From Academic Kids

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The SKS is a Russian semi-automatic rifle, designed in 1945 by Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov. It is formally known as the Samozaryadnyi Karabin sistemi Simonova, 1945 (Self-loading Carbine system, Simonov, 1945), or SKS45. It was originally planned to serve as the new standard issue weapon for the Soviet military forces, alongside Mikhail Kalashnikov' new AK-47 design. As mass production of AK-pattern rifles increased, the SKS carbine was soon phased out of service. The rifle was quickly replaced by Mikhail Kalashnikov's AK-47, but it remained in second-line service for decades afterwards, and remains a ceremonial arm today. It was widely exported and produced by the former Eastern Bloc nations, as well as China, where it was called the "Type 56" (and, in modified form, the "Type 68"). It is today popular on the civilian surplus market in many countries.

The rifle was chambered for the then-new 7.62 x 39 mm M1943 round, an intermediate cartridge which went on to become a standard for the subsequent AK-pattern rifles.


Technical Specifications

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Drawing showing the parts of the SKS.

Simonov Rifle (SKS)
(Chinese Type 56, other versions will be similar)

  • Cartridge: 7.62 x 39 mm
  • Method of operation: Gas, tilting block, self-loading
  • Magazine: 10 round internal box magazine, clip-fed
  • Weight, unloaded: 8 lb 8 oz (3.85 kg)
  • Length: 40.2 in (1,021 mm)
  • Barrel: 20.5 in (521 mm)
  • Rifling: 4 grooves, RH
  • Sights: Front post, rear tangent notch
  • Muzzle velocity: 2,410 ft/s (735 m/s)
  • Rate of fire: 20 rounds/min
  • Range, maximum effective: 433 yd (400 m)

The SKS has a conventional rifle layout, with a wooden stock and no pistol grip. Most versions are fitted with an integral folding bayonet which hinges down from the end of the barrel, and some versions can be equipped with a grenade launching attachment. As with the American M1 Carbine, the SKS is shorter, lighter and less powerful than the semi-automatic rifles which preceded it - most notably, the Soviet SVT series and the American M1 Garand. It is not however a modern assault rifle in the most widely-accepted use of the term, as it is incapable of fully-automatic fire. As with the British Lee-Enfield, the rifle's ten-round box magazine is fed from stripper clips, and can be removed only for the sake of cleaning and maintenance.

Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov

Born in 1894, Simonov began work in a foundry immediately after completing his elementary school studies. By the end of the First World War, after completing a basic technician's course of instruction, he began working on a pioneering automatic rifle designed by Vladimir Grigorévich Fedorov. After the Russian Revolution, Simonov continued further at the Moscow Polytechnic Institute, graduating in 1924 to work at Russia's giant Tula Arsenal. By 1926 he had become a quality-control inspector at Tula, and by 1927, had been promoted into the Soviet Design and Development Department where he worked directly under Federov.

During World War II, Simonov designed some firearms of his own; a sub-machinegun which did not enter production, and a self-loading antitank rifle, the 14.5x114mm PTRS, which went on to form the basis - in scaled-down form - of the SKS. An earlier semi-automatic rifle was hindered by official insistence on using the powerful 7.62 x 54 mm R round, which was at that point standard amongst Russian rifles; unfortunately, as had been found with Fedor Tokarev's SVT, the round's excessive power was detrimental to reliable, rapid function of a semi-automatic rifle.

By 1943, advances in thinking - which would soon be confirmed by the successful German MP-43/STG-44 assault rifle - led to the adoption of a shorter, less powerful round, the 7.62 x 39 mm M1943, also known as '7.62 Soviet' or '7.62 short' to differentiate it from several other rounds in 7.62 mm calibre. Field trials of the new rifle proved the weapon and, in 1944 a pre-production run of the SKS45 went to the Byelorussian front for battlefield trials. After some tweaking, it was officially adopted and designated the 7.62 Samozaryadnyi Karabin Sisyemi Simonova Obrazets 1945g (word-for-word, "7.62 Self-loading Carbine System Simonov model year 1945"), and chosen as the ideal replacement for the SVT40.


A standard SKS is semi-automatic and has a fixed/hinged 10 round magazine which is loaded from the top of the rifle manually singly or with a disposable 10-round stripper clip. It is a gas-operated weapon which, like the FN FAL assault rifle, has a spring-loaded operating rod which works the action via gas pressure pushing against it. Also like the FAL, it has a "tipping bolt" action locking system. Some variants of the SKS have been modified, with limited success, to accept AK-47 detachable magazines (military rifles designed with fixed magazines often experience feed jams when modified to accept detachable magazines, and the SKS is no exception). It fires the 7.62x39 mm M1943 round, a standard "intermediate" cartridge also used in the AK-47.

In most variants (Yugoslav models being the most notable exception), the barrel is chrome lined for increased wear and heat tolerance from sustained fire and to resist corrosion from from high sulfur corrosive primed ammunition. Chrome bore lining is common in military rifles, although it can diminish accuracy. All military SKSs have a bayonet permanently attached to the underside of the barrel, which is extended and retracted via a spring-loaded hinge. The SKS is easily field stripped and reassembled with no tools. The rifle has a buttstock cleaning kit with cleaning rod running under the barrel. In common with other Soviet-era designs, the SKS trades accuracy for ruggedness, ease of use and low manufacturing cost. The SKS has a slightly longer barrel than AK-pattern rifles, with a fractionally higher muzzle velocity.


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Russian SKS (right) captured during the battle of Falluja, Iraq in 2004.

Although the SKS was only front-line Soviet issue for two years, it has played a documented role in the two major Cold War conflicts - Korea and Vietnam [1] ( - and several subsequent 'dirty wars'. The SKS fell out of service amongst its host nations during the 1960s and 1970s, although the Chinese police and military forces continued to use it during the 1990s, and chromed, polished ceremonial versions are still used today in parades. Many surplus SKS rifles were disposed of in the 1990s, and photographs and stories exist of SKSs used by guerilla fighters in Bosnia, Somalia and throughout Africa and South-East Asia [2] ( during the 1990s and 2000s.

During the Cold War, Russia shared the design and manufacturing details with other Soviet countries and allies. Therefore, many variants of the SKS exist. Some variants use a 30-round AK-47 style magazine (Chinese Type 68 and 68/72, also known as "D" & "M" models), gas port controls and prominent, muzzle-mounted grenade launchers (Yugoslav M59/66 & North Korean Type 63). In total, SKSs 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 22mm 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. Many smaller parts, most notably the sights and charging handles, were unique to different national production runs. A small quantity of SKS rifles manufactured in 1955-56 were produced in China with Russian parts, presumably as part of a technology sharing arrangement. Many Yugoslav M59/66 series rifles were exported to Uruguay and Mozambique; the Mozambique versions having teakwood stocks, the wood supplied by that nation. The vast majority of Yugoslav M59-series rifles have beechwood stocks. SKS rifles have also made appearances in recent conflicts in Africa, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Nations which utilized the SKS but did not receive manufacturing rights included Afghanistan, Congo, Indonesia, Iraq, Laos, Lebanon, Mongolia, Morocco, the United Arab Republic (Egypt), and the Yemen People's Democratic Republic.

Civilian use

The SKS is popular on the civilian surplus market, especially in the USA, where examples range in price from roughly US$200-$500 depending on type, history, quality, availability and national origin. Its 7.62x39mm cartridge shares ballistic properties with the aged Winchester .30-30 round, although it is shorter, lighter and cheaper, with a 1,000-round box of surplus cartridges retailing for roughly $100. The rifle's integral 10-round magazine is not an issue in those states and nations which prohibit higher-capacity magazines. There is some debate as to the relative quality of each nation's SKS production; Yugoslavian types are generally considered to be better made than Chinese, yet the Chinese types typically have chrome lined barrels. 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, and of those, approximately half were destroyed. They were made from the late 60's until 1978.

A sporterized hunting version of the SKS is still manufactured in Yugoslavia, by the Zastava Armory. It is designated the LKP 66, and features a monte carlo style one-piece stock, reciever mounted scope mount, modified trigger, and flush-fit 7 round magazine. It also has a redesigned front sight with no bayonet mount. This rifle has not yet been imported into the US.

Unlike other military rifles, the SKS has not attracted a significant degree of negative publicity, although it was widely and incorrectly reported as the murder weapon in the November 2004 shootings of six hunters in the North American state of Wisconsin.[3] ( The actual gun was a sporterized Kalshnikov variant made by Saiga/Izhmash and chambered in the same caliber as the SKS.


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Russian SKS 45
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Yugoslavian M59/66A1
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Albanian SKS
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Chinese NORINCO SKS manufactured for the civilian market. Blade bayonet removed by owner.
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Zastava LKP 66
  • SKS-41 (prototype in 7.62x54R), SKS-45 (Russia)
  • M59, M59/66, M59/66A1, LKP 66 (Yugoslavia)
  • Kar. S. (E. Germany)
  • Wz49 (Poland)
  • Model 56 (Romania)
  • Type 63 (N. Korea)
  • Type 21, Type 56, Type 8 (Chinese)
  • "July 10th Rifle" (Albania)
  • Type 1 (N. Vietnam)

External links

SKS can be an abbreviation of


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