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No free man shall ever be de-barred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain their right to keep and bear arms is as a last resort to protect themselves against tyranny in government."

- Thomas Jefferson, of Virginia, Proposed Virginia Constitution, 1776

7.62 x 39mm

First used in WWII in the SKS the 7.62x39, like the soon to come AK-47, was likely developed with a great deal of influence from other designs.  Most notably, the German designed 7.75x39 mm and 7.75x33 mm.  The Germans conducted studies and found that most military engagements occurred at a range of 200 yards or less and designed their round assault rifles to this fact.  Apparently, the Soviets likened their assault rifles with this principal in mind as well.  The Soviets kept he 7.62x39 as the standard until replacing it with the 5.45x39, which was less powerful and more controllable when firing.

The case of the 7.62x39 mm consisted of a case that is tapered.  The taper makes the bullet easy to feed and extract and is the reason the AK-47 uses the curved magazines.

The AK will fire a 123-grain 7.62x39 mm at about 2,300 fps with about 1,500 ft-lbs of muzzle energy.  The ballistics of the 7.62x39 mm are comparable with the .30-30 Winchester cartridge and due to the relatively inexpensive price of ammunition and the availability of relatively inexpensive rifles.

The 7.62x39 mm as one of the most prolific round in history.  Up until early 2006 rounds could be purchased for as little as 10 cents each and currently remain less than 20 cents each.

The original Soviet M43 bullets consist of steel-core boat-tail bullets, a copper-plated steel jacket with some lead between the core and the jacket. The cartridge itself consists of a berdan-primed, tapered (usually steel) case, which seats the bullet and contains the powder charge. The taper makes it very easy to feed and extract the round, since there is little contact with the chamber walls until the round is fully seated. This taper in the cartridge case causes the AK-47 to have distinctively curved magazines. While the bullet design itself has gone through a few redesigns, the cartridge itself remains largely unchanged.

Although the new M43 cartridge represented a great leap forward from previous designs, the initial bullet design was flawed. The complete solidity of the M43 projectile causes its only drawback—it is stable even in tissue and begins to yaw only after traversing nearly 30 cm of tissue. This greatly reduces the wounding effectiveness of the projectile against humans. Dr. Martin Fackler noted that the wounds from the M43 round were comparable to that of a small handgun round using non-expanding bullets. Unless the round struck something vital, the wound was usually small and healed quickly.


In the 1960s the Yugoslavians experimented with new bullet designs to produce a round with a superior wounding profile, speed, and accuracy to the M43. Dr. Fackler also evaluated the M67 in the same manner that he evaluated the M43. The M67 projectile is shorter and flatter-based than the M43. This is mainly due to the deletion of the mild steel insert. This has the side effect of shifting the center of gravity rearward in comparison to the M43. The change in CG allows the projectile to destabilize nearly 17cm earlier in tissue. This causes a pair of large stretch cavities at a depth likely to cause effective wound trauma. When the temporary stretch cavity intersects with the skin at the exit area, a larger exit wound will result, which takes longer to heal. Additionally, when the stretch cavity intersects a stiff organ like the liver, it will cause damage to that organ.
However, without fragmentation, the wounding potential of M67 is mostly limited to the small permanent wound channel the bullet itself makes. While a fragmenting round (like the 5.56x45mm NATO) might cause massive tissue trauma and blood loss (and thus rapid incapacitation) on a lung or abdominal hit, the M67 has a greater chance of merely wounding the target. However, the 5.56x45 will only reliably fragment in close ranges below 125 meters.

Chinese steel core

Chinese military-issue ammunition in this caliber is M43 style with a mild steel core and a thin jacket of copper or brass. Contrary to common belief, the use of steel was a cost saving measure rather than one to increase penetration. Additionally, mild steel is not sufficiently hard to grant unusual armor penetrating capability. Despite this, Chinese ammunition is currently banned from importation in the US because there are 7.62x39mm caliber handguns and the ammunition is an armor-piercing handgun round under the U.S. federal legal definition of the word, which is based on materials and bullet design rather than on tested ability to penetrate armor.

Other names for 7.62x39mm

On some occasions, this ammunition is referred to as 7.62 mm Soviet, 7.62 mm Warsaw Pact, or 7.62 mm ComBloc. It was also known in the United States as .30 Short Russian/ComBloc; the "Short" was to distinguish it from the older .30 Russian, which was the 7.62x54mmR. (Note that the "R" in 7.62x54mmR does not stand for "Russian", but "Rimmed".)

Type                                          Rifle
Place of origin                           Soviet Union

Service History

In service                                   1945–present

Currently used by the former Soviet Union block, Former Warsaw Pact, People's Republic of China, Cambodia, North Korea, Vietnam, Finland, Venezuela

Production History

Designed                                    1943
Produced                                    1943–present


Case type                                    Rimless, bottleneck
Bullet diameter                            7.90 mm (0.311 in)
Neck diameter                             8.64 mm (0.340 in)
Shoulder diameter                       10.01 mm (0.394 in)
Base diameter                              11.25 mm (0.443 in)
Rim diameter                               11.30 mm (0.445 in)
Case length                                  38.65 mm (1.522 in)
Overall length                              55.80 mm (2.197 in)
Primer type                                  Berdan or Boxer Small Rifle or Boxer Large Rifle
Filling                                          SSNF 50 powder
Filling weight                               24.7-grains

Ballistic Performance

Bullet weight/type                         Velocity                        Energy
123 gr (8.0 g) Spitzer              2,300 fps (710 mps)     1,480 ft·lbf (2010 J)

7.62x39 mm Soviet rifle cartridge

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I recently ordered a couple of new guns from my local gun shop. It may be a while until they come in, from what I am told. I ordered a 3 inch Ruger SP101 in the new .327 Federal Magnum caliber and a Ruger Hawkeye African in the .375 Ruger caliber. The seller tells me that the SP 101 in that make up is just now trickling out of the factory and that distributers are having a hard time stocking them for retailers, so I may be waiting a for more.