The SKS has a conventional layout, with a wooden stock and rifle grip.
It is a gas-operated rifle that has a spring-loaded bolt carrier and a gas piston rod that work to unlock and cycle the action via gas pressure exerting pressure against them.
The rifle has a cleaning kit stored in a trapdoor in the buttstock, with a cleaning rod running under the barrel, in the same style as the AK-47.
The cap for the cleaning kit also serves as a cleaning rod guide, to protect the crown from being damaged during cleaning.
This allows the fired case to be ejected and a new round from the magazine to be carried into the chamber.
In the early 1950s, the Soviets took the SKS carbine out of front-line service and replaced it with the AK-47; however, the SKS remained in second-line service for decades. The SKS was widely exported, and was also licensed for production by then Eastern Bloc nations, Romania and East Germany, as well as China, where it was designated the "Type 56 Carbine".As a result, it has a slightly higher muzzle velocity than those arms that replaced it.The SKS's ten-round internal box magazine can be loaded either by hand or from a stripper clip.This behavior is less likely with the hard primer military-spec ammo for which the SKS was designed, but as with any rifle, users should properly maintain their firearms.For collectors, slamfires are more likely when the bolt still has remnants of Cosmoline embedded in it that retard firing pin movement.
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During World War II, many countries realized that existing rifles, such as the Mosin–Nagant, were too long and heavy and fired powerful cartridges that were effective in medium machine guns with a range in excess of 2,000 metres (2,200 yd), creating excessive recoil.