Many people are making a personal decision to purchase a rifle for defensive purposes. There are many reasons for this. As I have stated often, the handgun is in reality a poor defensive weapon, it’s only real advantage being small and light enough to be carried easily either open or concealed.
As we see an ever increasing crime problem, escalating natural disasters that require evacuation (fires, floods, hurricanes, tornados), and an economic system that could conceivably collapse, the need for more than just a handgun for defense is becoming a serious requirement for more and more people. So what would be the requirements for a defensive rifle for civilians assuming you were not planning on fighting the Red Army single handed?
It should be in a sufficiently powerful cartridge and ammunition should be readily available. It should be reasonably light weight, and it must be a design that has proven reliability. And it should be affordable for the average income.
Based on the above criteria, the SKS, Samozaryadni Karabin Simonova (Self-loading carbine Simonov) would be a good choice. The SKS was developed just at the end of the Second World War by Russian arms designer S.G. Simonov. It was field tested in the closing weeks of the war and many were actually used in the final fighting in Berlin in 1945. It chambers the 7.62x39mm Russian cartridge, which is the same ammunition used in most AK-47/M series assault rifles, and is a cartridge that has become popular and readily available in the U.S. both in military and civilian loadings. And it generally far cheaper than many comparable military style rifle, although prices have begun to climb in recent years.
The sights are open with a front site post that can be adjusted for windage with an AK sight adjustment tool, and the rear sight is a sliding ramp open U style. A number of aftermarket parts are available including synthetic stocks and scope mounts.
The SKS is available in a variety of makes and origins, primarily Russian, Chinese, and Yugoslavian. Most of the Yugos have a grenade launcher on the muzzle. Many come with a folding bayonet that is permanently attached and folds under the barrel when not in use, and many have had the bayonets removed. (They are easy to remove).
Weighing in at just less than 8 lbs., the SKS has a non-detachable 10 round magazine that is loaded from the top of the receiver using ten round stripper clips. (These same clips are used to load AK magazines). With a little practice, this rifle can be reloaded fairly rapidly. One note about these clips: Some are very easy to strip rounds out of and make loading the rifle easy. Set these aside for future use. Some are extremely difficult. When you are bored, or just watching the tube, take the stiff ones, an EMPTY steel 7.62x39mm cartridge case, place some oil on the case grooves and run it up and down in the clip until it loosens up. If you really want to speed up the process use a slight amount of valve grinding compound. But make sure you clean the clips thoroughly before use so that you don’t get valve grinding compound in your rifle action when loading it with these.
The SKS pictured is mine. It is a very early Russian with rare hardwood stock (most were laminated) blade bayonet, and was arsenal rebuilt in Russia to new condition. It shoots great.
It would be a good choice for a one rifle civilian.