Here at Pew Pew Tactical, we’ve never made a secret of our love for the AR-15 platform.
We’ve talked about how to build one, how to feed one, how to clean one, and…well, basically everything you need to know about one.
That said, it’s not the only shockingly popular rifle platform out there.
Enter the AK-47.
It’s the peanut butter to the AR-15’s chocolate, the red lightsaber to the AR’s blue. It’s the weapon of choice for movie bad guys (and real-world ones in many places) and is the only contender to the AR-15 platform’s title as “Most Popular Gun In The World.”
Today, I’ll go over a bit of history and then all the best AK 7.62×39 ammo out there!
Summary of Our Top Picks
Table of Contents
Thanks to mass demand during 2020…the world of ammo has been turned onto its head.
On August 20, 2021, the US Department of State effectively banned Russian ammo imports. It was a huge blow, especially to the 7.62x39mm ammo that runs the AK-47.
AK-47: A Quick Rundown
The AK-47 is, no question, an absolute beast. It is a snarling, defiant beast that has been the driver of revolution and conflict from Cuba to Korea, and its storied history is as legendary as any in the world of firearms.
It’s easy to see why the AK-47 and its smaller-bore cousin, the AK-74, remain so popular — their lineage of rugged dependability and reliability. But beast though it may be, it still has to eat.
And that’s what we’re going to go over today — just what to do you shoot out of that AK, anyway?
There are a number of 7.62x39mm options available worldwide — so many that it can be difficult to choose.
We’ve sorted the best ones out, tested them, and came up with some instructions for picking the best of the best for your needs.
Whether you’re looking to take your AK hunting (and incredibly viable notion, no matter what certain politicians may say) to the range, or your secret survival bunker in the desert, there’s an option for you.
The Many Uses of the AK-47
These days, the AK-47 isn’t just a weapon of war. It is found all over the world in the hands of regular civilians where laws allow it, and though you’re most likely to find the semi-automatic version, it’s still the same ‘ole reliable beast as the original.
The AK-47 and its venerable 7.62x39mm round can be used for hunting, target practice, plinking, competition, and even home and self-defense.
Whatever you’re looking to do with your rifle, you should match your ammo to your purpose if you want the best results.
How to Choose 7.62x39mm Ammo
AK-47 ammo is available for every purpose, from hunting to target shooting to home defense.
For the absolute best results, it’s essential to understand a little bit about the ammo made for the rifle as a whole. Particularly the differences between AK-47 ammo and the 5.56/.223 ammo you might be more familiar with.
There is a wide difference between the operation of the AK-47 and the AR-15 — both in how they operate and their overall design goals. If you want the most out of your gun, it’s important to consider this when choosing ammo.
So what was the AK-47 design goal? Be cheap, reliable, easy to use, and rugged as all hell. Sounds simple, right?
Well, there are some things you need to be aware of.
Understanding AK-47 Ammo
One of the key differences between most AK ammo and the 5.56 you’re probably used to is the prevalence of steel-cased ammo.
We have previously covered the differences between steel and brass-cased ammo, so I won’t rehash all that here, but there are some things that bear repeating.
First, steel-cased ammo is cheaper and is generally considered unfit for reloading. It may expand in unpredictable ways, causing carbon buildup, which can lead to extraction issues in some guns.
Now, the AK was designed to be fed cheaply and abused, so steel cases aren’t really an issue…in fact, they may actually run better.
This is because of the aggressive action and extractor on most all AK-pattern weapons. This aggressiveness is perfect for ripping a stuck steel case out of the chamber. However, it can actually be too effective when applied to brass cartridges — ripping up the softer metal and causing a serious malfunction.
That said, your AK may run brass without issue, and modern versions will likely be just fine. Just be aware that service grade and older guns may be picky about casing types, and you may at the very least get brass cases with ripped sidewalls.
This means that in some cases, cheap surplus ammo is a good option or even the best option for your gun.
Boxer vs. Berdan Primers…and Corrosive Ammo
Now, we can’t recommend surplus ammo without talking about the Boxer vs. Berdan primer issue and corrosive ammo in general.
Boxer and Berdan primers are the two main types of primers used in centerfire cartridges today. The primary difference between the two is that Boxer primers have a single flash hole to ignite the powder, and Berdan primers have two.
From a practical standpoint, reloading Berdan primers is a pain in the ass, especially here in the West, as the tools and the primers themselves are hard to find. In general, we advise sticking to Boxer primers for this reason.
There is another reason, however. Most, if not all, surplus Berdan-primed rounds are corrosive.
When ignited, these older Berdan-style primers leave behind potassium chloride and sodium chloride, the latter of which is essentially table salt.
These salts are alkalis that react with hydrogen and oxygen in the air to form acids that will absolutely corrode your gun and leave it rusted beyond belief. Just think about what salt water does to metal after a while, and you’ll have a good idea.
Now, when we hear “corrosive,” it might seem like it’s just easier to say, “well, I just won’t use that in my gun,” and that’s perfectly fine. But this type of surplus military ammo, although getting rarer, is typically the cheapest option.
Like, $100-200 for 500-1000 rounds if you catch the right sale. That makes things a bit more appealing — but is it enough to overcome the thought of a rusted gun?
Fortunately, simple cleaning can usually stave off these issues…provided you do so promptly after shooting. And the sooner, the better. These salts break down in water, so a hot, soapy rinse can sort things right out.
If the thought of purposefully dunking your gun in a tub of water makes your skin crawl (as it does mine), there are several aqueous cleaning products like Hoppes #9 or Shooter’s Choice Aqua that will have you covered without making you feel like you’re doing the dishes.
Check out our guide to Cleaning Corrosive Ammo.
Best AK-47 Ammo
There’s really no one best AK-47 round out there, so we have to look at the best for each category.
- Target Shooting
Let’s start with…
1. Federal Power-Shok
The 7.62x39mm round fired by the AK-47 is ballistically very similar to the venerable 30-30 that has harvested many a whitetail over the last century. This makes it a great hunting round, especially in soft-point (SP) variants.
For hunting, I like Federal’s Power-Shok line in general. The 7.62x39mm SP version is a 123-grain deer-slayer on par with the best in this category. I have personally harvested numerous whitetail with this round, and it has yet to let me down.
2. Hornady SST
For two-legged threats, I like Hornady SST.
The SST pairs a steel case with a modern polymer tip that aids in retaining the bullet’s mass, barrier penetration, and expansion in soft tissue.
3. Fiocchi Shooting Dynamics
I’d be lying if I said 7.62x39mm would be my first or even fifth choice for an accurate target round. Looser manufacturing tolerances lead to an increase in reliability of the AK but a decrease in theoretical and practical accuracy.
That said, you can still get good accuracy results out of an AK, especially at closer ranges.
So if you’re looking for accurate target performance, I recommend Fiocchi’s Shooting Dynamics line of 7.62x39mm FMJ. They are an excellent mix of reasonable cost and highly consistent ammunition.
4. Winchester White Box
Finally, we have my preferred AK-47 use, which is good ole fashioned plinking. The AK-47 is a terror on the battlefield but also a terror when wielded against dirt clods, stumps, old boxes, and cans.
I have spent many an hour down in a nearby sandpit just shooting cans and the like, and I think, no disrespect to the great Kalashnikov, that this is just about the best possible use of the AK-47 today: turning money and gunpowder into smiles and noise.
Winchester White Box is typically available in most places. It is brass-cased and probably the cheapest ammo at the store that can honestly say “Made in America” on the side.
WWB may not be the best thing, but it’s always there, and their 7.62x39mm FMJ is as good as anything at the price point you’re likely to find.
5. Bear Ammo: Brown Bear
Next, we have Bear Ammo’s Brown Bear line, a non-corrosive, Russian-made, steel-cased, lacquer-coated FMJ round.
Best Budget Plinking AK Ammo
The lacquer coating makes it a little more expensive, but it feeds and extracts better than other steel cases while still being cheap enough that you can dump a magazine into a berm without your wallet crying too much.
What do you think of Brown Bear? Rate it below!
6. Wolf Performance
Wolf is almost all polymer-coated bi-metal cases, and although it is Berdan-primed, it is non-corrosive.
Wolf is often among the cheapest options you may see in store, but with a lower price comes a few drawbacks. Looser quality control means you might experience slightly less accuracy and dirtier ammo, but this stuff runs and works well enough for plinking.
I keep a few hundred rounds of the FMJ stuff on hand for when I’ve had a bad week and want to really sling some lead at the range without worrying about what it’ll do to my bank account balance.
The AK-47 is a monster of a rifle, legendary, rugged, and as dependable as the sunrise. If you feed it right, it’ll last longer than you will, and it’ll bring you a great deal of joy along the way. These rounds will all do what you need them to do and then some.
What 7.62x39mm ammo do you use? Has this inspired you to want to pick up an AK of your very own? Let me hear from you in the comments below! If you’re looking for some great AK-47 recommendations, take a look at our Best AK-47: Complete Guide!