China has been manufacturing SKS for over 50 years producing more SKS than any other nation. During this period, we've seen how it has evolved from the original design to the many variations. The main driving force for the changes was purely economics, a need to produce more at a lower cost. Faced with an over supply in a saturated North American market, several new variants were created and marketed.
Writing this sticky was a daunting task because the amount of information was overwhelming. Just the factory codes alone numbered in 150. Some of the codes were difficult to decipher because they were like jig-saw puzzles fitted within a triangle. I've decided to cover two of the most common Chinese SKS in Canada, the standard and a variant. The SKS-D is a distant second.
As with the Russian SKS sticky, information on how to operate a SKS is at the bottom of the report.
I don't pretend to be an expert and this report isn't chiselled in stone. There is alot more information yet to be gathered. Should you have information that is different or relevant to this report, then please post it. There is one thing I have learnt with the Chinese SKS is to never to say never because anything is possible, there are plenty of anomalies.
China was embroiled in a bitter civil war that began in 1927. The fighting continued in spite of the Japanese invasion during WWII, it finally ended in 1949 when the Communist defeated the Nationalist who fled to the island of Taiwan.
October 1st, 1949 was the birth of a new nation, the People's Republic of China (PRC). It had little time to rebuild when they were drawn into another war the following year. When China entered the Korean War in support of her communist neighbour, her army was still equipped with captured WWII Japanese, American and Nationalist built rifles along with donated Russian small arms. The huge stockpile quickly dwindled by the end of the war and they were resupplied with Russian surplus.
In 1956, when Russia ended production of the SKS at the Tula Arsenal, they shipped the toolings, spare parts and specification to China along with technical advisors, who helped set up the manufacturing and training of the Chinese workers at Jianshe Arsenal (aka factory 26).
While the SKS no longer met Russia's new standard of modern warfare, China on the other hand embraced it, China liked it for its simplicity, ruggedness and ease of operation by its newest recruits.
China felt the SKS had a role to play alongside of the AK47. In battle, it didn't use as much ammo, it was faster to charge 10 rounds and it could provide cover fire while the AK 30 round mags were being reloaded. The SKS having a longer barrel was more likely to hit the target than the shorter barrel AK.
China adopted both the SKS and the AK47 in 1956.
The spirit of cooperation between the two Communist superpowers didn't last, it ended a few years later in 1960.
3. VIETNAM WAR.
China was an ally of North Vietnam, another Communist neighbour. Unlike the Korean War she did not send troops to fight but she did supply food, equipment and weapons. China was the leading provider of small arms to North Vietnam and the war had a big impact on her production.
If there was ever a major war that the Chinese SKS was recognized to have played a significant supporting role, this would be the war.
The American public first encountered the Chinese SKS when the soldiers brought them back from the jungles of Vietnam. It soon became a popular war souvenir. The bringbacks as they were called, could fetch as much as $1000 with proper documentation. The majority of all the bringbacks were from China and most were built in Jianshe Arsenal.
4. JIANSHE ARSENAL. Aka factory 26.
China did not have a long history of firearms manufacturing. The oldest factory was Jianshe and it was built in 1889 during the Imperial Dynasty in the city of Chongqing.
Prior to the arrival of the SKS in 1956, Jianshe was producing bolt action rifles.
By the 60s, Jianshe became the largest SKS producer. China decided to further expand production by adding more factories. The majority of these factories were small and they were scattered throughout the country to aid the local economies. I'm not quite sure how many factories were actually built but probably far less than the 150 known factory codes. Most of these factories used more than one code.
The late 70s to early 80s was a period of uncertainty for Jianshe. The Vietnam war ended several years earlier, Chairman Mao had passed away, New leadership was more focussed on economic reform than with building bigger armies.
The writing was on the wall for this nearly 100 year old factory. Its fate was decided when the Army dropped the SKS and the AK from its front line. It was replaced by the newly designed Type 81 rifle. However, other branches of the military: the militia, border guards, honour guards and security police continued to use them as second line weapons.
Today, the SKS is mainly used by the honour guards, troops on parade and for training by militias and cadets.
China's Premier Wen Jiabao and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper inspect honour guards.
Chairman Mao takes a closer look at Jianshe in 1964.
If Chairman Mao were alive today, he would not recognize the factory that began as an Imperial arms manufacturer because it is now one of the top motorcycle, ATV and moped manufacturers in China. With joint venture partner Yamaha, they sold over 14 million units since converting in 1982.
I bet Mao never imagined the factory he once toured would one day be producing consumer products that are shipped around the world, would be in partnership with a Japanese corporation, no longer wholely owned by the state and listed on a stock exchange. Times sure have changed.
The past, girl training with a rifle built in Jianshe.
The present, girl sitting on ATV built in Jianshe.
However, Jianshe Industry Ltd. hasn't quite completely abandoned its legacy as it still develops small arms in partnership with Norinco and the PLA.
This is what a left side of the receiver from factory 26 looks like, built in 1965.
Factory code, 3 Chinese characters and serial numbers (9 million).
a. Factory code.
Each factory was assigned a set of numbers (some had more than one), the older codes were within a triangle / \ while the newer codes were within a rectangle [ ] or an oblong ( ) . They eventually dropped the codes altogether and replaced them with the exporter's name.
-List of factory codes: The following codes are some of the 150 factory codes. I'm only listing the ones that I have seen pictures of and the pictures are from various sources. Some are from members of this and other forums and some are from various gun auction sites. This list will be updated when new information is received.
M8, M21 No, M21 0296, 416M21, DB, DP.
b. Location of the codes:
- Factory 26 1956-1961, the codes are located on the right side of the serial numbers.
- Factory 26 1962-1970, 1979-1980, the codes are on the far left side before the 3 Chinese character.
eg: /26\ *** 12345678
- Other factories
Triangle code, Most are located on the left, before the 3 Chinese character but a very few codes are located on the right.
Square code, can be found either before or after the 3 Chinese characters.
c. 3 Chinese characters ***.
Translates to Type 56 carbine, not to be confused with Type 56 rifle which was assigned to the AK47.
Location of the 3 Chinese characters:
- Factory 26, from 1956-1961, had no Chinese characters .
eg: 1234567 /26\ .
- Factory 26, from 1962-1970 and 1979-1980, located between the factory code and the serial numbers.
eg: /26\ *** 12,345,678 .
- Other factories. Most had the 3 Chinese characters are between the code and serial numbers (as above) but a few factories had only the codes and serial numbers, no Chinese character.
eg: /636\ 1,234,567
note: At factory 26 information on 1971-1978 are not available at this time.
d. The absent of date of production.
Jianshe used to mark dates on their rifles prior to the arrival of the SKS but for some reason they did not on the SKS.
e. Serial numbers.
Chinese serial numbers are generally numeric, except for the first year at factory 26 where two styles of serial numbering were used.
- Russian style (early 1956). While under Russian supervision, it was only natural the Russian advisors would implement the Russian style of serial numbering on the Chinese built SKS. They basically followed the Russian style but instead of using 2 cyrillic letters followed by 4 numbers, they used 1 alfa letter followed by 4 numbers. On a few rare occasions an unrecognizable symbol was observed in place of the alfa letter.
This early first year production is better known as Sino-Soviet SKS.
eg early 1956: A1234 /26\
- Chinese style. Sometime in the latter part of 1956, the style was switched to the Chinese. This led me to believe the Russian Advisors didn't stay in China for very long. The serial number contained 5 to 6 numbers. Every year thereafter it began at the next million, eventually to 24 million at factory 26. I have seen higher at other factories.
eg late 1956: 12345 /26\ or 123456 /26\
eg 1957 to 1980: 1234567 /26\ to /26\***24000000
- Partial serial numbers located on parts:
Early and mid production: On carrier, bolt, top cover, mag, trigger guard and buttstock.
Late production: On carrier and bolt.
6. TRANSLATING THE SERIAL NUMBERS TO PRODUCTION DATE.
a. Production date in serial number- Commercial variant.
Some commercial production have the production year in the serial numbers. These ones have no factory codes (nfc) and serial numbers of 7 digits. Serial numbers began with 88 and later. The earlier serial numbers have no space while the later ones have a space between the first two and the last 5 digits.
eg: 8812345= 1988 , 02 12345= 2002
b. For factory 26.
Serial number in the millions plus the year of adoption (1956) equal the year of production.
c. For other factories.
The above formula will work on some other factory codes but not all of them. I cannot be certain that your result will be absolutely correct but it's better than not giving you a solution at all.
I would suggest that you try it on your SKS with a triangle, rectangle or oblong codes which has 8 digit serial numbers (ignore importer's prefix and suffix numbers). It will not work with 7 digit serial numbers. Use it in conjunction with the production classes below and see what you come up with.
7. SECONDARY IDENTIFICATION. Production classification.
China has been building SKS for a very long time, too long to have just two classes like we did with the Russian SKS. It was more appropriate that we use three: early, mid and late production classes.
The period for these production classes are rough estimates. I can't expect with that many factories involved to do things in unison, these factories were spread throught out the country and some of them were in remote areas. I am confident with the period for the early production class and that is because it was based on one factory, factory 26.
The quickest way we can determine this is to look at the area where the barrel meets the receiver.
from the left:
Early production-long barrel lug (1956 - part1965).
mid production- short barrel lug (part1965 - 1980).
late production- no lug, pinned barrel (70s - present).
Sometime in 1965. As the war in Vietnam began to escalate. China who supplied North Vietnam with majority of her small arms embarked on a program to make their SKS faster and cheaper. Up to this point they made the SKS exactly like the Russian SKS (except for the wood), even in the quality. This may surprise those of you who always associated anything built in China as inferior.
The early Chinese SKS was not a cheap rifle to produce, many parts including the receiver required milling. They experimented making the receiver out of stamp sheet metal. Production was limited, probably due to the fact that the results weren't up to their expectations. However they had much better success with the following changes.
At factory 26, Sometime in 1965, the first few changes were made to the bayo, stock and barrel lug. They changed the bayo from blade to a spike. It was cheaper to make a spike from a rod. The spike was made longer for better reach but also strong enough that the VC used it as a monopod. The disadvantage was it was heavier. To offset this weight gain, they reduced the length of the barrel lug. Obviously, the stock had to be changed to accommodate for the longer bayo.
The location of the rear swivel was moved sometime in 1966, from the side to the bottom of the butt while other factories either left them or moved it later. This was not a change in cost savings.
In 1967, the use of sheet metal appeared in the trigger group. Stamp sheet metal is cheaper and faster to produce. No skilled machinist was needed. In order to further reduce the dependency on milling, they eliminated the lightening cuts on the bolt carrier and the bayo lug, sacrificing a bit of the weight gain.
At other factories. The biggest savings in cost came when they went from threaded barrel to a pinned barrel. With a pinned barrel there was no need to have a barrel lug therefore the barrel blank was alot smaller in diameter and thus cheaper. It also saved on labour because no threading was needed, not just on the barrel but also on the receiver. All they had to do is heat, press and pin.
IMHO, all of the above changes had no ill effect on the operation or the accuracy of the rifle. Stamped parts were still interchangeable with milled parts.
Parts ID. From front to the back of the rifle.
From the top: Blade, spike and spike with quick release handle for SKS-D/M.
b. Bayo lug.
From the left: With lightening cut, no lightening cut with screw, no lightening cut with rivet and incomplete lug for SKS-M.
All Chinese SKS came with chrome lined bore but the chamber were not all chromed, chromed chamber came later.
d. Gas tube.
Above pic. from left: one piece, two pieces. Right pic, top tube- regular length, bottom tube- short length for some D/M. Pic from 7.62Nato.
e. Top handguard.
Above pic from beachgumwithagun: bakelite, others are normally made of wood.
f. Rear sight leaf. Markings on the leaf.
From the left: n,D,3 and III is missing.
g. Rear sight base.
From left: early and late.
From the top: with lightening cut, no lightening cut, no charging clip groove for SKS-D/M.
From the top: standard, modified for SKS-D/M.
j. Firing pin.
From the top: milled 3 sides (early), milled 2 sides (mid and late).
k. Main spring guide and locking cap.
From the top: milled locking cap, stamp locking cap.
A small piece of the stud protrude through the bottom, it does not affect the serial numbers. This is far superior to the frankken pin mags.
m. Take down lever.
Above pic from martin08: tab at the bottom, others are normally on top.
n. Trigger group.
From the top: milled (early and mid production) , stamp (mid and late production).
o. Wood stock.
Made from the Catalpa tree.
From the top: standard blade with side swivel, standard blade with bottom swivel, red fiberglass with bottom swivel, stock for SKS-D/M.
- SKS-D/M wood stock.
From the top: with no cut for bayo, cut for a spike, cut for a blade.
Changes made in 1965.
-Barrel, long lug 1956 - part1965, short lug part1965 - 1980. no pin barrel.
-Bayonet, blade, 1956 - part1965, spike bayo part 1965-1980.
-Wood stock, for blade 1956 - part1965, spike bayo part1965 - 1978, spike with take down lever cut 1979-1980.
Changes made in 1967.
-Bayonet lug, lightening cut 1956 - part1967 and 1979 - 1980, no lightening cut part1967 - 1970.
-Gas tube, 1 piece 1956 - 1967, 2 pieces 1967 - 1980.
-Carrier, lightening cut 1956 -1967, no lightening cut 1967 - 1980.
-Main spring guide and locking cap, milled 1956 -1967, stamp 1967 - 1980.
Changes made in other years.
-Rear swivel, side1956 - part1966, bottom swivel part1966 -1980.
-Top handguard, wood 1956 - 1970, bakelite 1979 - 1980.
Note: At factory 26 information on 1971-1978 are not available at this time.
China did not mark their refurbs. The quality of the refurb work can vary widely, Some were done really well and others were done poorly.
Some parts were replaced with whatever was available at the time. No thought was given to whether it was the wrong production class. Nothing went to waste.
Only through observation could you tell the difference.
eg: different finish, poorly done refurb will have grinding and filing marks.
a. Type 63. In the early years, you can tell China favoured the SKS over the AK. When it came time to develop a new rifle, they basically took the best features from the AK and married it with the SKS. Their offspring Type 63 had no significant parts that were interchangeable with the parents other than the exterior resemblance to the SKS. The internal mechanisms were completely different. The Type 63 had a rotating locking bolt, an adjustable gas regulator, selective fire and it also use a detachable mag. For these reasons, IMHO, its not a variant.
Type 63 did not replace the SKS.
b. SKS-D, SKS-M, MC-5D.
These variants are commercially produced by converting a standard to a SKS that used an AK mag. Early versions were simple conversions with minimal effect to other parts but the later versions were built from spare parts and had the stock, carrier and bayo lug made specifically for them. They were easier to make than the originals. Here is an example: when a standard is converted to a "D". It loses the bolt hold because the AK mag was not designed to use a charging clip therefore rendering the charging clip groove in the carrier useless. The later version of the carrier eliminates the need to mill out that groove, saving time and money. The same situation for the "M" that does not have a bayo so no need to completely machine the bayo lug and no groves on the stock.
When new gun laws came into effect in the USA in 1989, the SKS-D did not comply with the new laws. The "D" was then changed to a "M" by removing the bayo and replacing the stock with either a Monte carlo or Thumbhole stock. Most came with a shortened barrel. The markings on the sides were SKS Sporter, SKS-M, SKS NR and MC-5D. The MC-5D was the name they used for the California market. The mag catch appeared to look like the standard mag catch but it releases an AK mag.
Shortly afterwards in 1994, the US banned importation of the Chinese SKS altogether. The SKS-M and MC-5D that was destined for the US market eventually ended up here. Albeit we had no such laws preventing the "D" from being imported into Canada in the first place.
2 version of SKS-D.
d. in .223 cal.
e. Sheet metal receiver. Made in factory , ,
f. Short barrel- Para, Sporter Carbine, Cowboy's Companion.
g. Thumbhole Carbine
h. SKS Hunter
i. SKS Sporter
j. SKS Sharpshooter
14. CHINESE SKS.
Military vs. Commercial vs. Norinco.
a. Military. All 3 production classes (early, mid & late) were used by the military. Quality can range from excellent to good.
b. Commercial. SKS produced for commercial use only. It could be a standard SKS assembled from spare parts or a standard converted to a variant. Workmanship on these commercially built SKS varies. You’ll have to inspect them in person to know which ones are good and which ones are less than desireable. Quality is a mixed bag.
c. Norinco. China North Industries Corporation is a conglomerate that was formed in 1980 to provide R&D, manufacturing, marketing and other services . It's involved in high-tech anti-aircraft, battle tanks to oil field equipment.
When it comes to SKS, Norinco is basically an exporter. They do not actually manufacture them, they contract them out to factories that jointly develop other firearms with them.
Norinco isn’t the sole exporter of the SKS out of China. Polytech is the other exporter.
5. How to prevent slamfires.
Once in awhile a member would experience slam fire with their new SKS, in most cases it is due to poor cleaning of the bolt. I recommend you completely dismantle the bolt, clean thoroughly, use a q-tip in the firing pin tunnel. Firing pin should rattle freely after cleaning, use no oil. And when at the range, I recommend you load only two rounds in mag for the first two shot.
When using commercial ammo because they have softer primer than the surplus ammo, you're more likely to experience slamfire so I recommend installing a spring firing pin, its available from sksman.com or you could purchase a 1949-part 1951 Russian SKS45 that comes with spring firing pin.
7. Trigger work. please consult with a gunsmith before attempting any modification.
Thank You I found out a lot that I did not know about the 3 SKS that I own all were bought as soon as BILL CLINTON was elected .
I knew that we were in for a long ride and did not want to be on the short in.
This will helpful showing a certain Marine that is my step son that they are a lot more accurate than the AK's in most cases .
He thinks they are all China junk .
Here's another neat variation of the SKS56 - the "Public Security" marked rifles.
These rifles have two Chinese characters on the RIGHT side of the receiver that translate as "Public Security." These rifles are reportedly made by just three of the many different Chinese arsenals - /026\, /016\, and . The importer of these uncommon rifles was Kengs Firearms Specialties out of Atlanta Georgia and have the "KFS" import marks.
Here's a couple examples of the Public Security marks:
Here's a recent photo taken in Shanghai of one of the Public Security force vehicles displaying the same two characters:
Both early and late features can be found on these rifles - threaded or pinned barrels, stamped and milled trigger housings, etc.
Outstanding compilation of the massive info needed to keep track of Chinese SKSs. Between you and Yooper's pages (and several of your reader's replies), I've gained a lot of knowledge in the SKS treasure hunt of parts. Thanks!
I have 2 sks stock my father left when he passed away im looking for information on it so I will know when I leave it to my nephew first one has a triangle with the number 4 inside on left side of stock (in wood) and numbers on the end of stock 39709 and its wider than the other the second has no marks on the stock but a number on the end 25552 can u tell me what the marks mean and if possible who made it and the year?