I don't have much info on this SKS I may be able to purchase, so bear with my lack of details. It is definitely Russian and shot very little. I have a S/N that begins with BK. Not sure if this helps ID importer or arsenal.
A friend of mine has it from his Dad's estate and is looking to get rid of it. I haven't even seen it, but my friend knows beat up junk from something that was maintained. He was unsure of year but will look over the weekend. He was thinking maybe '52, but that was from memory. I bought a '54 Tula from his dad around 1995, so I'm not sure if it is the same batch or a different batch. My Tula is really nice. If I saw the receiver I could tell you more. He just wants to get rid of it and isn't looking to charge a ton, so I'm thinking I may be able to get it for a song.
From what I've seen it's a
Originally Posted By martin08:
From what I've seen it's a
I know, I hope to have more info next week. I kind of got the cart in front of the horse. I hoped first couple letters on serial may help. I'll keep you posted.
The Russians are not identifiable by the Cyrillic prefixes to the serial numbers. They used the same letter combinations for several different years of manufacture.
Here's a good (long!) read by Logan7 of SKS boards that would answer most any Russian SKS question.
It draws on my answers to some questions asked here over the years but by no means is this definitive! Especially for Canadian SKS: your prices and import marks and number of rare examples/collectibles will differ from the U.S.
There are so many exceptions and nothing is written in stone with regard to Russian SKS's.
Question: "How much is my SKS worth?”
My understanding is that Russian SKS's generally fall into two separate pricing categories: shootables and collectibles, and here's how I mark those distinctions -
The vast majority of Russian SKS’s for sale are refurbs - let's say 95%. And the fact is these value-priced milsurp rifles are actually in excellent mechanical shape (often better than the non-refurb ones) and for less money. They were built and used, then at some later point went in to the factory or another facility for a refurbishment process.
[This meant any combination of whatever was needed: new stocks (usually laminated, usually with a second cross bolt at the wrist); new black paint/enamel over the old blueing; new replacement barrels; possibly a replacement rear sight (in-the-white metal, not blued); new springs; perhaps a new magazine and floorplate; new gas tubes; pistons, bayonets; butt plates, etc.]
These "refurb" SKS's were professionally overhauled to like-new condition, and a refurbed Russian SKS rifle not only costs less than a collectible one outright but you won't be decreasing its value as much by shooting and enjoying them.
>Note that Refurbs are very often listed for sale as ‘mint’ and ‘unfired’ and 'new' or ‘new-in-box’. But be careful to understand what that means. These are not in the same demand as collectible SKS’s and should not cost as much. These days (2010) I think an all-complete, excellent condition refurb should run about $350-$400 in the U.S. While refurbs in excellent condition but with obvious lined-out old serial numbers, or mismatched serials, or missing some part such as bayonet or sling ...these can trade around $300+. And the "beaters" (the well-used and stock-dinged refurbs) may sell even below $300.
Refurbs can be identified several ways:
1) They MAY have a special refurb mark on the receiver cover: either a square with a diagonal line through the middle [/] or a diamond <> or a diamond with line <|> or cross <+> If any of these marks are present (check the right side of the stock for the square stamp, too) then it surely is a refurb Russian. But even if none of these marks is found it could still be a refurb!
I'd guess that about 1/2 of known refurbs I've seen actually have no 'refurb stamp'.
A first time buyer might be told that a Russian SKS for sale "is not a refurb because there is no refurb stamp" and believes it, despite other definite signs of refurb. And the seller may value it like an "as-issued" SKS ...but it isn't.
2) Refurb paint: another clue to refurbs is that all bolt carriers were finished in-the-white. So, if one has been painted over black then that rifle definitely went in for a refurb no matter what the seller tells you. I think the same goes for bayonets - if painted blue or black then it's a replacement, likely during a refurb.
Aside from the obvious painted bolt carrier and blade bayonet, the presence of subtle shades of refurb paint can easily be overlooked: might cover a new barrel or an old gas tube, making one shinier than the other; or perhaps on a replacement magazine that looks just a tad darker than the rest of the rifle's metal; or on a worn down butt plate, making it look new, where no one thinks to look. There are several variations of refurb black paint -from matte to krinkle to shiny barbeque. It's an area that really deserves more study. Somewhere, someone knows which facilities used what paint in their re-arsenal process - but it's all obscure to us now.
3) Note that in addition to the stamped serial numbers, you will find on many parts of an as-issued original Russian several hand stenciled (electro-pen) serial numbers. These are not evidence of a refurb if you discover them on the gas tube, on the gas piston, on the underside of the rear sight, and on other components of the rifle where the metal is either too thin for the stamping machine, or is on a tight radius curve, or is a very small irregular part. However, hand stenciled numbers on the magazine bottom or the trigger guard where the serials are factory stamped, does indicate a forced match replacement part, and therefore a refurb Russian SKS.
4) SKS stocks are virtually definitive regarding whether it's a refurb or a non-refurb, and really help to establish a rifle's fair price. This is a long topic:
Virtually all of the original production stocks were made of Russian ('Arctic') Birch hardwood with an orangey/reddish/brown shellac over a bold swirling wood pattern. And since most Russians are refurbs, the vast majority of these original stocks were lost - being replaced at some point with new hardwood stocks and in later years with the laminated ones.
[[Note to collectors - a very few, very late Tula's were made with original production laminated stocks. These were introduced very late in 1955 or possibly '56, but there just aren't enough examples to draw firm generalities about them. Mostly, their laminated wood is covered with the factory red lacquer and the pattern is a real nice combination; all those I've seen have the tiny inspector's cartouches around the forward cross bolt; and these stocks often have just one row of stampings: the serial number.]]
Anyway, an original hardwood stock in excellent condition, with all its original shellac and little inspection stamps are desirable for any collector. And they indicate a non-refurb rifle. I have not ever once seen a refurb Russian SKS -a known refurb- with its original stock still on it. My rule: If it wears an original production stock then the SKS has not been through refurb and may be a collectible one (subject to its overall condition, completeness, rarity of year, beauty...).
Now, here's how to identify that original stock:
Virtually all original production stocks (from both Tula and Izhevsk) have three rows of markings on the left side: the arsenal stamp, the year 'r', and the serial number (with both Cyrillic letters and Roman numerals). There will be no XXXX's over old serial numbers on an original, non-refurbished stock. And original hardwood stocks almost always have just one cross bolt, with lightly stamped inspector's cartouches around it. This design was later found to be weak, cracks formed behind the receiver at the wrist, and so the later-made laminated replacement stocks usually have two cross bolts.
If your Russian SKS stock is laminated then there's an overwhelming likelihood it's a replacement for an original hardwood stock. This is true even if its serial number matches the rifle's because most replacement stocks were stamped (or renumbered in the case of a reused stock) to match its rifle during the refurb process.
[[*There is that very small chance that your laminated Russian stock is one of the rare late-production, original-issue ones from 1955/6, and if so it almost certainly sits on an as-issued, non-refurb Tula collectable.]]
Both hardwood and laminated stocks were used for replacements during refurb (so you'll see laminated stocks on every year produced). Once-used hardwood stocks were reserialed and used to refurb, at first, later switching over to the new laminated stocks that were serialed to the new rifle. You can tell that some SKS's were refurbed twice since some of the hardwood (and a few laminated replacement) stocks have two rows of XXXXX's above a correct serial number.
Laminated stocks are a bit heavier, denser and sturdier and have two cross bolts. Also, laminated replacement stocks are generally lighter in color/finish [unless they are those rare late variants of the original production line]. As for value differences when purchasing a shooter-type SKS refurb... Well, folks don't seem to value one above the other; either a replacement hardwood stock with XXXX'd out numbers, or a replacement laminated stock - they all seem to sell at about the same price.
Personally, I’d opt for laminated durability on a shooter SKS, certainly on a beater SKS, but some prefer the more authentic early '50's look with dark red 'soviet' shellac.
Now, after you know what category the Russian falls into, there's always bargaining:
I'd start deducting for the rifle’s use and overall condition, especially the stock. Deduct about $35 if it's missing the bayonet; say $10 for a missing cleaning rod; maybe $15 for a missing cleaning kit. You should add more for an original SKS sling - and if it is a year-dated sling with a hammer&sickle emblem, then much more; but I'd add nothing for an AK sling which are common on refurbs.
Generally speaking aftermarket parts like a scope mount and polymer stock do not increase the value of a Russian SKS, and will subtract severely from the price of a collectible Russian - because it is then no longer in "as-issued" guise.
Izhevsk-made SKS’s only came out in 1953 and 1954, and so are more scarce. No other difference. Collectors who want to fill out all production years will likely pay more for an Izhevsk. Their arsenal stamp on the receiver cover is an arrow in a triangle, in a circle. The Tula's are an arrow in a star. And if there is no arsenal stamp on top then it's a late 1955/6 Tula, and should instead have a rather small star on the left side of the receiver following the serial number.
By the way, if you see a serial number is on the right side of the receiver, that's an import company addition. It says: "Made in Russia, serial #CCCP12345" -or something. That's added after importation for marketing and I think detracts from a collector-grade example because it's 1) not original and 2) garish. But this would not lessen the price any on a shooter/beater refurbed SKS. The three U.S. importer's marks were NHM, KBI and CAI, and get more discreet in that order.
Let me say that whether you get a collectible or a shooter grade - these were all very well made semi-autos; the actions are quite rugged and in fact overbuilt for the 7.62x39 cartridge. This Stalin-approved design is still the parade rifle carried in Red Square today.
I'm going to insert here a caveat on the SKS design: two safety notes that may be unknown to new owners. 1] the safety lever when ON merely blocks the trigger from depressing. It does NOT block the sear from moving. Whenever you have a loaded SKS, even with the safety ON, a good jar or jolt or dropping the rifle can result in a discharge. 2] Russians made from late 1950 onward were the variant that omitted the firing pin spring, and it's free-floating. A free-floating pin will dent the primer each time it loads a round after firing. This is not a problem with milsurp Russian ammo because they have hard military style primers, but when using modern commercial ammo with soft primers there can be dangerous mishaps.
There are many reports on this forum of slam fires and even full-auto discharges of all rounds in the magazine. If either of these issues concern you, please look into Murray's and Kivaari's services on the commercial pages of this forum.
In my own opinion, the Russian SKS's made at Tula and Izhevsk in the 1950's are more finely crafted and finished than those from other countries afterward; some on this board consider Izhevsk to have made the finest Simonovs ever. But, because of the flood of inexpensive Chinese and Yugo models on the gun market, all the Russians are priced artificially low in order to be competitive, and really are a solid shooting value. Enjoy them as fine historical trophies from the Cold War and, in certain condition, as worthy collectibles whose value keeps rising reliably.
My own understanding of terms commonly used to sell Russian SKS's:
as-issued : Maybe 5% of Russians for sale now, or less, and the collector's prize. A rifle virtually the way it came off the production line at Tula or Izhevsk. All the serials match. All the parts are original. No refurbishment marking. Complete and nothing missing. Excellent condition overall (with the typical exception of heavy wear and missing bluing on the buttplate alone). These usually show some gentle handling, with small and very light scratching. These do appear their age and have not been refurbished. [You know, it's only the refurbs that appear to be "like new".]
non-refurb : implies it is an as-issued Russian but really without the full commitment. Means there are no refurb marks, no obvious replacement parts, no refurb black paint, and the serials all match. But the rifle may not be complete. In fact, the previous owner might have turned a "non-refurb" into his bubba project using plastic high-cap magazines or drilling for a scope mount. So, while it might not have been sent in for refurb back in the U.S.S.R., who knows what you're holding with this vague description?
refurb/re-arsenalled : 95% of all Russian SKS's. Has been back to the factory or one of the SKS refurb facilities before import to the U.S. It might have a refurb stamp (or it might not), parts were replaced and therefore serials might not match, paint might have been applied to some metal, the stock is almost certainly a replacement. These are very easy to spot and differentiate from as-issued Russian SKS's.
all-original/all-matching : This is not the best way to describe a Russian SKS. I am dubious when I hear these terms because replacement laminated stocks on refurbs are often numbered to match the rifle, and this confuses amateur sellers and buyers who think it is an original laminated stock, seeing no XXXXX's. Ideally, these terms means there are no apparent replacement parts -which therefore implies a non-refurb. And it may even be in as-issued condition but don't hold your breath.
unfired/new-in-box : these are important terms usually referring to mint status on collectible firearms and are totally misapplied to imported milsurp weapons. Here, these terms indicate only that after importation (and packaging) the rifles have never been shot. These terms are very often applied to non-collectible refurb "shooter" Russians. [Remember that a refurb actually does look brand spanking new out of the box because the refurb process brought the Russian SKS up to excellent mechanical condition and new appearance.] Reading "unfired" in an ad simply does not mean it hasn't already been issued, seen use and abuse, and then been refurbished, then exported, and repackaged.
un-issued/non-issued : meaningless to me. I've never met an imported milsurp Russian SKS that was actually unissued. I think here they mean to indicate "unfired/new-in-box", as above.
Very good find Martin. I'm going to do a little homework on my 54r Tula now I have in the safe. I'll have my friend take some pix and e-mail them to me hopefully in the next week. I don't want to seem too excited because he isn't hot to offload it. I don't want to inflate the price by being anxious.
My 54r Tula appears to be a refurb w/a <> on the receiver and XXXXX on the stock. Still a nice piece my 12 year old loves to shoot.
I have a 52 sks but it has a 54 stock on it with the numbers xxxx out too