THE HOTTEST CASHIER AT DOL­LAR TREE

Dress­ing up an SKS-M as a Chi­nese Type 84, But Bet­ter

Recoil - - Contents - BY DAVE MER­RILL

The year was 1999; RE­COIL wasn’t even a glim­mer in Iain’s eye, hav­ing only been in the United States for a few months. Soon, the devel­oped world would come crash­ing down, as com­put­ers across the globe would cause rolling black­outs due to a sim­ple date er­ror: Yes, ladies and gen­tle­men, we’re talk­ing about Y2K.

OK, we know this ar­ti­cle isn’t carved onto a cave wall, and that noth­ing much of sub­stance hap­pened at the turn of the mil­len­nium sans a few un­planned preg­nan­cies. How­ever, this ar­ti­cle is a lit­tle bit about that, be­cause that was also the last cal­en­dar year the SKS could be con­sid­ered a prag­matic or prac­ti­cal choice for of­fen­sive use (in the United States at least; sorry, Canada).

Though there are vari­a­tions and mod­els from nearly a dozen sep­a­rate na­tions, your stan­dard fare SKS was a semi­au­to­matic, 7.62 x 39mm, 20-inch bar­reled af­fair that fed from an in­ter­nal 10-round mag­a­zine. Load­ing and reload­ing took place with strip­per clips.

Many were im­ported with fold­ing bay­o­nets that couldn’t be quickly re­moved from the ri­fle with­out the use of tools.

They were in­ex­pen­sive and read­ily avail­able, which goes a long way to ex­plain­ing their pop­u­lar­ity in the United States. Hell, an en­tire cot­tage in­dus­try was in­vented seem­ingly solely to ped­dle aw­ful ac­ces­sories. Some of these ef­forts were at­tempts to ad­dress the short­com­ings rel­a­tive to mod­ern ri­fles, and some left us just sadly shak­ing our heads. Chas­sis sys­tems. Fold­ing stocks. Wob­bly railed top cov­ers. Weird ugly duck billed re­mov­able mag­a­zines — you’ve seen them all, of that we’re cer­tain.

Re­mem­ber, this was a magic time when the mantra, “Get what­ever AR-15 that you want, pro­vided it’s made by ABC: Ar­malite, Bush­mas­ter, or Colt,” was mostly true. A cheap SKS was roughly the tenth of a price of a Colt.

Ul­ti­mately, the Amer­i­can hey­day of the SKS was ex­tin­guished for ex­actly the same rea­son the Rus­sian one was: the in­creased avail­abil­ity of the AK/AKM. Long gone is the time when you’d buy an SKS for prac­ti­cal rea­sons, solely con­signed in­stead to nerdy Com-Blok col­lec­tors.

To the Rus­sians, the SKS is a bit like the Amer­i­can M14 — an awk­ward mid­dle child, never heav­ily fielded for any sig­nif­i­cant pe­riod, and largely rel­e­gated to the rear. Sure, you’ve seen some shiny ones all dolled up for pa­rade across the iron cur­tain, but that’s the most com­mon use for it now.

The same couldn’t be said of Red China. When they re­ceived the of­fi­cial tool­ing from Tula Arse­nal in the ’50s, they em­braced it. For nearly three decades it re­mained their go-to, mass-is­sue ri­fle. While they spent some time dab­bling with new de­signs in the early ’70s, it wouldn’t be un­til the far-su­pe­rior Type 81 As­sault Ri­fles were fielded in the ’80s that SKSs be­gan to drop off the scene.

It’s been said that the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army prized the ac­cu­racy of the SKS; if that’s true, their mea­sur­ing sticks must have been made in China as well. Rather than al­low­ing the AK to re­place the SKS whole­sale, the Chi­nese mil­i­tary treated them as com­pli­men­tary weapons — with some hy­brids along the way.

EAT­ING FROM AK MAGS

One such Moreau-es­que amal­gam was the Chi­nese Type 84. It fea­tured a shorter 16.5-inch bar­rel, a cor­re­spond­ingly shorter spike bay­o­net, and — im­por­tantly — could al­most ac­cept AK mag­a­zines. We say “al­most” be­cause each mag­a­zine had to be in­di­vid­u­ally hand-fit to the gun; they were even se­ri­al­ized to­gether. Be­cause AK mag­a­zines, even ones heav­ily hand mod­ded, don’t work with the SKS bolt-hold-open sys­tem (in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant for ri­fles that tra­di­tion­ally ate from strip­pers — there’s a joke there some­place), the Type 84 had a unique but­ton on top of the bolt car­rier to lock it in place.

In 1989, USA Navy Arms im­ported some to the United States. We’ve heard as few as 400 of these ri­fles hit Amer­i­can shores. It was and re­mains the only SKS im­port that had the shorter 16.5-inch bar­rel, stubby bay­o­net, and abil­ity to ac­cept AK mag­a­zines, al­beit mod­i­fied ones.

AK mag­a­zines are com­monly avail­able, fast to reload, and of­fer a sig­nif­i­cant up­grade to other cob­bled-to­gether de­tach­able mag­a­zines for SKSs.

So, of course, we had to have one. And also make it bet­ter.

While you could dig deep in your pock­ets and scour the depths of Gun-bro­ker or Arm­slist look­ing for one of those rare birds, we made one our­selves in­stead.

LIM­ITED OP­TIONS

Aside from the Chi­nese Type 84 SKS, two other vari­a­tions that ate from com­mon AK/AKM mag­a­zines were im­ported. The first was dubbed the SKS-D by deal­ers to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them from the fixed mag­a­zine fod­der. It looked like a stan­dard CHICOMM SKS, dif­fer­ing mainly by ac­cept­ing AK mag­a­zines.

These ri­fles came in be­fore the Ge­orge H. W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion banned the im­por­ta­tion of so-called “as­sault ri­fles” in 1989. On the other hand, “sport­ing ri­fles” were al­lowed, all of which had fewer “as­sault ri­fle” fea­tures like bay­o­net lugs. Be­cause drive-by bay­o­net as­saults were ap­par­ently a huge prob­lem in the 1980s.

At this time, we also be­gan see­ing the SKS-M. With a real name scripted on the side of the re­ceiver rather than a dealer de­nom­i­na­tion, the SKS-M was most of­ten im­ported with the shorter 16.5-inch “para­trooper” bar­rel. And, of course, with dan­ger­ous fea­tures like the bay­o­net re­moved.

The SKS-M had a “sport­ing” stock, ei­ther con­sist­ing of a Monte Carlo-style that al­most looks like a stan­dard stock, or the dreaded thumb­hole.

While more of these ri­fles came in than the Chi­nese Type 84, a trade dis­pute in 1993 ended Chi­nese im­por­ta­tion of most all firearms and am­mu­ni­tion shortly there­after (you can still get shot­guns though — see our piece on the Lynx-12 in Is­sue 37).

Since we wanted a Type 84, we’d have to start our jour­ney by first ob­tain­ing an SKS-M.

TREA­SURE HUNT

The firearms mar­ket is com­pletely up­side down com­pared to two decades ago. In­stead of an SKS cost­ing a mere frac­tion of an AR-15, SKS prices of­ten meet or even ex­ceed those of a ba­sic AR. And a spe­cial one like an SKS-M? Good luck.

We hap­pened upon one at The Bul­let Ranch, in Pataskala, Ohio, and snatched it up. Monte Carlo-type stock, nonex­is­tent bay­o­net, and that all-im­por­tant short bar­rel and mag­a­zine well. What we didn’t know is that this would be just the start of our jour­ney.

The ap­pro­pri­ate for­eign parts were very easy to ob­tain on­line and rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive, in­clud­ing the short­ened para­trooper spike bay­o­net. But alas, the hardest part had yet to come: com­pli­ance with the law, specif­i­cally 922(r).

Es­sen­tially, 922(r) means that you can’t sim­ply take an im­ported “sport­ing ri­fle” and give it “as­sault fea­tures” with­out first in­creas­ing the amount of Amer­i­can-made parts.

And no, not ev­ery lit­tle screw counts. There are 20 “parts” specif­i­cally listed in Ti­tle 18 Chap­ter 44 Sec­tion 922(r), fur­ther bro­ken down in Ti­tle 27 Part 478.39 of the Code of Fed­eral Reg­u­la­tion. Yes, we also feel like we need a lawyer just to read that sen­tence.

Not ev­ery spec­i­fied 922(r) part cor­re­sponds to an ac­tual part on an im­ported ri­fle. Thus de­pend­ing on the de­sign of your ri­fle, vary­ing num­bers of Amer­i­can com­pli­ance parts may be needed. Re­gard­less of the for­eign ri­fle you’re con­vert­ing from “sport­ing” sta­tus, the law says that you can have no more than 10 for­eign parts from that list of 20.

Be­cause the SKS isn’t nearly as pop­u­lar as other im­ported ri­fles, it can be harder to find ap­pro­pri­ate com­pli­ance parts. Fur­ther­more, not ev­ery com­pli­ance part is a sim­ple “drop in” fit with our SKS-M be­cause of its short­ened gas sys­tem. De­cid­ing to go with the belt and sus­penders ap­proach, we re­placed more than tech­ni­cally nec­es­sary in or­der to en­sure there could be no ques­tion about its le­gal­ity.

We begged and bartered for a U.S.made fire con­trol group, then wres­tled with in­stalling it. We took a brand new and shiny U.S.-made gas pis­ton and short­ened it to work with the trun­cated gas sys­tem. And we be­grudg­ingly only used U.S.-made mag­a­zines.

With a twist of irony, we note that U.S. mag­a­zines need to be mod­i­fied to fit. Just like reg­u­lar AK mag­a­zines in the Chi­nese Type 84.

But once we had all of our parts and pieces, we could put it all to­gether. We’re thank­ful Chi­nese man­u­fac­tur­ers used wood ap­prox­i­mately as soft as soap, which made hog­ging the mag-well out much eas­ier.

And oh yeah — we had the bar­rel threaded.

ON THE RANGE

We wish we could say that this was a pleas­ant ri­fle to shoot, but that would be a bald faced lie. The bare muz­zle and heavy gas re­sulted in more re­coil than the 7.62x39 nor­mally metes out. The brass (err ... steel) cas­ings seemed to fly as far as the bul­lets them­selves.

Fur­ther­more, though it might sound a tad strange, we missed hav­ing a pis­tol grip. The abil­ity to use your shoot­ing hand to pull the ri­fle back into your shoul­der for bet­ter re­coil con­trol is di­min­ished with the stan­dard stock.

Maybe we got a lemon, but benched group sizes at 100 yards were in ex­cess of 5 inches. Pre­cise in­deed.

To help with the re­coil, we in­stalled a Su­per Comp XL from Go Gun USA. Sure, it doesn’t look like a Chi­nese Type 84 any­more, but boy was it more fun to shoot and easy to re­move. And, of course, we also in­stalled a Sure­fire SOCOM762-MINI2. Af­ter care­fully check­ing align­ment, we gave it a go.

If brass went as far as the bul­let with a bare muz­zle, we’re pretty sure we put some in or­bit with the sup­pres­sor mounted. There’s no way we can rec­om­mend si­lenc­ing an SKS un­less some spe­cial mea­sures are taken, lest you end up with bent pis­tons and de­stroyed ri­fles.

LOOSE ROUNDS

Like a road trip with friends, this project turned out to be more about the jour­ney than the des­ti­na­tion.

Did we ac­com­plish our mis­sion of a DIY Chi­nese Type 84, but bet­ter? Kind of. Once we track down three more 922R com­pli­ance parts that don’t make it look like a Y2K bubba job, we’ll say mis­sion ac­com­plished. We’d then have the abil­ity to legally use what­ever mag­a­zine we want. Un­til then, our ri­fle suf­fers the same fate as the Chi­nese Type 84.

But when that hap­pens, she’ll be the hottest cashier at Dol­lar Tree.

While the SKS-M looks baller with a bake­lite, we can’t ig­nore the beauty with the bay­o­net.

Stripped down, the SKS-M looks nor­mal, sans the mag lock and mag­well.

The GoGunUSA brake made a huge difference in re­coil.Some like the fully hooded front sight of CHICOMM guns; we aren’t among them.

Safety on

Safety off

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