The SKS semi-automatic rifle was developed in the USSR during the Second World War. It was a short handy carbine, with an integrated bayonet that fired the Soviet 7.62mm x 39mm cartridge. Although it was soon to be eclipsed by the AK47, due to it only having a semi-automatic action and a fixed ten round magazine, it would be manufactured and used around the world throughout the Cold War. In the early 1950s co-operation between the Soviets and Communist China was at its height and the Soviets provided the Chinese with the technical data package to allow them to start domestic production of the rifle. The Chinese SKS, known as the ‘Type 56’ was introduced in 1956 and is still in production today, albeit with many updates. Why then is a Chinese weapon appearing on a blog about Britain, its Empire and Commonwealth?
From 1968 onwards the Chinese Government helped set up an ordnance factory at Gazipur in what was then Pakistan. Following the Bangladesh Liberation War this factory, although badly damaged, was rebuilt and started producing SKS rifles for the Bangladeshi Armed Forces. These domestically produced rifles could not be produced quickly enough so Chinese made Type 56 SKS rifles were sent to supplement local production and the Bangladeshi Army was to use the rifle as its standard firearm until the early 2000s and it is still widely used by second line units in the country.
The example we are looking at today is one of the Chinese manufactured rifles and is a traditional style infantry rifle with a full wooden stock and handguard:
Visually one of the most distinctive features of the rifle is the permanently attached folding cruciform bayonet that usually sits under the barrel:
This can be folded out as required and a sprung collar holds it firmly in place:
Here a female Bangladeshi officer can be seen using the rifle with the bayonet extended during practice:
A charging handle is fitted to the top of the rifle over the receiver, stamped with the rifle’s serial number, and the front sight is of the usual Soviet style:
The safety is fitted into the trigger guard and fold up to block movement of the trigger:
Immediately in front of the trigger guard is the magazine which repeats the rifle’s serial number, note also the small latch behind:
Opening this latch allows the base of the magazine and the floor plate to pivot down so that cartridges can be removed when the rifle needs to be unloaded:
The base of the butt has a metal butt plate, with a small trapdoor:
This holds a small cleaning kit that can be used in conjunction with the cleaning rod held under the barrel:
As well as the Bangladeshi Army, the Indian Army has made use of the SKS, as have numerous nations and insurgent groups across the world in the eighty years since it was first developed, it is a well liked rifle due to its simplicity and small size which makes it ideal for soldiers of smaller stature. This example is, of course, deactivated to comply with UK law.
It’s not bad to shoot either, I never owned one but I knew several people who did and it was a lot of fun on the range.
Having a detachable magazine would have been a good upgrade as it would have been with the Garand and even spare magazines for the Lee-Enfield might have been useful, but it’s cheaper to make clips and chargers and the powers that be thought, maybe rightly so, that being able to reload faster meant that the troops might waste ammunition unnecessarily and complicate supply chains or allow them to run themselves short in a contact by firing just to make noise.