How to Identify a Russian SKS by the Serial Number

Written by darby stevenson
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How to Identify a Russian SKS by the Serial Number
Often the SKS has been overshadowed by the more famous AK47. The SKS, however, has played an unparalleled role in Cold War history. (ak47 image by Tobias Huber from

The SKS rifle was developed by the Soviet Union during World War II. The SKS is the forerunner to the AK47. Later the rifles were copied and manufactured in China, Yugoslavia, Serbia, North Korea and Vietnam. The SKS was used widely not only in World War II but also in the Korean War, and in Vietnam by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army. There are several differences in style among the original Russian SKS and later versions, but a quick glance at the manufacturer markings and serial number can help you to easily identify your Russian SKS.

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  1. 1

    Russian SKS rifles were only manufactured at Tula and later Izhevsk. The manufacturer stamp should be on the left side of the receiver.

  2. 2

    If the receiver stamp shows a star enclosing an upward-pointing arrow, the SKS was manufactured in Tula, Russia, probably before 1956.

  3. 3

    If the receiver stamp shows an upward-pointing arrow enclosed within a triangle, which is in turn enclosed within a circle, the SKS was manufactured in Izhevsk, Russia.

  4. 4

    If the receiver stamp is simply a deeply stamped star, the rifle was probably manufactured in Tula after 1956.

  5. 5

    Most of the early Tula and Izhevsk rifles are stamped with four numbers and the letter R. These indicate the date of manufacture.

  6. 6

    Many Russian SKS will also have a serial number on the receiver. It is quite difficult to track down the actual serial numbers, so most collectors simply refer to the manufacturer's markings for identification and dating.

  7. 7

    You will know you have a genuine Russian SKS if the serial number consists of two Cyrillic characters and a four-digit number.

Tips and warnings

  • While there are many other ways of identifying a Russian SKS rifle, the manufacturer's markings are the simplest method. Speak to a professional collector or look at photos online to identify differences in the receiver cover styles, hand-guard latches, lugs and bayonet attachments.
  • Always be sure to remove the magazine and empty the chamber before handling a firearm.

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