How to clean an SKS

Learn how to clean a SKS Rifle here at The Old Gun Blog with a hands-on, “step by step” article.

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I can’t say it is a cheap habit and neither will my wife. To properly maintain any type of rifle – whether a $59 surplus Romanian M-44 or a $1000 Mauser 98k Sniper Rifle, you need to invest in some basic supplies.
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You can either clean the SKS from the bore end or from the receiver end. If from the bore end, you should have a bore guide so as to protect the crown of the barrel and the rifling from damage caused by the cleaning rod and attachments.
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I have found one of the most important and necessary investments you can make is a good, solid gun stand. There are many on the market – I happen to like the one I purchased because of it being manufactured in plastic. The plastic makes it almost impervious to the solvents and really easy to clean up when it gets dirty. Another necessity is a large and continuous supply of rags. I save every T-Shirt, Dish Rag, Sock, and you name it. They are all washable and a heck of a lot cheaper than buying rags. You need to try and save where you can – you will have ample opportunity to spend in this evil addiction.
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In figure 4 I have disassembled a rifle bolt after a heavy day’s shooting and am letting it soak in Hoppes No. 9, while I am cleaning the rest of the rifle. I also have the recoil spring assembly, gas piston, gas piston extension, and the gas piston extension spring soaking in the solvent.

In the shopping list to the right I make a reference to Solvent. My brand is Hoppes No. 9.

I always save a little bottle to pour some Solvent into and also it fits perfectly into the gun stand. The stand allows you to have Solvent, Patches, Brushes, Slotted Ends, etc in easy reach.

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I use pistol cleaning tools to clean the inside of the gas cylinder and the inside of the gas piston guide below the rear site.
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It is all right to use solvent inside of the gas cylinder and gas piston guide, as long as you completely dry it out after you are done cleaning. Also – do not use brushes and attachments that will scar the inside of the gas components.
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Notice I am using the bore guide to protect the barrel while cleaning the rifle as shown in figure 7. After running a Solvent soaked patch through the barrel, I take a good unbent, bronze brush and run it through the bore 20 times. I run another patch through the bore to gather any excess solvent and crud.

Next I take a clean patch and dowse it with Shooter’s Choice Copper Remover . I have tried many different brands of Copper Remover – but Shooter’s Choice seems to work the best and the fastest. Take a look at Figure 10 and you will see what the patch looks like when you have copper fouling and it is being removed. The patch turns bright blue.

After running the copper remover soaked patch through the bore a couple of times (yes, this is the only time it is all right to pull a patch back through the barrel ), I start again with the Hoppes No. 9 soaked patches to remove the copper solvent.

Continue running a solvent soaked patch alternating with a non soaked, dry patch until the patches come out clean (only the color of the solvent) This may take quite a while and you may actually want to span it over several sessions. This is not rocket science but does require a certain level of tenacity and endurance. You usually do win out over the rifle. When the patches finally do come out clean and you have removed any remaining solvent, take a clean patch and dowse it with Break Free and run it through the barrel. Then take a clean patch and slowly run it through the barrel to sop up any excess.

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With the SKS Magazine open, I take a nylon brush with solvent and clean the inside of the receiver.
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I use a very strong cleaner on the exterior and interior of the bolt. Break Free Powder Blast is a good cleaner for this. It is non oil based and really removes crud without having to scrub and without leaving any residue.
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If you disassemble the bolt spring assembly, a good way to reassemble it is to push a pistol cleaning rod against the bottom of the recoil spring rod , through the bottom of the recoil spring tube. This will push the rod out and allow you to compress the spring and place the retainer over the top.
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I use pistol cleaning rods and slotted ends to take clean patches and run them through the inside of the bolt carrier. This will remove any loose dirt and sop up any solvent.
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After you are finished cleaning the rifle, remove all of the bolt parts that are soaking in solvent. Give them a good brush down with the nylon brush. Just pretend they are really dirty teeth and you just ate two ears of corn. Make sure you dry them with clean rags entirely. I spend some time here, you are not supposed to leave any oil inside of a bolt.
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I run a clean patch or rag with a little break free or a good gun oil over the entire rifle. Then I follow up with a clean rag sopping up any excess.
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I coat the exterior of the bolt and the bolt carrier and then wipe down with a clean rag.
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I save the solvent I soaked all of the parts in and reuse it until it is a dark amber color and then I dispose of it.
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Once I am done cleaning the metal of the rifle, I turn to cleaning the wood. This SKS has an oil based finish, as some of them do, so I use WATCO Rejuvenating Oil to bring the luster back to the wood.
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Place your content for the second column here.
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Using a clean rag with a little Oil, I rub down the stock and handguard. Then I wipe it down with a dry rag.
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If your SKS rifle has a lacquer style finish, do not use the oil. I recommend just using a standard furniture polish to clean and restore the finish.