The Soviet 7.62x39mm M43 round for the SKS carbine and AK-47 assault rifle has its roots in pre-war Nazi Third Reich when the German army found that the 7.9x57mm round was providing a range which the average German infantryman no longer needed. What they desperately needed was firepower.
The Russian Army experimented several designs, and by 1944, had developed their own version of the intermediate cartridge known as 7.62x39mm M1943 cartridge.
In this article, we're going to take a look at some of the best ammo for the SKS. With this, we'll be discussing each ammunition's main features, then taking a look at some pros and cons.
Best SKS Ammo Comparison Chart
Wolf - Polyformance Ammo 7.62x39mm 123gr FMJ
Wolf - Polyformance Ammo 7.62x39mm 123gr HP
Wolf - Polyformance Ammo 7.62x39mm 125gr SP
Brownells - Polyformance Ammo 7.62x39mm 123gr Fmj With Tapco Black Mags
Hornady - Custom Ammo 7.62x39mm 123gr Sst
Winchester - USA White Box Ammo 7.62x39mm 123gr Fmj
American Eagle - American Eagle Ammo 7.62x39mm 124gr FMJ
Remington - CORE-LOKT Ammo 7.62x39mm 125gr Pointed SP
Is the SKS the Only Gun to Use 7.62x39mm Rounds?
During the development of the new cartridge, the Soviet Stavka (the high command of the armed forces in the Soviet Union) decided that a whole range of new small arms should use it.
The 7.62x39mm round was first used in the RPD light machine gun, to be followed by SKS, a semi-automatic carbine, and finally in a fully automatic rifle, a ubiquitous AK-47.
With a relatively short overall length of 56 mm (2.205 in), the 7.62x39mm cartridge from the beginning was optimized for self-loading rifles.
Besides, Soviet allies and their SKS and AK variants, there are many other closes or less close copies of those firearms using 7.62×39mm ammunition.
It is worth mentioning Ruger Mini-30 self-loading carbine, introduced in 1987, which shares many of the same design with those of the smaller caliber Mini-14 Ranch Rifle, and the bolt-action M77 Mark II rifle, in 1991.
Nevertheless, early Mini 30 rifles are known to have issues with Russian steel cased ammo, since the Mini 30 is set up for .308 bullets while the Communist Bloc ammo is .311 in diameter.
Aspects of Great SKS Ammo
Due to the low price and affordable weapons platform for the 7.62×39mm ammunition, today many gun owners have stocked up on imported surplus ammo.
However, Eastern Bloc surplus military ammo is typically steel cased with corrosive Berdan primers, so you need to clean your gun regularly after shooting or it will make it difficult to reload.
The other solution is buying commercial 7.62x39mm ammunition that's available in full metal jacket (FMJ), soft-point (SP) and hollow-point (HP) variety.
While you can purchase domestically manufactured commercial ammunition, with Boxer-primed reloadable cases, there are, also cheap foreign production commercial ammo with steel cases and jackets.
By the rule, these ammo features some sort of coating treatment such as lacquer or polymer to help mitigate corrosion.
The round is widely used in the civilian world and is popular for hunting and home defense due to the bullet expansion. Those versions of the 7.62×39 ammunition usually feature lead-core expanding or non-expanding projectiles.
Considering the combination of price, ballistics and limited recoil this round is an excellent choice for plinking at the range and target shooting.
The Russian 7.62×39mm features ballistics similar to the venerable .30-30 Winchester, and you can generally expect an effective range of around 250 yards.
However, the high-quality factory ammunition or hand-loads using soft-point bullets up to about 150 grains put this cartridge far ahead of any .30-30 load, regarding delivered energy beyond 100 yards.
With high-quality ammunition, you can make groups easily under 2 inches at 100 yards, but the price of this ammunition can be twice and triple the cost of the cheapest commercial ammo.
However, you should bear in mind that 7.62x39mm bullets are actually 7.92mm in diameter, so you should stick with .311 diameter bullets if you are firing in SKS.
Using the US made ammo with .308 diameter bullets might leave a doubt in your mind about effective cycling from time to time and may lead to excess Bore Erosion, due to Gas Cutting.
While there are plenty of different ammunitions with many different purposes, each has their own pros and cons. If you use your weapon for hunting, then you should consider the muzzle velocity and terminal performance.
If you choose 7.62x39mm for home defense, you need reliability and stopping power. So in the following sections you will find our choice of appropriate ammunition for different styles of shooting.
Review of the Best SKS Ammo
Now let’s take a look at our top picks for the best SKS ammo. For each, we’ll be getting a closer look at the main features that make these stand out, as well as some pros and cons.
Popular Wolf ammunition comes from the Tula Cartridge Plant in Russia and offers a variety of economically priced ammo lines available in Wolf Performance, Wolf PolyFormance, and Wolf Military Classic lineup.
One of the best series of their military caliber 7.62X39mm is Wolf PolyFormance series with new technology polymer coatings applied to make it ideal for any high volume shooter.
As you probably know, some 30-round magazines have trouble feeding any steel case ammo, so the Wolf engineers developed a slick PolyFormance coating that enhances smooth feeding and extraction.
The Wolf Polyformance Ammunition produce 7.62x39mm cartridge topped with a “Bi-Metal” bullet. These "Bi-metal" bullets have a lead core covered with a mild steel jacket and plated with copper.
Though they are not steel core bullets, the mixture of copper and steel makes them magnetic so that they can be prohibited for use at the indoor ranges because of a fire hazard.
The steel-cased WPA ammunition is non-reloadable; Berdan primed ammo that uses a non-corrosive powder and primer.
The Wolf Polyformance Ammunition factory loads drive a 123-grain FMJ bullet at approximately muzzle velocity (MV) of 2,450 feet per second, just a little slower than of Prvi Partizan 123 FMJ at 2,554fps, and reaches 1,586 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle
- Polymer coating ensures smooth chambering/extraction.
- Inexpensive price.
- Great for high-volume shooting.
- Reliable cycling in auto-loaders.
- Excellent for training with the semi-automatic weapon.
- Polymer case rusts more easily than lacquer coating.
- Not so accurate.
Polyformance Ammo by Wolf is acceptable ammunition. The 7.62x39mm WPA is exceptionally inexpensive ammunition and not all that accurate, but it will provide you with excellent practice ammo for those long days at the range.
Besides Wolf Polyformance 7.62x39mm cartridge with FMJ bullet, there is rendition with Hollow Point (HP) bullet intended for hunting and self-defense. The hollow point projectiles cause the ball to expand upon entering a game as it penetrates and disrupts more tissue.
This version also features the non-reloadable steel cases with a polymer coating and Berdan primers. Featuring the same 123-grains weight, this load almost duplicates ballistics of the FMJ projectiles with a muzzle velocity of 2,396 fps and muzzle energy of 1,555 ft-lbs.
It is steel-cased and Berdan-primed. This ammo is excellent for training with your AK-47.
- The quality is good for the price.
- This ammo is clean to fire, high-quality, and with no misfires.
- It is accurate and has good expansion.
No cons whatsoever.
This product is non-corrosive and non-reloadable. Manufactured in one of Wolf's legendary production facilities in Russia.
Another load from Wolf Polyformance 7.62x39mm lineup is intended for hunting and self-protection, too. Somewhat, heavier 125-grain bullet features Soft Point (SP) construction to enhance bullet expansion upon it strikes flesh to cause a wound diameter more significant than the bullet diameter.
Like previous versions, a Wolf Polyformance 7.62x39mm soft-point features Polymer Coated Steel casing and Berdan primers. As other Wolf ammo, it is non-corrosive and non-reloadable cartridge loaded with Bimetal bullet featuring jacket consisting of alternating sheets of copper and steel.
The Polyformance cartridge with Soft Point (SP) bullet style attains muzzle velocity of 2,410 feet per second and has a muzzle energy of 1,514 ft-lbs. While it doesn't feed well in all guns, in some rifles HP and SP loads can achieve 2-2.5 MOA grouping at 100 yards, but unfortunately, both products are temporarily out of stock.
This ammo is perfect for your AK-47 rifle. Steel-cased, lacquer or polymer coated, and Berdan-primed.
- Competitively priced.
- Clean and reliable.
- Good round for plinking.
- Not as accurate as other wolf products.
- It doesn't feed well in all rifles.
The 125 grain Soft Point projectile that tops this round is good for hunting, self defense or a day at the range. Very reliable and with great performance in all SKS or AK-47 firearms.
Brownells is offering an interesting combo for AK owners that consists of 200 7.62x39mm rounds of Wolf Polyformance Ammunition proveniences and three Tapco AK-47 magazines. The 7.62x39mm ammo is standard 123-grain Wolf Polyformance steel-cased ammo with FMJ Bimetal bullet packed in 20-round boxes.
The Tapco AK-47 magazines are made of black polymer and hold 30 rounds of 7.62x39mm ammo. Besides polymer body, these magazines feature heavy-duty steel magazine spring and polymer anti-tilt follower.
These magazines are entirely legal, as they count as three (3) Sec. 922r compliant parts when inserted in your rifle.
- One of the most reasonably priced.
- Great for plinking and the occasional varmint.
Usable in an SKS or AK, but not in an AR.
A choice for many high volume shooters. It was projected to distribute dependable functioning, and the polymer coating ensures smooth feeding and extraction.
The Hornady is one of the few American companies producing steel-cased ammo and this one is mainly developed with polymer-coated steel cases, with non-corrosive Berdan primers.
The cartridge features polymer-tipped SST (Super Shock Tip) projectiles, where the polymer tip is driven into the lead core of the projectile when it makes an impact, creating an expansion as the bullet penetrates through the tissue.
Apparently, the application of this affordable Hornady Custom ammo is defense, niche and hunting, since the Super Shock Tip with tapered jacket provides deep penetration with controlled expansion.
Additionally, featuring one-piece core and jacket strengthened in critical areas, the SST construction offers more weight retention than other tipped bullets.
With a higher ballistic coefficient of 0.26 than available with most hunting bullets, the boat-tail design creates less drag, so Hornady’s SST bullet retains velocity better and extends its range compared to the counterparts.
The SST 123-grain projectile attains muzzle energy of 1,508 ft. lbs. and an initial muzzle velocity of 2,350 feet per second. It is slightly slower than some purebred hunting rounds, but it has the most consistent group sizes compared to the top-tier American loads.
The specific shape of the projectile, in the shape of an aerodynamic secant ogive for streamlined trajectory, provides good accuracy from your SKS, ranging between 1-2 MOA.
- Tapered jacket for deep penetrations and a controlled expansion.
- Boat-tail design extends the range of the round.
- Affordability, an excellent round for the price.
- Steel case but not so cheap.
- Performance lag behind some premier brands.
Hornady’s SST ammunition featuring lead alloy core, and sharp, pointed polymer tip is an excellent hunting load for the price.
Over the years the legendary Winchester Ammunition Company has developed a variety of ammo lines and series to provide excellent performance for the shooters of all profiles.
Trying to be more competitive in today's market, Winchester uses their value pack ammunition so-called "Winchester White Box" to meet the demand of price-conscious customers.
Unlike imported steel cased non-reloadable ammunition, the brand new 7.62x39mm ammo manufactured by Winchester USA is brass-cased and reloadable. Winchester USA uses military grade large rifle primers of Boxer type. T
his cartridge is loaded with a full metal jacket 123-grain bullet consisting of the lead core, so it is ideal for shooting at ranges with non-magnetic ammo requirements.
Featuring high-quality Winchester components, the round reaches a muzzle velocity of 2,355 feet per second and delivers muzzle energy of 1,515-foot-pounds. As FMJ bullet type does not expand on the impact, it is ideal for plinking and target shooting applications from SKS rifle.
- Boxer large rifle primer.
- Reloadable brass cases.
- Non-magnetic ammo.
- Great round for the price.
- As expected it is not as accurate as high-ranked ammo.
- Quality control is inconsistent.
Winchester’s value offering is staple target practice and training ammunition for extended sessions at the range. Although it is impossible to beat the pricing of imported steel-case ammo, the Winchester USA ammunition is well priced for domestic production.
Another American legendary manufacturer giant in ammunition technology is present on the market for nearly a century.
Federal Ammunition is widely known for producing top grade centerfire, rimfire, and shotshell ammunition, and its sub-brand American Eagle is intended for the-budget-conscious consumers all over the world.
Since the ammo is manufactured at a government-owned facility, it is not surprising that you can find Federal little red boxes with eagles and designation 7.62x39mm on them in the war zones everywhere throughout the globe.
The new production American Eagle 7.62x39mm ammunition is offering outstanding performance at a decent price, enabling serious shooters to practice without excessive cost.
As for favorite ammo of SKS owners and target shooters, American Eagle cartridges are loaded in reloadable brass cases primed with Boxer-type primers.
Federal American Eagle 7.62x39mm is loaded with standard bullet weight, which features a lead core with a copper jacket. The Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) 124-grains projectiles have a muzzle velocity of 2,300 feet per second and muzzle energy of 1,456-foot-pounds.
However, explicitly designed for training and target shooting, this ammo yields mediocre results in comparison to some imported ammunition regarding accuracy. On the flip side, American Eagle 7.62x39mm cycles reliably even in the Ruger Mini-30, which is particularly finicky when it comes to ammo.
- Ideal for target shooting, training or plinking.
- New production ammunition with a boxer primer.
- Reloadable brass cases.
- Round with economic price.
- Ammo is not very accurate.
- More expensive than imported ammunition.
American Eagle ammunition is the US made ammo that lets you practice with the same-strength loads as you would use in a hunt or in combat at an affordable price.
Whether you are looking for plinking load or cartridge for use in competition, American Eagle will meet your needs since it is made to the same specifications as Federal's Premium loads.
Remington centerfire rifle ammunition is available in a range of bullet weights and construction for virtually every hunting caliber. While the Remington Power-Lokt ammo is ideal for hunting small game or varmints, and Bronze Point round is designed for hunting medium-sized game, the Big Green Core-Lokt ammunition is perfect for hunting deer.
As a part of Remington Express Ammunition line, this 7.62x39mm ammo is topped with Core-Lokt bullet, which provides controlled-expansion with deeper penetration compared to a hollow point bullet. The Core-Lokt bullets made of solid lead cores are mechanically locked in place with the electrolytically plated thin copper jacket. A progressively tapered copper jacket provides reliable expansion to almost twice the original diameter.
A Spitzer-shaped profile of Pointed Soft Point Core-Lokt (PSPCL) style combines the expansion capabilities of a traditional soft point bullet with the longer-range performance capabilities of the pointed bullet. It means this spitzer-shaped bullet can be effectively used in target shooting too.
Remington Core-Lokt 7.62x39mm ammo is new production, non-corrosive, reloadable in boxer primed brass cases. These Remington Express 7.62x39mm Pointed Soft Point 125-grains bullets are heavier than standard, but reach an astonishing muzzle velocity of 2,365 feet per second with muzzle energy of 1,552 feet pounds, making this "Green-box" ammunition an outstanding choice for hunting and target shooting ammo.
- Designed with the hunter in mind.
- Core-Lokt Pointed Soft Point - Spitzer shape profile for improved velocity and flatter trajectory.
- More extended range capabilities than traditional soft point bullet.
- New production ammunition.
- Reloadable brass cases with boxer primers.
- Inconsistency in quality control.
- More expensive than imported ammunition.
The Remington 7.62x39mm Russian Core-Lokt ammunition primary application is hunting small to medium game. Featuring a bullet diameter of .312", this ammo is a perfect match for your SKS carbine for deer hunting out to 100 yards at thick wooded areas.
No matter what you are using your SKS for target and practice shooting or hunting and self-defense, the new production ammunition in 7.62x39mm caliber will meet all your needs whether you are looking for cheap plinking ammo or reliable and serious hunting cartridge.
At reasonable ranges (200 yds.) or less, 7.62x39mm Russian fired from SKS carbine will do the job well without all the kick and noise of the more powerful calibers, providing average group accuracy of 2-4 inches at 100 yards.