I recently had a brief range day with Matador Arms and put some rounds through their SKS and Sabertooth Chassis combo. Matador is a Canadian company, and produces a variety of accessories for the domestic market.
The Sabertooth is arguably their flagship product, a machined aluminum chassis for the SKS that adds AR-15 stock & grip compatability, a slim picatinny quad rail, and a magazine well for duck-billed magazines. The idea is that no permanent modifications to the rifle are necessary, and that the entire thing can be reverted back to “pure” without any gunsmithing.
The rifle I shot also had Matador’s full length optics rail installed. This setup locks into the rear sight base and the rear takedown pin to provide a full length of picatinny rail that promises to retain zero. Installing the optics rail does require you to remove a tab on the factory dust cover retaining pin, so it does mean a small permanent modification. The optics rail is a stand-alone part that can be put on any SKS, but it means that you’re no longer feeding the rifle from stripper clips. So be prepared for either duckbill mags or loading individual rounds one at a time.
Factory sks stocks can run anywhere from 1.1lbs to 2.5lbs depending on the style and model, while the Sabertooth weighs in a 2.2lbs before adding a grip & stock. Part of their goal is to be a cut above the Tapco and ATI offerings in terms of strength of materials, quality of coating, and compatibility with additional accessories. And in that it’s quite successful. I definitely appreciate being able to use proper optics, and the ergonomics of the Sabertooth are miles from the original feel of the rifle. Nothing rattles or slips like some of the polymer setups I’ve handled.
You’ll notice that the SKS in this article has an enlarged hooked magazine release. This release is another “non-permanent” addition that makes swapping mags a little easier. By pulling it rearward toward the trigger guard, the duckbill magazine can rock out similar to how a factory release works.
I’ve clearly been spoiled by my recent Vz58 shooting, and asked if a more transformative AK style magazine release was in the works. The answer was yes, but with the caveat that it would require some more advanced tinkering with the rifle. Nolan at Matador is hesitant to build products that require gunsmith assistance, and I can understand why when your target market is SKS owners.
I asked Nolan straight out “Why should someone spend $350 on a chassis for a rifle that cost them $200?” And he had a reasonably good answer: the SKS isn’t really a $200 rifle. We just treat it that way because its surplus. If a modern manufacturer like Browning, or even a Russian plant decided to tool up and manufacture new SKS rifles, they would cost substantially more than $200. Just because you paid $200 doesn’t mean the rifle is only worth that.
I can understand his point, but I’ve honestly never felt a strong desire to own and improve an SKS. I hadn’t fired one since I was in University and essentially lived off cheap 7.62×39 and ramen noodles. While the rifle gets kicked around online as a “budget plinker” there is a potential for the SKS to be more than that. This was a brief hands-on, and while enjoyable it should certainly not be taken as a full review.
Authors Note: Hey you, friendly commenter who’s already spotted the deployed bipod and is about to post “why shoot with an open bipod?” Look at the angle of the magazine. Now envision the reload process. The bipod might make this rifle stand up nice for photos, but has it’s limitations. It’s not like I didn’t notice.