The SKS is a rugged little rifle that was manufactured by the Soviet Union after World War 2. Although the Soviet Armed Forces declared this rifle obsolete in the 1950s, the iconic SKS remained in use through the cold war and into the modern era. If you’re lucky enough to have one of these rifles in your possession, you might wonder just which ammunition is suited to this ‘old faithful.’
The best ammo to use for your SKS is an affordable, non-corrosive 7.62x39mm (0.3×1.53in), preferably with a brass casing for potential refilling. The type of bullet will depend on your intended application; FMJ or soft point for target shooting and hollow point for hunting.
While the AK-47 might have replaced the SKS, this rifle with its distinguishing hinged bayonet, the SKS was still popular for its lightweight and easy operation. There are a number of factory and surplus options for 7.62x39mm (0.3×1.53in) rounds that are perfect for plinking or hunting down game with your SKS. Keep reading for information on five of the best SKS ammo contenders on the market today.
5 Things To Consider When Buying Ammo for Your SKS
Although the rifle was quickly replaced by the more versatile AK-47 shortly after its original manufacturing run, it remained ubiquitous in many Soviet Bloc countries throughout the cold war and well into the modern era. It’s chambered in 7.62x39mm (0.3×1.53in), the standard caliber for soviet rifles such as the SKS and AK-47.
Since SKS and AK pattern rifles were widely used by a number of militaries in former Soviet regions, there are a lot of surplus 7.62x39mm (0.3×1.53in) rounds available from a number of different countries and manufacturers. However, many of these rounds contain corrosive primer materials and steel core bullets unsuitable for use at many gun ranges.
As mentioned above, non-corrosive ammo with a brass casing is preferable. However, there are plenty of considerations you need to keep in mind when shopping for your perfect SKS ammo. Some ammo can damage your rifle or affect your performance when hunting or shooting.
Here are some of the main considerations you should take into account when selecting your ammo.
1. Corrosive vs. Non-Corrosive
The compounds used in the primer for 7.62x39mm (0.3×1.53in) rounds can sometimes cause corrosion of exposed gun parts if left to build up within the gun after firing. This is primarily a problem with old or surplus ammo, and most modern factory options are non-corrosive. Always make sure that the box says ‘non-corrosive’ to avoid excessive cleaning and potential corrosion.
Corrosive ammunition is unfortunately very common when it comes to 7.62x39mm (0.3×1.53in) rounds due to their widespread manufacture in former Soviet countries and communist countries such as China. Ensuring you always know what you are firing can help you avoid unnecessary damage to your gun.
Always make sure to clean your gun thoroughly after firing corrosive ammunition, especially if you are firing in hot and humid climates. All of the options on this list are non-corrosive.
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Many factors of bullet construction have an effect on the accuracy of the fired bullet. One of the most critical metrics in this regard is the muzzle velocity, or the speed at which the bullet leaves the barrel when fired, measured in feet per second.
According to this handbook by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute, other factors that affect accuracy are bullet weight, construction, and material. Heavier bullets can pack more punch, but it’ll come at the expense of muzzle velocity, making them more susceptible to a number of factors that affect accuracy, such as wind speed.
The bottom line. If it costs you $100 for 50 rounds at the range, it’ll quickly become quite expensive to train and play around with your SKS. Most factory 7.62x39mm (0.3×1.53in) rounds fall somewhere between $0.50 and $1.00 per round, but some pricier rounds can get close to $2.00 each.
In general, buying in bulk can help you save money on ammo. However, be sure to be careful with large amounts of surplus ammo, which can be corrosive, or use steel core bullets in many cases. Some of the options on this list are examined from the perspective of affordability, while others sacrifice price for power or accuracy.
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Bullets can be made from a wide range of materials, all of which have different properties. Most modern factory ammunition uses lead-core bullets with some kind of copper jacket. However, it isn’t uncommon for 7.62x39mm (0.3×1.53in) rounds to feature a ‘bimetal’ jacket (steel and copper), or a steel core, making them unsuitable for use at many ranges.
The material of the casing is also essential. Brass casings are refillable, but steel cases with some kind of polymer or lacquer coating are more common for 7.62x39mm (0.3×1.53in). The coating is meant to help with feeding the ammunition but can also cause unwanted buildup in the chamber and barrel.
The type of bullet used in your SKS ammo will depend mainly on what you are doing with the firearm. For hunting, soft points and hollow points are preferred for their greater lethality and diminished penetration. However, full metal jacket rounds are arguably preferable for target shooting.
It’s essential to always understand local laws regarding which ammo you can use for hunting in your area, as well as range policies about bullet composition for target shooting. In general, full metal jacket rounds are considered dangerous for hunting and target shooting due to their tendency to penetrate and ricochet.
Best Overall: Golden Tiger – 124 Grain Lead Core FMJ
The Golden Tiger non-corrosive 124 grain full metal jacket rounds are a great option that offers a good balance of specs for target shooting. The 124 grain bullet is a bit heavier than other options, giving it a bit more punch without sacrificing too much muzzle velocity.
The velocity is measured at an average of 2,367 fps (2,597.26 kph), with 1,542 ft-lbs (2,090.67 joule) of energy at the muzzle. The cases are made of steel with a lacquer coating, making them a bit smoother for auto feeding. However, as mentioned above, the lacquer can cause unwanted buildup within the gun. The steel casings are also non-refillable.
These rounds tend to sell out quickly, so availability is sketchy, and the price can vary widely. If you can find them, trying to buy them in bulk can help mitigate the cost, but you’ll likely need to find a private seller for these rounds since they’re frequently sold out at major retailers.
- Lead core FMJ
- Good balance between power and accuracy
- Lacquer coating assists in feeding
- Lacquer coating can potentially cause unwanted buildup
- Availability is hit-and-miss
Best for Hunting: Wolf Polyformance 122 Grain Bimetal HP
This is an excellent non-corrosive hollow point option from Russian manufacturer Wolf Ammunition. Hollow Point rounds are preferred for hunting due to the amount of damage they inflict internally upon impact, as well as their reduced capacity for penetration.
Like all of the best options for SKS ammo, these rounds are non-corrosive. The bullet itself is a lead core jacketed with a bimetal coating of steel and copper. These rounds will react magnetically, which can disqualify them from use at some gun ranges.
The bullet weighs in at 122 grains, which is lighter and flies faster, giving you a very accurate shot even at greater distances. The muzzle velocity measures in at 2,450 fps (2,688.33 kph). These rounds are widely available and typically cost less than others.
Like other options from Wolf, the casings are made of steel with their trademark ‘Polyformance’ coating to assist in auto feeding. Also, like other polymer-coated casings, the polymer can sometimes cause unwanted buildup with repeated use.
- Fast muzzle velocity at 2450 fps (2,688.33 kph)
- Hollow Point rounds suitable for hunting
- Balanced price
- Polyformance coating helps with feeding
- Bimetal lead core bullet might not be usable at some ranges
- Polymer coating might cause unwanted buildup
Best Bang for Your Buck: Wolf Polyformance 125 Grain Bimetal FMJ
If affordability is what you’re looking for, these full metal jacket rounds from Wolf Ammunition are a great option. These non-corrosive rounds weigh in at 125 grains and are a bit heavier, giving you power at the expense of muzzle velocity.
Like other options from Wolf, these bullets are coated with a bimetal jacket, which could disqualify them from use at some ranges. However, these bullets are pretty affordable, and they’re even cheaper if you can find them in bulk.
Once again, the trademark ‘Polyformance’ coating is intended to assist with auto feeding but can cause unwanted buildup within your SKS. If you want to go with a cheaper round, it is usually necessary to clean your gun more often to account for potential corrosion and buildup within the firearm.
- Hollow Point ammunition suitable for both hunting and target shooting
- Polyformance coating assists with smooth feeding
- Polymer coating can cause unwanted buildup
- Steel in the jacket may disqualify it from use at some ranges
Above and Beyond: Winchester USA 123 Grain Brass Casing FMJ
Winchester is a very recognizable name in the world of firearms, and they have a great full metal jacket option for 7.62x39mm (0.3×1.53in). These are non-corrosive, just like all the best options, and feature a brass case, making them refillable.
They’re a bit pricier, but they’re also generally available at many retailers. The bullets are a lead core with a copper jacket, making them perfect for target shooting at the range.
The muzzle velocity measures in at 2,365 fps (2,595.06 kph), with 1,527 ft-lbs (2,070.33 joule) of energy at the muzzle. This is slower than other options on this list but hits with just as much power. This is an excellent option if you have the money to spend, and it’s also available in soft points.
- Full metal jacket lead core round
- Refillable brass casing
- Also available in soft point
- Slightly slower muzzle velocity
- A bit more expensive
Most Available: Remington – CORE-LOKT Ammo 7.62x39mm 125gr Brass Casing SP
This is a fairly ubiquitous option from Remington that you can usually find at a wide range of different retailers. The rounds themselves are non-corrosive and won’t cause excess rust with regular usage. The soft point construction makes them suitable for both hunting and target shooting.
The muzzle velocity weighs in at around 2,365 fps (2,595.06 kph) with 1,552 ft-lbs (2,104.22 joule) of energy at the muzzle. This is a bit slower than other options on this list but packs a bit more punch, making this an excellent option once again for both hunting and target shooting.
The main advantage of these rounds is that they can be found just about anywhere. Many online retailers stock them, and they can be found at gun stores across the US and Canada. They also feature a brass casing meaning they are also refillable.
These rounds are typically more expensive than some of the other options on this list. However, buying in bulk can help mitigate the cost since these are usually available in large quantities in many places.
- Soft point, suitable for target shooting or hunting
- Lead core bullets, perfect for most target ranges
- Widely available across the US and Canada
- Refillable brass case
- A bit more expensive
- Slightly slower muzzle velocity.
The perfect ammo for your SKS will depend mainly on what you’re shooting at, as well as what is available in your area. Ammunition has gone up in price and down in availability in many places across the world in recent years, and many SKS enthusiasts are having a more difficult time finding appropriate rounds for their rifles.
Ultimately, it’s up to you what you want to use, as long as you comply with any relevant laws and range policies. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to fire away in the comments section.
For more, check out How Much Does Ammo Cost? | Detailed Price Analysis.
Hey, I’m Jim, and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!