View Full Version : SKS for deer?

January 11, 2001, 05:29 PM
I'm wanting to get my first deer rifle and have seen some real good deals on some pretty decent looking SKS' and was wondering if the7.62x39 cal cartridge would be okay for whitetails? Thanks in advance.

Art Eatman
January 11, 2001, 06:54 PM
I would strongly recommend against it. The cartridge is marginal, at best. I'm in no way saying it wouldn't kill a deer, but a bad hit means a deer that will most likely just keep right on trucking away and be lost. And, to a certain extent, the SKS is more difficult to aim, compared to conventional hunting rifles.

If you're young enough that your eyes are still happy with iron sights, there are several relatively low-cost routes to take. A good used lever gun in .30-30, for instance. Or, a Walmart Rem 700 ADL in .308 or similar cartridge.

It's early enough in the year to browse through gun stores and listen to all the sales pitches, and ask advice of local hunters about what they use. Then come back here and think on it some more.

There are several gun shows in your area; go to one or two and just look. Don't buy. Don't be in a hurry--it'll save you money.


Dave R
January 11, 2001, 07:22 PM
Art, is your concern over the cartridge or the "aimability"? The ballistics of the 7.62X39 are very close to .30-30. Same diameter bullet; higher velocity for the SKS. If you consider the .30-30 adequate, the SKS should be, too? You'd probably want soft-poitn ammo, rather than FMJ, but that's readily available.

Hard Ball
January 11, 2001, 07:23 PM
I think an SKS would do fairly well for a deer rifle IF you used quality hollow point or soft nose ammunition. I agree with Art that a ,30-30 Winchester would be a better choice. Good luck with your hunting!

Hard Ball

January 11, 2001, 09:09 PM
If you want to get your first deer rifle, buy a deer rifle, not an SKS. Buy an SKS if you want one sure, Im certain the cartridge would kill a deer. But you said you wanted a deer rifle, and that the SKS is not. Savage, Marlin, Remignton, all have some great rifles that arent too hard on the wallet. Give them a look. Let us know what you decide on.

January 11, 2001, 09:47 PM
Just because an sks does not look like a deer rifle dosent mean it is not one. The sks is a very popular gun for deer here in Wisconsin. Most of the hunting is done in heavy timber or brush and a fast follow up shot is nice, and the deer I have seen it used on looked very dead.

January 11, 2001, 10:41 PM
Double tap.

January 11, 2001, 10:42 PM
I've been studying my reloading manuals and have run the numbers through a ballistics calculator.

With a 160 yard zero, the 7.62X39 never deviates from more than 2.9 inches from the point of aim out to 200 yards. It develops 1600 ftlbs of energy at the muzzle and retains over 1000 ftlbs out to 200 yards. It's a .30 caliber 125 grain bullet that should have plenty of momentum to do its work. If the .44 mag is enough for deer from a 6" barrel then I would say the 7.62X39 will work fine for a deer. A .308, 30-06, or .300 win mag it isn't, but within it's limitations it should work well. I've never shot a deer with one, so next season I'm going to carry my "scout" scoped SKS and do a field test.

*A note to anyone that is going to use an SKS for deer. You should use good softpoint American ammo and a solid scope mount and scope is a big plus as placement is crucial. Make sure you hit the range and learn its trigger and that you can consistantly hit with it.

January 11, 2001, 11:51 PM
While I wouldn't pick a SKS for hunting it will do at least as well as a 30-30. With the same basic range limitations.

My best friend's brother used an AK-47 this last deer season, he said he got a lot of strange looks though :D

Art Eatman
January 11, 2001, 11:56 PM
Look. I killed my first deer with my uncle's .222; a very patient doe stood there at around 20 yards and waited for me to hit her in the "white spot". However, I submit that not all deer are that cooperative. Add in that I had been shooting a heckuva lot for over ten years, by that happy day.

When a fella sez it's his first ever deer rifle, I assume several things: He hasn't shot much centerfire. He maybe hasn't done much hunting at all--which in today's world is not unusual. Therefore, he has a lot to learn about a "real" rifle and about deer hunting.

Compared to conventional deer rifles, an SKS is an awkward beast. For a beginner, awkwardness is a handicap one doesn't need. Recoil is not particularly a factor for the .30-30 through .308 range of cartridges, and they come in what I believe are more suitable rifles for a beginner.


Dave McC
January 12, 2001, 07:56 AM
I used a tweaked SKS for one season, folding synthetic stock, AK style 30 rd mag, and all. It worked, but....

First, the trigger had a few dozen lbs taken off it by a good smith who said afterwards that if he ever did another, it would be too soon.Trigger was still too heavy for best work. Call it 7-9 lbs.

Second, same smith installed a Williams peep sight,and played with the bedding and teflon taped the gas system until the thing would stay inside 3" at 100 yards from the sandbags. That was using the hot Lapua softpoints, BTW.

So, after considerable work, some expense, and the horrified looks of folks at the range, I had a 9-10 lb rifle incapable of little that a Model 94 that weighed 6 1/2 lbs, shot tighter groups, and carried like a feather couldn't do.

Yups, the SKS will work as a deer rifle. There's better choices and some are as inexpensive.....

January 12, 2001, 08:45 AM
Thanks you guys,I think I'll look into getting a used 94' before I go with the sks if I can find one.Much appreciated.

January 12, 2001, 02:26 PM
Marlin also makes a very good 30-30 lever action (model 336 I believe). They can be had for $259.99 at Wal-Mart.

January 13, 2001, 01:52 AM
Art: SKS vs 30-30? I don't see much difference between them other than it is harder to pick a bad factory load for deer in 30-30. Both normally have crummy triggers and crummy [standard] sights but you can put a scope or aperture sight on either with about the same amount of effort. Both are realistically 150 yard deer rounds so 3 MOA is better accuracy than you need from them. I think many people would shoot their "deer rifle" more for fun than they ever would use it in the woods. And SKS would be cheaper to feed for plinking.

I agree with you that real rifle, say a 260, 7-08, 308 or such would be a much better rifle for deer hunting in general.

Bounty: You say you want to get your first deer rifle. Is is intended for just deer hunting? Do you think you will shoot it much, other than to check zero at 25, 50, 100, & 150 yards? Will you be hunting from a stand? In woods or open country? Will you be hunting in built up areas?

Dave McC
January 13, 2001, 08:59 AM
Glamdring, my 94 shoots 1+" groups at 50 yards from the sandbags, most of the time. Right now, it's at a smith getting its trigger worked down to maybe 2 1/2 lbs. It wears a peep sight also.IOW, both sights and triggers can be upgraded w/o major trauma.

As for "Real" rifles, in the mixed woods and field hunting available here in the East, the 30-30 has more than enough range. My records are incomplete, and I don't actually tape off shot distances ex post facto, but my last 10 deer or so fell to a shot of less than 50 yards,35 yards or so all weapons, 45 yards with just firearms. Ya gotta be close with a longbow(G)...

Ideally, for those that have time and discretionary income for two centerfires,IMO a good combo would be a Model 94 set up like mine for brush and rainy hunting, and a bolt action, highly accurate 30-06,270,280, or mid caliber magnum with a [email protected]$$ scope for longer situations.

But a lot of good hunting gets done with just a 30-30. IMO, it should be the first choice for an Eastern hunting battery, and not a bad 2nd or 3rd choice for Western hunting...

Art Eatman
January 13, 2001, 11:12 AM
Glamdring: Double-checking myself against Mr. Speer's powder-popping poop, I note that the AK round with the 125-grain bullet maxes out at 2,546 from a bolt action, and "100 ft/sec slower from semi-auto". I'd call that marginal as a cartridge, although obviously adequate in the hands of a skilled shooter/hunter.

The thutty-thutty, with the lower pressure, is best with the 170-grain bullet, ambling along at around 2,200 ft/sec. It also ain't the greatest cartridge since sliced bread, but the rifle it comes in is (to me, anyway) much easier to shoot well--particularly for a novice.

You don't have to stay home from the beer joints very long to afford an SKS sort of critter as a second gun, great for plinking and general practice with the cheap ammo available.

I guess my overall opinion is that a novice hunter should have a rifle shooting a cartridge which is better than "minimum", and in a rifle which is inherently easy to aim. To get into Art's personal sense of esthetics: "I ain't real interested in no ugly guns." :) I happen to think the AK clones are plumb yougly. But, "Everybody to their own taste," as the old maid said when she kissed the cow.

:), Art

January 13, 2001, 01:21 PM
Art: I agree they are ugly, both the AK and SKS. And I wouldn't pick either for deer hunting. I wouldn't pick a 30-30 either. BTW I wouldn't suggest the 125 grain bullets in the SKS for hunting. I would suggest cor bon's 150 softpoint @ 2300 [from a 20" barrel].
Federal's cat lists a 150 load for the 30-30 at 2390 but they use a 24" barrel. IMHO which gun is easier to shoot probably depends more on the shooter than the gun.

Dave: I didn't say lever guns couldn't shoot MOA, what I was trying to say is that since the cartridges [30-30 or 7.62x39] are limited by ballistics to 150 yards, for most people that is, the gun doesn't need to shoot groups any where near that small to be usefull.

Bounty had asked if the7.62x39 cal cartridge would be okay for whitetails? And if the proper load is used the answer is yes. If you use the Cor bon load you get external ballistic's equal to, if not greater because of higher BC, than the 30-30.

January 13, 2001, 02:05 PM
Glamdring: I'm counting on about 50 to 75 yard shot's.I wouldn't try for much over that with open sights on any gun.I'll be in pretty thick woods hunting from a tree stand and some occasion stalking.

Thanks for the advice maybe the sks won't be so bad a choice.

January 13, 2001, 02:48 PM
Bounty: If you do go with the SKS I would suggest removing the bayonet, if it is so equipped, because that will reduce the weight a bit and improve the balance a lot IMO.

I am wondering how & why you decided to consider the SKS for hunting? Are you looking to save $? Or are there other factors involved?

I DO agree with Art that the SKS and 30-30 are not the best rifles for deer hunting

If cost is a major factor I would suggest a NEF [New England Firearms] singleshot shotgun [under $90.00 here in MN at Wal marts & such] or a used Rem 870 or Win 1300. Shotguns are a lot cheaper than rifles of similar quality usually. And for the ranges you mention you would not be giveing up much by going to a shotgun [using slugs].

Or shop around for a used rifle like the others mentioned.

I have not owned a lever gun myself, probably never will, but I have several friends that do. And I have shot their guns more than a couple of times. I have owned a SKS but sold it to a friend because I was underwhelmed with it. IMHO a shotgun with rifled slug barrel will have almost as great practical range as the 30-30 and SKS but with much better terminal performance.

BTW what are they asking for the SKS's in your area?

Oleg Volk
June 3, 2001, 05:42 PM
Was doing a search on soft point performance, think I'll add my humble opinion. I'd go with whatever gun you think you might use for fighting that is still legal for deer. For example, I might bring a Garand or a Mak90 with a 30rd magazine or an M1 carbine (though I have a very nice 303 that's perfect for hunting). The reason behind doing things the hard way is to find out just how your weapon would perform in the field. The deer would just make the exercise interesting.

If you wish to keep the process "sporting" (i.e. take only certain shots rather than plug lots of peripheral holes in Bambi), just do better stalking and get closer.

Then again, what do I know...

June 3, 2001, 07:29 PM

1) Welcome to TFL
2) Listen to Mr. Eatman


June 3, 2001, 09:40 PM
Dint read all the posts but did git the general drift ....

... coupla things ...

More people have been killed with a .22LR than any other cartridge. Too, more deer have been killed with the .30-30 - not much to argue there.

In any event, a very main reason to each is that both are the most employed for any given scenario. Doesn't mean that either is the BEST man-killer or deer-killer. It's just the way way of statitics - the more use, the more kills - all-in-all.

No flames or zip for anything argumentative. A deer can be killed with any cartridge. So can a man. But, there's better choices.

A person would hopefully use a cartridge that is MORE suitable for any given task than one that is handy.

May be that a 7.62X39 is a pretty good deer cartridge & I wouldn't argue the point - I think the round itself is up to it given certain range limitations AND firearm platform (a big arguing point).

It's doubtful to me that rapid second shot really comes into
play often enough to warrant a "fast shooter" when, if the first shot is placed accordingly with a suitable bullet, the hunt is over.

If you want to use an SKS, do so, but please, do become familiar enough that the "extra 20 rounds" isn't the reason to use it. A single shot 7.62X39 really is all you should need.

For all the game I've ever taken, I would say that in only <10% did I ever require a second/follow-up shot.

I guess a very long-winded comment on "cartridge selection and bullet placement" brings home more game than does any rapid-fire anything.

June 4, 2001, 09:43 AM
Thanks for the input guy's. This thread is really old and I have already bought a NEF 12gauge from Walmart for $78.I haven't had a chance to hunt with it yet but have spent alot of time with it at the range.Tahnks for the welcome ronin308.

June 4, 2001, 07:30 PM
Although this subjuct seems beat to death, I have one more thing to add that I have not seen mentioned in any of the other posts; in TX any rifle used for hunting is limited to five rounds. The SKS mag would have to be modified in order to take in the field for hunting purposes. This is not a big deal, but just a reminder to check all local laws B4 you head out with a rifle designed for military purposes and not for the hunting sports. FWIW!

June 4, 2001, 07:47 PM
"Loaded with" and "capable of" are not the same thing. One can, however, cheaply and fairly easily install a 5-round "almost flush" mag in an SKS.

I highly respect Art's opinion. I do have an SKS, and think it's okay but not optimal as a deer gun. To me, the sights are the big challenge: maybe a Williams sight might work better for you. I personally think an SKS- I plan on having my 16" bled one Teflon coated, trigger jobbed, and "upsighted"- probably makes a better "truck gun" than dedicated deer rifle. Fine for keeping handy around the camp, not the best option for serious deer work. My current fav deer gun is an extremely accurate Marlin 1895G with a 1.5-5 optic, but I also may give my newly customized bolt-action 12 GA a workout, especially around dusk. (Last year, I coulda probably had at least two hogs if I'd had said shotgun just after dusk- legal in GA.)

June 5, 2001, 12:36 PM
With good softpoint ammo, the 7.62x39 round is certainly adequate for deer. I've successfully used a .357 revolver, and the 7.62x39 beats that by quite a margin. If it's legal where you're hunting and you shoot it well, go ahead and use that SKS.

Stop and think a minute, folks - people have been killing big game with bows and arrows for thousands of years. Some are still doing it today. If what basically amounts to a pointy stick works, how can a well-placed shot from an SKS NOT work?

Just remember this mantra, no matter what you hunt with: SHOT PLACEMENT - SHOT PLACEMENT - SHOT PLACEMENT.

June 5, 2001, 12:39 PM
Originally posted by Cris:Although this subjuct seems beat to death, I have one more thing to add that I have not seen mentioned in any of the other posts; in TX any rifle used for hunting is limited to five rounds. The SKS mag would have to be modified in order to take in the field for hunting purposes. This is not a big deal, but just a reminder to check all local laws B4 you head out with a rifle designed for military purposes and not for the hunting sports. FWIW!

Wrong Cris!!! Please do not give out false information. Below I have quoted the actually wording from the Texas 2000-2001 Hunting regulations book. I am also including a weblink to the online version.

Magazine Capacity (number of shell/cartridges allowed): Except for shotguns used for hunting migratory game birds (see Migratory Game Bird Digest), there are no restrictions on the number of shells or cartridges a legal firearm may hold when hunting other game birds or game animals.



June 5, 2001, 08:19 PM
I stand corrected. My mistake!

Al Thompson
June 5, 2001, 09:04 PM
But it was a "good" mistake Cris. Thanks!