The SKS – Surplus Deer Rifle by Lyndon Combs
The use of surplus rifles to hunt is nothing new, but since the fall of the Berlin Wall the market has been flooded like never before with good rifles. The Ak-47, Mosin Nagant, and the SKS, to name just a few of the guns, have become part of the hunting terminology in America, filling shelves at local gun shops by the dozen.
In this article I am going to deal with the one that has caught on the most with deer hunters, the SKS. At first the Russian version came to America, and as the guns caught on with the gun community, surplus Chinese versions began to flow into the hands of American hunters. They were cheap, well made, and accurate; all great selling points to many hard working hunters who picked up one to add to their collection of hunting rifles.
As time went by and the rifles were used more in the field they became even more popular with deer hunters, many setting aside their trusty lever action .30-30s to use the SKS. The guns have changed a little since the first ones hit the market, due to laws being passed by liberal idiots trying to stop the guns from being sold, but the laws have only made the price go up, and the popularity of the guns to flourish. At least every hunter I know locally has owned an SKS at one time or another and some own more than one to hunt with. The after market products for the rifle have made customizing the SKS very easy, from stocks of all shapes and configurations, to custom finishes, the options for personalization of an SKS is limitless.
The SKS or Samozaryadniy Karabin Sistemi Simonova was designed in 1945 by Sergei Gavrilovich Simonova, it was chambered in 7.63X39mm M1943 round. It was an intermediate powered rifle that was manufactured in many of the former Eastern Bloc nations under various designations. It uses a short stroke gas piston self–loading action that fires one round every time you squeeze the trigger. Most came with a 10 round attached boxed magazine that could be fed with stripper clips, but many owners changed this feature to a detachable box magazine using after market parts. Some later models made by Norinco in China had detachable box magazines, but they only held 5 shot clips. Contrary to the beliefs of many anti-gun liberals, this is not an assault weapon, it does not meet the criteria of a true assault weapon. It can be changed to meet the specifications of an assault weapon, but the original rifle does not fit the criteria.
The Russian SKS considered to be the best version of the rifle was only made from 1949 to 1951 after this the rifle was made in other countries such as China, Romania, and Yugoslavia. The only country to currently manufacture the rifle is Yugoslavia by the Zastava Armory. The most common versions of the rifle are the Norinco made in China, and the Yugoslavian version. The exact number of rifles is unknown, but it is well in the millions. There are only a few variations of the rifle that are actually rare, and they are the Vietnamese Type 1, North Korean Type 63, and the East German Karabiner–S. These have never been exported to the U.S., and the difference between this version and other versions is not really known.
The 7.62X39mm cartridge that the SKS fires is the same cartridge that the AK-47 is chambered to fire; S.A.A.M.I., maximum average pressure of 50,000 C.U.P. ammunition of U.S. manufacture uses a .308 bullet, and in the early surplus ammunition made in other countries a .311 bullet, so some ammunition works better in the SKS.
The only rifle to be able to shoot both bullet sizes accurately is the Ruger Mini Thirty that has a special tapered chamber throat. This is why I only use surplus or Wolf brand ammunition in the SKS rifles that I have owned. If you reload, many of the bullet companies manufactured bullets in the .311 diameter, and the 7.62X39mm are very easy to reload. The cartridge basically performs similar to the Winchester .30-30 cartridge the only two differences between the cartridges, is that the .30-30 doesn’t have the ability to use pointed bullets in many of the rifles chambered for the cartridge, but the Hornady Leverevolution ammunition has cured that advantage, the .30-30 is able to use heavier grain bullets. The 7.62X39mm cartridge is basically a rimless .30WCF as far as performance. The rifle however, being semi–automatic, does shoot faster than many lever action rifles chambered in .30-30, and the lighter recoil of the SKS makes for wickedly quick follow up shots. So you can see why many hunters use the SKS.
The SKS has had the reputation in some parts of the country as the poor mans deer gun, but I have never felt that to be a good representation of the gun. This is a view that some elitist hunters that feel that the rifle has no place in hunting camps like to express. They are also the idiots that think the so-called black rifles have no place in the field. Well I will tell you one thing, the SKS is a deadly weapon, and can harvest a deer just as well as many of the deer rifles on the market. Yes it may not be the prettiest rifle in the field, but it is more than enough gun to do the job on deer sized game.
The SKS has features that to me are like no other, and give it an edge that is in comparison to only the Winchester 94 pre-safety lever actions. The safety on the SKS, to me is the only safety that I actually like on a close quarters deer gun. It is actually a well designed, quick working mechanism that does not hinder the hunter in the brush. The safety sits next to the trigger, and when it is released the trigger finger is brought directly into line with the trigger ready to start squeezing. To put the safety back on, it only takes a flick upward of the trigger finger. It is actually not a time consuming operation as with other rifles, and in the brush you don’t have all the time in the world to work a safety on a gun, and walking through the woods with a gun safety-off; ready to fire is not smart. This feature of the SKS is a big plus in my book. The SKS and the Winchester 94 are my two favorite deer guns for the mountains of eastern Kentucky.
The SKS I now own is the Norinco Sporter that has a short barrel and thumbhole stock. Someone has tried to dress the gun up a little by working on the stock. It is in good shape and is one of the versions that have a detachable box magazine. Some of these rifles were designed to only hold small clips, so the magazine retaining spring may need to be changed to get them to hold anything more than a five shot clip reliably. After this, the gun should hold the larger clips, and even the drums if you use a strong enough spring.
If you do any reconfiguring of your rifle be sure to check the laws on what can and can’t be done. Mine holds the thirty round clips fine, and for hunting I have a ten round magazine to comply with state hunting laws. I decided to cover the stock in camo tape to help it blend in to the brush, and to cover up the amateur gunsmith’s stock work. I have done this before on a gun that had a stock that kept cracking, and it looks good. I also added a muzzle brake to the gun because this SKS when fired rapidly would go a little off target due to the muzzle climbing.
The trigger on mine is one of the best I have fired, it allows for quicker shooting due to the smoother trigger. Overall this is probably my favorite SKS I have ever owned, and these rifles are good, solid guns for deer hunting. Mine is also serving double duty as a defense gun. They are easy to work on, and parts are easily found, so you can’t wrong with an SKS.