Shooting the Russian 7.62×54

By Bob Campbell published on in Ammunition, Firearms

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.

SLRule

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.

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Comments (33)

  • bob

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    I bought my first Mosin Nagant ten years ago, it was a M44. First time I fired it, it was love at first shot. I loved everything about it. The accuracy, the mule like kick recoil, the tremendous fire ball that is unspent powder, and the NOISE. Oh that lovely noise. When you shoot a Nagant at the range, you suddenly get a lot of attention from others shooting at other benches. I’ve since added to my stable of Mosins. I’ve got a Hex Head 91/30, two Tula armoury 91/30, an M38 and a Mosin Nagant revolver. Oh how I love that Eastern Block ammo, and guns. The Mosin was the start of my collection of WWII firearms, I’ve got about 30 different weapons from the Ally’s to the Nazi’s, and a couple of Jap Crap guns. Collecting is very satisfying. Firing is even more so.

    Reply

  • Gary

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    Love the round… I’ve been shooting Bulgarian non-corrosive surplus. Like Tripod mentioned above, some of the brass was split or cracked. I found I had to reject about 10% of the rounds out of my lot, but for the cost it doesn’t bother me too much. I can recycle the bullet and powder later on in some good brass. It’s little more expensive than the large SPAM cans of corrosive 7.62x54R, but compared to other centerfire ammo it is still dirt cheap, and even with the ammo shortage earlier this year it was still readily available. Accuracy in my PSL has been very good, especially considering that it is milsurp. In fact, that is part of the problem… I know the rifle would perform better with handloads, but at the price surplus ammo is going for, it’s hard to justify “rolling your own” for that particular round.

    Reply

  • Fed Up

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    I would like to hear from anyone that knows any tricks for the Mosin trigger. I like mine for shooting coyotes and wood chucks. I put a 24 X scope on it and like to shoot it because of the cheap ammo. The rounds go through trees and earth very well making even questionable shots possible. I have had the 180 grain AP round go through 3 pine trees, about 36 inches of live wood. It will go in the front of a old car and go through it completely. That’s when I discovered I can’t shoot it behind my house safely, (I have 11 acres).
    This is a very scary round. Thanks for the cleaning tips I also use diesel for my final wash of the complete gun. I was told by an old Russian he washed his in Diesel before bedtime every night. Stalingrad perfume he called it.

    Reply

  • Tripod

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    Milsurp 7.62x54R is cheap, and in my experience, very reliable. I have never had a FTF. I have had some issues with my lot of Bulgarian (split necks, loose primers and an occasional stuck casing). The Russian manufacture is better, especially “Plant 100″.
    As for accuracy, I just don’t see sub 3″ groups with milsurp. Match grade is about double the cost per round, but it groups at under 2″. But for the money, you can’t beat surplus 7.62x54R.

    Reply

  • Merle

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    At the risk of starting something I would like to point out that ammonia doesn’t do anything for the corrosive salts – water (or aqueous solutions) will dissolve the salts. Hot water, the hotter the better, poured thru the bore is all that is required. The heat helps dry the metal & avoid rusting. Next clean as usual with your favorite solvent – no problem. Ammonia does help by dissolving the copper – check the main ingredient in Sweets 7.62 solvent.

    This one has been around for a LONG time; I guess internet legends never die.

    Reply

  • Garry Laing,

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    I got my first Mosin Nagant from a buddy that owns and operates a nice gun shop here at home about ten or more years ago. He had just got in a whole wooden crate of them, must have contained at least ten or twelve rifles. I got the privilege of opening the crate to get the first look at these that we thought were going to be pretty crappy rifles because of the cost. In hind site I should have bought the whole crate load! Some were a little more beat up than others, so I got to look threw and found the one that I thought looked the best. And much to my gun-shop buddy’s surprise all the part numbers match on mine. It was the only one in the whole crate that was that way and looked as if it may never have been issued or at least if it was it was well taken care of. As soon as the paper work was done and the NICs check, I did a quick but not very thorough job of cleaning off the cosmolean rust preventative, bought a box of shells and stepped out back to the range. One round and I found out two things. First, don’t shoot this short rifle without hearing protection and one should never practice without protection anyway. Second, I was in LOVE. It required just a little vertical sight adjustment and seemed to be zeroed in, at least as for shooting offhand is concerned out to about fifty yards. And the concussion from the discharge of the round is awesome! At night it produces an intense fireball or muzzle flash if you will! Quit a thrill!! And I don’t remember for sure but I think the price was a whopping $75 or $85.I know we all said ‘what and where could you get any kind of high-powered riffle for that kinda money?’ And with affordable ammo! After some of the guys that were spectating took a turn shooting mine he then sold two more. Oh and mine and the others had the folding bayonets. That might tell a little about when I purchased it, pre-ban perhaps.

    Reply

  • James H.

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    I have four 91/30s, one M44, and an SVT40. I have used the surplus ammo and found a cleaning mixture of rubbing alcohol, ammonia, and tap water cleans very well followed by hopes solvent and finally a light coat of oil on all the working parts and barrel keep the rifle in the condition it was in when you received it. For the SVT40 I always use a non-corrosive 7.62x54r. Being a semi-auto it tends to shoot hotter (more rounds without charging). It is my experience it is harder to clean the salts on this rifle hence the non-corrosive ammo. There is a substantial difference in the cost of the corrosive and non-corrosive so I use as much of the corrosive as I want. I wonder how long this surplus ammo will be available at the affordable prices as it become more popular and supplies are depleted. Great high power round to plink with.

    Reply

  • fed up

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    I have to clean my Mosin 3 times a year just to keep it in decant condition. I use ammonia and then wash it with diesel or kerosene. You said the gun can be sighted in for 100 yards. The issue is that during all the wars this has been involved in the 100 yard distance is okay but the Russians and others used this gun in excess of 100 yards most often. The plains of Europe that they were shooting over were much greater distances. I for one prefer shooting at an enemy at much greater distances to start with. I do like the performance of the bullet being able to go through almost any obstacle. I can’t shoot it behind my house because it goes through to many trees. 100 yards is very close when shooting this type of ammo..

    Reply

  • Merle

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    I’m a bit curious, why did you show 8mm Mauser ammo alongside of the M-N?

    Merle

    Reply

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