Comparing 7.62 NATO to 7.62×39 Ammunition
Why Are There Different Types of 7.62 Ammo?
The 7.62 round has a long history and has remained relevant throughout all of its existence (even to this day). It is mostly known for its association with the AK-47 (7.62×39), but has been used in many other firearms as well. Regardless of the type of 7.62, the caliber is available in pistol, revolver, and rifle cartridges. 7.62 mm refers to the internal diameter of the barrel at the lands.17.62 caliber is often considered a full power military rifle cartridge, however, the 7.62×39 is technically an intermediate cartridge used in carbines. That said and without contest, the 7.62 NATO is undoubtedly considered a full power cartridge.
About The Traditional 7.62×39 Ammo
The 7.62×39 bullet is most widely known for its use in the AK-47. It is 39mm long, has a diameter of .312, and is a 123 gr bullet. The velocity of the 7.62×39 round is 2,421 fps. This round is often called the “7.62 short,” or the “.30 Russian Short.”2The 7.62×39 is fairly light, rather cheap, and very commonly used in modern hunting (since after about 1990).3
About The 7.62 NATO Round
The 7.62×51 NATO bullet was developed as a standard for small arms by and for NATO countries. The civilian version of the NATO round is the .308 Winchester (they are extremely similar). It is 51mm long, has a diameter of .308, and is a 147 gr round. The velocity of the 7.62 NATO round is 2,773 fps. This round is often called the “7.62 long.” Ultimately, the “longer” casing allows 1/3 more bullet space, which does make a bigger difference in powder. The 7.62×51 is heavier than the 7.62×39.
7.62 NATO vs 7.62×39
The most obvious difference between the 7.62 NATO and the traditional 7.62×39 round is the case sizing. To clarify, the NATO round is 12 mm longer than the traditional 7.62×39 bullet. This larger casing allows the bullet to hold more gunpowder and allows a greater velocity and power. Having more muzzle energy means greater stopping power, thus making the NATO rounds much more expensive than their traditional 7.62×39 counterparts. Thus rightfully so, 7.62 NATO round is much more expensive, sometimes being even double the cost of normal 7.62×39 ammo. The benefit being that the NATO rounds pack a much greater bang for the buck.
Additionally, many people wonder if one can reload 7.62 NATO into a 7.62×39 case. A 7.62 bullet can be used to reload any .30 caliber cartridge. This includes the .308, 30-06 and 300 Winchester magnum, as they all use the same diameter rounds. Brass, however, can only be reused with the same cartridge type. Bear in mind, reloading dies are available to make reloading easier as well.
Disclaimer: Reloading can be fun, however, it is ultimately a touchy skill that can result in destroying a gun or damaging a shooter. Extreme caution and education on the topic are highly encouraged!
1Holt Bodinson: The old Three-Line: still a great value. Retrieved from: Guns Magazine (Nov 2006).
2Lawrence, Erik (2015). 7.62x39mm. Retrieved from: Practical Guide to the Operational Use of the RPD Machine Gun. Pp 17.
3Warner, Ken (1989). Trajectories are identical according to Remington. Retrieved from: Gun Digest 1990: 44th Edition. DBI Books. Pp 147.
About the Author:
Mark Doberman, The Proprietary Gun Smith
The Proprietary Gun Smith is a marksman, expert gun handler, ammunition specialist, survival guru, and lifetime gun enthusiast. He owns (or has owned) nearly every legal firearm and ballistic available, has fired nearly every gun, and regularly consults professionally in the firearm world. He has studied firearms and similar tactical lifestyle for more than 40 years. In addition to writing for ArmoryBay.com, TheProprietaryGunSmith has guest written for more than a dozen other sites and/or magazines in the industry.
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