A primer on 7.62 AK ammo

8m3-4Far and away, one of the least expensive rifle calibers out there to train with is the 7.62×39, leading many to stock up in bulk. The round itself works- sure, there’s others that increase range, accuracy and terminal effect, but essentially the round does fairly well what it was designed to do, used within the parameters of which it was designed, being the intermediate ~300M range.

That being said, the round needs no introduction to most of the readership. Veterans know it well, Hunters especially in the Southern US know it as the poor man’s 30-30, and range rats know it as the fun caliber to shoot on the cheap. Like the 30-30, it carries a similar energy and trajectory, punches through brush fairly easily without a significant impact on trajectory, and reliably does what you want it to. Many Survivalists have stocked away lifetime supplies of the round just based on it’s price point of both the round and the weapons that fire it. While its easy to ride down to the local gun shop or ammo website and pick up a few hundred rounds, not all of the ammo is the same.

Just like with 5.56, 7.62×51, etc, there’s a plethora of different rounds, some being better than others. Many, many folks I’ve run into are guilty of lumping it together in to one sole category as if there’s no difference. Concerning accuracy there’s not much difference between the stuff coming from Russia, but terminal effect-wise, the differences become more clear. If you’re buying bulk there’s a couple of specific rounds to look for, aside from simply what’s the cheapest. Of the loadings, there’s three general types of rounds themselves- Full Metal Jacket, Hollow Point, and Soft Point. Among these, as anyone familiar with terminal ballistics will attest, the SP round is generally the most desirable. Full metal jackets are great for playing on the range, but not my first choice for desirable ammo. Hollow points are the most confusing category to many, due to the wide variety of ammunition imported but not always clearly indicated. They range from simply being an AK version of Open Tip Match (a tiny hole in the tip with little to no expansion properties) to HPs with pre-fail cuts inside the round itself. 8m3-6

The common bullets weights for 7.62×39 range from 122 to 125gr, with a 154gr load on the market as well made by Tula. I don’t recommend bulking up on the 154 if you’re running an AK, as the additional weight may cause premature wear on the recoil spring, bolt carrier, and rear trunion. In purchasing bulk general purpose ammo, 125gr SP is most desirable of what’s commonly available sight unseen, with it being the best medium between mass, speed, effect, and cost effectiveness. It may not be a premium hunting round, but the chances of it yawing or expanding is higher than with simple FMJ.

8m3-8The next most sought after round is not as easy to come by, and a great amount of confusion surrounds it’s source. It’s known as 8m3, sometimes referred to as the “Sapsan” round after the original imported brand name. 8m3 is a 124gr HP with pre-fail cuts in the jacket, allowing greater fragmentation on impact. 8m3 has an intriguing story of how it came about, not unlike our load development changes in 5.56 and 7.62×51 coming from experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The 5.45 experienced shortcomings with Russian troops in Chechnya, ricocheting off of and fragmenting when hitting intermediate barriers, as well as having limited close range effectiveness. The extended engagement ranges of Afghanistan that favored the newer, faster 5.45 had given to close range fights in urban and dense forest. 8m3-10Although superseded by the 5.45x39mm AK-74 in Afghanistan, the AKM continued to be used in a limited, specialized role in conjunction with the PBS-1 suppressor and rudimentary (although high tech in it’s day) starlight scope, seen at right. The 7.62 round, being a great deal slower, was still quite effective within medium ranges and lost less energy from the effects of the suppressor.

This limited role platform was re-recognized in the next decade during the Chechen crisis, and the 7.62 was employed yet again due to it’s favorable attributes of energy retention at close range even when suppressed and superior intermediate barrier penetration. 8m3-9Other weapons have since been purpose built to fill this role (such as the 9x39mm VSS) but due to the sheer numbers of AKMs in the inventory, it still sees widespread use, even as recent as Crimea.

Recognizing the need to maximize the 7.62, Ulyanovsk ammunition plant (makers of Wolf Military Classic and sometimes Wolf black box) developed a new anti personnel round with pre-fail cuts to guarantee expansion on impact. The new 8m3 round was issued to domestic security units and was sold commercially. Fortunately it’s still available stateside for those careful enough to look.

8m3-18m3 is a 124gr bullet, most commonly found in Wolf Military Classic, but also occasionally in Tulammo, which used to be known as Wolf, loaded at Tula arsenal. Not all HPs are 8m3…only the 124gr, and not all of those either. One way to make sure you have 8m3 is to take a finishing nail or pin and rub the inside of the cavity, checking the pre-fail notches. The ammo works well, and is far superior in terminal performance to FMJ.

8m3-2The round’s effect, seen in this gel test, is a good demonstration of it’s wounding capacity just after it enters and creating a large channel.  It’s great ammunition and should be sought after if you’re looking to run the AK.


The Soft Point and 8m3 HP are the two most economical yet effective rounds on the market for the AKM. Caliber and platform arguments aside (which is a stupid, stupid waste of time normally argued by folks who’ve never fired a shot in anger) you as the shooter should be looking at every way possible to maximize the effectiveness of your equipment. Maximizing the lethality of your rounds is a great step in the right direction. This article is not meant to ignite a caliber or weapon shouting match, but rather inform based on the best of the options out there for the AK platform. You may not have enough ammo for what’s coming down the pipe, but you can at least know which rounds to acquire till that day arrives.


31 thoughts on “A primer on 7.62 AK ammo

    1. I can’t guarantee that it is, but the latest 124gr HP I purchased (in person, just the other day at a LGS) definitely was, and it’s Tulammo. Most likely it will be.

      1. mtnforge

        Like to build me a 47 out of a kit, get one of Green mountain Rifle Barrel’s superb barrels for it, and a decent trigger. I got a Saiga in 308 with a 16 inch bbl a few years back, did the conversion from the factory nanny state hunting stock, fabricated a chromemoly tube butt stock and machined the sight block for a picatiny rail, put an Aimpoint Patrol Optic on it. This is no fooling, it is the most intrinsically accurate rifle I have owned. Been using CSpec mags, they are big chunky heavy units, really well made in every respect. I don’t know why it is so accurate, it shoots 150 grain hunting rounds like a $2000 custom rifle, and it cost $379 brandy new! It is a sweet handling, relatively light weight rig to boot for a 308 battle rifle. Had a custom order Springfield full NM M14, doesn’t compare to the big AK. Not even close. Russians know how to build a good rifle. I like those AK bolt buffers, smooths out the recoil and is quicker to recover your sight picture. Having a little brother in 7.62 is really tempting.
        Any of you guys try out PMags AK furniture?

      2. I owned and converted a Saiga 308 as well, and can attest to that same level of quality. CSpec mags are the way to go. My only issue was not having a flash hider, and no one I knew had a large enough lathe to thread the barrel.

        If you’re looking for a traditional AK at a good price, pick up one of the the new WASRs. The new ones are not cobbled together Century builds, they’re nearly 100% from Cugir arsenal. Believe it or not, the Romanian chrome-lined barrel is actually one of the better ones out there.

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  2. Ray

    You forgot the M67 Yugo. That is, IMO, the best of the AK/SKS rounds. Same wound profile as the AK 74’s 7N6 round with a bullet that is twice as heavy. Yes , yes, they have corrosive primers. BUT. Corrosive primers last about forever , and I clean my weapons after I use them so that’s not a downside. They are also actual waterproofed military issue ammunition with great QC. Something that cannot be said for all, or even most, Russian made ammo.

    1. I didn’t forget it.

      I purposefully omitted it. The round, while an OK performer, is not in steady supply and is corrosive. Sure, you can spray the weapon with ammonia to neutralize it, but I’d rather not.

      And, what you may or may not know, is that the M67 is a Soviet design which improved upon the older M43. The Serbian arsenals simply adopted the round and loaded it in brass case. Some steel case out there (Golden Tiger specifically) is loaded with the round.

      The engineers at Uly sought to improve upon THAT ROUND, and did so with 8m3, among others that are not commercially available. And much of the imported ammunition is just fine for long term storage, provided one knows a little about caching and is not a moron. Wolf shot just fine in Afghanistan among the folks we were partnered with, and it shoots just fine in the humidity of NC when I frequently train.

      1. Andrew

        M67 projectile…
        I have a pile of Olympic which claims to have that loaded in Boxer primed brass casings.
        Was thinking about selling it off…now I may have to keep some.

  3. Funny you should mention a flash hider. Got one half made, by-passes the need to chuck up the recievered barrel, replaces the factory sight tower, uses a AR front sight tower, using a clamp system like a AR gas block, has a threaded extension. Got one of those nifty piloted muzzle brake reamer from Manson Reamers to line bore a flash hider. The barrel where the factory site tower mounts is very finely machined and concentric to the bore by .0005. I think the Saiga doesn’t need a brake. But the 16 inch barrel needs a flash suppressor.

  4. R. Stephen Dorsey

    Comment on the M67 Round: I think it is a far better AK round than being given credit here. Abut three years ago, I ran a test of 15+ different 7.62 x 39 rounds, some military and some commercial, all bench fired from a like-new Yugo AK for group. The M67 was, by far, the most accurate and, from the reported gelatin block test I saw is definitely more lethal than other 7.62 x 39 rounds. I’m will try the 8m3 but I know what my test showed for accuracy and what another test showed for lethality, so I have no qualms about the M67 when things are serious.

    1. It’s neither in constant supply nor the most effective based upon what’s out there.

      There’s better options, which have been pointed out. If it works for you, great.

      Roger, Out.

      1. Andrew

        My best friend and I got that Olympic about…wow.
        Probably 14 years ago.

        I shot some of it because it’s non magnetic, so I could take to an indoor range, and its non corrosive.

        If I still had an AK I’d be more tempted to keep the stuff.

  5. TR

    Great article!

    Tough to beat for training and effective performance.

    For defensive and hunting only…

    Not as cheap but worth consideration for the money and bullet design.

    Hornady 123gr. SST STEEL CASE
    Hornady 123gr. ZMAX BRASS CASE

    Also several good bullet options by Winchester, Federal and Corbon but cost more for performance and quality parts.

    Many considerations but also worth mention…Brass case will have less wear on extractors, etc. and may be more reliable.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Tango Mike!

      I left out the domestically produced options out of expense. Most folks who are bulk purchasing aren’t stacking Cor-bon (although if you can afford it, do it!) One other issue, which I didn’t address because it applies to SKSs more than AKs, is the deep-set primers on Winchester not firing.

  6. No doubt about it 7.62×39 is a cost effective ammo and weapons system. Proven beyond doubt of its reliable effectiveness. The whole system is robust. Lot to be said for a rifle and ammo which arms the largest percentage of the world. $250 bucks for a thousand round case of military grade ammunition? An iconic battle rifle? With the ballistic attributes of the venerable 30-30 and 300AAC? Short, quick handling, reliable magazine design? And with all the cool add on’s and upgrades these days? Slap a Aimpoint mil spec red dot, Trijicon Reflex sight, or a Tritium SeeAll on it, you have a serious combat fighting rifle.

    You all checked out SeeAll’s new tritium powered battle sight?
    I’m getting me one. Super compact, light weight, nice low profile, looks rugged like a Trijicon, and $199. I like the triangle reticle. Looks like the perfect rig for the AK.


      1. Me too. I’m running a Trijicon reflex sight with the beige 12moa triangle on a m4orgery. Have an astigmatism that makes most red dots look like 2 dots touching each other, (though the very excellent Aimpoint Pro seems to provide a sight picture with only a tiny bit of fuzziness that I have no trouble compensating for), but the triangle is very sharp, and a natural point of aim for my old slow to focus mark 1’s that have dried out lenses from a life of welding. I found the Triangle gives me an excellent sight picture when the trigger breaks too, I get that instant minds eye snapshot of where the bullet will hit. It is a serious confidence factor. I’ve discovered much to my satisfaction the triangle, and the Aimpoint too, works really well with a decent mil spec AR trigger. You know how you get that rhythm between reset in the disconnector, and where your bullet will hit with bringing your gun sight back on target?
        Developed the feel for the same with the 308 Saiga, though it is a little more course than the smooth lock/reset time of the AR, though the trigger I installed in the conversion has an excellent crisp break with a long take-up. I’ve compensated for the courser clunkier reset by using the bounce of the heavier recoil of the 308 to the time of reset/target re-aquire cycle. I guess you really can’t fairly compare the two systems as they are totally different other than being semi auto’s. But in no doubt, the advent of the reflex and high grade 1-2moa red dots made both rifle systems into outstanding small unit infantry combat arms. The advent in my mind it is changed everything, and that is coming from a guy who takes military peep/ghost ring battle sights old skool seriously. Add in a set of tritium backup irons, I think nothing compares or is as reliable and rugged. The green color should make it a viable low light/night sight.
        Looking at the SeeAll, I’m thinking same as you.
        They guy has put some serious effort into a simple rugged reflex sight. It is worth supporting him, takes a lot of effort and capitol to do what he has done, and the guy is up in Montana to boot. It has such a low profile, I would seriously consider machining the sight block of the AK down to the piston tube, and tig welding on a piece of steel Picatinny rail with a milled down bottom section, get the whole rig as low as physically possible. It would sit there nice and trim and compact. I always felt the AK needed a world class sight to bring out its attributes. That old commie notched sight just don’t have much going for it.

      2. As for the AK sights, lots of folks have modded them, but I simply take a triangle jeweller’s file and enlarge the notch just a bit. I’m a big fan of the Ultimak, and it allows co-witness of a red dot to the irons.

        The see-all looks like it would work well with the ultimak.

  7. mtnforge

    Got to thinking about it, something dawned on me. The first battle rifle I bought, was a ChiCom AK47, what did they call them, type 56’s? $217 bucks, pick the one you like out of the wooden crate young man, and there’s tuna cans of ammo fit it, 105 bucks, 2 for $200. Had that rifle for years, ran thousands of rounds thru it, sometimes till the inside of the forearm would smoke, don’t remember any failures to feed reject or fire. It was make a train take a dirt road ugly, get so hot I wrapped bandana’s around the forend to keep from getting burned, the forend rivet would still give me blisters. Back then weren’t many owned an AK47, everyone wanted to buy it. Traded it for a EX state police Ithaca Deer Slayer with a trigger disconnect, still have that. But what a crazy stout rifle it was. Time to get another…

    …An AK is not like a shovel or an axe, it is a weapon for men who haven’t forgotten how to use a shovel, an axe, and a rifle.

  8. This kind of goes along with the whole economy of the AK:

    Stupid Slings

    Good rugged simple slings at a super great price. I ordered a few, found them top shelf and where exactly what I wanted in a sling. I believe a rifle should have a sling if your busting brush.

  9. A couple of years ago I bought some .308 diameter 200gr. jacketed soft point to test out for subsonic loads. At the time, I was really big into the 9×39 cartridge, and had seriously thought about reinventing the wheel with a custom barrel to build into an ak, and trying to get Lee reloading to make me some custom 250gr. 9mm molds. Then I decided against it, and did some research on subsonic AK. The problem the Russians had was needing a rubber baffle to allow the rifle to cycle with a 195gr projectile out of the PBS suppressors. An adjustable gas regulator would be nice here.

    So I pulled the projectiles out of some steel cased ammo, saved the bullets and powder, loaded about 4-5 gr. of Bullseye(fast burning powders seem to work better), and crimped it as hard as I could(normally a no-no due to increasing the pressures, but .03 inches is a huge amount of space for a bullet in the grand scheme of things, which I learned loading 115gr. .355 dia. projectiles into .38SPC cases, having to do a super heavy crimp on them, with the projectile still spinning, though it shot about as accurate as any other .38 SPC did out of that gun.)

    Accuracy wise, all I had was a clay pigeon on a hill at 100 yds known distance from a previous outing, and with the sights set at 700 or 800 meters, I was kicking up the dirt next to it. Never been good with AK irons, especially standing like I was shooting. At the time I was more proving to myself the proof of concept rather than accuracy and whatnot. Comparing the report of the rounds to the few regular I shot after (for a decent, non scientific comparison I didn’t use ear pro for that. Never a good idea. I have some nice electronic ear pro, and normally I use it. They are getting cheaper nowadays, and are indispensable for range safety), the ones I loaded were comfortable, a bit louder than a .22, where as the regular rounds were pretty uncomfortable.

    One of these days, I will get a chronograph and revive the project. Until then, my kit is set up for my AK, which is my primary rifle for my area. Woodland with few areas nearing 200-300 yards. Primary home defense rifle as well, especially for the added penetration to vehicles it provides.

      1. Honestly, it might prove cheaper to buy a .300 Blackout upper and throw it on an AR lower, but I still like the AK system. Get a good can and with some work, I think it would do well as a “Special Applications System”, maybe even in a bullpup configuration.

        Either that, or I just played too much Metal Gear Solid, Rainbow 6, Ghost Recon, and Operation Flashpoint growing up…

      2. It might be cheaper to do an AR in 300, but quiet AKMs are cool.

        I’m not overly enamored with 300BLK anyway…a lot of the “cool guy” range mob is, and I appreciate the logistics thought behind it, but…nah. It just don’t do it for me.

      3. Thinking about it a bit more, it would be easier and quicker to make or modify a batch of rounds with standard cases, than to neck up spare 5.56 brass, or even try to collect your spent .300BLK brass on a patrol. Let alone keeping it quiet in your ruck, or the brass catch bag when you don’t want to be heard.

        Now I just need an integrally suppressed ak.. something like the AS Val. Maybe I’ll dig out that old magazine article, scan some pictures and do a post for my seriously neglected blog over the next couple of days. Yeah, sounds like a plan.

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