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.
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.
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 Shooters 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.
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