the world's first "assault type" rifle, the Fedorov in 6.5mm Japanese was
placed in production in Russia. It used the Japanese cartridge
because it was available in quantity and this lower powered round allowed
the building of a better, reliable and more controllable automatic rifle.
After the Red Revolution it was continued in production in limited numbers
and work continued on improving it.
In the early 1920's
a decision was made to concentrate on the Mosin Nagant Dragoon rifle and
the 7.62x53mmR cartridge as the standard of all forces and production was
limited to these types.
It was realized
that these were not the best available and work was undertaken to develop
A project was initiated
to develop a new semi or selective fire rifle using the standard 7.62x53mmR
cartridge. Design teams headed by such experienced designers as Fedorov,
Tokarev, Degtyarev and others developed new rifles during 1925 and a test
was held in January 1926 of the competing designs. The three mentioned
designers produced models which were rated to be the best of the entries.
None was considered worthy of adoption.
and in 1928 further trials were held but none were found to meet the necessary
requirements. In March of 1930 another series of trials was held
and again there was no winner.
In 1931 an entry
was submitted by a new designer Sergej G. Simonov. He had begun his
gunsmithing career in 1918 and had worked as part of Fedorov's team as
a machinist before starting to develop his own design about 1925.
A prototype was ready in 1926 but it was rejected for trial as it was considered
inferior to existing prototypes from other designers. This first
Simonov used a gas trap at the muzzle, similar in concept to the early
production .30 M1 Garand Rifle of the late 1930's, and a gas piston with
operating rod on the right side of the rifle. Simonov continued to
work on a better design.
The new Simonov
used a wedge block and gas piston to actuate the bolt carrier which lowered
the wedge to unlock the bolt and the recoil return spring propelled the
carrier forward camming the wedge upward from the receiver to lock the
bolt for firing. This rifle was selective fire and introduced features
which would develop into the 'definitive" Simonov design , the SKS45 .
A 15 round detachable magazine was fitted. This new entry was considered
to hold excellent potential and following trials a pre-production batch
was ordered so that production engineering could be completed as soon as
possible. Simonov was ordered to help organize production at Izhevsk
beginning in 1934.
In September of
1934 a selective fire carbine version the AKSI was developed incorporating
a shorter barrel and other refinements. It failed its trial in April
1935 and was rejected.
Further test continued
in 1935 and 1936 pitting the Simonov rifle against the Tokarev rifle.
The Simonov was considered the better rifle by the Defense Committee and
Stalin authorized its production as the AVS
36, a selective fire rifle firing the powerful 7.62x53mmR cartridge.
In 1937, 10, 280 rifles were made. It is reported that a few were
tested in Spain by Soviet personnel in July 1937. Limited production
continued in 1938 with 24, 401. A semi-auto only sniper rifle was
made in very limited numbers. The Simonov was not considered by many
to be ready for general issue. It was wildly inaccurate in full auto
mode, parts breakage was at an unacceptable rate and these things became
apparent to all during the Winter War with Finland in 1939. Production
was halted in 1940 after only 65,800 rifles had been made.
The Defense Committee
had already decided that the Tokarev SVT38 would be replacing the Simonov
after new trials in November 1938 and this was made official on 26 February
1939 when Stalin approved the Defense Committee recommendation. It
should be noted that Stalin took a direct and detailed interest in small
arms development and production and he was greatly feared by Party and
Government officials involved in the decision making process. Many
tried to discern what he wanted and that guided their decision on matters
such as this. Stalin knew Tokarev personally and was well disposed
leading to this decision a leading arms production official had tried to
voice the idea that the Simonov was the better choice from a production
standpoint and would require less time and fewer machines to make, and
that its faults could be corrected more easily than adopting a new design
as yet not fully proved. Stalin cowed this individual, and latter
when the Tokarev proved to be less than acceptable in battle, he blamed
this individual for not arguing against it more cogently.
In 1939 Simonov
claimed that he had overcome all problems with his revised design, but
Stalin and the Defense Committee order a halt to any more development work
on semi-auto rifles and full production of the SVT. Experience in
battle revealed flaws in the SVT38 and it was replaced in production by
the revised SVT40 on 13 April 1940.
It soon became obvious
that the SVT40 was not what was required and design work began to find
a replacement. Simonov submitted a carbine to trials in October 1940
and continued to improve upon his basic design. Stalin by this time
was insisting that a fixed magazine was superior to the detachable type
which experience had shown were readily damaged causing jams and often
In April 1941 Simonov
developed his carbine with two types of fixed magazine. One five
shot using the standard Mosin Nagant cartridge clip, and one ten shot using
a special 10 shot stripper clip. Trials May 1941 showed that jams
caused by the magazine were unacceptable and it was directed that this
be corrected . Revised prototypes were ordered in July 1941 but due
to the start of war with Germany they were never produced. Priority
was given to production engineering the 14.5mm PTRS, the Simonov semi auto
anti-tank rifle which was desperately needed at the front to combat the
thin skinned early war German tanks. This was basically a scaled up Simonov
In 1943 Simonov
adopted his carbine to the new M43 7.62x39mm round which presented none
of the feeding problems of the full powered rimmed 7.62x53mmR cartridge.
Limited production developmental type SKS carbines saw combat testing in
1944 and 1945 and were tested in small numbers by troops in the Battle
The Simonov carbine
was adopted as the SKS45 but production engineering and minor changes continued
until 1949 when regular production began. Even after production was
in full swing changes were made and new models developed.. The firing
pin design was changed at least four times in the course of production
over the years in various countries.
sniper version was developed as
was the SKS50, AKS51 and SKS53. The AKS51 was a selective fire model with
a new rounded form magazine incorporating a platform depressor operated
by a lever with a spring powered return action.
The SKS became obsolete
with the new concepts of tactics and operational art growing out of the
study of Soviet experience in World War 2. The AK 47 was better suited
to this new warfare model, was more reliable, and in its improved AKM form,
cheaper to make and maintain and logistically it made common sense to eliminate
a second type which required training and support. By 1953 its fate
eight confirmed countries of origin for the SKS. Although I read
a news paper article that stated that there were eight I had not been able
to confirm what the eighth country was, I now have, its Albania.
I have an eyewitness report of one being seen in an "Arsenal" display in
Bulgaria where the eyewitness was told that they made them in the late
60's for export. The eyewitness is very credible but the Bulgarian
"Arsenal" will not answer my inquiries so I can't be sure that they actually
made it. We are now looking for nine! Further information has
come to my attention that proves Arsenal did indeed make weapons for export
in the 60's but I still can't tie the SKS to them.
Russian SKS Model
The SKS41 was never
put into production due to the out break of war on 22 June 1941.
The perfected prototype was due to undergo trials in July 1941, but because
of the war the Simonov design group was directed to concentrate on the
production engineering for the PTRS 14.5mm anti-tank rifle which was given
the highest priority in view of the rampaging Panzers rapidly over running
the Soviet Army. The carbine was in 7.62X54R and looks very similar
to the SKS45 with the exception of an unusual flash supressor or compensator.
The receiver, the bolt carrier and cover with the takedown lever, rear
sight, and stock appear much the same but the handguard extends almost
to the front sight, covering, I suppose the gas tube. The magazine
is of the same hinged type developed because Stalin thought the removable
magazines were prone to loss and damage. I have a picture of this
carbine on file, given to me by Dan Reynolds along with this information,
but it is copyrighted so I cannot put it on the site.
Russian SKS model
Tula- Weapons were
produced in this area by artesians starting in the 16th century because
of the mineral deposits close at hand and in the 18th century Tula Arsenal
which is the oldest arsenal in Russia was built and was the first to use
water powered machinery to produce weapons. Producing SKS's
1949 through 1955 with early model
receivers in 49-50-51 and 52, late model receivers in 52 through 55.
The guns that were manufactured starting in 1946 through 1948 were trials
guns and use a bayonet that looks like one from a Mosin Nagant Model 1944,
and there were two styles of locking mechanism for the blade bayonet made
as well. There were also early model bolts on 49-50-51-and maybe the early
part of 52. Tula's mark is a five point star with an arrow inside,
found on the bolt carrier cover and on the 55 model it can be a small star
on the left side of the receiver as well.
1953 through 1954 with no variations known by me as I have only seen two
of them. Izhevsk's mark is a circle with a triangle inside, with
an arrow inside that, also found on the bolt carrier cover.
The stocks on the
Russian SKS are made of Artic Birch and have an almost natural camo pattern
when stained or oiled which ever it is. Actually smells like old
used motor oil. Replacement stocks were made using laminated
Birch, sometimes containing two reinforcing bolts.
I have seen bayonets
that were blued, satin chrome and polished chrome, actions that were re-finished
in black powder paint and that were beautiful polished blue.
The accuracy of
an SKS was checked by firing 3 rounds at a target and if it obtained sniper
quality it was marked on the front of the front sight base with the number
1, with #2 and #3 as accuracy decreased.
10 round, fixed, staggered double row box
Tangent leaf, graduated from 100 to 1000 meters
7.62 x 39 Soviet M43
1 turn in 9.45 inches RH
Philip Willard sent
in this photo of an SKS bolt carrier without a stripper clip holder,
wanting to know if I knew anything about it, he said it was Russian.
I have never seen one like it but suspect it is from an SKS with a removable
clip, but I am not aware of a Russian in that configuration.
If any of you have an answer please e-mail me. This
is not Chinese!
Philip has added
this picture of a regular spring (top) and a spring to fit the bolt in
the picture above. Lower spring is weaker as it should be, because
it is having to move less mass since the bolt carrier is shorter.
German SKS Model
The Year of manufacture
is stamped into the left side of the receiver in front of the serial number
along with the stylized sunburst logo. The butt stock has a slot
for a sling similar to the slot in a K98 Mauser and there is no provision
for a cleaning rod. Very few were imported into the U.S. and, Michael
Kreca, our writer on Yugoslavia has discovered why. In 1991, Germany
once again recognized Croatia's declaration of "independence" from a dissolving
Yugoslavia, much like it had done 50 years before. In fact, at that
time, the most popular song in Croatia was "Danke, Danke Deutschland" (Thank
you, Thank you, Germany.)
As part of this
process, Germany, once again attempting to gain influence in the Balkans
via the willing Croats, over the next three years gave Croatia nearly all
of the former German People's Army's (East German military) huge
stocks of existing weaponry ranging from Kar. Ss and MPi-Ks (AK-47s) to
Mi-8 attack helicopters and 130mm howitzers as well as various types of
MiG warplanes. Germany's transfer of these arms enabled the Croats
in 1994-95 to conduct the bloody and barbaric "Operation Lightning Storm,"
whose goal was much the same as it had been in World War II, to kill
or force all remaining ethnic Serbs out of Croatia.
of China SKS model 21, 56 and Model8
Chinese SKS's were
manufactured with three receiver types, screw in barrel, pin in barrel,
and a stamped steel receiver, like the
chinese AK, with some examples of all being in the USA. You may find
Russian parts, numbers and symbols on some of the chinese guns as many
Russian parts were given to them along with the machinery to manufacture
the SKS in 1956, these should all be marked factory 26 in a triangle.
They were the earliest chinese SKS's manufactured and the ones using Russian
receivers will bear Russian serial numbers and Chinese symbols. All
that I have seen were almost in the white from wear and pitted at and below
the wood line, they also had the blade bayonet and Russian birch
stocks and hand guard. I suspect you may find any variation of Russian
and Chinese parts as I have one with a Russian gas tube, rear sight and
birch hand guard, this one marked with all "acid etched" numbers, symbols
and factory triangle along with what appears to be a raised S in the round
part of the receiver on the right front.
Chinese Factory Codes
(semiautomatic gun) or PAP model 59,59/66,59/66A1
to write this article was furnished in part by Marko Stepec, Curator of
Weapons, National Museum of Contemporary History, Serbia, Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia and Michael Kreca who is a regular contributor on Yugoslavia.
Dan Reynolds remembers
hearing a rumor years ago that Tito was considering upgrading the Garands
we gave him to BM59 configuration when Kruschev offered tooling to make
the SKS as a way to tie Yugoslavia more closely to the Warsaw Pact and
Michael Kreca has confirmed that it is a fact. The tooling was free.
The Preduzece 44
Arsenal, located in Kragujevac, Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia,
was rebuilt after WW2 on the site of the old Kragujevac Arsenal, by the
communists who had taken over in 1945. It was expanded during
the first 5 year plan 1947-52 into a major industrial complex including
a power plant, an automotive plant making motorcycles, engines, auto parts
and eventually in the sixties the Yugo car, an electrical supply factory
making light bulbs, appliances, generators, switchgear, and other items.
In 1953, Preduzece 44 or P44 became Zavodi Crvena Zastava and was a "worker
managed" (semi-private) corporation.
as the RED Banner Works, it was destroyed by US bombing in 1998.
The Model 59 was
first manufactured in 1960 at the Red Star Arsenal and a year later
mass production of the M59 or Polavtomatska puska M59-(PAP M 1959) began.
The M59 has a few differences from the Russian, location of the serial
number on the bolt carrier left side, difference in the radius on the front
of the gas tube, stock is Bukovina [Beechwood] that has been rift sawn
giving a different wood grain apperance from the usual and there are parts
numbers on all of the parts. The receiver and barrel assembly will
drop into a Russian stock without any modification and appear to be exact
copies. [ Production lasted until 1967 with 226,560 being produced.] [
to Michael Kreca, from a Military Historian in Belgrade]
The M59 was modified
in 1966 to include the NATO spec. integral grenade launcher, and flip up
grenade sight ( model 59/66) which made
the carbine 40mm longer. The last part of the carbine to be transformed
was the flip-up tritium night sights, changing the model to 59/66A1.
There are four variations of the grenade launcher that I have seen at the
present time, one with holes in the end like a compensator, one that is
solid and does not have the holes, and a variation in the milling of the
metal where the gas seal ring is, one squared and one tapered. There
was also a real sniper version, using
the Zrak 89B scope, unlike the ones that Inter Ordnance built with Russian
scopes. The stock is made from Beechwood and the carbine is close
to the Russian in quality. [Production of the 59/66 started in 1967 and
lasted until 1970 with a total of 169,000 for the Yugoslav Military and
police forces. The number produced for export is still unknown, but
a rough estimate is 100,000 and the stock is Teak, unlike the version we
are now importing.] [ to Michael Kreca, from a Military Historian
The procedure for
operating the grenade launcher is as follows ; clear the carbine of all
rounds, and cut off the gas mechanism by pressing the gas button and rotating
to the top of gas tube. Lift the grenade sight to the vertical position
and pull the charging handle to its rear position. Insert a grenade
cartridge into the chamber. Release the bolt and tap it forward to
insure that it is locked. Slide the grenade fully onto the launcher
and move the safety to the fire position. Align the range arc with the
ogvie of the grenade and then align the sight and grenade on the target.
Pull the trigger and you have fired the grenade. The bolt must be
pulled back manually to expell the fired cartridge.
The carbines were
imported by Mitchell Arms (export version) in limited numbers as well as
a few brought back as war souvenirs. MarStar Canada imported some
of the 59/66A1 carbines and the 59's and 59/66A1's are now available in
the USA from Inter Ordnance, and Century. Link
to another sniper page
Operated Semi Auto
MAGAZINE: 10 Rounds
M-59/66 and 59/66AL
SYSTEM: Gas Operated
MAGAZINE: 10 Rounds
BAYONET: 11.5 inch
Marked with a small
star with a 1 inside of it, on the left side of the receiver.
Bring back war
souvenirs only, none imported into the USA.
North Korea Model
Marked with an encircled
star on top of the bolt cover. Below the circle is a factory number
and a Korean character. This version has a gas shutoff valve that
can be turned off when launching grenades. Some of these carbines
were furnished to the Viet Cong in the early years of the Vietnam War and
were captured and brought back as war souvenirs.
None were ever
imported into the USA. North Korea also received SKS's from the Russians
but I do not know if they are marked in any way.
North korean and North Vietnamese Pictures
seems that this carbine came as quite a surprise to everyone, but I first
read about its existence back in the 60's, in a book published by Stackpole
Books, written by Smith and Smith. Manufactured in the Cugir factory,
the arsenal mark is similar to the Izhevsk Arsenal of Russia, a triangle
with an arrow inside but without feathers. Serial number range from
AA1 to ZZ9999. Manufactured from 1957 to 1960, the bayonet is of
the blade type like the Russian with dull chrome plating. The major
parts are marked with the full serial number but the bolt, bolt carrier,
receiver and barrel are marked with a separate one to three digit number.
The gas tube is a one piece machining like the Russian and the stock is
Beech wood, stained dark oak and varnished, with a sling swivel located
on the bottom.
Imported from Gransh,
Albania by Tennessee Gun the Albanian SKS looks very much like the SKS41
I mentioned earlier, with its handguard covering the gas tube. The
stock is 32 inches long and extends to the end of the gas tube which
the SKS41 does not. The gas tube outward apperance is different from
any other SKS, and is interchangeable with the Chinese. The
magazine looks much like the SKS41 in that it has a different angle on
the bottom, not matching the Russian or Chinese but is interchangeable.
The bayonet is similar to the early Russian and Chinese, only it has three
blood grooves instead of four in a triangle form. This is the tightest
fitting SKS I have ever stripped by far, the bolt will snap into the carrier
and stay there as you install it in receiver. The stock is very angular,
showing hand inletting in places, it is very tight around the action and
the finish on the wood is a heavy orange varnish. The stock is made
of beech wood and it has the rear sling swivel located like the Chinese
Cavalry Model, on the left side, but is shaped differently. The serial
number is in the usual place on the left side of the receiver followed
by the manufacture date and the stock is marked on the left also right
behind the sling swivel. There are serial numbers on the bolt, bolt
carrier cover and gas tube also. There are two recesses in the butt
of the stock, one for the cleaning kit and one contains a dowel made of
what looks like walnut, I do not know what it is for. This SKS was
manufactured in the Umgransh Arsenal from 1967 to 1979 with aproximately
18,000 made. It has a different style charging handle, more like
a .30 carbine rather than the usual round knob and was manufactured as
a less agressive alternative to the type 56 AK for the National Police.
The quality of work on my gun is good but not as good as on the Russian.
I have had reports of guns with Chinese marked parts and you may find them
with Russian parts as well because China and Russia both supplied arms
There is mention
that the Albanians call the carbine the July 10th rifle because July 10
is their Independence Day, but November 28, 1918 is the day they gained
their Independence from the Ottoman Empire and the day they celebrate as
Independence Day, so I am not sure what July 10th is.
Enver Hoxha, the
Communist dictator of Albania from 1945 until his death in 1985, was a
Stalinist and after a period of steadily deteriorating relations with the
Russians beginning in 1961 and ending in 65, sided only with Red China.
Albania received small arms from China after 1958, including Type 56 SKS,
Type 56 AK, RPD and RP46 as well as TT, Type 59 Mak, Type 68 etc.
He provided a Naval base to the Chi-Coms before breaking with them also
There were a number
of Nations that adopted the SKS where different markings may be found .
supplied SKS's, paid for by the USA, in 2002 during "Enduring Freedom"
supplied them during the 1950's and China supplied them after 1958
Bulgaria - The
Airforce was armed with SKS's ,at platoon and company levels, there were
around 10% SKS's for enhancing the fire power. These were supplied
by either Russia Romania or Poland. [A.Giurovski]
and Chinese during the 1960's
supplied them in the 1970's and the Chinese Communists supplied them later.
Grenada- some of
these were captured by U.S. forces, some also wound up in Canada, they
were supplied by Cuba.
Iraq- Soviet, Chinese
and some Yugoslav M59
North Korean and Soviet prior to 1985
by North Korea 1983-1985
origin in the 60's
regime was supplied by Cuba in 1979
Russia supplied them in the early 1950's- 60's and China supplied them
in the 60's.
know who supplied them but from the photos I have seen they are Chinese.
Somolia- in the
from Belarussia 1996 to 1998 along with other Soviet small arms.
origin -1960s and 1970s. A rough estimate of around 100,000 of these SKS
carbines were exported.
the SKS in 1955 but adopted the AK. Dan Reynolds handled one in 1962,
in the Globe Firearms Company, it was part of the group purchased by Finland
but he can't remember if it was marked in any way.
Use of the SKS
The Simonov's carbine
was introduced in Poland exactly at the same time the AK was, i.e. in the
The very first AK's
and SKS's (demonstration and training models) were imported directly from
the Soviet Union. Initially there were plans for the production the
SKS in Poland, under the name "7,62mm ksS wz.1945" (ksS stands for "karabinek
samopowtarzalny Simonowa" = "Simonov's self-loading carbine") and the production
line in the rifle
factory Radom (Lucznik)
was almost ready to work. The rifle manual was even printed in very
large numbers (printed date is 1956). When Polish high-ranking
officers compared the features of AK (known at that time as the pmK) and
the SKS (ksS) and talked a little with their Soviets colleagues, they refused
to produce the SKS in Poland. For them the concept of introducing
this carbine into the Polish Army was a dead end. They chose the
Poland never produced
it's own SKS's and all rifles (several hundreds, which are still in
service) were manufactured
in the Soviet Union. Recently during refurbishment the stocks were
changed to new ones (lighter wood). One interesting thing is, the
first Polish manufactured 7,62mm x 39 ammunition was packaged in cartridge
clips for the SKS. The SKS in Poland is used only for ceremonial
Through the years
that I have been collecting the SKS I have heard many conversations about
the accuracy of the Russian vs Chinese and I don't agree with what I have
heard and read. Three of the Russians that I own are marked #1 for
accuracy and any one of my Chinese will out shoot them. Two of my
Chinese that are pin in barrels will shoot three hole, two inch groups
at 200 meters with iron sights off of a bench rest using Sellier &
Bellot ammo. I no longer shoot competition so I do not have the use
of a rifle range to test the Yugo and Albanian against the Chinese but
would very much like to hear your comments on the subject. Many people
scoff at the thought of using an SKS for a sniper rifle but most sniper
work is done at short range and the ability of the sniper to hide and control
himself is the most important thing.
RK Smith & Dan Reynolds