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 11 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


    • 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!

      A Lover of MILSURPs!


    • September 23, 2021 @ 9:51 pm Steph

      Well some French engineer said a design is perfect not when there in nothing to add, but when there is nothing to take away anymore. This said, the Soviet missed that philosophy with the SKS. A dust cover, a bolt carrier, TWO pistons, one of which can easily fly into orbit on field strip, etc. Too many parts. Compare it to an M-14. This said, my SKS never malfunctioned, not even once.


  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.


  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.


    • September 23, 2021 @ 9:59 pm Steph

      Comes with a wood stock. The slam fire thing is when the firing pin (within the bolt) is not moving freely, probalby it is jammed with crud, so when the bolt closes it fires the gun, thus making it an automatic until you run out of ammo. Solution: CLEAN IT. Clean that bolt, make sure the firing pin is nice and loose and lubricated. There are serial numbers on all the parts, they should match. Mine is Soviet and they have their shit together, not sure about the Chinese ones. SKS is to be loaded from the top with a stripper clip. It has a permanent non-detacheable mag.
      Some are modified with a detacheable mag. Waste of money. The stripper clip syystem works well, unless you want to waste more money and put optics on it, which never work well. The Chinese/North vietnamese use a sort of bandoleer that can hold exactly 20 stripper clip of 10 rounds each. You often see them in movies. You can guy those on Amazon too.


  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


    • September 23, 2021 @ 10:03 pm Steph

      Sorry, SKS has standard 10 round mag. Unless yours is pinned to 5-6 rounds, as they are in Canada. Slam fire is cured bly cleaning the bolt. I never had a problem, but then again mine is boot camp clean. It was meant to use stripper clip.


      • July 26, 2022 @ 9:36 am Danny Smith

        Steph you seem to know your stuff concerning the SKS. I have owned 7 of them since 1991 and still have 3. A Russian SKS45, Chinese Type56 and Yugo M59/66A1 and love firing them.
        These weapons are not tack drivers but they do what they were designed to do and are very dependable.
        Well, I’m preaching to the choir, sorry!


  5. June 19, 2021 @ 7:24 pm Gary ray

    in regards to Keith.I have several of the sks rifles and they do come with a wood stock, and you can easily put a magazine ( 20..30…40) in them after taking the box mag out shave the inside wood until a standard magazine will fit ,,it will not chamber an ak mag. any way .that has been my experience. they are great guns to shoot.


  6. June 23, 2021 @ 8:25 am biff

    The reviews while long does not seem honest.


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