Inexpensive Expanding 7.62×39 Ammunition, by Tunnel Rabbit

Most people have ARs that they do not know how to keep running long term. If folks will not get the training needed to keep the AR reliable, then they would be far better off with an AK variant rifle or carbine. I have both.  My handloaded 5.56×45 ammunition using Hornady 55 grain FMJ bullets with 23.4 grains of IMR 3031 powder is right at 1 minute of angle (MOA), and 2,900 feet per second (fps) out of a 16-inch barrel.  I would have used a soft point, but the FMJ was all that was available for the trade made to acquire it. BTW, Varget is not the only powder that produces accurate loads in 5.56.

While I appreciate the fact that “only accurate rifles are interesting”, I am also interested in the superior knockdown power, or ability to quickly incapacitate, and the simple manual of arms of the AK-47 variant rifles that are well suited for the untrained masses, that are most folks.  I am still concerned that the first four AR-15, and one AR-10 rifles that I handled all failed with in the first few rounds. This is because the untrained owners handed me their AR’s that were not properly maintained.  I did manage to clean and lubricate three of theses rifle for their owners.  Unfortunately, all but one of the rifles was put back in storage, and the owner never learned.  One of the owners was a combat vet who failed to lubricate the rifle properly.  Another rifle needed the chamber honed, and better springs. That rifle was brand new from the factory and yet it still failed.  Fortunately, my experience with AK rifles has been far more positive.  Not only are these rifles reliable when not properly maintained, but they are simple to use, and are much more potent than 5.56 rifles within the range most combat occur–150 yards or less– if the correct ammunition is used.  In this article, I will explain briefly why.

Because 7.62×39 FMJ ammunition lacks the velocity and energy of 7.62mm NATO, it has earned a reputation for wounding. 5.56mm NATO also deserves that same reputation.  Fortunately, there are now inexpensive and reliable expanding bullets made for 7.62×39 that are game-changers.

7.62x39mm Ammo Options

I’ve been an advocate of fragmenting ammunition that uses the 8M3 bullet for well over a decade. It deserves wider recognition. In the 1990s is was used in Sapsan brand ammunition. More recently it was sold in the Wolf Military Classic line. Eventually, the magazine Guns and Ammo did a cover story on AK-47 ammunition choices and used ammunition with the 8M3 bullet in a side by side test with Lapua, and Winchester 124 grain soft point ammunition. It recommended the 8M3 as a strong third choice. They were impressed.  Had current choices from Wolf and Tula been available at the time of the article, I believe they would have been even more impressed.

Not mentioned by most of 8M3 bullet advocates is that its effectiveness decreases past 50 yards, and has little effect as a fragmenting bullet beyond 75 yards. But it is very effective where it is most needed, inside of 50 yards when MV (muzzle velocity) is around 2,350 fps. A 20-inch barrel adds about 100 fps.  Confirm this ammunition’s effective range in your rifle simply by shooting jugs filled with water as these explode when the bullet fragments.  The effect is surprising as opposed to the usual and underwhelming results of FMJ that simply punches two holes in jugs of water, which then leaks out. Interestingly when the 8M3 bullet hit windshields and hard barriers, it does penetrate before it fragments. However, shots beyond 50 to 75 yards should use Wolf, or Tulammo’s 124-grain soft points, or 154 grain soft points, if Winchester and other manufactures of 7.62 x 39 soft point ammunition is too expensive. It usually is four times more expensive, but it is better designed and generally higher quality. The brass is reloadable, yet it is not more accurate. The Tula 154 grain SP is probably the most accurate ammo out of most AKs, and hits hardest. Inside of 25 yards, this ammunition will expand in water to .6 inches in diameter. In a ballistic gelatin test a measured maximum expansion to be .6 inches at a minimum to .75 inches maximum.  This is more than adequate, and better expansion that the Hornady 160 FTX bullet used in their .30-30 soft point ammunition.

The 154-grain soft point bullet is popular with hog and deer hunters because it works reliably. However, velocity is only just 2,177 fps out of 16” barrels as measured during ballistic gelatin test (1). It could be that expansion might be greater, and initiated earlier, and be more effective at extended ranges using the 124-grain version, as it has a muzzle velocity closer to 2,400 fps, or about 150 to 200 fps faster. However, the trajectory is similar out to about 200 to 300 yards, as the 154-grain bullet has a higher ballistic coefficient and retains energy, whereas the lighter and faster 124-grain sheds velocity sooner. The 154-grain, or the 124-grain AK-47 bullets also tends not to be deflected by brush as much, as compared to 5.56 that will typically tend to deflect and tumble. As a rule, the heavier and slower the bullet, the less deflection occurs. Therefore the 154 grain would be my choice for wooded environments as it could travel through concealment used by attackers.

Inexpensive and Plentiful

The 154-grain is not only inexpensive at 25 to 30 cents per round, but it may still be available for purchase during the current run on ammunition.  Wolf or Tula brand in 154 grain or 124 grain soft point would be my first and second choice, and the 8M3 bullet as found in the Wolf Military Classic line, would be my third choice. If none of those are available, then my fourth choice would be the Yugo M67 ammunition, but note that tests have shown that it yaws early in flight.  Not only does the 154 grain SP bullet expand reliably, but it also penetrates deeply and would be a better all-around choice as a hunting bullet than the 124-grain soft point.  To completely incapacitate an assailant would likely require several hits with either 7.62×39 FMJ, or 5.56 NATO, whereas fewer, if not only one hit would be required if using soft point ammunition. I would not feel the need to double tap with this ammunition and could conserve my limited supply.  I might contend that within 200 yards, that it would be nearly as effective as 7.62mm NATO (.308 Winchester) that uses a 147 grain FMJ bullet.  In any case, it is a game-changer that has gone mostly under-appreciated.

Your First Carbine

If you have not yet purchased a rifle, or need more ammunition, then I suggest an AK-47 variant and currently produced Wolf, or Tulammo brand soft point ammunition as the best defense combination for the least amount of money.  This is the least expensive ammunition and is most effective, and that means that more training can be done for the same money. A more accurate and popular rifle that one can not maintain properly, or cannot afford to shoot often, will not be as useful as a rifle one is thoroughly practiced with and is an AK variant. Also if one cannot afford soft point ammunition, then that same rifle will be less effective in typical combat ranges.  Where 5.56 NATO shines is that more ammo can be carried, and it is twice as accurate, and that can make a decisive advantage when shots are beyond 200 yards.

I own both ARs and AKs. My AR is set up with day and night scope, and is capable of 400-yard shots.  The AK is for close range as it will stop the fight much faster than the AR, and faster yet if expanding ammunition is used. I believe in using different tools for different jobs.  I strongly recommend AK’s because, over the years, I’ve put several AKM rifles through real-world tests and believe it is indeed the most reliable magazine-fed semi-auto rifle for austere environments, and for those who know little about how to maintain a rifle. They can run without lubrication. In contrast, the AR must be well lubricated to operate.  I’ve heard that the new line of AKMs at Palmetto State Armory are outstanding.  Choose wisely.

In summary, in ascending order of effectiveness, here are my preferences:

For Further Research

A Texas Hog Hunter’s endorsement of Tulammo’s 154-grain soft point as a reliable hunting bullet.

7.62×39 Accuracy: Tul Ammo 122 grain versus 154-grain

Generally speaking, the rifle used in the video for this testing would be more accurate than most AKM type rifles.  From my own personal testing, I would expect to see a 4 to 5 inch group from most AKM’s using Tula 154 grain soft point ammunition.  Other AKM rifles might perform better, or worse. From all the accuracy testing done using 7 different AKM rifles, I could not produce better than 5 to 6 inch groups off a bench shooting with iron sights using the typical varieties of 122 to 124 grain ammunition. The 8M3 bullet in both Sapsan and Wolf Military Classic offerings were no more accurate than standard Russian or Chinese ammunition.  I suspect that most AKM rifles would have 1 inch or tighter groups with the Tula 154-grain ammunition.  Some SKS rifles would be more accurate than other SKS rifles, that are generally more accurate than the AK-47 variants.  I have heard that 2 to 4 MOA is possible in some SKS rifles.

More Links

Some links, for comparative purposes:

Ballistic Gellatin tests of other Common Caliber soft point and full metal jacket ammunition as
performed by the YouTube channel, Brass Fetcher:

(1) Ballistic Gelatin test performed by the YouTube channel, The Chopping Block.
7.62x39mm gel test: 154 gr TulAmmo soft point




62 Comments

  1. The article was written July 4th as ammunition sales were at a frenzy. Currently, my favorite supplier, SGammo.com, as of today, is almost completely out of their once massive supply of 5.56/.223. For those who would have an AKM rifle, 50 percent of their usual offerings are still in stock, including all of my choices except the Yugo M67. IMHO, most people will be far better served with a AK-47 variant rifle. If one is behind the power curve, you can still get up to speed by adding this type of rifle to your inventory.

    If malnourished children in the Third World can handle an AK, then anyone can. If the rifle is properly sighted in, it will hit the broad side of a barn, even if it is *not* inside the barn. I have heard reports from dedicated users of AKs, that Palmetto State Armory is producing a surprisingly good quality AKM rifles for a relatively low price. I would buy there before any other place, but unfortunately their entire line is now sold out. I’ve own and operated many AKs. My current favorite AK is the equivalent of the rare MAC-91, and it is a sweet shooter, and accurate. The trigger is smoother and breaks cleaner than a PSA AR-15. IMHO, I would pay extra for an Arsenal brand AK and be happy. It will handle the abuse that most ARs cannot.

    1. Thanks TR. I haven’t tried long distance shooting with it, but my wife can ring the steel plate at 100 yards with her Romainian AK using whatever ammo I give her. Usually Wolf or Tula. I too love doing business with SG Ammo. Great company.

      1. Hi Winder,

        Capacity, reloading, and rate of fire. See other posts on this.

  2. Great analysis Rabbit! i concur, Varget is not the only MOA propellant for .223/ 5.56 loadings. I also have great accuracy with IMR 4064 and CFE 223.

    Parts: extra bolts (save the original if you upgrade to a chrome or nickel bolt carrier group) extra complete lower parts kits, buffer springs, extra stocks, bolt rings, detent pins.

    Tools: AR armorers wrench, AR field tool (similar to leatherman) military surplus cleaning kits (with extras) with carry pouch, extra slings, back up sights if needed.

    Cleaning: Ed’s Red (recipe on Survival blog) 1 gallon, CLP, one gallon, chamber brushes and bore brushes, jags, patches by the thousands. A full length cleaning rod for the caliber, use sectioned rods only when necessary. Also add a bottle of Sweets 7.62 for a really nasty cleaning job but be careful not to overuse it.

    All the above can be tailored to any choice of platform and caliber. Get your tools before they become scarce or opportunities to purchase are gone. Extra is great for barter. I have found most economical purchase of cleaning supplies sold single piece in bins at gun shows.

    Transportation: one or 2 hard boxes or ammo cans to transport it all to and from the range or bugout if necessary. ( I prefer to clean at the range whenever possible, bring them home and place in storage)

  3. Great article. Agree with all, most from experience. I have hunted with 154 soft points in SKS. Have had a consistent hang fire problem with Tula, below 20 degrees F, about a half to a second delay. M67 works best in my AR chambered for 7.62×39.

    1. Hi Miltex,

      At around 20 degrees I’ve had one hang fire with in the first 500 rounds. In extreme cold weather, hang fires may occur more often. I believe the benefits out weight this issue. Good 124 grain 7.62×39 soft points exceed the stopping power of 7.62 NATO (FMJ), as it delivers 725 ft pounds of energy within the first 2 inches of ballistic gelatin. In the test that uses Federal Power Shok 123 grain 7.62×39 soft point bullet at a velocity of 2,281 fps in contrast with the 7.62 NAT0 M80 ball ammunition in tests performed by a professional (see test results: https://youtu.be/sGYF8DTLcj4?t=37) M80 also delivers 725 foot pounds of energy, yet much latter, or at about 7.25 inches verses 2 inches in ballistic gelatin that the 7.62×39 123 grin soft point delivers (See test results: https://youtu.be/IIFkLAgGy6w?t=43). The difference in wound ballistics of the two ammunition types is defined by when these two loading’s energy transfer peaks. It is significant and defines the temporary and permanent wound cavity. It is also important to note that in the opinion of the Brass Fetcher that M80 ammunition should not be used for hunting. Having fired cases of the stuff, I can also verify that 7.62×39 is useful as a anti-material round as well, and punches through trees up to 14 inches in diameter, and almost as well as does 7.62 NATO (M80). As tested at home, the difference in penetration on pine cord wood shot within 25 yards, 7.62 NATO M80 only penetrated 2 inches deeper than 7.62×39 123 grain FMJ, or consistently 16 inches verses 14 inches.

      Wolf brand soft points may be a better choice, but as if yet, I have no experience with it.

  4. Good article TR, very thorough…
    Not being much of a ballistics guy or having the equipment or resources for ballistics testing, this was most helpful. I focus mostly on getting respectable groupings at known distances and recording that information, no FPS or muzzle velocities, etc.
    The whole time reading this I was already forming a question in my mind, then you answered it briefly in the last paragraph… performance in an SKS. I would like to see a little more detail(s) on that if you ever get a chance. Thanks…

    Also thanks for the links to the other (Youtube) pages but especially to SGAmmo.com Very good web site and easy to navigate products page(s), other mail order retailers should use that site as their format. Jus’sayin.

    1. Hello Rucksack Rob,

      An SKS makes for an inexpensive rifle for a cached [spare], or for hunting. Because it is not a magazine-fed rifle and only has a 10 round magazine, it’s rate of fire is much like the M1 Garand, and is at a disadvantage in this day and age. It’s low price and availability at this time when better rifles are scarce, could make it a worthwhile choice, or stop-gap measure that is replaced as soon as possible with a AKM variant. When buying stripper clips, do not get the cheap ones that do not work. The SKS can be quick and easy to reload with the original good quality clips and proper technique. Check with Numrich Gun Parts for these stripper clips.

  5. Thanks for this article TR! Been looking for 7.62×39 for sale- will be ordering from SG. I recently took delivery of an AK-P GF3 from Palmetto State and I love it! Even my 12 year old daughter is competent with it. PSA is putting out some very high quality products at a great price. Wondering what your thoughts are on the 154 gr. SP out of a 10.5” barrel.

    1. Hi HP,

      The 10.5 barrel greatly reduces the speed of the bullet and it’s ability to expand upon impact. Using that barrel, use the 124 grain soft point.

      Glad to hear you nab an AK from PSA before they were all gone. I’d get on their list if it is not too long of a wait, or pay for a high quality Arsenal AKM. I can also recommend the Norinco MAC 90 if you can find one. AK’s are no longer inexpensive relative to the AR, but they worth it. Get the good quality magazines, not the cheap stuff. If it is a polymer mag, it should have a metal tab that locks it into the magazine well. I have minimum of 20 mags per rifle.

  6. I own and run both platforms and they each have strengths and weaknesses. I wholeheartedly agree that AKs biggest strength is reliability and simplicity. I will say that while anyone can be taught to operate an AK in a very short time, to run one efficiently takes training and practice. Mag changes are different than AR changes as well as proper charge handle manipulation, not that any of it is harder but operators should be aware of and train for the differences.

    1. Outlaw,

      The most important attribute a battle rifle can have is the ability go ‘bang’ each and every time the trigger is pulled. The AK can be neglected for years and still go ‘bang’. Without lubrication of any kind, most AK’s will continue to cycle, albeit slowly. A shot of (gasp) WD-40 is all it needs. Even a cave man can operate an AK, and they do.

      Most folks are not up to speed enough to know that their AR must above all else be well lubricated to function. This is very serious problem I found out about the easy way, rather than the hard way. The AR can be reliable if cleaned and lubricated. It must be serviced after 500 rounds. If not serviced, the odds of serious and persistent malfunctions is possible. Some high quality AR’s are superior and better than issued in the military, and will be reliable pass that 500 round count. Yet the wisdom of those from the ‘sandbox’ are words to heed.

      If this article only helps raise awareness about the necessity of cleaning and lubrication an AR, it was worth the effort. Either learn to service the AR, or learn the hard way.

      1. Hi HP,
        I need a dust cover that can be quickly removed to resolve those instances were cases get stuck in the action. It does happen…

  7. Hello Tunnel Rabbit,
    Thank you. You describe training is needed to make the AR reliable. I have an AR, not an AK. Do you have any recommendations on books or videos for AR training and for cleaning procedures? I need to get up to speed.
    Rocky

  8. Thanks for the write-up. I regret not buying an AK a long time ago. I hope to change that but alas, may be too late. I’ll be watching the Palmetto Armory site closely and hope there is some availability.

    If there are AK variants that I should NOT consider perhaps a reader can mention them.

    I was also a bit surprised to read the slightly negative comment on the AR15 reliability. I thought that was a thing of the past; but I do maintain my weapons. So maybe I should take my first and only AR15 I bought last year out of the safe and clean it. Maybe even sight it in.

    This should explain things: in 1968 I went to boot camp and qualified on the M1 Garand.

  9. Ammoland.com has a good basic article with video for AR maintenance. Having been responsible for maintaining 60 high volume round count AR’s as well as MP5’s for my police agency I can tell you that we used Ed’s Red brewed in-house for cleaning and Mobil 1 for lubrication and never had stoppages caused by maintenance.
    As to training videos on line check out Warrior Poets channel on u tube as well as Sage Dynamics, Mike Glover,Tactical Rifleman, garland Thumb,Reid Henricks,Thunder Ranch..
    Nothing beats actually taking a class from one of these guys to get u up and running.

  10. I got into reloading 7.62×39 unwillingly when I bought a Ruger Mini 30 and found it would not shoot foreign steel case ammo reliably. A conversation with Ruger verified that the rifle is designed strictly for SAAMI spec ammo and there is a very slight difference in foreign made steel case and SAAMI brass ammo. Some Mini 30s don’t care but I have seen two so far that do and read about hundreds more that do.

    My load is 27.2 grains of AA1680 behind a 123 grain Hornady .310 Interlock or SST. This is .1 grain under the max load listed in the Western Powders load manual. I go .1 grain less to account for any variation in my powder throw. I use CCI #200 primers.

    An important safety note with Mini 30. Reportedly some older ones were made with .308 barrels. Slug your barrel with a fishing sinker just slightly bigger than the bore and measure the compressed sinker with calipers to verify whether you need .310 or .308 bullets. There are other rifles you should do this with prior to reloading noteably Mosin Nagants.

    The load chronos at about 2440 fps which is about MILSPEC and right in line with Herters or S&B FMJ commercial brass ammo out of the Mini 30. I have never tested it out of an AK or SKS. It is about as accurate as anything out of a Mini 30 and it should be hard hitting.

    If you should wish to try this load, download the Western Powders load manual (it is free online) or purchase a paper copy and as with all load data, start at the minimum load working up carefully checking for signs of overpressure. I recommend a Chrono if you can afford one or borrow one. A Chrono is another tool to check the safety of rounds because if you are not getting somewhat expected velocities something may be wrong with pressure.

    I want to make a plug for Wester Powders. I like to load close to MILSPEC velocity and bullet weight in military calbers. Western Powders load data and products gets me closer faster in more calibers than most others I have tried. I think other powder/bullet companies legal groups cut them off at publishing the very high end of allowable pressure ranges which in many MILSPEC velocities is where you end up. I like that Western Powders will take you to the very edge of pressure with TESTED data. And I have found that their powders will often get you MILSPEC velocity without going to their max load.

    1. Hello JBH,

      Some police and sheriff departments still use the ‘Mini’ as it is more reliable than the AR-15 when stored for long periods of time either in the gun rack up front exposed to daily dust and dirt, or in a case in the trunk. Personally, given their budget, I would use a rifle in 7.62 NATO, pull the M80 bullet and install a cup and core soft point. We would then have ammunition superior to all others. Fortunately this relatively recent appearance of inexpensive 7.62×39 soft points are alternates that fill in the power gap between 7.62 NATO, and the under powered 5.56 NATO. It is a good balance ammunition weight, of medium range performance and knock down power that are attributes that are of the most value most of the time. Given the lower velocity of 7.62×39, I believe the SST is the best choice. And given the special diet that your Mini requires, I might experiment with the Bosnian made M67 that also has a brass case. If it works in your rifle, I would remove the M67 bullet and install your favorite. Or if the point of impact is similar, the M67 could be loaded every other one to along side you hand loads to help stretch out the good stuff and provide a better bullet for penetration cover.

  11. Remember back in the late 80s early/ 90s maybe ? Romanian AK 47 were going for $350. Sadly my city had retained the assault weapons ban law even after it had sunsetted so just wasn’t an option.

    Finally moved but now AK-47s are on par money-wise with AR-15’s. You just don’t see AK’s anymore ( at least around here ) seems the AR has won that battle. Did the research and the only one with a decent reputation was the Valmet. It had a very brief import run and now command insane prices.

    Have read the new AK’s being built here in the states have a better reputation. If the opportunity ever arises might just have to pick one up to round out the safe 🙂

    Thanks for the article Great stuff

  12. I have had a an old Chinese SKS for over 30 years and it is very accurate out to 200 meters and utterly reliable. A person in Minnesota killed several hunters some years ago for taunting him with a SKS. It is a cheap and capable of doing some damage if needed. I recommend the piston type Sig Saur 5.56 as an alternative to the AR 15.

  13. I’m not disagreeing with the article much. I have both the SKS and Palmetto 7.62×39 with Wolf Military Classic FMJ 124gr. Common sense and experience dictates that anyone hit with an 124 grain round at around 100 yards at anywhere around 2000fps is going to be out of the game and in need of good medical attention if not dead depending on the location of the wound. When hit with 124 grain military rounds anywhere in the torso at that approximate distance does not bode well for continued fight. After shooting the AK at varying distances including 150 yards I don’t want to be on the receiving end of that round. If that don’t stop them I pull out the .308 Win 18 incher in Wolf Military Classic FMJ 145gr and give them a taste of that if they continue to stay frosty.
    .

    1. Hi Oly,

      Naturally any good 124 grain soft point is a good choice, but it is my close #2 choice. My number one choice is a 154 ‘grainer’ (excuse the slang) as it is a good balance of penetration, and expansion that exceeds FBI standards, and could be considered reliably effective as Col. Martin Fackler, Phd. defined in his early studies.

      In general, the 124 grain soft points have greater expansion, but the penetration is not as great, and might be inadequate in certain situations. Again, I look for a sensible balance of expansion and penetration. In my back yard tests using 154 grain soft point Tulammo, this bullet penetrated time after time, 4 one gallon jugs of water when shot inside of 10 yards. The hydro static shock on impact shredded all four jugs ‘beyond all recognition’, and the bullets recovered expanded to a minimum of .6 inches, and shed it’s jacket. However, it was not fired out of the standard 16 inch barrel, but it was fired through a 23 inch heavy RPK barrel at an estimated velocity of nearly 2,400 fps, about 150 fps faster than when fired from a 16 inch barrel. As a comparison, 7.62 NATO (M80) fires a 147 grain projectile at about 2,750 fps though some 18 inch barrels, and standard .30-30 ammunition shot from a 20 inch barrels usually launches a round or flat point 150 grain bullet at around 2,350fps. In my 23 inch heavy barreled AKM /RPK rifle with a 50 percent heavier receiver and very long and thick barrel, this round is roughly equivalent in ‘knock down’ power to most .30-30 hunting ammunition at closer ranges, and superior to .30-30 ammunition at extended ranges. The 154 grain spire point bullet has a much better ballistic coefficient and retains it’s momentum, or in other words, it’s energy. From standard 16 inch barrels, the 154 grain bullet is running around 2,200 fps, about 150 fps slower than 124 grainers. This difference in velocity is acceptable and is insignificant as the point of impact is only about an inch lower at 200 yards, but the energy retained is significantly higher than the 124 grainer. The additional retained energy of this bullet would provide additional and needed ability to penetrate at longer ranges, thus be a more effective round at say at 200, and especially 300 yards. It may have to travel though cover and other obstructions as well. It is also tends to produce about 1 MOA tighter groups out of many rifles. At 300 yards, the hit probability is much greater as the grouping at that distance would be about 3 inches smaller in diameter. A complete analysis of this round is needed to fully appreciate it’s potential.

      If one already have several AR’s yet needs additional firepower in this market, an AK could be assigned to someone who is willing, and be used as a poor man’s RPK/SAW (light machine guns) by attaching a Burris style bipod, or better yet, a tripod, and using Korean made 75 round drums to start. Because of the excessive heat generated and subsequent barrel wear from high volume fire, switch to 3 round bursts, or 20 round magazines thereafter. You will ruin the barrel with ‘mag dumps’ during practice sessions, and quickly be taken out of the fight due to excess heat. Excessive heat can force the weapon out of service. The shorter and lighter 16 inch barrel cannot absorb as much heat as a heavy RPK barrel. 20 round magazines would provide a more maneuverable rifle when prone, and reduce the heat generated as one is forced to slow the rate of fire as magazines must be changed more often, thus slowing the rate of fire and keeping the rifle cooler. This is a good and necessary thing, especially in a prolonged battle. Standard rifles will become overheated in a prolonged fight, and become too hot to handle, or may fail, or catch fire.

      This is another aspect at which the average AK is preferable over an AR as it can provide a good base of fire and take the heat, and where I would not use a PSA AR. And/or we can have two rifles in the same key fighting position, and switch to a cool unused rifle at a planned round count that will allow the use of drums, or a pile of 30 round magazines taped together, resulting in more lead down range. In this way a defender has the advantage of providing sustained fire that attackers cannot match. It would be huge force multiplier as opponents can carry in only so much ammo, and magazines, and one rifle. A standard battle rifle with a bipod or a suitable heavy bean or sand bag using drums, or better yet, on a tripod, can provide superior, or accurate aimed fire that would be devastating and prevent opponents from maneuvering.

      The latest Russian Kalashnov RPK rifle in 5.45×39 uses a Burris styled bipod for this reason. It is a highly maneuverable platform. Using a bipod or a bag on AR would roughly duplicate, but an AK that has more recoil would be more controllable on a tripod. Mine is a semi auto and heavy RPK styled rifle that is set up to do both. It has attached, a Burris bipod, and the rifle can be released from the tripod with a quick pull of a cord. It is the best of both worlds, and can be fairly accurate on the bipod as this heavy rifle attenuates the recoil from 7.62×39 ammunition well. The front sight on an AK functions as a poor man’s Eotech sight as the rear sight is not needed in this situation and closer ranges. At night, muzzle flash that blinds the shooter is problem. Get a good flash hider. The long RPK barrel greatly reduces flash.

      Adding an AK to the arsenal has distinct advantages. Opponents wielding AR-15’s would find it difficult to find appropriate cover as they are most familiar with 5.56×45’s lack of penetration/performance. Some of those experienced in combat are of the well vetted opinion as oppose to my own, is that it is the indian, and not the arrows that count most. Yet it holds to reason that if participant indians are equally capable, more and better arrows are plain just better. When in a gun fight, do bring bigger and better arrows. Never underestimate the skill your counter part indian warrior.

  14. 1) This excerpt from a Bruce Willis movie (don’t laugh) shows one of the ways in which a AK is superior to an AR. The hostile forces is not duckhunting — it is aiming high so the bullets will clear high weeds but low enough that the bullets will drop back into the area where Bruce Willis’s squad is — the “beaten zone” method used by machine gunners to hit forces hidden by terrain. Light AR bullets would be deflected by the weeds.

    2) Most people don’t appreciate that today’s mowed suburban lawns would be covered with 4 foot high weeds after TEOTWAWKI.

    3) Accuracy is an interesting issue for combat rifle — versus sniper rifles with telescopes. I think only iron sights are practicable long term if SHTF but in the past 40 years magazines like Guns And Ammo have seemed unaware of how iron sights constrain practicable rifle ranges.

    To be visible, the front post of most iron sights covers 6 MOA or greater — which means it will be hard to make use of even 3 MOA rifle accuracy. (MOA = minute of angle = 1 inch at 100 yards. )

    Against moving targets, in camouflage and using partial cover I think using an AK like a shotgun/African Express Sight has merit for the common ranges of 100 yards or less. I.e, slap the big circular sight cover on the target and fire. Plus, as the African lion hunters say, try not to soil your trousers.

    4) I can cite multiple sources saying that shots at a deer should be limited to 100 yards or less if using iron sights , given a vital area of 6 inches diameter. That’s without a time limit.

    5) The US Army Marksman qualification can be obtained by hitting man-sized targets at 150 meters or less plus hitting 2 out of 8 shots at 200 meters. Of course, shots that wound are acceptable in combat but frowned upon in hunting.

    The Army’s M16 (and AR15) sight radius is 19.75 inches and the front sight post width is 0.07 inches — which mean the front post covers 12.8 MOA.

    The two targets are E (19.5 in wide X 36 in high) and F (25 in wide X 19 in high.) The F target is used only in 3 out of 40 shots and is placed at 50 meters.

    The 12.8 MOA sight post spans the full width of the E target at 150 meters. At 200 meters, 250 meters and 300 meters, the E target has to be centered within the larger 12.8 MOA sight post . Try doing that with eyes more than 40 years old.

    At 200 meters, the E target is 9.7 MOA, at 250 meters it is 7.8 MOA and at 300 meters it is 6 MOA — i.e, at 300 meters the front sight is twice as wide as is the target.

  15. BEWARE! Many US made AK’s have cast trunnions, whereas, imports are all forged. The cast trunnions are known to crack. Of the three types, cast is garbage, milled billet is acceptable, and forged is best.

    1. Hi Dee,
      I also have a Norinco with short 16 inch barrel. Here is a response to a simular question earlier:

      Hello Rucksack Rob,

      An SKS makes for an inexpensive rifle for a cached [spare], or for hunting. Because it is not a magazine-fed rifle and only has a 10 round magazine, it’s rate of fire is much like the M1 Garand, and is at a disadvantage in this day and age. It’s low price and availability at this time when better rifles are scarce, could make it a worthwhile choice, or stop-gap measure that is replaced as soon as possible with a AKM variant. When buying stripper clips, do not get the cheap ones that do not work. The SKS can be quick and easy to reload with the original good quality clips and proper technique. Check with Numrich Gun Parts for these stripper clips.

  16. Velocity and accuracy are king! The AR platform is superior and more reliable than any other platform if properly cleaned and maintained. Ammo selection is critical to a well functioning and accurate AR-15. You have 5.56 in 55 grain, 62 grain, 68 grain, 75 grain, 77 grain. How about a Nosler ballistic tip??? You can also use Remington 223, or Match loads from all the major ammo makers. No thank you, I love the AR-15 platform!!!!!

  17. An quality AK can be very accurate provided the shooter knows what they are doing. 621 yards is the farthest we have shot with SLR AKs and 3X ACOG and gotten reliable hits (X39). At our private range we ring steel regularly at 419 yards. The other idiots still regurgitating that “aks are hundred yard guns” are drunk bubbas and people that don’t train.

    I like ARs as well and have after 20 years went back to buying a few of them. But like the author I’ve seen probably a hundred ARs go down at classes and training over the years. Back in the day my Colt Match Hbar which was considered the best was a total POS also. Currently a couple of BCM rifles are churning along very well for us- and we put at least 500 upwards of 1000 rounds a month (not a year) through weapons like this.

    Lubricate the AR. Clean it well paying special attention to the chamber area. I have hated ARs for 20+ years but the BCMs we own have been flawless so far.

    A serious survivor or student of violence needs to not skimp and buy frankenguns, home-brew or $300. nonsense. This comes down to your life and your family’s lives- there is no room for sentimentality or locker queens.

    Finally, train more. Preppers tend to be cheap and think that a once a lifetime “Appleseed” 25 yard training day/weekend is all they need. That’s BS. Again, see above re: what’s at stake.

    I’m more concerned about the guy that spends 10,000 rounds a year in training and practice than the guy with the shiny new rifle that just has 10,000 rounds in an “ammo fort” at home.

    The enemy is training, your setting yourself (and others) up for failure if you don’t.

  18. The basic premise of the article seems to be that since AR-15s need cleaning, get an AK. While it seems to be true that AKs are generally more tolerant to dirt and lack of lubrication, they are inferior in terms of ergonomics, weight, optic mounting and broad support.

    Without imported ammo, which could be shut off at the stroke of a politician’s pen, 7.62×39 becomes unavailable or more expensive than 7.62×51 or 300 BLK.

    There are many reasons why Stoner’s AR-15 has become America’s Rifle, millions of Americans have considered the alternatives and voted with their dollars. Rather than accept the shortcomings of another platform, it would be easier just to clean the AR occasionally.

    1. Hi Steve,

      Here is the thrust of it take from an earlier post:

      124 grain 7.62×39 soft points exceed the stopping power of 7.62 NATO (FMJ), as it delivers 725 ft pounds of energy within the first 2 inches of ballistic gelatin. In the test that uses Federal Power Shok 123 grain 7.62×39 soft point bullet at a velocity of 2,281 fps in contrast with the 7.62 NAT0 M80 ball ammunition in tests performed by a professional (see test results: https://youtu.be/sGYF8DTLcj4?t=37) M80 also delivers 725 foot pounds of energy, yet much latter, or at about 7.25 inches verses 2 inches in ballistic gelatin that the 7.62×39 123 grin soft point delivers (See test results: https://youtu.be/IIFkLAgGy6w?t=43). The difference in wound ballistics of the two ammunition types is defined by when these two loading’s energy transfer peaks. It is significant and defines the temporary and permanent wound cavity. It is also important to note that in the opinion of the Brass Fetcher that M80 ammunition should not be used for hunting. Having fired cases of the stuff, I can also verify that 7.62×39 is useful as a anti-material round as well, and punches through trees up to 14 inches in diameter, and almost as well as does 7.62 NATO (M80). As tested at home, the difference in penetration on pine cord wood shot within 25 yards, 7.62 NATO M80 only penetrated 2 inches deeper than 7.62×39 123 grain FMJ, or consistently 16 inches verses 14 inches.

      Compare the tests with the performance of 5.56 linked in the article with the analysis provided.

      Few Americans understand ballistics, or how to maintain their AR’s. Most will learn the hard way, and there is the reason for the article. The better we can arm, equip and train ourselves, the more effective we can be.

  19. We’re swatting gnats and swallowing camels here. First off, American Manufacturers are now making AK47 variants and 7.62×39 ammunition. Lots of it. Because many American people are recognizing the superiority of the AK47 platform and ammo. My American manufactured AK47 variant (Palmetto State Armory) is nice and light and friendly to use and maneuver with. Even the US military is moving off the .223/.556 bandwagon. The new US CQB weapon is approaching 7mm in caliber. The AK47 platform shoots with junk in the works which naturally occurs when out in the real world instead of a nice pristine range. We shoot 2 gun competition with AR’s and AK’s thousands and thousands of rounds. In a SHTF firefight Oly chooses AK over AR. Why? Because I’m going to be hugging terra firma alot and 7.62 makes bigger holes and packs more shock value than .223 period full stop. Right now we can find more 7.62×39 rounds than we can .223/.556. This current cluster of a Chinese fire drill is similar to SHTF if you haven’t noticed. Thank the good Lord I bought early and often.

  20. I am a city slicker with a DPMS ar-15 chambered in .223/5.56.

    Q: I took it to the range and twice the gun jammed. Leaving the expended shell in the bolt with a live round stuck in the chamber(?). I probably put 30 plus rounds through it. I took it home and asked my military friend to show me how to break it down, clean it, and lube it.

    Is that the cure for the jamming?

  21. I like InRangeTV’s comparative tests.

    I’ve personally never found reliability to be suboptimal with the numerous ARs I’ve owned, excepting one that just really, really hates steel[-cased ammunition]. And this is coming from a guy who considers cleaning before having shot 500 rounds annoyingly frequent.

    Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I only lubricate ARs after cleaning. I do miss my AK from years past, but I can’t imagine going back to it unless 223 becomes wholly unavailable by the time I dwindle my stash down.

    1. Hello Wobbly,

      AR’s can be reliable if properly maintained. I’ve perform and installed many upgrades that turned a PSA rifle into a much more reliable rifle. However, I’ll need to run more ammo though it before I can fully trust any rifle, AK or AR, perhaps 1,000 rounds. All rifles and the magazines should be vetted in this way.

      Many people are not fully appreciative of why the AR needs to be well maintained, therefore I suggest that they learn why and how, or get an AK that will run after years of neglect. And the AK can shoot the least expensive ammunition that has as much more ability to incapacitate and stop the fight as does the venerable 7.62 NATO. This affordable expanding ammunition is many orders of magnitude more powerful than 5.56 NATO ammunition, and almost half the price. If I could afford it, I would run soft point ammo in my AR too… Because my AK, using expanding ammunition (soft point) is far more powerful, less ammunition will be need to get the job done. It will be use for defense work inside of 150 yards, and the AR, now a precision rifle, will be use for long range engagements that requires a semi auto. Otherwise a high powered center fire rifle with expanding bullets would the do the job better.

      If playing golf, we can do better if we have a selection of the right clubs.

  22. You guys and the AKs. I purchased a bore scope due to poor accuracy and out the door they all went. Most have barrels that are garbage. Back when they were easy to get I went to the shows to see if the dealer would let me look at the bores and most all had corrosive ammo threw them and were not maintained. The chrome lining is inferior and the bores are held to about an 75% standard from the factory the rifling looks like a button machine from 1920 was used about 10,000 times to much.

    The Norinco type 56, type 56s, mak 90 and 91 are good bullet hoses. I perfer a polytech legend but they are not worth the price considering what you can get a good m14 for.

    With an AK, they always work but the rounds go here and there. If you are a johnny apple seed you will find an AK is not up to the task in a distance type fight. Of course they work very well for clearing houses and hit hard up close. If you want to see the preformance of an ak go watch the hollywood bank robbery videos. Great spray and pray. A trusty 308 would overmatch you any day of the week, so if you might be in the field consider something else.

    Carry on.

    1. Hi johndoe,

      The biggest problem is that most people do not know what they do not know, and do not know that training and knowledge is needed to make an AR reliable. If you already have that training it may seem ridiculous that others don’t. Many persons will likely never get the training, yet have many AR’s. This is a serious problem that I have run into over the years, and have been able to correct it in only one occasion. Even though the AR is more accurate that than the AK, the average person will need a rifle that requires little knowledge and effort to maintain, or to be reliable even if it neglected. If it does not go ‘bang’, then what good is it?

      And although I own and operate both, I would much rather use my AK for inside of 150 yards for the reasons very well detailed. My AR is for precision work, and my high powered precision rifles are for out to 500+. Yes, I would much rather have any of the semi-auto rifles I once owned in 7.62 NATO and .30-06, but I do not, and like most, cannot afford it and the ammo. I will not buy junk. By using soft point ammunition in the AK, we then have a far more powerful round than 5.56. This is yet another good reason to use an AK. It is man stopper, and may still stop the fight even if the shot is not in the vitals. According to the Army, it may take on average 5 rounds of 5.56 to stop the attack. This number rounds expended on each attacker would quickly deplete the additional rounds that can be carried, because it is light in weight. If multiple hits are not possible, the attacker may not stay down, and could continue to fight.

      If one has every hunted big game, they may know the difference between what a FMJ bullet and a soft point point bullet is like. It is illegal in many states to hunt deer with FMJ or .223/5.56, even if it is soft point ammunition. There is a very good reason for that. If one cannot reliable stop a harmless deer with a single shot from running away, it will not easily, or likely stop a highly motivated assailant with a rifle hell bent on killing you. The vast majority of affordable 5.56 is FMJ, because that is what the military uses, and what 99% of the people have. I recommend they use soft points, yet the cost of soft points for their AR is 2 times the cost or more, and 3 times or more than are soft point ammunition for the AK.

      BTW, PSA apparently uses forged trunions and bolts in some of their AK’s. I can therefore only recommend MAC90’s, Arsensal brand, or better rifles.

      Before You Buy That Cheap AK-47 with Jim Fuller of Rifle Dynamics
      https://youtu.be/7nTZJYU9VqA

      1. Correction: The term ”forged” is the appropriate word. Instead, ‘cast’ is the word that should have been used. Please replace the word ‘forged’ in this statement with the word ‘cast’:

        BTW, PSA apparently uses forged trunions and bolts in some of their AK’s. I can therefore only recommend MAC90’s, Arsensal brand, or better rifles.

    2. Hi johndoe,

      A big problem with the AK, or any rifle, is that many people do not know how, or will not sight the rifle in. They blame the rifle. A hunter misses the shot, or the shot is placement is not good, and the game needs several hit to put it down, and they blame the cartridge. Most hunters are not good shots, and therefore should use a more powerful cartridge to compensate. A subsistence hunter using an under powered cartridge can take large game.

      Properly sighted in, the battlefield accuracy of most AK’s is adequate. Most fights will occur inside of 150 yards, because it is just plain hard to make hits out much further, be it an AK or AR, or whatever. People move fast and hide. Years ago I took the typical AR, and the typical AK and unloaded 30 rounds from each as fast as possible on a silhouette at 100 yards. The AR was more accurate, but not by much. The AR had 30 hits, and the AK only had 29 hits. Of course I was using an Arsenal SLR107, but with iron sights. Use a red dot and get 30 hits. Use a junky AK, and your results would be worse, and would give all AK’s a bad name.

  23. Good article, TR. The long and short of it is, if you’re too damned lazy to learn your AR and how to care for it, you’re better off with a Com Block AK. While it is quite true that the AK is more reliable when both are neglected, I’m not a lazy Bubba. I maintain my AR s religiously. A friend of mine is a former Army armorer, and he is fond of saying “An AK is a great weapon of your first weapon was a spear.” So yes, low information users are far better off with the Kalashnikov. I own an armload of just about everything. The AR is really a fine weapon if you have a lot of girls in the family, which I do. They adjust to fit everyone well.
    That being said, MY first choice if my hair is standing on end, and what rides in my vehicle, is the M14 Bush Rifle, 18″ barrel. You can call it by it’s Springfield Armory name, the M1A, but this designation is horse crap because most M14s in Vietnam were locked into semi-auto fire. Only automatic riflemen had select-fire keys on their rifles. The M14 in full-auto was a waste of time, anyway. It’s an M14 any way you slice it.
    In Basic Training, 1973, I qualified Expert with a rattling bucket of bolts General Motors M16A1. If I did my part, the 500 yard silhouette fell every time. My eyes were 20/15 back then, and I shot on a range two hours a day at a military school rifle range for years.
    You can laugh at the M16 all you want, but combat vets I knew say they’ve never met a man that wanted to be shot with one. At hit at 500 yards is not the same as a .30-06, but more like a .22 Magnum. Raise your hand if you want to be shot with a .22 Magnum rifle at the muzzle. A leak in a lung or liver is a big deal, even if it is a .22 caliber leak. You’re out of the fight. Avoid the 62 grain green tip junk.
    Per Dr. Martin Fackler, US Army ballistics lab guru, US M80 ball ammo tended to shatter on soft tissue at under 200 meters. Sweden made a fuss over how nasty our 7.62 ball ammo was until we tested theirs, and the Swedish 7.62 was even worse than ours.
    I’ve never read or heard from US military snipers that 7.62 fire failed to put down enemy shot at 600, 700, 800, 900 yards. So whether it does this or that in a lab is interesting, but i know Goofy won’t like it either way if I stick him with a 7.62 round. The main point of the round is PENETRATION. People tend to hide behind things when the world gets loud, and I prefer being able to defeat cover. The faster I end the fight, the less shot and stabbed I’m going to get.
    Combat vets who used the old 55 grain FMJ M193 round said that under 150 meters, enemy hit solidly went right down. Most of the time. Beyond that, the FMJ doesn’t shatter on soft tissue. Bear in mind that the enemy averaged about 145 lbs and didn’t wear armor. That was using a 20 inch M16 barrel with 12 twist. YMMV with the shorter tubes. 16 inches is as short as I will go on 5.56.
    I bought a few Poly Tech AK s when they first came into the US. I shot them a LOT. Very reliable, and I could rain in about 5 hits in 20 tries at 500 yards using issue sights. I did like the Chinese enhanced ball with its mild steel core. Shot through utility poles like buttah. SKSs, too, especially the paratrooper models. A skilled shooter with a Para SKS is a very dangerous man who can get all the rifles he wants, dropped only once. SKSs are quite reliable and usable. One doesn’t buy Com Block military rifles for accuracy.
    People, clean and lube your rifles. I’ve seen M14s, FN-FALs, FNCs, and AR-180s that refused to cycle if not lubricated. We dribbled dirty diesel engine oil on them and they all ran fine. After the disastrous FBI shootout in Miami, large stickers adorn all FBI vehicles, plastered right on the dash board. “LUBRICATE OR DIE.” Good advice.
    Tip: ATF (transmission oil, not the government agency) makes for a good gun cleaner and lubricant if you are without your favorite goop. Loctite White Lithium Engine Assembly Grease is a wonderful bolt/carrier group lube on AR rifles. Light weight, never slings off, doesn’t attract dirt or lint, and is slippery as a Chicago politician.
    in closing, soft points in 5.56 make devastating wounds, too. Varmints hate them. I’ve loaded .308 up with Hornady 110 VMAX varmint bullets for urban defense loads at 3300 ft seconds. I laid a 55 gallon steel drum on its side and placed a one gallon paint can filled with water on its side. I fired from 50 feet away and got wet. The whole side of the drum was caved in from the exploding one gallon can, which disintegrated into small fragments. Should blow right up in a house wall (or two). Haven’t tested that theory yet. Whereas .30 caliber ball will shoot through several houses.
    Months ago, there was a lot of speculation about having to fight hoards of city folk invading our rural properties. Didn’t happen, unless I missed a lot of stories. Couple of losers shot trying to break into gun stores, but nothing like a wave.
    I hope this current round of nonsense fades away and we can move forward. But it doesn’t look that way. If you’re getting that rifle (I don’t care what kind it is) out of the safe for serious reasons, break it down and service it right. Otherwise, it’s a bar of soap.

  24. Hello Paul,

    A picture is indeed worth a thousand words. Spurred by your report of M80 fragmentation I took a another look at a Brass Fetcher ballistic test (https://youtu.be/sGYF8DTLcj4), and yes indeed, two large bullet fragments are seen exiting the gel block. This perhaps occurs at the 7.25” point, the point of maximum energy transfer as indicated in the chart. Brass Fetcher opines: “This is not a bad round for self defense, but we hope that you will chose an expanding bullet for hunting game animals”.

    Here is another Brass Fetcher test, this time using .308 Winchester at the same velocity and using comparable bullet weight that is a soft point in a Federal Fusion load. Note that the peak energy transfer occurs at about 3.75” and delivers 750 ft pounds of energy. https://youtu.be/3xJycZ7iP2M

    I also submit for your consideration:

    Ballistic gelatin tests of 7.62×39, soft point, and FMJ ammunition.
    123 grain SP, Brass Fetcher.
    Here his chart indicates that the peak energy transfer occurs at just before the 2 inch point, and the maximum energy transferred at that point is about 725 ft. pounds.

    Here is a layman’s ballistic gelatin test that has similar results as the preceding test, but uses an inexpensive Russian loading.
    HD Slow motion 7.62x39mm Wolf 124gr FMJ (Brass Fetcher)

    I would much rather be hit by M193.

  25. Of the many SKS’s I have handled and fired I was fortunate enough to snag a SKS Sporter which takes the regular AK mag. Have never had a hick-up or a problem. However, it seems that as of late that the missus seems to have begun calling it her own.

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