Thursday, July 15, 2010

7.62x39 Guide

Sorry for the slow posting, I've been at a summer training for my job and AK news has been somewhat slow.

This is a combination of several forum posts that a few people found useful so I thought I would post it up here. I know it is pretty long for a blog post, but I feel the info is worth it.

Let's start off with my favorite load, the Ulyanosk plat produced load with a 124 grain hollowpoint 8M3 "Sapsan" Bullet, which is/was sold under the Wolf Military Classic brand. But this has came under some internet rumors lately.

It used to be without doubt that Wolf Military Classic was made at the Ulyanovsk plant and Wolf Black Box was made at Tula. Just like it implies, Wolf Military Classic is "mil-spec" and in the 124 gr. hollowpoint has the 8M3 bullet that is more effective in terminal ballistics (either fragments or expands under 100m from most reports, including Dr. Roberts). Then last year Wolf Military Classic started changing and for awhile at least with it looked like the 124 HP was really just Tula (Wolf Black Box) repackaged which could make some sense because at one point Uly's plant had a fire.

The latest rumor on WMC 124 gr. HP "Sapsan" 8MC is apparently still being brought in from "Uly," it is just that they stopped using red sealant around the necks but still is suppose to have some on the primer pocket. I don't know for sure though since I haven't bought mostly because I haven't seen any, although I haven't looked to hard because I have a lot of the old stuff stockpiled back. However, I did buy a box of WMC FMJs that had no sealant around the neck nor primers lately.

Note that Uly produced stuff after a certain year (I don't know what that started but at least 2008 on) has a Wolf headstamp, not a Uly headstamp, so you can't use that to tell.

You can confirm that it is the Sapsan 8M3 bullet by taking a loupe and looking inside the hollowpoint and look at its cuts inside the jacket to encourage opening. They should be deeper than Wolf Black Box 122 gr bullets cuts which are shallower or even non-existent. Also if you pull the bullets the shape should be different and the 8M3 bullet being shorter and flat based. Of course you can cut the bullets in half to compare construction as well.

Overall, it seems Eastern European modern FMJ or even "hollowpoint" (which in most Eastern stuff doesn't actually expand) is up to the M67/8M2/US made lead core FMJ designs that cause the bullet to tumble much sooner than M43 based ones that rarely tumble soon enough so most the cheap stuff works better than before. However, Chinese steel core is based on M43 and has only marginally better penetration performance making it not worth the price.

Buy the ChiCom steel core if you want, but really the steel core is mild since it was not designed to be specifically armor piercing. It was only classified that by the ATF when AK handguns were first made. Steel cores in rounds that can be shot out of handguns cause them to be classified as armor piercing. The Soviets' M43 round and later the Chinese copy used steel core to make production easier. Because of this the steel core only has marginally better penetration than current Eastern European FMJs. This is because Russians and others still use "bi-metal" jackets which is a thin plating of cooper over a tough mild steel jacket with a lead core. Due to these more modern rounds' different center of gravity they also have better terminal ballistics from tumbling than the steel core. In my opinion, it is not worth the extra price people are asking for this no longer imported ammo.

One other budget good terminal performer is Brown Bear 125 gr. soft point. This was the best in the latest Guns and Ammo Complete Book of the AK test (unfortunately the author/editor didn't test the WMC 8M3 load). Also it has the advantage in my book of being Lacquer coated which I like better than the polymer stuff Wolf uses since it gets surface rust more easily, but both coatings still feed fine in AKs.

All the Bear stuff is made at the Barnaul plant, as is the Monarch brand. The differences between the Bear lines them is how the the steel cases are plated. Brown is lacquered, Silver is Zinc, and Golden is brass plating. They will all be about the same quality of bullets, which is generally good and is lead cored with bi-metal jackets. The coatings would the difference and go with what what you prefer or just by what load is available in what line or at your retailer.

One other side brand is Golden Tiger 124gr FMJBT. It tends to be good stuff and is often the most accurate Russian brand. They are made at the Vympel plant.

As I mentioned before, the U.S. Winchester White Box/Federal/American Eagle/Fiocchi etc., 123gr FMJs (with reloadable brass) will have better terminal performance similar to Yugo M67 which tumbles sooner than M43 based stuff (like Chinese steel core). Dr. Fackler determined that M43 tends to make a .30 hole through and through in many cases and isn't a
good terminal performer. Modern FMJ will tumble better, but still not of good option as expanding ammo though in my opinion.

Hornady V-Max and Winchester Soft Points are good bang for the buck U.S. made options. Of course they aren't going to be as cheap as the Eastern European stuff.

Hornady uses Russian steel cases but U.S. powder, primers and bullets. A box of 50 runs about $30-$40. Overall the Hornady loading is a little light though, under the 2350 FPS they list. It has some impressive terminal performance:
Brass Fetcher's testing of a commerically reloaded V-Max load
As you can see, it has a lot of early fragmentation still with decent penetration of the core of the bullet. I'm not sure if I would use it as a hunting round of something I planned to eat like deer and hog due to all the fragments, but it would make an excellent 4 for 2 legged varmint round.

The Winchester loading is just a good typical soft point bullet on brass cases if you are into reloading. Kinda boring compared to some other stuff we're talking about but reliable stuff. Good hunting or self defense at relatively decent price for U.S. ammo. They are normally $20 for a box of 20.

Note on another soft point loading, terminal ballistics expert Dr. Roberts has had bad experiences with Federal 7.62x39 soft points not reliably expanding and they are .308 not .310/.311 diameter so I stay away from them. However they did expand in this test at

Speaking of Dr. Roberts, he does report good performance from Laupa 125gr soft points. In general, Laupa makes great ammo, it is just that it tends to be more rare and expensive here in the the U.S. and I think their are better options once you start to get in that price range
Remington makes a soft point in 7.62x39 but I haven't heard many reports on it so I can't really tell you more there.

Corbon, if you can afford it, is probably the best overall ammo. Their all copper DPX load expands and penetrates reliably and is an amazing performer. The 108gr MPG load makes a good urban load since it basically uses a version of Barnes' Varmint Grenade. They also have a 150gr soft point and a 125gr hollowpoint, the 150gr having my attention for hunting. Corbon as loads the Glaser rounds which may or may not be your cup of tea, I think the MPG load is a better option if you are looking for lower barrier penetration but yet better target penetration. All the Corbon loads run $42-$52 per 20 and Glaser $25 per 6.

One other Wolf load we haven't talked about yet is the 154gr. soft point loading that a lot of people tend to like and similar to .30-30 hunting loads with the advantage of a pointed tip. Although, I'm not 100% sold on the 154gr.'s trajectory out of a 16" AK barrel for longer range and the bullets
tend to shed jackets when expanding. Depending on your preferences, it could make a good short range hunting round.

There's my thoughts on 7.62x39. Sometime when I get a better feel for 5.45x39 the loadings out there and Hornady brings out their V-Max load I'll do a second version of this for the smaller round.

Note: Sources for the 8M3 bullet have changed from the Wolf 124 gr. HP, check out this post for more information.