What to look for in an SKS


March 15, 2008, 05:59 AM
Any tips on SKS shopping? I have a decent selection of hadguns and shotguns but other than a couple of .22's I don't own any rifles. Thought I'd find an inexpensive semi-auto just for fun and a friend suggested an SKS. Just wondering if there is anything to watch out for or stay away from or are they all pretty much the same to a non collector.Thanks

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Dumpster Baby
March 15, 2008, 07:18 AM
I don't even begin to know all the technicalities on all the variations of them, but I do know one thing - beware of a dented, flattened gas cylinder on top. I didn't see it on a very well used Chinese Army surplus SKS I bought years ago. The Tapco replacement gas cylinder I bought is very roughly machined on the inside of the tube and may not work. May have to find a genuine Norinco cylinder somewhere, and hope it fits. :cuss:

I also read about a LOT of problems with Yugo gas systems - burned up, fouled, rusted, wrecked. One guy even found a shrapnel hole clear through the top cover of an AK he bought sight unseen.

I would say if it looks funky and beat up ---- wait for it ---- it IS funky and beat up! :neener:

March 15, 2008, 07:24 AM
Yeah, I passed on one locally for that reason, just looked all used up. I figure there is a ton of minor differences, where and when it was made, different models, etc. I don't really care if it is a rare or common model or anything along those lines, just what common problems they have, etc. It's just gonna be a beater/plinker. Thanks for the tip on the gas cylinder.

March 15, 2008, 07:39 AM
Just get a new yugo for $40 bucks more.

March 15, 2008, 09:35 AM
The Yugo's are a deal right now--well made and tank-like; but remember that parts aren't entirely interchangable with the Chinese, Russian, (etc.) varriants. There is also the extra part on the Yugo--the gas cut off for the grenade laucher.

Bottom line being, if you go Yugo, plan on buying a new gas cut-off valve (about 40.00) and a couple spare firing pins (15 bucks). Gun Parts Corp has the stuff.

The Chinese ones are smaller and lighter, but cost a bit more and have likely seen some more use.

There *ARE* good Yugo's to be had that have been arsenal rebuilt or barely shot--best bet is buy from a large importer like AIM or J&G and others that has a solid reputation.

Also, plan on spending 10 hours cleaning all the cosmo out of that YUGO (not unpleasant, and goot instructions for doi g so abound here and elsewhere).

March 15, 2008, 09:51 AM
I just bought a Centur Yugo "insert laugh track here" and its a very good rifle. Once the cosmoline was removed, I could find no wear marks and the bore was bright and sharp. Shoots like a champ too.

Like every other surplus in the world, take your time and look around. Also, unless you want a rifle that's perfect from the rack, ignore the stock. The cosmoline can be removed from the wood. Don't let an ugly stock detract you from a great action/bore.

March 15, 2008, 09:53 AM

Just look here. SKS gurus abound.

March 15, 2008, 09:54 AM
Russian > Yugo > Chinese > other

Basically, for the money, they're hard to beat. They're a weapon module, not a modular weapon, and any accessory you put on them other than a sling is pretty much a waste of money. They will work when abused, and they're simple and reliable. They're not sniper rifles, and they're not moddable like ARs.

And for decosmoline-ization, disassemble the rifle and drop the whole thing in a big pot of boiling water, the cosmolene liquefies and floats.

cracked butt
March 15, 2008, 10:00 AM
And for decosmoline-ization, disassemble the rifle and drop the whole thing in a big pot of boiling water, the cosmolene liquefies and floats

Ditto that.

When I bought my Yugo, I took the entire bolt, gas system, and trigger group to work with me and tried various solvents such as acetone/Hexane/Methylene chloride and none of them put much of a dent in the cosmoline even in a sonicator bath. Ended up boiling the parts.

March 15, 2008, 10:10 AM
My Yugo is very accurate, as accurate as my Russian SKS. Iím very pleases and impressed with the Yugo. No function problems either.

March 15, 2008, 11:23 AM
For removing cosmoline from the wood, I wrap the wood in paper towels and put it in the oven at the lowest temp for about 30 minutes. That will draw the cosmo out and it soaks into the paper towels. Remove the paper towels and give it a good wipe down, and repeat the process until cosmo stops "sweating" out.

March 15, 2008, 02:37 PM
I used fume-free Easy-Off oven cleaner to strip the cosmoline out of my Yugo's stock. I hung it from a tree branch with a length of thin wire, and sprayed it all over with a nice thick coat of foam, letting it sit for 30-45 minutes or so. Occasionally I'd re-spray it in places where the foam had dissipated.

Then rinse with the garden hose, let it dry, and you've basically got a new stock ready for refinishing.

For me refinishing consisted of light sanding by hand, a quick wipe down with a dark (Walnut, I think) stain, then a couple of coats of boiled linseed oil. The BLO pulled some of the dark stain out, reducing the "darkness" by about half, I'd say.

There are tons of different ways for getting the cosmoline out of the stock. For me it was a matter of realizing that I could repair/refinish any damage the oven cleaner might do to the stock, and after all, it's just an old military beater anyway.

Now it's one of my best looking rifles.

BTW, I second getting a new Yugo. After cleaning it up, I discovered that the bore on mine was just about as perfect as could be, shiny and with crisp rifling, appearing unfired and well preserved.

March 15, 2008, 03:40 PM
Can anyone recommend a shop in western washington to buy a new yugo?
And thanks for the tips.

March 15, 2008, 04:02 PM
Things I would look at would mostly center around the quality of the bore and bolt. In a Yugo, there's the gas valve to worry about too, but those can be had for cheap and are easily replaced. Really, I'd just go with the best quality/grade one I could find and afford. There's really not all that much to wrong on them.

March 15, 2008, 04:38 PM
There are plenty of Yugos around that are in excellent, military unissued condition. Don't waste your time with used, beatup looking ones. They are cheaper but you will spend the difference in parts to repair them if you can find the right part.

I bought two of the Yugos in "excellent, military unissued" condition from J&G Sales a couple of years ago. They were $129.00 each back then. They have both been excellent rifles. I have never had any problems with them. They are fairly accurate as well. I can hold a 4" pattern at 100 yards with either of them. I suspect they will do better with better ammo.

At the time someone gave me 2000 rounds of Wolf, steel cased, hollow point ammo for them. Wolf is not known for its accuracy or reliability. I was not about to turn down free ammo though so I took it.

Unfortunately for you, the Yugos in "excellent, military unissued" condition have doubled in price in the past two years. They run about $280 now.

I still think they are worth that price. They are great guns. Very reliable and fairly accurate. Probably very accurate with good ammo.

I'm not sure who all makes the other ones but I've seen several different models at the range and folks seem to be always bitching about them not being reliable. Maybe it's the owner not taking care of the gun and cleaning it I don't know. I'm sticking with my Yugos.

The Yugos handle 300 to 400 rounds of that dirty ass Wolf ammo without jamming. That's pretty good to me.

See what others say about the other manufacturers. I would stay away from anything that appears to be beatup or damaged and I would definitely stay away from the ones that have been "Bubbafied" with the silly little worthless scope, plastic stock and bipod. That's just a waste of good money. The scopes aren't reliable because of the way they are mounted. You can't keep them zeroed.

The collector value is going up on these so putting silly assed plastic stocks, bipods and junk scopes will only ruin the collector value of the gun and make it worthless in the eyes of a collector hence driving your resale value down to less than half what you paid for the gun.

Good luck. Hope you find a good one.

Molone Labe,

March 15, 2008, 06:21 PM

this sight has a TON!!! of info on the SKS. i own one currently and have played with plenty more. i notice that some of them shoot like crap. mine actually shoots pretty good. mine is chinesse factory 906 and it shoots great. i have also noticed the albanian and russian rifles shoot great.

I agree with the above though, the SKS IS NOT IDEAL FOR 'SPORTERIZING'. i went through a few different detatchable mags and a couple different scope mounts, as well as a couple other misc mods. in the end, i found that of the detatchable mags, half of them didnt fit at all or wereso tight that you couldnt get them out. out of the other half of them that DID fit right, not one of them fed right. i also found that scopes on an SKS are about pointless. the rifle was never made for one. sure they fit and look cool, but in the end i had to re-sight the thing constantly... and that wasnt just one of those cheap scope packages, it was a good mount and scope.

i think everybody eventually gets something for their SKS though. i believe that most people end up getting rid of it though. all just self trial i guess.........ive seen it a hundred times

i also got an ammo can from a friend a while back full of 'dirty' SKS rounds. im actually waiting to buy an 'inexpensive' yugo to shoot it all out of. i dont want to foul up mine with this stuff.

March 16, 2008, 02:17 AM
I own a chinese sks purchased it ,about 2 years ago. great rifle and easy to break down and clean. my stock was a little rough but the mechanics of the rifle were fine. any way about the stock, i was at a local gun show last year there was a booth there for sks , aks parts and supplies. i noticed a crate on the floor full of surplus unused stocks for sks rifles. i found one in perfect shape and purchased it for 10 bucks!!! watch your local shows you might fine one,or check out some of the surplus rifle sites.

chris in va
March 16, 2008, 02:27 AM
Yeah, stay away from the SKS, especially Yugo's. If you want a good x39 carbine, look at a Saiga.

Ben Shepherd
March 16, 2008, 11:20 AM
I bought a bunch of yugos in un-issued condition years ago when they first started coming in. Fairly extensive experience with them since.

My take: If you want a high cap AK, go get one. I've seen folks messing around converting SKS rifles over to high cap mags, aftermarket stocks, etc., trying to make them like an AK. They're not. Just learn how to use stripper clips properly. Forget about the high cap mags. Most are junk. Even the good ones cost a lot of money- Because if you put a high cap in it, then you have to switch enough parts to be 922 compliant. Just put a sling on it , and you're good to go.

Accurate? With good ammo, yugos are limited by thier sights, not thier inherent accuracy. Forget about those reciever cover scope mounts. Just run the stock sights.

Heavy? Slightly. But it's because they are REALLY well built. They feel like a good solid rifle should. This is why I prefer the yugo with its full sized stock over other variants.

Reliable? Yes. Absolutely. Just make sure you clean the gas valve after you shoot the gun. The one I've shot the most is well over 5,000 rounds and the gas valve is still nice and tight, becuase I take care of the rifle properly. If you buy a used one that may have seen neglect/abuse, check the gas valve condition. If corroded, replace it.

If you do get a new one, yugo or any other:
Make sure ALL the cosmoline is out of the firing pin channel in the bolt.

March 16, 2008, 11:23 AM
Or you could find a NIB Norinco / Yugo and have now worries!

This one is still unfired:


March 16, 2008, 11:33 AM
Yugo's are great!. One thing that is crucial has not been mentioned. It is the firing pin. Make sure you detail strip the bolt and check the condition of the firing pin.

The inside of the bolt can get worn and cause the pin to stick, or Slam fire. This can happen in any model, from any country that is available today.

I recommend this part from Murray's gunsmith. Very cheap insurance.


March 16, 2008, 11:39 AM
The inside of the bolt can get worn and cause the pin to stick, or Slam fire. This can happen in any model, from any country that is available today.

Actually it's cosmoline in the the bolt / firing pin area that will warm up when the gun gets hot...ooze out and cause the firing pin to stick forward causing a slam fire and possibly a slam fire out of battery but usually just a slam fire.

My Yugo did this once even after I detail cleaned the bolt! I boiled the snot out of it then baked it in the oven after that! I didn't have any issues after that.

March 16, 2008, 02:31 PM
jpwilly. i detail stripped my Yugo's bolt twice.

While it is true cosmo does gum up the works, and most nOObs don't clean enough, the inside of the bolt can become worn and dented. Even after cleaning cosmo, one should make sure the firing pin does not stick AT ALL.

You can see this type of damage in the 2nd photo on the page I linked. Cosmoline is not the only reason an SKS can slamfire. Just pointing that out to any new owners. Safety first...

March 16, 2008, 02:39 PM
BigGunsMoreFun, I second that. I get a big kick out of all the past SKS and, to a point Mosin-Nagant threads where self-appointed 'experts' recommend all kinds of 'upgrades' that will destroy all future collector value. Sure they are cheap now, but give it 20 years.

I am sure back at the gun shop in the 1950s and 60s, similar 'upgrades' were recommended by 'experts' for Springfield 1903s. And what do we have now? Alot of worthless bubba 03s that no one wants.

March 16, 2008, 03:15 PM
also, check EBAY. there are tons or new stocks on there. most of them are synthetics, but you can still find great NEW stocks where people bought a r ifle and the first thing they did was change the stock and ditch the old one. you can find these for great prices

March 16, 2008, 03:25 PM
I had 2 yugo 59/66's and I have 2 chinese sks's. I got rid of the yugos which looked very nice but the chinese rifles handle better and had better triggers. The yugo 59/66's tend to be front heavy with all the extra stuff up front. Mark

March 16, 2008, 05:39 PM
Wow, thanks for all the responses. I'm leaning toward getting a yugo from J&G as they have them on sale right now. If I do get a used one from a private party , how do I check the gas valve condition? Is full disassembly required or is it something I can check quickly? Thanks again.

March 16, 2008, 05:51 PM
Try www.classicarms.us My gas block worked well without being replaced. Just make sure to remove all of the cosmoline from the gas block and everywhere else.

If the rifle is covered in cosmoline, you probably won't be able to move the gas block. You'll know after you clean it. Then test fire. It's all part of the fun of resurrecting the rifle... Good Luck

March 16, 2008, 06:09 PM
how do I check the gas valve condition?

Usually this is related to the condition of the rest of the rifle. You aren't likely to find a corroded gas valve if the bore looks great. You also won't find a good gas valve if the bore is corroded to heck and gone. Personally, I go for as good a grade as I can (my Yugo was purchased from Classic Arms as a "new/fantastic" grade. There wasn't all that much cosmoline in the stock, but the rest of it was covered in the stuff. If you go for a shooter grade or lower, you might well run into gas valve issues, but like I said, those are quick and easy to replace; the part is about $30 or so (they've gone up, used to be half that). It is only a problem in guns that had lots of corrosive ammo fed to it and then received mediocre cleaning. Again, those will be the lower grades.

March 16, 2008, 06:43 PM
I've owned a Yugo SKS and now have two Chinese ones. The Yugo felt & weighed like a telephone pole compared to the Chinese type. The Chinese ones also have a chrome lined bore, which the Yugo does not. I have a friend with a gorgeous Russian one and we both can shoot better with my Chinese jobs. I recommend a Chinese SKS if you are going to get one.

Dr. Peter Venkman
March 16, 2008, 07:11 PM
The best way to check any SKS up-close would be to disassemble it and make sure the parts function. They are pretty easy to take down and put back together. I don't know if the shop owner would let you do that though.

You can find instructions for that here:


Try this next time you go in at either model SKS (Russian, Yugoslavian, etc):

Pull the bolt carrier all the way back (just grab the handle) and it should lock. Take a look at the face of the bolt and see if there is any gunk/pitting. If there is a little bit of grime, try to see if it will easily wipe off.

Bring a small flashlight that you can shine through the chamber and look through the muzzle. See what kind of condition the rifling and grooves are in (if they look worn), if the bore (the innards of the barrel) is shiney or dark/worn looking from excessive use or lack of cleaning, or if you can see some pitting in there.

Ask the shop owner if he (or you) can take off the handguard that has the gas cylinder inside of it to check out both the cylinder and piston for pitting or corrosion.

As a last bit, ask the shop owner if you can stick the bullet-end of a 7.62x39 cartridge into the muzzle to check how tight the rifling it is. Typically the tighter the fit the more accurate it will be.

I own a Russian and Yugoslavian M59 (the one that never had the grenade launcher) SKS. The Russian SKS has a chrome line barrel which makes cleaning a cinch, and the M59 is just as nice as the Russian one, but has a steel barrel. They are both decent shooters and you can't go wrong with either.

March 18, 2008, 12:09 PM
I second the suggestion to remove cosmoline from the metal parts in boiling water. After you get the rifle totally disassembled (as mentioned, make sure you disassemble the bolt too), you can put all those little parts in a pot of boiling water. In my experience it removes all the cosmoline very quickly. When you pull the parts out, they're so hot that the water quickly evaporates off of them. A little coat of oil and they're ready for reassembly.

Cosmoline melts at about 130 F. You can use this to your advantage, because that's still cool enough to avoid damaging the metal or wood. I used to go the solvent route, but found out simply heating things and soaking up the liquid cosmoline worked much better and doesn't bleach the wood or raise the grain like some solvents can do.

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