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Old March 5, 2013, 04:05 PM   #1
Tennessee Jed
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Would it be silly to start handloading 7.62x39?

I have an SAR-1 7.62x39 that I really enjoy shooting. I've been debating for a long time whether to start handloading 7.62x39 ammo.

It didn't USED to make much sense. I couldn't handload it for as cheap as I could just buy Tula or Wolf ammo. However, I can't find Tula or Wolf ammo anywhere these days.

Considering we're facing the second major ammo draught in 4 years, and I am not convinced it won't happen again, I'm starting to reconsider whether it really is such a bad idea.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Do you think this is one of those things that is best waited out, or is this one of those lessons I should have learned back in 2009 with the prior draught?
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Old March 5, 2013, 04:11 PM   #2
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Personally, I always wanted to load 7.62 X 39mm but the two SKS' I've owned did not eject cases in a reloadable condition. So, I just stuck with Wolf and S&B and only fired brass cased ammo on a few occasions.

AA#1680 seems to be the consensus powder for velocity, but Ramshot has very good data for X-Terminator which I've used in .30-30 loads. It appears that X-Terminator would give near or 100% load density and that's what I wanted to use in 7.62 X 39mm.
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Old March 5, 2013, 04:15 PM   #3
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I tried with my Saiga conversion.

Couple of problems. Finding reloadable brass is a real PITA. Once you do collect a couple hundred and reload them, the semiauto's chuck the brass into next week and the Easter egg hunt begins.

Then there's the bullet fit issue. AK pattern guns use a 311 bullet. 308 can be used but accuracy is so-so.

I sold my Saiga and picked up an AR due to the reloading issue. I didn't want to be reliant on the whims of ammo manufacturer's supply chains, especially foreign sources. 223 is abundant and easily scrounged. I have a 5-gallon bucket of the stuff.

I still have a CZ Carbine in x39 and use cast lead in it.
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Old March 5, 2013, 04:22 PM   #4
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Well considering the price of 7.62x39 ammo, I would say yes.
Roll back the clock to the 70s-80s. This ammo was non existant.

Many years ago, I was fortunate to aquire 1000 IMI boxer primed brass and was able to shoot Russian rifles. In the 1990s, American manufactures started producing boxer primed ammo and later, surplus ammo was allowed for importation.

With tons of cheap Wolf & Tula ammo around, I quit reloading this number. Looks like it is time to consider reloading again as the panic has pushed prices up.
One lesson I learned was tight solid crimps are paramount in both SKS & AKs.
Late adds:
Near max loads were required to cycle some SKSs. Max not important in AKs
Concur, most rifles loved .311 bullets.

Last edited by chiefr; March 5, 2013 at 04:32 PM.
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Old March 5, 2013, 04:22 PM   #5
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i can find small cases of it for 50 cents a round. I think that is pretty cheap still. I don't see the savings there.
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Old March 5, 2013, 04:54 PM   #6
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Your SAR-1 should be a little easier to deal with in this regard, but I never reloaded for my SKS because it launched cases into orbit. And, of course, they impacted the ground pretty hard, at the end of their return trip.

On a good day, I might be able to locate about 50% of the cases. An average day would be more like 25%. A bad day would be 5-10%.
Overall, I only recovered about 40% of the brass cases that I ever fired in that rifle, and about 20% of those were damaged and non-reloadable.

When import ammo tanked in quality, and the price quadrupled... I weighed the two most obvious options for that Russian SKS's future:
1. Reload.
2. Sell it.

I loved that rifle, and really wanted to keep it. But, it wasn't worth the brass chasing nightmare, and I wasn't going to buy any more of the trash import ammo or overpriced domestic ammo.
It took me almost 3 years to finally let go, but I did.
I traded it for a Marlin .30-30.
(And the new owner only put about 40 rounds through the SKS, before selling it for the same reasons. )
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Old March 5, 2013, 05:28 PM   #7
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It is pretty easy to load for. I once had an SKS and only shot Commie Berdan ammo. Now I have a Mini-30 and have only loaded for it. I keep my eye open for brass at the range (the Federal works great) and now I have a few hundred that I reuse. I find most of the brass and use Hornady .311 soft points and either 322 or Benchmark. Lee dies are pretty cheap. From the bench I drape a towel over the action and catch the brass. From offhand I just have to look a little harder or take the kids.
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Old March 6, 2013, 05:45 AM   #8
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7.62x39 issues made me love 223

It has never made sense to me to buy a gun cannot easily reload for. I stick to 223, 308, 9mm, 40SW, 12g.
7.62x39 offers no advantages for any purpose.
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Old March 6, 2013, 07:49 AM   #9
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I reload for close to 75 different calibers, & so far, 7.62 X 39 is not one of them... I have one of those old $89.00 Chinese SKS's ( anyone remember those ) mine has been accurized, & I love it, but it does "throw those cases into next week" so it's one I actually like using steel cases, as I have a good magnet on a stick, & use it to clean up my shooting area... I just don't think I'd shoot the gun, if I was worried about finding the brass cases, & as reloading is a hobby equal to the shooting, I think I'd spend as long or longer trying to find the cases, than I spent shooting the gun...

my 2 favorite semi auto rifles to shoot are my Ruger 10-22, & my SKS... both because of fun factor, & because I don't have to hunt for spent cases...
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Old March 6, 2013, 11:33 AM   #10
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I guess it depends on what you want the ammo for, I do load for the 7.62X39, my custom ammunition is more accurate than any steel cased ammo i have shot.

I think the biggest difference is the bullet quality, the the surplus ammo and like are made to be cheap and "accurate enough" IMO.
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Old March 6, 2013, 02:10 PM   #11
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I would reload for my SKS, but finding components right now is difficult, and my SKS ejects cases all over the south 40 and finding them to reload would be quite a problem (I shoot outdoors in dirt/gravel). Last time I shot it I tried to recover the spent steel cases and only found about half of what I shot. Not good enough return for me to reload good brass...
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Old March 6, 2013, 03:06 PM   #12
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I have a Saiga and an SKS. They need ammo so I'm going to reload it.
Fortunately the high priced reloadable brass was the last to disappear, and I have some. I think it's just going to be like this for awhile, particularly for this cartridge.
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Old March 6, 2013, 05:02 PM   #13
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Surplus ammo is generally older stuff that is milspec in quality - i.e., "Uncle Ivan says go 'BANG' that direction, comrade!"
I like my ammo a wee bit better then that. Also, I love reloading, it's a fun, productive and relaxing hobby, so yes, I've been reloading 7.62x39mm for a while.
Favorite load for the gas gun is the 123 gr Hornady Spire point, over 27 grains of AA #1680.Works very well.
A second favorite bullet is the Berry's 125 grain plated bullet, and the CZ 527M loves it. It likes H-4895 as a pusher.
Last, I also CAST my own bullets for this caliber, both 160 grain Lee tumble lubers and 129 grain NOE spire points, both gas checked bullets, and the 527M is quite fond of them. The vz-58 ain't wild about lead, and I hate cleaning out the gas port.

So, yes, a long answer to a short question - I have loaded 7.62x39mm for SKS rifles, AKs, my vz-58 and the bolt action CZ 527M, have fun doing it, and don't feel silly at all. Also, I remember very well the big ammo scare of 2008, (like today), and I had the range to myself...a lot.
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Old March 7, 2013, 04:43 AM   #14
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Surplus ammo is generally older stuff that is milspec in quality - i.e., "Uncle Ivan says go 'BANG' that direction, comrade!"
My experience, and that of every other 7.62x39mm shooter I know personally, does not support that theory.
We found the old USSR surplus to be very consistent, extremely reliable, fairly clean, and full power.
Even the 'transition ammo' (when they first realized the American market was a gold mine) was pretty decent - including the "hunting ammo" made by grinding the tips off surplus FMJ ammo.

But, around 1998 to 2000, or so... quality took a massive nose dive.
Consistency went down hill, and never stopped.
Reliability became an issue.
Cleanliness ... a joke.
And, everything got watered down. Lower velocites became the norm.

The commercial import ammo that's on the market today is loaded to be just good enough to keep people buying it at the ever-increasing prices. (Quite similar to the .22 LR 'bulk packs'...)

The best ammo we ever shot in our SKSs and Mini-30s was what my family lovingly refers to as "Gulag Ammo" ... true surplus, that was produced in nasty little corners of the USSR. It was fantastic.

People today, that think the crap like Wolf is decent, have no idea what they're putting up with, just so some enterprising Russians can line their pockets with greenbacks.
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Old March 7, 2013, 09:12 PM   #15
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I Handload

I have a Russian SKS and 3 AK's. I handload. While I have shot a lot of Wolf in the past and Chinese ammo when it was available, I still have the equipment to reload it and do. As mentioned, current imports aren't the best and hard to come by now. I bought my first AK in the 80's. At the time, I also bought a couple cases of PMC ball ammo. It's brass cased and boxer primed so cases aren't a problem for me. I don't shoot mag after mag of ammo so it lasts a while. I don't mind the work.

Lock and Load!
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Old March 7, 2013, 10:19 PM   #16
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I reload it too. I started accumulating brass several years ago and found it for around .10 a round, with prices gradually increasing. I find a lot of it at ranges too, because "no one reloads it." That's fine, keep dropping it. One day I found 120 new cases on the ground. Sweet!

I shoot an SKS and I use the milsurp for that, but I have a WASR that is pretty accurate, and I like my reloads for that. It's now definitely cheaper than buying factiory ammo and I don't see that changing any time soon.
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Old March 7, 2013, 10:30 PM   #17
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I started loading 7.62x39 for a SKS, when I bought the gun steel case ammo was $90/1000 and Lapua my favorite was $125-150/1000.
Well those days are gone.
I have good results with H4198 and with 23.5gr the brass throws about 3' at 25.5gr it's a different story.
for powder I would look for,
VV N-120
Accurate 1680
H 4198
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Old March 7, 2013, 10:33 PM   #18
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I don't think it would be silly.

I would start by seeing how much range pickup brass you can accumulate how quick. Once you have a, gosh, several hundred or so, then look at a die set and powder and bullets and so on.

I started reloading about five years ago. I live in a strange remote market far away from the CONUS. What I have observed is the price of factory loaded ammunition goes up faster than components, so calibers that weren't "worth" reloading a few years ago, are worth it now.

Save your brass for now. Someday (maybe soon) it will make financial sense to reload it.
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Old March 7, 2013, 11:35 PM   #19
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so calibers that weren't "worth" reloading a few years ago, are worth it now.
I agree and I have been loading 9x18 Makarov for around 5yrs.
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Old March 8, 2013, 06:06 PM   #20
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The only way I would reload for the round is if I had one of the bolt action CZ rifles. I have one SKS and a life time supply for the way I shoot of steel cased ChiCom steel cased JHP rounds. The way it slings cases I would not want to try looking for them.
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Old March 9, 2013, 08:23 PM   #21
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I started reloading the 7.62 x 39 when I got my SKS rifles around eight years ago,back then nobody was much interested in the brass or the .310 dia. 123 gr. and .311 150 gr. bullets so I bought all I could afford,I'm probably set for life. I also enjoy the accuracy and cleaner shooting loads than the steel case ammo.

I also started casting all my own 160 gr. gas check bullets for my SKS rifle as well so I haven't shot a J bullet in years. The cast loads are excellent for plinking,target shooting and hunting ammo and accuracy is as good or better than with some of my J bullet handloads,brass life is extended as well.

One benefit of the cast loads is that being there fired at a lower MV the action is not subjected to the higher pressure curve as it is with the factory loads in brass or steel which affect both direction and distance the brass or steel cases are ejected,the SKS and AK are way over gassed and will function at a much lower port pressure. The shorter pressure curve of the reduced velocity loads keeps the cases much closer to your shooing position.

My cast loads in the Chinese SKS will function all day long at a much lower MV and pressure around 1450 fps. than my Yugo and Russian rifles,but they will also function just fine with reduced loads. The Chinese drops the brass right at my feet. The higher velocity loads will eject the brass out around 10 ft. with the max cast loads. However any SKS rifles ejection pattern can be tuned regardless of the type load fired in the rifle especially the HV loads by simply drilling two or three small pressure bleed off holes in ta spare gas tube just in front of the gas piston face,the mod can be found here

I've pretty much enjoy 6 to 8 cents per rd. cost shooting since I've started reloading the 7.62 x 39 and will for years to come. Most of my steel case ammo stash was bought back when it was one half to one third of the going rate now days,I just keep it for a rainy day stash.

Last edited by res45; March 9, 2013 at 10:48 PM.
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Old March 10, 2013, 04:41 PM   #22
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Old March 10, 2013, 07:51 PM   #23
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Not only do I reload for that caliber but I cast bullets for it also.

YUP, and I shoot em too.
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