I am a gunsmith working in Canada and I come across a lot of firearms but one I would like to recommend would be the SKS. But first a little background…
The SKS was built in 1943 by Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov. It was the first rifle of its kind to be chambered for the 7.62 X 39 round. Which is a fairly decent short to medium-range cartridge. They originally came with internal 10 round magazines that could be fed with a stripper clip but there are variations which I will get to further into this article.
It was used as a second line battle rifle when it was replaced by the Original AK-47.
The reason why I am going to talk about the SKS is for a multiple of reasons. First of all, in Canada, it is not legal for 95% of the population to own AK or AR-style firearms as they are considered prohibited or restricted.
The SKS is considered a standard Hunting rifle in Canada with a five-round magazine so you only need a basic Firearms License to possess one here. Second is they are very inexpensive to buy in Canada. Ammo is very Inexpensive and easy to get.
I bought 1300 rounds of Bulgarian FMJ for $200.00 plus tax. Hunting Ammo is about $15.00 for 20 rounds. The last reason why I like them is they are reliable, fairly accurate and are easily accessorized.
There are different models of SKS available in the surplus and yes civilian market. The most common ones I come across are Russian re-man SKS, Chinese type 56, Chinese Type 56-D and Yugoslavian.
The Russian Remanufactured SKS come in varying degrees. It is easy to tell if it is a Russian remanufactured because first of all a lot of them will have a big star over the receiver cover with a date. Some will have Cyrillic script (Russian writing) on the side of the receiver and some won’t.
If it is a Russian re-man all the serialized parts will have the same number but with one, two or three X’s behind them showing that the gun was built from either spare parts or parts of other ruined SKS. Most Russian styles come with a standard knife bayonet.
Some Russian SKS rifles come with the Chrome Lined barrel and some don’t so keep your eye out especially when using corrosive ammo which is about 80% of the market for ammo. They also have a polished uncoated receiver unless it is the rare version with a black coated receiver for NBC operations.
The Chinese Type 56 comes in three variations. The regular type 56 will have the standard (Pickle Stabber) style Bayonet which is basically a three-sided bayonet. It will have the standard internal mag pinned of course to 5 rounds in Canada, a Chrome Barrel (Which I highly recommend) and either Chinese Characters on the receiver or sometimes English depending on what factory it was produced in.
The Chinese Type 56 D, Comes with a detachable AK 47-AKM magazine and it has no bayonet lug. All other parts are interchangeable with the rest of the type 56 or another SKS.
Be very careful of the third type of Chines SKS it just has SKS and 7.62 X 39 written on the side and it is not a type 56 and it was made for the Civilian market. These were very cheaply produced by Norinco in the mid-’90s to mid-2000s.
They are of relatively poor quality and the parts are not interchangeable. They are not made from machined receivers and the Gas Tube is ½” Shorter than the Standard SKS. I have had a couple of these come in and they will work but they are not very good quality.
Almost all of the Chines stuff at this time are Original unfired and stored military surplus made in the mid to late ’60s. I highly recommend these as they are very accurate and they have a coated receiver that helps reduce rusting from corrosive ammo all the serial numbers and parts match, there machined receivers and all of these firearms have chrome-lined barrels.
The Last SKS style I see is the Yugoslavian version. It is very similar to the Russian versions but it has the spigot type grenade launcher and folds down grenade sight. They are neat looking but the grenade launcher isn’t very useful as it is not possible to get the grenades so it just adds weight. They also come with the standard Knife style bayonet.
When buying your SKS I tell everyone to do this first. Look to see if it has a silver ring on the inside of the muzzle as this shows if it is chrome lined. If it is black chances are it is not. There is nothing wrong accuracy wise with the non-chrome but it is easier on the barrel when using corrosive ammo.
Also, look down the barrel with light; you are looking for pitting, rusting and non-sharp lands and grooves. The next thing to do is pull the gas tube off. What you want to make sure is that there is no pitting and the Gas Piston inside is snug and not sloppy. You are also looking for rust as I have had a couple of Russian re-mans come in with holes rusted right through the Gas tube and these were both on “just bought” military surplus rifles.
The owners came in saying it would not eject the rounds and this is what the problem was. Next, if you can pull the whole SKS out of the Stock the reason why you want to do this is some of the surplus stocks have dry rot and you do not notice it much on the outside but on the inside it is obvious.
If you plan on replacing the stock with a Tapco, ATI, Archangel, etc. the stock probably won’t mean much, but use this as a tactic to buy the SKS at a better price. The last thing to look at is the bolt itself. Make sure the Firing Pin isn’t Jammed forward and make sure there is no excessive wear or rust.
When you get your newly purchased SKS home you must clean the cosmoline (Gun Grease) out of it before firing. That basically means you must strip the gun completely down especially the Chines versions. I strip all the metal parts and I first rub them down with a rag and take all visible cosmoline off of the parts then I run the parts under hot water with a little dish soap.
I then rub the parts down with a dry rage and then heat my oven to its lowest setting and put the parts in for 10 minutes to dry. After this, I use G96 Gun Cleaner/Lubricator on the Gun. You can use any Gun Lubrication such as Rem Oil or CLP etc. but I like the G96.
Ensure that you tear the bolt assembly with the firing pin totally apart including pulling out the firing pin. The firing pin is held in with a pin just use a punch and hammer to knock it out. You must clean the firing pin hole out because grease in there can harden and cause your gun to max (Go fully Auto) with no control or worse slam fire.
These firing pins have no springs so there is no resistance to hold the pin back. You can buy spring kits but as long as you clean, lubricate and take care of your firearm I have found that the spring kits are not necessary.
The easy way to tell if the firing pin is clean is by holding the bolt near your ear and shaking it you should hear the firing pin moving back and forth easily with no delay. You can also grab the end of the firing pin and it should move easily. If it doesn’t move freely take apart the bolt and clean and lubricate again.
With the stock, I use Window Cleaner and a rag to get the grease off. Do not put this in the oven or under the tap with water as most of the stocks are not finished in the inside. I do not recommend using any solvent-based cleaner, especially on the stocks as I found they do not work as nice and it can damage wood or plastic parts I have seen this first hand.
As well I have seen firearms that had chemical solvents that were not fully cleaned out and the damage created from this can be bad especially on finishes on moving parts.
I have come across varying degrees of accuracy of these rifles but to be honest, I have found the best accuracy with the Chines type 56. I have sighted in all kinds and these seem to be the most consistent. When sighting in please use good quality ammo as the Army Surplus can have spoiler rounds and the accuracy of some is excellent and of other kinds can be very poor.
I would recommend maybe buying some American Eagle as it is always very consistent, if that is not available Sellier and Bellot I have found works very well or even if you can find it the Hornady is very good. I am not a big fan of the open sights but they seem to be fairly adequate up to 100 yards after that the front sight seems to be too big and makes shooting tuff.
I personally would scope every one. (Just my opinion) as they make great scope mounts for these so you can still use the open sights.
When you are finished firing these firearms I highly recommend cleaning them and if you use corrosive ammo you must clean them or they end up at my place where I get to fix them. I use the hot water and soap method but you can also use glass cleaner.
If you are in an extremely humid climate or extremely rainy I always recommend on all guns to use good old 10W30 Motor Oil on the outside of your firearms metal parts.
I will not get into accessories in this article and if anyone wants me to do a write up on the accessories or have any more questions then please leave them in the comments and I will answer them the best I can.
Also, remember that nothing in this article should be considered legal advice. Before you buy, own, or use a firearm of any kind you are responsible for checking and following or not any local, state or federal laws for your area. Thank you.