SKS variants and respective quality
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Last edited by Fatherandersonthepaladin; 12-18-2008 at 08:17 AM.
Reason: Added the yugo sniper variant, changed market value on Karabiner S
Owner, sole proprietor, and chief of cantankerousness for Sergei's Armory.