The 7.62x54mmR rifle cartridge is a Russian design dating
back to 1891. Originally designed for the Mosin-Nagant rifle, it was used
during the late Tsarist era and throughout the Soviet period, in machine
guns and rifles such as the SVT-40. The Winchester Model 1895 was also
chambered for this cartridge per a contract with the Russian government.
It is still in use by the Russian military in the Dragunov and other sniper
rifles and some modern machine guns such as the PKM. The round is colloquially
known as the "7.62 Russian". The name is sometimes confused with the "7.62
Soviet" round, which refers to the 7.62x39mm cartridge used in the SKS
and AK-47 rifles.
The 7.62x54mmR is the oldest cartridge still in regular combat service with several major armed forces in the world. This round is mainly used in the Dragunov sniper rifle and PK machine gun. In general performance, it is in the same class as the .30-06 Springfield. Because of its ballistic closeness with the iconic American cartridge, a similarly rich military and historic heritage and amazing longevity, is often nicknamed "The Russian 30-06". It is also one of the few (along with the .22 Hornet, .30-30 and .303 British) bottlenecked, rimmed centerfire rifle cartridges still in common use today. Most of the bottleneck rimmed cartridges of the late 1880s and 1890s fell into disuse by the end of the First World War.
The 7.62x54mmR originally had a 13.7 g (210 grain) round-nosed full metal jacket (FMJ) bullet. Due to experiences in the Russo-Japanese War, it was replaced in 1908 with a 9.7 g (148-grain) spitzer FMJ bullet, which has remained standard to the present. To increase accuracy, the Dragunov SVD uses the 7N1 variant of the cartridge, which uses extruded instead of ball propellant and has a 9.7 g (152-grain) boat-tailed FMJ bullet. The 7N14 is a new load developed for the SVD. It consists of a 9.7 g (151 grain) projectile which travels at the same 850 m/s (2723 ft/s), but it has a lead core and is supposed to be the more accurate of the two.
The cartridge case presents a pronounced tapering to facilitate case extraction. In addition to being one of the first military rounds to use smokeless powder, the 7.62x54mmR was ahead of its time for another aspect, despite being a rimmed cartridge. The case is significantly wide in relation to its length and it features a rather sharp shoulder angle compared to other contemporary rounds. This characteristic and the case tapering allow for efficient and very rapid powder combustion, a design concept reintroduced again with the Short Magnum rifle cartridges more than 100 years later.
Large quantities of 7.62x54mmR military ammunition were made with steel cartridge cases. These perform well, but do not lend themselves nearly as easily as brass cases to the re-sizing necessary for good handloading. It should be noted that the vast majority of 7.62x54mmR ammunition encountered will be Berdan primed, which is generally not considered reloadable.
Thanks to the increasing popularity of the Mosin-Nagant rifles, commercial versions of this cartridge with non corrosive primers are nowadays very easy to find in sporting goods stores all across the United States at reasonable prices, usually lower, compared to the popular 30-06 Springfield. A good assortment of bullet weight, ranging from 9.6 g to 13.2 g (148-203 gr), and bullet construction (FMJ, soft-point, Spitzer, Round Nose) is available. Some of the popular brands for the 7.62x54R are: Norma, Sellier & Bellot, Winchester, RWS, Wolf Ammunition, Hotstot, Prvi Partizan, Igman and Barnaul.
Wolf Ammunition offers a 13.2 g (203 gr) FMJ boat tail Match version of this round, as well as a 150-gr version intended for the Dragunov and PSL semi-automatic rifles.
The 7.62x54mmR has 4.16 ml (64 grains H2O) cartridge case capacity. The exterior shape of the case was designed to promote reliable case feeding and extraction in bolt action rifles and machine guns alike, under extreme conditions.
7.62x54mmR maximum C.I.P. cartridge dimensions. All sizes in millimeters (mm).
Americans would define the shoulder angle at alpha/2 ? 18.5 degrees. The common rifling twist rate for this cartridge is 240 mm (1 in 9.45 in), 4 grooves, Ø lands = 7.62 mm, Ø grooves = 7.92 mm, land width = 3.81 mm and the primer type is Berdan or very rarely large rifle.
According to the official C.I.P. (Commission Internationale Permanente pour l'Epreuve des Armes à Feu Portatives) guidelines the 7.62x54mmR case can handle up to 390 MPa (56,564 psi) piezo pressure. In C.I.P. regulated countries every rifle cartridge combo has to be proofed at 125% of this maximum C.I.P. pressure to certify for sale to consumers.
The 7.62x54R is a very potent cartridge, in the same power class as the 30-06 Springfield. This round has excellent intrinsic accuracy as well. The spitzer bullets used in the military variants have a particularly elongated shape which results in a significantly high ballistic coefficent contributing to very good long range performance and high retained energy, close to a .300 Winchester Magnum round past 500 yards. Data for a 12.0 g (185 gr) FMJ Match bullet boat tail fired from a Dragunov sniper rifle, shows a retained energy of circa 1,000 J (740 ft·lbf) at 1000 yards with the bullet still travelling at supersonic speed under ICAO Standard Atmosphere conditions at sea level (air density ? = 1.225 kg/m³).
When used with modern hunting bullets, it is capable of easily taking large game. In Russia the 7.62x54R is commonly used for hunting purposes mostly in sporterized Mosin-Nagant rifles. In that country, widespread use of modern magnum cartridges is not common among hunters (in contrast to North America where such chamberings are commonly used) with the 7.62x54R even being considered a bit too powerful for moose. The great bears including polar bears are frequently hunted with it.
Most surplus ammunition available uses corrosive primers. One commonly encountered type is Czech "silver tip" (image), which is Czechoslovakian surplus from the 1960s. New commercial ammunition is not corrosively primed.
The Russian LVE cartridge factory states the accuracy of their common cartridge (57-N-323C) to be less than 24 cm at 300 m (0.8 mrad; 2.8 MOA) at R100 - "R100" being the groupsize of three series of 20 shots at 300 m. Their sniper cartridges (7N1, 7N14) are stated less than 8 cm at 300 m (0.3 mrad; 0.9 MOA) at R100. New civilian ammunition is available from a number of manufacturers, in a variety of bullet weights ranging from 9.7 g (150 grains) up.
1. ^ "The 7.62x54R Russian (7.62x53R)". http://www.chuckhawks.com/30Russian.htm.
Retrieved on 2007-09-25.
* C.I.P. CD-ROM edition 2003
The Moisin-Nagant rifle has a split rear receiver bridge, through which the bolt passes when the action is cycled. This, when coupled with the rifle's straight bolt handle, makes the rifle awkward and slow to operate and very difficult to adapt to telescopic sights. It was usually supplied with an unwieldy 31.5 inch barrel.
According to the C.I.P. (the European standards organization) Russian specification 7.62x54R barrels are hybrids, with a bore diameter of .300 inch (typical of .30 caliber rifles) and a groove diameter of .312 inch (typical of .303 rifles). This is also true of Nagant rifle barrels manufactured in all other countires except Finland. Most Finnish 7.62x54R barrels have a groove diameter of .308 inch. The A-Square, Hornady and Speer reloading manuals recommend using .308 inch bullets in all 7.62x57R rifles; other sources suggest reloading all but Finnish Nagant rifles with .312 inch bullets.
The 7.62x57R cartridge has an overall maximum length of about 3.1 inches. The case is a bottleneck design 2.05 inches long, with a large rim typical of long obsolete cartridge designs. It has a shoulder angle of about 18.75 degrees. As mentioned in the paragraph above, the proper bullet diameter is open to question. The 7.62x54R is loaded to a maximum average pressure of 49,347 cup.
This cartridge and rifle combination was showing its age even before WW I. Modern, rimless cartridges like the 7x57, 8x57, and .30-06 were by then in common use in rifles like the Mauser 98 and '03 Springfield. Because of this, the 7.62mm Russsian never became very popular for sporting use outside of Russia.
Remington and Winchester produced many 7.62x54R rifles for the Imperial Army before the October (1917) Revolution. The cartridge was fairly popular in North America before World War I, and many surplus Nagant service rifles became available in the U.S. at low cost back in the 1960's. Another batch of surplus rifles became available after the fall of the USSR and most of its client states.
The 7.62x57R is still used today as a cartridge for target shooting, and to some extent for hunting. Historically the cartridge is the Russian equivalent of the American .30-40 Krag and the British .303; ballistically it is similar to the .308 Win.
The 2002 Shooter's Bible shows two Norma factory loads for the 7.62x54R. These are reasonably available in the U.S. The first uses a 150 grain bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2,953 fps with muzzle energy (ME) of 2,905 ft. lbs. The other uses a 180 grain bullet at a MV of 2,575 fps with ME of 2,651 ft. lbs.
The trajectory tables in the Shooter's Bible for the 150 grain bullet showed the following: +1.8 inches at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, and 8.3 inches low at 300 yards. The trajectory tables for the 180 grain bullet look like this: +2.4 inches at 100 yards, 0 at 200 yards, and -9.9 inches at 300 yards.
Unfortunately, the 2002 catalogs for Federal, Winchester, and Remington list no factory loads for the 7.62x54R Russian. Winchester does offer a 180 grain FMJ military type load that is not included in their civilian catalog (it can be found on their website). Sellier & Bellot, Wolf, and Sako also offer 7.62x54R factory loads. (Sako cartridge boxes are marked "7.62x53R.") Some of these use boxer primed (reloadable) cases, but some are loaded in European-style Berdan primed cases. Check it out before you buy. Brass is also available from Norma.
The Hornady Reloading Manual, Third Edition shows a variety of loads for the cartridge, with .308" bullets from 110-220 grains. As with the .308 Winchester, bullets from 150-180 grains would seem to be the best choice for most hunting purposes.
The following are typical loads. The 150 grain Hornady spire point bullet can be driven to a MV of 2,800 fps with 51.9 grains of H380 powder. The 165 grain spire point bullet can be driven to 2,600 fps with several powders, including 47.6 grains of H380. The 180 grain spire point bullet can achieve 2,600 fps with 49.1 grains of H380, as well as other powders. These loads all used Norma brass and Federal primers; velocities were taken in a very long 31.5 inch barrel.
A scoped 7.62x54R rifle can be sighted to put a 150 grain spitzer bullet +2.7" at 100 yards, +3" at 135 yards, +1.7" at 200 yards, and -3" at 275 yards. So sighted the 7.62x54R is a 275+ yard deer rifle, ballistically identical to the much more modern .308 Winchester.
Copyright 2001, 2002 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.