Modern Intermediate Calibers 002: The Soviet 7.62x39mm

Nathaniel F
by Nathaniel F
7.62×39 and two of its derivatives. Left to right: Commercial FMJ, Yugoslavian M67, 5.6x39mm/.220 Russian, 6.5×38 Grendel.

Perhaps the oldest rival of the 5.56mm round is its older brother in the intermediate cartridge world, the 7.62x39mm round developed by the Soviets in the late 1940s from their earlier 7.62×41 M43 cartridge. The 7.62x39mm, despite its age, has maintained a very uniform ballistic profile. The original 8 gram (123gr) boattailed steel-cored bullet, also called “M43” like its predecessor, has become the representative load for the whole caliber, even while lead-cored flat-based incarnations like the Yugoslavian M67 ball round have proliferated.

Therefore it’s this M43 “PS” (“steel ball”) ball round that we’ll consider for our ballistic series. It is the most relevant 7.62x39mm round from a military perspective, and it’s ballistically similar to the vast majority of other loads for the caliber.


The 7.62x39mm is, thanks to its fairly heavy bullet by intermediate caliber standards, one of the heaviest rounds we’ll be taking a look at, with weights ranging from 16.3 grams (252 grains) for a steel cased cartridge to 17.2 grams (265 grains) for the brass-cased M67 Yugoslavian round.

Note: All ballistic calculations are done with JBM’s Trajectory calculator, using the ballistic coefficient appropriate to the projectile being modeled. In this case, the calculations were done assuming an AK as the parent rifle. Also, keep in mind that there is no single true velocity for a given round; velocity can vary due to a large number of factors, including ambient temperature and chamber dimensions. Instead, I try to use nominal velocity figures that are representative of the capability of the round in question.

Nathaniel F
Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.

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  • Rousso Rousso on Jul 25, 2016

    To get the real Russian extended ballistic tables for AK, search in Google:
    Таблицы стрельбы по наземным целям из стрелкового оружия калибров 5,45 и 7,62 мм

    Scroll down and click on the link in the bottom of the page to download

    • See 5 previous
    • Rousso Rousso on Jul 25, 2016

      @Max Popenker This is it

  • Guest Guest on Jul 26, 2016

    How on God's green earth is a cartridge designed in 1943 being considered "modern"?
    I am in no way arguing against its modern use (and continued use) despite its age, and by all means it is still very useful and potent in every way, but the choice of words like "modern" should imply the exact meaning of the word.
    Since USSR/Russia along with many other nations has a very long service life of calibres (just look at 7,62x54r and 12,7x99 or 12,7x108) it stands to reason that at the very least the term "modern" would be used with something that is at least the latest fielded cartridge - like 5.56, 5,45, 9x39 etc.

    As for the bogus comparison of 5.56 vs 7,62x39 keep in mind that the "second generation" of intermediate cartridges were supposed to not just continue the rational minimalization of overall weight as per the *real* tasks that infantry had to solve (short to intermediate range, no more "every man a marksman out to 1km" nonsense, full auto fire minus the huge recoil, carry more ammo contra full sized rifle cartridges etc), but also solve the inherent flaws of the first intermediate cartridges like less bullet drop and greater penetration - to which 5,45 got an added bonus from the very start by being specifically designed with a bullet that would tumle on impact and cause more internal damage, thus "reverting" performance wise back to the similar lethality of the full sized rifle calibres that did the same thing by bullet mass and velocity, minus the added weight.

    So please, stop pulling random words and arguments out of thin air. I love TFB but small things - or very big issues, depends on how it's viewed - ruin a great deal of artilcles, along the line of the "submachine gun" AKS-74U etc.

    • See 3 previous
    • Nathaniel F. Nathaniel F. on Jul 27, 2016

      @guest 7.62x39mm is still in use with some nations, for example Finland.

      Your argument is irrelevant and pedantic in relation to the post itself.

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