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In 1882, the Russian chief artillery administration opened a commission to explore the feasibility of converting the Berdan single shot service rifle to repeating magazine feed. Between 1883 and 1885 several designs were submitted while the most promising designs were put forwards by Sergei Mosin from Tula State Arsenal. But with no simple solution, the commission was eventually dropped. By 1886 France had adopted the world’s first smokeless powdered cartridge with other military powers following suit thereafter. In 1889, the Russian military opened a new commission under the direction of major general N.I Chagin towards a complete replacement of the now obsolete Berdan rifle. The successful designs of Mauser, Mannlicher, Lee and Lebel were tested, however those of most interest to the Russian military were a 7.9mm (.311”) caliber rifle created by Sergei Mosin and an 8.89mm (.350”) caliber rifle produced by Belgian firearms designers Emile and Leon Nagant.
Initially, the Nagant rifle proved the most successful design. The Mosin was somewhat rough, utilizing low quality materials. Nevertheless, a Lieutenant General P.L Chebysher submitted a written report stating that the Mosin design should be adopted due to its Russian invention. Further trials found that the Mosin was on closer inspection, a serviceable rifle design without some of the complexities of the Nagant.
The Russian military finally adopted the Mosin rifle. Historians suggest that the rifle incorporated the Nagant rifle magazine and feeding system. More recently, there has been debate as to how much actual influence the Nagant brothers had in the final design other than minor influences.
The new rifle bore the designation Three Line Rifle of 1891, a line being one tenth of an inch and referring to the caliber. Groove diameter was 7.9mm (.311”) with a land diameter of 7.7mm (.303”)”. The cartridge later became widely known as the 7.62x54R. The R identified the cartridge as being rimmed.
Why or how the Russian cartridge received its 7.62mm name is hard to discern. Perhaps it was an early Western misinterpretation- three lines, three calibers- 30 caliber. Regardless, the 7.62mm (.300”) measurement is both incorrect and misleading. In contrast, the 7.62 NATO (.308 Winchester) caliber has a groove diameter of 7.82mm (.308”) and a land diameter of 7.62mm (.300”). The x54R designation was however correct, this measurement identifying the case length (54mm) and the fact that the case is rimmed rather than rimless.
Outside of its official Three Line Rifle of 1891 designation, the rifle was simply known amongst soldiers as the Rifle Mosin while in the West it became known as the Mosin Nagant (pronounced Mozeen Nahgon).
Initially the 7.62x54R was loaded with a 210gr round nose bullet giving 2200fps from the 31.5” M91 barrel. With Germany’s adoption of a light high velocity pointed bullet for their 8x57JS military cartridge in 1905, Russia followed suit in 1908, adopting a 148gr pointed bullet loaded to 2800fps from the 31.5” barrel.
From 1892 to 1895 the M91 was produced in France until Russia was fully tooled up for mass production in 1894. Production over the next 20 years would remain steady however the beginning of the First World War in 1916 created an immediate shortage of rifles. To fulfill demand, contracts were given to the American firms Remington and New England Westinghouse to build 1.5 and 1.8 million rifles respectively.
The following year, two Russian revolutions saw the Russian monarchy overthrown by what would become the Communist government, halting any further overseas production of rifles. Both Remington and Westinghouse had made heavy financial commitments to produce the M91 rifle and the defaulted contract threatened financial ruin. Fortunately the US government came to the rescue, buying a total of 800,000 M91 rifles. These were marked M1916US and issued to the US 339th Army expeditionary to Russia where US supplies would be scarce, allowing soldiers to utilize 7.62x54R ammunition. Along with military use, US built M91 rifles were made available to civilian hunters. Ammunition which had been produced for the Russian contract was available from Remington and Winchester although both the rifle and cartridge did not gain popularity due to the much favored Springfield .30-06.
Russian production of the M91 Mosin continued to 1930, the model being typified by its hexagonal receiver. There were three variations of the M91; the Infantry rifle (31.5” barrel(, Dragoon (28.75” barrel) and the Cossack (28.75” barrel) with no bayonet fitting.
In 1930 the M91 was updated, recognizable by a round receiver, the 28.75” barrel was standardized and the rifle re-designated as the M91/30. The M91/30 was the basis for the Russian sniper rifle M91/30 PU. With attention to tuning accuracy of sniper rifles combined with low powered optics, the M91/30 PU was used to great effect during the second world war, Russia having the greatest number of snipers of any nation, the majority of these being women.
In 1938, the Russian military adopted a carbine version of the M91/30 featuring a 20” barrel, designated M38. In 1944 the M38 was improved and the new model designated M44. This rifle served alongside the M91/30 until its retirement from front line service with the USSR’s adoption of the SKS in 1945 followed by the AK47 in 1947.
Besides serving the Russian military the Mosin rifle in 7.62x54R was adopted in Finland where it followed its own unique evolution.
When the Tsar of Russia was deposed in the revolutions of 1917, the people of Finland, originally under the rule of the Tsar and issued with M91 rifles, declared independence, driving Russian forces from Finland’s borders. With the M91 already in service, the rifle was officially adopted as Finland’s infantry rifle. Arms stocks were built up by buying used or captured M91 rifles from other countries as well as damaged rifles that would simply be used as parts. Ammunition was produced in Finland and designated 7.62x53R. The first Finnish designated Mosin Nagant rifle would be the M24. Barrel length was left at 31.5” and although serial numbers were often mismatched the M24 was a far more finely tuned rifle than the M91 as originally issued.
In 1927 the Finnish M24 was updated, featuring a heavy accurate 27” barrel produced by either SIG or Tikka along with other minor improvements. In 1928, further modifications led to the M28, culminating in 1930 with the M28/30, the rifle now featuring a superior bedding platform. At this time, the companies Tikka and Sako were becoming renowned for making accurate M28/30 rifles and these companies including SIG would become known for the manufacture of sporting arms.
The final Finnish upgrade of the Mosin Nagant occurred in 1939 bearing the designation M39, this model and the M28/30 (all with heavy 27” barrels) are considered the finest and most accurate Mosin type rifles. Besides the differences in contour, a major difference between Russian and Finnish Mosin barrels is bore size. Measured groove to groove Russian bores have a nominal bore diameter of .311 to .314” whereas Finnish bores had a tighter nominal bore diameter of .3095. The Finnish bore was/is entirely capable of handling any eastern European made .311” factory ammunition though pressures and velocity were/are generally higher than ammunition fired in a Russian bore.
The USSR officially replaced the Mosin rifle with the SKS semi-automatic rifle in1945. The SKS was replaced by the AK 47 in 1949. These rifles fired a scaled down, low recoiling version of the 7.62x54R cartridge- the 7.62x39. This was a shorter range cartridge designed for optimum performance in semi-automatic rifles. The 7.62x39 was the first, fully and widely adopted assault rifle cartridge, appearing decades before the 5.56 (.223 Rem).
Regardless of the official adoption of the SKS and AK 47 rifles, the Mosin rifle continued to see service throughout the Eastern Bloc and with other communist nations well into the 1960’s. An estimated 37,000,000 Mosin rifles were built (including Chinese produced rifles). Besides serving the USSR for over half a century the Mosin Nagant has been used in large numbers by China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Cuba, and Albania.
Although the USSR replaced the Mosin infantry rifle in 1945, the 7.62x54R remained in service, utilized in PU sniper rifles and light to medium machine guns. The 7.62x54R cartridge was standardized as a Warsaw Pact cartridge in 1959. Countries of the Warsaw Pact were: Soviet Union- Azerbaijan, Belorus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tadjikistan, Turmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan. Non Soviet union members- Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Soviet Union, Albania.
In 1963, the PU rifle was replaced by the Dragunov (SVD) semi-automatic rifle chambered in 7.62x54R. It is worth noting that this rifle was not only adopted as a sniper rifle, but also as a designated marksman rifle, becoming a squad support weapon. The Russian military understood that by adopting the 7.62x39, a great deal of ranging power was lost within each unit. Unlike Western allied nations who adopted the two man sniper team as a separate and independent entity, the Russian military also employed the SVD as a squad support weapon with designated marksmen in each unit. The U.S, Australia and New Zealand have only recently adopted this doctrine, utilizing the M110 7.62 rifle as a designated marksman rifle, initially seeing service in 2008 (general acceptance 2011-1012). The current military load for the SVD rifle consists of a 174 grain BT FMJ bullet loaded to 2610fps.
The 7.62x54R carries the noted distinction of being the longest serving military cartridge in history – 121 years at this time of writing. However, this status is not completely true. The .303 British has remained in service with the Canadian Rangers with eventual replacement set for 2016 (see .303 British). This will set the service life of the .303 British at 128 years. nevertheless, it is likely that the 7.62x54R will remain in service for many years to come.
The 7.62x54R cartridge is currently utilized in the Dragunov SVD rifle as well as in light and medium machine guns. Ammunition has undergone minor changes and variations in bullet design and bullet weights throughout the cartridge’s service history. However, the 148 grain pointed FMJ bullet has remained the most common loading.
During the mid 1980’s, a struggling USSR was passed on to the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev who introduced political and economic restructuring. In 1989 the USSR had its first free election in over 70 years with reformist politicians sweeping into power. The gradual erosion of Socialist politics ended on December 1st, 1991. All non-Russian republics declared their independence bringing a peaceful end to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Since this time, thousands of surplus Mosin Nagant rifles have been exported and sold to civilian markets worldwide at very affordable prices.
As a hunting cartridge, the 7.62x54R is currently popular throughout the world. In Eastern Europe, the cartridge is heavy relied on as a meat hunting/ utility cartridge. In the west, the Mosin Nagant and its 7.62x54R chambering is popular with both collectors and hunters, especially amongst hunters on limited budgets.
In 2001, the movie ‘Enemy at the Gates’ introduced many Western shooters to the Mosin rifle and 7.62x54R cartridge. Actor Jude law played the role of the famous Russian sniper Vasily Zaitsev during the battle of Stalingrad (1942-1943) as well as his individual counter sniper battle with German sniper, Major Erwin Konig. This movie propelled interest amongst many shooters, in the potential accuracy and effect of the Mosin Nagant rifle and 7.62x54R cartridge. Russia utilized more snipers than any other nation during the second world war. Furthermore, a great many Russian snipers were women.
The accurate semi-automatic SVD Dragunov rifles made their way into the western civilian market gradually at first, becoming more readily available after the collapse of the USSR. Along with this, the Tiger rifle, a commercial variant of the SVD has proven popular amongst shooters worldwide. Both variants have proven to be accurate, serviceable hunting rifles.
The Mosin, SVD and Tiger rifles along with the 7.62x54R cartridge are currently immensely popular worldwide. Ex-military rifles in new or near new condition can be purchased from gun stores and importers at very low prices. Ammunition capable of cleanly killing medium game is also readily available and inexpensive. After market stocks and upgrades have also helped bolster popularity. The Russian rifles and 7.62x54R cartridge have a very long and deep history. For collectors and enthusiasts, there is a wealth of knowledge and support groups available on the internet. An enthusiast can literally lose weeks, months or perhaps years, exploring and enjoying research.
PerformanceThe 7.62x54R is very similar in case capacity to the .284 Winchester with a short but very wide case, similar to modern short magnum cartridges. Potential power is similar to the .308 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield depending on barrel lengths, the 7.62x54R being highly effective on medium game.
Factory sporting ammunition typically features 180 grain bullets which achieve 2450fps in 20” barreled carbines and up to 2550fps in 24” barrels (SVD) and 27-28.75” barreled rifles, duplicating the power of the .308 Winchester. With hand loads, 150 grain bullets can be driven at 2800fps in carbines and up to 2950fps in long barreled rifles. 180 grain bullets can be driven at 2550fps in 20” barreled carbines and around 2700fps in long barreled rifles. Any and all of these loads, when matched appropriately to game body weights, are capable of producing clean and relatively fast killing on medium game out to ordinary hunting ranges of around 300 yards.
Like the .303 British, a limitation of the 7.62x54R is the lack of enhanced performance projectiles such as the Hornady SST or A-Max .30 caliber bullet designs. The current .311”/.312” bullet designs also tend to lack high BC’s apart from the Sierra 174gr MatchKing. To this end, although muzzle velocities may be fairly high, the 7.62x54R cannot produce entirely identical performance to the .30 calibers (high performance projectiles) at extended ranges.
During research, I came across many reports of dramatic violent wounding evident with the 7.62x54R cartridge. After pursuing these reports and obtaining the actual rifles, violent wounding fell into two categories. In Mosin rifles with worn bores (due to either machining tolerances or wear from corrosive ammunition), loss in bullet stability would cause .311/.312” projectiles to tumble either on impact or at ranges anywhere from 50 to 100 yards, the midair tumbling often going unnoticed by bush/woods hunters typically encountering game at ranges of around 25 yards. In other instances, tumbling occurred due to the use of .308 caliber bullets which again, were undersized, did not stabilize within the bore and either eventually tumbled mid-flight or on impact. Although this type of wounding is indeed both emphatic and dramatic, readers are cautioned as to the potential dangers of midair tumbling to other shooters or animals due to dramatic changes in the bullet flight path.
Barrel quality of the Mosin is hit and miss- literally. Some rifles have acceptably tight bores, others suffering very loose dimensions during production or afterwards, as a result of corrosive ammunition. Accuracy can range anywhere from sub MOA to ‘minute of barn door’. Although there are many reports of accurate Mosin rifles, these represent only a fraction of a percent, of the millions of rifles produced. Bore slugging is the most effective means of determining bore dimensions. Even the PU Sniper rifles can have bore diameters of up to .313”. Tikka rifles tend to have the tightest bore dimensions of the Mosin variants at .311” to .312”.
As a hunting rifle, the Mosin Nagant does not lend itself well to normal scope use because when the bolt is cycled, the bolt handle must pass through a verticle position. Unscoped, some Mosin Nagant rifles shoot extremely high as the rifles were designed to be used with the bayonet attached. If open sights are to be used, the front sight often needs be built up or the rear sight ground down to obtain a suitable zero.
The M91/30 PU sniper rifle featured a modified ‘bent’ bolt handle to clear the scope. Side mounts were used to attach the scope due to a lack of top metal (bridge) as is normally found on bolt action rifle designs. Any Mosin rifle can be modified for scope use however the bolt handle must be cut and re-welded rather than simply bent to clear the scope. Side mounts aren’t common but may be sourced through custom mount manufacturers. Rock Solid Industries produce excellent mounts for the Mosin, catering to both round and hex shaped actions, also supplying bolt handles and completely remodeled bolts. If you are a great fan of the Mosin and are contemplating altering your rifle, please consider the eventual purchase of a second rifle to be greased and kept in original order to help preserve history.
Apart from Finnish rifles and Russian sniper rifles, the Mosin Nagant typically has a long heavy two stage trigger pull with considerable creep. This creep is detrimental to accuracy, pulling the rifle offline as the trigger finally breaks, also inducing flinch in low to intermediate experienced shooters. To eliminate these problems, the trigger must be tuned or replaced if the rifle is to be an effective hunting tool. Timney make a simple replacement trigger for the Mosin.
There are now many variations of replacement stocks for the Mosin, ranging from walnut to laminate through to synthetics. Some shooters prefer to utilize the original musket shaped stock to preserve a sense of history.
Because the Mosin Nagant often requires many modifications for accuracy- and combined with the fact that accuracy can be limited due to bore dimensions, these are not necessarily a sound rifle choice for beginners, regardless of the initially low purchase price. But for those interested in the rifle and cartridge, the result of experimentation and modifications can be highly rewarding.
The SVD and Tiger semi-automatic rifles have shown merit with regard to both accuracy and reliability. These rifles have a huge fan following, are relatively inexpensive and are effective hunting tools. The SVD and Tiger utilize side scope mounts like the PU rifle and these rifles are often sold as crated packages which include optics.
As can be expected, there is a great abundance of military surplus ammunition available in 7.62x54R. Surplus military ammunition has been made throughout the Eastern Bloc as well as North Africa and China and comes in a variety of configurations, weighing from 148 to 185 grains. Some projectiles features copper jackets with lead cores, other projectiles may feature copper coated steel jackets with steel cores or copper coated steel jackets with lead cores.
A great deal of corrosive primed surplus ammunition is still in circulation and many hunters have been caught out, resulting in thousands of pitted and often completely ruined bores.
On game, FMJ ammunition does little damage tending to drill holes. Projectiles can be hollow pointed to encourage expansion, fragmentation and or tumbling, however results vary depending on core materials. Hollow pointing steel core ammunition (armor piercing) poses a danger of allowing the steel core to fore itself through the hollow point when it is fired, leaving the bullet jacket inside the rifle barrel, causing the barrel to explode with the following shot. Appropriate safety precautions and observations should be made when experimenting with hollow pointed FMJ ammunition. Hollow pointed lead core ammunition does increase the potential for fast, clean and humane killing of medium game.
Typical velocities achieved with 148gr surplus military ammunition are 2650fps in the Russian M44 carbine with a 20” barrel and 2800fps in barrels 24” and longer. Presently, it is difficult to find 150 grain soft point ammunition for the 7.62x54R.
One of the most commonly available sporting loads for the 7.62x54R exported to western countries is the 180gr boat tail soft point produced by Prvi Partizan (Serbia). Prvi ammunition is marketed in Australia and New Zealand as Highland ammunition. In the U.S, it is marketed as PPU ammunition. Prvi have manufactured ammunition for several decades under various logos but is always recognizable by the case head stamp NNY. Projectile diameter of the 180gr bullet is .311” and is the same bullet used in the Prvi 180gr BTSP .303 British loading. The projectile is made from copper and lead, utilizing a boxer primed brass case.
From the 20” barrel of the M44 Carbine the 180 grain Prvi bullet gives an average 2450fps achieving 2600fps in barrels 24” (SVD) and longer. On medium game, the slow travelling180gr Prvi gives mild results but expands readily, producing clean kills. Jacket core separation is an issue on large game at lower velocities. At ranges beyond 100 yards, slow killing can occur if shots strike the rear lungs. Penetration is generally good and although the jacket and core almost always separate on raking shots, the lead core is unusually hard, forming a mushroomed head while retaining at least two thirds of it’s shank for relatively deep penetration.
Prvi also produce a 150 grain BTSP load, though this load is unfortunately not widely distributed or readily available. It is available from PPU in the U.S. True (average) muzzle velocities are 2640 and 2800fps respectively. This is a generally excellent lighter medium hunting bullet, more information can be found in the .303 British text (Prvi .303 150 grain factory and hand loads).
Sellier & Bellot, also of the Czech Republic, produce a 180gr 7.62x54R sporting load at an advertised 2620fps. Like the Prvi loading this load produces around 2450fps in the 20” M44 and around 2600fps in barrels 24” and longer.
Norma produce a 180gr load giving 2450fps in the 20” M44 and 2550fps in barrels 24” and longer from an advertised 2575fps. Both the Norma and S&B 180gr bullets are very basic in design, best suited to game weighing above 90kg (200lb) and up to 320kg (700lb) giving adequate cross body penetration though kills can be delayed due to a lack of hydrostatic shock. Both brands give fair penetration on raking shots although the S&B projectile has an occasional tendency to shed its core when striking heavy bone.
Wolf is a U.S budget brand of ammunition, manufactured in the Eastern Bloc. Two loads are available from Wolf, a 180 grain BTSP and 203gr SP. The 180 grain load is simply the Prvi 180 grain BTSP load rebranded. Head stamping is identical (NNY) and velocities are the same, 2450fps from carbines, 2600fps from long barreled rifles.
The 200gr Wolf projectile features a copper washed steel jacket with a soft lead core. Muzzle velocities from the M44 carbine average around 2200fps and 2350fps for the M91/30. Expasion is generally poor, but as can be expected, penetration very deep. This load is best used at close to moderate ranges on medium game weighing above 90kg (200lb), producing clean but often delayed killing (depending on shot placement) with game running 50 yards or so before succumbing to blood loss. At longer ranges, wound channels can be very narrow, especially on lean or light framed deer species.
Barnaul (Altay, Russia) has produced ammunition since the Second World War. One of Barnaul’s specialties is optimum performance armor piercing ammunition in 7.62x54R. Besides standard FMF ammunition, Barnaul produce one sporting load for the 7.62x54R, a 203 bullet grain utilizing a copper washed steel jacket and soft lead core. Muzzle velocities average 2200 and 2300fps respectively. Performance is very much the same as the Wolf projectile. In Russia, this bullet is used on Brown Bear. Barnaul also manufacture and commercially sell the 174 grain FMJ sniper load, MV is 2610fps.
Military 7.62x54R brass is usually Berdan primed and not suitable for reloading. The most readily available boxer primed brass is Prvi (PPU/Highland) which is head stamped NNY.
For hand loaders, 7.62x54R data can be somewhat confusing. Many reloading manuals feature data for the 7.62x54r in the .30 caliber sections, using .308 projectiles. This is extremely unprofessional and ill advised, much the same as recommending .270 projectiles for the 7mm’s. When using .30 caliber neck dies, brass will often spring back oversize and not grip seated projectiles. As for accuracy, results with .30 caliber projectiles are usually poor and in worn/corroded bores, .30 caliber bullets will often tumble soon after exiting the barrel, posing a safety risk if the bullet has no safe back drop in its flight path. The correct bullet diameters are .311” (Sierra/Speer) or .312” (Hornady).
The most suitable powders when using 125 to 180gr bullets are 4064/Varget (ADI 2208) while heavier bullets also do well with slower 4350 burn rate powders.
From the 20” barreled M44, 123-125 grain projectiles can be driven at 2950s, achieving up to 3100fps in longer barreled rifles. 150 grain bullets can be driven at 2800fps while 174-180 grain bullets can generally achieve around 2450-2500fps.
From long barreled rifles (24-27”), 123-125 grain bullets achieve up to 3100fps, 150 grain bullet yield 2950fps to 3000fps and 174-180 grain bullets can be driven as fast as 2700fps. These top end loads fall behind the .30-06 by about 50fps to (sometimes) 100fps.
Twist rate of the Mosin rifles is usually 1:9.5. The SVD originally had a twist rate of 1:12.6 but was also changed to 1:9.5. The civilian Tiger has a 1:9.5 twist. These twist rates are mostly unsuitable for light 123-125 grain bullets. Optimal bullet weights for the 1:9.5 twist are around 200 grains, even though the standard military load is a 148 grain bullet. This design and usage is very similar to how the 8x57JS was employed.
Many 7.62x54R hand loaders simply prefer to utilize mild velocities / low pressures to preserve case life and minimize rifle wear, duplicating factory loads. Gas operated rifles should be loaded to these mild pressures (most users of gas operated rifles will no doubt prefer to utilize inexpensive factory ammunition). Typical goal velocities for 150 grain bullets are 2650fps (carbines) and 2800fps for long barreled rifles. Typical goal velocities for 180 grain bullets include 2450fps (carbines) and 2600fps for long barreled rifles.
For those who can find them, Prvi (PPU/ Highland) loose packed projectiles are both highly economical and effective. The performance of these is described in the factory ammunition section. Prvi projectiles feature boat tails however due to the ogive designs, BC’s are similar to Sierra Prohunter bullets. While it would be fair to expect less than optimal accuracy from these ‘cheap’ projectiles, results can be excellent. The Prvi projectiles are definitely very useful projectiles to have on hand.
Sierra .311” projectiles include the 125 grain Prohunter, the 150 grain Prohunter, the 174 grain HPBT Match King (SMK) and the 180 grain Prohunter. The 125 grain Prohunter may not stabilize in some rifles due to twist rates, producing poor accuracy. This bullet is designed for the offspring of the 7.62x54R- the 7.62x39. A fast killer on game weighing up to 60kg (132lb), the 125 grain bullet loaded to 3100fps is able to produce hydrostatic shock out to a range of around 145 yards, losing velocity very quickly due to its low BC of .274. Clean but slightly delayed killing occurs down to 2400fps (the muzzle velocity of the 7.62x39) or 210 yards with a rapid loss in performance thereafter.
The stout 150 grain Prohunter is best suited to game weighing up to 90kg (200lb) but is able to tackle slightly heavier body weights at mild impact velocities (2600fps or less). At full velocities of 2950fps (long barrels), the Sierra is able to produce hydrostatic shock out to a range of 60-140 yards depending on muzzle velocities (2750-2950fps) and wide wounding out to a range of around 140 to 210 yards (2400fps). Below 2400fps, performance gradually wanes with a more pronounced reduction in speed of killing at 230 to 290 yards (2200fps) and beyond. Performance at extended ranges is very much dependent on shot placement. The BC of the 150 grain bullet is fairly low at .341.
The Sierra 174 grain SMK is too stout for hunting in standard form. Performance can be enhanced by increasing the frontal area of the projectile and if possible, hollow pointing. This reduces the BC of the SMK from .490 to around .400-.440 depending on how much meplat is exposed. The weaker or wider the tip, the more the SMK is capable of producing clean (fragmentary) wounding. In optimum form, effective ranges are from 475 yards to 580 yards (1600fps) depending on muzzle velocities (2450-2700fps). Performance gradually wanes below 1600fps, becoming reliant on target resistance. Maximum effective clean killing range of altered bullets on large bodied deer is between 600 and 700 yards (1400fps).
Sierra’s 180 grain economical Prohunter is a stout bullet, producing fast killing on game weighing over 90kg (200lb) with the ability to tackle body weights up to 320kg (200-700lb). The 180 grain Prohunter can of course be used on light framed deer and does produce adequately wide wounding for fast bleeding. But with an absence of hydrostatic shock below 2600fps and a reduction in wounding at moderate to longer ranges due to retained momentum and insufficient target resistance, better results are seen on larger body weights. The 180 grain Prohunter is most effective at impact velocities above 2200fps or 120-240 yards- depending on muzzle velocities (2450-2700fps). BC of the Prohunter is .411.
Hornady produce two light weight 7.62x39 projectiles, a 123 grain soft point and 123 grain V-max but these are .310” in diameter. Loose tolerances combined with 1:9.5 twist rates result in generally poor accuracy.
Hornady .312” projectiles include the 150 grain spire point Interlock, the 174 grain RNSP interlock and a 174gr FMJ. Hornady also produce a BTHP match bullet for the .303 British but this is not currently available as a hand loading component.
Hornady’s 150 grain Interlock is a soft, fast expanding and to a greater extent, frangible bullet. The 150 grain Interlock is a fast killer when used on light framed deer species weighing less than 90kg (200lb). The Interlock is able to produce hydrostatic shock out to ranges of 60 to 140 yards depending on muzzle velocities (2750-2950fps) while retaining its ability to produce wide wounding out to ranges of between 230 to 300 yards, again depending on muzzle velocities. Below 2200fps, performance of the Interlock steadily wanes, yet does not drop off in a rapid fashion. BC of the 150 grain Interlock is .361. On lighter framed deer species such as Southern Whitetail, Blacktail, Fallow, Sika and feral goat, it is very hard to beat the performance of this bullet in comparison to other .311/.312” bullet designs.
The 150 grain Interlock can tackle slightly heavier body weights but does its best work at impact velocities of around 2600fps or lower. This bullet can prove quite adequate for wild pigs weighing up to 110kg (240lb) but does not quite produce the same level of penetration as the 150 grain Prohunter or Hotcor, the differences becoming more noticeable as game weights exceed 70kg (155).
Hornady’s 174 grain round nose Interlock works extremely well at close ranges on both light to medium bodyweights. This bullet is ideal light framed deer species through to Mule deer, Red deer and wild boar. The 174 grain bullet produces rapid expansion on impact and wide (but not immensely wide) internal wounding and fast killing. The RNSP gives best results inside range ranges of 200 to 270 yards (BC .262), depending on muzzle velocities. The faster the RNSP can be pushed, the more dramatic the performance. But as velocities are increased, penetration is sacrificed. Therefore, on very large bodied deer, mild muzzle velocities are recommended if reasonably deep penetration is to be expected. The RNSP does its best work on game weighing up to 150kg (330lb) but can handle larger body weights of up to 320kg (700lb) though penetration is limited.
Speer Hotcor projectiles often produce similar rates of expansion and penetration to the Sierra Prohunter line of bullets. However; as suggested in the .303 British texts, Speer bullets can display greater trauma, especially so at high impact velocities. Loading the 7.62x54R to full potential, helps exploit the qualities of the Speer Hotcor bullets
Speer produce two .311” Hotcor projectiles, a 150 grain soft point and a 180 grain round nose soft point bullet. The 150 grain Hotcor produces optimum performance on game weighing between 60 and 90kg (130-200lb), performing well on both lighter framed game and larger body weights if need be. Like the Sierra Prohunter, the 150 grain Hotcor produces hydrostatic shock out to ranges of around of 60 yards (carbines) and140 yards long barreled rifles). Wounding remains wide out to 140 to 210 yards (2400fps). Below 2400fps, wound channels gradually reduce in diameter, more so if used on very light bodied game. Kills are clean, but can be slightly delayed. A more noticeable reduction in speed of killing occurs at 230 to 290 yards (2200fps). At longer ranges (beyond 200 yards), the 150 grain Hotcor is not quite as violent as the soft Hornady Interlock, but if larger game of up to 150kg (330lb) might be encountered, the Hotcor is a sound choice.
The Speer 180 grain round nose bullet is an outstanding performer at close to moderate ranges. This bullet is best suited to game weighing over 90kg (200lb) and up to 320kg (700lb) but does perform well on lighter body weights. Penetration is generally very good for a non-premium bullet, making the Hotcor an excellent choice for bush/woods hunting.
The 7.62x54R is the longest serving military cartridge of all time with no signs of retirement in the near future. In Eastern Bloc countries, the cartridge is highly respected amongst hunters and soldiers. In the west, the 7.62x54R offers us an insight into both history and culture. Furthermore, the 7.62x54R is a highly effective medium game hunting cartridge. Ammunition and rifles are both inexpensive and readily available.
While the gas operated 7.62x54R rifles are generally acceptably accurate, the Mosin rifles often need modifications to make them suitably accurate for humane killing. What may seem a bargain can become counter-productive. Heavy and creepy triggers lead to flinching, poor accuracy or unregulated sights can erode confidence. Those who are new to hunting need to keep these facts in mind. But for those willing to experiment and learn, working with the Mosin can be a rewarding experience.
*20” barrel. Similar to hand loads with Sierra, Hornady and Speer bullets.
** 24-27” barrel. Similar to hand loads with Sierra, Hornady and Speer bullets.
*** 20” barrel. Similar to hand load with 180 grain Sierra.
****24-27” barrel. Similar to hand load with 180 grain Sierra.
All trajectories for scoped rifle. Sight height 2”.
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