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

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. 

350
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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.

Shrugging_kaomoji

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.

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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9 Leave a Reply

  • Joe

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

    3 days ago
  • Bill

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

    1 week ago
  • 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.

    2 weeks ago
  • Tepposamurai

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

    2 weeks ago
  • Duane

    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.

    2 weeks ago
  • Efka

    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.

    2 weeks ago
  • rwu355

    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.

    2 weeks ago
  • 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.

    2 weeks ago
  • 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

    2 weeks ago
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