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[Video+Review] Chinese Type 56 SKS from Palmetto State Armory

Ever wondered what it's like to get your hands on a vintage commie gun? Check out our review of the Chinese Type 56 SKS and see how to get one!

    What is left to say that hasn’t already been said about perhaps one of the most common military surplus rifles in the world?

    I mean, whatever, if they can keep making new Spider-Man movies every three months then I can review an SKS in 2020. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

    spider-mans through time
    2002, 2004, 2007, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and more to come in 2021 and 2022…

    Check out our video review, or just keep reading–whatever floats your boat!

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    Chinese Type 56

    Some of you already probably know that I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to milsurp stuff, and I’m always stoked anytime the chance to cover guns with a little bit of character and patina crops up.

    So it worked out perfectly that Palmetto State Armory appears to have imported what I imagine is a shipping container full of Chinese Type 56 carbines–which are essentially a Chicom clone of Siemonov’s well-known SKS. 

    The two main SKS styles in the United States are the Yugoslavian (top) and Chinese Norinco (bottom) SKS
    The two main SKS styles in the United States are the Yugoslavian (top) and Chinese (bottom) SKS

    Apparently directly traceable to China’s Jianshe 26 small arms factory and quote, “stored in a neutral country which allows them to be imported,” PSA themselves have stated that the guns run the gamut condition-wise.

    With some featuring only minor signs of use, while others look like they’ve been used to bludgeon someone to death.

    A few even feature personalized artwork carved into the wood by their previous owners–so each purchase is basically like gambling for Fortnite skins in real life or whatever. 

    at Palmetto State Armory

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    Of course, considering the rifles have been in storage for a few decades, this means they’re going to be absolutely oozing with nasty ass cosmoline that you’ll need to remove before they’re safe to fire again, and you can check out our experience in doing just that here.

    A Bit Of History

    The original Russian SKS was developed by Sergei Simonov and was designed to take advantage of the Soviet’s adoption of the M43 7.62X39 intermediate cartridge.

    Popular 7.62x39 Ammo
    Popular 7.62×39 Ammo

    Much less powerful than the 54R fielded by infantryman and machine gunners, but a significant step up from the pistol calibers found in Soviet submachine guns. 

    Allegedly, the SKS saw some very limited or experimental use with Russian frontline units near the end of the war in 1945, but not in any kind of significant numbers.

    Although it was ultimately replaced by Kalashnikov’s OG AK-47, the SKS became quite popular with a number of Soviet satellite states as the Soviet Union exported the technical know-how (and in some cases the parts themselves) to Communist militaries the world over. 

    3 Upgraded AK-47s
    3 Upgraded AK-47s

    The Chinese themselves would go on to produce millions of Type 56 carbines, which is exactly where our 3 you see here come from. 

    From front to back, you’ve got your hooded front sight and barrel with no muzzle device, an under-folding ‘spike’ type bayonet that’s essentially a long flathead screwdriver that will still absolutely murder your gooey bits, your gas tube, and handguard assembly, the rear sight block, your bolt assembly, trigger assembly, and the rifle stock itself. 

    Type 56 SKS Hooded Front Sight
    Type 56 SKS Hooded Front Sight

    Two of the three Type 56s we got from PSA are on the “beat to shit” side of the spectrum–but that’s honestly rad as hell if you’re snagging one for the neat historical value rather than to brutalize it into some demented hunting carbine.

    SKS meme

    The third SKS we got is in really pretty impressive condition considering it came from the same source. So while PSA isn’t offering hand select, you still have the chance of getting a great wall hanger.

    Ergonomics wise, the first thing you’re going to likely notice when handling an SKS for the first time is just how… dated the design feels.

    Type 56 SKS Rear Sight and Action

    I mean yeah, no kidding right? It’s a 75-year-old design, but if you’re mostly used to firing guns produced within the latter half of the past century, you’ll know what I mean. 

    For me, what stands out the most is the very… bizarre length of pull considering the rifle’s overall length. The buttstock itself feels significantly shorter than what you’d expect from a standard rifle.

    Type 56 SKS Length of Pull
    As you can see, the length of pull is a little… smol.

    While the optimized length of pull is obviously supremely subjective and varies person to person, having a whole 3 feet of gun hanging off the front while you’ve got the stock crammed in real close like a weird rat person just feels funky as hell. 

    Type 56 SKS Trigger Assembly
    Type 56 SKS Trigger Assembly… Cosmoline included.

    I have to imagine these wouldn’t have been fun to field if you happened to be a lankier soviet conscript, but so it goes. 

    The 10-round internal magazine can be fed through stripper clips or individually

    Type 56 SKS Stripper Clip Inserted
    Taken a moment before it all fails.

    But you’ll likely need to play around with whatever clips you’ve got to ensure they actually work with your rifle considering the huge amount of tiny variances that can occur considering all of the different countries producing SKS stuff. 

    We snagged some new SKS stripper clips and encountered the usual issues that SKS owners have been maneuvering around for years.

    Clips that don’t fit into the notch on the bolt, clips that were way to tight, some that wouldn’t hold rounds at all because of poor leaf spring tension, the list goes on. 

    Type 56 SKS Using Bayonet
    When stripper clips don’t work, it’s time to get stabby.

    These are all reasonably easy fixes if you’re so inclined to go hunting for that information, but we, unfortunately, didn’t troubleshoot-flowchart ours beforehand. Yolo.


    There’s definitely a bit of a learning curve to stripper clips, especially if you’re going to be drawing them out of a period SKS Chicom rig with the absolutely abysmal wooden toggle closure systems. 

    But I also realize how dumb it sounds to be retroactively critiquing prole kit considering the immense amount of armed conflict both the SKS and likely the gear issued with it have seen worldwide.

    Type 56 SKS Stripper Clips and Chest Rig
    Stripper clips and our bitchin’ vintage chest rig

    Just because its unfamiliar doesn’t mean its inherently bad. 

    Range Report

    Out to the range! It should be noted that given the state of the rifles, we didn’t bother shooting groups as that’s probably not why anyone’s bothering to snag an ancient commie gun.

    Type 56 SKS Bayonet and Gas Tube
    Type 56 SKS Bayonet and Gas Tube

    We were primarily focused on function–and we were stoked when both rifles we took with us to the desert fed and fired just fine, stripper clip struggles aside. 

    Type 56 SKS Shooting
    Type 56 SKS Shooting

    We did, however, observe that one of the guns was shooting significantly above its iron sights, but that’s likely due to the irons needing to be adjusted–though we suspect some errant barrel cosmoline might be at play with some of the rare flyers we experienced. 

    Again, they’re reasonably minute-of-bad-guy accurate out to about 150-200 yards or so, and that’d likely clean up pretty well if you gave them a more thorough internal cleaning than our basic “restore function” pass at cosmoline removal. 

    Type 56 SKS Field Stripped
    Still a lil gooey

    The rifle’s safety is located just above the trigger guard, and a quick flick of the firing finger can switch the rifle on and off safe pretty quickly–something the AK series of rifles lacks even today on modern iterations. 

    Type 56 SKS Safety
    Safety on!

    In terms of actual operation, they function just fine and are about what you’d expect considering the territory you’re in. 

    Recoil is obviously a bit sharper than a standard AR-15 thanks to that chunky ass 7.62×39 cartridge, and the lack of a muzzle device means that most of the impulse is going to be upwards.

    Type 56 SKS Rear Sight Block
    Ooey gooey rear sight block

    You’ll need to get comfortable with mitigating that climb and keeping your irons on target if you’re firing quickly. 

    I also found that I wanted to punch my support hand out real far forward and C-clamp over the top handguard to add a bit of stability considering the real short length of pull, but doing so actually blocks your iron sights entirely, so… RIP. 

    Type 56 SKS Firing with Bayonet
    No C-clamp. Just stabbies.

    Parting Shots

    Quirks aside, the Type 56 is a super fun plinker if you’re into military surplus rifles that you absolutely don’t have to feel bad for actually shooting.

    at Palmetto State Armory

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Prices accurate at time of writing

    Available Coupons

    As the condition PSA is selling them in puts most of them firmly in the “Hey, this thing’s pretty neat!” category. 

    Type 56 SKS Using Bayonet
    I mean, you’re getting a gun… and a glorified screwdriver to boot!

    I’d even go as far as to say they’re great project guns if you’re looking for a way to learn the ins and outs of cleaning disgusting grease from every conceivable nook of a rifle–even if your overall plan is to sacrifice the remains to the Tapco god when it is all said and done. 

    What SKS do you have? What SKS do you want? Let us know in the comments! For a deeper dive on the SKS and some interesting variations, take a look at our review of the Norinco & Yugoslavian SKS!

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    11 Leave a Reply

    • Commenter Avatar

      I bought one of these rifles from PSA in July 2021 for $499. I read the reviews on PSA, and most were satisfied with what they recieved, but there were a few people that got a bucket full of rusted & broken parts on guns they received. So I pulled the trigger and bought one. About 6 days later I picked up at FFL. It looked pretty rough when I picked it up, but did not look to bad at the time. When I took apart to clean off cosmoline, found very bad rust pitting in 4 places on reciever and rusted out under the wood. It only had matching numbers on 4 parts, all other parts were not matching. Also had rusted out bayonet 1" from tip, and broken upper handguard. Its bad enough to clean the cosmoline off, but to find gun totally rusted out under wood, with very bad pitting in 4 places on reciever. I sanded this thing for 4 days, and finally got the pitting, and rust out of metal. But now I have to pay more money to have this gun reblued, buy another bayonet, and handguard to get it up to par with other guns they sold here. I emailed them and told them what they sent me, and sent photo's, but they won't even email me back, they will not even offer me any kind of credit back for sending me a bucket full of rusted & rust pitted parts. It's kind of like they threw this gun together with spare parts. Everyone else said only one part was not matching, and some had all matching on reviews. Will be the last time I buy anything from PSA. I paid total $559 with shipping & FFL, this gun I received was not worth $300 in the shape it was sent to me. I got screwed by these thief's, they claimed best batch we ever received, lying bastards.

      June 26, 2021 8:00 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      I have three SKS rifles for various countries and love the rifles. The only issue I've ever had was with the Yugo it had some cycling issues with Wolf steel case ammo, other brands or handloads cycled just fine. Installed a new gas valve and it's ran 100% ever since no matter what brand of ammo I shoot. The rifle regardless of variant are more accurate with good handloads in cast lead or jacketed than many are led to believe.

      May 7, 2021 4:21 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      For the money love these guns. at 100-300 dollars I'd recommend them as the perfect place to start learning about classic rifles.

      September 30, 2020 11:53 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      I have a 1954 Tula in great shape paid around 100 dollars back in 1991.

      September 23, 2020 4:56 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Steve Diaz

      Did not read all the comments, so this may have already been mentioned. Slam fire. My MILSURP 56 had a disquieting habit of going full auto when it wanted to. Thought it might have been the old "firing pin taper gets the thing stuck in the bolt" issue, so I sent the bolt assembly to Murray's Gunsmithing in Bowie, Texas, for their bolt/firing pin magic. Got it back and "full auto" issue continued. Took it to a local gunsmith who went through the FCG. Diagnosis: Worn parts compounded by what appeared to be an attempt by some Chicom or NVA to modify the FCG to make it go faster. Takeaway...be careful when handling these old MILSURP SKS's. It pays to have them thoroughly checked out by a qualified gunsmith before hitting the range.

      September 18, 2020 1:12 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Since the SKS and AK are intended to shoot at us, I would call the accuracy "minute of GI."

      September 18, 2020 11:42 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Great video on the type 56 SKS. I have a few Yugo models that I love shooting. Keep up the good work, your videos are top notch and always looked forward to.

      September 18, 2020 8:04 am
    • Commenter Avatar

      Hey, good article. BTW am from Lithuania- small Baltic country on the coast of Baltic sea. I do have russian model sks 1954 edition. Not bad at all thinking of having one in a safe in case our big neighbour will decide to "cross Rubicon". Striper clips is old school but you need to get used to them just by practicing. Of course, like John said, it depends on quality of the clip itself. Thanks pewpew tactical for beeing profesional.

      September 17, 2020 10:40 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Gotta love the SKS, great little rifles. To me they are a semi auto Winchester 94, not quite as powerful but close. Have a bunch several Chinese, besides the regular 59, have the “paratrooper” model and one marked “Farmers Friend” both are 16 inch instead of 20 inch. Also have a couple of 16 inch models that, I think, China made for US import that take AK magazines from the factory, one with a normal SKS sock, and one with a really ugly thumb-hole stock. Couple of the Russian models, and a Yugoslavian [one that didn’t get fitted for a grenade launcher]. Have to have at least a dozen SKS rifles in the safe. With what SKS rifles sell for now, for the cost one would spend, putting parts on it to make it an AK .... one can buy an AK and have change.

      September 17, 2020 9:17 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      William Pitts

      I have an original Russian SKS in near mint condition. It is a quality built Rifle. Haven’t shot it much. Bought it for my wife for deer hunting about 25 years ago. Paid almost $300.00 back then. My first one was a Chinese SKS. Junk compared to the Russian SKS.

      September 17, 2020 8:35 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Henry Servatt

      Hey John, I have the Yugo version, Cal-qualified (muzzle device welded on at three points around the clock, sorta kinda looks a bit like original - at a distance, at high speed). In very good condition, lots of blue on the metal, wood not chopped up. VERY fun to shoot, goes bang each and every time I pull the trigger, and deposits the brass somewhere on this planet, though *I* don't know where. Stripper clips are as fun to use as you described. :-) Blade bayonet was never used for going-to-ground.
      Thanks for the neat article on the Chicom version. I always wanted one, never got one. After your article, I think I like my Yugo pretty fine

      September 17, 2020 8:00 pm
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