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.