7.62 x 39mm as big game round?


Senior Member
I tried the search feature here, but I could only find one thread about using a 7.62 x 39mm rifle for big game hunting, and that was specifically about the merits of the AK-47 platform to launch said round.

So, what do y'all think of this caliber for hunting deer, bear, or other big game, even things not native to Georgia like elk, moose, brown bear, etc?

What got me interested in this "caliber debate" was a statement in the current issue of GUNS & AMMO magazine, where in a review of the Ruger American Ranch rifle (bolt action, 7.62 x 39mm), the writer said that this caliber was good for reliably taking any game in the lower 48 states.

Really? Any game in the continental USA?
Earlier in the article he said the rifle/ cartridge would be great for long hikes up and down mountains, looking for 400-lb. critters. But later he expanded that praise to say the gun, in this caliber, was good for anything in the lower 48.

Now, I've always considered the 7.62 x 39mm Soviet AK/ SKS round (not to be confused with the big 7.62 x 54 Rimmed round those Mosins and belt-fed machineguns use) to be "adequate" for deer or black bear out to 150 yards. Just like a lever action .30-30. If you have a rifle that's got enough accuracy, the velocity and kinetic energy should be good enough out to 150, maybe 200 yards, tops.

And I was always figuring that these rounds would be used against animals weighing no more than 300 lbs (black bear), unless it were really close and shot placement could be perfect, in which case even 500 lb. animals could be taken with either a .30-30 (150 gr. soft point at 2,300 f.p.s. muzzle velocity) or the 7.62 x 39 (123 grain soft point at 2350 f.p.s.).

What do y'all think?

P.S. The Ruger American Rifle's got the accuracy. With American-made brass-cased ammo, it was grouping under an inch at 100 yards. Even cheap Wolf ammo came it at only 2", which is twice as good as I've ever gotten from any AK or SKS in that caliber.


Senior Member

Per the ballistics at GunData.org,

The 7.62 x 39 has about the same kinetic energy as the .30-30 at any range out to 300 yards, which is probably a reasonable limit for most hunters using short, light guns in low-recoiling calibers.

But both of those rounds have a lot less energy, and far more bullet drop at distance, than a run-of-the-mill modern rifle round like the .308 or .270 Winchester (the .270, of course, was developed some 90 years ago as the lighter-recoiling alternative round for scoped rifles that would be shot at game from long distances. Famous gun writer Jack O'Conner touted the .270 Win as the ideal North American hunting round, capable of taking anything on this continent, without the hard kick of a .30 bore rifle.)

Who here would feel comfortable putting a 7.62 x 39mm round, let's say a 123 grain soft point, into the vitals of a 400-lb. black bear, or a 600 lb. moose? Even if the range were fairly short, around 150 yards?
I looked at getting a 7.62 barrel for my encore. I lost interest when I read on the ebaco website that their barrel was for handloads only as military ammo and sporting ammo was loaded for oversized military bores. I also didn't really want to fool with ammo that may have corrosive primers. However; the ballistics don't lie, it's as adequate as a 30-30.

7Mag Hunter

Senior Member
I used a Ruger Ranch rifle in 7.62x39 for a couple of
years, and killed several deer with it...125gr soft point ammo....
More than adequate for a deer ....

I wish i had kept that rifle...Lightweight, short deer stand rifle...


The Oracle
Deer is one thing.

Big bear is another.

I had an SKS in excellent condition and
several of my friends had AK's.

Not really impressed with the round.

I do like Ruger rifles and handguns.


Staff member
I built an AR in 7.62x39, and I have killed several deer with it. It performs really well on them. I have also killed several hogs with the round. I would have no worries about shooting a black bear of any size with it, either. The Hornady SSTs have performed well for me in this caliber. With a longer barrel, it should do even better.

I consider it a 100-150 yard woods round, just like the .30-30. It wouldn't be my first choice for moose, elk, or grizzlies-but then, lots of old-timers and natives kill all those with a .30-30 on a regular basis.

sea trout

2021 Turkey Challenge Winner 2022 biggest turkey ?
Winchester makes power points too.
We got them at acadamy. They been killin deer for my son from his mini 30 just fine.
I think they almost has 30-30 power.

Rich Kaminski

Senior Member
It is a good round for hunting hogs. Thats what I use it for in the swamp. My nephew killed 5 hogs using his. Semiauto, no kick, I get 1" groups with mine at 100 yards. I have also taken deer and coyotes with mine. I believe it would drop most black bears under 400 pounds with no problem.


Senior Member
For deer and hogs, it will work.

I'd use something else for bear or moose.

Just don't use the FMJ military ammo for hunting.


Staff member
It is a good round for hunting hogs. Thats what I use it for in the swamp. My nephew killed 5 hogs using his. Semiauto, no kick, I get 1" groups with mine at 100 yards. I have also taken deer and coyotes with mine. I believe it would drop most black bears under 400 pounds with no problem.

I would guess that well over 90% of the bears killed in western NC over the decades have been killed with a .30-30. It's the only thing bear hunters ever used to carry. That included 500-600+ lb bears. The 7.62x39 is pretty close to a .30-30 ballistically. Bears aren't that hard to kill, they often drop easier than a deer of the same size.

I would not hunt grizzly bears, moose, or any such critters with one.


Senior Member
The 7.62 x 39 has the same kind of energy as the .30-30, but I think the heavier bullets (150 gr., 170 gr.) for the .30-30 give it the penetration advantage on really big animals.


BUT, the video below from YouTube doesn't confirm that.
They tested soft-point 7.62 x 39 fired from an SKS, side by side into blocks of ballistic gelatin along with a .30-30 Winchester lever rifle. Both bullets penetrated the same: 17.75" of gelatin. But the tester said that the .30-30 made a larger wound cavity.

TYPE in the "www" and the dot, and then:


Senior Member
CZ makes a lightweight hunting rifle in 7.62x39. They used one to kill some big mule deer on a recent episode of their sponsored hunting show. I've handled the rifle and it's very impressive, if I ever have frequent reason to hunt the mountains I would be very tempted to pick one up.


Senior Member
I just put together an AR-15 in 7.62x39. Haven't killed anything with it yet but I'm itching to. Might have to go walk and see if I can get up on some hogs tomorrow afternoon.


Senior Member
Love my AR and have taken a few deer and hogs with it, great round and does very well. Longest shot on deer at 203yds, completely shattered front shoulder on quartering to shot, bullet found just in front of opposite hip in a perfect mushroom almost broke thru the hide. Shooting Hornady 123gr. SST