Restoring an SKS – Operation Rifle is Fine

Category: Firearms

In which I restore a 1952 Tula SKS to her original glory. Featuring adventures in international shipping, a brief history lesson, and more than you wanted to know about the different models of SKS bayonet adapters.

Operation Rifle is Fine

I like milsurp guns. Now that may be a “no shit” sort of thing to say, but it’s true. I really, really like milsurp guns. I’ve been a huge history nerd pretty much since high school and even minored in History at college. So the fact that I can combine my love of history with my enjoyment of shooting sports makes milsurp a real sweet spot for me. Naturally then, when I decided I wanted a new gun, my criteria were simple. I wanted something military surplus, and I wanted something that would be cheap to keep fed even in the time of the ‘rona.

So I called a local gun store. Then I called another one. Then another. And another. Long story short, I called every single gun store within 50 miles of me, and the offerings were … lackluster. One store had round-receiver Mosins for $500. Another had a Czech Mauser for $1000. The others had nothing or (in one case) memorably didn’t know what “milsurp” guns were. The last gun store I called, though, informed me they had a Russian SKS for sale. The conversation went something like this.

“Do you have any milsurp guns for sale? Like Mausers or Mosins or SKS’ or anything like that.”

“Hmm, looks like we have a sporterized SKS for sale for $400.”

“That’s a bit high.”

“It looks like it’s Russian.”

“Wait, Russian? Are you sure?”

“Yeah, it’s got the Tula marking.”

“Can you put it aside for me?”

“When will you get here?”

“The GPS says 45 minutes. I’ll be there in 30.”

After driving exactly the speed limit and not a hair over (and you can’t prove otherwise) and parting with more money than I had planned on spending, I got home with my new project, a really, really abused 1952 Russian SKS.

We can Fix her, we have the technology

By Siminov’s ghost!

As you can see, someone did a real number on this poor old girl. All of this plastic nonsense on her and this ugly aftermarket flash hider held on with a nail with the tip Dremeled off it and a hose clamp. No, really, it’s a nail that someone took a Dremel to the pointy bit. Now this will just not do for the carbine of Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov.

Note the hose clamp and nail. Bubba… bubba why?

First things first, we have to strip off all this ugly plastic and see what we’re left with.

That polymer handguard also ended up coming off.

Not much, but more than what we need for our purposes. So, let’s establish our laundry list of needs.

  1. Russian laminate wooden stock
  2. Russian laminate wood handguard
  3. Proper 10-round magazine
  4. Cleaning rod
  5. Cleaning kit
  6. Bayonet

You would not believe how much trouble number 6 on this list caused me. But more on that later.

The Stock

The first thing I got for her was a proper stock off GunBroker.

Pictured here with the 20-round star mag and the first of … many bayonets.

Much better now.

Magazine

The 10-round magazine was easy. After it arrived, I just popped out the trigger assembly, slid in the new mag, and popped the trigger assembly back in. Easy peasy.

Getting closer. The formerly pictured bayonet was incorrect and had been returned by this point.

Handguard

Next came a handguard. This was not easy to find. The supply of Russian handguards in the US is pretty much gone. I actually ended up reaching out to a guy from the Ukraine who had what I was looking for, and he sent me the proper handguard.

Pictured with… yet another incorrect bayonet.

Getting closer.

Cleaning Kit and Rod

The cleaning kit I actually learned has a lot of really cool features in it. All of the gaps and holes and cuts serve a purpose, such as making a place for the cleaning rod to go while protecting the muzzle crown from damage. Again, this was an easy job. It just got popped into the trapdoor in the buttstock.

A very useful cleaning kit.

The cleaning rod was … both easy and difficult. Easy in that I was able to order a replacement shipped right to my door without any real issues. Difficult in that when taking it to the range for some function testing (as well as just fun), the tip of the cleaning rod popped right off.

Oops.

Well, I quickly ordered a replacement (again, easy) and have yet to test with this new cleaning rod installed. Still, hopefully, it won’t go flying downrange to my personal embarrassment in front of half a dozen other rangegoers. Which definitely did not happen to the first one. Definitely not.

SKS Bayonet Woes

Dear Sergei was the bayonet trouble.

As it turns out, there are essentially two different types of SKS bayonet adapters. The first (early model) was produced exclusively in the Soviet Union, the second (late model) was produced in the Soviet Union and every other country that made an SKS, especially China. The early model has two straight cuts for the bayonet lugs.

Note the two straight cuts on the bayonet lug.

The later model, by comparison, has one angled cut and one straight cut.

Notice the angled cut along the left (rifle) side of the bayonet lug. Photo courtesy of TFB Discord user Kierke.

I have no earthly idea why the switch was made. My instinct is that it has something to do with either ease of use, cost savings, or functionality, but I really don’t know. It wasn’t until after the USSR switched to the late model that other countries started producing the SKS, with Soviet assistance, so as far as I am aware, every other country’s bayonet lug and adapter is the late model.

Which is an issue for my rifle, because it used the early model bayonet adapter. The early adapter was produced, as near as I can tell, exclusively in the Soviet Union between 1949 and mid to late 1952. As it turns out, my SKS was manufactured in early to mid-1952, as it has a lug for an early style bayonet adapter.

The Search

So I started trying to get my hands on an early style SKS bayonet.

It was not easy. At all.

The first bayonet I got came from the same site that my 10-round magazine came from. The picture of the adapter looked correct, so you can imagine my disappointment when it turned out to actually be the late adapter.

Unable to find anywhere else selling SKS bayonets, I turned to eBay.

This was a mistake.

I ordered three different SKS bayonets off eBay. Each one came with a photograph showing the correct (early) style adapter. Each and every single one of the three came with the assurances of the seller that it had two straight cuts on the adapter, not one straight cut and one angled cut. None of them were right. Two of them actually came from Russia but were still wrong. I can say with some authority that the international returns process via eBay is not fun.

In desperation I took to looking through old forum posts, digging up threads from years ago where someone was trying to unload an SKS bayonet. As I’m sure you can imagine, this did not work.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Mason A., a gentleman I met on ArmsList who was attempting to unload an SKS bayonet. It wasn’t the right style, but he sacrificed some of his personal time helping me look for the right model out of nothing more than the goodness of his heart and a shared love of the SKS.

While I’m offering thanks – I should also mention what is without question the best resource on the SKS anywhere that I have found. A relic of early-2000s internet, Yooper John’s SKS webpageBattle Rifle of Many Nations, was absolutely invaluable during this project.

Oh Canada

Eventually, in my desperation, I found a Canadian website selling gun parts, including SKS parts. I emailed the owner.

Did he have SKS bayonets?

He did.

Did he ship to the United States?

He did.

Did he have the bayonet I was looking for?

By some stroke of luck, he did.

A nail-biting week later waiting for the Canada Post to deliver my package, and it arrived.

It was the right bayonet.

After months of searching for parts, some hand fitting, no small amount of cursing, several international packages, and only sending the piston extension flying across the room once, I had done it.

Rifle is finally fine.

Source: https://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2021/01/13/restoring-an-sks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rss&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=restoring-an-sks

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