Brass Fetcher Ballistic Testing

The 7.62x39mm cartridge is among the first things that come to mind when the word assault rifle is used. Finding its most common application in the AK47 series and the SKS, the 7.62x39mm cartridge is ballistically similar to the 30-30 Winchester. This means that the cartridge is good for hunting medium game animals and is more than adequate for self-defense against human attacker(S). Due to the global distribution of an estimated 80 million rifles that can shoot this cartridge, it is reasonable to expect the ammunition for this cartridge to be near the lowest possible price due to the economies of mass production.

If you devote some attention to the way things are designed you may begin to notice that different design trends tend to emerge from different regions around the world. We all know about Swiss watches and Swiss precision machines being arguably the best in the world. Pick up a German instruction manual and you will realize the detail-orientation and procedural nature of their teaching style and its impact on the way of getting the job done. Russian and Eastern European machines are always technically competent with a focus on robustness and simplicity. Let me please begin this section with a quotation of General George Patton (1885-1945):

Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood.

Phrased another way, he is saying that extreme circumstances bring out all of the best and remove all that is of little or no value (base) in people. What matters, in the clutch, are reliable assets. This allows you to plan in as much detail as possible for a future that is not able to be completely and accurately foreseen. The people who designed the 7.62x39mm cartridge and the weapons that shoot it come from just such a background. Since 800 AD, the recorded history of Eastern Europe provides many examples of warfare, massacres and the food and supply shortages that always plague those not directly involved in the fighting. Simple is good because simple is reliable. And reliability is an asset more valuable than most other assets when the chips are down.

Figure 1: 7.62x39mm

The 7.62x39mm has a diameter at the web of the cartridge of 11.35mm while the shoulder has a diameter of 10.07mm. This gives us a drop of 11.3% from the wide base to the narrower shoulder.

Figure 2: 223 Remington

The 223 Remington has a diameter at the web of the cartridge of 9.6mm while the shoulder has a diameter of 9mm. This gives us a drop of 6.2% from the base to the narrower shoulder.

The wedge-like shape of the 7.62x39mm cartridge allows the cartridge to enter a dirty chamber with much less resistance since there is no contact between the cartridge and the chamber until the shoulder of the cartridge slams to a rest in the chamber. Just the same, the large taper allows for easier extraction from a fouled chamber.

Ammunition selection for the 7.62x39mm is easy: soft points for self-defense and up to medium game hunting and FMJ for practice. The pitch and yaw cycle of the 7.62x39mm projectile is not severe enough to allow for effective wounding on narrow shotlines. Dr. Martin Fackler offered this assessment of the wounding ability of the 7.62x39mm FMJ:

Most full-metal-jacketed AK-47 bullets do not deform significantly on striking the body, unless they strike bone. They characteristically travel point-forward until they penetrate 9 to 10 inches of tissue (if a bullet yaws, turning sideways during its tissue path, it causes increased disruption). This means that most AK-47 shots will pass through the body causing no greater damage than produced by handgun bullets.

For self-defense I recommend staying in the 123gr range for the JSPs and testing your ammunition in your gun, shooting into a valid ballistic medium to evaluate bullet expansion and weight retention.

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