Animated Arrow

For good deals on cheap 7.62x39 ammo go to
7.62x39 ammo at

The 7.62x39 Russian (Soviet) Model 43

By Chuck Hawks

This attenuated .303 cartridge (bullet diameter is .311", not .308" like true 7.62mm rifles) has had one of the most infamous careers in the history of firearms. It was designed during the Great Patriotic War (World War II to those of us in the Free World) for use on the Eastern Front against Hitler's Wehrmacht by Stalin's Communist hoards.

After the defeat of the Third Reich in 1945, every Communist dictator in the world used troops armed with 7.62x39 rifles to control their own unhappy populations and perpetuate their corrupt regimes. Today the 7.62x39 has gone on to become the preferred cartridge of virtually every international terrorist organization.

As a military cartridge for automatic carbines (assault rifles) the 7.62x39 has been very successful. It is the international rival of the 5.56mm NATO. The standard military load for the 7.62x39 fires a 123 grain FMJ bullet (SD .182) at a muzzle velocity of 2350 fps. Some experts consider it superior to the NATO round, although I regard it as a step sideways.

The Remington factory load starts a 125 grain PSP bullets at 2365 fps with a muzzle energy of 1552 ft. lbs. At 100 yards the velocity has dropped to 2062 fps and the energy to 1180 ft. lbs. At 200 yards the velocity is 1783 fps and the energy is 882 ft. lbs. The trajectory of the Remington factory load for the 7.62x39 looks like this: +1.5" at 100 yards, 0 at 150 yards, -3.8" at 200 yards, -10.4" at 250 yards.

Although its energy is on a par with the .30-30, due to the grossly inferior SD of its lightweight bullet and consequent poor penetration, the 7.62x39 is a poor Class 2 game hunting cartridge. For sporting purposes it should be reserved for animals weighing no more than 50 pounds (and only using soft point expanding bullets). As a hunting cartridge it is closer to the .30 US Carbine than the .30-30.

Here are some specifications to keep in mind when reloading 7.62x39 ammunition: bullet diameter .311", maximum COL 2.20", maximum case length 1.528", MAP 50,000 cup.

It is recommended that 7.62x39 reloaders stick with commercially manufactured brass. Much foriegn military ammunition is loaded in copper-plated steel cases.

Hornady offers reloaders a 123 grain pointed soft point bullet, while Sierra and Speer offer 125 grain PSP bullets for hunting applications. Reloaders can use these bullets to duplicate the commerical factory loads.

Due to its limited capacity, fairly fast burning rifle powders work best in the 7.62x39. AA 2015, H4198, IMR 4198, and RL-7 are examples of suitable powders.

The Speer Reloading Manual No. 13 shows that 24.0 grains of IMR 4198 powder will drive their 125 grain spitzer bullet at a MV of 2246 fps. A maximum load of 26.0 grains of IMR 4198 will drive the same bullet to a MV of 2402 fps.

Note: A full length article about the 7.62x39 can be found on the Rifle Cartridge Page.

Back to Reloading Information

Copyright 2004, 2016 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.