Personal – I have a fondness for russian weapons (possibly my Slovak background), I have owned many versions and copies of this carbine from Soviet to satellite to Sino. The standard version of this rifle fires the intermediate (mid level from rifle to pistol) power 7.62×39 round. I mention “standard versions” because I have heard rumors of gunsmiths converting the SKS to other “wild-cat” calibers – but I have never seen one in anything other than the 7.62×39. Recoil is mild to all but the smallest women and children, my two youngest children find the recoil disturbing. The shorter length makes the carbine quite handy and it will typically shows better accuracy than it’s Soviet younger cousin the AK 47. The rifle is about as inexpensive and simple to operate as any self-loading rifle can be. I do regret selling my Russian examples, and I found the red chi-com fiberglass stocks a good match for the Chinese imports, reducing the weight. I most likely will never buy any additional examples as I have abandoned use of the 7.62×39 in favor of .308 (large family members) and .223 (small family members).
Function – Reliability is excellent with this rifle even with the worst surplus corrosive ammunition. Dirty surplus ammunition will foul the gas system and if not cleaned, corrosive ammunition will create rust along the gas piston tube and lock the rifle up. I have never reloaded for this rifle and never felt the need, there are reasonsble choises in loadings and bullets from surplus FMJ to soft point hunting rounds. After-market magazines have a bad reputation for unreliable feeding and stove-pipe failures, the non removable 20 round fixed chi-com magazine also had problems. The few SKS rifles built or converted to take AK magazines do not share the unreliable feeding problems with the after-market magazines. This rifle/carbine is best left in its original form.
Design flaws – The simple gas system can be “locked in” with corrosion if maintenance or cleaning is totally ignored. This corrosion lock in is not so much a flaw as a severe lack of maintenance issue. I had a friend that did this to both his AK and SKS at the same time from using Chinese corrosive ammo and not cleaning out the gas tubes. The SKS was made to be loaded with clips from the top of the action and the standard model only holds 10 rounds. Some early Russian rifles had a spring return firing pin that could help prevent slam fire issues. SKS models with a simple sliding floating firing pin have been noted to produce slam fire incidents. This dangerous condition is usually caused by a dirty or grease packed firing pin tunnel. The rifle in it’s standard configuration is heavy for a carbine, but noted for rugged construction. The attached bayonet can lower the rifle’s accuracy and is added weight with little use, I recommend removing the bayonet.
SKS slam fire, causes and modification to spring return firing pin.
Quality – Most produced are of good to reasonable quality, some makers better than others, I consider the Russian imports (often KBI) to be the highest quality version with the Yugoslavian versions a second and the chinese a third.
Caliber/Ammunition – 7.62×39, in an SKS is moderate to reasonable in accuracy. Hundreds of hunters in the US find the SKS and 7.62×39 combination an effective pair for hunting deer, coyote, wild hogs and other game. This round is currently used in many countries as the main cartridge for infantry use.
Use – Easy to find, popular, and relatively inexpensive many different versions of the SKS are available, attachments, spare parts, and ammunition are available from what seems like an endless parade of retailers, gun stores, and online merchants.
Current Production – There is only limited current production of this rifle (if any) but surplus SKS carbines in even almost new condition are common.
Fondness aside, I personally would consider this rifle a secondary choice at best for a current MBR. It does share interchangeability of ammunition and stripper clips with the AK47 type rifle and is inexpensive. The benign look and impression the rifle gives (in original wood stock and without bayonet) makes it a good choice for a “trunk gun”, hunting and hiking carry.