Far too many Simonov carbines have been ruined over the years by bubbas with power tools, but here are a few SKS accessories that can tastefully take yours to the next level.
In Volume 2 of the Gun Digest Guide To The AK And SKS, Patrick Sweeney shares a painful anecdote about a man who let his elderly father borrow his very collectible and rare SKS to go hunting with. When it was returned, it had been “fixed” beyond repair. To better suit his fancy, the fudd in question had ground off the bayonet lug, altered the sights and sporterized the stock, all for a single hunting trip. It would have been funny if it weren’t so sad, as this story took place back when the only Simonovs in the U.S. were Vietnam bringbacks—and this one had papers to prove it. This would not be the last time an SKS would be disfigured horribly, but at least as the prices of these guns have gone up, the less often they’ve been the subjects of home gunsmithing projects.
If you are an SKS owner looking to make your rifle more practical or functional, or just want to modify it for fun, you have every right to do so. However, there are plenty of ways to achieve this that are not permanent. Here are a few SKS accessories that either enhance or compliment your Simonov carbine, without any permanent alterations.
Basic SKS Accessories
Before looking at aftermarket SKS accessories, one should first consider if they have all the original pieces of kit that were issued with these rifles. Do you have a sling? A cleaning kit? Stripper clips, and pouches or a chest rig to hold them in? These are all examples of original SKS accessories that no Simonov is truly complete without. Even if not original (as originality may not be your goal), at a minimum, every SKS owner should have a sling on their rifle, a cleaning kit hidden in the buttstock and stripper clips for faster loading. Once these basics have been acquired, one can start to consider buying some more interesting, non-permanent aftermarket SKS accessories.
As evidenced by the number of SKSs that have had scope rails welded on to them over the years, it’s clear many who own the rifle would like a way to mount an optic to it. Well hold your horses and drop that welding torch, because in 2022 there are more elegant solutions to this dilemma.
A number of different manufacturers produce scope rails that can be attached without any permanent modifications being made. They typically mount by replacing the takedown pin and/or the rear sight. There are several different styles, some better than others, but what’s important is there are ways to mount an optic without drilling, tapping or otherwise damaging the SKS. Whether you’re adding it just for one hunting trip or for the foreseeable future, you or the next owner will be able to remove it. Some models are better suited for red dots while others are more ideal for magnified optics, so choose your model accordingly.
Another even simpler sighting enhancing SKS accessory is the addition of a new front sight post. Installation is as simple as threading the old one out and replacing it with an aftermarket upgrade. They are available with embedded tritium for night use or in different colors of plastic for better visibility during the day. This can also be accomplished the quick and dirty (and cheaper) way by just painting the sight with a color of your choice. Models are also available that add a crosshair for greater accuracy or a larger point for faster acquisition.
Guns need ammo to go bang, and the internal 10-round magazine of the SKS leaves many owners wanting. Thankfully, there are some good SKS accessories that either increase capacity or on-board ammo storage. Capacity is increased by replacing the factory-fixed magazine with an aftermarket one. These aftermarket SKS mags have been around for a spell. While it may be a stretch to consider these tasteful, they are not permanent. One could choose to remove the factory magazine to facilitate the use of aftermarket ones, then simply reinstall the original one when they’ve decided to go back to basics. Again, these come in a variety of styles but essentially function the same way. There are even factory-made extended 20-round mags from China, but these are somewhat rare and collectible. Regardless of whether you’re using a factory or aftermarket extended SKS mag, know that none are as reliable as the original fixed 10-rounder.
A simpler solution is the addition of a pouch on the stock for holding loaded stripper clips. This addition is obviously not permanent, but it adds the ability to carry up to 30 spare rounds directly on the rifle. After a little practice loading from stripper clips, this can be even faster than attempting to reload using the aftermarket extended/detachable magazines. While increased capacity is nice, reliability is better, so keep that in mind before considering replacing the original magazine.
Other SKS Accessories
Back when SKSs were a dime a dozen, replacing the wooden stock with an aftermarket polymer one was popular. Not only did they often add a folding or adjustable buttstock, but pistol grips and accessory rails as well. While replacing the stock is not a permanent modification, I consider them to be too untasteful to recommend in good conscience. You can do what you want with your own rifle, but before dropping the action into a new stock consider what you’re trying to accomplish and see if these less intrusive SKS accessories can achieve it for you instead.
If you just want rails on your SKS for mounting a weapon light, this can be achieved by either replacing the bayonet or the gas tube. The former works by using the bayonet lug to instead mount a small segment of Picatinny rail, while the latter replaces the gas tube and adds a rail segment on top. These gas tube replacements are marketed as scope mounts, but between poor manufacturing QC and the often-loose-fitting nature of SKS gas tubes, I would not recommend using one for any sort of aiming device. For a flashlight, however, they can still be considered.
Ultimately, with SKSs costing much more today than they did years prior, most owners are more interested in their historical provenance than they are with it being a practical rifle with modern features like optics or lights. If you do want to add SKS accessories such as these, however, it’s entirely possible to do so without harming its resale value or originality. Even when only using products mentioned in this article, your SKS’ fighting capabilities can be brought much closer to 21st Century standards.
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