An Honest Review of The SKS-45

In an age filled with advanced, tech-heavy, synthetic, expensive weapons, one is inclined to believe that for those on a low budget, a semi-automatic rifle of assault rifle quality is by far out of reach. While this is true for weapons like the more hailed AK-47 or AR-15, the SKS-45 is a distinguished exception. Designed by Sergei Simonov in 1943, the rifle was designed to counter the world’s first assault rifle, the recently deployed German Sturmgewehr 44, and was used as the general battle rifle for the Red Army until it was phased out by the iconic AK-47 in the early 1950’s. The SKS is still used by both the Chinese and Russian honor guards and has served in almost every major war since its creation including Korea and Vietnam.

The SKS, though old, is a steal of a deal, right off the bottom of the USA’s classified civilian assault rifle rack with a price tag of $150 to $300. It fires the 7.62 by 39 millimeter M43 assault rifle round, later chambered and better known for firing in the AK-47, but due to its longer barrel is able to squeak out a slightly higher muzzle velocity of 735 meters per second. It is semi-automatic and, in its most common format, possesses a ten round stripper-clip fed magazine, leaf iron sights, chrome barrel, and a fold out bayonet. The original SKS works on a well established layout with a rifle grip and wooden stock, and uses a not so conventional gas operated free floating bolt system, that while reducing upkeep and increasing reliability can lead to horrific slam firing (essentially unstoppable full-auto hell). Although it is not a Lego gun like the AR-15, the SKS can be found modified in a fairly ludicrous number of ways. Specimens can be found with synthetic stocks, rail systems, various hunting and tactical scopes, adjustable fore-grips, detachable magazines that hold anywhere from twenty to seventy-five plus rounds, position folding stocks, and bipods… Rocky Mountain Tactical Coatings will even camouflage it in unicorn pink if desired.

Whatever modifications one may or may not place on the SKS, its simplistic and rugged Russian design will still shine through it all. In its intended role as a main battle rifle, the SKS is quite capable in the hands of a well-trained user. It has the ability to fire around 40 to 45 rounds per minute and, even with its crude military sights, place shot groups of around 8 centimeters at 100 meters. All of these performance attributes are perfect for the commonly accepted battle range of 100 meters to 300 meters. These performance attributes along with classic Russian engineering make for a rifle that is sturdy, reliable, simple (the safety is a rod that flips behind the trigger), and essentially soldier-proof.

The most serious complaints for the SKS tend to be blockages, and the most common of these is the easily cleared stovepipe jam, slow reloads with the stripper clips (unless modified for detachable magazines), and how hot the thing gets. With virtually no heat sinks to speak of and terrible hand guards, one has to wonder if Simonov intended the thing to be fired with oven mitts at times. Overall the SKS is a fine rifle and, while there is not significant usage of it in hunting, the SKS excels in target shooting and home defense. The SKS is certainly not the greatest weapon but for its attributes it is often just what is needed to get the job done. Its common nickname as the “poor man’s AK” is incredibly unfitting; the SKS-45 is a weapon excellent in stature and potency. With this assertion, most of the world would probably agree that even today, it is by far more common to see the SKS and her mid 20th century cousins than the fancy high-tech weapons that so pervade the media.



'An Honest Review of The SKS-45' have 5 comments

  1. January 28, 2015 @ 11:29 am FMK

    Frank, your comment “It’s simplistic and rugged Russian design will still shine through it all” is on point. It reminded me of the encounters I have had with Russian engineers. They are an interesting bred. In my experience, American engineers tend to design on the basis of “what works”. The British design and build based upon experience. They are empirical. The German use theory while the French and Italians are very intuitive. Granted, this is my impression and assessment that comes from working with individuals.
    With Russians it is: “Less is more.” You might be interested in reading a bit about the TRIZ approach. It’s a process developed by Genrikh Atshuller, a Soviet Navy patent expert and Mechanical Engineer. His thesis is that; All engineering systems “evolve and advance” according to objective patterns or regularities. He goes on to say that inventive principles can be categorized into a table that can be easily utilized to solve problems and conflicts. That’s a mouth full and the premise is fascinating.
    I contracted a Russian Professor and had him teach my team TRIZ principles. He was very interesting and the time spent was productive.
    Frank M. Knafelc

    Reply

    • July 26, 2020 @ 6:53 pm E.W. Sadler

      The SKS has a lot going for it in terms of making it relevant going forward: 1) It is almost infallible with regards to jamming, 2) Its durability connotes its reliability with the Tilt Bolt and very few springs and small parts, 3) Its caliber is both a man-stopper and a game harvester but it is also very cheap and plentiful…and, did I say, powerful enough for the tasks at hand, 4) While it is incredibly rugged in design, its weight is not too terribly heavy, and 5) It is very UPGRADEABLE from both the perspective of optics to detachable magazines to foldable stocks. This firearm is not elegant, beautiful, or, even, sophisticated but she has got what it takes to make me happy!

      Regards,
      A Lover of MILSURPs!

      Reply

  2. December 23, 2020 @ 2:39 am John

    I’ve got an early good ChiCom SKS (the serial number is only 5 digits) and I have never seen such a rugged workhorse of a rifle. I have fired the bejeezus out of the thing and it’s still as tight as the day I bought it some 30 years ago.

    Reply

  3. February 10, 2021 @ 10:05 pm Keith

    Help… I have a SKS (from my deceased father) with Chinese writing on it as well as a serial number in English. I have a couple questions… 1) did these guns come stock with a synthetic stock? 2) I’ve read about “Slip Fire” problems. To cure that problem you can is by changing the bolt. How can you tell if the bolt has been changed? I’ve read that many of these guns have to be modified in order to use a enclosed clip and not a strip clip. True or False? If true how can you tell if it’s been modified? How can I determine its age?

    Thank you.
    Keith

    Reply

  4. May 20, 2021 @ 7:55 pm Larie

    I own a Yugo mil issue sks. To my knowledge they came with wood stocks, although you can buy synth stocks for them. Ive heard of the slam fire issue, and that is fixed by replacing the floating firing pin with a conventional spring and pin. You can tell if it has the modified firing pin by simply shaking the firing pin block when disassembled. You should be able to clearly hear the pin moving back and fourth, unencumbered by a spring return or other hinderances. My sks has the standard 6 round internal mag. I believe it can also be used with a strip clip. Not sure if its modified, as I’ve heard the modifications allow for removable mags, or the ability to receive a standard mag from an AK. You should be able to look up the serial number and find a manufacture date code online somewhere.

    Hope this helps

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