Is the SKS the Next Garand?

Is the SKS the Next Garand?

For decades, the SKS has been among the least-expensive centerfire semiauto rifles available in the U.S. But, as worldwide supplies dry up, prices on SKSs have crept skyward, and what was once considered little more than a throwaway gun is enjoying a growing demand. No one has ever declared the SKS as the "greatest battle implement ever devised," but, from a cost perspective, it may very well be the Garand of this generation in terms of mil-surp availability.

15 million SKSs (Simonov Self- Loading Carbine) were built from the time of its design in Russia during World War II until today. The AK47 and later AKM made the SKS nearly obsolete almost immediately after its adoption in the Soviet Union, but a large number of SKS variants were produced outside of Russia in places such as China, Romania and Yugoslavia. Since the SKS is among the last non-NFA general-issue shoulder arms produced in large numbers, it will likely be the last surplus firearm we'll see imported in en masse. CFR 922(r), which regulates the importation of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns, makes things even more complicated and prevents even semiauto FALs from being imported in their complete form. In short, unless the armies of the world turn back the clock of innovation and embrace weapons of the past, we will never see the mass importation of any military rifle designed after the 1950s. We're more likely to see the return of horse cavalry.

When I began hitting gun shows with my dad back in the late 1980s, I recall seeing crates of new SKSs, still in cosmoline, for sale at a mere $79 per rifle ($75 if you bought the entire crate). I don't recall the country of origin of those rifles, but I believe that they were Chinese Type 56s. Even though I probably had the money in my pocket from working odd jobs, the old man wouldn't let me take one home — "junk" he said (he has one now). Today, a Chicom SKS will run you north of $300. Even adjusted for inflation, the price has more than doubled in those 25 years. "Surplus is drying up" Jacob Herman at Century Arms International told me when I inquired about the overseas availability of rifles such as the SKS. As fewer guns become available, prices will climb — thus, $300+ SKSs.

Though over 6 million Garands were built, not all of them stayed in the U.S. to be sold as surplus. Garands were shipped to armies all over the world where they have sat in warehouses since later designs were adopted by the armies of those nations. For decades, the best place to purchase a Garand has been through the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) — many CMP Garands were sourced from these overseas stockpiles. CMP Garands start at $595 today, and wait times are as long as 9 months. If you don't want to wait for a CMP rifle, you can buy one off the used market, but be prepared to pay closer to $1000 for a serviceable example. With an executive order preventing many overseas M1s from being re-imported by the CMP, that price is certain to rise further as supplies diminish. Garands are fairly expensive today, but they weren't inexpensive rifles when they were brand new. The $85 price tag that the Department of War paid for the M1 in the 1940s calculates to almost $1400 in today's dollars, which means that Garands are actually less expensive today than they were seven decades ago. There was a time though, that Garands were dirt cheap. During the 1950s and 60s, M1 Garands and Carbines were available as surplus for less than the U.S. government paid for them in the 40s. Relatively speaking, the Garand was as available and inexpensive in those days as the SKS was in our recent past.


I know what you're going to say — a Garand is the supreme example of skilled American craftsmanship and precision (and French-Canadian ingenuity), how dare you compare it to Chinese garbage? Patriotic emotion aside, let's compare the two. Designed to be operable by hastily trained 19-year-olds? Check. Issued to a major army and tested in years of combat? Check. Non-detachable magazine holding more than five rounds of .30 caliber ammo? Check, kinda. Chambered for a widely-available cartridge? Check. Milled receiver, all metal parts and a hardwood stock? Check. Parts readily available for modification and repair? Check. Harder to get that they used to be? Check. Both rifles are serviceable, sufficiently accurate for their intended purpose, durable and easy to operate. Sure, the SKS is "clumsy" as Col. Jeff Cooper put it, but it does what it was built to do. I'm not trading you my Garand for your Simonov, but they're not as unalike as they seem at first mention.


The heart of the matter is pure economics. You have two rifles that were produced in seemingly endless numbers and sold as surplus for a song. As supplies constrict due to natural or regulatory factors, prices rise. We've seen it with Mausers, '03 Springfields, M1 Carbines, Garands and, yes, even SKSs. Barring unforeseen supplies or future policy changes that will flood the U.S. market with old military rifles, we will see prices of all surplus arms continue to climb. At some point, we'll likely look back at even today's high prices longingly as 'the good ole days.'


What do you think the future holds for SKS availability? Join the debate in the comments below!

Recommended for You

It's a matter of not wanting “What do you need a magazine with that many rounds for?” to become more than a rhetorical internet question. 2nd Amendment

Trump Administration Export Ban on Over 32 Round Magazines Raises Question of 'Why?'

David Codrea - June 14, 2019

It's a matter of not wanting “What do you need a magazine with that many rounds for?” to...

Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. introduced three models of the Ruger American Rimfire rifle with Go Wild Camo I-M Brush stock and bronze Cerakote finish. Rifles

Ruger American Rimfire with Go Wild Camo I-M Brush Stock

Ruger Firearms - July 10, 2019

Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. introduced three models of the Ruger American Rimfire rifle with...

We at Firearms News hope that you have a safe and happy Independence Day! 2nd Amendment

It's Independence Day NOT Just the Fourth of July!

FAN Online Editors

We at Firearms News hope that you have a safe and happy Independence Day!

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New addition to the Browning X-Bolt rifle series

New addition to the Browning X-Bolt rifle series

New for 2019 is the Max Long Range model featuring a composite Max stock with fully adjustable comb, spacers for adjusting length of pull, stainless fluted heavy sporter barrel, threaded muzzle brake and extended bolt handle.

Kyle Lamb and Eric Poole talk SIG pistols

Kyle Lamb and Eric Poole talk SIG pistols

G&A Editor Eric Poole and Viking Tacticals's Kyle Lamb talks about 2 new pistols from SIG Sauer and a Lipsey's Special of the P365.

M134 Mini-Gun

M134 Mini-Gun

While filming the 2018 season of Guns&AmmoTV we had the unique opportunity to fire the M134 Minigun.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

If you want to keep the peace, keep and bear arms. Don't give up your guns. Any other choice would be ridiculous. 2nd Amendment

Is Red Dawn Really Just Ridiculous? If Not, Who Would Citizen Disarmament Help?

David Codrea - May 29, 2019

If you want to keep the peace, keep and bear arms. Don't give up your guns. Any other choice...

Governor Northam is calling a special session of the General Assembly on Tuesday, July 9th, to do nothing but pass more gun control! 2nd Amendment

Virginia Governor Northam Declares War on Gun Owners

Virginia Citizens Defense League - July 09, 2019

Governor Northam is calling a special session of the General Assembly on Tuesday, July 9th, to...

Rhode Islanders are setting brushfires for freedom once again as they advance a Second Amendment Sanctuary Town movement. 2nd Amendment

SPECIAL REPORT: BIG 2A HISTORY BEING MADE IN LITTLE RHODE ISLAND

John Peterson - May 22, 2019

Rhode Islanders are setting brushfires for freedom once again as they advance a Second...

See More Stories

More Historical

Many of the concepts pioneered by Hobart are seen in modern armies across the world and the AVRE platform is alive and well. Historical

Hobarts Funnies and the Battle for the Scheldt

Neal S Shera - July 15, 2019

Many of the concepts pioneered by Hobart are seen in modern armies across the world and the...

From the Beretta 418 to the HK UMP, Will Dabbs, MD, takes a look at the different guns of 007 throughout the years Historical

Guns of Agent 007

Will Dabbs, MD - March 16, 2018

From the Beretta 418 to the HK UMP, Will Dabbs, MD, takes a look at the different guns of 007...

April 19 is the anniversary of 'The shot heard round the world' Historical

Battles of Lexington & Concord: The Shot Heard Round the World!

FAN Online Editors - April 19, 2018

April 19 is the anniversary of 'The shot heard round the world'

See More Historical

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW OUR CURRENT ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×