TFB Review: Arsenal 7.62×39 Ammo from American Marksman

Austin R
by Austin R
TFB Review: Arsenal 7.62×39 Ammo from American Marksman

Earlier this year American Marksman informed me they were importing Arsenal 7.62×39 from Bulgaria. In the wake of the Russian ammo import ban, this was music to my ears. So in the midst of a great steel-cased ammo drought, American Marksman was kind enough to send over a couple hundred rounds of this freshly minted Bulgarian ammo for testing.

American Marksman @ TFB:

TFB Review: Arsenal 7.62×39 Ammo from American Marksman

Arsenal Ammo Comparison

Sadly, the new law means my favorite 122 grain bulk 7.62×39 steel-cased ammo won’t be on shelves forever. In order to see how this new Arsenal 122 grain ammo stacks up, I grabbed a couple hundred rounds of some comparable 124 grain Red Army Standard and 122 grain Tul Ammo.

Arsenal Ammo Comparison - Mags Loaded

The biggest difference in the ammo I’ll be using for this test is lacquered vs unlacquered cases. Lacquered steel-cased ammunition tends to store better in a variety of climates without rusting. In addition to the lacquer, there’s usually an added sealant around the primer and neck of the projectile (as seen on the above Arsenal and Red Army Standard cases). Commonly lacquered ammo runs a little hotter. meaning you’ll have a slightly higher chamber pressure paired with some additional recoil. In addition, the lacquer coating will coat your chamber slowly and will require slightly more cleaning.

Unlacquered steel-cased ammo (like the Tul Ammo pictured above far right), on the other hand, is what most bargain shoppers encounter. Uncoated steel cases are cheaper to produce, but they are slightly harder to store in humid climates. Unlacquered steel-cased ammo is generally loaded with a lighter propellant load without sealant around the projectile or primer pocket. Lighter loading means these are often the best choice in firearms that are over gassed, or don’t have an adjustable gas system.

Arsenal 7.6239 Ammo - Test Rifles

For this test I’ll be using my 12.5″ converted Draco, and a 14.5″ Meridian Defense Pestilence. Both of these rifles are equipped with KNS adjustable pistons and have been tuned for suppressor use. In order to make this comparison fair, I adjusted both pistons forward to the point where each rifle was combat gassed. A combat gassed AK should always be able to cycle factory ammo reliably both with and without the suppressor attached.

For the first half of the testing, I swapped back and forth between ammo. Overall putting about 120 rounds of each ammo downrange with consistent shots on target at 100yards. As I suspected, both the Red Army Standard and Arsenal lacquered cased ammo had slightly more recoil than the unlacquered Tul Ammo. Confident the ammo ran consistently in both rifles, it was time to head indoors and get a little more scientific.

Flash Testing

Recoil is difficult to measure. So rather than basing my findings on perceived felt recoil, I decided to head to Park City Gun Club and do some low light testing. 7.62×39 ammo varies heavily between manufacturers, so observing the flash signature in low light conditions provides better visualization of how much powder is present and how rapidly it’s burning.

Red Army Standard Ammo Flash

First up was Red Army Standard with a predictable and sizeable muzzle flash. For all the testing I’d be using a Dead Air Sandman-K had a flash hider end cap mounted on this 14.5″ Meridian. The initial vortex produced by the endcap is enough to diminish some of the initial flash with the unburned powder infighting roughly 2″ after that.

Tula Ammo Flash

Next up was Tul Ammo. Initially, it looked almost immune to muzzle flash, but after reviewing a string of photos, the above ghost-like flame could be seen repeatedly. In addition, a candle-like flame can be seen emanating from the gas block. This is consistent with the smaller charge of slower-burning rifle powder that’s common to unlacquered steel-cased ammunition.

Arsenal Ammo Flash

Last up was the new manufacture Arsenal ammunition. The flash signature was similar to the lacquered Red Army Standard ammo, but with a more consistent burn rate that’s evident by the flame produced. Multiple high-speed photos and various strings of fire were conducted with each ammo. While flashy, the Arsenal ammo produced the most consistent flash and felt recoil. Overall it performed perfectly in the shorter 12.5″ and 14.5″ barrels, but it would only stand to benefit from something with a longer barrel.

Final Thoughts

TFB Review: Arsenal 7.6239 Ammo from American Marksman

For those that enjoy AKs or 7.62×39 chambered firearms the Arsenal 122 grain does not disappoint. The ammo sent over to me was produced in October of last year, and couldn’t come to the market at a better time. It’s not priced to be the cheapest steel-cased ammo on the market, but American Marksman has it priced very reasonably. Between the reasonable price and great performance, I’d strongly recommend it. Check current prices on Arsenal 7.62×39 ammo at the American Marksman website.

Product Description:

Arsenal premium 7.62 line of Military Grade ammunition consists of steel brass, berdan-primers and copper FMJ projectiles. Primers are sealed, which is optimal for long term storage of ammunition. Designed for Training / Defense Training. This line of ammunition is 100% Bulgarian made & used by Bulgarian Armed Forces.

Arsenal was founded in 1878 in Ruse, Bulgaria as the first factory meant to serve the newly created Bulgarian Army. After World War 1, due to strategic concerns, the company moved to it’s current location in central Bulgaria (Kazanlak). Today, Arsenal excels in manufacturing and trade in small arms, ammunition and more. Arsenal is officially licensed by the government of Bulgaria for trade in Military Equipment. As an export company possessing wide trade experience, Arsenal manufactures high quality and competitive products, with more than 90% of production exported worldwide.

Suitable for rifles chambered in 7.62×39. Quality ammo for medium to long range shooting with your AK-47. Arsenal 7.62×39 is loaded to Military Specifications.

Product Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Arsenal
  • Bullet Weight: 122 Grain
  • Bullet Type: Copper Full Metal Jacket
  • Use Type: Training / Defensive
  • Ammo Casing: Steel
  • Ammo Caliber: 7.62×39
  • Primer Type: Berdan
  • Muzzle Velocity (fps): 2,354
  • Muzzle Energy (lbs): 900
  • Attracts Magnet: Yes
Austin R
Austin R

The author is a military contractor who enjoys conducting independent firearms research and reloading. Article inquiries and suggestions are welcome at austinjrex at

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2 of 10 comments
  • Christopher Christopher on Apr 20, 2022

    More options are always welcomed and from military arsenals at that. Currently in the steel case world I tend to favor Barnaul and Golden Tiger. Red Army Standard when available has always been good to me too. That said, some good quality brass options are finally coming around too and surprisingly not that expensive. So, steel stuff won't be seeing much use for me short of cheap JSP/JHP loads and long term storage with coated steel.

  • Iksnilol Iksnilol on Apr 21, 2022

    One of the reasons i favor slightly longer barrels. All that flame goes into your suppressor