7.62x39mm vs. 5.45x39mm


7.62x39mm or 5.45x39mm?

It’s a legit question: Do you want an AK-47 series rifle chambered for the traditional .30 caliber round, or an AK-74 series gun in .22 caliber?

Both rounds have their advantages and their disadvantages.

The traditional AK round hits hard. It shreds cover. It crumbles cinder blocks, assuming the target isn’t too far away. It can accommodate a suppressor.

The 5.45 round is lightning quick, shoots flatter, is a tad more accurate and, with its lighter recoil, is easier to control, thus allowing quicker follow-up shots. It’s not effective on cover, however, as it lacks a hard punch.

Mikhail Kalashnikov himself opposed chambering his beloved rifle in the smaller .22 caliber – but his objections were moot after Soviet military planners saw the success of the 5.56mm M-16.

The 5.45x39mm round developed a pretty nasty reputation among the Afghans during the Soviet occupation of their country. It was known as the “poison bullet.”

A hollow space inside the bullet flattened upon impact, causing the round to yaw dramatically inside the body, causing severe internal damage.

I once interviewed a former Soviet desantnik, or paratrooper, who said one Mujahideen he had shot in the chest had an exit wound in the shoulder. That’s a pretty serious yaw.

Nowadays, much of this surplus Soviet 5.45x39mm ammunition is drying up on the civilian market. Good riddance, most of it was corrosive anyway.

Russian ammo firms such as Wolf, TulAmmo, Brown Bear and more make decent rounds in both calibers.

Hornady even stuffs its legenday V-Max into steel cases for both rifles. For hunting or home defense, this round is as good as it gets.

As to the initial question, like most firearm “debates” the answer is easy – personal preference.

For me, I prefer for the 7.62x39mm AK. Ammo is easier to find. Magazines and drums are cheaper, at least they were, and infinitely easier to find.

I think General Kalashnikov got the design right 66 years ago. If you want a modern sporting rifle chambered in a hot .22 caliber,  get an AR.







About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.


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