SKS versus SVT 1940 Review

In the world of Russian rifles, the Mosin Nagant and AK-47 seem to get the most attention. Too many gun owners forget about the SKS rifle, which is a solid rifle with a lot of uses. In this video review, Task and Purpose checks out the SKS and talks about what Russian rifles are good for, and why you should — or should not — add one to your personal collection.

A look at Russian rifles with Task and Purpose.
A look at Russian rifles with Task and Purpose. (Photo credit: Task and Purpose)

SKS History

It’s nice when video reviewers get into the background of a gun, and that’s just what Task and Purpose did with the SKS. Here’s their summary of the rifle’s history (or least some information on how it ended up in the United States):

“In the 1980s, tons of these surplus SKS’ were sent by the boatload to the U.S., and that’s how my family came to own one. My dad grabbed one of these Chinese-type 56 versions back then. They were cheap — about 90 bucks — whereas today they go for closer to 600 [dollars]. The rifle’s lightweight and open-style iron sights made acquiring a target easy at even 200 meters.

“You may be wondering why the Russians didn’t stick with the old SVT 1940, which is the rifle they had before the SKS (and this is an interesting story to analyze). So, the SVT-40, on paper, seemed like it might be a better rifle since it had a ten-round detachable magazine. But there were a few issues with the SVT-40 which lead to the SKS superceding it. I think you can actually see some of the very specific design choices that relate directly to the Red Army’s perceived failures of the SVT-40.”

There’s a lot more to learn about the SKS and how it differs from the older SVT-40. Check out the video below:

What are some SKS rifle features?

The SKS has quite a few unique features. As Task and Purpose noted in their video, it seems clear some of those features were included in the rifle’s design in direct response to what were seen as failings in the SVT-40. Some of those features include the following:

  • Detachable internal magazine (because the SVT-40 had magazines that randomly fell out)
  • Easier to maintain in field conditions
  • Lighter weight than the SVT-40
  • More reliable cycling (SVT-40 prone to failures to fire)
  • Intermediate 7.62×39 chambering (SVT-40 7.62x54mm)
  • Less felt recoil for improved accuracy
  • Can be loaded quickly using a stripper clip
  • Open style iron sights for faster target acquisition
  • Cheaper to mass-produce than the SVT-40
  • Designed for closer shots

Do You Need an SKS?

Yes, the SKS was originally designed in Russia following World War II to address their military’s many concerns about the SVT-40, but it has a lot of uses today, too. If you enjoy the look and feel of wood and steel you’re in luck since that’s the original design of the rifle, but there are also modern versions being made with synthetic furniture. If you’re interested in getting your hands on a Russian rifle, the SKS is certainly worth a closer look. It’s great for everything from range time to hunting.

Do you have a Russian rifle? Which one is your favorite, and why? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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