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7.62x39mmR vs 7.62x51mm NATO

Updated on May 23, 2015


BANG! BANG! BANG! is what you hear after you pull the trigger of a firearm in semi-automatic. The loud, ear-popping report of the gun ringing in your ears. The kick on your shoulders as the recoil takes but a fraction of a second to complete, but felt nonetheless. The smell of Cordite, burned propellant powder, coming out of the muzzle and the ejected cartridge. And the satisfaction of being able to drop your paper or wooden target downrange in one glorious shot. Or two. Or three.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, mates of class, friends of old, firearm enthusiasts and loyal readers! This up on my blog! Battle Rifle ammunition!

Suppose you wanted merely to take out your enemy within the range of 100-300 yards. And assuming that you wanted a more pocket-friendly and more compact proposition to medium-caliber bullets. I'd recommend to you the 7.62x39mmR. The "R" standing for Russian. You see, when the AK-46 was created in 1946, the then Soviet Union needed a bullet that could be compact, cheap and easily mass produced yet produced the stopping power of battle rifles of the time, like the M1 Garand, Mauser 98 and Mosin-Nagant. And it being Russian, what better weapon than the Russian made Mosin-Nagant cartridge, 7.62x54mmR. By cutting it more or less in half and voila! A new bullet was made! And in addition to that, the Soviet military adopted the Автомат Калашникова сорок семь (Avtomat Kalashnikova tsorok tsiem) or simply AK-47 one year later!

The only drawback of the bullet, however, was that at 400 yards, that was basically the maximum effective range of the bullet. At that range, the bullet was stretched to it's limits and it may or may not down someone as the kinetic energy or terminal velocity had all but miraculously disappeared from the face of the Earth. It's been said that you couldn't hit an elephant at that range because the bullet would just wobble due to it's centrifugal force. (bullets spin to maintain accuracy).

Oh, and 500 yards? Forget it. The bullet just mysteriously drops down and hits the ground. You'd stand a better chance of getting drunk, singing like a madman and making love and then wishing and hoping your enemy would go away than actually killing them.


7.62x39mmR (left) and 7.62x51mm NATO (right)
7.62x39mmR (left) and 7.62x51mm NATO (right)

7.62x51mm NATO

However, on the other side of the Iron Curtain......

The United States was looking for a lightweight battle rifle to replace the heavy M1 Garand rifle that helped them win WWII. The M1 Garand used the mighty but heavy .30-06 (7.62x63mm) round and was effective at killing the hordes of Chinese fighters during the Korean War (1950-1953). However, the M14 was proposed to provide more ammunition than the Garand's 8-round En Bloc clip, which proved ineffective against the Chinese hordes. In a nutshell, U.S. soldiers using the Garand's 8-round En Bloc were soon overwhelmed and overrun, thus the need for the M14's 20-round box magazine. In fact, the M14's 20-round magazine was perfect for the hordes. After the M14 was hurriedly put to battle from the drawing boards, that is.

The 7.62x51mm round was also developed in conjunction with the M14 specifically for use of the M14. It was, if I remember right, taken from the standard .30-06 (pronounced "thirty aught six") ammunition, cut it somewhere down the middle and voila! Another new round was born!

This round has the surprising ability to go beyond 400 yards. If placed in a sniper rifle, it can reach out and touch someone 800-1,000 yards away. That's outstanding! And it has approximately 50%-65% more kinetic energy and terminal velocity that the AK-47 has at half the distance, depending on the propellant powder used and bullet weight. Most men, like me, would like to kill a target in the least possible time with the most amount of accuracy. This round delivers both, mind you.

Another interesting tidbit is that if you're using an M14 with bullets weighing in at 165 grains, that's it. DO NOT go over that bullet weight. Unless, of course, you have your heart set on having the gas tube and operating rod blow up in your face.

The Survey

Which bullet would you choose:

See results

And another thing...

I think you know the differences by now
I think you know the differences by now

Ammo brands and my military interest

I'd recommend using bullets with weight up to, but not limited to, 125-150 grains and use high-quality high-velocity powder propellant. Here are some brands I know of: Hornady, WPA, Atomic, Samson, Wolf, PMC, Aguila, Springfield, Colt, Winchester, Remington, Blazer, American Eagle, Federal Ammunition, Black Cloud, Armscor, Colt, Smith&Wesson, Kimber, Beretta, Mossberg, KelTec, Ruger, ArmaLite and Taurus.

Like I said in my last review, 5.56x45mm vs 6.8x43mm SPC, I'm an avid fan of military weaponry. And to elaborate, dear readers, it's not just guns and ammunition. It's armored vehicles, air and rotor craft, surface and sub-surface naval vessels, bombs, rockets, missiles, body armor, MRE's, equipment and camouflage. So please let me indulge if only a little.

For your Saturday night delectation

Powder case length is my thing

Yes, their diameter is the same. 7.62mm. But that's not as important as the powder propellant case. You see, there are a number of cases for the 7.62mm. Some are 7.62x25mm, 7.62x39mm, 7.62x51mm, 7.62x54mm, 7.62x63mm and 7.62x67mm.

Do you see a trend emerging here, folks? It doesn't matter the bullet diameter. Well, yeah, it does in a sense because majority of people don't agree with a bullet that's almost 8mm in diameter. But I mean, the larger the powder case, the more the bullet velocity. Especially if you're using high-velocity supersonic ammunition. And if it travels through what we breathe in the shortest amount of time, with the least amount of bullet drop, with the most amount of accuracy, the easier it is to take out the enemy. Just remember not to use bullets that weigh a ton because it'll start crawling instead of flying. Sure, the heavier the bullet, the easier to drop the enemy, but hey! It's almost 8mm in diameter! You don't need heavy bullets against two legged animals, do you? Unless you're hunting bear or dear or rhino's, just use 125-150 grains. It only takes about 100 grains to drop a man anyway.

And body builders like Arnold Schwarzenegger would easily fall prey to this round. Ok, moderately.

Velocities and energy chart.

Feet per second
Miles per hour
Energy (ft-lbs)
7.62x51mm NATO
For general reference purposes only.

And now...

The Three Musketeers
The Three Musketeers

The closing

So now, once again, we come to our final leg of the voyage and the much awaited conclusion.

Yes, the 7.62x39mmR is a great bullet, but just like the 5.56x45mm, it has severe limitations. The most obvious is the range. The powder case is what propels the bullet forward and the larger the case, the more the powder. And the more the powder, the farther and faster the bullet travels. But I will admit that it's a superb bullet for CQB because it delivers massive instant energy at ranges up to 100-300 yards. Beyond that and... No. Just no.

The 7.62x51mm NATO on the other hand is superior in every way. Except compactness. If you want a reliable bullet capable of being placed on a sniper rifle and able to touch your target out to 800 or 1,000 yards, then go for this one.

But of course, this is a new century and being a new century calls for a different approach on how I'll end this review.

If I really wanted a good CQB bullet, I'd take the 6.8x43mm and if I really wanted to snipe someone, I'd take the .338 Lapua Magnum.


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