Little Miss Understood – the 7.62X39mm (Soviet M43)


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I was up at 4am for an early start. Fortunately I had packed the previous night and had to add rifle and ammunition for the early drive to my allotted hunting area for the days hunt.

With daylight not far off, as I eased the 4WD to a suitable location with the prevailing breeze in the right direction for my planned hunt, I readied myself for the days adventure, shouldered my pack and off.

Moving along a predetermined route carefully from the lower undulating country towards the hills, with the fading darkness shapes were beginning to form, cattle feeding and wild life becoming recognizable at distance.

Hunting slowly about a third the way up from the gully bottom I stopped at a good vantage point and started to glass the surrounding landscape.

As from previous hunts I knew that the fallow deer would be moving around in this series of low gullies, from the lower improved pastures further down on the flats along the dry creek. It did not take long to spot my intended quarry, a small group of deer.

As I was higher than the deer a distinct advantage with morning thermal air currents on the rise, a stalk was planned on the retreating deer.

Using a contour bank for cover while moving closer in a half stooped position to conceal my approach, luck was on my side as the group stopped at a dam for a drink and this allowed me to close the distance to seventy yards with the concealment of a tree for the final approach.

Selecting a sleek doe, one that would supply prime venison due to its improved pasture diet of late, I used the tree for a rest, steadying the cross hairs behind the shoulder in the lung area and with the shot the doe took a couple of feeble steps to collapse and expire.

As I approached the fallen doe, I knew the hard task of dressing and retrieving the carcass was going to be made easy with the country clear enough to get the 4WD close and handy.

Walking back to the vehicle, I pondered  how well the 7.62 X 39 with suitable hunting projectiles had performed for such a mild-mannered little cartridge.

I had been using it in a CZ 527 carbine for about five years and it had achieved everything that I had wanted it to do, with its mild report and medium range, on all manner of feral and game animals.

Setting up the little outfit had its moments. I brought the 7.62 X 39 CZ carbine and fitted it with a 2-7 Lynx scope, picking up 300 rounds of factory ammo with 125 grain soft points. 

Disconcertingly, on my first attempt to sight in the outfit, there were six missfires  and on inspection, the firing pin had dented the primer, but it looked like a partial hit and the ones that had fired showed  the primer protruding from the case head.

Off to investigate the problem and speaking to various people who had experience with these cartridges, it was suggested that the chamber had excessive head space in my rifle.

To alleviate this problem I pulled the projectile from twenty factory loads by using a hammer-type kinetic bullet puller with a nylon bush fitted in the bottom of the collection chamber to catch the projectile with the soft point undamaged.

I retrieved the powder and re-used the same charge behind the original projectile when refitted. With the case empty now, I ran a .338” button into the neck of the case and then into 7.62 X 39 neck die to create a secondary shoulder at the base of the neck, just far enough for the case when chambered to have some feel/crush with the case against the bolt face and new secondary case shoulder hard up against the chamber shoulder.

With the case modifications completed it was re assembled with original components and back off to the range to confirm my theory that cartridge to chamber length was the problem and with no more miss fires or protruding primers and 3 shot groups averaging 1.5”, the remaining stock of ammunition was reworked for use in my rifle.

Day dream over and the 4WD kicked into life and off to retrieve the carcass that had been hung in the tree, cargo loaded and maneuvering down to the back road and than on to the highway, with an uneventful trip I was home by early afternoon to hang the carcass and break it down into sections to fit into my meat refrigerator for several days to age before final butchering and packing into the freezer for later delicious meals.

With the little 7.62 X 39, I have found that it is very misunderstood because it has been mostly portrayed with using military full jacket ammunition, in the popular SKS and SKK carbines before the buy back.

I have never had any success using full jacket projectiles on feral or game animals due to its poor stopping power with no expansion and little blood trail if any, causing animals invariably escaping to die.

With the use of suitable factory soft point or hand loaded soft point ammunition, it becomes quite a capable medium range cartridge out to about 200 yards. With its mild report you can hunt on smaller holdings all day as it tends not scare everything in the vicinity.

Of late I have experimented with several projectiles and settled on 150 grain soft points as I found that with 125 grain factory ammo the jacket and core would separate failing to achieve the penetration required for consistent one shot kills.

With my current load utilizing Horndy 150 grain .312” Interlocks with 27.5 grains of ADI AR2219 powder, this rifle is accurate and safe. This load delivers about 2,100 fps at the muzzle and about 1,000 ft lbs of energy at a hundred yards and this has proved ample for medium range deer, goats, pigs and other feral animals.

Should you wish to try this load, start at a lower powder charge and work up keeping an eye for signs of excessive pressure.

Over the years, the little CZ 527 carbine has changed somewhat with the addition of a second hand CZ synthetic stock and more recently a 2.5- 8×36 Leupold scope and a spare 5-shot magazine in my pocket when hunting which I rarely use.

In conclusion, I find that this combination is quite light at 7 lb 10 oz loaded with 5 cartridges and a sling and easy to carry all day, proving very reliable on all the game that I have encountered out to 200 yards with good shot placement, what’s to miss understand?

Fact Box
The 7.62×39 Soviet M43 assault rifle cartridge was the love child of the Russians’ observation of the WW2 German 7.92mm Kurz, but it gives substantially better performance.

Chambered initially in the SKS semi-automatic carbine, it eventually saw service around the globe in tens of millions of AK47 select-fire assault rifles, the invention of the brilliant engineer Mikhail Kalashnikov, who only died recently.

It was also versatile enough to be chambered in the RPD Light Machinegun, which fulfilled the role of a squad automatic weapon.

Modern sporting arms that have chambered the cartridge, apart from the delightful little CZ, are the Ruger Mini-30 and the Ruger M77 MarkII.

Most military surplus ammunition available is steel-cased with Berdan priming but most American and European ammunition makers provide reloadable brass-cased sporting offerings, allowing this cute little cartridge to achieve its potential as a good feral buster out to 200 metres, shading the .30-30 Winchester (with which it is often compared) due to its spitzer bullets and better retained energy.

The 7.62×39 case has been the basis for .22 and 6mm PPC benchrest cartridges, which were very competitive in target shooting circles until recently.

 

This article was first published in the June 2014 issue of Sporting Shooter magazine.

 


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