Letter Re: SKS Rifle Advice and 7.62×39 Ballistics

Dear James:
I have read in your book and in the blog site that you do not recommend the .223 round for a battle rifle. What do you think about the effectiveness of the 7.62 X 39 cartridge? I own an SKS and would like your opinion on the 7.62 compared to the .223 and also the .308. Also what is your opinion of the SKS as a battle rifle? As always, I appreciate your valued input. – Dr. Sidney Zweibel, Columbia P&S

JWR’s Reply: Ballistically, the Soviet 7.62×39 (the standard cartridge for the SKS, AK-47, and clones) is almost identical to .30-30 Winchester. So it is better than .30 Carbine or .223, but not by very much. .308 Winchester is in whole ‘nother class, ballistically. I only recommend SKS rifles as an interim rifle for someone that is on a very tight budget. The biggest limitation of the standard SKS is its top-loaded 10 round (stripper clip filled) fixed magazine. If you opt for an SKS then you should take some extra time shopping around to find one of the thumbhole stock models that were imported in the late 1980s–these are the SKS variants that use standard detachable 30 round AK-47 magazines. These are scarce but can sometimes be found (used) for around $225 to $275.

If you can afford a .308–even just a $300 to $400 CETME, then you should forget about getting a SKS or other semi-auto chambered in 7.62×39! remember that .308 Winchester / 7.62 mm NATO is a flat shooting man killer with 500+ meter range. In comparison, 7.62×39 is a barely capable man stopper with a rainbow trajectory and an effective range of only about 250 meters. For anyone that can afford $600 to $2,000 for their MBR, see my previous blog posts about FALs and L1A1s. Those are my preferred tools for serious social work.