Simonov System Self loading Carbine

New pics of Yugo and Russian snipers, Albanians and more, click on links in text.

At the end of the Russian Civil War the Soviet Red Army was armed with various foreign rifles such as the Type 30 and Type 38 6.5mm Arisakas, M88/90 and M95 8x50mm R Mannlichers, Pattern 14 .303 Enfields, Winchester M1895 7.62x53mmR and several other types.  The domestic Mosin Nagant design in 7.62x53mmR was the most common and numerous rifle in use.

In 1916, 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 new designs.

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.

Development continued 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 toward him.

During discussions 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 lost.

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 rifle.

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 of Berlin.

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.

A 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 was decided.

There are 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 41

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 suppressor 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 45 (CKC45g)

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.

Izhevsk- producing 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.

WEIGHT:                    8.8 lbs.
BARREL :                    20.34 inches
LENGTH:                     40.16 inches
MAGAZINE:               10 round, fixed, staggered double row box
FRONT SIGHTS:         Hooded post
REAR SIGHTS:            Tangent leaf, graduated from 100 to 1000 meters
CALIBER:                    7.62 x 39 Soviet M43
BORE DIAMETER:       .301 inches
RIFLING:                    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 Karbiner S:

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.

Peoples Republic 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

Yugoslavian SKS
Polavtomatska Puska (semiautomatic gun) or PAP model 59,59/66,59/66A1

Information used 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.
Collectively known 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 appearance 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 in Belgrade]

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 expel 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.  

CALIBER: 7.62X39
SYSTEM:  Gas Operated Semi Auto
WEIGHT: 3.850g
LENGTH:  1.020mm
MAGAZINE: 10 Rounds

M-59/66 and 59/66AL SPECIFICATIONS:
CALIBER: 7.62X39mm
WEIGHT:  4.100g
SYSTEM: Gas Operated Semi Auto
LENGTH: 1.120mm
BARREL: 560mm
MAGAZINE: 10 Rounds
BAYONET: 11.5 inch Blade

North Vietnamese SKS:

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 63 SKS:

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

Romanian SKS M56:

 It 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.

Albanian SKS

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 appearance 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 approximately 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 to them.

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 in 1978.

There were a number of Nations that adopted the SKS where different markings may be found .
Afghanistan- Russia supplied SKS's, paid for by the USA, in 2002 during "Enduring Freedom"
Albania- Russia supplied them during the 1950's and China supplied them after 1958
Bulgaria - The Air Force 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]
Cambodia- Russia and Chinese during the 1960's
Ethiopia- Russia supplied them in the 1970's and the Chinese Communists supplied them later.
Equatorial Guinea
Grenada- some of these were captured by U.S. forces, some also wound up in Canada, they were supplied by Cuba.
Indonesia- Russian supplied 1960's
Iraq- Soviet, Chinese and some Yugoslav M59
Madagascar- Chinese, North Korean and Soviet prior to 1985
Malta- supplied by North Korea 1983-1985
Mongolia- Soviet origin in the 60's
Mozambique- Yugoslav origin
Nicaragua- Sandinista regime was supplied by Cuba in 1979
North Vietnam- Russia supplied them in the early 1950's- 60's and China supplied them in the 60's.
Pakistan-Do not know who supplied them but from the photos I have seen they are Chinese.
Sierra Leone
Somolia- in the 70's
Sudan- possibly some Chinese
Uganda- Purchased from Belarussia 1996 to 1998 along with other Soviet small arms.
Uruguay- Yugoslav origin -1960s and 1970s. A rough estimate of around 100,000 of these SKS carbines were exported.
Finland tested 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.

 The Polish Use of the SKS
 by Remov

The Simonov's carbine was introduced in Poland exactly at the same time the AK was, i.e. in the mid 50s.

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 AK.

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 purposes.

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.

1998-1999-2000-2001-2002 RK Smith & Dan Reynolds