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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
During this time of panic buying I've decided, as a public service, to help out those among us who need a bit of advice on the SKS rifle. First off, some people might want to know a little about the SKS. Moderators, feel free to make this sticky if you feel so inclined.

History

The SKS was developed by Sergei Simonov in 1945 as a replacement for the venerable SVT 40 and Mosin Nagant. It was designed to use the smaller, cheaper, less painful to shoot 7.62x39mm round, colloquially known as the "762 Soviet". The design was taken off front line service fairly quickly once the AK47 was developed, but remained in second line service in it's mother country for decades, and remains a ceremonial arm today. The venerable SKS is known unfairly as a cheap AK relative in some circles, when in reality it shares more with the PTRS 41 than with the AK47.

The SKS is semi automatic in nature, only the Chinese military model has ever been made into a select fire variant, and the ones that were are very rare. The most common variant of the SKS is carbine length with fixed underfolder bayonet of bladed type and with a chromed barrel. The chroming of the barrel is said to effect the accuracy somewhat, but it's not noticable as the SKS is still a very accurate gun. It is not uncommon to see an SKS last ten to fifteen thousand rounds without losing any accuracy. The rifle is legendarily reliable, effective, easy to maintain and use, and extremely easy to afford.

By far the most common model of SKS encountered posesses a fixed magazine, but there are commercial models produced by Norinco, the variant M and variant D, that take standard AK magazines. There was, at one point, a kit to convert the SKS to take the AK magazines, but it is highly inadvisable to buy one that has this kit installed because it removes the automatic bolt stop, and makes the magazine very difficult to attach. The jury is out on magazines made specifically for the SKS, as some are good, some are bad, and some are just ugly. Now before we get to the good stuff, a few warnings go with the SKS rifle.

Warning #1: This rifle uses a free floating firing pin. This means that when the bolt goes forward with the new round in it, the firing pin moves freely forward as well and slams into the primer. This CAN cause a condition known as "Slam firing" in which the gun shoots uncontrollably at full auto and I've heard of rounds actually detonating while the chamber is open. There are two extremely simple solutions for this one: buy only Russian Wolf, Bear, or R&P ammo, because they have a harder primer that can withstand the impact of the pin, or choose to have the free floating pin replaced by a spring loaded pin. The solution is up to you, but I don't recommend the use of the American ammo like Winchester or Remington, because both types have softer primers which can lead to slam fire or primer puncturing.
Warning #2: These are military rifles. Some variants were used in war, others were not. As with all military rifles, soldiers sometimes made field modifications to the rifle which can surprise the new owners. It's an eternally good idea to have your new rifle inspected by a gunsmith before you shoot it, no matter how pretty it looks. The years are not always kind to guns.
Warning #3: This goes hand in hand with #2. Always, always, always, always, always inspect the bore before you buy one of these guns. Some of these have seen heavy use throughout their years of service and may have all kinds of damage inside their bore. This goes for any gun you buy really, but it's always a good idea to remind people, because it's an easy mistake to make.
Warning #4: The value of these guns is always improved if you keep the original stock. Do not throw it out!
Warning #5: Even if you manage to find one, DO NOT BUY THE KIT TO CONVERT THE SKS TO TAKE AK MAGS! It is the worst thing you can do for your rifle and for yourself. It removes the bolt stop, and the only way to remove the AK mag is to keep the bolt open. This means you need three hands to hold the rifle, pull back and hold the bolt, press the mag release button, and grab the mag before it falls on the ground and gets dinged. If you must have an SKS with an AK mag, just spend the extra cash to get the SKS M or D style. Trust me on this one, it will save you so much aggravation and make your rifle so much more fun to shoot.

Now that the advisory portion is out of the way, let's get to the fun stuff.

Russian
The Russian SKS is considered the great granddaddy of the SKS. It was originally issued with a spike style bayonet, but later on a blade style was added. The recoil is almost unnoticable on this model. It is a fairly heavy carbine when compared to the others in the family. Expect to pay in the vicinity of $400 to $500 for one of these at current market prices. They're a very very reliable and extremely good looking gun. Chromed bore comes standard on refurbished models, early models have no chroming in the barrels, thanks to curtton for that bit of information, muzzle brake does not come standard on any model of Russian to my knowledge. There are variants of this that are fully chromed inside and out, these are known as Honor Guard rifles and are fairly rare. My personal recommendation on this one is as a collectable gun, because the relative price is too high to bubba it and take it out to the range as a plinker. That's not to say it's not a great plinkster as is, I just recomend keeping the original stock on it.
Rating: 8.5/10

Yugoslavian

These are currently the most common SKS variants on the market. They're also the only variant that is a rifle, not a carbine. There are two commonly encountered variants, both of which are nearly identical. The 59/66 and the 59 are both fairly common sights. The difference is the 59/66 is more common and has the grenade launcher and night sights. These rifles are not as well made as some of the other variants, as they do not have chrome lined bores. Problems with the gas valve are fairly common, especially with Century Arms examples. Other than that, still a solid rifle at a very good price. Definitely a shooter, not really a collector rifle. Usually found for between $150 - $269 depending where and when you buy.
Rating: 7/10

Yugoslavian M59 SKS Sniper

These are rarely seen variants of the Yugoslavian M59 SKS rifle. They are not entirely unknown, but I personally have never seen any for sale or trade anywhere. I can't speak for price, but they seem, from what I've gathered on the sites kindly posted by AKBLUE, and the pictures provided by Ol Duke, these seem to be a field modification of basic SKS rifles. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and these are no exception. As soon as I see some on the market or get to play with one in person, I'll post about the price and quality. Judging by the interesting features though, I would put a tentative price tag on of $400 without the scope. I will have to actively seek one of these out because these seem to be very cool rifles. I'll let ya'll know how well they work as soon as I get my hands on one. If anyone has one and would like to submit a review, by all means, please do. The more info we can put on here, the better the thread will be.
Rating: unknown as of yet.

Albanian
Considered fairly rare. They are very very different in style from the standard SKS, from the odd looking bolt pull to the oversized handguard. The magazine looks like a warped standard SKS mag, but works about the same apparently. The overall quality is sometimes severely hampered by a horrible trigger pull, though the problem in the trigger seems to only appear in some examples, as always it's the luck of the draw, and the location of the sling swivel on the left side of the buttstock. The barrel is chromed. Fairly expensive, fairly rare. I don't generally recommend these if you want a shooter, because they're far too collectable to risk wearing out. The price is as variable as the seller, but don't expect to get away for less than $400 - $500.
Rating: 7/10

Norinco
The Chinese variant is considered among the best of the SKS carbines available on the market, it's also among the most common. So many basic differences were introduced into the line during the years of production that it would be impossible to catalogue all of them, so I'll list the big variations. The standard commercial Norinco import SKS is basically a somewhat improved variant of the standard Russian SKS. Most of the Chinese examples found on the market today are commercial imports, but military ones are not uncommon, there are also "public security" rifles used by I would assume the police, which are of much higher quality than the average SKS. These are very rugged and reliable rifles which are also extremely affordable. The kick is very light, but still noticably present (I've personally shot 80 rounds in one sitting without any shoulder pain). The barrel is chromed, the bayonet is usually spiked unless the rifle is marked with a serial number lower than 9,000,000, at which point it is bladed. The earlier versions produced by Norinco had the sling swivel on the left side of the rifle (thanks to jjjxlr8 for pointing that out), meaning they can cause some painful side effects if not shot carefully. Each gun in the Norinco commercial series has it's own personality, and the only way to tell exactly how the gun will perform is to shoot it, but you can be guaranteed of love at first shot. The number of accessories available for this series is decent, but I recommend leaving it in the original stock if you want to keep the value. The second variant is the SKS D, this is a standard military SKS with the reciever factory modified to accept standard AK magazines. The early D series carbines had spike bayonets, while later ones had just a bayonet lug, or no lug at all. The M series carbines were a later modification of the D series that had either a thumbhole or monte-carlo style stock and no bayonet lug. The M and D series carbines are very cool, but are sometimes difficult to load. The Cowboy Companion paratrooper carbine was a factory shortened version of the original Type 56. Only a very select few were originally made as paratroopers, while the rest were simply cut down type 56's. I recommend these as collector, shooter, or just because you feel like buying them carbines. The prices for these are all over creation right now, but look for them between $250 and $500+ and you should be in approximate ballpark range.
Standard rating: 8.5/10
D Rating: 8/10
M Rating: 8/10
Paratrooper Rating: 8/10
Public Security Rating: 10/10

Karabiner S

Extremely rare. Basically these were the same thing as the Russian SKS. The difference was a slot cut in the stock and no storage area in the buttstock for the cleaning kit. You can't find these for under $1000 unless you're really REALLY lucky, or meet up with a person that doesn't know what they're doing, and many thanks go to Warfire for giving me the current market price on these. These are most definitely collector grade rifles, and most collectors would shoot you with their Norinco if you brought one of these to the range.
Rating: 8.5/10

Romanian
Uncommon. This is basically identical to the late series Russian SKS. It's a little less expensive than the Russian SKS, so it's more for shooting and less for collecting. Apparently these go for somewhere around the $300 range, not a bad buy for a good semi automatic carbine. The current imports seem to have a lot worse stock wear than the older imports, so go for older ones if you can find them. As always, look for bore quality on these if you want a shooter or a collector, these ARE military rifles and may have had heavy use or really corrosive ammo shot through them.
Rating: 8.0/10

North Korean
Extremely rare. I know nothing about the quality, but they have a definite coolness factor that stems from rarity. There's also the unique side folding bayonet variant. I've never seen one of these on the market, so I can't speak for market prices, but I've heard of one getting a little over $1800 at an auction.
Rating: 10/10 for collectability

Vietnamese
Extremely rare. I know nothing about it other than the mark identifying it and the fact that it was used by the Vietcong along with the AK47 in the Vietnam war. It's got a star with a 1 in it and supposedly has a bladed bayonet. That's about it.
Rating: 10/10 for collectability

If anyone has further information or questions about this series of rifles, just post it here and if it's a question I'll answer to the best of my knowledge, and if it's further info, I'll edit the post to include it with credit to your name. Please don't contact me asking where to find these carbines for sale, I don't know, it's all about luck and being at the right place at the right time. If you disagree with my ratings, just PM me or post on here with your reasons and if you make a good case, I'll adjust the rating for the gun. Personal testimonies are always welcome.
 

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Just curious... why do you say the Russian SKS45 is heavy and the Chinese SKS56 is light? I have a 1952 Tula (laminate stock) and two different Chinese rifles and they all weight 8.4 lbs with the slings. Maybe they lightened up the Chinese SKS rifles at some point?

Also the early Chinese rifles have the sling swivel on the left side of the buttstock, like the Albanian.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The Chinese 56 I own personally is lighter than the Russian 45. Not entirely sure how or why, as it's not a paratrooper, but it could just be because of the random improvements that the Chinese made as they went along. I never actually encountered the early Chinese variants, thanks for pointing out the swivel problem, I'm editing the post now to compensate for that.
 

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Big difference with the Chinese is the wood- even the heavier stocks are lighter than other production. Also a little difference with later model stamped parts.

Curious as to the origin of the "quality rating", Curious as to the 10/10 rating for "Norinco"- I've seen some that were among the nicest SKSs and others that looked the worst- production seems pretty inconsistant to be able to give a single rating

also seems the Romanian pricing is a little off....

The trigger on my '68 Albanian is decent, feels "higher quality" than my Norincos

As far as the "unknown" Vietnamese and Koreans- a lot of good info (and even members' pics) right on this board
 

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So no more Russian or Chinese SKS rifles because of various laws... And the Yugoslav rifles are available, but no where near the production figures of Russki or Chi-com rifles. Couldn't an importer get them from a) Vietnam or b) erstwhile allies in the Mid-East like Egypt? Or are those simply unavailable?
 

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There is plenty that can be said for the CHICOM guns, but a point of note is that they came in-country from a TON of importers, and not all were marked as Norinco guns despite being made under the same factory system of quality/but differing arsenals.

Many were threaded bbl'd guns, but later ones were pinned.
And true to the aspiring capitalists of China; they made several versions unique to the USA market; Ranchers/Cowboy companion, Airborne version, M and D models. CHICOM SKS collecting can be a mini-science unto itself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ok, so to answer the comments that these are subjective ratings, these ratings are based on my own experience with the guns. If I haven't experienced them, and have no solid reviews from people, I can't rate them very accurately. There's also the fact that unfortunately it's impossible to completely remove one's own opinions from a review, so I do apologize if some of the reviews are... slanted.

That's why I asked for people to submit their own opinions and experience so we can get some ballanced reviewing here. Another thing to take note of is, I was working on this at 2 AM, so I can basically guarantee I missed a bunch of stuff.

The rating on the Chinese SKS is quite high now that you mention it. So I'm going to reevaluate it. As for my methods of evaluation, I consider the general feeling towards the entire variant of the series of guns. I don't only consider the collectability because the people that buy the SKS aren't always only in it to collect the guns. Alot of people start their collecting habits like I did, hearing about how fun the gun is to shoot, buying one, falling in love, and then buying more.

As for the Albanian SKS, I had a horrible time with the trigger last time I shot one. It was a very stiff pull on the trigger, which might've been caused by some previously undetected brown menace lurking in the trigger area. To be fair, I'm sure that some examples shoot very well, but I simply put down what I know personally.

And Mriddick your opinions are as valid as anyone else's and are fully welcome on this thread. Without opinions no one would prefer one rifle over the other, ever.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
I myself have actually seen only 1 Russian honor guard ever. I don't know if it was original or some kind of hybrid, but it was being sold at a gunshow in Texas for $350 a while ago. The gentleman selling it had not a clue what it was, nor did I at the time. Thanks for pointing out about the early lack of chroming, I had never been told that, I just assumed they all came standard with the chrome because I've never seen a non refurb's barrel.
This site has a picture of one very similar to the one I saw at the gun show: http://customsks.com/variants.aspx.
 

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I would want a North Korean and Vietnamese SKS first as the are very limited. Then an Albie, Russian, Romanian, Yugo and then Chinese. JMO
I think you'll be waiting a loooong time if you want one of those first. Maybe if/when North Korea goes bankrupt we'll get a chance at them.

If seen Romanian models go cheaper than Russian or Albanian models. Most of the Romanians I've observed were well worn/used. Haven't seen one I'd call mint condition.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I never really dealt with Romanians, predominantly because of the fact that the rifles look like they've been thrown into a cement mixer. I've heard of only one being bought in near mint condition, and it cost the buyer something like $600. I can't speak for the sanity of the buyer in question, but he seemed insane enough.
 

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Of all the above listed SKS type rifles, I have at least held in my hands all but one. The East German Karabiner S.

As for rarity that would be IMHO the rarest one. Judging from the quality of other East German firearms I'm sure the quality is at least as good, and maybe even better than the Soviet in fit and finish.

If I had the choice to obtain a East German, North Vietnamese or a North Korean I would definitely choose a East German.
 

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Huh?
How about Yugo sniper rifles, long barrel Yugo rifles? Where are they on your list? Try finding a '49 Tula or a '53 Izhevsk. 8.5 for an EG rifle....wow! I've never even touched one. I'd give my eyeteeth for one as well as a N.Korean and an NVA rifle.

Left to right: Blade '49 Tula, M-59 Yugo sniper, top: long barrel Yugo M-59/bottom: Chinese Parade SKS, Chinese Parade SKS, Russian SKS' 49 thru 56 both Izhevsk and Tula.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Yugo snipers and long barrels? I've never actually heard of them. Can you post a few details about them? I've heard tales about sniper SKSes, but only ones made by Norinco, and since I can't really confirm or deny those rumors, I left those ones out. If you can post some solid details about the Yugo sniper that would advance this list a very great amount Ol'Duke. I've only held an EG SKS one time personally, and it was at a gunshow for $500 earlier this year. If I'd had the money, I'd've been the proud new owner of a really cool gun, but I think God has a bad sense of humor sometimes when it comes to guns.

And Rocker, I freely admit that I was wrong about the Romanians. That one is in beautiful condition. I've never seen one so nice that wasn't just a modern patch job.
 

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Yugo snipers and long barrels? I've never actually heard of them. Can you post a few details about them? I've heard tales about sniper SKSes, but only ones made by Norinco, and since I can't really confirm or deny those rumors, I left those ones out. If you can post some solid details about the Yugo sniper that would advance this list a very great amount Ol'Duke. I've only held an EG SKS one time personally, and it was at a gunshow for $500 earlier this year. If I'd had the money, I'd've been the proud new owner of a really cool gun, but I think God has a bad sense of humor sometimes when it comes to guns.

And Rocker, I freely admit that I was wrong about the Romanians. That one is in beautiful condition. I've never seen one so nice that wasn't just a modern patch job.

I applaud you obvious interest in SKS rifles. After you become more fanmiliar with them your knowledge base will grow. There is also a lot of informationon on the www and books published about the SKS variations, history and other facts which you may wish to reference.

http://www.amazon.com/Carbine-Revised-Expanded-Biotechniques-Books/dp/1882391144/ref=pd_sim_b_2

http://www.texastradingpost.com/yugosniper/skssniper.html

http://imageevent.com/willyp/russia...ssnipervariants?z=9&c=4&n=1&m=-1&w=4&x=0&p=11
 

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Thanks, AKBlue for posting the info on the Yugo snipers. You saved me time in cutting and pasting....:)


Notice my Sniper rifle is an M-59 rather than M-59/66 with an Zrak ON-2 mount.
 
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