The SKS has a conventional layout

, with a wooden stock and rifle grip. It is a gas-operated rifle that has a spring-loaded bolt carrier and a gas piston rod that work to unlock and cycle the action via gas pressure exerting pressure against them. The bolt is locked to contain the pressure of ignition at the moment of firing by tilting downwards at its rear and being held by a lug pressed into the receiver. At the moment of firing, the bolt carrier is pushed rearwards, which causes it to lift the bolt, unlocking it, and allowing it to be carried rearwards against a spring. This allows the fired case to be ejected and a new round from the magazine to be carried into the chamber. The SKS represents an intermediate step in the process towards the development of true assault rifles, being shorter and less powerful than the semi-automatic rifles that preceded it, such as the Soviet SVT-40, but being longer (10 cm or 4in) than AK-series rifles which replaced it. As a result, it has a slightly higher muzzle velocity than those arms that replaced it.

The SKS's ten-round internal box magazine

can be loaded either by hand or from a stripper clip. Cartridges stored in the magazine can be removed by pulling back on a latch located forward of the trigger guard (thus opening the "floor" of the magazine and allowing the rounds to fall out). In typical military use the stripper clips are disposable. If necessary they can be reloaded multiple times and reused.

The SKS is easily field stripped and reassembled

without specialized tools and the trigger group and magazine can be removed with an unfired cartridge. The rifle has a cleaning kit stored in a trapdoor in the buttstock, with a cleaning rod running under the barrel, in the same style as the AK-47. In common with some other Soviet-era designs, it trades some accuracy for ruggedness, reliability, ease of maintenance, ease of use, and low manufacturing cost.

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SKS Russian Model Diagram

While early (1949-50) Soviet models had spring-loaded firing pins

, which held the pin away from cartridge primers until struck by the action's hammer, most variants of the SKS have a free floating firing pin within the bolt. Because of this design, care must be taken during cleaning (especially after long storage packed in Cosmoline) to ensure that the firing pin can freely move and does not stick in the forward position within the bolt. SKS firing pins that are stuck in the forward position have been known to cause accidental "slamfires" (the rifle firing on its own, without pulling the trigger and often without being fully locked). This behavior is less likely with the hard primer military-spec ammo for which the SKS was designed, but as with any rifle, users should properly maintain their firearms. For collectors, slamfires are more likely when the bolt still has remnants of Cosmoline embedded in it that retard firing pin movement. As it is triangular in cross section with only one way to properly insert it (notches up), slamfires can also result if the firing pin is inserted in one of the other two orientations.

In most variants (Yugoslav models being the most notable exception), the barrel

is chrome-lined for increased wear and heat tolerance from sustained fire and to resist corrosion from chlorate-primed corrosive ammunition, as well as to facilitate cleaning. Chrome bore lining is common in military rifles. Although it can diminish accuracy, its effect on practical accuracy in a rifle of this type is limited.

Safety Tips Using Your SKS

Military surplus shooters and fans of modern commercial firearms are now more than ever taking note of Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov's invention that first came out in 1945. With the recent flood of Yugoslavian SKS carbines in the United States more and more shooters are finding out what fun these little semi auto rifles really are. Yugo SKS models like the 59/66 are affordable on almost any shooter's budget and are a 7.62x39 alternative to the sometimes expensive AK47. Problem is the SKS rifle has gotten somewhat of a bad reputation because of its ability to go uncontrollable full auto. This is an error that can be avoided if the shooter takes the proper safety steps.

First off since the SKS is a military rifle it was meant to fire military spec ammunition. Many shooters make the mistake of buying a box of commercial hunting 7.62x39 ammo and fire it through their SKS' and AK47s. Commercial ammo unlike military spec ammo is made with soft primers and is usually meant to be used in bolt action rifles. Because the semi auto SKS' firing pin rides against the primer when a round is chambered from the magazine, there is danger of igniting that primer before the trigger is pulled and the firing pin is released. I myself am guilty of this because a while back when I got my first SKS I didn't know any better. I was using Federal 7.62x39 ammo in a Chinese SKS that had been properly cleaned and after shooting a few rounds I had
3 go off full auto on me. Luckily nothing happened to me or the rifle but it scared the hell out of me because I never expected it. A veteran shooter a few lanes away came over and explained what had happened and I've never used commercial ammo in any semi auto since.
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