Shooting the Russian 7.62×54

By Bob Campbell published on in Ammunition, Antique Firearms, Firearm Maintenance, General, Guest Posts, Mosin Nagant, Rifle Ammunition

Over the years we have seen a steady progression in rifle performance, and the modernization of rifle powder. Black powder rusted the metal almost as soon as it was fired. Modern rifle powder, such as Varget, is very clean. Corrosive primed ammunition isn’t something to be avoided, and the powder burn is often clean. You simply have to follow a few steps to fire and use this affordable ammunition.

Ammunition is declared surplus when no longer needed. There are not a lot of nations still using the 7.62x54R rifle, although it is still in use in heavy machineguns. Some simply need a little cash, and we benefit from the decision. Much of this ammunition was intended for military use and manufactured under stringent control. In my experience, match grade accuracy was not as important as ignition reliability. Since the 7.62×54 Russian is also a machinegun round, the cartridges usually feature a tight crimp. In fact, it is difficult to pull a bullet even with a Kinetic bullet puller.

Hungarian 7.62x54 Mosin Nagant rifle with original boxed cartridges.

The availability of surplus ammunition has made firing and using older rifles less inexpensive and more satisfying.

The availability of surplus ammunition has made firing and using older rifles less inexpensive and more satisfying.

The primer seal is good, and the cartridges often feature a good case mouth seal—normally sealed with some form of lacquer. In other words, this is the type of ammunition you may wish to put into long-term storage. When sealed in a protective can, the ammunition is all the more secure. Of course, I fire and enjoy my surplus ammunition. I simply follow simple steps in cleaning the rifle afterward.

Often the surplus ammunition may be properly considered as ammunition put up in a time capsule from an era when prices were lower. Lets look at 7.62×54 ball ammunition. You can fire a good batch of this ammunition on a single trip to the range. The rifles are accurate, fun to shoot and trouble free. Recoil is modest for the power involved. However, the heavier ball loads often strike high at the ranges in which we often practice. The 180-gr. ball load is a bit difficult to sight in at 100 yards.

The 150-grain Hungarian loading at 2800 fps is usually closer to the point of aim at 50 to 100 yards. A 150-grain bullet at 2800 fps is awfully close to the .30-06 Springfield and offers similar performance. If you do not handload, this affordable ammunition is among the best bet on the planet for shooting the Mosin Nagant and shooting it a lot. Accuracy is acceptable, but it really depends upon the rifle.

There are means of tightening up the stock and furniture on the rifle and also making certain the bore is free of copper deposits. While some rifles are more accurate than others, most may be counted on for a three-shot group of 2.5 inches at 100 yards. Often the same rifle will carry to 200 yards and give a four- to five-inch group. That is pretty good for an old war horse. Now, an old rifle that rattles when shook and has been beat up in the war—or wars—might do five inches at 100 yards! On the other hand, one of the Finnish Nagants, with the nicest trigger I have ever experienced on this type of rifle, turned in a lovely 1.25-inch group—the equal of any WW2 era bolt gun. For meaningful practice the inexpensive Hungarian ball works just fine.

Mosin Nagant rifle bolt next to a bottle of glass cleaner.

Cleaning procedure is simple as long as certain procedure is followed.

Corrosive primed ammunition doesn’t rust of its own accord, and the corrosive priming compounds do not rust the barrel on their own. They were used for many years because the composition is stable and reliable in all climatic conditions. The adoption of self-loading rifles pretty much spelled the end of this type of priming. Gas systems would be wrecked by corrosion.

The key elements in corrosive primers are potassium chloride and sodium chloride. When deposited in the barrel and action, they draw moisture and this causes corrosion. After firing these cartridges be certain to thoroughly clean the bore, the bolt and the operating systems.

If you do not clean your modern rifle, you do not need an older rifle and surplus loads… If you are used to using black powder firearms, surplus ammunition gives you a much easier chore. The firearm must be field stripped. I used a spray bottle with ammonia. This really gets to the chemicals and cleans the rifle well. Hot boiling water is OK as well. Be certain the bore is cleaned properly and use a good quality solvent. The rules are little different than cleaning with any other ammunition just be certain to clean the bolt, and the barrel, with ammonia. And as I said, hot water will work well and quickly evaporates. Follow with a light coat of oil, and you are good to go.

As for the Hungarian ammunition, I have enjoyed the modest quantities I have fired, and you will as well.

What has your experience been with the 7.62×54 round? Tell us in the comment section.

Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooter’s Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.

Tags: , , , , ,

Trackback from your site.

The mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, "The Shooter's Log," is to provide information-not opinions-to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (29)

  • David

    |

    I have to disagree. While the ammo is cheap, I have had nothing but headaches trying to shoot surplus ammo. I have two M N 91/30s. When I bought the first I got the only two 20 rd boxes of ammo the gun store had. Only half of those 40 rds fired and two of those empty rds. had to be knocked out of the chamber. I then went to a different gun store in a different town and bought two 20 rd boxes and only half of them fired.

    Some time ago I acquired the second gun from Dunhams. I also bought several paper cartons of surplus ammo from them. Out of every 5 I put in the gun, one would fire and you never knew which one it would be. When it did fire, at 100 yds with open sights I was knocking out the X’s. Very accurate rifle, but this surplus ammo aint worth crap. I wasted a lot of money on it that I could have put towards .223 rds. and never incurred a misfire with that ammo. And some of the surplus was Bulgarian rods that was mentioned above.

    If you don’t have a reliable ammo other than bulk surplus, I’d pass on it. Not worth the wondering if it’s going to fire when I pull the trigger this time or not. And it’s not worth the waste of money on shells that wont fire due to bad primers.

    Reply

  • Chuck Simeonides

    |

    l have owned a M-N rifle for the past 10 years. The only ammo used is milsurp. and I am very happy with the cost. First case of 840 RDS cost $64.00 plus S&H. Now it’s twice as much for half as much. Well, we are in an ammo depression . As for cleaning the rifle after shooting, I use Kreloil and nothing else. No water, hot or cold or ammonia with or without water and no rust anywhere . I am happy with all related with the M-N.

    Reply

  • RPK

    |

    I own a full sized 91/30 and a Carbine Mosin-Nagant. They kick like a mule, But I enjoy them both at the range. The ammunition is not as plentiful as it once was, but now and then you can find a decent deal on a 440 or 880 tin of surplus. If you do not own one, recommend getting same before the supply is gone. I paid $79.00 for the 91/30 and the Carbine was GIVEN to me in parts which I re-built to a firing platform.

    Reply

  • kenneth martin

    |

    great comments on the mosan I got couple years ago bought a can of ammo 440 rounds paid more for the ammo than the rifle silver tip surplus at 250 yards at a 1/2″ steel silouett target life size making head and chest shots easy 3″ groups the target was hanging so it would swing the ammo punched holes like you drilled them. same target with 303 british surplus steel core similar to the mosan ammo did not go all the way thru very impessed with the ammo ..any body elseshoot 303 british

    Reply

  • Chris Busch

    |

    I am new to the Mossin and mine is Russian production from 1940. It fired great the first time out. The second time, every shell failed to extract. Had to drop my cleaning rod down it to pop it loose. I was told it was the ammo by “experts” who were anything but as i later discovered it was the extractor. After some taps from my mighty hammer i have yet to see this problem since. I have used the Bear brand and the Monarch brand from academy. One has the lead exposed tip and the other i think is coated. Both have fired with no problems at all. At $10 for 20 rounds at Academy, its cheaper and more fun to fire than my 1911 45acp or my MP5.

    Now that i added a rail and a good scope i can really tske aim and fire with accuracy. I bore sighted the scope st 100 yrds and st 150 at the range my grouoing has been within two inches for the most part. I stand and fire freehand and the first few are within three inches. I get tired of holding it and the accuracy drops after that but thats my fault more than the rifles. Its a beast. I havent weighed it but whatever the base weight is, plus a rubber butt plate and a lesther wraped barrel as well as the large scope, it is definatly a hefty ol gal but i love it. Most of the firing problems i had in the beginning and have seen with many other peoples Mossin Nagants has had something to do with the bolt assembly. AN extractor not tappped flush with the firing pin encasement piece will cause the extractor to pop off the lip of the ammo after its fired, leaving it stuck in the barrel. Sometimes the fireing pi and housing at the end of the bolt will be a bad fit and cause issues unloading the bolt. Some times you have to tap thing back into position or file off.some rough edges. I became a Bit of a gunsmith when i got my surplus, never opened or fired Mosin 91/30. Now i got it just the way i want it. A good project rifle.

    Reply

  • cowboy62

    |

    #25 Mr.C.B, Very cool……and very much appreciate the info on the bolt/extractor issue! Didn’t have it with my first but if I run into the problem in the future I wont let it keep me from perhaps picking up another Mosin at a very reasonable price due to ignorance of the problem. Best Wishes and Keep Shootin!;)

    Reply

  • eugene

    |

    Corrosive salts in the primers are chlorates versus “chlorides” as written.

    Reply

  • RPK

    |

    I own a Mosin-Nagant 91/30 and a Chinese Type 53 Carbine which was a VietNam “bring back”. That Type 53 will dislocate your shoulder if you do not seat the rifle butt properly. It is a kicker for sure! The M-G 91/30 is a reliable weapons platform and both are fun to shoot at the range. Ammunition is fairly abundant and sometimes found at a reasonable price, especially if purchased in bulk. As the story reads, clean it after each use and subsequently on a regular basis if in storage for a long period.

    Reply

  • RPK

    |

    British .303 is also a good, reliable round. It’ll punch right through a steel plate, no problem. I have some surplus ammunition in cotton bandoleers. Newer production ammunition is too damn expensive to “plink” with my Britsh Enfield rifle. But, it is still a staple favorite of my ole’ military firearms collection.

    Reply

Leave a comment

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.


− 2 = seven