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It’s often said that the enemy of the good is the great. In situations where continuous improvement is a “do-or-die” way of life – for example, a Cold War military-industrial complex – the life of a merely-satisfactory design is nasty, brutish and short. Such was the case for the U.S. Air Force’s B-36 Peacemaker bomber. The Soviet equivalent? Comrade Sergei Simonov’s “Samozaryadniy Karabin Simonova, 1945,” known to the world today as the SKS carbine.

Just as the still-active-today B-52 replaced the B-36 a few short years after its debut, the Soviet Army was busy adopting the SKS’ replacement just as Simonov’s excellent carbine was reaching full production in 1949. Midway through the next decade, the good was superseded by the great; SKS production ceased and Mikhail Kalashnikov’s incomparably-famous AK-47 became the Soviet Army’s standard weapon.

So what, exactly, happens to good guns when they get one-upped by firearms that are newer, better, and more relevant? According to several references I consulted, they become “ceremonial arms.” For this task, I believe the Norinco SKS is extremely well-suited.

I recently spent some quality time with a 25-year-old Norinco-built “Chinese Type 56” SKS. The gun looked wonderful in the late-afternoon sunlight—the rifle’s full-length wooden stock and folding spike-style bayonet subtly undermining its Soviet-era utilitarian aesthetics. Although the parallel-to-the-barrel gas tube does resemble its far-more-famous successor, the SKS somehow looks more refined than the AK, much like an M-1 Garand looks statelier than even the sleekest M-16.

If supremely lacquered and dressed to the nines, it’s easy to see how an SKS could proudly serve as part of any soldier’s ceremonial regalia. But don’t get the idea that function follows form with the SKS; nothing could be further from the truth. The all-business functionality of Simonov’s design is apparent the moment the gun falls into your hands.

Other than the trigger and bolt, the SKS offers simply a magazine catch, a safety, and a take-down lever. As modern carbines go, it’s a little heavy. And for good reason. Despite firing a 7.62X39 cartridge, the weapon’s lack of recoil is startling. Even before you load the permanently-attached, front-hinged magazine (Stalin worried about troops losing them), the minimalism of the gun’s external controls are a delight.

Loading the SKS is a straightforward affair. You insert the rounds one by one into the fixed 10-round magazine while the bolt is locked open.  However, as you’ll see in the video, I loaded the SKS upside down, with the bolt closed. Why? Criticize this fear as unfounded, but I’ve always worried about the possibility of a bolt slamming forward on my thumb (a la “M-1 thumb”). My method worked reliably and allayed my fear of digital duress; however, an unexpected physical malady nonetheless resulted.

The first time I loaded the SKS (with only five rounds), the bottom-most cartridge didn’t sit on the proper side of the lever-arm follower inside the magazine. Therefore, during my initial cycling of the action, the top cartridge wasn’t high enough up for the bolt to collect it and place it in the chamber.

I quickly the discovered the problem and fixed it; however, my usual range routine was now compromised. Without thinking about what I usually do immediately after chambering the first round prior to aiming and firing, I raised the rifle, lined up the sights, and squeezed its trigger. Five times.

“Recoil is great, but it’s louder than I thought,” I said to myself. As I took my eye protection off and reached into my ears to remove my ear plugs I felt . . . nothing there. For the first time in my life, I had forgotten to insert ear protection before firing a gun. They were still in my shirt pocket, right where I’d placed them before loading the magazine.

[Although it was only five rounds and I was outside, 170 decibels approximately 15 inches from your ear is a lot of sudden sound pressure. I went to bed that night absent at least half the hearing in my right ear, along with a soft-but distinct high-pitched ringing. Thankfully, my shameful breach of a most basic firearms safety rule did not result in any permanent hearing loss (24 hours later, things were back to normal). However, four days later, the ringing persists. If you haven’t read my TTAG colleague Brad Kozak’s piece about the importance of hearing protection, do so.].

After quickly wising up and inserting my ear plugs, I surveyed the target to find that my first five shots (fired standing, from 30 yards) were all snuggly grouped inside the “10” ring, with one shot a quarter-inch from the bull’s eye. I’m no expert marksman. As more of a handgun guy, I hadn’t fired a rifle – any rifle – in years.  For this feat, I credit the gun’s balance, along with the ringed-post front sight and the adjustable tangent-leaf rear sight, which were both outstanding. I couldn’t have asked for a better sight picture, and no changes to elevation or windage were needed.

String after string, I consistently grouped my shots tight on the target while enjoying a “Chinese copy” that couldn’t possibly be of much lower quality than the Russian original. The trigger felt a little light at first (especially toward the end of its travel). But after the first few magazines I was completely accustomed to it. The SKS cycled fast with the 123-grain 7.62X39 Winchester Target & Range FMJ ammo I used – so fast that even when I tried to look, I never once saw the bolt move.

Speaking of the bolt, I’m usually sad to reach the end of each magazine, but the opposite was true in this case, as any opportunity to work the SKS’ magnificent bolt conjures the type of pure, uncompromised, “clickity-clack” kinetic joy that made me love guns as a kid. My hand, wrist, arm, and elbow all love that bolt the way my wife loves a day at the spa. (Incidentally, my wife was with me and she enjoyed firing the SKS, too. But not as much as she loves a day at the spa.)

During my time with the Norinco SKS, it never misfired or suffered any failures to feed or extract (even with some older Wolf ammo that was lying around). It was extremely accurate the entire time and its modest recoil made it an unmitigated pleasure to shoot.

The fact that the original owner probably paid less than a hundred dollars for it in the mid-Eighties – and the fact that it’s worth not much more than $250 now – makes it an exceptional value.

Whether it’s shined-up and placed on a gun rack in your den, or dustily mounted behind the seat of your farm truck (where this particular example resides), few semi-automatic long guns represent a better overall value than the Norinco SKS. That it looks good doing  what it does is a genuine bonus.


Model:  Norinco Type 56 SKS (Samozariadnyia Karabina Simonova)

Action type: Gas-opearated, rotating-bolt semi-automatic

Caliber: 7.62X39 Russian

Capacity: 10 round attached magazine, hinged at the front of the magazine body
Barrel length: 20.34″
Overall length: 40.16″
Weight: 8.8 lbs. (loaded)
Stock: Asian hardwood
Sights: Hooded post front; tangent leaf rear, graduated from 100 to 1000 meters
Finish: Blued receiver, barrel, gas tube and magazine
Current Value: $150 – $450 depending on manufacturer/condition

RATINGS (Out of five stars)

Style *  *  *  *  *
A beautiful mid-century rifle design; it’s no surprise that these guns are often used for ceremonial duty.

Ergonomics (carry)  *  *  *  *
Though it’s a little heavier than modern carbines, the strap makes carrying it a breeze. The fact that the SKS is a well-balanced weapon aids in carrying as much as it does in shooting.

Ergonomics (firing)  * * * *
For what this gun costs, it’s simply a dream to fire. The trigger could be slightly better, but that’s it.

Reliability *  *  *  *  *
Based on the owner’s experience (as well as my own), it’s never once failed to fire, even when crap ammo has been fed through it.

Customize This *  *
Most of these guns are left wisely unmolested.  The most common modification to the SKS design (often done by manufacturers) involves altering the receiver to accept removable magazines.  But why not just buy an AK if that’s important to you?

The SKS is a terrific overall package and a blast to shoot; for the money, it’s hard to imagine anything better.

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  1. Coincidentally, the Baltimore Sun just listed a series of gun seizures:

    This morning, Baltimore police announced a series of gun arrests. A noise complaint in the 200 block of East Read St., at Guilford Avenue, in Mount Vernon. Police said the complaint led to the seizure of drugs, an SKS assault rifle and arrest of a 24-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman.

    In the comments section, Retired Cop cried foul:

    An SKS is not an "assault rifle" as you have termed it, Mr. Hermann. It is simply a rifle. Not all firearms are the horrible, scary, monsters-in-the-closet so many reporters like to make them out to be, in the effort to make a scarier, thus more sensational article or blog post. I would appeal to you and all your colleagues to abandon fear-mongering in search of ratings and readers, and just be straight with the people; whether articles involve firearms, or not.

    I expect the reporter got the designation from the police report, but I did some checking, and even though the website below describes SKS as assault rifles, only some variants from China have selective fire and detachable magazines.

    • I too enjoyed this review very much. I applaud the reired gentlman for the correction he posted to the newspaper article. That is exactly the kind of thing we need to keep the liberal media in check. I stand behind this 100%

    • My norinco sks doesn’t want to rechamber a bullet after firing it has a 30 round mag which is plastic seems hard to get out of causing a jam and suggestions?

      • Many aftermarket mags do not function well in the SKS,a lot of them sit to high catching bolt as it comes forward.You might check that or go back to original fixed mag.

      • Jerry, I have detachable mags for mine also, my plastic mags are horrible while my metal mags have had no problems. I only use metal mags for my SKS.

        • Gyus the SKS CAN easily be modifyed to accept the 20 round Tapco mag…..which by itself in a POS IMHO. I own 3 SKS’s and two are modifyed for this cut off Tapco. Check out this site for the very best mag adapter made for the SKS. I tell you it resolved ALL of my feed problem with removable mags.
          It is a small operation and the customer service is excellent. No big mods required to the gun and all is easily reversable.

      • file down the stock where the org, mag well was, until it is just tight enough for the mag to fit snug, the plastic mag is thicker than the org ..should stop your jamming prob..

    • Huh?…… Just a thought but you can get 10 round stripper clips for dirt cheap For your SKS. Way easier than fooling around upside down trying to load it.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Brent. It was terrific to shoot and made me see the 7.62X39 cartridge in a totally different (more positive) light than my prior stereotype – the SKS presented that round as much more accurate and more tame from a recoil point-of-view than I would have ever expected.

      I'm scheduled to shoot two AK-47's (one of which is chambered in .223 Remington) this weekend, so check back frequently for my review of those.

    • Thanks for catching that, Alexander! I just fixed it and will double-check my sources for correct spelling in the future.

  2. nice review i have a russian sks from 1954. the gun was customized with a polymer dragunov style stock and a 40 round clip and this damn muzzle break that will not come off… any way i plan to get a wooden stock and somehow get rid of the muzzle break and purchase some 10 round detachable clips. the gun is very accurate and a pleasure to shoot and it has never jammed even with 1000+ rounds through it. i think it would be a great varmit rifle (sadly you cannot legally hunt deer with a high-powered rifle where i live) I think it is a great value i cannot think of a better semi-auto rifle for the value on the market!

    • Did you mean high powered rifle or full metal jacket ammunition. Where I live it’s legal to hunt with a rifle but you must use soft point or hollow point ammunition. not that I would hunt with FMJ. The problem would be the 10 rd. magazine. I haven’t found anyway to convert the magazine. I use my SKS for hunting feral hogs and there is no restriction on that.

  3. I really laugh watching the video!

    You told you experienced malfunction due to loading. When I saw you loading the rifle, I understand why. This rifle, like mostly all military fixed magazine rifle (bolt or auto), are a TOP loader. This mean to let the magazine closed, open and lock the bolt, then insert ammo one by one in the mag, then close the bolt. These rifle are supposed to be loaded with stripper clip, a small metal strip holding 10 round.

    The way you load the rifle is one of the laughier I saw!

    And one of the first rules of gun shooting is EAR PROTECTION!!!

    Do a gun review is a thing, do it right is another. Always be familiar with gun safety before using a gun.

    No offense…

    • Gun Guru, it’s a good idea to read the ENTIRE article before commenting. Apparently you missed this paragraph:

      “Loading the SKS is a straightforward affair. You insert the rounds one by one into the fixed 10-round magazine while the bolt is locked open. However, as you’ll see in the video, I loaded the SKS upside down, with the bolt closed. Why? Criticize this fear as unfounded, but I’ve always worried about the possibility of a bolt slamming forward on my thumb (a la “M-1 thumb”). My method worked reliably and allayed my fear of digital duress…”

      As far as ear protection goes, I made an admittedly stupid mistake exactly once in many years of firearms handling. I wish I hadn’t done it, but we can’t all be perfect like you.

  4. Dude,

    You seem to have little to know experience with guns. You need to lean forward while you shoot. Also the thing you were doing with your finger while shooting was pretty funny to. Then the way you loaded the mag…. DUDE… . You seem like a good wrighter, I think you should leave the instructional vids to someone whos spent time shooting.

    Just my opinion. I dont mean to put you down. I just think you realy need to learn some shooting fundementals before you make any more gun vids.

    Chris Mackee

  5. Also dont guide the bullet into the chamber. Just pull it back and let go.

    Years of firearm handling? I dont know why but I realy doubt that

    • Mr. Mackee,


      I'll let the TTAG readers judge the whole of my work and decide for themselves whether or not I'm credible, both in the area of firearms, as well in the area of "wrighting." (And I'll only sleep about eight hours tonight worrying about whether or not they will.)

      Have a good day.

      • I don’t see any reason to worry about losing a thumb; the hold-open on these puppies is pretty solid in my experience and I’m sure if mutilated thumbs were a big issue with any makes of the SKS we’d have heard about it by now.

        That said, unless you’re doing a combat reload under duress, there’s nothing wrong with loading from the bottom aside from it being a little less efficient. Go with whatever works.

  6. Well, most shotguns are loaded upside down. Also, most magazine fed weapons are also technically loaded from the bottom (albeit not upside down). Looks like I'll take my $1,000,000 now! Unfortunately, by the way you type, spell, and graciously talk down about someone you don't even know, I can assume that your million-dollar portfolio isn't coming into fruition any time soon.

    Don's technique may not be perfect and I think he will (or has) admitted it. Yes, he rides the bolt forward, loads cartridges in a peculiar manner, and seems generally awkward when shouldering the rifle. He isn't an expert or some long-time sharp shooter. Don knows that, and so do we. He’s is a gun enthusiast giving his opinion about how a particular gun felt, shot, and handled.

    Don has also already mentioned that he loaded the SKS from the bottom because he didn't want to slam the bolt down on his finger accidentally. This isn't unheard of, especially with a potentially "well worn" SKS (or M1 for that matter). His model is probably OK to do so, but without stripper clips I would consider doing it this way as well.

    If you are really the notorious shooter that you think you are, I amiably invite you to my local range in the Phoenix area. I can rustle up at least 140 shooters that would love to have a group lesson “tought” by the master.

    BTW, "tought" is old english for taut (means tight). Taught is to learn something. I suggest that you grow up a little bit. The internet is a wonderful tool and a remarkable resource. It brings worlds together, and connects people who would otherwise never know each other. It doesn’t give characters like you and ‘Gun Guru’ carte blanche to be rude and discourteous.

  7. I just watch your review and I must say I thought it was done well, I myself am a first time SKS owner as of today came across one in a local gun show and for the price I couldnt walk away, even thou I was there to pick up a bolt action .223

    At first I was taken with the clean look, it is in the sniper stock with a scope and it just looks just mean to me, thou my wife thought it was old and ugly but so am I…LOL

    I will be taking out to the range this weekend and will be more then happy to give a full detail review of it.

    For the record I was in AIA for 15 years and handled a good amount of weapons and even thou you did do a little off style shooting it seemed that you did well to me.

    Bravo Zulu


    • go a head but the first bullet has to go in one way only or you get what this rifle man got. i think it has to start out on the left side. hell just get some striper clips that what it made for.

  8. In your specifications you listed the action type as Gas Operated-Rotating Bolt.
    The SKS uses a tipping bolt. In its rearward cycle the bolt carrier raises the rear
    of the bolt to unlock it.

  9. I liked this review. The guy said it, he’s a hand gun guy. Pardon my english writing skills being French Canadian. This riffle is a beauty, I got mine at Lever Arms in Vancouver for 200$ with all the equipment that comes with it and got 300 rounds of corrosive ammo for 65$ or so. It is a pain to clean after shooting this type of ammo but for the price in the end a pleasure. The only thing is the luck of the draw, you never know what kind of accuracy you will get. I got lucky, fresh out of the box I was in the 10 at a 100 yards, but the guy beside me was trying for weeks to correct his sight and still… There is 10$ tool made to correct the front sight for the riffle, I suggest getting it. For you guys who like putting people down instead of appreciating the effort and interest of others, please just start new thread.

    Thank you for your time

    • Pascal, I can’t get my front sight to adjust on my paratroop m model. Do you have to have a special tool to move the front sight? I’d shore would appreciate a response. Tom in Texas

      • A front sight adjustment tool is required to move the front sight, Most are pretty cheap they can be found at between 5 to 20 bucks depending on quality

  10. I appreciate your efforts on the video and your personal preference to load upside down. I would think this to be a good way to load ten rounds and NOT have one in the chamber while it rides around the back of a truck or back of a ATV. I plan to follow it. I get mine tomorrow and am looking forward to hitting the range with it. I just finished cleaning an 1891/30 and refinishing its stock. Anxious to shoot it alongside the Norinco. Also stripped and oiled a new stock for the coming SKS. I love these older beauties! Simple, efficient design. Just like my blow-back Maks. Keep em simple!

    Keep the videos coming and blow off those who feel the need to put others down…

  11. i own 3 of these sks rifles, and a couple high dollar rifles as well , when i go hunting i always grab the sks, very simple, very reliable, and quite accurate, what else is there? ive fired thousands of rounds through my beat up sks never fails , and a joy to shoot, and you dont have to worry about scuffs, dirt, mud, they seem to like it, oh and yea i load mine from the bottom too! if you ever had the bolt slam shut on your thumb when its 10 below zero, you wont be laughing,

  12. Just a coupla questions. I have what appears to be a Norinco paratroop M model I purchased in 94 at a gun show. Haven’t shot it much since then, but it has detachable mag capability. But I can’t see how to adjust the front sight for windage. It shoots to the right 2 inches at just a hundred feet, it looks like the front sight is sliding pin design but I can’t get it to adjust. Am I doing it wrong? Or is it just stuck? Really need some advice. Tom, stuck in Texas

    • You are correct that the front sight post is screwed into a sliding, press-fit pin that slides left-to-right. There is a tool that looks like a c-clamp that fits over the front sight, with a screw that moves the sight pin when you torque it down. It also works on elevation changes of the front sight post itself. If you don’t want to invest in that tool, you may use a brass punch and a hammer, but be sure that you soak the front sight in penetrating oil and support the sight base well before you begin pounding on it. The sliding pin is very tight for a good reason. The c-clamp is by far the best option, makes small, repeatable changes easy, and is usable on SKS, AK47, and AK74 rifles. Check for availability at Cheaper Than Dirt, Midway Arms, Brownells, and nearly every website that sells AK accessories. Be careful, though. There’s a good tool, and a cheaper knock off that doesn’t work nearly as well. Good luck!

    • Tom, I got the front sight tool. But it didn’t work for me for windage adjustment. I went to a friends shop and borrowed his 4-way service tool for ball-joints and such. By using that and Mickey Mousing with a 1/2 socket and a cut-off piece a bolt I finally got it to move. I guess you could try heating the sight mount too. That might expand it enough to let the sight move. If you get the tool get the high quality one.

    • Hi Tom, I owned a Yugo for many years and had a few issues with the sights myself. The solution I found that worked the best for me was the TS aftermarket sights They don’t block the ability to add a scope or require you to remove the originals. They are more like a old M1 sight and by increasing the sight line I found that my accuracy was remarkably improved. I know that this is a really old thread, so I’m sorry if I bumped a dead topic, Just wanted to share my 2 cents. Happy Shooting!

  13. If you have ever had a bolt slam on an SKS. Or have experienced a round go off on one of those SKS carbine rifles when the bolt slams due to a slightly protruding firing pin you would understand the bottom loading with the bolt closed. Even though they are designed for a stripper clip. Some ammo these days have soft primers. and that particular rifle will most definitely fire if the bolt slams on certain U.S. made ammuntion.

    • I had one slam fire on me too. What I discovered was cosmoline in the bolt. After I cleaned that out it never happened again. There is a fix though. Someone, I can’t remember the details is selling a spring and firing pin kit for the bolt that keeps the firing pin held to the rear. That would fix the problem with soft primers. When I say slam fire I mean it emptied the magazine in what felt like 1/2 second. Scared the h**l out of me. Glad it was pointed in a safe direction.

  14. good article. i just bought a new chinese sks( i gave my first one away years ago. dang!) and can’t wait to get it to the range. I believe if you use the stripper clip to load your fingers are safe, but i understand the wrighters worries. I highly recommend easing the bolt carrier forward, as rob54 commented,if the firing pin if dirty or still bearing packing lube it can protrude and cause slam fires.

  15. I basically have the same rifle. I can quickly load eight rounds with a stripper clip. To load ten rounds using a stripper clip I have to push them in slowly and place my thumb close to the rim of the last cartridge. Unless you push hard enough to retract the bolt fully to the rear while loaded (which is possible, since the stripper-clip guide is on the bolt, but not likely), you shouldn’t have a problem.

    • When I load strippers I put my thumb across the rounds right next to the stripper, fingers down under the rifle then just squeeze. Works every time. It may be just a technique thing that’s keeping you from loading in ten at a tme.

  16. This was a very well written article. I appreciate the use of one’s head to figure out a way to alleviate problems such as can be had when a bolt slams on a digit. I’ve had that and it does give a person pause to reflect on procedure. In teaching firearms use for over thirty years I have found there are always options that can be used to accomplish a particular end.

    Keep the great work coming and your cross hairs on target!

  17. Just bought a Norinco SKS with all Tapco synthetic furniture except for the top part of the stock which I was told was a good thing that the original wood was kept on that spot. Shoots good without huge recoil but gets hot just like AKs

  18. I recently bought an SKS (a ’64 Norinco with tentspike bayonette which I’ve removed) and absolutely agree with your review, which I thought was balanced and accurate — just like this crackerjack rifle!

    Thanks for the review!

  19. I also have a Norinco SKS Type 56. Love it!! Mine had a detachable 10 round mag, by detachable I mean I had to break down the rifle and remove it (as if i was going to clean it) and now I can attach 30 round magazines. Still love my Red Rock Arms AR15 better but the SKS was my first rifle and you never forget your first! i also have a Century Arms WASR10 AK coming in about 5 days. Can’t wait for that one. It will be my SHTF rifle. Because if i have no cleaning supplies in a SHTF scenario my AR becomes a club without proper cleaning and maintenance. You can shoot 5000 rounds through an AK and not clean it and it will still fire.

  20. It’s a very good article. I wanted to comment about the first video — when loading (charging) the rifle, it is horrible practice to hold the bolt as the round chambers. Proper practice is to pull the bolt back and release it so the spring and bolt controls the feed.

  21. Good write up and the reliability aspect of the Norinco SKS is true and legendary . However , there is one totally wrong item in the specifications . That is the assertion that it is a rotating bolt design .

    The SKS bolt toggles up and down from open to lock in battery as the bolt moves forward and it absolutely does not rotate . If you had ever field stripped an SKS you would know there is no way the bolt rotates !

  22. I bought a Type 56 Norinco (never issued) a few years ago and it’s still one of my favorite weapons. I think all owners of this rifle should address the issue of slam fire potential, by spring loading the firing pin. Unless the original pin is kept hospital clean, slam fire and doubling (full auto) can occur. Check out Murray’s Gunsmithing in Texas for the kit. It’s well worth the money.

    • John,

      While the Murray’s spring-loaded pin is a good upgrade, I hardly think you need to keep the pin “hospital clean.” Kind of hard to imagine numerous countries issuing SKS rifles to their infantry if it was so high maintenance. The biggest issue is cosmolene, but after an initial cleaning, it shouldn’t need to be babied so much.

    • I believe you’re right Joe. I’ve had an instance of slam fire which emptied the mag of all ten rounds. This happened the first time I took it out to shoot it. I’d bought it from an ad in the local sale paper, and the guy said he’d had it for several years. The rifle looked and smelled clean, the barrel was shiny inside, the gas tube was clean, the piston was clean. It all looked good. I took it straight to the range to try it out. Thirty rounds. No problem. I put in ten more, and sent the bolt home. No problem. I put it to my shoulder and pulled the trigger, and the next thing I know I’m trying to hold it down while it spits out all ten. I took it home after the butt chewing from my friend the range owner, and did a detail strip on it. Cosmoline still in the bolt, and inside the rear sight block where the connecting pin for the piston lives. It never gave me another problem.

    • My Norinco’s pin would frequently stick (although it never slam-fired) because it was soft. The travel stops on the firing pin would peen over, jamming the pin in the channel.

      I installed a Murray’s pin, and maybe a couple of hundred rounds later it broke where the diameter necked down to accommodate the spring. Oddly enough, it still fired…

      In any event I don’t know if Murray’s pin is really the solution. The return spring is very light, and if the FP channel gunks up jamming the pin so bad that it’ll set off those hard primers, I can’t see that weak spring really doing anything about it.

      I replace it with a surplus pin – Yugoslavian, I think – and never had another problem.

  23. 2 things on form:
    Why do you work the bolt with your palm up? (I do this when operating a machine gun, but not a regular rifle.) When I see a little charging handle, I think index finger. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you usually use the palm-up technique when you need lots of leverage (Mk. 19 or M2).

    And gah, it hurts to watch you ride that bolt forward! I remember my sergeant yelling in my ear in basic training about that stuff.

  24. I found a scoped model SKS in a gunstore for about $280. It looks in good condition with all the dressings. Any opinions on this? Also, I would like to do some long range shooting, and I don’t care about having an old or new gun, just something cheap and reliable that can be accurate out to about 1000 yrds, preferably with a scope. Any suggestions?

    • Also, I would like to do some long range shooting, and I don’t care about having an old or new gun, just something cheap and reliable that can be accurate out to about 1000 yrds, preferably with a scope. Any suggestions?

      There is nothing “cheap” that will make you accurate out to 1000 yards, and even if you had an expensive custom match or sniper rifle (which is what you’re basically asking about here), it would take quite a bit of dedicated work and training on your part to reliably hit anything that far out.

      To answer the question, the absolute cheapest way to reach out 400 yards is probably a military surplus Mosin Nagant bolt action rifle. The rifles can still be had for around $150, and the surplus ammo is probably the cheapest medium power rifle ammo out there right now. .**BUT** these rifles are difficult to scope and many if not most of the refurbished “re-arsenalled” guns on the market have lousy bores. If you’re really serious about accuracy (and you should be if you want to hit anything at 400+ yards), then you’ll probably need to do extra work on the gun, including potentially going through a number of individual guns to find a suitable good one to work on, then improving it by floating the barrel, and working on the trigger. Having been designed in the 19th century for Russian peasants, the ordinary Mosin stock also isn’t particularly comfortable nor ergonomic. So that’s another desirable upgrade to get a working long range gun.

      To be honest, once you start adding in the cost and effort to upgrade and scope the rifle, you’ll probably just find it more cost effective to buy an decent entry level production rifle off the shelf, like a Savage or Remington, in either .308 Winchester or maybe .30-06, then put a good scope on it (in this case good scope will probably cost considerably MORE than the rifle).

      • The initial cost of the Mosin is really low however, and regular surplus ammo is still a bargain. After you have the rifle you can slowly one step at a time work it into what you want it to be. In the meantime, you get trigger time. And, that is probably the most important thing in becoming a good long range shooter. That being said, if I was going to train a long range shooter I would start him off on a nice little 22lr bolt gun. I’ve seen a guy consistently hitting liter soda bottles at 300yds with heavy barrel 22 bolt guns, and I’ve got to say I’m impressed. The nice thing about the 22 concept is, you’re not going to develop a flinch. IMHO the worst thing you can do to a new shooter is start them out on a big mule like the Mosin, or even a 308, or in some cases even a 223. Besides, you can go out and burn a couple hundred rounds of 22lr on the weekend and not break the bank. The 22lr is affected by all the same variables, drop, windage, humidity, etc. just on a macro, or maybe micro scale.

  25. if you want a cheap rifle for long range shooting the only choice is the russian nagant bolt action with long barrel. They can be had at Big 5 sports for about $130 on sale. Get one with a good bore. Shooting surplus ammo at 18 cents per round is cheap, and with a scpoe you can hit out to 500+ yards. beyond that you are dreaming with any rifle under $1000. AS far as the SKS the short barrel version is better while only losing 70 fps over the long barrel.

  26. I have always preferred the SKS to the AK, the barrel and sight plane are around four inches longer on the standard model and this leads to higher muzzle velocity and a better sight picture.
    Yes, I did buy one of the 100 dollar versions back in the day in preference to the AK clone at 269 dollars.

  27. I got a bunch of stripper clips to align the rounds and provide an extra protection from the bolt.
    I always have several stripper clips handy and can load 10 rounds in less than 2 seconds.
    Nice review!

  28. Great review on a great gun!

    Love the Norinco type 56 SKS, have had mine for almost 20 years, best $120 my wife ever spent!

    Only complaint I had initially was that the butt end of the stock was too short for my taste, didn’t care to have my face that close to the receiver, so I bought a synthetic Monte Carlo-style stock (guess the original would be a perfect fit for someone of a shorter stature ie a typical person of Asian descent, no offense intended).

    Have had some intermittent slam-fires, going to send the bolt away to get “Murray-ized” soon, before I get into trouble at the shooting range lol.

  29. i had the bolt of my sks slam on my thumb it took skin off my thumb… loading from the bottom is not a bad idea. theyre a great rifle! i fitted mine with the tapco stock. only downfall is its tough to find a sturdy optics mount as both the gas tube with rail and railed reciever cover both slightly move when the gun is fired…

  30. I have found that if my Norinco is too clean ( ie: dry) it will jam. You gotta let’em have a sip o oil!

    • Please don’t oil it… If you must a little dry lube. Oil can be like grinding compound if dirt in is introduced in the system..

  31. I have found only one major flaw in your review, good sir. You were both accurate and insightful right up to the end and then you flubbed it. The SKS operates on the tilting bolt principle, not the rotating bolt design.

  32. You gave it a 2 out of 5 on customization. I have to disagree with that. I have a Yugo SKS reciever with a Shernic Gun Works bullpup stock(SG Works). I have the original stock, but I wanted to see if I could modernize, or ‘customize’ my rifle more than just the leaf sights. Not only did the bullpup stock take 11 inches off the overall length of the gun and reduce recoil even more, but it made it perfectly balanced on the pistol grip next to the trigger. I can fire with one hand. Not very accurately with one hand, but that was impossible with the original stock.
    My SG Works bullpup stock came with a picatinny tac rail on the top of the rifle as well as three small, removable, accessory rails for grips and the like. I attached a tactical grip that has a deployable bipod ($24 @ Cheaper than instead of $90 at my local gun store) and a cheap red dot sight on top. I use a 20 round removable mag instead of the original 10 that i stored with cosmoline.
    In short, I modernized my SKS rifle. I made it shorter than an AK or AR-15, but because of the much longer barrel length, it retains greater accuracy. The gun is balanced, giving it better handling or ergonomics. For everything that I purchased so far, the total is $724 dollars for a great assault rifle.
    Don’t just take my work for it though, check it out yourself. I am very pleased with my SKS as well as the pricing behind it.

  33. With all due respect – I won’t touch a Norinco with a five foot long stick. Overall, I don’t trust weapons made by the Chinese. The countries who make the best weapons in my personal opinion are: Russia, Switzerland, Israel, Italy and Czech Republic.

    • The Chinese have put out millions of these guns over the years, they’ve been battle tested (eg in Vietnam, where they were used with success against US troops) and empirically, they work just as well as any of the other Communist-bloc made versions.

      The Chinese guns probably won’t win any awards for nice wood or elegant finish, but I’ve seen plenty of them, and I have yet to see one that didn’t work right. In contrast, for example, many of the used military surplus Yugoslavian SKS rifles are unreliable due to corroded gas systems from use with corrosive ammo during the Balkans wars.

      Incidentally, though importation of these stopped years ago, the Chinese made (Polytech) AK rifles were considered amongst the best ever imported into the USA. . .I’d pick one of those over any of the current Romanian re-build Century Arms junkers any day.

      Back on SKS rifles, in my opinion, there are two big advantages that make them good choices for the “average schmoe” for hunting and defense, as sort of the 30/30 levergun of the 21st century:

      -The fixed 10 round magazine design, and lack of vertical pistol grip means that these guns are not legally considered “assault rifles” in almost every jurisdiction in the USA, including ones that restrict AR-15 and Kalashikov pattern rifles. This means that in most places where you can’t legally buy or own the “better” guns, you can still buy and own SKS rifles, sometimes even with the folding bayonet in place!

      Its true that 10 round fixed magazines are effectively obsolete for military rifles in the 21st century, but that’s just not a standard that applies to most civilian shooters, who won’t be taking these guns onto the battlefield. With some practice, its possible to load an SKS from a stripper clip as fast as swapping out a detachable magazine. Not only do stripper chips cost only a small fraction of conventoinal magazines, they also take up a lot less space and add negligible weight. If you’re unlucky enough to be located in a jurisdiction that limits detachable magazine capacity to 10 rounds anyway, I’d say you’d do just as well. . .if not better. . .with 10 round stripper clips instead. Three loaded 10-round stripper clips can fit easily into a side pouch on the rifle stock, sort of a modern nod to the old M1 carbine ammo carrier. You can also carry 3 loaded 10 round clips comfortably into your front shirt pocket. . .try that with a 30 round steel Kalashnikov magazine!

      -Bang for the buck with an SKS rifle is extremely high Even at the “lofty” current prices of $350 each (these could be had for as little as $100-150 each just ten years ago), you’re still getting a reliable forged steel and hardwood military grade weapon in an effective (if not exceptional), inexpensive, and readily available caliber. I don’t think you can buy any better fighting rifle at the price point.

    • >>>The countries who make the best weapons in my personal opinion are: Russia, Switzerland, Israel, Italy and Czech Republic.

      I think there is quite a bit of room for debate about which countries produce the best arms. Its going to depend not only on what type of weapon you’re talking about, but what constitutes the “best”.

      For example, the best shotguns in the world are (arguably) made by Purdey in England. These are largely custom built to order with 1-2 year waiting periods for delivery and start at about $50,000 each.

      I’d say the best production revolvers in the world come from the United States of America. The VERY best revolvers are probably Korth, but as largely hand-fitted $3000 low manufacture number guns, its arguable whether or not these are really “production” guns.

      Speaking of Korth, I think Germany also merits inclusion here. What about Anschutz, Walther, Sig-Sauer, Heckler-Koch, and Blaser? Again, there is room to argue what’s “best”, but if, for example, you’re interested in a match rifle for biathlon or Olympic style target shooting, most of the competitors. . .and winners. . .are using Anschutz.

  34. The SKS is still readily available in NZ, but like all things gun related, prices are higher than Statesiders may be used to. My Norinco cost $NZ495 for the 16″ barrel version. A good choice for the many shooting opportunities here, but ours are restricted to 5 round mags by regulation. No biggie. A sensibly designed semi auto.

  35. Awesome job on the video. I’m planning on putting a scope on my sks and I was trying to figure out how I would load it besides doing it one bullet at a time. Thanks for the useful advice.

  36. I have two SKSs one Chinese and one Yugo. The Chinese is not a “made for the US market” unit. It is ex-military. It functions well, but the chamber is loose and has a trigger like heavy grit sand-paper. It’s accuracy is not anything to write home about either. The Yugo on the other hand is a Cadillac. It’s heavier because of all the add-ons, grenade launcher, night-sights, etc. The trigger is sweet and it’s accurate out to 200yds. I put Tech-sights on both of them and that has really helped with accuracy. I haven’t tried to scope them, though I have seen the side mounts for them at Kalinka Optics. The SKS is a fine rifle for intermediate range. But,I want to warn everyone about the safety. It doesn’t block the trigger or the hammer. I rests on the sear, and can back off while carrying the gun through a days hunting. There have been many accidental discharges, and several shootings as a result. I stop occasionally and unload it, then reset the safety and reload. I don’t hold this against the rifle and it’s never happened to me. It’s just something I learned about and wish to pass on so it maybe doesn’t happen to one of you. Good hunting and be safe.

  37. I have 2 x 100 ROUND DRUM Magazines only,complete with bullet dispensing belts in new original condition ( Type 67 Chinese GPMG) lf anyone has interest in them or can help me with a name of a collector in your region, please contact me via my email address [email protected], Thank you…

    • The Soviets are not as large as we westerners are on average. Also they wear bulky clothing a lot of the year because of their cold climate, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. All of their buttstocks seem short to me, 6′ 4″. I use slip on butt pads to add some length of pull. I got one that was made for the SKS that added 2 inches and that one is perfect.

    • had a lot of parts for SKSs, at one time. You’ll have to check to see what they have left. You weren’t clear if you needed a stock, or only had a stock. They had them at a very reasonable price a year ago. Also, check ebay. A lot of people have tacticooled, or put Monte Carlo stocks on them, and you might find one there.

  38. I enjoyed your review and have watched the video numerous times. We have “his” & “hers” Norinco SKS’s, both with matching numbers, and they are a blast to shoot. I purchased mine decades ago from Roses when they were $129.00; wish I had bought 10 of them. I purchased hers from a dealer friend a year or so ago but it was a good price compared to what they go for now. Hers is kept bone stock while mine is “bubba’d” out with a Tapco Intrafuse stock, 20 round mags, UTG Quad Rail & Bushnell red dot just for the fun of it. I do have the original furniture so it can be returned to stock set up at will. The Tapco 20 round mags work flawlessly so far but the stripper clips may make it as quick or quicker to load. Both are equipped with Murray’s spring loaded firing pins just as a precaution when firing domestic brass rounds with soft primers. Brass Stacker emailed me that they are soon to offer a scout type mount for the Norinco SKS although there are other scout type mounts readily available that require only minor mods to install. The scout mounts seam to offer a more solid platform to mount optics on the SKS. Anyway, thanks again for the article.

  39. I really truly agree with the post, except for customize this, 2 stars was given, I however would give it a five. I’m just about done customizing mine, and you have to look twice to make sure you didn’t see a full battle rattle ready m4-a1. Three position collapsible buttstock, black stock with all around pinnocle mounts, a 3x9x40 11 inch eye relief scope with 1/4 MOA. forward GRIP and two position Tactical bipod. In this setup, I can hit a milk jug at 1300 yards (furthest range I’ve tested) and that was in 15-20 mile n hour windage. I love. LOVE this rifle. I wish I was issued this when I was in the Army instead of the m4, heh well except when we got smoked and had to hold our rifles out in front. ;). Oh forgot to mention that I was shooting from an elevated position, a hill that was 30ish yards higher than down range. Which I’m assuming, not sure, but assuming it helped with the range of shots. I say not sure because of how the bullet was traveling and how fast it got there. I definitely felt I might be able to attempt further. Hope this helps future SKS owners. Cheap to purchase, an affordable change over to newer age likes and feels.

  40. I own a Norinco SKS I purchased “military new”. It was slathered with cosmoline and the wood was dinged here and there. I paid $150 for it15 years ago. I own several high end long guns, but the sks is by far the most fun to shoot. I use open sights at the range and can keep up with the high end Sakos, and Weatherbys with scopes! I use any ammo I find and never had an issue with the gun. Best money I ever spent! Enjoy this nice old weapon! Be safe, God Bless America!

  41. I have 2 Norincos both with all matching numbers. One was a gift in like new condition the other came from Viet Nam drenched in cosmoline and rusty where the metal met the wood furniture. Cleaned up they both shoot great. More accurate than I am. I agree with all the positive comments. They are a tremendous value and fun to shoot. Also CHEAP to shoot. In 2017 I can internet order Wolf by the case delivered to my door for 22 cents a round.
    My old eyes don’t get along with open sights but an aftermarket rear aperture and skinny post and ball front help a lot. I kept the wood furniture on one and added a 1″ recoil pad to improve the Pull Length. I also added a cantilevered scope mount, requires drilling and tapping the reciever but is the only solid way to go, and a compact 4X scope.
    For the second rifle I found an aftermarket stock and a gas tube mounted rail to which I mounted a Bushnell Micro Red Dot.
    I tried the 20 round Tapco Magazine but I actually prefer the original 10 round Box Mag loaded from the top with stripper clips. Slam fire is not an issue as long as the firing pin doesn’t get gummed up. When routine cleaning pull the bolt and shake it back and forth. If you hear the firing pin moving clattering back and forth you’re good. Mine have never been stuck. I remove the firing pin after 2 or 3,000 rounds and clean the internals anyhow.
    I did a trigger job on the rusty rifle not to make the trigger lighter but because it showed negative sear engagement and was kind of rough. Feels good now about 4 1/2 pound pull. Good tutorials on line. Mostly I wanted to modernize a 60 year old design for my use and I learned a lot in the process.
    With a quality cartridge they’d be capable deer rifles and I’m confident pinned a suitably shaped block of wood, maybe an eraser or pinned you could restrict the box magazine to 5 rounds. Probably legal

  42. All SKS Carbines are not a “Norinco”. Some folks have taken to lumping the early model military issued SKS carbines in with the Norinco models of later (1980’s to present) commercially manufactured models.


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