Cartridge of the Week, the 7.62x54R


The 7.62x54R (rimmed) cartridge is one of the oldest of the modern cartridges, which uses smokeless powder. The designers never had black powder in mind. It was the beginning a new age in firearms. The new smokeless powder needed enhanced cartridges, due to the increased pressures of the new powders. In 1891, Russia adopted this cartridge for its military services. It is still in use today, 121 years later, and continues to gain popularity.


That old Mosin Nagant rifle you just bought was the original system designed in 1891 to fire this round. This cartridge was, and still is, in at least 14 wars and numerous rebellions from 1900 to this very day.

GShG 7.62x54R Mini Gun
GShG 7.62x54R Mini Gun
Mosin Nagant 91/30
Mosin Nagant M91/30

Typically used by NATO’s adversaries, 13 Warsaw Pact nations used this workhorse as their standard large larger caliber round. The round was a direct competitor to the 1906-designed 30.06 Springfield, also known as the 7.62×63. It currently competes with the 1951-designed 7.62×51 NATO, commonly known by its civilian designation, the .308 Winchester. It is still competing with old and newer cartridges to this day for dominance of the battlefield.

Ballistically speaking it is still as good as or better than cartridges designed many years later. While our brave soldiers, in Iraq and Afghanistan utilize the .50 BMG (1910), 7.62×51 NATO (1951) and .338 Lapua Magnum (1989), amongst other newcomers, for long distance pinpoint shooting needs, our enemies are still using rifles built around the 7.62x54R from 1891.

Designed around this cartridge are at least 16 rifle systems. The most well-known are the Mosin Nagant series. Models 1891, M91/30, M38, M44, and the Obrez pistol, a sawed off version of the Mosin were built around the cartridge.

The cartridge has been a formidable adversary in the Dragunov sniper rifle, including the Chinese NDM-86 variant, the PSL, and SVD sniper rifles.

Dragunov Sniper System
PKM Machine Gun

Along with the rifles the cartridges operates in at least 20 types of fully automatic machine guns. Some notable of these are the PKM and PKP machine guns, GShG-7.62 multiple barrel mini gun, and the DS-39 machine gun.

Alternate names for this cartridge are 7.62 Russian, 7.62 Mosin Nagant, 7.62 Dragunov, and Rimmed Russian. In recent issues of the cartridge manuals, the amalgamation of the 7.62x54R and the 7.62x53R Finnish (1939) are made. They are not the same round. While some weapons are compatible in both, some weapons will not accept both rounds. Therefore, they are two different cartridges.

Finally, while it is no match for a powerful modern day cartridge such as the .338 Lapua, and the venerable .50 BMG, at 121 years old and still in the game, the 7.62X54R has proven to be one of the greatest cartridges in the smokeless powder era And we have yet to see any signs of its demise.

5.56x45 left vs 7.62x54R right
5.56×45 left vs 7.62x54R right

General ballistics of equal 150 grain cartridges

7.62×54 Ballistic Comparison
Cartridge Bullet Weight Muzzle Velocity Muzzle Energy
30-30 Win 150 Grains 2,480 fps 2,049 ft.-lbs.
.303 British 150 Grains 2,690 fps 2,400 ft.-lbs.
7.62X54R 150 Grains 2,715 fps 2,454 ft.-lbs
7.62X51 /.308W 150 Grains 2,750 fps 2,518 ft.-lbs.
7.62X63 / 30.06R 150 Grains 2,900 fps 2,820 ft.-lbs
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Comments (6)

  1. Friends, I have acquired some 7.62x54R cartridges that have a color code on the point of the projectile. Most are yellow, some are silver. Can anyone enlighten me as to what this means? I suppose it indicated bullet weight, but I am in the dark! Thanks for any help.

  2. Try to get a hex receiver. Much stronger and looks better too. Mine is 1934 hex. Hoping to go to the range this weekend for the first time with it as long as the weather cooperates *crosses fingers*

  3. My M91/30 is, like many purchased today, a FrankenMosin. I imagine that so much use has come of them (mine is a 1940 Tula) that it has come to bear both Tula and Ishevsk parts throughout. The headspace though, is at factory spec. While the barrel shows its age it still can place a round neatly at 600 yards and then some. At first, the recoil was something I underestimated. However, after putting about 150 rounds through it I became acustomed to its kick and I am no longer phased by it – In fact I actually look forward to it ;^)

  4. Took to the m91/30 to the range yesterday, and range that 100 yard metal bell a few times.. I’m going to get some SP ammo & take it hunting before the leaves fall.

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