The Albanian SKS: A Few Different Details

The Albanian SKS is the rarest of the major adoptees of the SKS rifle (Russia, China, Romania, Yugoslavia, Albania), and has a handful of interested details that differ from all other examples of the SKS rifle. The gun came about as the result of Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha’s pivot from Soviet to Chinese alliance in the 1960s. Mao granted Albania a license to produce the Type 56 SKS in 1962, and the country would produce between 15,000 and 20,000 or the rifles by 1978.
Mechanically, the Albanian version is identical to the Chinese Type 56. It differs in a few aesthetic details, however:
  • Longer stock and handguards, completely covering the gas tube
  • Hook shaped bolt handle
  • Curved profile to the magazine body
  • Two trapdoors in the buttstock
  • Slightly shorter spike bayonet
These may not be hugely important details, but the give the Albanian SKS a different (and I think better) look than the other variations. In addition to the dated examples between 1967 and 1978 (less 1972-75, when no production took place), there are also a batch of undated examples. These may be the early year or years of production, but this is not known for sure.

27 Comments

  1. Fat chance of burning oneself on the gas tube with the stock covering it. And a shorter bayonet is easier to get out of one’s stabbing victim. Did the Albanians study ergonomics?

  2. My 1951 Tula looks like the Chinese one with of course a blade bayonet and the magazine cover having a curve at the front. My serial is two Cyrillic characters then 1451 in all five places.

    • Early-production Chinese, maybe? I thought I read somewhere that the first Type 56s were made with a mix of Russian and Chinese parts.

  3. “(…)SKS rifle(…)”
    I am, as always, confused with terminology – is carbine subset of rifle? (that is every carbine is rifle). If not that is mutually exclusive, if yes it is redundant (SKS = Simonov’s carbine, self-loading, so SKS rifle = Simonov’s carbine, self-loading rifle)

    FURTHER PART IS NOT RELATED TO TODAY TOPIC, SO IGNORE IT IF YOU WISH
    Some time ago I found such automatic pistol, with description in Czech language:
    http://www.vhu.cz/exhibit/cs-pokusna-pistole-cz-635-mm/
    which name probably mean C[zecho]s[ovak] experimental pistol ČZ 6,35 mm
    If I understand correctly, it development was started on behest on VTÚ (Vojenský technický ústav – Military Technical Institute(?)) in 1933 in 6,35 mm Browning caliber, as weapon for dignitaries. In march 1933, requirements were made more exact, with VTÚ being represented by plukovník (Colonel?) Zelinkou. Size must be no bigger than FN model 1906, hammer must be internal, revolver trigger (in modern terms: DAO or double action only) was deemed to complicated for pocket automatic pistol. [I don’t understand this fragment]. It never entered serial produced, but was manufactured in limited quantity.
    Example “number 202” is in by museum [VHU PRAHA] since 1989
    Technical data:
    Cartridge: 6,35 mm Browning
    Overall length: 123 mm
    Height: 94 mm
    Barrel length: 65 mm
    Sights radius: 108 mm
    Capacity: 7
    Mass with empty magazine: 335 g

    What dignitaries (důstojníků) here means? Should be it understand as high-ranking officers or maybe civilian clerks (Does Czechoslovak forces have them in 1930s)?

    • Your understanding is correct. Pokusny (masculine) = opytnyi = experimental, same thing. For feminine gender noun it is “pokusna”; e.i. pokusna pistole.

    • Carbine is a shoulder-stocked firearm with a shorter barrel than a contemporary “standard” infantry rifle (or musket). So, you could say that in a way it is a subset of rifle in modern context (originally carbines could have a smooth bore, but with the disappearance of smooth bore small arms that is no longer relevant).

      As for the redundancy: many English-speaking people do not know that the K in SKS stands for “Karabin”. Similarly the German Kar 98k is often called a rifle (actually a “short rifle” in Anglo-American terminology), although the “Kar” stands for “Karabiner”.

  4. Besides of technical subject, I am impressed with Ian’s interpretation of historical circumstances; I concur completely. Albania was a ‘hermit kingdom of Marxism’ kind like N.K. may be today. Afaik tourist travel to Albania is a commonplace now.

    Just one logistic point: how raw material supply was looked after? Shipped from China? I cannot imagine any other route.

    • Is marxism really in N.K., or they have some kind of their own nationalistic (and socialistic? lol) variant? Some Juche or whatnot.

      I’ve joked that in the event of the war between 2 Koreas, north would have the upper hand because among the young, fit for military service people north has, there is not one that is addicted to video games! (unlike South where it is kinda epidemic, just like there is “obesity epidemic” in USA). Taking from these kids their screens they are glued on most of the day, everyday, and giving them a rifle would be a shock like putting a fish out of the water.
      But I don’t think that war scenario would ever happen.

      As for Albania, I suppose there was some time after the war when some wanted to incorporate it in newly formed happy socialist brotherhood of south slavic people, but among problems with it was, I suppose the grave problem of language, that is absolutely different from south slavic languages (predominately Croatian and Serbian), also there is a different religion (Islam) and culture.
      Although there were majority of albanians in Kosovo province (now an independent state) they had very low status and were practically ghettoised in the Yugoslavia, Kosovo being the poorest and least developed of all regions.
      Slight paradox was, they were by the 1980s more numerous than some Yugoslavian “nations”, yet did not have their separate federal state – as serbian official politicians and leaders always looked upon Kosovo, before and even today, as their godgiven historic royalist land, kinda like serbian Promised land; the problem with it being that they are not majority in that small region since ottoman conquests.

      • Well, all we know is what we read and see on TV…. I mean regarding Koreas. I do not feel enough versed with their collective psyche to estimate IF this or that would happen. They suffered enough already. But yet, what amazes me is ‘always ready to talk’ attitude on part of South Koreans and probably Northerners too, although we are not supposed to say it 🙂

        Best thing ever to happen to them would be if foreigners left them alone to sort out their differences themselves. Maybe they do not have that many as it seems.

        Regarding Albania and Kosovo… very tricky subject. I definitely do not want to disparage one side or the other. I can rely to some degree on what I have heard from Serbs, Croatians and others from the area (I had in past connections there) and even one or two odd Albanians. From what I know, Albania proper was predominantly Catholic (this apparently goes along well with blood feud) and Kosovo was (and apparently is presented as) Muslim. In general, I would relate to religious adherence in given area with extreme caution – it is never clear cut.

        • I’ve got a very lively and outspoken Greek friend who ran restaurants around town for years. Very progressive guy – his kitchen and wait staff were mostly black and Hispanic, and if he overheard a customer make an ethnic slur that might apply to one of his employees you were (loudly and pointedly) told to leave and never return. However, if the conversation turned to Albanians (Turks, Kosovars) he did a complete flip to the 1300s – of course we have to kill the women and children, for the sake of the future.

          My understanding – and now that I think back on 30 years in the most diverse city in the US, I’ve never met a Kosovar – is that the Albanians, like Kosovars and my Bosnian friends, are nominally (historically) Muslim in a sort of Unitarian way. Which is to say, core beliefs but not very fundamentalist. I recall from the Yugoslav war in the early 90s that newspaper reports from Bosnia frequently mentioned that consumption of plum brandy (slivowitz) was almost universal, especially during the winter. This is confirmed by a Houston Bosnian friend, whose restaurant (which is outstanding) doesn’t serve alcohol because it is halal. However…. BYOB is OK, and if you walk in with three friends and a bottle of wine, the owner (who was a somlier in Germany when he was a refugee) will meet you at the table with a corkscrew and five glasses, so he can have a half-glass taste.

        • I do not want to transform this portal into “all and everything” chat. But, just humbly submit to you and to all interested: there is ongoing and profound transformation going on with the key part being East’s ascendance. In couple of years from now, we will not have so far dominating West as we were used to see. We will be forced to accept reality, like it or not.

          My hope is that ALL weapons will be Forgotten weapons by that time. Otherwise, I cannot imagine the outcome of non-acceptance.

          • I fully agree,
            decadence the West has plunged, pushed in by leftard-liberal capitalist agenda, would unfortunately be surprised by the East and thus as one pop song quotes, we would have a scenario of
            “When you see your servant is your master”.

            Basicly, it’s a question how soon it would happen, not if.

            In that case, I suppose good ol’ scheming USA would play on these inter-asiatiac nations animosities, even cook and start a few wars like between Koreas, China and Japan just to try to stay on the top – if they are stupid enough to accept them, which I think they certainly are not.
            The silly fatboy on top of N.K. leadership even looks and acts like CIA puppet installed to scare Japan and S.K. to buy USA highest quality (and price) made weapons.
            One other thing to remember for regular citizen, wannabee US (ch)Air (force) general is that historically, in 20th century worst wars waged were against asiatics; Japan and Vietnam.
            Ones in Europe or middle East are not even comparable in any way to these 2 great wars that left many marks on nation and its pride, especially Vietnam.
            So by that trend, in some future, one can maybe predict who again would be the proverbial enemy, after this temporary “middle east terrorists” baloney and balooney deflates.

        • Yes, that is true. Drones may be expensive, but a human life is more precious than a machine. You can try to reverse engineer a drone, but a human pilot can be taken prisoner and used as a political bargaining chip. And to be fair to South Korea, its government is not a CIA puppet, unlike the case with South Vietnam where everything was put in place for American national interests.

          There is another problem for the North: Ammunition limits and equipment service life. The North Korean air force is running out of serviceable aircraft and spare parts because nobody is willing to sell planes to them (and I doubt North Korean coal will buy good planes). I also noticed that the North Korean Army’s tanks and artillery are at least two generations behind, to say nothing about the lack of spare engines, ammunition, and fuel. There is also the question of whether their soldiers can actually fight for real. I could be wrong.

          • The problem with nukes: What if the other team retaliates in kind? North Korea hopes America is completely unwilling to launch nuclear missiles because of nuclear fallout and collateral damage. But they don’t know for sure, which means they cannot use their own missiles. And North Korea trying the old “I will nuke your cities if you don’t back off” approach will generally backfire if Americans decide that they’ve got nothing more to lose through retaliation should the former actually launch nukes.

          • “Ammunition limits and equipment service life. The North Korean air force is running out of serviceable aircraft and spare parts because nobody is willing to sell planes to them (and I doubt North Korean coal will buy good planes). I also noticed that the North Korean Army’s tanks and artillery are at least two generations behind, to say nothing about the lack of spare engines, ammunition, and fuel.”
            Knowledge about North Korean weapons system is limited due to obvious reasons. As caution notice that in 1999 modern (for that time) F-117A was shootdown
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_F-117A_shootdown
            with usage of ancient П-12 «Енисей» radar (entered service yet in 1956) and П-18 «Терек» radar and С-125 «Нева» missile (developed in second half of 1950s).

          • I suppose they were busy in last 50 years with reverse engineering all these non importable toys – it would be stupid on their part to be any other way, to be dependent on some new imported parts.
            If you gave old MIGs to illiterate guys from Darra with their “hacksaw and files” and some time, I’m not even doubtful that you would get flyable results in 10-20 years.
            Also, they are really abundant in ores, so I suppose there is no problem of shitty substitute steel used.

            They may be old in design but serve a purpose, just like an AK47 serves one being and looking obsolete compared to contemporary guns.

            But I think Koreas really do not want a war between them – with their unification you would get a country that could possibly be stronger than Japan (due to the marriage of high technology and resources that island-locked JP lacks).
            So, some may have interests of cooking a war betwen them and leaving them in ruins, rather than having a peacefully united country that could only grow stronger with time (like what happened with DDR and GDR – Germany is today a leading country in EU, rather funny how things turned out 70 years after the war )

  5. Ah, that was bolt carrier handle, not bolt handle, right? Aka charging handle, cocking knob, etc. Bolt itself rides beneath, nyet?

  6. The Swiss are the world’s bank guards in a nice, ruggedly mountainous land with breathtaking scenery and exquisite chocolate, guarding all the loot in numbered bank accounts. Theirs is the only European military tradition rooted in a militia instead of a royal dynastic guard (although many dynastic guards used Swiss mercenaries… viz. the Swiss guard in the Vatican…) They make utterly exquisite, if often over-engineered weapons and built an insane subterranean doppelgänger of their confederation in an elaborate network of bunkers, fighting positions, artillery and mortar complexes in a veritable “national redoubt” that would be the envy of, say, the French ouvrages of the Maginot Line, the Westwall of Germany, the Imperial Japanese army and navy in the Pacific War, or… Kim Jong Il (certainly not Kim Jong Well..) or Enver Hoxha! But all of these latter examples are symbols of the absurdity of a national defense posture reliant on, well, uh, “prepping” writ large… But those plucky chocolatiers, the Swiss nobly defended their cantonal neutrality from a veritable “national redoubt.”

    Albanian weapons were produced in Albania at precisely those times when the great derangements of Albanian alignment in the worldwide Marxist-Leninist (not simply “Marxist”) splits: Enver Hoxha should be required as a portrait hung in every North American prepper’s home. To ward of the “threat” of becoming a Yugoslav federated republic, the Soviets were cultivated as an ally. The Albanians acquired Soviet weapons at a time that the Yugoslavs JNA had a pretty crazy mix of old and new, east meets west. Thankfully, Ian has explored and delved into some of those weapons. Albania actually made Mosin-Nagant rifles in 1961. This is after Hoxha sided with the Chinese in the Sino-Soviet split, and it was appreciated that they just might need industry and weapons production of their own. Then comes the Chinese military equipment and machinery.

    By the late 1960s, after the cultural revolution, the Chinese “Capitalist roaders” came back with a vengeance, and Hoxha broke with the Chi-coms too… Hence the dates of production of the Albanian SKS variant in the 1970s. At the same time, the Qender Zjarri prefabricated bunker was developed (Marxist-Leninist regimes are mighty keen on cement production too…) and the Pike Zjarri command and control bunker. These bunkers are a bit like the last ditch German Koch bunkers, which resemble nothing so much as a set of concrete tubes and manhole cover fittings. These could be put all over the place in simple tubes housing a soldier with his weapon, or linked up with additional tubes. During Hoxha’s rule fully 173,000 of these bunkers were hoisted by cranes into position, and now form pimples across the landscape like a teenager with severe acne… Once Hoxha died, by 1986 this huge complex of bunkers lay dormant… Serving as ad hoc public restrooms, places for lover’s trysts or sites where teenagers with severe acne could make out…Some are now cafes or repurposed into various functions, but mostly garbage bins and places to hide waste in. If only the Qender Zjarri had been included with the Albanian self-loading carbines! Obviously the sheer weight of the concrete prevented it, but I could see the appeal–buy an Albanian SKS and, say, a crate of ammo for it once sited along an Adriatic beach or Balkan hilltop, get a Qender Zjarri that it was formerly housed in free! “For a small fee, we’ll haul the the thing to the hideyhole or apartment-side fighting position of your choice, comrade!”

    Thanks, Ian for the detailed view of Albanian SKS. I wonder if a disassembly might have turned up a few other idiosyncrasies between the Chi-com Type 56 “parent” and Albanian step-child?

      • That susses it, Daweo.

        Of course, North Korea has very, very many tunnels and subterranean hidey holes. Time was they used to tunnel under the DMZ. Maybe they still do. Then there are the midget subs. And semi-submersible awash boats.

        France: Magininot line– condemned as wasted resources.
        Nazi Germany: Atlantic Wall–see above–condemned as wasted resources. Westwall: ditto, see above.
        Ancient China: Great Wall of China, the original wasted resources.
        Hadrian’s Wall: How well did that work?
        Roman frontier Limes along Rhein river: ha-ha! Didn’t keep the barbarians out for long… wasted resources.
        Cuban trocha built by Spain: Cuban mambises/ insurrectos made it across, but arguably kept them from making two way trips… Outcome, Spains defeat and loss of Cuba and Puerto Rico and Philippines, a waste of resources on hopeless defenses…

        The Swiss festungen–“Brilliant!” So cool, and they must have worked because the Swiss haven’t been embroiled in a war since the Napoleonic era…!Dave

        • One thing not known widely is that great wall of China was built not to keep the invader hordes from the north out (as that is impossible to achieve everywhere)
          but rather to block them from escaping with the loot they plundered in the raid.
          Which makes sense, as retreating army full of loot (and captured people?) is much less mobile and vulnerable from attack.

  7. Does anyone happen to have a magazine for sale for this model? My dad really wants one and said it is impossible so of course I am determined to get it for the best dad on earth! Any advice is appreciated! Together we own over 70 sks’ of different types and this is the last on his list!!!!!!!! Please help.

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