7.62 x39 ammo was Russia’s answer in the 1940s for a need for an intermediate caliber for relatively close ranged gun battles. It was used in AK-47s and SKS 45 rifles. It is pretty common and can usually be found in bulk for relatively cheap prices. But as we will discover below, this ammo is quickly disappearing.
A Little Info On The Cartridge
First off, not everyone knows why it is even called a 7.62 x39 round. Well, the 7.62 refers to the diameter of the “lands” in the rifle barrel measured in millimeters. The “lands” are the raised helical rifling inside the gun barrel. The 39 refers to the length of the shell casing in millimeters. The importance of this is that obviously, you need the right sized bullet to fit in the barrel of your gun, but you also need the right sized shell casing for your particular rifle as well. The receiver of your rifle must have the correct “headspace” to accomodate the cartridge. For example, Russia made a pistol that is 7.62 x25. Now the barrel of the pistol is the same diameter, but there is no way you are going to fit a 7.62 x39 rifle shell in the gun.
The First Rifle To Use 7.62 x39 Ammo
The Soviet SKS 45 was the first to use this caliber. The SKS 45 was short for the Russian translation of Self-loading Carbine, Simonov’s system 1945. It was phased out relatively quickly due to the emergence of the AK-47.
The 7.62 x39 round was a good intermediate caliber that was good for up to 300 meters. The thinking was that most gun battles happened within this distance and a good, accurate round was developed for it. The SKS 45 was the first gun developed to fire it.
Note: The SKS pictured above is actually Yugoslavian. It is almost identical to the Russian SKS 45.
The Most Popular Rifle To Use This Ammo
The most popular rifle that uses the 7.62 x39 round, is the AK-47. The AK-47 comes to us from Russia where it was originally put in to service in 1947. The AK-47 designation comes from the Russian translation of Kalashnikov’s automatic rifle model of year 1947.
Due to the AK-47’s ease of use, low production cost, durability, and high magazine capacity, it quickly took the place of the SKS 45. To this day, The AK-47 is the most widely traded and smuggled automatic rifle.
I remember hearing about people buying these for next to nothing not all that long ago, and now you almost can’t touch an AK-47 for less than $700.
Not All Ammo Is The Same
When purchasing 7.62 x39 mm ammo, there are a couple of things you need to think about. Some of the cheapest ammunition uses a primer that has a corrosive element to it. When fired, this powder gets into your barrel and will pit it if you do not clean with soap and water soon after firing before cleaning as normal. It is relatively easy to do and is just an extra step, but just beware of what ammo you are buying and using when you go shoot. You don’t want to pull your AK-47 out in a few months to go plink some rounds out of it and find the barrel corroded upon inspection.
Also, if you are the type that likes to reload, or are planning on reloading, you might want to make sure that you don’t buy steel cased ammo. Some people claim to be able to reload steel cases, but cases are designed to expand at the neck when fired. I’m not to sure how easy or desirable it is to reshape or trim a steel case. Unless you are an expert at reloading, I wouldn’t attempt it.
This Ammo Is Flying Off The Shelves
Another thing to keep in mind is that right now (shortly after the 2008 election results) ammo of all types is flying off the shelves. Don’t believe me? Next time you are in Wal-Mart, take a walk by the hunting department and just look behind the counter at the stock. If you know how much is usually there, you will be shocked. I think I saw a family of spiders building a home in the cabinet at my local Wal-Mart!
A good place to still get ammo is online, but that is flying too. It is getting really hard to find surplus ammo for sale. I did, however, find a place online where you can still get 7.62 x39 brass ammo made by Fiocchi. They are a really good brand out of Italy and I have not heard a single complaint about them. These are 123 grain FMJ, and they are boxer primed and brass cased so you can reload till your heart is content.
Update: I have also found some Wolf ammo. This stuff is steel cased 122 grain FMJ. If you are looking for some 7.62 x39 ammo 1000 round bulk for plinking, pick it up here.
If you are looking for some pointed soft point 7.62 x 39 rounds for hunting, I have found some Remington online, but they are a little more pricey. However, they are boxer primed and brass cased as well, so they can be reloaded.
You can pick the Remington ammo up here.
But just remember, when you are looking for ammo for your AK-47 or SKS, be aware of what you are getting as far as whether it is non-corrosive or brass cased.