One of the most time-honored traditions of soldiers returning from war is to bring a trophy back of their service-- and we have one to show you. 

The SKS-45 rifle was a semi-automatic 10-shot carbine in 7.62x39mm-- the first fielded in that round-- that appeared in Soviet service in the last days of World War II. While quickly phased out in front line service with Moscow's legions as the AK-47 was adopted, the SKS was exported widely to arm the "happy peace-loving workers and peasants" of the Communist co-prosperity sphere with the CIA reporting on the gun’s existence in 1955 and the first real-live versions captured the next year by French troops during the Suez Crisis operating in Egypt. 

By the Vietnam conflict in the 1960s, the SKS, in both Soviet and Chinese versions, became increasingly familiar to U.S. troops who often encountered the then-second-tier infantry rifle in large numbers, given by Moscow and Beijing to North Vietnam as military aid.

Left: “A Viet Cong soldier crouches in a bunker with an SKS rifle, 1968.” Photographed by SPC4 Dennis J. Kurpuis. U.S. Army. Photograph in the National Archives. Right: “Captain Edward F. Riley, 9th Marine Regiment, examines one of over 600 North Vietnamese Army SKS rifles captured by men of his company during Operation Dewey Canyon, 1969.” (Photo: USMC)

Due to their semi-auto nature, GI-captured SKS rifles from Southeast Asia became a popular war trophy for returning American Vietnam Vets returning home and were the first such rifles to come into the U.S. 

Speaking of which...

The military DD603-1, "War Souvenir Registration/Authorization" form that comes with the gun is dated July 16, 1971, and was filled out at Long Binh Post, the famed "LBJ" that was the U.S. Army’s largest base located in the former South Vietnam, just months before the base was turned over to the ARVN military. (Photo:

The GI listed on the bring back papers is referred to as a captain with MACV Team 87, an advisory unit based near Xuan Loc that trained South Vietnamese military forces in preparation for the U.S. withdrawal of combat units from the country in March 1973. 

The "11 million" series is an important transitional model when it comes to Chinese SKS, falling just after the adoption of the "spike" bayonet and prior to the guns made for export to the U.S. in the 1980s. (Photo:

Non-import-marked Vietnam-era bring back SKSs were some of the first seen in the U.S. until Nornico export models started pouring in during the 1980s, followed later by Soviet- and Yugoslavian-made examples in the 1990s, setting those early guns apart from the later waves.  

Today, the Pentagon is much more restrictive on Veterans returning with captured enemy arms from overseas, with the days of bringing a battlefield picked rifle or pistol back home in a duffle bag largely a thing of the past. Still, those that are here will always have a place of honor. 


Like historical guns with a story to tell? Check out our carefully curated Military Classics and Collector's Corner sections to see more like this.