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Monday, January 27, 2014

PPR Monday Gunday: Accessorizing your SKS, part 3

Continuing a series I started way back in October (sighhhh)...
Part 1
Part 2

The last time we talked, I promised you a review of the 20-round Tapco external magazines for SKS, but I couldn't give you one because my shooting range was closed for repairs and I couldn't give a review for something which I hadn't used. Those repairs have since been completed and I've had a chance to use the Tapco magazines at the range.

Executive summary
Don't get these.  Just don't. You're better off spending your money on ammunition. I will not buy these again, and I will actively tell other SKS owners not to buy these, either. About the only thing they do well is hold ammunition.  Rating:  F+

The slightly longer version
I took my tarted-up and 922(r) compliant SKS to the range back in December. I had two different Tapco magazines, bought from two different places, and holding two different types of ammunition (one lacquered, one not).  I was looking forward to sighting in a red dot scope when the following happened:
  • I insert the first magazine and chamber a round. 
  • I squeeze the trigger. Bang, says the gun. 
  • I squeeze the trigger again. Gun does not go bang, goes click instead. 
  • I wait a few seconds just in case it's a slow-burning round. When nothing happens, I cycle the bolt and inspect the ejected cartridge. 
  • I note that the primer has a little indentation in the primer from the firing pin, but isn't deep enough to have ignited said primer. 
  • Huh. That's odd, think I. 
  • Squeeze trigger again. Gun goes bang.  All well and good. 
  • I squeeze trigger again. Gun goes click again. 
  • At this point I think maybe I have a bad batch of ammo, so I eject the round, drop the magazine (which, might I add, is difficult to do at the same time with an SKS, because the mag won't drop until the bolt is pulled back, and while there are still rounds in the mag the bolt still wants to go forward. Dropping a loaded magazine, then, is this highly awkward dance of Okay, I put the stock against my shoulder here so I can pull the bolt back and keep it there. Now, with my left had I pull the magazine release and... oh crap, I have to rock this thing forward, don't I?  Okay, push the mag release back with my thumb, and rock the mag forward and out with my fingers...) and then put in a new one. 
  • New magazine is in, chamber a round, squeeze. Gun goes bang.
  • Squeeze trigger again. Gun goes click.  Son of a bitch!
  • Eject round again. Inspect round again. Same damn problem again. 

So here's what's going on, for those of you who don't own SKSes:  In order to refit this weapon to accept detachable magazines, they (for whatever reason) designed it so that the bolt actually travels through the top part of the magazine, between the feed lips and the floor plate. Somehow, the action of sliding through the magazine slows the bolt down just enough so that when it strips off the next round, it doesn't seat all the way after chambering. This means that the firing pin doesn't make it far enough into the primer to fire the bullet, hence the apparently "dud" rounds. What's weird, though, is that this only happens after a bullet has been fired -- apparently manually pulling the bolt back and releasing it properly seats the round, but recoil operation doesn't. This gives the SKS and annoying bang-click-bang-click routine and turns your 20-round semi-auto into a 10-round bolt-action, which is actually worse than stock configuration. 

But Erin! I hear you cry. How do you know it was the magazines that were causing the malfunction and not your SKS?   That's an excellent question. The answer is "Because I took it to the Bidet Shoot in stock configuration and it worked fine. Then, just as further proof, I took off all the Tapco crap and took my SKS back to the range on Saturday. 

Guess what?  It worked perfectly, eating every single round I fed it. I went through about 80 rounds as I zeroed in my scope and not a single cartridge failed to fire. So, pretty clearly, it was the magazines at fault.

And yes, I fully expect someone will say That happens a lot. First you must shave material off the magazine etc  and to that I say BULL!  When I buy a magazine for a gun I expect it to work right the first time without me having to do anything to it other than to load it.

Honestly, I didn't even want the damn magazines to begin with. I just wanted a stock with a pistol grip and a shorter length of pull, but because of that stupid 922(r) and my desire to be compliant, I was forced to get them. And both of them -- bought from separate vendors, made in different batches, and loaded with different types of ammunition -- failed to operate in exactly the same manner.

So, congratulations, Tapco. Because your crap-tastic magazines didn't work, I won't use them, and because I want to be legal I can't use your stock, either. 


However, at least now my SKS shoots just fine. After I had zeroed in my red/green dot scope (I haven't put enough rounds downrange with it to be able to definitely state "get this one, I love it,"  I can tell you that so far I am very pleased with how it performs, even in "scout rifle" configuration"), I had about 12 rounds left, I figured why not shoot the rest of them and give everyone a nice picture of how well I did?

Here you go:

Before everyone thinks I'm a badass, let me qualify this:  I shot this at 25 yards, using a bipod and optic, and it took me 70-some rounds to get this far.  I consider this "a good start, at best" and will now see how well I do with that optic at 50 yards.

Oh, yes, this is my current configuration of Simon. In addition to the optic and the quad rail, I was able to fake a pistol grip with the application of a sniper hand grip (Caution! Installing this will require permanent alteration to your stock. However, since Simon is a Chinese knockoff, I said "screw it" and made the change). I also added a cheek riser (because I am small), a recoil pad to cushion the impact of the metal buttplate, and then I topped it off with that dandy Echo Sling I reviewed last week. Special thanks to McThag for gifting me with the rail-mount sling loop!

Simon, in his latest configuration. Half retro, half tactical -- it's almost steampunk!

And so, that concludes my series on "Accessorizing your SKS." Hopefully this will save some of you the expense and heartache of buying things which do not work, and you can save your time money on things which are useful. 

My name is Erin Palette, and I am a Useful Idiot -- making mistakes so that you don't have to!

Dear FTC:  I bought all of this with my own money. Go away.


  1. Evyl Robot MichaelJanuary 28, 2014 at 8:39 AM

    That rifle looks pretty sick in its current configuration. I kind of want.

  2. If they still have them, Numrich had steel 30 round detachable mags for SKS's. I tried the Tapco and they wouldn't feed. The steel ones worked great.

  3. +1 I don't much like modded surplus guns, but man that looks good the way you have it going!

    Also its no excuse for the tapco mags, but maybe you can save yourself a little stress and salvage them by installing the mag, racking the bolt a few dozen times, then cleaning the gun and mag to see if the gun will "break in" the magazine.

    Just a thought.

  4. Thanks for the info. If I'd known about these before, I would have tried them. At this point, though, I'm disgusted with SKS magazines in general and am happy to use stripper clips.

  5. People have given me lots of suggestions on how to make the mags work (and believe me, before I took them shooting, I worked the bolt over the mag several times).

    While I appreciate the advice, I'm of the belief that some things -- like magazines -- should work WITHOUT needed modification.

    Besides, I've already converted it back and am happy with its current configuration. :)

  6. I know this is me being a nitpicky bastard, but you are hardly a "useful idiot", Erin. You might be a happy-go-lucky gerbil, or a voluntary test subject, or any of a number of things, but given the albeit nearly-lost connotations of that phrase, I somewhat object to its use.

    All that said, tools should conform to users, not the other wary around. Hack that puppy up and make it work.

  7. I have a side folder and several steel detachable mags for my SKS. The side folder stock is so it fits behind the seat of my truck, not for tacticool reasons. The 30 round mags was for my kids sake, as they required several hours of hand fitting with my pliers and needle files to get to operate properly and allow profer feeding and function.

    When I go on the road, my SKS has the standard fixed 10 round mag and a bandolier of stripper clips.

    The only real useful modification I think EVERY SKS should have is the fully adjustable Tapco rear sight, that is unfortunately no longer available. And the fully adjustable AK sight doesn't fit properly. That plus a neon green replacement front sight blade are the two mods I think all SKS's should have.

  8. "Somehow, the action of sliding through the magazine slows the bolt down just enough so
    that when it strips off the next round, it doesn't seat all the way
    after chambering. This means that the firing pin doesn't make it far
    enough into the primer to fire the bullet, hence the apparently "dud"

    This is sorta of a feature. If the bolt is not fully in battery, you don't want the round to go off.

    Also, its long been my position that the SKS original magazine can't be improved upon with respect to the SKS.

  9. Well... yeah, okay, but shouldn't the damn thing just go completely into battery to begin with?

  10. Oh,no doubt. No doubt of that. Tapco magazine baaaaad.

  11. 727650Magazine, 7.62 x 39, 30 Round, Replacement, Blued Steel (Detachable)$29.95

    They still have the steel mags. Here's all the numbers.

  12. Yes, I know the political connotations of the phrase -- I read many of the same blogs as you -- and while I appreciate the vote of confidence, reclaiming the term for my own nefarious purposes makes me smile.

    Although being called a "happy-go-lucky gerbil" really did trip my gigglebox and made me think of this line from The 5th Element:

    "Negative, I am a meat popsicle." :P


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