Author Topic: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)  (Read 5921 times)

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Offline Blicero

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The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« on: September 16, 2014, 11:33:45 PM »
I was looking for an excuse to handle firearms and burn a few hours, so I figured I'd break down the SKS next to the Tokarev for a little compare/contrast.

  I've seen discussions about the differences between the two rifles, but never a good, detailed breakdown of each one next to the other. It's easy to look at the mammoth ww2 made Tokarev next to the more compact Simonov carbine and think they are vastly different and a comparison is not necessary. But the more I think about it, the more similarities I see, and the more I think this discussion is in order.

   As a disclaimer, let me say I am an expert on neither SKS nor SVT 40. I'm just a guy who loves to own & shoot them. I just want to share some observations and a ton of pictures, and hopefully spark a conversation.

   I'm breaking it down into the two categories I think guys like us like most about surplus arms: History, and shooting. First, here's an overview of both rifles:

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The basics

  Both the SKS & Tokarev SVT 40 are semi-automatic, gas operated/piston driven rifles with 10-round capacity designed for and issued to Soviet infantry. Both are meant to be loaded via stripper clip.

Overall length:
SKS: 40 inches
Tokarev: 48 inches

Barrel length:
SKS: 20.5 inches
Tokarev: 24.5 inches

Weight unloaded:
SKS: 9 pounds
Tokarev: 9 pounds
(Those numbers thanks to my bathroom scale, probably not the best method, but only one available to me.)

Caliber:
SKS: 7.62x39, 10 round capacity
Tokarev: 7.62x54r, 10 round capacity

Military debut:
SKS: 1949
Tokarev: 1939
(Those dates are debatable, especially with the SKS being conceived in 1945. I've been working with the notion SKS production was mostly experimental until '49.)
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History

   For me, this is the most magnetic part of studying & shooting the Tokarev rifle- its rich, tumultuous but brief history. The Tokarev design was adopted in '39 and replaced the AVS36, a select-fire rifle designed by our good friend Simonov. The AVS36 was a swift and immediate failure due to unreliability, among other things. With the constant switching between Simonov & Tokarev designs to arm the Soviet army, it's fun to imagine a personal rivalry between those two titans of firearm innovation. Tokarev may have won out with the SVT 40, but Simonov would have the last laugh.

   When Stalin put the kibosh on the AVS and adopted the Tokarev, he put the Tula plant to the task of producing it. The SVT40 is actually an improvised version of the SVT 38, but the differences are negligible. By '41, Tula, Izhevsk, and Podolsk plants were making the Tokarev, although the bolt action Mosins were never retired. By the time of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in '41, some 100,000 Tokarevs were fielded. By '45, the end of WW2 & the Tokarev reign, about 1.5 million had been produced and fielded.

   Along with Mosin Nagants, the Tokarev fit well into the array of Soviet small arms, being an accurate & powerful semiauto rifle. In fact, the Tokarev was highly coveted by the Finns, who captured & issued bunches of Toks during both Soviet invasions of Finland, and also by Hitler, who ended up copying the design to improve upon the Germans' Gewehr41.

   Due to my heritage, I'm strongly biased here, but I really consider the Tokarev the rifle that won WW2. The Garand did its service well, beyond well in fact, and it's clearly a better all-around rifle compared to the Tokarev. But just think, it was the Soviets armed with Tokarevs, not the Americans, who were the first to breach the boundaries of Berlin and break up the Nazi Party's...um, party.

   But the Tokarev had its drawbacks, like being too big and unreliable if not properly maintained. Also, look at where the bulk of fighting took place in the Soviet Union in WW2: the urban centers of Leningrad and Stalingrad. Trench warfare was dead. The days of drawing a line in a field, digging in and taking potshots at your enemy from a mile away were over. The state of warfare now demanded lightness, ease of use, and mobility in combat, something the long and cumbersome Tokarev just didn't live up to.

   Surely, Simonov was well aware of what the modern face of war demanded out of infantry small arms. He certainly looked at the Tokarev and noticed its shortcomings while designing the SKS. It's fun to imagine Simonov in the Tula plant, with a cracked, broken SVT 40 on the table in front of him, thinking What went wrong here? The answer was clear: the Tokarev was overpowered, fragile, unnecessarily long, and difficult to maintain.

   So Simonov goes to work, and this is where he cements himself as a visionary and legend in the arms world. You know after his AVS36 failed so miserably, he must have had doubts regarding his abilities. He pumped out the perfect retort to the Tokarev's downfalls, the SKS. Everything the SVT 40 could not live up to, the SKS could. His little carbine, as we all know, is handy, mobile, and just damn near indestructible. Accordingly, no fewer than seven countries created their own version of the SKS, with dozens more buying surplussed ones. His creation, his legacy is still being written today, as handfuls of countries still rely on the SKS.

   

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Shooting

   Ahh, finally, the fun part. What's the point of owning firearms that can't be shot?

   This is where the SKS sets itself apart from the Tokarev. Don't be mistaken, shooting the SVT 40 is righteous good fun. In fairness though, I've never met a functional firearm that wasn't fun to shoot. But the Tokarev has its pitfalls. Shooting the Tok is equivalent to a Bubba Job. WAIT WHAT! Shooting is Bubbaing?!? You're crazy, Blicero, get the heck out of here but first tell me what you mean. Sure thing, voice in my head. A bubba job is the willful and irrevocable defacement of historical arms, and that's what you're doing by firing the SVT 40.

   Look, I have never met an SVT 40 whose handguard would not chip, crack, or break with enough firing. That dastardly little piece is just the Achilles Heel of the rifle. Take a look at what's happened to this handguard after slamming enough times into the rear sight:

That crack has formed with only 200 or so rounds fired, never with the gas system above 1.2. Take a look at what extended shooting has done to another one of the Tokarevs:

Just tonight I was noticing the hairline fracture beginning to stretch the entire length of the handguard, ticked me off, see if you can see it:


   Unfortunately, that's just the price you pay for shooting the Tokarev. It's maddening to damage such beautiful firearms, but hey, what's the fun of owning rifles you can't shoot? Just be warned, that damage is nearly inevitable.

   Now, if you're a rookie to shooting the Tokarev, you have to know about the adjustable gas system, something the SKS does not have. This is the gas valve nut, located a few inches behind the front sight:


   It has five settings: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.5, and 1.7. The higher the setting, the more gas being cycled back into the rifle. In order to adjust the setting, you must own a Tokarev gas tool. You can get them here cheaply . It also serves to unscrew the gas piston. Do not try to adjust the gas with a home-brewed tool or one not made for the job. You'll probably just end up marring or stripping the nut. Trust me. Just buy the tool. In fact, buy a few of them. Keep one in your range bag and one for your work bench. It's money well spent.

   Back to shooting. If you're shooting the Tok for the first time, take the tool and set the gas to 1.1. Make sure the flat of the nut is even with the inscribed notch. Now fire off a few rounds, note the results. What you're looking for is consistent extraction, ejection, and feeding. If you get any sort of failure, chances are you need more gas. Set it to 1.2, squeeze off a few rounds. Continue doing this until you get positive results. You want that gas setting to be on the lowest number possible while still getting good results. The lower the setting, the less wear & tear you're putting on the rifle.

   If you're not scared away from the Tokarev by now, let me tell you how pleasant it is to shoot. Once you have the settings dialed in, it's an absolutely reliable and joyful rifle to shoot, and it's hard to not imagine yourself ankle deep in Soviet snow, protecting the Motherland from the dirtbag Nazis.

   Shooting the SKS is a different animal. Yes, many SKS triggers are horsetrash, an epic and gravelly journey from squeeze to BANG. Yes, the SKS does not shoot lasers. You will probably not see many guys schlepping SKSs to CMP or appleseed matches. But that's OK, that's not where their beauty is. For me, the true joy of shooting the SKS is its sturdiness, affordability, and unwavering reliability. Seriously, I have never met an SKS that did not feel like it could not run for all eternity. That's just sheer world-class craftsmanship, embodied in the SKS.

   All in all, shooting the SKS is just a universe apart from the Tokarev. They both have tons of advantages, and only a few minor quirks or disadvantages. They feel different on the shoulder, they point differently, they both evoke different reactions and emotions within you when you shoot them. You'll know what I mean when you feel it.
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   Finally, here is a piece by piece break down of both rifles. I've already rambled off into oblivion here, so I'll nix the commentary. You can see the differences for yourself.

Stocks/handguards:














Receivers:










Trigger groups:


Bolts & bolt carriers:







Gas systems/op rods/pistons:




Receiver covers:


Bayonet provisions:


Recoil springs:


Sights:






  Obviously, the SKS is a different beast than the Tok. But that was the point, to deviate away from the outdated, uselessly long bolt and semiauto guns. It's easy to think of the Tok as the WW2 gun, and the SKS as the Cold War & beyond gun. As humans we have to compartmentalize periods of history to help make sense of it all, but no two eras are ever distinctly separate from each other. The Tokarev rifle, in turn, is a clear stepping stone in the evolution of what would shortly become the Simonov carbine. In effect, I see these two guns as a bridge between two eras of humanity & military history, with the SKS being the indisputable answer to the Tokarev's questions.


That's all. I appreciate you reading along. Please feel free to chime in with your knowledge/call me an idiot/ask questions.

« Last Edit: July 12, 2017, 01:55:25 PM by running-man »
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Offline Dannyboy53

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Re: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2014, 11:52:32 PM »
Blicero this is an absolutely brilliant piece of work in my opinion, great blend of text and photos. Thanks for taking the time to put it all together.

Offline Worm

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Re: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2014, 05:39:40 AM »
Heck yea this is awesome! Thanks! Already learnin a bunch on this forum.

Offline Blicero

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Re: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2014, 11:50:32 PM »
Blicero this is an absolutely brilliant piece of work in my opinion, great blend of text and photos. Thanks for taking the time to put it all together.
Heck yea this is awesome! Thanks! Already learnin a bunch on this forum.

Thanks a ton for the compliments. That took a lot of work and I did my best to be thorough & entertaining.

As far as stocks...I'm not aware of repro stocks being made. But I don't think it's hard to find a genuine one.

One omission in this article: The SVT40 magazine.
If you get a SVT40, and you plan to shoot it consistently, you need to make sure it has an original mag. You can tell an original mag by it having electropenned, Russian-style serials. If your mag has American writing on it, it's 100% guaranteed aftermarket reproduction.

The aftermarket mags are absolute trash. They blow apart while you're shooting them. They require modifications (sometimes, sometimes not) to fit the rifle. They're a waste of money and a waste of time at the range. Original Tokarev mags, nowadays, run about $200. That's a pretty penny for a mag but if you want to shoot your SVT, you need to pay the price for an original. Trust me on that one.
"I reject your suggestion."
-Ramcke

"You would last about an hour in Charlotte before the police were called bc you were walking around outside with a bottle of scotch and a g43."
-Ty O

"I don't appreciate you showing Nazi images. My old lady's granddad died at Auschwitz."
"I'm sorry to hear that..."
"Yeah...he fell off a guard tower."
-You Know How I Get Thomas

Regional Spelling Champoin, 6/6/2012

"Why the hell does it look like you turned into some weird trendy libtard?"
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Offline Crazyone

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Re: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2014, 12:39:53 PM »
 >:( Arrrrrrrrrrrrrr go ahead and rub it in! I knew I would regret not jumping on the one you had for sale, It looks like the Daddy of the SKS but with the 54mm round carried over from the 9130--right??  Really nice rifle, that price for a magazine is just a little--heck a whole lot stiff!  I knew it  pullhair1 pullhair1  I would assume that it would draw attention at the range like the 9130,  but really fantastic looking never the less
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Offline routeus1

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Re: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« Reply #5 on: October 01, 2014, 02:10:06 PM »
http://gunpics.net/russian/svt40/svt40.html

More on the SVT40, click around...

Offline sheepdog

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Re: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2014, 08:29:59 PM »
With all that mineral oil on them I bet they never get a diaper rash.  chuckles1
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Offline agrace

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Re: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« Reply #7 on: October 01, 2014, 10:05:13 PM »
Great write up. And great information. Thanks for sharing..
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Offline Blicero

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Re: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2014, 03:36:56 PM »
Thanks AG!
"I reject your suggestion."
-Ramcke

"You would last about an hour in Charlotte before the police were called bc you were walking around outside with a bottle of scotch and a g43."
-Ty O

"I don't appreciate you showing Nazi images. My old lady's granddad died at Auschwitz."
"I'm sorry to hear that..."
"Yeah...he fell off a guard tower."
-You Know How I Get Thomas

Regional Spelling Champoin, 6/6/2012

"Why the hell does it look like you turned into some weird trendy libtard?"
-LooseCannon

Offline Justin Hell

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Re: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2014, 04:18:32 PM »
How I missed this for so long is beyond me....but great writeup and thanks for getting me lusting for one...again.

I appreciate the warnings about both the handguard splitter these things seem to be by design, I had heard about that and the adjustable gas system.  I didn't know about the mag issue...very good to know should one ever appear in my lecherous gaze...

I always thought a SA 54r would be a kick in the pants, but it sure seems like a kick in the wallet too...I hope your warnings prevent anyone from a misguided purchase of a problematic one.  This is yet another reason I should have listened to the wife when we were docked at a Canadian port on a cruise a few years back....she wanted to defect.  By now, I could be a master craftsman of five round stripper clips.  chuckles1
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Offline Dannyboy53

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Re: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2014, 02:42:51 AM »
Many similarities with the SKS are easily seen here in the SVT40. The more I see on this forum I am amazed at how so many weapons designers/manufacturers ideas have been so much alike through the years.

Offline Justin Hell

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Re: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2014, 10:14:24 PM »
Many similarities with the SKS are easily seen here in the SVT40. The more I see on this forum I am amazed at how so many weapons designers/manufacturers ideas have been so much alike through the years.

Can you imagine them sticking with 54r when the SVT evolved into the SKS...with the reliability of the SKS, and the punch of that round...wars would have ended predictably quicker I suspect....then again, dealing with that much power on a regular basis, folk might be too sore to fight.

They proved the round works well in the carbine with the M44/T53.  If they did stick with the ten round idea though, all of our SKS's would look like they have 20 round fixed mags.  :-\
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Offline bartski

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Re: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2015, 08:58:38 AM »
Great post!

Offline Dannyboy53

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Re: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2015, 02:09:19 PM »

Can you imagine them sticking with 54r when the SVT evolved into the SKS...with the reliability of the SKS, and the punch of that round...wars would have ended predictably quicker I suspect....then again, dealing with that much power on a regular basis, folk might be too sore to fight.

They proved the round works well in the carbine with the M44/T53.  If they did stick with the ten round idea though, all of our SKS's would look like they have 20 round fixed mags.  :-\

Before now I hadn't given that idea much thought Justin, it is intriguing.

Offline John Galt

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Re: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« Reply #14 on: June 22, 2015, 10:22:53 PM »
I should have read this much sooner!  Hiding in plain sight...who knew...besides all of you..
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Re: The precursor to the SKS: The SVT40 (or, formerly, SKS VS SVT40)
« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2017, 12:52:44 AM »
This is great information. I would have researched SVT40s sooner, but they've been out of my reach, until I picked up one last week. Same with the FN49, didn't know squat about them either, until I got one. And the Garand, I know I should get one some day, some day soon. PAX
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