7,62x39 on game

Bush Baby

New member
Jul 1, 2001
South Africa
I have noticed lately a number of people here in South Africa, advocating the use of the 7,62x39 (.30 Russian) on game animals. Some even going so far as to suggest that it is nearly ideal as a bushveld (brush/woods) calibre, for game up to and including Impala/Reedbuck (Warthogs?) – game up to 200lbs – where ranges don’t normally exceed 150 meters.
Along with the 7.62x39, the 6x45 is also being touted as an ideal bushveld calibre for the same class of game.
I have no experience with the 6x45, but given its moderate velocity of 2300 - 2400fps, coupled with a bullet of decent sectional density (100gr at .242 – equal to a .308/165gr), I can understand its effectiveness in experienced hands. Although I feel it might be a too light for Warthogs, especially big boars.

To my mind, the Russian round is not at all suitable. Its velocity is fine (2360fps), but the 123gr bullet it uses is totally unsuitable. This bullet has a very low sectional density of .183 – offering poor penetration and probably no exit wound, also many people will use 125gr .308 bullets if they can’t find the correct size of .310, and 125gr bullets in .308 are not designed for controlled expansion, maybe not even at 2360fps, and I doubt bullets in .310 are of any better construction.
Perhaps the idea is to use 150gr (.308 cal.) bullets at around 2100fps – if you can achieve decent accuracy. This I feel is only slightly better, sectional density at .226 is still not good, and at 100 meters, assuming a spitzer style bullet, impact velocity will be around 1850-1900fps, making reliable expansion doubtful.
That these cartridges can kill game in this class is not in dispute, that they are capable of RELIABLY doing so in the hands of Mr Average, is questionable.
My feeling is that both these two cartridges are marginal, at best, for the game mentioned, and far from being good cartridges for the novice or young shooters, in fact I would suggest that only experienced hunters should use them.
The high probability of the 7,62x39, with its 123gr bullet not exiting on the bigger species of the game mentioned, is to me a major draw back. As you know game often do not fall to the shot, good exit wounds make follow ups much more certain. The knowledge and patience required while waiting for ‘picked shots’ is normally a skill of the more experienced hunter.

For what it is worth, my suggestions for the minimum cartridge criteria, for bushveld game up to 200lbs (to be used by Mr/Mrs average), would be:
Minimum calibre – 6,5mm (.257), Sect. Dens. - .255 or greater (this ensures decent bullet weight for calibre – and thus penetration) and Min. impact velocity of 2000fps.
What are your opinions, especially concerning the use of the7,62x39 Russian on game animals.

Bush baby.
BB, That's an interesting analysis. The 7.62X39 is about the equivalent of the 30-30 winchester that has taken every game animal in North America at one time or another. Given the variations in manufacture of that round, and the number of weapons available in that chambering, I would say that eventually there will be someone trying to put European ammunition in a US made rifle. The original 7.62X39 uses a .312 diameter bullet. The American version, (in some cases) uses a .308 diameter bullet. It can get confusing. I would have to say that I have little familiarity with the African game animals, but I would say that 200 lbs. and 150 yards are about the safe limits for the 7.62X39, to assure a swift kill. Anything beyond that and you are taking a chance.

One more thing, just so that everyone is aware, in Europe, most calibers are listed by the bore diameter not the groove diameter as is used in the US. That is the reason that BB acquaints 6.5mm with .257 bore diameter. Over here, when we hear 6.5mm, we tend to think .264 bore diameter.

As for the question of minimum caliber, if it were me stomping around the "Bush" I would prefer to look toward the 6.5X55 Swede as the minimum caliber. At least to stay safe from the four legged variety. :cool:
Sorry Danr55, but to me the 7,62x39 still has no place in the hunting fields.
When out in the bush, I would much prefer to have a 30-30 with 170 grainers in my hands than anything the Russian round has to offer – I don’t consider them ballistically equal – despite what the numbers on paper may say.

I just can’t get my head around the idea - maybe it’s a negative association with the AK47 that puts me off. Both have caused untold suffering worldwide – to man and beast (they are the standard equipment of poachers, even for Rhino and Elephant !).

I equated the 6,5mm to the .257 because I thought that’s the way YOU guys did things, as you do, I think 6,5 is .264 and .257 is .257. I’m sure I’ve read in American magazines the writers referring to 6,5 and .257 as being the same – the ¼ bore?
Anyway here in SA 6,5mm means .264’’

And I agree on the 6,5 Swede – a great cartridge, much better killer than it’s paper ballistics suggest, especially with the heavier bullets. And better than any of the similar ¼’’ bores(.257 Roberts). I really don’t know why Remington didn’t just adopt it, instead of re-inventing the wheel with the 260 Rem.

Bush baby