By Randy D. Smith
When it comes to an all-purpose predator cartridge, the 7.62X39 Soviet has a lot more going for it than many will give credit. The cartridge is chambered in a variety of inexpensive semi-auto rifles, is one of the least expensive centerfire rounds to shoot and can be called into service for predator, small deer and feral hog hunting at moderate range. It is popular in Europe and across Russia because of these traits. I have owned and used a number of rifles in this caliber and I enjoy hunting with it.
Last winter during January and February, I took twenty coyotes by calling in cold and snowy weather and concentrating my efforts in heavy Conservation Reserve Program grasslands, a large proportion of which was walk-in public hunting. None of those coyotes was taken at a range beyond sixty yards. Every one of these dogs could have been easily taken with a 122-grain hollow point 7.62X39mm round. Several of them were.
I sight the 7.62X39 one or two inches high at 100 yards. The 7.62X39 will zero at 150 yards and be about four inches low at 200 yards. At 200 yards, the 7.62X39 retains almost 900 foot pounds of energy. A .223 Remington retains around 675 foot pounds of energy at 200 yards. The 7.62X39 round is more flexible and less expensive to shoot than any of the revolver rounds, such as the .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum and .45 Long Colt, in bolt action or lever action carbines.
Recoil from a 7.62X39 is greater than a .223, so it is more difficult to keep a scope on target. However, it is noticeably less than a .243 or .30-30. While cartridge accuracy is considered so-so, I believe that is because of the rifles for which it is commonly chambered. Most military semi-autos are built with sketchy production tolerances and do not have target grade triggers and neither does the Ruger Mini-30. In the right rifles, I have been satisfied with the 7.62x39's accuracy. In bolt action and single shot rifles the 7.63X39 can be quite accurate. While Remington’s Spartan SPR 18 single shot, imported from Russia, has a poor trigger and corresponding mediocre accuracy, the H&R single shot (when you can find one) is very accurate when chambered for this round.
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