The firearms we will cover are the Mosin-Nagant 91 (Mosin), the Simonova (SKS) and the Kalashnikov (AK). Believe me I have to hit Wikipedia for the spellings. The reason I do not say the AK-47 is that I am going to speak only of the civilian semi –automatic version and the 47 denotes the military select fire version.
Before the late 1980s these firearms were sparse. I remember seeing only a few war souvenirs of the Mosin and SKS, most were really put up wet and the ammunition if it could be found was heaps of money. Then in ’86 President Ronald Reagan signed the “Firearms Owner Protection Act” and among other things loosened up the importation of firearms, remember me griping about the Garands from Korea. The locks opened up and in came the flood of stockpiled military arms which changed into the new manufacture of military firearms then, as now the river of the few left military guns but now of many civilian style arms.
Mosin-Nagant 91: I hate to say it but an excellent, tough firearm that shoots a cartridge equal to our 30-06 and older. It was developed for the Czar’s army in the rush for bolt action smokeless cartridge weapons. It was put into service in 1891, thus the 91, and only finally removed from first line service with the Soviet armies in 1949. Its cartridge 7.62X54R was introduced at the same time and is still in first line use! How many years is that? I do not want to take my shoes off to count. It is used in their medium and light machine guns. Now I can write two columns on all its variants but I will not bore you. I would have to get a lot of the information from a friend who has all the variants in a special room he built for them.
These rifles were made and imported in the millions. They are some of the most inexpensive on the market. Not because of quality but because of numbers. Like all firearms, thanks to some panic and government threats of legislation, they have gone up in price but not by much.
You can still find them from $100 to $200 range and the quality does vary so have them checked out if you can, but most have been kept in good storage and in ready reserve. Even with the recent inflation of ammo prices the round for this are still not such a blow to the wallet and are available in large quantities and bullet weights. For the cash strapped these rifles are adequate open sight deer rifles and there is a selection of composite sporterized stocks for sale that only require a small amount of fitting if not just drop in. Mounting a scope can be a little tricky unless you buy one already mounted. Some of those are sold as “sniper rifles” but really are just the ordinary ones pulled from stocks with a scope mounted. I would suggest simply leave the scope out of it. There is a variety of hunting ammunition offered by most manufacturers. I suggest if you can find one in your price range, buy it! But like all used firearms have it or check it out carefully.
The next on the list is a favorite of mine the SKS; fun to shoot and relatively inexpensive to feed. Most of the first imports were from China, still good quality. Mine was given to me as a wedding present by my lovely second wife. These are ten round gas operated semi-automatics. It eats up the famous 7.62X39 round. It was adopted by the Soviets in 1949 and used only a short time before the AK-47 arrived around 1954. This makes it the first to really us the 7.62x39 cartridge. The thing about this rifle is although it was used in the front line in the Soviet arsenal they still made its way into the fifties and about every Soviet bloc countries made their version and so did China. I mention this because all these countries have sold these rifles to importers. I have the one from China and one from Yugoslavia. There were only a few imported from Russia as they did send many to Vietnam and other wars around the world. If you find a Russian it usually costs more and is a keeper. Not saying that any of the others are not just as good, it is just a collector thing. In fact from comparisons the Yugo model is of newer manufacture and a better rifle in my opinion plus you get a grenade launcher and glow in the dark sights.
The supplies of SKSs are tapering off as they are not being manufactured for export like the AKs. Like the Mosin they are still working out of surplus stocks. I sporterized my Chinese SKS and added a scope. I used an early plastic stock so it weighs significantly more that the wooden stock versions and can be restored to original quickly. Be careful of the scope mounts you use. I purchased a second rear cover and had to spot weld the mount I liked as it did not have sufficient strength to hold the four power scope. I tell people contemplating buying the SKS that they are getting a semi-automatic .30-30. The 7.62x39 is basically equivalent to our .30-30. In a way the SKS can fill most needs, it is really fun to shoot, it is a good home defense unit and it is not big and clumsy so it can be easily used for hunting. I even recommend this for the back of a ranch pick up.
Next week we will explore the ever present AK clone world! Remember Keep that Finger OFF the Trigger.