If you’ve been around at least as long as I have, you remember when you could buy a solid SKS rifle at just about any gun shop for around $65 out the door. I must have looked at dozens of them during that time. For whatever reason, I didn’t find them interesting. So, to my shame and sincere regret, I never bought one. Fast forward a few decades and the price of a good SKS has risen considerably. The last one I saw on a gun store shelf was priced over $500. Looking back, I wish I had bought a hundred of them. But then, hindsight is always 20-20.
The SKS rifle, in case you are unfamiliar with it, is a handy little semi-automatic military surplus carbine with a 10 round fixed magazine that fires the 7.62×39 cartridge. Essentially, the SKS was the Eastern Bloc service rifle that preceded the AK47. Although it saw limited service in the Russian military due to the adoption of the AK47, the SKS (Type 56 carbine) saw widespread and longstanding service in China as the rifle of the “People’s Liberation Army” (PLA). Well over ten million SKS rifles have been made by various countries around the world since the rifle’s invention by Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov in 1943.
By today’s standards the SKS rifle is obsolete as a military arm. It lacks most of the features of a modern military rifle. For example: it is heavy for a carbine; it’s magazine is non-detachable and must be loaded using antiquated stripper clips or one round at a time; the magazine only holds ten rounds and there is no easy way to attach optics, weapons lights, laser designators or other mission specific equipment. To state it plainly, the SKS rifle is no longer fit for service in any major country’s military and hasn’t been for some time. But what about civilian use?
Recently, I’ve received more than just a few questions from YouTube viewers regarding my opinion of the SKS as a suitable defensive rifle for those who live in restrictive states like California. It is my considered opinion that the SKS rifle works very well for citizens of California specifically, because it does not fall within the legal definition of an “assault weapon” in that state. It’s primary saving grace is that the SKS rifle does not have a detachable magazine. Additionally, it’s fixed magazine holds only 10 rounds. It also has no pistol grip, no flash hider and a wooden stock. As a result, it looks fairly benign. It’s as if Sergei Simonov was thinking about the needs of today’s California residents when he designed the little rifle way back in 1943. But don’t let the looks of the SKS rifle fool you. It is a very capable fighting rifle that has proven it’s worth in wars and conflicts all over the globe.
To demonstrate the reliability and combat accuracy of the SKS, I recently took two examples of the rifle to the range. I shot a considerable amount of ammunition through both guns and never experienced a single failure to function. I must admit that I don’t know exactly how many rounds I fired. I brought a big bag full of ammo and I shot every round.
As a result of my long day on the range with the SKS rifles, I came to the following conclusions. 1: The rifles are capable fighting rifles. They are strong, simple, handy, low maintenance, easy to shoot and ridiculously reliable. They fire a proven fighting round (7.62×39), are relatively easy to load using stripper clips and have relatively light recoil making follow-up shots a breeze. 2: They are combat accurate. The rifles I fired consistently held combat accurate groups of between three inches and eight inches at 100 yards using iron sights. Accuracy improved slightly when using an optic. While a three inch to eight inch group at 100 yards is not one-minute-of-angle, it most certainly is one-minute-of-enemy. The rifles were designed with sufficient accuracy to squarely hit a human being in the center of mass out to 200 yards. In the vast majority of cases, that is all that is needed in a defensive rifle and that is indeed what SKS rifles are very capable of doing.
So, now it’s time for me to answer the question: is the SKS rifle a suitable choice for a civilian defensive rifle in restrictive states like California. My simple answer is, absolutely!