[2023] Complete Buyer’s Guide – The Best SKS Ammo

| Last Updated:
August 15, 2023

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. Which later became popular with the AK-47, but also with the SKS rifle, especially in the Asian region.

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 pick's main features, then taking a look at some pros and cons. 

Comparison of the Best SKS Ammo

  • Best overall ammunition for the SKS
  • Full Metal Jacket bullets with a bimetal design
  • Slick outer coating to further enhance smooth cycling
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  • Features 123-grain hollow-point bullets for expansion upon impact
  • Great ammunition for hunting deer and varmints
  • Non-corrosive powder and primer won’t damage the bore
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  • Positive functioning ammo with no barrel leading
  • Rearward weight design for better accuracy and ballistic coefficient
  • High muzzle velocity FMJ bullets for practice and defense
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  • Core-Lokt pointed soft-point ammo for range and damage
  • Controlled expansion and high-weight retention due to its design
  • Perfect ammunition for hunting game at long-range with precision
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  • 125-grain soft-point bullet for delayed expansion upon impact
  • Great ammo for hunting big game especially when HPs are not allowed
  • Copper-washed steel case and slick coating for proper cycling
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Is All SKS Ammo The Same?

Short answer: No.

Not all ammo that is used for SKS rifles will be the same, and there are a few reasons for that. One, they will be available in different grains (weight). Yes, they are the same caliber for sure, but some of them will be lighter than others.

If we go slightly beyond that, the weight will also play a role in the bullet’s ballistics. So, some will have a faster velocity than the others. Plus, the impact damage and stopping power can differ between two bullets depending upon their design. 

While all SKS ammo does serve the same purpose, there are some little differences that make each type of ammo different from each other. 

best sks ammo cheap

                                                                  Romanian 123gr Lead Core FMJ 7.62x39mm Spam Can, 700 rounds at just $0.50/round

Review of the Best SKS Ammo

The following is a list of the best SKS ammo that is currently available on the market. It’s important that you find the ammo that works best for your needs.

These can be used for target shooting, hunting, or both. Let’s begin by taking a look at the first SKS ammo box on our list:

Best Overall:
Wolf - Polyformance Ammo 7.62x39mm 123gr FMJ


  • Non-corrosive
  • Reliable cycling in auto-loaders
  • Great for high-volume shooting
  • Excellent for training with semi-automatic weapons
  • Polymer coating ensures smooth chambering/extraction


  • Non-reloadable

What Recent Buyers Report 

A lot of new users were quite thrilled with these rounds. They said the impact left a good amount of damage on their paper or large game targets. One user said that for his SKS rifle, he won’t use any other bullets for big game hunting applications. He added that the shooting groups were tight and make precise kill shots look easy. Overall, the rounds were nice and light and were able to fit in most SKS magazines. 

Why it Stands Out to Us 

At 123 grain, these rounds are pretty light. And therefore, they can travel pretty fast. So if you are looking to get a kill shot or hit the bullseye quicker than you can say “bang”, then you’re probably going to enjoy firing off these suckers at the range or while you are out in the field. Yeah, they may not be the heaviest hitters but they will build up enough speed to make up for it. Full metal jacket rounds are known for making an impact and leaving some serious damage. These rounds will be no different.

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.

Who Will Use This Most 

These rounds will be perfect for hunting. Especially when you need rounds that will easily tear through hide and make kill shots quick and easy for big game targets. On top of that, the shooting groups will be so tight you’ll swear that you’ll be quite the marksman when it comes to SKS hunting. These rounds don’t mess around. If you want a quick, lasting impact these are what you’ll need. 

Bottom Line

The Wolf Polyformance Ammo 123 gr FMJ is the real deal when it comes to hunting with an SKS rifle. Load these in your magazine and you might just end up with a magazine full of some of the best hunting ammo you’ve used up to this point. Fast, accurate, and devastating are the three things you’re going to get out of these rounds. 

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.

Wolf - Polyformance Ammo 7.62x39mm 123gr HP


  • The quality is good for the price
  • It is accurate and has good expansion
  • This ammo is clean to fire, high-quality, and with no misfires


  • No cons for the price

What Recent Buyers Report 

Most of the new users were quite happy with these rounds. And they were not disappointed when these were able to rip through paper targets at various distances. Most of them used these for casual and even competitive target shooting. One user said the shooting groups were pretty tight with consistency at ranges between 100 to 150 yards. Even better, these rounds never jammed in most magazines at all. For the most part, they were easy to fire and were quite fast in terms of velocity.

Why it Stands Out to Us 

This time, we are taking a look at the hollow point version of the Wolf Polyformance Ammo. Hollow points are known for breaking apart and making small rips, thus making wounding an animal a lot easier. However, it also works for the purpose of target shooting if you need something that will give you tight, accurate shooting groups. So either way, these lightweight bullets will travel quite fast no matter what the application. On impact, the damage will be done. These might just be what you need if you want to leave some pretty impressive damage to your targets. If you want reliable, jam-free shooting it takes the right kind of ammo to make sure you are getting the best out of every shot. 

Besides Wolf Polyformance 7.62x39mm cartridge with FMJ bullet, there is a rendition with Hollow Point (HP) bullets 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-grain 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.

Who Will Use This Most 

These will be used for target shooting for the purpose of casual or competitive use. However, there may be a good number of hunters that will rely on these since they will tend to create a nice sized wound for the big game or even small game targets. If you really want to make an impact with each shot, these are the rounds you’ll probably end up using for your intended application. 

Bottom Line

The Wolf Polyformance Ammo 123gr HP can travel just as fast as its FMJ counterparts (or probably slightly faster). But they can do a good amount of damage in the process. If you want rounds that will make every shot count and work with pretty much every magazine you’ve got, you’d be hard-pressed to find rounds like this anywhere else on the market. 

This product is non-corrosive and non-reloadable. Manufactured in one of Wolf's legendary production facilities in Russia.

Best for the Money:
Winchester - USA White Box Ammo 7.62x39mm 123gr FMJ


  • Non-corrosive
  • Non-magnetic ammo
  • Reloadable brass cases
  • Boxer large rifle primer
  • Great round for the price


  • Quality control can be inconsistent
  • As expected it is not as accurate as high-ranked ammo

What Recent Buyers Report 

Many new buyers were not disappointed at all with these full metal jacket rounds. And why would they? These were perfect for the purpose of target shooting (for fun and for serious competition). One of the things that really stood out was the pinpoint accuracy of every shot. From ranges starting at around 100 yards to about 300 yards, most users were able to leave nice and tight shooting groups on or near the bullseye. One user said that he had a lot more fun firing off an old stack of newspapers at his private range. He said the penetration of these bullets through the stack of papers was pretty easy and never failed to disappoint. 

Why it Stands Out to Us 

Winchester has long been a name that has been thrown around in terms of which name might be considered reliable. A conversation about rounds will always include Winchester. They have been around for years and have been known for manufacturing consistently reliable rounds that can be used for target shooting and hunting purposes. These rounds will mostly excel for the former. So, if you like having fun with target shooting, these are the bullets that won’t disappoint. And since they are full metal jacket rounds, the impact will be astounding. You can easily rip through paper targets and smash clay pigeons like they were nothing. 

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.

This 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 impact, it is ideal for plinking and target shooting applications from SKS rifles.

Who Will Use This Most 

This would be excellent for the purpose of good old fashioned target shooting fun. Competitors might be using this for the sake of tuning up and for the real deal. If you are looking for rounds that will make target shooting more enjoyable, plus penetration that is hard to match then these might be the rounds that you’ll want for your SKS rifle. 

Bottom Line

If target shooting is one of your favorite things to do with an SKS rifle, then you’ll have no trouble finding bullets that will make each shot as fun as the last. The Winchester USA White Box Ammo has the ability to penetrate and leave nice sized holes in your targets. These rounds hit the bullseye (figuratively and literally). And best of all, they’re actually pretty dang affordable for most budgets. 

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.

4. Remington - CORE-LOKT Ammo 7.62x39mm 125gr Pointed SP


  • Non-corrosive
  • New production ammunition
  • Reloadable brass cases with boxer primers
  • More extended range capabilities than traditional soft point bullet
  • Core-Lokt Pointed Soft Point - Spitzer shape profile for improved velocity and flatter trajectory


  • More expensive than imported ammunition

What Recent Buyers Report

Many new buyers were hunters looking for soft point rounds that were able to break on contact and leave a good wound that could kill their targets instantly. They found exactly that with these SKS rounds in particular. They said they were easy to load in most rifle magazines and the velocity was fast and reached their targets fairly quickly. One user said that the shooting groups were so tight that the mortal wounds left on his animal targets allowed for an instant kill.

Why It Stands Out To Us

These Remington rounds are known for making quite an impact when it comes to penetrating through animal hide. Once the round hits the intended target, the round breaks apart and cuts through animals like tiny razor blades, thus creating a really good wound that will allow for instant kills almost every time. In fact, these rounds are further proof that Remington has been one of the best names in terms of ammo for a long time. It doesn’t matter if you are using an SKS rifle or a shotgun, with a name like Remington they certainly won’t disappoint in any given hunting situation.

Remington center-fire 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 the 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, re-loadable in boxer primed brass cases. These Remington Express 7.62x39mm Pointed Soft Point 125-grain bullets are heavier than standard, but reach an astonishing muzzle velocity of 2,365 feet per second with muzzle energy of 1,552 foot pounds, making this "Green-box" ammunition an outstanding choice for hunting and target shooting ammo.

Who Would Use These Most?

If you are a deer or varmint hunter looking for reliability, excellent penetration, and superior firing power then you’re going to find these rounds to be quite useful to you. And since they will rip through flesh on impact, the wounds they’ll leave on animals will be impressive enough. Instant kill is better than allowing them to suffer in our humble opinion. If you agree with that, these rounds will certainly be the best possible option for you.

Bottom Line

The Remington CORE-LOKT Ammo will definitely make every kill shot count when you fire them off. Take your time and be ready to pull the trigger when the time is right. And we can guarantee that these rounds will go exactly where they need to and drop your game target of choice to the ground in an instant. You can get it done fast, consistently, and without any reliability issues to worry about. 

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.

5. Wolf - Polyformance Ammo 7.62x39mm 125gr SP


  • Clean and reliable
  • Competitively priced
  • Good round for plinking
  • One of the most reasonably priced
  • Great for plinking and the occasional varmint


  • It doesn't feed well in all rifles
  • Usable in an SKS or AK, but not in an AR

What Recent Buyers Report

Many of the new buyers were looking for rounds that were strictly for target shooting in a casual or competitive setting. They were really satisfied with these soft point rounds and the impact that it made on their targets when the bullets reached them. As expected, they noticed really tight shooting groups right out of the box. One user said he managed to shred a few old phone books that were nearly an inch thick. He was pretty impressed when the rounds were able to penetrate them quite easily.

Why it Stands Out to Us

At this point, you’re probably thinking which Wolf Polyformance Ammo is the best. It all depends on your intended application. But if you are more apt to shoot off your SKS rifle at the range or in a place where you normally go to target shoot, then these might be the best rounds of them all. They have excellent penetration and stopping power and will pretty much leave some nice sized holes in your targets. You can fire off with paper targets, clay pigeons, or whatever else that might work. Make no mistake, these rounds can travel quite fast and leave quite an impact on each target. If you want rounds that will make target shooting a lot more fun, these might be what you’ll need.

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, 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 a non-corrosive and non-reloadable cartridge loaded with a Bimetal bullet 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.

Brownells is offering an interesting combo for AK owners that consists of 200 7.62x39mm rounds of Wolf Polyformance Ammunition provenience 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 a 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.

Who Will Use This Most

Of course, target shooters of both the casual and competitive kind are going to rely on these bullets. However, these are probably going to be used for casual purposes since it’s kind of fun to shoot this kind of rifle. Who wouldn’t want to try out an SKS for size? So if you have paper targets, clay pigeons, old newspapers, phone books or anything that is slightly thick that you might not need anymore, these bullets will certainly be useful. Sure, you can throw away all your paper goods. Or you can use them as targets. Either way, anything that takes up space in your home may need to be disposed of anyhow.

Bottom Line

If you are looking for bullets that will be made for fun (and competition), the Wolf Polyformance Ammo 125 gr SP is guaranteed to not disappoint. If you have all kinds of targets that you’re dying to fire off at the range or a large dirt pit deep in the woods, these bullets will make it so much fun. They make a great impact on targets and make accurate shooting a whole lot easier.

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. 

A choice for many high volume shooters. It was projected to distribute dependable functioning, and the polymer coating ensures smooth feeding and extraction.

6. Hornady - Custom Ammo 7.62x39mm 123gr SST


  • Non-corrosive
  • Affordability, an excellent round for the price
  • Boat-tail design extends the range of the round
  • Tapered jacket for deep penetrations and a controlled expansion


  • Non-reloadable
  • Performance lags behind some premier brands

What Recent Buyers Report 

A lot of recent buyers were not disappointed in the slightest by these kinds of bullets. In fact, they were quite happy with the velocity. They said that their kill shots for hunting were much faster and left some pretty good bullet wounds in their game target of choice. Most of their targets were killed almost instantly. One user said that he was able to knock down a deer from a good 200 yards away with these rounds. One-shot and it dropped like a sack of potatoes, he added.

Why it Stands Out to Us 

These rounds provide consistent accuracy with every shot. And speaking of consistency, your shooting groups will remain tight even after going through the entire box. These are the real deal if you are looking for rounds that are perfect for hunting and hitting your kill shots at the pull of a trigger. Rounds like this have no problem knocking down their animal targets. If you want fast, reliable, and serious knockdown power then these rounds might be the go-to option for you. 

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 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, an aerodynamic secant gives streamlined trajectory, provides good accuracy from your SKS, ranging between 1-2 MOA.

Who Will Use This Most 

These are the perfect hunting rounds for those who want consistency. Consistent accuracy, consistent velocity, and yes consistent reliability. It would be hard to compete with rounds like this whether they are FMJ, HP, or SP rounds. If you want SKS bullets that a lot of hunters can depend on regardless of their targets, this might do you some good. 

Bottom Line

The Hornady Black SST Steel Case Ammo is probably going to be a popular choice among those who are hunters. You’ll be quite impressed with the consistency and even the impact that you’ll get out of these rounds. If you want something that will make SKS hunting great, you might consider using these rounds to your advantage. Your kill shots will be instant since they have the ability to make an impact the moment they hit your target. 

Hornady’s SST ammunition featuring a lead alloy core, and sharp, pointed polymer tip is an excellent hunting load for the price.

7. American Eagle - American Eagle Ammo 7.62x39mm 124gr FMJ


  • Non-corrosive
  • Re-loadable brass cases
  • Round with economic price
  • Ideal for target shooting, training or plinking
  • New production ammunition with a boxer primer


  • Some users claim its not as accurate as some Wolf ammo

What Recent Buyers Report 

A lot of new users were quite happy with how affordable these rounds were. On top of that, they were even more impressed with how they were able to make each shot count in the hunting field. One user said that shooting these rounds at both small and bigger targets was quite fun and they helped leave a good amount of mortal wounds to their animal of choice. One user said that he used this for the usual varmint hunting and had also used this to knock down a deer on his last hunting trip. So far, he noticed the shooting groups being consistent without a single hint of a changing pattern. 

Why it Stands Out to Us 

These are affordable, but really effective rounds for the SKS hunter. It’s the kind that can be used for small and big game targets. And the stopping power on these bad boys is pretty good. So if you’re looking for rounds that can stop an animal dead in its tracks (literally) and don’t want to suck the life out of your bank account, these American Eagle rounds will not disappoint. On top of that, these are FMJ rounds with the ability to penetrate through hide and leave some nice sized wounds. If knocking them down in one go is what you’re planning to do, these rounds will see to it that with one perfectly timed shot, it can be done.

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 center-fire, rim-fire, and shot-shell 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 around 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 a favorite ammo of  SKS owners and target shooters, American Eagle cartridges are loaded in re-loadable 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-grain 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.

Who Will Use This Most 

These will be used by hunters looking for SKS rounds on a budget. Yes, while ammo doesn’t come cheap they are affordable depending on the brand. But mind you, these are not cheap and flimsy by any stretch of the imagination. You can make sure that they can get the job done each time you are out and about in the field. For rounds that are affordable and rise above the call of duty to penetrate through animal targets no problem, it’s these rounds that you’ll love for a long time. 

Bottom Line

If you want hunting rounds that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, the American Eagle Ammo won’t disappoint. Especially if you want something that will give you excellent velocity and stopping power each and every time you fire a shot. Big or small game targets won’t stand a chance if they somehow end up in the line of fire of your SKS rifle. 

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 cartridges for use in competition, American Eagle will meet your needs since it is made to the same specifications as Federal's Premium loads.

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 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 re-loadable cases, there are also cheap foreign production commercial ammo with steel cases and jackets.

By the rule, this 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.

Comparison of 7.62x39mm ammo

7.62x39 mm Comparison (source)

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 puts 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 or three times 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 an 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 ammunition 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.


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 cartridges.

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.


He is a military historian enthusiast and hobbyist, war veteran and an avid hunter with more than 30 years of experience. He began reviewing firearms for publications in the mid -1990s and have been fortunate to make many friends in the industry. He has improved continuously his firearms skills and knowledge, which is a never ending journey.

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