7.62×39 Beginner’s Guide

| Last Updated: September 1, 2021

The 7.62×39 mm also known as the 7.62 Russian is probably the most mass-produced and fired round in the firearms industry.

Designed in 1943 and gaining popularity through the SKS and AK-47, this is a venerable and reliable round. Probably the most versatile and also economical round of them all.

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Let’s find out about what it has to offer and some other interesting facts related to it.

Table of Contents

7.62x39mm Round Overview

Taking Advantage of the 7.62×39 Round

What the 7.62×39 Does Best

Conclusion

Where the 7.62×39 Falls Short

An Overview of the 7.62x39mm Round

The 7.62×39 mm round was introduced in 1943 and has been through many modifications over the years. It is a rimless, bottlenecked intermediate cartridge with a .300 inch diameter bullet. Or what is called .30 cal in America.

The 7.62×39 was designed to be cheap to manufacture and rugged round for self-loading rifles. The case is highly tapered that gives the cartridge a chubby look and is also responsible for the banana-shape of AK magazines.

Interestingly, this cartridge was designed to work with steel cases rather than the traditional brass ones. Hence cutting costs further to a down-trodden level and also increasing mass production. Many AK lovers can be found hell-bent on the fact that the 7.62 Russian works best in steel cases.

The 7.62×39 mm was designed with Berdan primers. The insignia of cartridges manufactured in the former Soviet Union. However, as the caliber drooled down across the seas to different parts of the world. When it reached America, Boxer primer was quickly introduced to ease reloading. Plus, a few other reasons like reliable burning and leaving a cleaner chamber. 

This round can be seen as the closest relative of the .30-30 Winchester in terms of design, shape, and weight. It is also important to remember that the 7.62×39 mm is not the same as .308. In fact, the .308 bullet is the acronym for 7.62×51 mm rounds in the United States. Which are longer than the 7.62 Russian, with more powder, and better suited for longer range rifles and shots. 

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Many people prefer to buy the 7.62×39 mm rounds for their cheap availability. Especially when military surplus ammo is concerned. It can be found for as low as $100 for 1000 rounds in some sales. However, milsurp ammo requires dedicated cleaning after every shooting session. More on that later.

What the 7.62×39 Does Best

The 7.62×39 mm is outright the most versatile rifle round on this planet today. It can be used for almost everything a rifle can help with. This round has proven best for many things in the past. From toppling governments and fueling revolutions to hunting or just plinking fun 

This round was exclusively designed to be a reliable feed for self-loading rifles. That too is in a short to medium range. But with enough power to deal a lot of damage. It is available in three weights, 122, 123, and 154-grain bullets. To give you a better idea, the 5.56 ammo used in AR-15 rifles weighs commonly in the range of 55 to 75 grains.

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This Russian cartridge is best suited for combat as an assault and support weapon. Which transcendently means that it will be an amazing home defense round. However, make sure that the walls of your premises are thick to prevent over-penetration.

The 7.62×39 mm is a significantly accurate round. Many people overlook this fact and see it as a spray-’n-pray round. However, it is capable of producing 1 to 4 MOA groups in best and worst-case scenarios with common ammo. Plus, some match-grade ammo can also deliver sub-MOA accuracy. 

Apart from all this, the 7.62×39 mm is also a great choice for hunting. The heavy bullet, appropriate expansion, and good ballistic performance at short/medium range make it ideal for hunting small or big game on a medium range. These bullets are also capable of handling dangerous big game animals like bears. 

Another quite uncommon use for these rounds is competitions. But in a very limited capacity, especially for longer distances because of the large drop. However, on the other hand, the 7.62×39 mm is a great round for practice, plinking, and general use due to its easy availability and relatively low cost. 

Where the 7.62×39 Falls Short

As I already mentioned, the 7.62×39 mm is a great round for short to medium range use. But when your shooting range exceeds 300 yards, coping up with bullet drop will become a headache. 

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A 123 FMJ bullet of the 7.62 Russian will have an average drop of 17 inches at 300 yards, which then triples at 400 yards and again doubles at 500 yards. So clearly, the 7.62 Russian is not a long range precision cartridge. At Least not with the ammunition commonly sold and used. Or unless you have legendary sniping skills. Plus, a good rifle chambered in 7.62×39 mm also plays an important part in this.

Another pitchfork with this round is the use of corrosive primers in milsurp ammunition. The 7.62×39 is an economical choice that can be procured in bulk. Which translates to the use of a bit of low-quality powder and primers.

Ammo featuring corrosive primers can significantly damage a rifle’s action if proper cleaning is conducted. 

If you choose steel-cased ammo over brass cased, then be prepared to buy new ammunition rather than reloading it. Plus, increased cleaning sessions for your rifle.

How to Take Advantage of the 7.62×39 Round

The 7.62×39 mm is a popular round. It may fall short on a few factors, but that has more to do with the design of your rifle. Plus, you can also add a few accessories or make some upgrades to the rifle for improved output. 

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As a matter of fact, this round drops too much on increasing distances. Which can be compensated with the use of a good short-range scope. Additionally, since it is used for closed range and assault roles, a red dot sight like the ACOG or EOTech will greatly improve the accuracy. 

Favoring the close-range use of this round, adding tactical accessories like a good flashlight and laser can be very effective. Especially in the home defense scenarios. 

Like the days of the cold war, there always has been a sweet fight between the AK and AR platform. AR rifles are the insignia of the American assault-rifle industry, whereas the AK signifies the prowess of the Russian firearm industry.

To bridge that gap, American manufacturers came up with a 7.62×39 mm AR-style rifle version of the AK rifle. With specific accessories like muzzle brakes and magazines.

Conclusion

Overall, the 7.62×39 mm is a versatile cartridge that has been around for quite a while. With a ton of impressive results.

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This round was designed exclusively for self-loading rifles and is perfect for close and medium range use. With variants ranging from cheap milsurp steel casings to match-grade ammo. There’s a lot to choose from.



Josh Lewis the managing editor at Gun Mann and when he isn't writing about guns he is more than likely tinkering with them. He also enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time outdoors. As a lifelong gun owner he knows his stuff!