The 7.62x39mm rifle cartridge, designed during World War II by the Soviet Union, remained the Soviet Military standard until the late 1970s when the 5.45x39mm cartridge that has less stopping power replaced it, and penetration is more lethal because of its flatter trajectory. The newer cartridge is also easier to control when fired in a fully automatic rifle due to lower recoil.
The original Soviet bullets were a copper-plated steel jacket and a large steel core with some lead between the core and the jacket.
The cartridge taper permits this round to feed and extract easily in fully automatic firearms like the Soviet-made AK-47.
Many of these rifles were captured by United States troops during the Vietnam Conflict.
Several AK-47s are in private hands today, despite the fact that it is illegal for anyone to possess a fully automatic firearm without having an expensive Class 3 firearms license.
The original bullet diameter of the 7.62x39mm was 0.312 inches.
This was changed in 1987 when Sturm Ruger started chambering this round in their Mini-thirty Rifle using 0.308 diameter bullets.
The Russian-made AK-47 still uses the 0.312 diameter bullets.
Since 1990, the 7.62x39mm cartridge has seen some sporting use in the United States for game as large as whitetail deer. Imported semiautomatic rifles like the AK-47 are somewhat inexpensive and, to a certain extent, have displaced the 30-30 Winchester as the "poor man's deer rifle."
The 30-30 Winchester has a slight velocity and muzzle energy edge on the 7.62x39mm but the Soviet cartridge is very capable of making a clean kill on a whitetail at 100 yards or less with a well-placed shot.
The 123-grain Spitzer soft point bullet leaves the muzzle at a velocity of 2,300 feet-per-second having the energy of 1,480 foot pounds. This is superior to the .30 caliber carbine and some 22 centerfire cartridges.
To some extent, rifles chambered for the 7.62x39mm are controversial in the United States. Many of the lawmakers in federal, state, and local governments say that the semiautomatic versions of the AK-47 and similar rifles are assault weapons. I am in total disagreement with this philosophy. A military-styled semiautomatic rifle is not the same as a fully automatic modern assault weapon.
In this state, it is unlawful to hunt with any fully automatic firearm. It does not matter if a person has a Class 3 firearms license.
I have fired a few fully automatic rifles when I was in the Navy.
They may be fun to shoot on a firing range if one has plenty of ammunition, but are not one bit practical for sport hunting.
We all know that the price of centerfire ammunition has gone out of sight in the last few years.
Unless someone has money to burn, I really do not think we will see very many fully automatic firearms in public for several years.