L. E. Schwartz’s SKS FAQ

©2003 - 2012 L. E. Schwartz. All rights reserved.

 

Introduction: 1

Common Myths about the SKS Carbine: 2

General SKS Questions: 5

SKS Carbine Safely Questions (Read This First): 11

Laws, Bans and “Evil Features” Questions: 17

1989 Military Style Semiautomatic Rifle Ban Questions: 20

1994 Chinese Ban Questions: 27

1994 Assault Weapons Ban Questions: 28

General Modifications Questions: 31

Modifications to C&R Rifles: 35

Yugoslavian Type 59/66 Modifications: 37

SKS‑D & SKS‑M Modifications: 39

Modifications Summery: 40

“10-or-less” Questions: 41

C&R Firearms Questions: 44

C&R / 03 License Questions: 46

Introduction:

Background:

This all began in early-2002 when my son suggested that a great father/son activity would be hunting deer. I had never had much interest in either firearms or hunting, so I asked my father (who became an avid hunter and firearm collector later in life) what might be an appropriate rifle: After I laid down my requirements as “a cheap and reliable brush gun”, he responded without hesitation: “Just get an SKS.” So started my journey into the world of the SKS Carbine and the arcane world of firearms regulation.

On the plus side the SKS has a lot going for it: A short 20 inches, fast handling, and easy to point. It is rock solid reliable—idiot proof. Cheap to buy—usually well under $300. Cheap to shoot with Russian or military surplus ammunition—so you get plenty of range time. And, it has enough accessories to be more than a little of fun to fool around with.

On the minus side both the SKS and cousin the Kalashnikov are the poster children of the anti-gun folks and for many the same reasons: Cheap to own—low cost firearms encourage firearm ownership by lowering the cost barriers…“you own how many?” Cheap to shoot—low cost ammunition also lowers the barriers to ownership and use…“you’re going to the range again?” Accessories—encourage experimentation…“you built that thing yourself?” Add to that the popular myth that the 7.62x39mm cartridge in not suitable for hunting and the fact that many other gun owners will look down their nose at anything produced under a Communist regime, and it's no wonder the SKS is treated like an outcast. All this means there are numerous laws aimed squarely at the SKS.

Copyright:

This FAQ is copyrighted material. Copies may be made for any non-commercial purpose, provided that the FAQ remains unmodified and complete, and that the copyright notice remains intact.

Additions & Corrections:

If there is additional material that you would like included in this FAQ or you feel something warrants correction, contact the author via the following email address: SKSFAQ@VICTORINC.COM

Acknowledgments:

This FAQ relies on the research material on the World Wide Web which numerous individuals put hard work. However, the FAQ would not be possible without the efforts of three particular individuals:

·         “SKS Dave” the creator of the now defunct Simonov.net web site.

·         “Survivor Dean” the creator of Survivor's SKS Boards web site. Without the discussions on this board I would still be clueless. Thanks to all those who contributed to them.

·         “1952Sniper” one of the moderators of Survivor's SKS Boards. Most of the C&R Section is a verbatim inclusion of his posts.

Disclaimer:

I am not a lawyer and the information in this FAQ does not represent any attempt on my part of provide legal advice. The information is based on my personal research. Firearms law is complicated and constantly changing, so the accuracy of this FAQ cannot be guaranteed in any way. In addition, state and local firearms laws also need to be complied with, and this FAQ does not address these.  And finally, information in this FAQ applies to United States law only.

Before acting on any information in this FAQ, consult the ATF (either directly, or through their publications) and your state and local regulators.

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Common Myths about the SKS Carbine:

Myth #1 — “The SKS is an assault weapon.”

The SKS Carbine is not an assault weapon by almost any measure of the word:

The military typically defines an “assault rifle” as having a detachable high capacity magazine and being capable of automatic fire — the typical SKS Carbine does not have a detachable magazine. And the SKS carbine is not capable of automatic fire as might be found in a machine gun.

The now defunct 1994 Assault Weapons Ban defined an “assault weapon” as having a detachable magazine plus other significant features — the typical SKS Carbine does not have a detachable magazine. Note that while some Chinese SKS Carbines were sold with detachable high-capacity magazines, these did not have the other features to be considered an “assault weapon”.

California considers the “SKS with detachable magazine” an “assault weapon”. However, as noted above the typical SKS Carbine does not have a detachable magazine.

Myth #2 — “The SKS is a version of an AK-47.”

The only similarity between the SKS Carbine and the AK-47 is the cartridge they fire. Otherwise the two rifles are almost completely different. Since the AK-47 is generally considered to be a true “assault rifle”, such statements are usually made out of either ignorance or in a deliberate attempt to make the SKS Carbine in something it’s not — an assault weapon (as noted above).

It should be noted that the Chinese version of the SKS called a “Type 56”. There is also a Chinese version of the AK-47 that is called “Type 56”. However, the Chinese labeled these rifles “Type 56” based on the year the design was finalized (in this case, 1956). It just so happens that the Chinese SKS design and the Chinese AK design were finalized the same year — it does not mean that the Chinese SKS design is identical to the Chinese AK design.

The AK is different than the SKS!

Myth #3 — “The SKS is a ‘high-powered’ rifle.”

The SKS carbine uses a medium-powered 7.62x39mm cartridge, similar in power to the popular .30-30 cartridge. Those who talk about how the SKS can penetrate “bullet-proof vests”, body armor, etc. are deliberately trying to inflame and mislead the public. Virtually all of the modern rifle cartridges are capable of this—while most of the protective equipment used by law enforcement officers is designed to stop much lower powered handgun cartridges.

Such statements are typically made in an attempt to inflame the public.

Myth #4 — “The SKS is not suitable for use as a hunting rifle.”

Such comments usually are referring to the fact that the 7.62x39mm cartridge is not legal for “big game” use in some states, because it is considered “under powered” for long ranges. (You will notice that this is the complete opposite of Myth #3, above.) However, many states do allow this cartridge, as it is especially suited to wooded areas where shots are typically 100 yards or less.

In addition some states limit the number of rounds allowed to five rounds. While the typical SKS Carbine has a non-detachable ten-round magazine, smaller magazines are readily available. And, the SKS Carbine’s standard fixed magazine can be easily modified to reduce the capacity.

Finally, a few states prohibit hunting with semi-automatic, or “self-loading”, rifles. These states restrict hunters to bolt-action or pump-action rifles. These rifles involve manually working the rifle to cycle new rounds into the chamber. However, most states do not have such restrictions.

Such comments are sometimes made in an effort to imply that SKS Carbines has no legitimate sporting uses. However, this is simply not accurate — especially in the eastern part of the United States, the SKS Carbine is often used for deer. In addition, the SKS Carbine often finds use as a “varmint gun”.

Myth #5 — “The SKS is designed for combat soldiers and is therefore underpowered for taking deer.”

A related myth is that because it is designed for combat soldiers, the SKS underpowered for taking an animal like a deer with a single shot. While it is true that the SKS was originally designed for the military, most popular hunting cartridges were originally designed for military use. And as pointed out above, the ballistics of the sporting versions of the 7.62x39mm cartridge are similar to the popular .30-30 cartridge.

Myth #6 — “The SKS is the most used rifle in <name your crime>.”

Millions upon millions upon millions of SKS Carbines have been sold. Thus it is logical that SKS carbines show up in large number in any crime statistics. Many times, politically motivated groups make such statements. Any such statistics should be considered suspect unless they are put into the context of the total number of SKS Carbines relative to other firearms.

In addition, SKS Carbines are relatively inexpensive. The less expensive the firearm, the more likely it is to be used in a crime — criminals are unlikely to spend much money on a firearm. This too is reflected in the statistics.

Such statements are typically made in an attempt to inflame the public.

Myth #7 — “The SKS is a cheap ‘junk gun.’”

SKS Carbines are not new firearms — they are military surplus. Many have been in storage for years before being sold in the U.S. — and were covered in cosmoline in order to preserve them. The basic design is approximately sixty years old and the rifles themselves were manufactured decades ago. But when properly checked and maintained they have a reputation as being simple and reliable.

In recent years, certain individuals have tried to expanded the definition of “junk gun” to include firearms without chamber indicators, sophisticated blocking safeties, and grip and magazine safeties. Very few older firearms have these safety features—and neither does the SKS Carbine.

While it is true that because they are military surplus firearms they are inexpensive, they can hardly be considered “cheap”. In some parts of the world (Russia and Yugoslavia, for example) versions of the SKS Carbine are still sold as hunting rifles—often at several times the price of military surplus models sold here in the U.S.

Myth #8 — “The SKS uses high capacity magazines.”

There is actually some truth to this — but only some. As noted above, some Chinese SKS Carbines were sold with detachable high-capacity magazines. However the vast majority of SKS Carbines were sold with non-detachable ten-round magazines. Magazine capacities of ten-rounds or less are not typically considered high capacity.

In addition, since 1998 it has been illegal to convert standard SKS Carbines to use aftermarket detachable high-capacity magazines without jumping through some number of hoops. Such aftermarket magazines are prone to jamming and are often difficult to use, thus owners usually become disillusioned and revert to the original fixed magazine.

Note that while it is still legal under certain restrictive circumstances to convert an SKS Carbine to utilize detachable high-capacity magazines, reliability and usability problems persist. And doing such a conversion legally often involves more cost than simply purchasing a different rifle that already uses high-capacity magazines. Hence, while a large number of SKS owners have toyed with these magazines, most do not continue to use them.

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General SKS Questions:

What does SKS stand for?

Simonov System Self-loading Carbine. The SKS was designed in the waning days of “Great Patriotic War” (known to the rest of the world as World War II) by Russian designer Sergei Simonov. It was the first officially adopted arm chambered for the then new 7.62x39mm “intermediate” cartridge.

Why do you keep calling this rifle an “SKS carbine”?

It is generally accepted that a “carbine” is a rifle with a barrel less that about 22” to 24”. The SKS was offered with barrel lengths of 20” (the standard model) and 16” (the so-called “Paratrooper” model). Some Yugoslavian models are equipped with grenade launchers that yield an overall barrel length of approximately 24”. Thus, persons refer to these as “SKS Rifles”. This FAQ will refer to those specific Yugoslavian models equipped with grenade launchers as “SKS Rifles”; but in general will refer to the SKS as a “carbine”.

Why are there so many SKS Carbines around?

In the 1950's, Soviet technical advisors helped various communist governments to set up factories producing the SKS carbine. The first Chinese SKS carbines were identical to their Soviet counterparts, and were adopted by the Peoples Republic of China as the “Type 56 carbine”. The Chinese have manufactured several varieties of the original SKS, including models, which use the detachable AK magazine. As the availability of the AK-47 improved, the SKS was relegated to secondary status. However, stockpiles of millions of SKS carbines were maintained for militias and for export to the third world countries as “military aid”. Starting in the late 1980s military surplus SKS Carbines began appearing in large numbers in the United States.

Is the SKS a good “brush gun”?

If “brush gun” you mean “whitetail deer / close range”, then the answer is “yes”.

Why do so many hunters say The SKS is not a good “brush gun”?

Many hunters I’ve encountered say the SKS carbine is a poor rifle for whitetail deer. I think this is mainly because they are only familiar with military surplus variations of the 7.62x39mm cartridge used by the SKS Carbine. Such cartridges were not designed for stopping deer. However, if you check out Cor-Bon’s 7.62x39mm +P hunting load, you'll see that the SKS can be as good as a “brush gun” as a 30-30. Also, note this quote from the reference Cartridges of the World by Frank C. Barnes:

“While previous military cartridges generally made suitable hunting rounds with proper bullets, many writers condemn the 7.62x39 out of hand as being unsuited for hunting anything beyond small game… However, best 125- and 150-grain spitzer loads in this cartridge typically match best 30-30 FP or RN load energy at 100 yards, and at 200 yards, there is no comparison — this little round bests the 30-30 by 20 percent.”

Now for the real question: ‘Do you view the 30-30 as a good brush gun?’

Where can I find a manuals and books about the SKS Carbine?

There are several books and manuals written about the SKS Carbine:

The SKS Carbine, Steve Kehaya and Joe Poyer

The Official SKS Manual, translated by Maj. James F. Gebhardt

The SKS—Type 45 Carbines, Duncan Long (out of print)

SKS Rifle—Training circular, U.S. Dept. of the Army

The SKS Rifle—A Practical User’s Guide, Ralph L. Howell (out of print)

Where on the World Wide Web can I get more information on the SKS?

Internet discussion boards:

Survivor's SKS Boards—the preeminent Internet SKS discussion board.

Gunboards.com AK & SKS Discussion Board

Links for historical and technical info:

Frisco Pete's SKS - History & Info post

Surplus Rifle's SKS page

Carbines For Collectors' SKS page

Golden Loki SKS Page

Yooper J's SKS page

How many different variations of the SKS Carbine are there?

SKS Carbines were manufactured in a large number of countries in Eastern Europe and Asia. There may be subtle variations between and within a given countries’ SKS Carbines. For the purposes of this FAQ, we will categorize them into three broad categories:

1.    Standard fixed magazine SKS Carbines—Built by many nations including: Russia, China, Romania, etc. Also included here is the Albanian (a fixed magazine SKS Carbine variation, which can be recognized by its’ unusual handguard) and Chinese ‘Paratrooper’ (a shortened variation of the standard fixed SKS Carbine, which was produced for commercial export). Most of the information presented herein applies directly to any standard fixed magazine SKS Carbines. In general European manufactured SKS Carbines are on the ATF’s Curios and Relics list, while those of Chinese manufacture are not.

2.    Yugoslavian Type 59/66 Rifles—A fixed magazine SKS Carbine variation, which can be recognized by its’ grenade launcher. This variation is given special consideration herein due to the additional military features. The Type 59/66A1 is equipped with a grenade launcher and flip-up night sights. The Type 59/66 is also equipped with a grenade launcher, but does not have the flip-up night sights. Note the standard Yugoslavian Type 59 has neither of these features and is considered a ‘standard fixed magazine’ variant. All of these models are on the ATF’s Curios and Relics list.

3.    Chinese SKS‑D & SKS‑M—These are detachable AK-style magazine variations of the SKS Carbine, produced for commercial export. These variations are given special consideration herein due to the detachable AK47-style magazine.

Yooper John's SKS web page has a lot of good information to help identify your SKS Carbine. The site includes a large number of very nice photos.

Was there ever a “civilian version” of the SKS Carbine?

A “civilian version” on the SKS Carbine is sold in Russia. For more information see the article on the OP-SKS from Small Arms Review-Volume 4 No. 8, May, 2001.

Another “civilian version” of the SKS is sold by Zastava Arms.

How many different types of SKS Carbines utilize AK magazines?

The Chinese SKS‑D was the “pre-ban” version that has a standard length barrel, a bayonet lug and attached spike bayonet, and a standard stock (with a steel filler plate in front of the magazine well). Actually, there is no official rifle as an SKS‑D. Since the SKS‑D has no specific markings on the receiver, dealers coined this term in order to differentiate these rifles from the fixed magazine ones. Some people continue to use the term “SKS‑D” to refer to any SKS that uses an AK magazine.

The Chinese SKS‑M is the “post-ban” version, typically with a shortened ‘Paratrooper’ barrel and without a bayonet lug. The SKS‑M was equipped with either a thumbhole style stock or a fancy Monte Carlo style stock. These will usually have either “SKS Sporter”, “SKS M”, “SKS NR”, or “MC 5D” stamped on the side of the receiver.

It has been reported that the following variations exist:

1.    Midwest Ordnance first conversion. This is the one that the Chinese came over and looked at then went back and made the 84's and then the D's. It was sold in the ATI folding stock with a filler in the magazine well, 20-inch barrel, and bayonet.

2.    SKS Factory modified at factory taking several different factory markings and reducing the barrel to 16 inches, and shortening the bayonet. These are the “Navy” (imported by Navy Arms) or “Type 84” rifles they have a bolt hold open of either a pin or a button detent.

3.    SKS‑D: 20-inch barrel, standard stock, detachable bayonet, with striper clip guide, and serialized with a 4-digit or 5-digit serial number and all components are marked as well. Note that the earlier units are reported to have the 5-digit serial numbers.

4.    SKS‑D: 20-inch barrel, standard stock, detachable bayonet, without striper clip guide, and serial numbers starting with 88 (having 7-8 digits). Some of the components on some of the rifles are not serialized. Some “88” serial numbered rifles were caught up in customs when the 1989 ban was imposed, these were required to have the bayonet mount removed before being released to the US distributor.

Note: Of course, bayonet mounts have been removed for various reasons — So just because a particular rifle doesn't have a bayonet mount, doesn't mean the rifle is one of the ones that were “caught up in customs”.

5.    SKS‑M: Post ban type rifles with no striper clip guide, no bayonet and equipped with either a fancy Monte Stock or one of four or five different thumbhole stocks (with either wide or narrow forearms, black painted cuts in the pistol grip or with smooth pistol grip, rear sling mount at the bottom or on the side). These have serial numbers that start with the year imported. These were imported in both 16-inch and 20-inch versions. These rifles will usually have either “SKS Sporter”, “SKS NR”, or “SKS M” stamped on the side of the receiver. However, some just marked “SKS imported by <XYZ>”.

The 20-inch version is very scarce. All of the 20-inch models reported to date are marked “SKS M”, have fancy Monte stocks, and have serial numbers starting with “94”.

6.    MC 5D: These are assumed to have been imported without any “SKS markings” to get past the ban imposed on SKS Carbines with detachable magazines by the state of California. These are equipped with a fancy Monte Carlo stock and a magazine release that looks like it’s for a standard fixed magazine rifle.

Note: some folks claim this variant is stamped with “MC 50”, but those who actually own one have confirmed it is “MC 5D”.

7.    A number of companies provided aftermarket conversion of fixed magazine SKS Carbines to utilize AK-47 magazines. These can typically be recognized because they continue to use the standard fixed magazine SKS Carbine magazine release.

Note: Thanks to Jmikesteen of Survivor's SKS Boards for providing the above information.

I give up, how do I load an SKS?

Most SKS Carbines have fixed (non-removable magazines). Ammunition is loaded from the top of the receiver into the magazine. Loose cartridges can be inserted individually, or ten rounds can be loaded quickly by the use of “stripper clips”. The consensus seems to be that SKS Carbines can be reloaded just as fast using stripper clips as one can change a detachable magazine on other rifles.

Can I put a scope on an SKS?

The SKS was never designed with scopes in mind. The most popular solution to this problem is a “receiver cover mount”. These mounts replace the factory receiver cover and allow a scope to be mounted. Keep in mind that because the SKS Carbine ejects spent casing out the top of the rifle, you will either need to use a “compact scope” or “shell deflector” so as not to damage the scope.

Longer scopes interfere with loading the rifle using “stripper clips”. The clear solution to this problem would seem to be to add a detachable magazine to an SKS Carbine. However, adding a detachable magazine to an SKS Carbine usually results in violations of both Federal and State laws.

Warning: Do not use detachable magazines with your SKS Carbine unless you are sure that it is legal for you to do so.

Where can I get a scope mount for the scope rail on my SKS Carbine?

There are a number of differing styles of scope rail used on SKS Carbines.  Here are what appear to be the three most common:

1.    The so-called “Cowboy Companion” scope mount fits a variety of Chinese variants. (Click here for a close up of the rail.) Some SKS books also call it a “Type 89 telescopic sight” or “BZM-1”. The mount has integral rings for a 1” scope, with the tube is positioned about ¾” above the receiver cover. This mount is riveted near the rear of the receiver. Intentions were probably to install these rails on all their commercial firearms. However, when importation of firearms from China ceased, availability dried up. Thus, there are many more scope rails then there are mounts.

There are no known sources for new “Cowboy Companion” mounts. Used ones are generally very hard to come by, since there is no reason to sell the mount separate from a rifle.

2.    “Mosin Nagant-style” scope mount is also seen on Chinese variants. (Click here for a photo, and click here for a close up of the rail.) This is the same style mount as the one used one the Russian Mosin-Nagant M91/30 sniper rifle featured in the movie Enemy at the Gates. The mount has integral rings for a 1” scope (the tube is positioned about ¾” above the receiver cover), and allows for both windage and elevation adjustments. This mount is normally positioned 1.2” from the rear of the receiver and attached using screws. This positions even compact scopes so they will prevent the rifle from being loaded via stripper clips. On new installations, the rail can be positioned to allow for the use of stripper clips.

There are several sources for this mount.

3.    AK-Style.  Several sources advertise AK-style mounting rails for use on SKS rifles. These often find there way onto SKS Carbines, though it seems that they were not installed at the factory. There are numerous vendors for this type of mount, among them is Kalinka Optics Warehouse.

There are several things to keep in mind when installing this type of rail:

First, the mount fits over the rail, hence you should order a rail that is “thick” enough to clear the stock. Some vendors offer a “thick / narrow” rail. Not only is this rail thick enough for the mount will clear the stock, but is “narrow” enough to prevent having to cut the stock.

Second, be advised that even the lowest profile AK-style mounts may position the scope excessively high on an SKS Carbine.  However, Kalinka Optics Warehouse offers a POSP/PSO Low Profile SKS/SVD Version Side Mount to Weaver Rail, which appears much lower than other mounts. (Click here for a photo.)

Finally, be advised that there are many variations of these rails. For example, I came across an odd “Yugoslavian Sniper” variation while looking at on-line auctions — This variation seems perfect for SKS Carbines, since it allows for the use of standard POSP scopes. (Click here for a photo.) These are also known as MOLOT mounts and are made of solid steel. They are available for purchase from Kalinka Optics. NOTE: I have not personally tried this mount, but it appears to be the perfect rail for mounting AK optics to your SKS, since it mounts the optic at the correct height and do not require the stock to be modified.

Where can I get a scope mount for my “Mosin Nagant-style” scope rail?

“Mosin Nagant-style” scope mount is also seen on Chinese variants. (Click here for a photo, and click here for a close up of the rail.) This is the same style mount as the one used one the Russian Mosin-Nagant M91/30 sniper rifle featured in the movie Enemy at the Gates. The mount has integral rings for a 1” scope (the tube is positioned about ¾” above the receiver cover), and allows for both windage and elevation adjustments. This mount is normally positioned 1.2” from the rear of the receiver and attached using screws. This positions even compact scopes so they will prevent the rifle from being loaded via stripper clips. On new installations, the rail can be positioned to allow for the use of stripper clips.

There are several sources for this mount:

1.    Federal Arms Company (aka FAC – now defunct) had an AK mount for only $19.99. The mounting rail is unusable on the SKS. However, the mount itself is only ¼” taller than the original “Mosin Nagant-style” mount (the tube ends up about 1” above the receiver cover). In addition, the ring spacing is a close match as well, with the front ring located about ¼” forward of the “Mosin Nagant-style”. Unfortunately, this extra distance means that even when installed at the very rear of the receiver and even when sporting a compact scope, it interferes with the use of stripper clips.

If you already have the base on your SKS Carbine, this mount is the closest match to the original.

2.    Go to Polytech Parts web site and search for “mount”—again this mount is only $19.99! This mount uses a mounting rail that is identical to the “Mosin Nagant-style”. However, it positions the scope about ¾” higher (the scope tube ends up about 1½” above the receiver cover). Like the FAC mount, the front ring is located about ¼” forward. When using a compact scope and attaching the base to the extreme rear of the receiver, you can modify the mount to allow for the use of stripper clips. (Click here for a photo.)

This mount is not recommended unless you’re sure you can tolerate the extra height.

3.    Inter Ordnance also was a mount available which will fit the “Mosin Nagant-style” base. (Click here for a photo.) However, rather than built in rings, this mount has a Weaver-style rail positioned ½” above the receiver cover. The rail is positioned such that, a compact scope will allow for the use of stripper clips. The rail is positioned such that when mounted to the extreme rear of the receiver, a compact scope will allow for the use of stripper clips. (Click here for a photo.)

If you can tolerate the price of $69.99, this mount is the clear choice for flexibility in positioning the scope.

How do I attach a “Mosin Nagant-style” scope rail to a rifle that doesn’t already have one?

First, you’ll need a few tools — The steel in the SKS receiver is very hard, so you’ll need some very good drill bits. (I purchased a good set of “titanium drill bits” from Home Depot). You'll also need some “gun taps”, which are made for work in hardened steel. (I ordered “EM-MS Straight Flute Mold Hand Taps” made by Greenfield from MSCDirect.com — the 8x32 size is part number: 00353847. They were rated for use in the hardest steels — even harder steels than the “gun taps” sold on their site). A small drill press is also recommended.

Here’s how I did it:

1.    Field strip the rifle.

2.    Position the rail on the receiver and clamp it in place — Align the top of the rail with the top of the receiver. This is the easiest way to position the rail since you can use a straight edge to get it perfectly placed. I align to the back rail to the rear of the receiver, but you can position yours in the original position if you wish.

3.    Mark the hole position — I found it easiest to use a drill bit which is just slightly smaller than the mounting holes in the rail and use it to drill into the receiver about 1/32”. Be careful not to drill to far…you’re just trying to mark the receiver.

4.    Remove the clamp and rail, and drill through the receiver wall with the proper bit for your tap.

5.    Tap the holes — take it slow, use plenty of cutting oil, and let the tap do the work. Whatever you do, don’t force it. Taps break easily and broken taps are a hassle to remove. It may also be necessary to de-burr the holes on the inside of the receiver once your finished.

6.    Test mount the rail — It’s likely that the screws which came with the rail are too long. Check to make sure that the screws do not protrude through the receiver wall and into the mechanism if the rifle. Screws can be shortened using one of those cheap electrical pliers with the built in screw cutter. Check to make sure the bolt slides cleanly past the screws.

7.    Permanently mount the rail. Use “red loctite” on the screws. Double check to make sure the bolt still slides cleanly past the screws.

8.    Trim the stock to fit the rail — Trim a little at a time until the stock is fitted. I traced the rail pattern onto the stock before I field stripped the rifle, and cut "inside of the line” to quickly get stock “roughed in”. Even then, I rushed it and didn’t get it perfect (I circled that area in the photos).

9.    Reassemble the rifle.

Note: This procedure worked great for me. However, your results may vary — Don’t blame me if something goes wrong.

How do I attach an AK rail to my SKS?

See the manual at the Kalinka Optics Warehouse web site.

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SKS Carbine Safely Questions (Read This First):

Safety Overview (Read This First)

SKS Carbines are not new firearms—they are military surplus. Many have been in storage for years before being sold in the US—and were covered in cosmoline in order to preserve them. The basic design is approximately sixty years old and the rifles themselves were manufactured decades ago. This means SKS Carbines lack some of the safety features found on some modern consumer hunting rifles: In particular, the SKS Carbine has a trigger safety which does not block the hammer or firing pin.

And while we’re on the subject of the firing pin: Most SKS Carbines utilize free-floating firing pins. Forward inertia causes the firing pin to contact the primer as the bolt is closed. It is imperative that you check the firing pin for proper operation and use only “mil-spec” ammunition in any SKS Carbine that has a free-floating firing pin. (Some US-Made 7.62x39 ammunition uses very soft primers that may detonate just from the firing pin’s inertial contact.)

In Addition, some SKS Carbines were manufactured in “less than ideal” conditions—this means that occasionally SKS Carbines have had defects straight from the factory. Normally this would not be an issue, since military organizations have personnel who are trained to inspect, maintain and repair these firearms. However as a consumer, you do not have ready access to these personnel, so you will need to be prepared verify the operation of your SKS Carbine.

Finally, because they are inexpensive, SKS Carbines are often used for “projects”. And as you might expect, this sometimes means inexperienced amateur gunsmiths subject them to dubious modifications. Be alert to possible modifications when purchasing an SKS Carbine.

You should not attempt to fire an SKS Carbine that has not been thoroughly disassembled, cleaned, and checked for proper operation. It is especially important to ensure the firing pin moves freely in the bolt. Many dealers neglect to inform customers of this important fact. Shame on them for not looking out after their customers!

Because the SKS only has a trigger safety, it is imperative that safe gun handling procedures be followed at all times. Don’t take shortcuts or fool around and expect the hardware to keep you safe. Always make sure the muzzle is pointed in a safe direction—make sure that direction is safe even in the event the unexpected happens.

And finally, always use the proper mil-spec ammunition.

Aren’t SKS Carbines dangerous “junk guns”?

It all depends on your definition of “junk gun”. The term “junk gun” was originally applied to inexpensive and poor quality firearms made from substandard materials that were prone to breakage and other reliability problems. While surplus SKS Carbines are inexpensive, they were manufactured from good quality materials and are very reliable when properly checked and maintained.

However in recent years, certain individuals have expanded the definition of “junk gun” to include firearms without chamber indicators, sophisticated blocking safeties, and grip and magazine safeties. Very few older firearms have these safety features—and neither does the SKS Carbine. In addition, it is sometimes said the triggers on “junk guns” are said to lack “sufficient pressure or travel to prevent them being fired by young children”. But while the SKS Carbine’s military trigger is relatively heavy with a long pull, shooters almost never desire such a feature.

Haven’t all SKS Carbines been recalled?

Navy Arms issued a recall of Chinese-made SKS Carbines. It is unclear how many rifles are affected by the manufacturing defect mentioned—just a few from Navy Arms or many rifles from a variety of importers.

Always check any semi-automatic firearm for proper operation.

You say the SKS Carbine is reliable, then why do some people say they are unreliable and dangerous?

The most serious problem an SKS Carbine owner can encounter is a “slam-fire”. A “slam-fire” is a detonation of a round as it is chambered, without pulling the trigger. The rifle begins firing and will only stop firing when it runs out of ammo. Fortunately it is also a rare situation. Rare or not, it is a very dangerous situation, so it’s especially important that you control the rifle’s muzzle while chambering the first round.

Some SKS Carbines experience a problem known as “Stove-piping”. “Stove-piping” occurs when a round either doesn't feed correctly or eject properly. When the bolt closes, the round gets caught. The round sticks up sort of like a stove-pipe (which presumably, is why they call it that). Typically this is caused by a worn or corroded gas system (gas tube, gas piston, gas port, operating rod, etc.) The Yugoslavian Type 59/66 has a more complicated gas system due to its grenade launcher. The Yugoslavian Type 59/66 seems more susceptible to this problem (as well as having a reputation for reliability problems in the gas system).

Finally, SKS Carbines are inexpensive firearms that encourage experimentation. Sometimes, inexperienced individuals modify their rifles in ways that are unsafe. If you are not your rifles the original owner, you should especially pay special attention to modifications which may have been done to the trigger group.

SKS Carbines are not new firearms, many have been in storage for years before being sold in the US—and were covered in cosmoline in order to preserve them. Do not attempt to fire an SKS Carbine that has not been thoroughly disassembled, cleaned, and checked for proper operation. Once you’ve done so, you will find that the SKS Carbine is extremely rugged and reliable. You can expect very few problems with an SKS Carbine.

What are the reasons for “slam-fires”, and how can they be prevented?

There are four main causes of “slam-fires”:

1.    One reason SKS is susceptible to “slam-fires” because of the design of the bolt. They generally use a free-floating firing pin. When the bolt closes on a new round, the firing pin free-floats inside the bolt and forward inertia causes it to contact the primer. The firing pin usually leaves a small indentation on the primer just from the bolt closing. This is normal. Because of this, you need to ensure you are using “mil-spec” ammunition in your SKS. Some US-Made 7.62x39 ammunition uses very soft primers that may detonate just from the firing pin’s inertial contact. Hence, just closing the bolt could fire the weapon—since it's a semi-automatic, it would automatically cycle the rifle, chamber a new round, and potentially set that one off as well. This typically causes “doubles” or “triples” when closing the bolt. However, it could repeat until the magazine is empty.

Other rifles such as the M-14 and M-1 Garand also use free-floating firing pins. These rifles are also susceptible to “slam-fires” from soft primers.

2.    Even if you are using mil-spec primers, it is possible for the FP to “stick” in the forward position. Thus, every time the bolt closes it will set off the new round. This sort of “slam-fire” typically empties the entire magazine. To prevent this type of “slam-fire”, it is necessary to thoroughly clean the firing pin.

This is even more dangerous than a “slam-fire” from soft primers, because it is possible for the round to go off before it is fully seated in the chamber and before the bolt is fully locked. This could lead to an out-of-battery explosion.

3.    Improper trigger geometry can cause problems; you should especially pay special attention to modifications which may have been done to the trigger group.

4.    Sludge and grime that keeps the sear from “snapping back” into position, can also “slam-fires”. Therefore, it is also important to keep the sear track clean. In addition, you will want to avoid weakening the spring on the sear. To prevent this type of “slam-fire”, it is necessary to thoroughly clean the fire control group.

Do SKS Carbines have “dangerous triggers”?

SKS Carbines trigger groups have an excellent design, thanks to Mr. Simonov. However, hasty assembly has, at times precluded extracting the potential from the design. In a trigger group with “positive sear engagement”, the hammer spring actually compresses when the trigger is pulled. That geometry causes a situation where the hammer holds onto the sear. This is the preferred condition, and is important as the “safety” merely blocks the trigger and does not secure either the hammer or the sear.

Typically SKS trigger groups have more than enough friction to keep the hammer engaged with the sear, even in sub-optimal conditions. Unfortunately, people sometimes polish the various contact surfaces to improve trigger’s “feel”, thereby reducing friction. This can increase the likelihood of negligent discharge, especially if the rifle is impacted or dropped.

Warning: Only qualified individuals should attempt trigger work on the trigger group of an SKS Carbine.

How can I check my SKS Carbine for proper engagement?

The following information was provided by Kivaari (“SKS Triggersmith” and frequent contributor to the Survivor's SKS Boards):

1)    Make sure the rifle is unloaded and the breech clear.

2)    Cycle the bolt to cock the hammer

3)    Remove the rear cover and recoil spring

4)    Squeeze the trigger to observe the hammer's movement prior to let off as the hammer slides on the surface of the sear:

·         If the hammer moves forward, then the hammer is said to have “negative sear engagement”.

·         If the hammer remains motionless, then the hammer is said to have “neutral sear engagement”.

·         If the hammer moves rearward, then the hammer is said to have “positive sear engagement”.

Positive engagement is the preferred as the hammer will tend to remain on its full cock notch until overcome by the sear. Neutral and negative conditions are not as safe. But saying that the neutral or negative conditions are dangerous is an overstatement — typically there is substantial creep and friction to provide an adequate margin of safety. Unfortunately, some people sometimes polish the various contact surfaces to improve trigger’s “feel”, thereby reducing friction. This can increase the likelihood of negligent discharge, especially if the rifle is impacted or dropped.

Warning: If there is any doubt about the safety of your SKS Carbine’s trigger, have a competent gunsmith inspect the rifle.

For more information on this subject, contact Kivaari directly via his web site.

What should do to check for proper operation when firing my SKS Carbine the first time?

When firing any semiautomatic firearm for the first time, always follow these safety procedures:

Load two rounds into the magazine, and in a stable shooting position, with the muzzle pointed down range, pull the charging handle (or slide) back and let it fly forward to chamber the first round. Do not ease the carrier or the slide into battery. If the weapon fires, cease firing immediately. If no firing occurs, aim the weapon down range and pull the trigger. If both rounds fire with one pull of the trigger, cease firing immediately.

These same procedures should also be followed anytime you are unsure if your ammunition uses “mil-spec” primers.

Who makes the “mil-spec” ammunition I should use in my SKS Carbine?

At the present time, no US-based company makes “mil-spec” 7.62x39mm ammunition. However, a number of companies from the area of the old Soviet-bloc still manufacture “mil-spec” 7.62x39mm ammunition. Typically, these companies don’t bother to list their primer’s hardness in there literature. This means you can’t just check to be sure which primers are hard enough. 7.62x39mm ammunition from the following manufactures is generally considered to be “mil-spec”:

·         Barnaul (cowboy on box)

·         Brown Bear 1

·         Cheetah (made on old Norinco equipment in Zimbabwe)

·         Military Surplus (corrosive)

·         Norinco (corrosive; no longer imported)

·         Sellier & Bellot 1

·         Silver Bear 1

·         Ulyanovsk (white & blue box)

·         Wolf 1 (considered to have the hardest primers)

1 This company indicated their 7.62x39mm cartridges use “mil-spec” primers in response to this author’s inquiry.

This author shoots Wolf and Cheetah brands exclusively. Cheetah cartridges pass the “magnet test” imposed by many indoor ranges that prohibit “steel ammo”.

Isn’t all Berdan primed ammunition “mil-spec”?

While it is generally assumed that Berdan primed ammunition is “harder”. This is not necessarily the case—both Berdan and Boxer primers come are available in “hard” and “soft” varieties. Boxer primers (invented by Col. Edward Boxer, a British Army officer) are generally used in US-made ammunition—these are generally “softer”. However, at least one US manufacturer, CCI, makes “mil-spec” Boxer primers. Unfortunately, CCI doesn’t manufacture 7.62x39mm ammunition. Berdan primers (invented by Col. Hiram Berdan, an American US Army Ordnance officer) are generally used in Europe.

For more information on primers, see the CCI Ammunition—Primer Usage Chart.

What about “corrosive” ammunition?

The some primers contain mercury or other corrosive compounds. Long-term exposure to these compounds can result in damage to you rifle. When shooting ammunition you suspect might be corrosive, use ammonia to neutralize the salts before cleaning—a patch dipped in 50/50 ammonia/water and run through the barrel usually does the trick. However, many people just use Windex®. In addition, it is a good idea to clean the operating rod, gas piston, and gas tube. It just takes a minute, but will save your rifle! Follow up this simple procedure with a normal cleaning. Don’t put it off until the next day!

How can I clean the firing pin?

Cosmoline inside the bolt is the number one cause of sticky firing pins. So it is imperative that each new SKS owner disassembles the bolt and thoroughly cleans the firing pin and firing pin channel

Warning: The only way to ENSURE a thorough cleaning is a complete bolt disassembly.

Warning: It is possible to reassemble the bolt with the firing pin backwards.  Pay special attention to this when reassembling the bolt.

Is there an easier way to clean the firing pin?

Some individuals have claimed success by soaking the bolt in cleaning solution for several days, and then “hosing it with brake parts cleaner” (sold in the automotive section of most discount stores). Others claim you can clean the bolt by boiling it in water. However these methods are not recommended—you need to disassemble the bolt in order to ensure a thorough cleaning.

These same folks say that you will know the firing pin is clean when you can shake the bolt back and forth and the firing pin easily rattles inside it—when hear metal-on-metal. However, if you disassemble some bolts, you will quickly realize that they are not always completely cleaned using these methods.

Warning: It is essential to make sure the firing pin moves freely in the bolt. You should hear the sound of metal-on-metal. The only way to ENSURE a thorough cleaning is a complete bolt disassembly.

My SKS Carbine has a spring-loaded firing pin—What gives?

SKS Carbines generally use a free-floating firing pin. However, early Russian models have a spring-loaded firing pin. Trident Corporation of Commerce, CA sold aftermarket “Spring Return Firing Pins” for the SKS Carbine. However, it appears that this company is no longer in business. Murray’s Gunsmithing currently offers a spring loaded firing pin for the SKS Carbine.

Only time will tell if aftermarket spring loaded firing pins are durable for long-term use. However, all shooters should seriously consider such products for two reasons: First, installation requires bolt disassembly and cleaning. Second, you won’t have to worry about using only “mil-spec” ammunition.

Multiple Discharge Problems Attributable to Poor Cleaning:

In addition to “slam-fires” caused by a seized or dirty firing pin, many believe that the design of the SKS trigger group can cause unintended “repeats” (even complete magazine dumps) when the trigger mechanism is not cleaned properly.

In any semi-automatic firearm, one of the most essential parts of the firing, ejection, reloading cycle is the cocking of the hammer for the next shot. The SKS uses a “sliding” sear, which has to "snap back" in time to catch the hammer. However, if the trigger group is full of cosmoline, or dirt, powder residue, or other “gunk” the sear can be sluggish getting back to its original position in time to catch the hammer. If this happens, the hammer will not be caught by the sear and will follow the bolt forward as it chambers the next round. This can cause doubles, triples or even full magazine dumps—an unsafe situation indeed. While not technically the same thing as a “slam-fire”, it is a potentially dangerous situation and for this reason proper cleaning of the SKS trigger group is a must.

When you remove the trigger group, make sure that the area around the sear and hammer is completely free of all grime and gunk. Also, do not use heavy grease or excessive oil in the sear/hammer area. Too much lubricant can actually attract dirt and grime. A light application of CLP or other suitable free flowing light gun oil will provide suitable lubrication.

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Laws, Bans and “Evil Features” Questions:

Legal Overview:

SKS Carbines are legal in most states and localities. But they are semiautomatic rifles, and as such are subject to a variety of legal restrictions whenever they are modified. Modifying semiautomatic firearms is tricky business, and it is not always obvious when you’ve made illegal modifications. For example, aftermarket SKS detachable magazines are widely sold at retail stores, at gun shows, and via Internet web sites. However, many people are surprised when they learn that actually using one can often be a violation of Federal firearms law.

If you are not prepared to understand the legal minutia associated with various firearms laws, leave your SKS Carbine alone—Don’t modify it or purchase one that has been modified by someone else.

I've heard the SKS Carbine is banned. Is it legal to own one?

Yes. However there are at least five separate “bans” as well as a number of other rules, affecting the SKS Carbine as well as other semi-automatic rifles. To be legal an SKS Carbine must conform to all of them.

1)    1934 National Firearms Act (NFA)—Prohibits rifle barrels shorter then 16 inches (as measured from the bolt face to the muzzle) and fully automatic firearms without paying a tax. Rather than face the issues related to banning such firearms, the Federal Government found it was easier to simply tax them out of existence.

2)    1968 Gun Control Act (GCA)—Contains a provision, Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3), where Congress delegates to the Secretary of the Treasury (i.e.: the ATF) the power to restrict the importation of firearms considered “non-sporting”.

3)    Military Style Semiautomatic Rifle Import Ban—On July 6, 1989, the Secretary of the Treasury used his authority under Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3). He determined that various military style semiautomatic rifles were “non-sporting” and banned from importation. This includes “SKS style rifle” with certain features.

4)    “Chinese Ban”—On May 26, 1994, President Clinton banned the importation of “munitions” from PRC. “Munitions” are defined as all firearms except “non-combat” shotguns and black powder guns, and all ammunition and components except for shotgun shells. This isn't really a ban affecting the owners of SKS Carbines, but does affect importers.

5)    Semiautomatic Assault Weapon Ban—The 1994 Crime Bill bans ‘semiautomatic assault weapon’ and large capacity magazines. This affects only rifles with detachable magazines.

What are the “evil features” that would make an SKS carbine illegal?

There is much confusion that stems from the fact that there is more than one “ban” and hence more than one “evil features list”: One from July 6, 1989 (which was later modified in 1998) and the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban. The 1989 Ban applies just to imported rifles. An imported rifle is any rifle that contains more than ten imported parts. The 1994 AWB applies to US-made rifles as well. When folks talk about “evil features” they could mean either.

To help eliminate some of this confusion, this FAQ will refer to features restricted by the 1989 ban as “restricted features”, and features prohibited by the 1994 AWB as “evil features”.

ATF doesn't really enforce all these rules, do they?

It is generally believed that ATF does not aggressively pursue individuals for firearms violations. However, in recent years there has been great clamor for ATF to enforce existing gun laws. Given the large fines and potentially serious jail time that these violations carry, it would be wise to stay on the correct side of the law.

Sometimes, however, criminal cases can involve enhanced sentences and additional charges for defendants because of “weapons violations”. Unless your absolutely sure that you or a family member will never end up in some way on the “wrong end of the law”, my opinion is that it’s better to keep your SKS scrupulously legal. In the mean time, you can always pick up an AK—there are many inexpensive “US-made” ones available—maybe not the same as your SKS, but fun and legal nonetheless.

Note: This author is of the opinion that if .GOV wants to get you for something, a so-called “illegal imported assault rifle” (aka: an SKS w/o enough US-made parts) would be the perfect vehicle. Though it's not supposed to happen in the “good 'old US of A”, .GOV can be “out to get you” for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with illegal activity: race, religion, union activities, politics, relatives, power trips … the list goes on and on. Compliance parts should be viewed as just cheap “legal insurance”.

My SKS is “pre-ban”, I don't care about any of this, do I?

Generally, a rifle that was approved for import and sale continues to be legal. However when you modify an existing rifle, ATF considers you to be assembling a new rifle for legal purposes. So “pre-ban” only applies to the grandfather of existing firearms, not the modification of existing firearms.

There is also much confusion that stems from the fact that there is more than one “ban” that applies to the SKS: One from 1989 (which was later modified in 1998) and the 1994 AW Ban. The 1989 Ban applies to imported (over 10 foreign parts) rifles. The AW Ban applies to US-made rifles as well. When folks talk about “pre-ban” they can mean either. “Pre-ban” typically applies to the “grandfather” of existing firearms. When you modify a firearm, it must to conform to current law—that's why “pre-ban” doesn't mean too much.

What about state and local laws?

The laws of many states mirror Federal law in that they ban the possession of a “semiautomatic assault weapons”. Other states, most notably California, New Jersey, and Illinois are much more restrictive. Some states restrict the size of magazines in general, while others restrict the size of magazines allowed for hunting. Generally, the states have not made distinctions between US-made and imported rifles. Some states do not even have exemptions for previously legal rifles and magazines. Bottom line: Be prepared to get familiar with your state and local laws if you own a modified SKS Carbine.

Here are a couple of the more popular links:

All 50 States: ATF Guide to state laws

All 50 States: http://nraila.org/gun-laws.aspx

California:      http://www.caag.state.ca.us/firearms/

                   http://www.empirearms.com/cal-ffl.htm

Minnesota:     Official MN “Assault Weapon” List

What about Canada?

The SKS in Canada must have it magazine capacity permanently limited to 5 rounds by a government certified gunsmith.  This is done by either a weld on the magazine wall to stop the magazine platform from depressing beyond the 5 round mark, a pin across the width of the magazine at the 5 round mark or a steel rod welded to the bottom of the magazine platform.  Failure to do so, results in a $2000 fine and/or up to 2 years in jail.

Where can I get more information about the laws affecting the SKS Carbine?

The 2005 Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide is actually fairly readable and has an extensive Q&A section. It's big so don't click unless you have a fast connection or a lot of time. One nice feature of .PDF files is that you can save it away on your computer for later reference.

I’ve tried to read the stuff from ATF and am totally confused. How do they expect anyone to figure this stuff out?

Here is an overview of six regulations you will likely encounter in your research (more information on each is presented later):

1.    Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3): Is a 1968 law that allows ATF to restrict importation of “non-sporting firearms”. ATF published “studies” in 1989 and 1998 defining what it considered “non-sporting”. However, since there is no law or regulation about what “non-sporting” is, all one can do is read the studies for guidance and then ask ATF on a case-by-case basis.

2.    Title 18 USC § 922(r): Is a 1990 law prohibiting assembly of a Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3) firearm from imported parts. Congress passed this law in because companies imported “kits” and assembled them in the US during 1989 and 1990. Though 922(r) only covers assembly, the possession of a Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3) violating rifle might still cause legal problems should you ever have a run-in with the law, so it is probably prudent to not purchase such a rifle from someone else.

3.    178.39: Is a regulation that defines a list of twenty parts. Any rifle where ten-or-less of these parts are imported is not considered an imported rifle and is not subject to 922(r). Note that the total number of parts in the rifle is not important, so often swapping out just a few imported parts for US-made ones frees your rifle from the provisions of Title 18 USC § 922(r).

4.    Title 18 USC § 925(e): A law that allows Curio &Relic firearms to be imported—even those like Yugoslavian Type 59/66 Rifles that might otherwise be in violation of Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3). Despite the fact that the rifle is already here, almost anytime you modify your C&R rifle it loses C&R status and you'll need to comply with 922(r) and the 1994 AWB.

5.    Title 18 USC § 921(a)(30)(B): Definition of 1994 Assault Weapon. Applies to both domestic and imported rifles with detachable magazines. However, 922(r) is usually more restrictive with regard to imported rifles.

6.    Title 18 USC § 922(v): Prohibits assembly, possession, or transfer of Title 18 USC § 921(a)(30)(B) rifle. Title 18 USC § 922(v) and Title 18 USC § 921(a)(30)(B) are often collectively referred to as the “1994 Assault Weapons Ban” or “1994 AWB” for short. These restrictions are no longer in effect on the Federal level.  However, be aware that some states have enacted laws which mirror these restrictions.

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1989 Military Style Semiautomatic Rifle Ban Questions:

1989 Ban Overview:

In 1989 various semiautomatic rifles were determined by ATF to be “non-sporting” based on a variety of features and banned from importation. Shortly after, Congress restricted the modification of legally imported firearms, when those modifications result in a firearm that resembles one of the restricted ones. Note that these restrictions apply only to imported firearms. In addition, C&R firearms are exempt these restrictions.

Though these rules seem to be in an almost constant state of flux, some generalizations can be made.

If you are not prepared to understand the legal minutia associated with various firearms laws, leave your SKS Carbine alone—Don’t modify it or purchase one that has been modified by someone else.

If you’re willing to understand only a little legal minutia, see the info on the info on 10 imported parts.

What is the history of this ban?

On July 6, 1989 various military style semiautomatic rifles were determined by ATF to be “non-sporting” based on a variety of features and banned from importation. The authority to impose this ban stemmed from the 1968 Gun Control Act, specifically Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3). This ban included the “SKS style rifle” with certain features.

Shortly thereafter, various manufacturers began importing foreign parts and assembling them on locally made receivers. Congress responded in 1990 by passing new regulations. Title 18 USC § 922(r) made it illegal to build any firearm prohibited from importation as “non-sporting” under Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3). Note that only assembly is illegal—possession, transfer, etc, of such a firearm are not covered.

However, the 1990 law was so vague that in 1993 the ATF wrote regulations (178.39) that spell out the “10-or-less imported parts rule” and what “imported parts” mean. It states that only 10 imported parts are allowed in an unsporting imported firearm. This new law and regulation shows up in the 1995 Federal Firearms Guide. During the interim many rifles were built at home from imported parts without concern to parts count.

Finally on April 6, 1998, another study on what constitutes “non-sporting” firearms “result in a finding that the ability to accept a detachable large capacity magazine originally designed and produced for a military assault weapon should be added to the list of disqualifying military configuration features identified in 1989.”

Bottom Line: If you wish to modify your imported SKS Carbine, you will need to understand what is and is not allowed. Otherwise, it is very likely that you will inadvertently violate Federal firearms law.

Just what happened on July 6, 1989?

For the full story you have to go to the 2005 Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide. However, on that date the Secretary of the Treasury used the authority delegated to him by Congress under Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3) to restricted the import of “non-sporting” firearms.

Just what features would restrict an SKS Carbine from import is not clear, since ATF judges different rifles differently. However, the ATF web site contains a link to the 1998 Study Determination list of eight military features that could cause a semiautomatic rifle to be classified as “non-sporting” (prohibited from importation in ATF terms):

1.    Ability to accept a large capacity magazine [see explanation of “detachable large capacity magazines”]

2.    Folding/telescoping stocks

3.    Separate pistol grips [see explanation of pistol grips and thumbhole stocks]

4.    Ability to accept a bayonet (bayonet mount) [see explanation of bayonets.]

5.    Flash suppressors

6.    Bipods [see explanation of bipods]

7.    Grenade launchers

8.    Night sights

This is not to say that a particular rifle having one or more of the listed features should necessarily be classified as “non-sporting”. Indeed, many traditional sporting firearms are semiautomatic or have detachable magazines. Thus, ATF has stated that these criteria must be viewed in total to determine whether the overall configuration places the rifle fairly within the semiautomatic assault rifle category.

Because this “restricted feature” list is not found in either law or regulation, the features that could restrict an SKS Carbine from import are not fixed. ATF could decide to allow certain features on particular configuration, while prohibiting them on others. The only way to know if a particular configuration is legal for importation is to ask. Don’t be shy! ATF has said that they will provide a “determination” to anyone who requests one. If there is any doubt, you should write ATF.

For additional information you can study the Full text of the ATF's 1989 Report or the full text of the ATF's 1998 report.

Remember that Title 18 USC § 922(r) made it illegal to build any firearm prohibited from importation under Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3). This includes modifying your imported SKS Carbine to be “identical” to one that is prohibited.

What features would restrict an SKS Carbine from importation?

Just exactly what features would restrict an SKS Carbine from import is unclear. For example, a copy of a 1998 ATF Brochure mentions SKS Carbines with any of the following three features:

·         Folding Stock

·         Folding Bayonet

·         Detachable Magazine

Therefore, it seems very clear that adding one of these three features to an SKS Carbine is definitely restricted. However, the ATF’s 1998 Study Determination contains the more expansive list of eight military features that could prohibit semiautomatic rifles from importation. Unfortunately, this opens the door to the possibility that additional configurations are prohibited. Based on info from ATF to members of the Survivor's SKS Boards web site, the following features should also be considered as restricted:

·         Flash suppressor and/or threaded muzzle. ATF has given conflicting signals on these, but current ATF information is that threaded muzzles are a restricted feature. For more information on covering muzzle threads, see the discussion on removing the grenade launcher from Yugoslavian M59/66 rifles in this FAQ

·         Grenade Launcher.

·         Telescoping stock.

Note that some of these features can be found on SKS Carbines imported as Curio and Relic firearms. Thus modifications which void the rifle’s C&R status, can result in the creation of “non-sporting” firearm.

Warning: Prudence would suggest that any of the other features from the 1989 list of eight military features be viewed with caution. Modifying an imported SKS Carbine to add separate pistol grips, certain types of bipods, and night sights should not be undertaken without first consulting ATF.

What the meaning of the term “identical” in Title 18 USC § 922(r)?

Many people think they can modify a rifle so long as they don’t create a rifle that is an exact copy of one of the rifles prohibited by ATF. This is not the case. The following is directly from ATF-346:

The comment was made that the use of term “identical” in section 922(r) was intended to require that firearms prohibited from assembly under section 922(r) be exact copies of specific rifles or shotguns which ATF has found to be nonimportable. The comment has not been adopted because such an interpretation would result in a prohibition which could easily be circumvented by merely changing a minor feature on the assembled firearm, e.g., slightly changing the barrel length. Additionally, if the regulation adopted the position that only those specific firearms previously found to be nonimportable are prohibited from assembly under section 922(r), ATF would constantly be one step behind in enforcing the law. For example, an importer could make one or more minor changes in an existing nonimportable weapon, import the parts, and assemble the weapon without violating section 922(r), since the modified weapon would not have been ruled upon by ATF.

For the statute to have any definitive meaning, the phrase “identical to any rifle or shotgun prohibited from importation” must be interpreted to mean that a firearm may not be lawfully assembled from imported parts if the firearm would not be importable under 18 U.S.C. 925(d)(3). In the Report of the Working Group, ATF determined that semiautomatic assault rifles are a distinctive type of rifle prohibited from importation under section 925(d)(3) since they are not generally recognized as particularly suitable for, or readily adaptable for sporting purposes. Thus, any rifle which would be classified as a semiautomatic assault rifle under the criteria specified in the Report of the Working Group could not be assembled in the United States from imported parts. Even if such a rifle had never been imported into the United States and ATF had never denied its importation, it could not be assembled from imported parts.

Can I replace parts on my “pre-ban” rifle?

Yes, but only with like parts. The following is directly from the ATF-346:

The comment was made that ATF should allow the replacement of broken or defective parts in any rifle or shotgun which had been legally imported into or assembled in the United States. Pursuant to this comment, the regulation has been revised to allow the replacement of damaged or defective parts on firearms which were lawfully imported into the United States or which were lawfully assembled prior to November 30, 1990, the effective date of section 922(r). For example, the regulation will allow for the replacement of a broken stock or pistol grip on a damaged semiautomatic AK-47 which was legally imported into or legally assembled in the United States. Further, a defective fixed shoulder stock of an SKS type rifle which was lawfully imported as a sporting firearm could lawfully be replaced with a fixed shoulder stock. On the other hand, the shoulder stock could not be replaced with a folding stock since the assembly of the SKS rifle with a folding stock would result in a firearm which would be nonimportable.

What is a “detachable large capacity magazine”?

With regard to the SKS Carbine, the short answer is: ‘Not what you might think.’ It includes any detachable magazine or any high-capacity fixed magazine holding more than ten rounds. Confused? You’re not alone—this has changed several times over the past 15 or so years.

Here’s a little background: The original “restricted features” list from the 1989 study included detachable magazines as a possible restricted feature. However, the associated text said “that any of these military features, other than the ability to accept a detachable magazine, would make a semiautomatic assault rifle not importable”. Thus from 1989 onward, a rifle could still be imported if a detachable magazine was the only offending feature. (This can be seen from the fact that detachable magazine SKS‑M Carbines were imported in large numbers until the “1994 Chinese Ban” took effect.) However, in April 1998 ATF published a second study that concluded that semiautomatic rifles with the ability to accept so-called “Large Capacity Military Magazines” would now be prohibited from import.

Because aftermarket detachable magazines are available in “large capacity”, they are by definition considered Large Capacity Military Magazines” by ATF. Thus since 1998 importing an SKS which uses a detachable magazine has been prohibited. For more information, check out the discussion on the legality of fixed high-capacity magazines and the discussion of the legality of detachable magazines on the Survivor's SKS Boards web site.

Warning: Despite the fact that no military organization ever used aftermarket detachable magazines in an SKS Carbine, since 1998 it is a 922(r) violation to modify an imported SKS Carbine to use one.

Hold on! Everyone sells detachable magazines for the SKS Carbine—surely all these companies know more than you do. There’s no way these can be “illegal”.

“Caveat Emptor” is Latin for “let the buyer beware”. Just because you can buy a product doesn’t mean it is legal for every use. For example, you can purchase all sorts of aftermarket equipment for your vehicle, despite the fact that some of these items are not “street legal”. Similarly, aftermarket detachable magazine can be legal in some circumstances. However, it’s up to you to make sure that yours is one of them.

For more information, check out discussion of the legality of detachable magazines on the Survivor's SKS Boards web site.

Note it is your prerogative to do whatever you want to your rifle. But before you do please read the ATF brochure.

Is a 20-round fixed magazine prohibited?

It has always been assumed that any size fixed magazine was acceptable to ATF. However, ATF has recently taken to saying that “SKS rifles capable of accepting ‘large capacity ammunition feeding devices’ are prohibited from importation.” Therefore, modifying an SKS to use fixed high-capacity magazine is currently also a violation of 922(r).

For more information, check out the discussion on the legality of fixed high-capacity magazines on the Survivor's SKS Boards web site.

Warning: It is unclear exactly when these restrictions on High-capacity Fixed magazines came into effect. This FAQ will assume that since 1998 it is a 922(r) violation to modify an imported SKS Carbine to use one.

What does the phrase “capable of accepting a detachable magazine” mean?

Most SKS Carbines use a fixed magazine. With a fixed magazine is installed, SKS Carbines are not “capable of accepting a detachable magazine”. However, SKS Carbines are very easy to modify for use with aftermarket detachable magazines—all you need to do is pop out the trigger assemble and remove the fixed magazine. Without a fixed magazine installed, an SKS Carbine is “capable of accepting a detachable magazine.”

Warning: There are reports of individuals in California were arrested for possession of an illegal weapon, just because their fixed magazine was not installed when aftermarket detachable magazines were found in the general vicinity.

What’s the deal with “pistol grips”?

The 1989 Ban restricts “separate pistol grips”. The now defunct 1994 Assault Weapons Ban restricted a “pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon”. The 1994 language makes no mention that the pistol grip be “separate”. Therefore, it is generally accepted that for the purposes of the 1994 AWB, thumbhole and “Dragunov” stocks are considered as having a pistol grip. Whereas the 1989 language seems to require that the pistol grip be separate in order to count as a “restricted feature”. This reasoning seems to be supported by the fact that Russian made VEPR and other rifles are imported with thumbhole stocks.

However, it's not exactly clear what ATF considers a “separate pistol grip”. The grip on an AK rifle is completely separate in that it attaches to the receiver separately from the buttstock. On the other hand, the grip on a thumbhole or drag stock that is not considered “separate” is completely enclosed by and integrated into the stock. One wonders about the ATI Ultralight—does “separate” mean “not enclosed”. And as for pistol grips that bolt onto an existing stock, since there is clearly a separate piece attached to the stock with screws, one would think that ATF would consider these as “separate”.

Also see the explanation of thumbhole stocks and the 1994 AWB

Warning: This ambiguity means bolt-on pistol grips and certain aftermarket stocks should be treated with caution when considering the requirements of 922(r).

What’s the deal with bipods?

Here’s what ATF has said about bipods:

”The majority of military firearms have bipods as an integral part of the firearm or contain specific mounting points to which bipods may be attached. The military utility of the bipod is primarily to provide stability and support for the weapon when fired from the prone position, especially when fired fully automatic. Bipods are available accessory items for sporting rifles and are used primarily in long-range shooting to enhance stability. However, traditional sporting rifles do not come equipped with bipods, nor are they specifically designed to accommodate them. Instead, bipods for sporting firearms are generally designed to attach to a detachable 'sling swivel mount’ or simply clamp onto the firearm.

Thus clamp-on and other detachable bipods clearly appear to be acceptable to ATF. Recently, ATF has given indications that permanently attached bipods may be acceptable on at least some SKS carbines.

Warning: Bipods permanently attached to the rifle should be treated with caution when considering the requirements of 922(r).

My SKS Carbine still has a bayonet mount, I thought they were a “restricted feature”?

An older SKS FAQ, found on James Bardwell’s old web site, says that if the rifle does not accept a detachable magazine (such as is the case with the majority of SKS Carbines) it is subject to the above restrictions, except that it can have the bayonet mount intact on the gun, but not the bayonet. This view is supported by the fact that in November 1990 ATF issued a letter to FFL holders requesting they remove bayonets from boxes containing non-C&R Chinese SKS Carbines—while the bayonet mounts were allowed to remain.

I have yet to find a copy of this November 1990. If you have a copy, please contact me. In the meantime it seems prudent to either 1) treat the bayonet mount as a full-fledged “restricted feature”, or 2) write ATF when making modifications.

Can’t I just modify an SKS Carbine I already own, after all it’s already been imported?

Title 18 USC § 922(r) prohibits “any person to assemble from imported parts any Semiautomatic rifle or any shotgun which is identical to any rifle or shotgun prohibited from importation under Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3).” Put another way, it is illegal for anyone to assemble a semiautomatic rifle or shotgun domestically that would be prohibited from import were import attempted. The only way to know for sure if a particular configuration is legal is to write ATF and ask. Don’t be bashful—ATF has said that they will not publish a list because anyone can write them and ask if a particular configuration is legal.

Remember that Title 18 USC § 922(r) made it illegal to build any firearm prohibited from importation under Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3). See the explanation of “identical”.

My SKS is “pre-ban”, can’t I do whatever I want to it?

It is not legal to add a particular feature to a pre-ban SKS Carbine. One could have added it before the ban. If the rifle did not have the feature on the date the ban became effective, adding it afterwards would be illegally assembly of a banned firearm. A banned feature may be repaired, but cannot be added to a firearm.

The May, 1994 American Rifleman magazine featured an article on the subject which quoted Edward M. Owen, Jr., chief of the BATF Firearms Technology Branch, as writing:

On Nov. 29, 1990, the Congress enacted Title 18 (of the United States Code), Chapter 44, Section 922(r) which states 'it shall be unlawful for any person to assemble from imported parts any semi-automatic rifle or any shotgun which is identical to any rifle or shotgun prohibited from importation under Section 925(d)(3)...'

As indicated the section became effective on Nov. 29, 1990.  Therefore, any assembly, performed after the effective date of the section, which creates a semi-automatic rifle that is prohibited from importation would be a violation of Section 922(r), irrespective of the date that the firearm was imported.

This contradicts the common belief that rifles imported prior to November 29th, 1990 are immune from this legislation.

I purchased an SKS Carbine with “restricted features” before I learned about any of this. Is my rifle “legal”?

18 USC § 922(r) only bans “assembly”, it is not a crime to possess a firearm that another person “assembled” in violation of the law. Despite this, many people are understandably nervous about owning such a rifle. For example, it may be subject to seizure and forfeiture. An older SKS FAQ, found on James Bardwell’s old web site, says the following:

Note also that section 922(r) only bans “assembly”, it is not a crime to possess a weapon “assembled” in violation of this section. However it may be subject to seizure and forfeiture, under some circumstances, if ATF can show it was assembled in knowing or willful violation of the Gun Control Act, under 18 U.S.C. section 924(d)(1), by clear and convincing evidence.

18 USC § 924(d)(1) reads in part:

…upon acquittal of the owner or possessor, or dismissal of the charges against him other than upon motion of the Government prior to trial, or lapse of or court termination of the restraining order to which he is subject, the seized or relinquished firearms or ammunition shall be returned forthwith…

So it seems that it would be necessary to convict someone of violating 18 USC § 922(r) in order to permanently seize your rifle.

I see brand-new AK rifles for sale that have all sorts of “restricted features”—What gives?

Companies sell AK rifles because they can replace some of the imported parts and qualify as a US-made rifle, bypass the 922(r) rules, and then only have to worry about compliance with the 1994 AWB. While this could be done with SKS Carbines, there little economic incentive for companies to do so.

My SKS has some of these “restricted features” already on it—What gives?

Rifles already sold to the public are generally “grandfathered” when new firearms laws take effect. If your SKS Carbine has features that were legal before a ban, they usually continue to be legal afterward. Some jurisdictions (most notably the State of California) have gone so far as to pass restrictions without a grandfather clause, so you should be very careful if you live in a particularly restrictive locale.

You can replace parts that were on the rifle before a particular ban with like parts. But in doing so it appears that you cannot add or even remove “restricted features”.

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1994 Chinese Ban Questions:

Overview:

For the most part, you can just ignore it—it has no bearing on the modifications you can do to your SKS Rifle. However, it does affect the import of new firearms from China. For more information, check out Marstar Canada’s web page.

What happened on May 26, 1994?

For the full story you have to go to the2005 Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide. It is the policy of the United States to deny licenses and other approvals with respect to firearms originating in certain countries or areas. This policy applies to a variety of countries including ones in where SKS Carbines were manufactured. However, there is also a list of various firearms that can be imported from countries on the list, but the SKS Carbine is not one of them. Finally, the book mentions that firearms that are on the “curio or relic list” (see the C&R section) can also be imported (certain SKS Carbines are on this list).

Changes in foreign policy may result in additions to and deletions from the list of countries. This is what happened on May 26, 1994 when President Bill Clinton banned the importation of “munitions” from PRC.

Does this ban mean that a person is prohibited from or making modifications to a Chinese SKS Carbine?

It is US foreign policy to deny licenses and other approvals for the import of firearms originating in various countries. So does US foreign policy prohibit a person from making modifications to an SKS Carbine? No. Title 18 USC § 922(r) restricts the assembly of only those items prohibited under Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3), which is where the Sec. of Treasury restricted the import of “non-sporting” firearms.

Some have erroneously suggested that since all Chinese SKS Carbines were “banned” in 1994, one cannot make any modifications. If I understand correctly, the reasoning goes something like this: ‘Since when you modify a rifle it must comply with current law, you can't modify a Chinese SKS Carbine because you would always be creating a rifle that would be banned from import because no Chinese SKS Carbines can be imported.’ Some have used this erroneous logic to likewise suggest that any modification to any SKS Carbine is likewise prohibited.

However, it is clear that they are applying Title 18 USC § 922(r) to firearms restricted because of foreign policy considerations. Title 18 USC § 922(r) only applies to firearms restricted as “non-sporting” by Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3).

Is a Chinese SKS Carbine treated differently than one from a Yugoslavia, Russia, etc?

Yes and no. Yes, SKS carbines from many (primarily eastern European nations) are imported under “Curio and Relic” rules. And no, Title 18 USC § 922(r) still restricts the assembly of those items prohibited under Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3). So if your C&R SKS Carbine loses its’ C&R status, it is treated just like a non-C&R Chinese SKS Carbine.

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1994 Assault Weapons Ban Questions:

Overview:

The 1994 AWB prohibited firearms based on certain cosmetic features. Nationwide the 1994 AWB expired Sept 13, 2004.

However, some states enacted their own AW bans that remain in effect. According to the NRA-ILA, “assault weapons” are prohibited in California, Connecticut, Hawaii (“assault pistols”), Maryland (“assault pistols”), Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Virginia (“Street Sweeper” shotguns), and the District of Columbia (and semi-automatic w/detachable magazine capacity over 12 rounds), and some local jurisdictions in Ohio and Illinois. Minnesota has a seven day waiting period for “assault weapons”.

In addition, the restrictions prohibiting the import of “non-sporting firearms” remain in effect. Here are a couple excerpts from the ATF SAW Factsheet:

IMPORTATION

The prohibition on the importation of non-sporting firearms under 18 U.S.C. section 922(l) and 925(d)(3) still applies.

Importation of large capacity ammunition feeding devices still is covered under the Arms Export Control Act. Therefore an approved permit still is required to import large capacity magazines.

ASSEMBLY OF NON-SPORTING SHOTGUNS AND SEMIAUTOMATIC RIFLES FROM IMPORTED PARTS

The prohibition on assembly of non-sporting shotguns and semiautomatic rifles from imported arts as provided under 18 U.S.C. § 922(r) and 27 CFR § 478.39 still applies.

What was the 1994 AWB (Semiautomatic Assault Weapon Ban) all about?

Title 18 USC § 921(b) defines the term ‘semiautomatic assault weapon’ means...a semiautomatic rifle that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least two of:

(i)           a folding or telescoping stock;

(ii)          a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon; [which includes thumbhole and “Dragunov” stocks]

(iii)         a bayonet mount

(iv)         a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; and

(v)          a grenade launcher

It shall be unlawful for a person to manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon manufactured after September 13, 1994. Note that if a rifle has a fixed magazine or only one of the items in the list it cannot be considered a semiautomatic assault weapon.

Thus, the 1994 AWB affects only SKS Carbines with detachable magazines.

What about the models defined in Title 18 USC § 921(a)?

Title 18 USC § 921(b) defines the term ‘semiautomatic assault weapon’ to mean...any of the firearms, or copies or duplicates of the firearms in any caliber, known as -

(i)           Norinco, Mitchell, and Poly Technologies Avtomat Kalashnikovs (all models);

(ii)          Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI and Galil;

(iii)         Beretta Ar70 (SC-70);

(iv)         Colt AR-15;

(v)          Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR, and FNC;

(vi)         SWD M-10, M-11, M-11/9, and M-12;

(vii)        Steyr AUG;

(viii)       INTRATEC TEC-9, TEC-DC9 and TEC-22; and

(ix)         revolving cylinder shotguns, such as (or similar to) the Street Sweeper and Striker 12;

These definitions do not appear to be legally valid. For example, an older SKS FAQ, found on James Bardwell’s old web site, says the following:

The “Norinco, Mitchell, and Poly Technologies Avtomat Kalashnikovs (all models)” clause is gibberish. All of these either don't ban anything, or are too vague to be enforceable. ATF apparently agrees, they have approved the sale of, as non “semiautomatic assault weapons”, AR type rifles, including ones made by Colt, that have only one bad feature, a pistol grip.

However, some courts play pretty fast and loose with the rules. For example, in US v. Piggie, what's troubling is the erroneous application of Federal law:

The assault weapon statute in question describes “any of the firearms, or copies or duplicates of the firearms in any caliber, known as–(i) Norinco [, Mitchell, and Poly Technologies Avtomat Kalashnikovs (all models);].” 18 USC § 921(a)(30)(A)(i) (1994 & Supp. V 1999).

Mr. Piggie was in possession of an SKS Carbine that happened to be manufactured by Norinco, and got serious additional time for it. This is surprising since an editor’s note on page 114 of the Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide (2000 edition) says, “‘Norinco’ refers only to AK 47 rifles or variations thereof.”

Bottom line: Know the law and make sure you follow it. If you aren’t sure, write ATF for clarification. If you get into a scrape with the law, get a good lawyer. If you are trying to apply the information in this FAQ to one of the “listed rifles”, you should get additional information.

What’s the deal with thumbhole stocks?

The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban restricted a “pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon”. The 1994 language makes no mention that the pistol grip be “separate”. Therefore, it is generally accepted that for the purposes of the 1994 AWB, thumbhole and “Dragunov” stocks are considered as having pistol grips. While for the purposes of Title 18 USC § 922(r), they appear to not have a “separate pistol grips”.

In addition, the California Department of Justice web site says: “To implement recent assault weapon legislation, the Department of Justice has proposed regulations to define assault weapon characteristics. Under the proposed regulations, the proposed definition for ‘pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon’ means ‘a grip that allows for a pistol style grasp in which the web of the trigger hand (between the thumb and index finger) can be placed below the top of the exposed portion of the trigger while firing.’” Previously published information from the California Attorney General includes photos in which an extreme Monte Carlo stock can be considered to have a pistol grip.

Also see the explanation of pistol grips and 922(r)

Don’t they have to prove my rifle isn’t “pre-ban”?

Some folks assert that if they are ever questioned about their rifle being pre-ban, all they have to say “prove that it's not pre-ban.” However, in the case of the 1994 AWB, the mere possession of an offending rifle is illegal. As GonzoSKS1 (a lawyer and frequent contributor to the Survivor's SKS Boards) points out:

If you get tagged with too many ‘evil features’, you're holding a gun that is facially designated as ‘banned’. That means the government has its prima facia case already, and they have met their burden of proof. You have an affirmative defense if you can prove its pre-ban, but you bear that burden.

For more information, GonzoSKS1’s full comments on the Survivor's SKS Boards web site.

Note: This is why it is recommended to have proof of “pre-ban” status, namely receipts, bills of sale, etc.

Does the 1994 AWB ever go away?

It expired after ten years on Sept 13th, 2004.

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General Modifications Questions:

What modifications can I do to my SKS Carbine?

This author’s advice: Appreciate the SKS Carbine for what it is. Don’t mess with it. The longer you own one the more you will find that it works best in its original form without a lot of accessories.

Can I put a detachable magazine on my SKS Carbine?

The short answer is “NO”. To add a detachable magazine to an imported SKS Carbine violates the “1989 Import Ban”. Specifically, it is a violation of Title 18 USC § 922(r).

For more information, check out the discussion of the legality of detachable magazines on the Survivor's SKS Boards web site.

Warning: Do not use detachable magazines with your SKS Carbine unless you are sure that it is legal for you to do so.

Since my SKS Carbine is already “imported”, can’t I just do whatever I please to it?

Despite the fact that the rifle is already here, anytime you modify your rifle you'll need to comply with the current requirements of Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3) and § 922(r). Any remaining “restricted features” will need to be removed. For most SKS Carbine this leaves the bayonet mount as the only remaining “restricted feature”.

In the past, ATF has said the bayonet mount (without the bayonet) may remain on a fixed magazine SKS. So you should only really need to remove the night sights in order to get legal. However, it is unclear whether this is still the official ATF position.

Wait a minute! This rifle is my property, I’m not an FFL and ATF can’t tell me what I can and cannot do to it.

There is at least one prominent contributor to the various SKS boards who promotes this view. So as to accurately present his view, here’s a quote:

“I argue BATF advisory letters affect licensed persons only, not the general public, and that they do not bear the force of law (they're not law). … Till we see a Federal law banning bayonets on imported ChiCom SKS rifles, I don't think anyone -- other than a Fed or someone licensed by BATFE need worry about it.”

While I respect this individual’s tremendous knowledge of SKS Carbines, I disagree with him on this particular issue. ATF has not just advised FFL holders on this matter, but they have “determined” that adding a bayonet to a non-C&R (i.e.: Chinese) SKS is a 922(r) violation. Download the ATF Brochure, then take note of two things:

1)    The list of prohibited features for an SKS Carbine.

2)    ATF claims that these prohibitions apply to “anyone” … not just FFL holders, but “anyone”.

While it could be claimed that ATF doesn't have the Constitutional authority to propagate such restrictions, ATF clearly thinks it does have the authority to tell you what you can and cannot do with your rifle. And they think they got this authority from Congress and the President. Trying to convince them otherwise is going to require more legal resources than 99.999999% of gun owners have access to.

Now your chances of actually being cited for a 922(r) violation are infinitely small (maybe even zero). In fact, a lawyer on one of the SKS boards ran a legal search and found no known 922(r) convictions. Maybe that's because the rules are in fact illegal and ATF knows it. As for me, I’m not looking for a court fight. I view compliance parts as either: a "tax" which goes directly to US manufactures, or cheap legal insurance.

What modifications can I do to my imported fixed-magazine SKS Carbine without violating Title 18 USC § 922(r)?

As long as your SKS Carbine contains more than ten imported parts, the answer is: “Not very much”. Some guidance can be gleaned from a letter to the NRA from ATF Technology Branch, printed in the NRA magazine, American Rifleman May, 1994. It specifically mentions the following the following modifications of an standard SKS Carbine would not be violations of Title 18 USC § 922(r):

1.    Replace the existing stock and handguard with a non-folding wooden or synthetic stock having either a Monte Carlo or thumbhole design. [See the discussion of pistol grips and thumbhole stocks.]

2.    Attach a muzzle mounted recoil compensator, provided that the device is not also designed as a flash suppressor.

3.    Replace the existing 10 round magazine with a fixed 5 round magazine or install a block in the well of the 10 round fixed magazine to limit its capacity to 5 rounds.

4.    Replace the existing receiver cover with a cover having a telescopic sight based and/or rings.

5.    Replace the front and/or rear sight or install an ambidextrous safety.

The full text of this letter can be found in an older SKS FAQ, found on James Bardwell’s old web site. The letter is dated, so it does not address Yugoslavian Type 59/66 that are imported with bayonets, night sites, and grenade launchers. It is reasonable to assume that all three of these features must be removed if these rifles are modified out of their C&R status. The letter also mentions detachable magazines (see the LCMM discussion) and fixed large capacity magazines (see the 20-round magazine discussion), but these modifications are no longer allowed.

What modifications can I really do to my SKS Carbine?

If your SKS Carbine has 10-or-less imported parts you can bypass Title 18 USC § 922(r).

Can I put the bayonet back on my “pre-ban” Chinese SKS?

Once you alter the configuration and remove a “restricted feature”, it is lost—you cannot restore the feature later. Title 18 USC § 922(r) tells us that the rifle must meet current restrictions each time it's modified. However, as a practical matter: Once the rifle is back in its original configuration, it will be difficult for anyone to prove it was ever modified in the first place…difficult, but not impossible, so caution is in order.

Restricted features may be removed during the process of repair and maintenance. It is not clear how long and under what circumstances ATF could consider protracted repair and maintenance as assembling a new configuration.

There are instances where “restricted features” added. For example, when a modified rifle is restore to its original C&R condition. However, Chinese SKS carbine are non-C&R.

I see lots of SKS Carbines on the Internet, at guns show, in pawn shops, etc. that look illegal, what do these guys know that you don’t?

If it looks illegal, it probably is. The vast majority of people who modify SKS Carbines either don’t know the law, don’t care to know the law, or just don’t care. If you have any question as to whether a particular modification is legal, make sure the seller can prove either:

1.    The modification is one is approved by the ATF.

2.    The modification is predates a particular ban and is grandfathered.

3.    The modified SKS Carbine contains 10-or-less imported parts.

Can I legally do add stuff to my rifle; don’t I need to have a license or something?

Here is a quote from the Q&A portion of the 2005 Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide:

(A7) Does the GCA prohibit anyone from making a handgun, shotgun or rifle? With certain exceptions a firearm may be made by a nonlicensee provided it is not for sale and the maker is not prohibited from possessing firearms. However, a person is prohibited from making a semiautomatic assault weapon or assembling a nonsporting semiautomatic rifle or nonsporting shotgun from imported parts.

So it appears that you can indeed modify your SKS Carbine for your own personal use—as long as the modification is legal. If there's any question on whether modifications to a firearm are legal, you should write ATF. (Keep a copy the response with the rifle just in case another law enforcement organization ever questions things. Keep the original in a safe place.) If you’re really concerned, don't make the modifications yourself—find a competent gunsmith who is knowledgeable about the law, and let them do the work for you. Of course, your State may be more restrictive than the ATF.

But whether you modify your rifle or not, you may eventually run into a law enforcement officer who simply don't know what all the rules (understandably, most just don't have the time to be up on the details of every rule and regulation, especially the obscure ones relating to the modification of imported semi-automatic rifles). If that's the case, legal or not, your in trouble—I can just imagine trying explaining to an law enforcement officer that the bayonet and grenade launcher on a C&R Yugoslavian SKS Carbine are really legal: “No really officer, you see there's this ‘Curio and Relic List’ from ATF that says the grenade launcher is legal. No really, there is…”

And though you can later sell the firearm, at least some FFL dealers will not want to handle it. So you may be looking at restoring the firearm to original condition or selling it to a private party—which may substantially reduce its value. Owners of AK rifles realized this long ago: Even though you can “do it yourself” many AK owners send their rifles to licensed gunsmiths and re-manufacturers for modification. Think about it—The resale value of a ‘Really Nice Professionally Modified AK’ is bound to a lot higher than a ‘Larry's Hack Job, Might Not Be Completely Legal If He Klutzed It, Not Up To Professional Standards AK’.

Can I own detachable magazines and other parts?

Title 18 USC § 922(r) does not prohibit the importation, sale, or possession of parts that may be used to assemble a semiautomatic rifle or shotgun in violation of the statute.

Note that these rules are not that same as the rule governing NFA (automatic) firearms and parts. Under NFA rules, simply owning the parts that can be assembled into an automatic weapon, silencer, etc. is prohibited.

This is all really complicated, has anyone ever gone to jail for this 922(r) stuff?

The biggest obstacle for enforcing Title 18 USC § 922(r) is that it prohibits the assembly of imported firearms that don’t pass the sporting clause found in Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3) but such firearms are not defined in either the law, regulations, or rulings, and may well never be defined. ATF has produced “determinations” as to what they consider to be non-sporting. But, how can you prosecute someone for building a rifle that is prohibited in 925(d)(3) when there is no description or definition of these firearms? Add to that the difficulty in actually showing who did the assembly, and you can see why I’m told that there are no known 922(r) prosecutions per se.

That having been said, it doesn’t mean such prosecutions will never happen—ATF is often criticized for not enforcing the rules already on the books, so they could step up enforcement without notice. And even if ATF never steps up enforcement it doesn’t mean there couldn’t be other consequences: For example, if you or a family member ever run afoul of the law, the prosecution could claim that you were in possession of an “illegal assault weapon”, and this could entitle you to a serious sentence enhancement.

How can I check to make sure my SKS Carbine’s modifications are legal?

You can write ATF in Washington D.C., outline your project, and ask for a ‘determination’. This will give you piece of mind. ATF has said that they “anyone can request a determination”. Don’t be bashful—ATF has said that they will not publish a list because anyone can write them and ask if a particular configuration is legal. Be respectful and be sure that you clearly outline what you propose to do. The address is:

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
Firearms Technology Branch
650 Massachusetts Avenue, NW—Room 6450
Washington, DC 20226

Note that being clear means more than just asking “is it legal?” It would be even better to ask: “Is the resulting firearm would be importable under Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3)?” “Is the resulting firearm an ‘assault weapon’ as defined in Title 18 USC § 921(a)(30)?” Or “would the foregoing be a ‘short barrel rifle’ under the 1934 NFA?”

Is there any other way to ensure my SKS Carbine’s modifications are legal?

Some basic information on what is importable under Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3) can be found in the Firearms and Explosives Imports Branch’s (FEIB) Guidebook.

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Modifications to C&R Rifles:

What happens if I modify a C&R SKS Carbine?

C&R Firearms fall into three categories: Curios, relics and museum pieces. We'll skip any discussion of modifications to museum pieces, since most collectors do not encounter them. Relics are firearms over fifty years old. Curios are firearms less than fifty years old, which are determined by ATF to “derive a substantial part of their monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or because of their association with some historical figure, period, or event.”  Each of these categories is treated differently.

What happens if I modify a Curio C&R SKS Carbine?

In general, just about any modification you can think of causes a C&R rifle to lose its C&R status: Replacing a wooden stock with a synthetic one, adding a muzzle break, removing the bayonet, etc.

Since SKS Carbines would normally be prohibited from importation due to its “non-sporting” features. The ONLY reason they are allowed into the country is because it is C&R eligible, meaning that it has some sort of historical value. Furthermore, ATF has stated repeatedly that in order for a surplus military firearm to retain C&R status, it must be complete and in its “original military configuration”. Otherwise, it is not C&R and may not be importable under Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3).

Should C&R status be lost, the firearm would not be transferable as a C&R firearm. In addition, any remaining “restricted features” will need to be removed. For most SKS Carbines, the bayonet is the only “restricted feature”. For Yugoslavian Type 59/66A1 SKS Carbines, the grenade launcher, and night sights may also be “restricted features”. But as long as the restricted features are removed, there is nothing illegal about modifying a non-C&R SKS rifle.

In the past, ATF has said the bayonet mount (without the bayonet) may remain on a fixed magazine SKS. So you should only really need to remove the night sights in order to get legal. However, it is unclear whether this is still the official ATF position.

Once C&R status is lost, can I get it back?

The general consensus is that if a firearm is restored to its C&R configuration, it again becomes a C&R firearm.

My Russian SKS Carbine is over 50 years old, isn’t it automatically C&R no matter what modifications are done to it?

The ATF has stated that any firearm over 50 years old is a relic, and automatically C&R. However, ATF has stated that the ‘50 year old’ rule does not apply to firearms that have been substantially altered. (In this case, the age of the receiver is not the same as the age of the firearm.) SKS Carbines that are less than 50 years old must be in their “original military configuration” in order to be C&R — thus “substantially altered” is a less restrictive standard allowing for additional modifications.

However, it's not a matter of “anything goes”. For more information on substantial alterations and the effect on C&R firearms, check out Saand’s letter on the Survivor's SKS Boards web site.

If you have a 50+ year old SKS Carbine which could be considered “substantially altered”, you should probably write ATF for a determination as to whether it is still C&R.

Would adding a scope mount to an SKS Carbine void its C&R status?

ATF has stated repeatedly that in order for a surplus military firearm to retain C&R status, it must be complete and in its “original military configuration”. This has lead many to conclude that adding a scope to an SKS Carbine would void the C&R status. However, this is not entirely correct, as ATF does allow for “minor change[s]” without voiding the C&R status.

For example, in a letter sent Murray’s Gunsmithing ATF states that it does allow for “minor change[s] such as the addition of scope mounts, non-original sights, or sling swivels would not remove a firearm from its original condition.” In addition, one member of the Survivor's SKS Boards received correspondence from ATF containing the following: “The exchange of a broken or worn part for another would not remove a C&R forearm from the classification—nor would the attachment of a telescopic sight, provided that the firearm wasn't significantly modified to accept a scope” Shortly after writing for clarification, this author received a telephone call from Sterling Nixon, Chief of the BATF Firearms Technology Branch. He stated verbally that adding a scope does not void the C&R status.

All this makes sense since in the SKS typically uses receiver cover and gas tube based mounts which do not require permanent modifications. However, does this mean that no scope mount voids the C&R status? It all hinges on what “significantly modified” means.

For more information, check out the scope discussion and the discussion of the call from Mr. Nixon on the Survivor's SKS Boards web site.

Note that use of any particular scope mounts hinges on what “significantly modified” means.

Can I remove the bayonet from my C&R SKS Carbine?

Current understanding is that removing the bayonet takes your rifle out from under the protections of its' C&R status. Therefore it would be subject to the requirements of Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3) and § 922(r). This has implications only for the Yugoslavian Type 59/66 Rifles, since for other fixed magazine SKS Carbines the bayonet is the only “restricted feature”

However, ATF wrote one member of the Survivor's SKS Boards web site, and said that “the bayonet … may be removed for shooting purposes without affecting the C&R classification of the firearm.” Thus is would seem that as long as the bayonet mount remains, the rifle is still considered C&R.

For more information, check out the discussion about “shooting purposes” on the Survivor's SKS Boards web site.

Would refinishing an SKS Carbine void its C&R status?

Refinishing a stock or metal parts does not void the C&R status.  That can easily fall under “restoration work”. In any event, it does not alter the “original military configuration”.

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Yugoslavian Type 59/66 Modifications:

What happens if I modify a Yugoslavian Type 59/66 Rifle?

The Yugoslavian Type 59/66 Rifle variation has a bayonet and grenade launcher; the Type 59/66A1 also has glow-in-the-dark night sights. Modifying this rifle voids the C&R status, and the resulting rifle has enough features to violate the “1989 Import Ban” by triggering a violation of Title 18 USC § 922(r).

What if I want to remove the grenade launcher from my Yugoslavian Type 59/66 Rifle?

If the grenade launcher is removed from a Yugoslavian Type 59/66 Rifle, the muzzle threads can be covered by a threaded muzzle brake which is permanently attached to the barrel by welding (seam weld extending at least one-half the circumference of the barrel or four equidistant tack welds) or high temperature (1,100 degrees Fahrenheit) silver solder. The muzzle brake must not additionally function as a flash hider or grenade launcher.

Current understanding is that removing the grenade launcher takes your rifle out from under the protections of its' C&R status. Therefore it would be subject to the requirements of Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3) and § 922(r), forcing you to also remove the bayonet and possibly the night sights.

However, ATF has told one member of the Survivor's SKS Boards web site “the bayonet and grenade launcher may be removed for shooting purposes without affecting the C&R classification of the firearm.” But this begs questions such as: “How long a time period can the grenade launcher be removed for ‘shooting purposes’?” And, “does the threaded muzzle need to be covered and when?”

For more information, check out the discussion about “shooting purposes” on the Survivor's SKS Boards web site and the section on California legal Yugos in this FAQ.

In the past, ATF has said the bayonet mount (without the bayonet) may remain on a fixed magazine SKS. So you should only really need to remove the night sights in order to get legal. However, it is unclear whether this is still the official ATF position.

Where can I get a threaded muzzle brake for a Yugoslavian Type 59/66 Rifle?

Yugoslavian Type 59/66 Rifles use a 14x1 RH thread, whereas the majority of AK rifles use a 14x1 LH thread. To remove the grenade launcher, just punch out the pin and remove the GL as you would any standard fastener (“righty-tighty, lefty-loosey”). The pins are reported to come out easy. The GL is reported to come right off as well using a vice grip or pipe wrench.

You’ll need to replace it with muzzle brakes specifically for the Yugoslavian Type 59/66. These brakes are available from a variety of suppliers, including:

Tapco Muzzle Brakes

CNC Warrior Muzzle Brakes

Various companies sell “California legal Yugos” that still have the bayonet on them—what gives?

California law prohibits the grenade launcher on Yugoslavian Type 59/66 Rifles. Various companies sell so-called “California legal Yugos”, where the grenade launcher is disabled. These rifles are definitely modified, so one would presume they are no longer C&R — which means that these companies should have removed the bayonet along with the grenade launcher.

It's hard to believe that so many companies could all be violating the law by making the GL modification while leaving the bayonet intact. So it seems that “California legal Yugos” exist in something of a legal grey area.

ATF allows for “minor change[s] such as the addition of scope mounts, non-original sights, or sling swivels would not remove a firearm from its original condition.” One possible explanation for “California legal Yugos” is that ATF considers disabling the muzzle brake a “minor change.”  However caution should be exercised, as this is likely not license to remove the grenade launcher and replace it with a muzzle brake.

For more information, check the section on Modifications to C&R Rifles in this FAQ.

Can I remove the bayonet from my Yugoslavian Type 59/66 Rifle??

Current understanding is that removing the bayonet takes your rifle out from under the protections of its' C&R status. Therefore it would be subject to the requirements of Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3) and § 922(r), forcing you to also remove the grenade launcher, threaded muzzle and possibly the night sights.

However, ATF wrote one member of the Survivor's SKS Boards web site, and said that “the bayonet … may be removed for shooting purposes without affecting the C&R classification of the firearm.” Thus is would seem that as long as the bayonet mount remains, the rifle is still considered C&R.

For more information, check out the discussion about “shooting purposes” on the Survivor's SKS Boards web site.

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SKS‑D & SKS‑M Modifications:

What modifications can I make to my SKS‑D?

As long as your SKS Carbine contains more than ten imported parts, the answer is: “Not very much”. However, this author has received correspondence from ATF indicating that the following modifications are legal on an imported SKS‑D:

1.    The removal of the bayonet and leaving the bayonet lug is not prohibited.

2.    Removing the bayonet and bayonet mount is not prohibited.

3.    Replacing the existing stock and handguard with a non-folding wood or synthetic stock having a Monte Carlo design (without a pistol grip feature) similar in design to the existing factory stock is not prohibited.

4.    You may attach a muzzle-mounted recoil compensator, provided that the device is not also designed as a flash suppressor. A commercially designed muzzle brake or recoil compensator, which does not function as a flash hider, may be assembled to the muzzle of your SKS rifle. If the muzzle is threaded, the muzzle brake must be permanently attached to the muzzle by high temperature silver soldering exceeding 11000F or by welding.

5.    Replacing the existing receiver cover with a cover having a telescopic sight based and rings is not prohibited.

6.    Replacing the front and/or rear sight with a fiber optic sight such as the “Fire Sight” manufactured by the Williams Gun Sight Company, Inc. of Davison, MI. is not prohibited.

7.    Installing an ambidextrous safety is not prohibited.

Note this is not an all-inclusive list. One question not addressed is whether a thumbhole stock can be put on an SKS‑M (or an SKS‑D which has had the bayonet mount removed). You will need to write ATF for information on this and other modifications.

Can I replace the Monte Carlo stock on my SKS‑D or SKS‑M with a thumbhole stock?

In this author’s opinion, the answer would be “not without compliance parts”. Each time a rifle is “assembled” it needs to conform to Title 18 USC § 922(r). Think of it sort of like “bringing your house up to code” whenever you do a major remodel on your home. Since the SKS‑D and SKS‑M are by definition capable of using detachable magazines, no “assembly” can be done without resulting in a rifle that is capable of using detachable magazines — a restricted feature.

On an AK-style rifle, changing the style of the stock is considered “assembly” by ATF. An ATF letter says that removing a pistol grip and buttstock and “adding a thumbhole stock to an AK style semiautomatic rifle using more than 10 imported parts would now also constitute assembly of a semiautomatic rifle subject to the cited sections.”

It is not clear exactly which modifications to an SKS‑D or SKS‑M would constitute “assembly” in the eyes of ATF. However, it seems likely that changing the style of the stock would constitute “assembly”.

Can I use “AK drum magazines” in my SKS‑D and SKS‑M?

The short answer is “yes” and “no”. “Yes” it would be legal. But because the magazine well is too deep to accept the drum style magazines, the real answer is “no”. Certain aftermarket stocks (like the ATI Ultralight, for example) have a shallower magazine well that allows drum magazines to be used without altering your existing stock.

It is not clear whether an ATI Ultralight stock can be put on an SKS‑M or SKS‑D. You will need to write ATF for information on other modifications.

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Modifications Summery:

Do you have a simpler way for me to understand all this?

Here is a table that might make things a little easier to understand. However, the table is only a summery, and you should make sure you research the particulars of any purposed modifications. The table assumes you’re starting with a fixed magazine imported SKS:

Item Description

Voids C&R Status
Corrective action:
Remove offending features if C&R status is lost—see 922(r) column.

922(r) Violation
Corrective action:
Replace parts until there are 10-or-less imported parts.

AWB Violation 5
Corrective action:

Count 1994 AWB “evil features”. Only one “evil feature” allowed.

Pistol Grip Stock

Yes

?

Counted Feature 1

Thumbhole Stock

Yes

No

Counted Feature 1

Monte Carlo Stock

Yes

No

Counted Feature 2

Folding Stock

Yes

Yes

Counted Feature 3

Bolt-on Scope mount

No

No

No

Drilled Scope mount

?

No

No

Detachable Magazine

Yes

Yes

No

High-Cap Fixed Mag.

Yes

Yes

No

Low-Cap Fixed Mag.

Yes

No

No

Muzzle Break

Yes

No

No

Flash Suppresser

Yes

Yes

Counted Feature 1

Threaded Barrel

Yes

Yes 4

Counted Feature 1 4

Fixed Bipod

Yes

?

No

Swivel Mount Bipod

?

No

No

Repair with like parts

No

No

No

Refinish

No

No

No

Add Bayonet

N/A

Yes

No

Add Bayonet Mount

N/A

No

Counted Feature 1

Add Grenade Launcher

Yes

Yes

Counted Feature 1

Add Night Sights

Yes

?

No

Remove Bayonet

?

N/A

N/A

Remove Bayonet Mount

Yes

N/A

N/A

Remove Grenade Launcher

Yes

N/A

N/A

Remove Night Sights

Yes

N/A

N/A

Add Spring-loaded FP

Yes

No

No

Notes:

1.    If the rifle has a detachable magazine, this feature counts as one 1994 AWB “evil feature”.

2.    If the rifle has a detachable magazine, an extreme Monte Carlo stock counts as one 1994 AWB “evil feature”.

3.    If the rifle has a detachable magazine, a folding or telescoping stock with a pistol grip counts as two 1994 AWB “evil features”.

4.    Covering the threads with a muzzle break and permanently attaching the break with silver solder, effectively removes the threads.

5.    Nationwide the 1994 AWB expired Sept 13, 2004. However, some states enacted their own AW bans that remain in effect.

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“10-or-less” Questions:

Overview:

Any rifle with ten-or-less imported parts is not subject to the provisions of Title 18 USC § 922(r). While there may be dozens of parts in any particular rifle, ATF has defined a list of twenty specific parts that are “counted”. Note that the total number of “counted parts” is not important, just the number of those counted parts that are imported. So often swapping just a few imported parts for US-made ones frees a rifle from the onerous provisions of Title 18 USC § 922(r).

What are the parts that are “counted”?

178.39 defines a list of twenty parts that ATF considerers when deciding if a firearm is imported or not. The total number of listed parts in the rifle is not important, so often swapping just a few imported parts for US-made ones frees a rifle from the provisions of Title 18 USC § 922(r). The listed parts are:

1)    Frames, receivers, receiver castings, forgings or stampings

2)    Barrels

3)    Barrel extensions

4)    Mounting blocks (trunnions)

5)    Muzzle attachments

6)    Bolts

7)    Bolt carriers

8)    Operating rods

9)    Gas pistons

10) Trigger housings

11) Triggers

12) Hammers

13) Sears

14) Disconnectors

15) Buttstocks

16) Pistol grips

17) Forearms, handguards

18) Magazine bodies

19) Followers

20) Floorplates

If more than ten of the listed parts are imported, the entire rifle is considered imported. If ten or less of the listed parts are imported, the entire rifle is considered “US-Made”. Recall that the onerous requirements of Title 18 USC § 922(r) only apply to imported rifles.

Just how many of these parts are in an SKS Carbine?

Here are the relevant parts in an SKS Carbine:

1.    Receiver

2.    Barrel

3.    Bolt

4.    Bolt carrier

5.    Gas piston

6.    Trigger housing

7.    Trigger

8.    Hammer

9.    Sear

10. Disconnector (see below)

11. Stock

12. Handguard

13. Magazine body

14. Follower

Note: This list has been confirmed by ATF. For more information, check out the discussion of 18 USC § 922(r) parts count on the Survivor's SKS Boards web site.

Which part is the “disconnector”?

Take a look at the trigger assembly of an SKS Carbine. The book The Official SKS Manual calls the “rebound disconnector” the “disconnector”. The book The SKS Carbine calls the “bolt follower disconnector” the “disconnector”. Thus these two references cannot agree on which of these parts are disconnectors. In the other hand, the book The SKS—Type 45 Carbines refers to both of these as “disconnectors”.

According to the ATF, the part that aligns the trigger bar with the sear, is considered to be the disconnector for 18 USC § 922(r) purposes.

Does the SKS Carbine have “floorplate”, or is it built into the magazine body on an SKS?

The “floorplate” is built into the magazine body on a standard fixed magazine SKS Carbine. Note that creating an SKS Carbine with “10-or-less” imported parts typically involves replacing the entire magazine assembly; only two imported parts are removed.

Does the SKS Carbine have “operating rod”?

The Official SKS Manual calls the part in question a “driving rod”. The SKS Carbine calls the part in question a “gas piston extension”. However, in almost all military arms, a metal rod that “acts on” the bolt or carrier of a rifle and is not one in the same with the gas piston is called an “operating rod”. Thus others call the part in question an “operating rod”.

Note that the above parts list from ATF does not include an operating rod.

How many imported parts can be replaced in an SKS Carbine?

Using commercially available parts, you can replace the following parts:

1)    Replace the stock with aftermarket US-made version.

2)    Replace the handguard with aftermarket US-made version.

3)    Replace the gas piston with a US-made version from Tapco (#SKS6602), or SKSMan.com.

4)    Replace the magazine with a 100% US-made magazine, including the magazine body, follower and floorplate. (Replaces two imported parts.)

5)    On Yugoslavian Type 59/66 Carbines: Remove the grenade launcher and replace it with a US-made muzzle break (foreign muzzle attachments are counted). See the FAQ’s on removing the Yugoslavian Type M59/66 grenade launcher for more info.

6)    Replace the hammer, sear and trigger with US-made versions from Murray’s Gunsmithing.

On a typical SKS Carbine, you will need to replace four parts. On Yugoslavian Type 59/66 Rifle, you will need to replace five parts.

These US-made parts are sometimes known as “compliance parts”, since they are used to ensure that the resulting rifle is “compliant” with Title 18 USC § 922(r).

How many imported parts can be replaced in an SKS‑D and SKS‑M?

The SKS‑D and SKS‑M utilize AK-style magazines. On these magazines, the “floorplate” is not built into the magazine body. Thus, SKS‑D and SKS‑M have an additional imported part.

In the past, there were no sources for US-made AK-style magazines or parts. However, these are now available from several manufacturers. Note that there are reports of persistent reliability issues with US-made magazine bodies. A better solution would be to add US-made AK followers and floorplates to imported magazine bodies.

I have some detachable magazines that are imported and some that are US-made. Is this a problem?

With reference to using magazines for compliance purposes, the following quote was taken from an ATF letter posted on the Soupbowl Enterprises web site:  “If the modified rifle were possessed with an imported magazine…a violation of § 922(r) would occur.”

ATF has left us to try and figure out what “possessed with” means. It would be safe to assume that you should convert all of the magazines you carry around with the rifle. But, given the ambiguity, a person should seriously consider converting all their magazines to be compliant if they intend magazines as compliance parts.

I bought some “US-Made Parts”. My sales receipt says “Made in USA”, but the parts themselves aren’t marked. Is this a problem?

An unscrupulous dealer could simply take imported parts and sell them as US-Made. This is a problem. Compliance parts should be clearly marked as “US-Made”, or have the identity of the manufacturer, etc.

The law doesn't contain an exception to criminal liability for assembling a rifle with too many imported parts based on a good faith belief that you were using USA parts. It’s what is called a “strict liability” crime—there's no “mens rea” (Latin for “illegal intent”) element. The law imposes on you the obligation to perform due diligence. If you get duped, you could end up in prison. Of course, after you're in prison you could conceivably prosecute the seller for fraud. But that doesn’t help you.

For more information, check out the GonzoSKS1's post on the subject on the Survivor's SKS Boards web site.

“Caveat Emptor” is Latin for “let the buyer beware”.

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C&R Firearms Questions:

Overview:

The 2005 Federal Firearms Regulations Reference Guide states that “firearms which are of special interest to collectors by reason of some quality other than is associated with firearms intended for sporting use or as offensive or defensive weapons. To be recognized as curios or relics.”

When the ATF designates a firearm as eligible for Curio & Relic status, it does so based on 3 factors. If the firearm meets any of these 3 factors, it can be eligible. These factors are:

1)    Firearms which were manufactured at least 50 years prior to the current date, but not including replicas thereof;

2)    Firearms which are certified by the curator of a municipal, State, or Federal museum which exhibits firearms to be curios or relics of museum interest; and

3)    Any other firearms which derive a substantial part of their monetary value from the fact that they are novel, rare, bizarre, or because of their association with some historical figure, period, or event. Proof of qualification of a particular firearm under this category may be established by evidence of present value and evidence that like firearms are not available except as collector's items, or that the value of like firearms available in ordinary commercial channels is substantially less.

It is generally accepted (and verified by the ATF) that any firearm over 50 years old is automatically C&R. However, ATF has stated that the ‘50 year old’ rule does not apply to firearms that have been substantially altered. (In this case, the age of the receiver is not the same as the age of the firearm.)

Since most SKS Carbines are not 50 years old yet anyway, they typically fall into categories 2 and 3 of the above list. However, in order to retain their C&R status, they must be in their original configuration — thus almost any modification will void the C&R status of an SKS Carbine.

Is it really true, is every firearm over 50 years old automatically C&R?

ATF has previously determined that any firearm that was actually manufactured more than 50 years ago, automatically qualifies as a curio or relic. It is not necessary for such firearms to be listed in the ATF Firearms Curio & Relic List.

However, ATF has stated that the ‘50 year old’ rule does not apply to firearms that have been substantially altered. You are encouraged to contact ATF for confirmation that an altered firearm still qualifies as a curio or relic.

In addition, there have been instances in which individuals have incorrectly dated a firearm due to misidentification, erroneous reference material, or for various other reasons. Just like everyone else, a licensed collector is legally required to have non-C&R firearms (shipped from another state) to a “transfer dealer”.

For more information on substantial alterations and the effect on C&R firearms, check out Saand’s letter on the Survivor's SKS Boards web site.

If you have substantially altered an SKS Carbine that is over 50 years old, you should probably write ATF for a determination as to whether it is still C&R.

Are SKS Carbines on the C&R list?

SKS Carbines from a number of nations are on the list. ATF Publication 5300.11, Firearms Curios and Relics List, consists of lists of those firearms determined to be curios or relics from 1972 to the present. Updates may be found on the ATF Curio and Relic web page.

What happens if I modify a C&R firearm?

ATF has stated repeatedly that in order for a surplus military firearm to retain C&R status, it must be complete and in its “original military configuration”.

If a C&R firearm were modified from its original configuration, it would no longer be classified as C&R. It would be unlawful for a licensed collector to receive or transfer such a firearm as a C&R if it no longer meets the definition. Further, the firearm may be in a configuration that is not importable under Title 18 USC § 925(d)(3). Thus any modifications must be in compliance with the provisions of Title 18 U.S.C. § 922(r) and § 922(v).

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C&R / 03 License Questions:

Overview:

A “licensed collector” is someone with a type 03 (03 FFL), also known as a “Curio and Relics License” or simply a “Collector’s License”. A licensed collector has legal responsibilities much like a dealer. But they also don't have anywhere near the latitude that dealers have.

It is imperative that you keep good clean records. Don't ever fudge your logbook. The ATF just loves to bust people who have done that. They even like to bust you on honest errors. ATF inspections of C&R licensees are pretty rare, but they do occur. They are generally pretty painless and the agents are usually somewhat patient and respectful. But they don't always know what they're doing. So the fewer questions they have about your logs, the better off you are.

As a C&R licensee, you are in the same boat with everybody else when it comes to non-C&R firearms. You don't have to log them in or out, and you do have to go through the NICS checks and fill out paperwork like everybody else. So, when it comes to non-C&R firearms, you might as well not be a C&R licensee. The license affords you no special treatment with regard to non-C&R firearms.

Also, even though you are a C&R licensee, you still must abide by all your State/local laws. If handguns must be registered in your state, then you must register them. Being a C&R licensee doesn't give you any privileges with respect to State/local requirements.

What are the benefits of having a C&R license?

Officially, the only thing a C&R FFL does for you is it allows you to purchase C&R firearms in interstate commerce and have them sent directly to you without going through a dealer. That's it. It does not give you any other special privileges. For example, if your state requires registration of certain firearms, then you must still register firearms you purchase with your C&R FFL. If your state requires that certain firearms be transferred via a dealer, you will not be able to acquire them using your C&R FFL. These are in addition to the Federal requirement to log them into your bound book.

However, there are some unexpected benefits to being a “licensed collector”—For example, once companies have your license in their system, all you have to do is pick up the phone, give them your credit card number, and wait for your C&R firearm to arrive. Also, many companies (Midway USA and Brownell’s to name just two) will give their “dealer prices” to C&R holders.

There is another unexpected benefit to being a “licensed collector”—it makes it easier to ship non-C&R handguns you happen to sell via one of those ‘Internet gun sales’. How so? When a firearm is sold out of state, it must be shipped to a 01 FFL who acts as a transfer dealer. Unfortunately, most common carriers no longer accept firearms from private individuals. Both United Parcel Service (UPS) Federal Express (FedEx) are exceptions. They allow private individuals to ship firearms, including handguns, to a dealer or manufacturer, but only for repair and customization. However, they will transport firearms between licensed importers, licensed manufacturers, licensed dealers and licensed collectors for any reason. For more information consult the “tariff” on the UPS website or FedEx website. (Note that the United States Postal Service (USPS) still accepts rifles and shotguns from private individuals.)

Can I give away C&R Firearms I acquire as gifts?

Yes, you can gift away rifles acquired with your C&R. However, ATF isn't stupid —they can tell if you are buying guns for other people on your license … DO NOT purchase firearms with the specific intent of giving them away or selling to someone else. The ATF will see this as a “straw purchase”. Should you ever be inspected, ATF will take notice that you only had it for a day or two. If you've done this more than once, it will raise eyebrows.

Please do not use your license for this purpose. It does damage to us all.

Are licensed collectors required to comply with the notification requirements of the “Youth Handgun Safety Act”?

Yes. The requirement that written notification concerning juvenile handgun possession be given by licensees to a nonlicensee to whom a handgun is delivered applies to curio or relic handguns transferred by licensed collectors. However, the sign posting requirement does not apply to licensed collectors. In the case of collectors, a requirement to post signs at the licensed premises would serve no purpose because the premises is not a business premises open to the public and licensed collectors may lawfully dispose of curio or relic handguns away from their licensed premises.

Where can I have firearms I purchase delivered?

When you make purchases with your C&R License, they can only be delivered to the address on your license. If you move you will need to obtain an amended license.

Firearms and ammunition typically require an “adult signature” at delivery, so you may need to make special arrangements with the carrier if someone isn’t at home during the day. Typically, you should be able to call and arrange for pick up at there hub. Have your ID and copy of your FFL available.

What is a C&R license and how do I obtain one?

First of all, it is important that you understand the difference between a C&R (type 03) FFL and a dealer (type 01) FFL. The C&R FFL is a Federal Firearms License for collectors of Curio & Relic Firearms. It is strictly for enhancing a personal collection of vintage/historical firearms. The ATF has made it clear that it is not to be used for buying firearms for your friends, family, or to be used for "dealing" in firearms.

However, it is understandable that selling and trading firearms is a natural part of collecting. Just like stamp collectors will trade part of their collection for a piece of greater value to them, C&R collectors can do the same. But we must always be sure that we are not dealing in firearms. It is even acceptable to sell a firearm and make a profit. But again, it's all in your intent.

To obtain a C&R FFL, you simply fill out a couple of forms, mail them to the ATF with a check for $30, send a duplicate copy of the application to your chief law enforcement officer (CLEO), and wait for your license to show up in the mail. It's that simple!

There are two forms to fill out. One is the actual C&R FFL application. The second form is a Certification of Citizenship form. They are both simple forms and fairly self-explanatory. You used to be able to download them directly from the ATF web site. However, now these must be ordered by mail from the ATF Distribution Center. The good news is that the forms are still free.

Once you have the forms filled in, you need to make 2 copies of the C&R application and 1 copy of the citizenship form. You will send the originals to the ATF with your check for $30. You will keep one copy of each for your records. And you will send one copy of the C&R application to your CLEO (Chief Law Enforcement Officer). For those of you who live outside city limits, your CLEO will most likely be your county sheriff. If you live in town, it will probably be your local police chief. Call their office and make sure.

The CLEO doesn't need the citizenship verification form; just the application. I even wrote a cute little note to my CLEO, informing him what this was and stating that it required no action on his part. It is just for his records. If he believes that you should not have this license (and has legal reasons for it), then he needs to contact the ATF. I've heard of some CLEOs who have contacted the applicants to tell them that he doesn't want them having this license. If your CLEO tells you this, smile at him and say it's not his decision unless there is a legal reason for you not to own a firearm. Again, you are sending him this copy as required by law. It is a courtesy copy and NOT something that he has the power to deny you. The second page of the C&R application explains this. I highlighted it for him on his copy, just so he wouldn't miss it. You don't need to take it to him in person, either. That causes trouble for a lot of people. They get in a big debate with the CLEO over it. Just mail it to him and forget about it. You have fulfilled your obligation. You might want to send it return-receipt, just so you have a record that he got it.

It will take anywhere from 10 days to 6 months or more to get it back. It depends on which state you live in, your criminal record, etc. First, your application goes to the Dallas office. There, they cash the check. Then they send it to Atlanta. Do not get excited when they cash your check! It means nothing, except the fact that they have received your application!

It seems that the ATF has different reps for each state. Some are overworked and some can actually get their work done in a reasonable amount of time. They will contact your state to do a background check and process the paperwork. This is where hang-ups usually happen. If there is an error on your application, it will cause delays. If there is a problem with your background check, it will cause delays. If the ATF agent goes on vacation (which they seem to do a lot), it will cause delays. If it has been 6 weeks since you sent off your application and you haven't heard anything, call the ATF. They are generally friendly folks, if you ever actually get to speak to one. 6 weeks is the general rule.

Once your application is approved, you will receive two packages in the mail. One will be your license. The other will be several books of Federal regulations, state laws, and the list of C&R eligible firearms (as well as some forms in case your firearms are stolen, etc.). These packages are sent from separate locations and may arrive several days or weeks apart.

And that's it! You will now be an official C&R FFL holder. You will need to make lots of copies of your license and sign them with blue ink. DO NOT SIGN THE ORIGINAL!!!!

When you want to purchase a C&R firearm, you need to send a copy to the seller. They must receive an original ink-signed copy of your license. This is why I say to use blue ink: there's no way they can claim it's a photocopy of your signature. And the reason you never sign the original is so that you can make more copies of it and sign those copies.

You'll want to go ahead and mail copies of your license to all the major wholesalers and distributors with whom you might do business in the future. I have listed several companies in the "other retailers" forum, with contact info, mailing addresses, phone/fax numbers, and websites. These companies will put you in their system. So when you want to buy a C&R firearm, all you have to do is pick up the phone, give them your credit card number, and wait for your C&R firearm to arrive. You may also want to send a copy to other major companies who give their “dealer prices” to C&R holders.

Every C&R firearm you buy/sell/trade must be logged in and out of your bound book. You must maintain this bound book at all times, and must keep it for 20 years after the last entry. So make sure it's kept safe and current. The ATF has the right to inspect your records as often as once a year, although an audit of a C&R FFL is fairly rare. You can use one of the books sold by Brownell's or make your own bound book. I use a 3-ring binder with pages I printed out from type03.net website. Just print out the page, make 20 copies or so, put them in a binder, and start ordering C&R firearms.

Were can I get a bound book?

Bound books are sold by a variety of online vendors (Midway USA and Brownell’s to name just two). You can also download individual pages from the web.

Do I need to log non-C&R firearms into my bound book?

When buying or selling non-C&R firearms, do not log them in your bound book. In fact, you'll catch it from ATF if you do log non-C&R firearms in your bound book.

Do I need to log C&R firearms I already own into my bound book?

Acquisitions and dispositions of C&R firearms must be logged. If you owned a C&R rifle prior to receiving your license, do not log it in unless you sell it. The ATF only cares about purchases and dispositions, not about what's currently in your collection. If you sell a C&R firearm that you owned prior to licensure, you should go ahead and log it in as coming from your personal (pre-licensure) collection, then log it out as you normally would any other C&R firearm.

Do I need to log all C&R firearms into my bound book; what if I didn’t use my license?

Contrary to popular belief, you must record all your C&R transactions, regardless of whether you used your C&R license or not. For example, if you go to a gun show and buy a firearm without using use your license, you must still log it in your book. Some people seem to think that if you don't actually use your license to obtain the C&R firearm, then you don't have to log it—they are incorrect!

How long do I need to keep my bound book?

You must keep your “bound book” must be kept for 20 years after your license expires. Here’s a quote from “§178.129 Record Retention”:

(e) Records of dealers and collectors under the Act. The records prepared by licensed dealers and licensed collectors under the Act of the sale or other disposition of firearms and the corresponding record of receipt of such firearms shall be retained through December 15, 1988, after which records of transactions over 20 years of age may be discarded.

I’ve heard that ATF can inspect my collection, is that really true?

To ensure compliance with record keeping requirements, an ATF officer may inspect the inventory and records of a licensed collector once during any 12-month period. At the election of the collector, the inspection may be performed at the ATF office nearest the place where the inventory and records of the collector are maintained.

Can I have more than one bound book?

The regulations allow you to have more than one physical bound book. Sometimes collectors have two—one for long guns and a separate one for C&R handguns. This is convenient in states (such as NY) that require a state issued permit for handgun purchases.

How do I get a new C&R license if I move?

You must submit ATF Form 5300.38, Application for an Amended Federal Firearms License. As a collector you must complete all items on the form except items 4,14,15,16, and 17. All references to “business” should be considered “collecting activity”. Mail the form along with the original license to:

National Licensing Center
2600 Century Parkway, Suite 400
Atlanta, GA 30345

Note: you must send in this form no less than 30 days prior to moving. You must also notify the CLEO in your new area. The instructions are on the form. Remember to make a bunch of copies before you send your original license back in case you need one. Once you receive your new license you will need to send a new copy anyone purchase from—until they receive your new license, they can only ship to the address on your old license.

Some people say you should hang onto the original, but the instructions say to send the original license back. People who don't mail the original license back report they still get their new license without any problems. However, since an unsigned “copy” is just as good as the original, you may as well follow the instructions.

Do I have to enter firearms I owned before getting my license?

Once you are licensed, all purchases and sales have to be logged. However, there is no requirement to log any firearms you owned prior to licensure, unless you sell them while licensed. When selling these, you should first log them into your book as being "from private collection, owned prior to licensure", and then log them out to the buyer.

What do I put in the various columns of my logbook?

As for what to put in each column, here is how it should be done:

·         Manufacturer or Importer: If it's an imported rifle, just put the importer's name there. If it is an American-made rifle, you would put "Marlin" or "Winchester" or whatever. Look for the importer’s stamp on the barrel or receiver. For Example, on Yugoslavian SKS Carbines it is typically on the on either the side or bottom of the barrel. For US-made C&R firearms and those imported before 1968, use the manufacturer. Look for the importer’s stamp on the barrel or receiver.

·         Model: Self-explanatory. Some examples would be: “Russian Mosin Nagant M44” or “Russian Type 45 SKS” or “Swiss K-31”.

·         Serial Number: This is self-explanatory. Make sure you put the importer's serial number, if there is one. Many of the Russian weapons have Cyrillic serial numbers. The importer will put a new serial number (which may or may not be similar to the original serial number) on the gun. This is the one that needs to be logged, so that your book matches their book. If the BATF audits them and then decides to audit you based on what they saw in the distributor's book, then you want to make sure those serial numbers match.

·         Type: Some people get confused by this: All you need to put here is “rifle”, “handgun”, or “shotgun”.

·         Caliber: Also self-explanatory. Some examples would be: "7.62x39" or "7.62x54R" or "7.62x25 Tokarev".

·         Date: This is the date that you took possession of the firearm. Not the date you ordered it. Not the date your credit card was billed. Not the date they shipped it.

·         Name/Address or Name/FFL: This is where you put the information of the person or company from which you acquired the firearm. If you bought it from a company like Aim or Century, then you need to put the name of the company and their address. I just copy it right off the invoice that came with the rifle. If they put their FFL number on the invoice, put in this space. If you bought the gun from a private individual, you need the same information. Name and address. If they are a licensed collector, then put their FFL number on there also. If you bought it from a dealer, then put his name and FFL number there, as well as the name of the shop.

The same applies for dispositions. If you sell it to someone, you must get their name and address for your bound book. Once you are licensed, you cannot legally sell a C&R firearm to someone without getting their name and address! Furthermore, if they are not licensed, you must put their date of birth (to prove that they are of age to own this firearm), and their driver's license number. If the purchaser is a resident alien, you need their ID number. If they are small and skinny and green with large eyes and just stepped off of a UFO, don't sell them your firearm!

How do I log the “Serial Number” of a C&R firearm if the serial numbers do not all match?

Use the serial number on the receiver. The serial number of the firearm is always the one on the receiver—the receiver is the firearm as far as the legalities of transfer go.

Sometimes importers will assign their own serial numbers. For example, a Russian M44 will usually have Cyrillic characters in the original serial number. Importers may assign their own serial number that they can put into their computer using the Roman alphabet. It will usually be an approximation of the Cyrillic serial number, but not always. Whenever you see an importer's serial number on the firearm, you should log it rather than the original.

Can I use a computer program to track my C&R Firearms?

No.  Before a Federal Firearms Licensee can use a specific computer program for record keeping in lieu of the required bound book format, it is necessary to get approval from ATF.

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