Not planning to get THAT close!) For a cheap rifle, I am quite content with it. Round is perfectly capable of dropping most Game at normal ranges, but I would not suggest using them farther than about 400 meters out, and HP rounds provide superior knock-down. At ranges less than 200 meters, FMJ rounds may pass right through many Game animals w/out dropping them. You may have to track them a ways! People criticize these rifles allot, but I don’t recommend you get on the wrong end of one!

    • Don November 20, 2020, 11:32 am

      One inch 200 yard groups? Please stop shooting groups with a keyboard. The SKS can be a good shooter, but they are not that good.

      • Bobo November 21, 2020, 10:36 am

        Or you’re not

  • Jake November 18, 2020, 11:49 pm

    I consider the SKS to be the perfect militia weapon or bug out rifle/trunk gun. It is self contained. There is a flip out bayonet and they make a great club with the heavy steel buttplates. There is a cleaning kit in the spring loaded trap door in the butt. It requires no magazines and if you have no strippers it is simple to single load from a pocket or pouch full of rounds. Jerry Miculek just drops the hinged mag body down and loads it and snaps it back. He has a video on Youtube with the SKS.
    The Yugo models have a flip up night sight front post. The machine work on the late model Yugo is excellent.
    In good condition they are accurate. More accurate than the Kalashnikov. Two moa is not unheard of. The highly regarded Czech VZ 58 is mostly SKS and is a two moa rifle.
    If you feel someone you care about needs a gun that is grab and go with nothing to bring but the ammo the SKS is a good choice. The SKS ammo rig Clay was wearing is widely available and was very inexpensive, at least years back when I got one. Fill it with loaded strippers and put it with the rifle and you are always ready to go.
    Some guys want to convert them to 30 round mags but if you want to stay low to the ground and be able to shoot while being a small target, the original 10 rounder is plenty good. I bought a Norinco with the 30 from the factory and I returned it to the original ten round configuration and have been happy I did for over 25 years. There is a hinged fixed twenty round out there too.

  • Bradley Collins November 16, 2020, 9:14 pm

    I don’t know where the writer got his information from but it is near impossible to get an SKS for 3 or 4 hundred dollars. Unless you are buying one from someone you know, or one that is not in good shape or has been put together with parts from different rifles, expect to pay between 600 and 1000 dollars. The cheapest SKS’s will be the Norinco Chinese models. One of those with matching parts and numbers will be about 600 dollars give or take depending the condition. I would not buy one that did not have matching numbers but that’s just me.

    • Christopher Chason November 20, 2020, 2:55 am

      Not quite right: There is one company that HAD a decent stockpile recently, and they all sold for around $350.00
      The only reason I don’t mention the name is because i want to grab one if they get anymore!

  • kk November 16, 2020, 8:51 pm

    i remember back in th 80’s we could go to “Roses” dept store and get a SKS for $40-$45 . i would give the young sporting goods associate a good lil workout having him run out one Cosmoline caked SKS after another, until i found the one i wanted ..good ol days..oh and no questions asked..

    • Charlie Boudreaux November 20, 2020, 5:20 am

      Ah HA you are the guy that made them quit doing that. The Roses is South Jackson, MS started making you buy “blind” in 1986. I did pick up a few nice SKS’s though. I bought one 1891 Mosin that turned out to made by Remington and did a tour in Finland for 39.95. Roses also had Hakim’s, FN49’s and Enfields lots of cool surp stuff , good ole days. By the way Federal American Eagle is a good gold standard in determining if anything in 7.62×39 is a shooter or not.

      • Charlie Boudreaux November 20, 2020, 5:22 am

        Emphasis on sarcasm in the first part of my post.

  • Donald Hoyle November 16, 2020, 4:57 pm

    You are right its not a bad gun, mine has been in my position 25 years and shoots great, plus has a feature that you may have never seen, an “Vietnam era fiberglas stock”!

  • tom mix November 16, 2020, 4:49 pm

    got one. bought a ton of stripper clips. then found out you can convert it to magazine fed. did it. works ok.

  • Lamar November 16, 2020, 3:22 pm

    Bought a Norinco SKS NIB Unissued back in the 80’s. Took it all over the midwest (USA) to imprompto ranges. Shot well w/open sights out to about 150yds. LOUD! Cheap to shoot. Mounted into Polymer Dragunuv stock, 1990’s w/4power scope, bolt shroud mount, suppresor, flash hider. 2in. groups out 200yds. Killed most things that walked or crawled. Keep it CLEAN and shoot the freshest ammo you can find. NOT my bugout weapon!

    • JCitizen November 16, 2020, 4:23 pm

      Similar experience here! I borrowed a brand new Chinese made SKS decked out just like yours, and shot prairie dogs at 10 to 200 yards, and was shocked at how accurate it was! My buddy kept complaining he was missing, but I was watching the targets through binoculars and he was NOT missing, it was just that the FMJ bullets were passing right through the animal, and barely affecting them ( I guarantee they didn’t live long though) I promised him we’d order some hollow point ammo at the time, and later I proved I was right. The HP rounds like those being used in the video, made a huge difference. I have fired only two rifles that had any accuracy using 7.62x39mm ammo, and that is the Finnish Valmet semi-auto version of the M62, and my buddy’s SKS. The M62 was even more accurate, and I was taking out wild dogs(canine) at 600 meters with iron sights!! I deeply regret not keeping my Valmet, and not buying an SKS – ’cause for just shooting fun, they can’t be beat! Great survival rifle for sure!

  • Amado leon November 16, 2020, 1:58 pm

    got one 5 years ago for 215 its a 1977 sks and it works great its a commie rifle so its heavy like all of them.

    • Kenneth Ragan November 20, 2020, 9:08 am

      you should only use steel cased ammo in sks……they have a habit of ripping the case rim off of brass…leaving you looking for a broken shell extractor or your cleaning rod. Also….the firing pin slaps the primer every time a round is chambered leaving a mark..if you chamber the same round a couple of times or drop a loaded gun just right…IT WILL GO OFF!

      • Don November 20, 2020, 3:38 pm

        Brass cased ammo is just fine. If you have ripped rims, you likely have a pitted chamber. I’ve shot thousands of rounds from a dozen SKSs and never had an issue except for one war trophy with pits.

  • D Hicks November 16, 2020, 1:37 pm

    The SKS has ergonomics ? It is front heavy even without a bayonet. I wouldn’t trade half of an M 16 / AR 15 for any amount of SKS ‘s If I did it would only be to sell them to some one I didn’t like.

    • Mike V November 16, 2020, 4:37 pm

      Struggling with the math.

      Half of an M16 = not a gun…

      But still a better option than a functioning SKS?


  • Phillp Owens SFC Ret November 16, 2020, 12:39 pm

    I have an SKS that has been modified to use magazines up to 30 rounds, I have also modified the bolt so magazines can be loaded with the bolt closed, modified the trigger for better and lighter trigger pull, switched the stock to a polymer based unit with hand grip and capable of mounting a bi pod. Gun shoots reliably and is reasonably accurate. Mine has the original grenade launcher and bayonete that folds into the stock. I have kept the original stock and refinished it in the event I decide to return it to original condition. Great gun! Also in my collection is an AR that I assembled myself, along with several other guns. I shoot every week at our local range. Not bad for an 83 year old veteran!

    • November 16, 2020, 3:28 pm

      With the recent Archangel 35 round mags with the steel release there are no mods at all and the SKS becomes equal to or better than any stamped AK ! And yes you still have the limits of range with the 7.62X 39 round but more knockdown than any 233/556. Realize these rifles and AKs are easily capable of hitting a human sized target up to 200 yards with every shot and nearly all engagements happen under that distance, So much of the AR is golden does not pan out for many valid reasons. Toss in the incredible reliability and simplicity of the SKS and the AK and you have a toss up at best. I lean towards these rifles for basic tasks although I own 2 ARs and have used ARs for over 50 years now and much of it in a real war with both ARs and SKA/AKs were all used daily. Many of these gun sites are just ignorant and cannot admit the obvious. All three weapons have pluses and minuses, very simple stuff, hey ?

      What I always find absurd is that most people who are arguing these points are not even capable of running a mile or even two 75 yard wind sprints back to back without a heart attack ? Let that sink in and then tell me who is actually THINKING and or doing what they need to do to be keen at fighting back ? I see this often as I have trained a lot of people how to be a warrior and have great confidence in their abilities. Most think going to the range and shooting under perfect conditions with all the new bells and whistles at a fixed target will get you there and nothing can be further from the truth.

      I enjoyed this article as both a reality check and common sense not seen often enough ?

      • Mikhail November 17, 2020, 9:33 am

        Found the liar advertising their bs web sight etc.

        “Dup dup dup combat combat dup dup dup fat guy dup dup dup.” -You

      • Christopher Chason November 20, 2020, 3:47 am

        Well, I can’t do any running anymore, or sprints – because I DID have a heart-attack! So I don’t know how that factors in too this. But I DO agree with most of your points! And, as I stated in my own write-up, people can criticize these rifles all they like, but I do NOT suggest or recommend that they get on the wrong end of one! Clay Martin’s article is Bang-On-Target!
        Another old, retired NCO

        • THEDREW August 29, 2021, 10:32 pm

          You are all forgetting the first rule of internet etiquette. It’s rude to call BS on someone’s BS. The internet isn’t real life. If you think someone said they did something that isn’t humanly possible, it’s because we are not humans, we are internet GODS. Take me for example: I shoot at the range every day with a rifle I made myself out of steel bars with no tools. I shoot 1 inch groups at a distance of over a mile using iron sites. and I’m 120 years old.

    • Christopher Chason November 20, 2020, 3:37 am

      Agreed, Philip! I have all three and actually prefer the SKS over the AK in some cases. Superior as a hunting rifle over the AK, and FAR better knock-down than any 5.56! Clay’s testing was spot-on!

      • Don November 20, 2020, 1:02 pm

        NO! The 7.62x39mm is not more lethal than the 5.56x45mm. REAL use shows the 5.56mm to be far superior. I suggest you look into the studies by Dr. Fackler at the wound ballistics research lab of the US Army.

  • James Cockerham November 16, 2020, 12:21 pm

    Back in the 90’s, I went to a general auction. Household goods and so forth. An SKS in very good shape was offered. I already had one so didn’t bid. It was offered, probably for $100. No takers. $90. No takers. $75. No takers. It finally sold for either $45 or $50. I have been kicking my self ever since. At the time, these things were flooding the market. They were numerous on many gun shelves. But almost 30 years on, oh, how I rue that day.

    • Jake November 18, 2020, 10:01 am

      Don’t feel bad. I am old enough to have passed on a 1941 JOHNSON for $300, A Nazi proofed Belgian Hi Power for $200 and a Nazi proofed Norwegian 1911 for $200. The “ones that got away.”

      • Christopher Chason November 20, 2020, 3:39 am

        I feel your pain! Got that T-Shirt, too!

  • Will November 16, 2020, 12:16 pm

    I received a paratrooper model (16 inch barrel the importer modified, no bayonet) in a trade with a family member- it came to me in the Bubba configuration (pseudo AR style with Tapco stock). The bolt was modified to accept extended magazines which unfortunately did not work well causing lots of jams. I put on a Choate green rifle stock, found stripper clips (Numrich Corp.) and a box magazine (on eBay) and the rifle runs beautifully without jams. From the SKS Boards, I learned that mine is an early 1950’s model having more Russian parts. I did invest in Murray’s firing pin/spring to avoid slam fires. Incidentally, there’s a video on YT that shows a guy firing one at a North Georgia shooting range with open sights (no scope) at 1000 yards and routinely hitting a steel target. If that’s not accurate, I don’t know what is!

  • Jon Martin November 16, 2020, 12:13 pm

    Bought mine during your described time line, removed the Texas tooth pick & actually found a bipod that fits added a plastic/poly style Montecarlo stock. I’ve tried all the cute add-ons then removed them, as you say it still shoots reasonable with the iron sites. I do have the others you mentioned but this is still one of my favorites along with an old mossberg 45a tube fed 22.


    • Lamar November 18, 2020, 3:12 pm

      Chinese tentstake rather than a Texas Toothpick. Remember, made in China!

  • Cea November 16, 2020, 11:23 am

    I’ve got a relatively new (82) Yugo SKS. It was unissued and I was a bit disappointed when I started shooting it. It would stovepipe on me a lot! Almost 1 and sometimes 2 rd per mag full. After approximately 200-300 rd, it became 99.9% reliable. Actually, I haven’t had a malfunction myself in over 300 rd. I had a friend shoot it recently and he had one stovepipe. Also, mine is very accurate! Being able to hit a 5” plate @ 50 to 75 yd, 9 out of 10 times, I’ve used it to win several formal and informal service rifle matches. I paid a bit too much for mine, $475, but it was essentially brand new and now that it is reliable and winning matches, I no longer think about the cost. I have been tempted to buy another. But I will leave (very) well enough, alone.

  • Jake November 16, 2020, 11:15 am

    Mine has the worst trigger I’ve ever felt on any gun, worse than the Mosin I traded for it. Seems pretty ridiculous in a world where PSA ARs are $400 and pass Rob Ski’s sand tornado test.

    • Mike V November 16, 2020, 4:41 pm

      Have you checked out PSA recently? A complete rifle is approaching 600.

      Think the point of the article is if you’re an unfortunate slob not already possessing first rate gear, don’t overlook the SKS at your local shop if it’s the only thing you can afford.

  • Grumpy 49 November 16, 2020, 11:09 am

    Used to be that there was a bipod for the SKS that replaced the bayonet. Replacement front sight posts for the AK47 will also work for the SKS. Even the front sight tool can be used for either AK47 or SKS.

    In Texas, before the ban on imports, the SKS was a popular “Hawg” gun. (Most folks don’t realize that wild Hawg is also very tasty.) Most folks considered the cheap 7.62×39 ball ammo as ideal for shooting Hawgs, as it was common for the Hawgs to not be eaten, and ball ammo was the cheapest centerfire cartridge sold. Even the .22 WMR cost more per round than the 7.62×39 in the 80’s!

    • singleshotcajun November 20, 2020, 5:29 am

      All those bi pods mounted to the barrel and by they were and accuracy killer. Horrible idea unless on a squad machine gun ;0

  • Big Al 45 November 16, 2020, 11:01 am

    I sold a ton of ’em back in the day, we used to add the aftermarket 20 round internal mag (it had a cute soviet star stamped on it) .
    Some had blades for the bayonet, some were spikes. Then of course, they had none.
    At one point, you could buy a case of them and ammo for less than $1000 and set up 8 people for a good firefight.
    There were several differences in the guns depending on Country of origin, and we did have issues with Chinese copies having poorly pinned barrels, heavily used ones would actually have barrel wobble.
    Ones made in former Soviet Block Nations were actually highly prized by many, and deservedly so.

    • S. L. November 16, 2020, 5:05 pm

      I picked up 2 Russian models in 1999 due to the CA ban, both were under $250…will not part with them unless they approach $2000…just to much history and too good of a rifle…

  • rt66paul November 16, 2020, 10:51 am

    I have to disagree about the “cheesy plastic aberrations that should not exist”. The SKS can be converted to a bullpup with some of these kits. The only problem I have ever had was with left handed shooters, because the SKS was never made for you guys. You don’t have to by a ChiCom version, they were made in many soviet bloc countries.
    I bought a mismatch one with a good barrel(Romanian), that had a cracked stock. I installed a bullpup kit and it is a great Ca approved rifle. I am allowed many “evil features” because it uses stripper clips.
    Any rifle can “get you killed”, if you miss and the other guy doesn’t. A bullpup allows you to shorten the overall length and still have a legal functioning battle rifle.
    I feel this is a great SHTF weapon for this old man.

  • Starrgod November 16, 2020, 10:47 am

    I have an sks sporter , takes ak magazines and was new in the box in the 90s. Have a folding after market stock and have added a small scope. Not my favorite weapon but it works well I keep it in the truck , much more power and accuracy than a hand gun… I understand that you were not talking about this kind of rifle but I thought I would throw that out there lol.

  • Bill November 16, 2020, 10:31 am

    My first SKS was new in the box Russian, model 45 I believe, it shot great but was stolen some years ago. The second was a used Russian 45 model in great shape, never any problems. For a while military scope kits were available, but never bought one. Mine is in the safe as a last resort back-up self-defense tool.
    Rumor around the campfire was that the 7.62 x 39 was purposely designed to wound rather than kill in order to waste enemy manpower taking care of the wounded front line soldier. Standard military hollow point ammo was easy to get back then for cheap in wooden crates.

    • Christopher Chason November 20, 2020, 3:59 am

      Glad you kept the old rifle as a back-up! But I can promise you that the rumor about the 7.62×39 being designed to “wound”, is JUST a rumor! The 7.62×39 is FAR MORE LETHAL than our standard 55Grain, 5.56mm used in the ARs. That I can PROMISE.
      But both rifles are favs of mine, and all of them have pros and cons. Hang-on to that old SKS!

      • Don November 20, 2020, 1:10 pm

        5.56mm beat 7.62mm in wounding power. REAL world shootings shows that to be true.

  • Bill November 16, 2020, 10:29 am

    I’ve had mine since early ’90s and it was $85.00 in the cosmoline or whatever that goo is. I got rid of the attached box and changed over to a 30 duckbill magazine, works fine. Very easy to do too but magazines are difficult to find now.

  • Roger Soiset November 16, 2020, 10:14 am

    Beware of 50-year old ammo; the Special Forces in Vietnam were known to remove the slugs from rounds in ammo caches and pack them with C-4. Only buy more recent rounds.
    I am surprised that the bayonet for the SKS (same one for the Mosin-Nagant carbine) is on sale. I had one we captured along with the SKS that I wanted to bring home as a souvenir and was told it was a Geneva Convention violation in that the puncture wound it creates leaves a casualty unable to move without twisting in any direction and tearing the wound open after healing had begun.
    Also, I don’t like any weapon that might have been used to kill people I knew.

    • Don November 20, 2020, 1:11 pm

      Don’t worry about the old ammo. The exploding stuff never left Vietnam.

  • noncompliant November 16, 2020, 10:12 am

    I have 3 SKS rifles, from Russia, China and Yugoslavia. Bought the Russian back in the 90s right before the ban on imports. It is my fave and a great shooter, will shoot as well as I can. They are reliable weapons if used as intended. They are still available although the price is rising, about 250 or more at this time. Condition is the variable there. Still an iconic piece of history.

  • Gerald Smith Lt.Commander Ret. November 16, 2020, 9:38 am

    The SKS is one of the finest and most accurate semi-automatic weapons ever produced. It is rugged and well made. From my 2 combat tours in Vietnam 1966/1968, I believe you can’t beat it for the low amount of money spent.

    • David Moore November 16, 2020, 12:14 pm

      One of the finest and most accurate.
      That’s an enormous statement, sir. With all due respect to your high opinion of them. The statement can only be true if we consider thousands of semi autos.
      That being said, I share the affection having owned 8 in my lifetime. That’s some commentary though that I don’t own any now. They are seductive like a mistress. But they fall short when you need your dinner cooked. Ha!

    • Mr Shifter November 16, 2020, 6:43 pm

      I have to agree with it being accurate, I have two Chinese made (1960s, one duckbill) and I have no problem with either, hitting what I shot at within less than 2″ using iron sights (love iron). I have numerous semi-automatic rifles, ancient and modern and I find my reliable SKS’s to be as accurate as the rest. I’m a revolver guy and love old school rifles. Learn to shoot them and you will find them to more accurate than you think. A lot say AK-47s are not accurate, I can de-bunk that theory too, iron sights or scope….Will take either of these over an AR-15 any day….Oh, and by the way I have 4 AR-15s…..

    • Christopher Chason November 20, 2020, 4:11 am

      Must agree with you, sir! “For the low amount of money” or low-cost, I find the SKS to be a fine rifle! Easy to modify in some important ways, and VERY accurate at average distances. As for “Needing Dinners Cooked”, as one fellow commented, the SKS does not “COOK” anything! It HAS, however, put several Wild Turkey’s and an Antelope on my family’s table, over the years. So, I agree with you and with Clay Martin; for the COST, the SKS is a fine rifle!

    • jack November 21, 2020, 7:37 am

      It may not be as light and handy as an SKS but I’d still take my trusty old M-1 Garand that I bought in 1986 for $65. I’ve shot hundreds of rounds of ammo thru it and never had a failure, I installed an adjustable gas port on it and now I can shoot ANY 30/06 ammo in it and with a 4-12 power scope I can hit full size silhouette targets out to 800 yards with no problem, about twice or more range than that SKS. It was good enough for my father in WW2, and it’s good enough for me.

  • Gene Stephens November 16, 2020, 9:30 am

    I’ve had one since the Rodney King riots in L.A. when I was in Bakersfield up the road. Bought the smaller paratrooper model. I gave it to a friend in sometime after 2005 and regretted it until he called me one day wanting to selling it and gave me first crack at it, which I jumped on. He had come on hard times and I was happy to help him out and get that rifle back forever. He sold it to me cheap and I will not part with now. If you ever get a chance to buy one reasonably priced jump on it, you will not regret it. They are very fun to shoot. They were a great bargain back before Clinton made them hard to get.

    • David Moore November 16, 2020, 12:16 pm

      On that note, there’s the SKS-M and SKS-D models. Either will accept the AK mag. Cooool. Made that way in factory, only from Norinco though.

  • Andrew November 16, 2020, 9:15 am

    Spare parts are a weak spot.
    Also now you’re buying 1 rifle for the cost of 4 (dollar per dollar, not counting inflation).

    Many of the places suggesting an SKS also suggest an extra one for “spare parts” (or to use when the first one breaks from use).
    Figure most of the SKS rifles were actually “used” before coming to the US.
    In some cases, heavily.
    So figure at some point “something” in it will break, or springs wear out, firing pin break, and it won’t be at a convenient time.

    Also, about 99% of the ammunition is imported, so better stack that stuff up.

    One final thing…
    My “last” SKS I had, I fired indoors with some brass cased ammo.
    To reload this cartridge would be a dodgy experience, as I could only recover about half the cases, and of those a good portion were damaged.

    • Fal Phil November 16, 2020, 10:23 am

      Interesting. In all my 25 years of screwing around with SKS rifles, I have never seen a broken one. Wait, that’s not true. A friend of mine accidentally ran over his with 1 ton Chevy diesel truck. It broke the stock. He put an aftermarket stock on it, and it kept running.

  • JOHN November 16, 2020, 7:25 am

    i’VE HAD MINE FOR 30+ YEARS. It’s always been a good shooter. But with the price tag on them now… Its time to sell!!!!

  • Nemo November 16, 2020, 7:15 am

    You might want to take the barreled receiver and fire control group out of the stock and re-attach them without the stock, charge the bolt and check that trigger pull. If the hammer starts to swing as soon as you pull the trigger you have either neutral or negative engagement on the sear. The best video I know on how to fix that is “SKS Trigger Job” on YouTube.

  • Frank S. November 16, 2020, 7:13 am

    I have to agree — the SKS is a rugged, battle proven rifle. Once you’re used to stripper clips and practice a little, it loads 10 rounds fast. You just have to have some stripper clips loaded with ammo! I’ve used stripper clips to load M-16 mags when in the USAF (83-07). Fastest way to load 30 round mags — stick on a loading spoon (a simple device that slides on the magazine and takes stripper clips) and three stripper clips go in quick!!

    I can almost guarantee that an SKS will still be shooting when an AR will fail. Mostly in dirty conditions or when poorly maintained. The AR is a fine rifle, and I have one, but if I had to go out in the brush and defend myself I’m not so sure I wouldn’t grab the SKS instead, mainly for the reasons above. The only reasons I would choose the AR over the SKS is I’d more likely be able to use scavenged ammo and I think I have more ammo on hand for the AR. At least the SKS has that built-in bayonet and sturdy wood stock… it makes a better sticker/club than an AR when you run out of ammo! I’d much rather have the SKS in that situation than an AR with bayonet…

  • Roger J November 16, 2020, 6:40 am

    The bayonet on mine began to sag. As a result I was continually stabbing my left hand so it had to be removed. Ammo was $99 for 1440 rounds on stripper clips a case.

  • sgtsabai November 16, 2020, 5:57 am

    I brought one back after a little paid vacation in a sunny land overseas courtesy Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children. For years I couldn’t get ammo but when it became plentiful I was reloading 7.62X39. I did a little work on mine. For some reason the inside wood stock started to get soft so I hogged it out and fiberglass bedded the action etc. SKS after that would hold right at 1 MOA at 100 meters. Good little rifle and made a great off-season rifle for the saddle scabbard. Worked good on coyotes.

    I left the states almost 11 years ago now for Thailand and SE Asia and no I did not come from the Temples and food…lol. I sold all my guns, reloading equipment and ammo before leaving but one rifle I used in combat is in the hands of my son, ex Navy SEAL, my Polytech AK and custom .300 Win. Mag. are with one of my Marine buddies and the SKS stayed with another Marine buddy.

  • Draven November 16, 2020, 5:51 am

    please tell me you took it home and used a wire brush to knock the dust off of it, then oiled it a little…. sheesh.

  • Pete November 16, 2020, 5:04 am

    Probably a friend’s comment about the Mosin could be applied here. “Designed to be worked on by a peasant with a rock.”

  • Christopher Mace November 15, 2020, 3:17 pm


    Very interesting to see your take on this. We pretty well have the same opinion on the matter. SKS rifles are perfectly serviceable weapons-provided that you don’t try to turn them into something they’re not.

    I have seen SKSs completely abused by third worlders, as I’m sure you have, and keep on working-all the while being fed completely garbage ammo of dubious origin.

    People don’t realize they were cheap because of the pure volume of them imported, not because they were cheap to produce or cheap in quality. Unfortunately they’re not particularly cheap or available anymore.

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