The SKS--Russia's top battle rifle before the AK-47

by Jack Corbett

Xtreme Weapons

 

Lolly Tops with SKS battle rifleA few years ago one could buy an SKS rifle and several hundred rounds of ammunition for a hundred bucks. This was just a taste of what was to come from the former Evil Empire–cheap utilitarian weapons that would include rifles, pistols, shotguns, scopes, and night vision sighting devices from Russia, our former Cold War antagonist. Aside from the fact that today a man can buy 1000 rounds of 7:62-39 mm ammo, which is pretty inexpensive stuff to fire from 30-30 power level SKS's and AK-47's, just what is the historical role played by the SKS and how does it compare to other military rifles of the same time period to shoot?

During the Second World War, most Soviet troops were armed with short ranged submachine guns and bolt action 1891 model Moisin Nagants along with smaller quantities of Tolkarev semi automatic rifles firing the full powered 7:62-51 mm round originally intended for the Moisin Nagant. The Tolkarev, however, proved far inferior to the American M1 on the battlefield, which pretty much left the Russians with the choice of very short range firepower or the long range capable but slow firing bolt action.

The Soviet answer to the M1 Garand was Soviet Weapons Designer Sergei Simonov's SKS which went into full production in 1949. It was similar to the M1 since it had a 10 shot internal magazine that could be recharged with stripper clips whereas the M-1 used 8 Lolly Toppsround clips. But whereas the M1 used full power 30-06 ammunition that could easily drop a man at ranges of up to a thousand yards, the SKS fully embraced the new concept of the medium range assault rifle cartridge first introduced by the Germans in the waning months of WWII. This cartridge would later be used in the AK 47 that would enter production in Soviet factories a scant two years after production started of the SKS.

Had American troops ever gone to war against the Soviets in Europe during the early 1950's, we would have pitted our M1's against the other side's SKS's. By the mid 1950's with the AK47 having replaced the SKS as Russia's battle rifle, Russia had its arms engineers helping the Chinese set up arms production for the SKS in China. Less than ten years later, American soldiers would be fighting a new enemy in Vietnam, who would be armed with both the SKS and the AK 47. Meanwhile other Communist nations started producing their own versions of first the SKS, then the AK 47.

In general, Americans who have purchased SKS rifles like them. Accuracy is reportedly anywhere from marginal to good, although hardly anyone will argue that the SKS wins any long range accuracy awards. Depending on the country of origin, construction and the quality of its metal parts and stock runs from indifferent to excellent with most Russian specimens being the most highly touted. Yugoslavian versions are also well regarded for their quality, but are significantly heavier than SKS's from other former Communist block nations. Since I would be shooting pictures of Lollitops, a well regarded and very popular feature entertainer you can book through Universal Talent, only one of the best specimens would do-- a well put together Chinese SKS with a synthetic stock.

 

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