Shooting the Russian 7.62×54

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.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
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 (33)

  1. Try a spam can that YOU opened, not leftovers that could have been out in the open and exposed for a decade.

    I don’t know if the surplus is filthy or the cosmolene is still leaching out on the inside, but the only way I found to clean it in a reasonable time is to clean it like it’s a black powder rifle with HOT water and soap.
    I got 2 cases (4 sealed spam cans) of Mosin rounds put away for SHTF.

  2. Misfires may be a matter of firing pin protrusion. My M/N came with a protrusion gage in its accessory package. Mine also had a broken firing pin spring; Wolff Gunsprings makes them in several strengths.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. #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!;)

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    1. Over 800 rounds shot with mine, surplus and modern production. One thing you might check (if you still have your Mosin) is the firing pin protrusion. My grandfather got his Mosin at the same time I got mine, and he seemed to have a firing issue as well. If you take the bolt apart, you can spin the firing pin to extend and retract it’s protrusion distance out of the bolt assembly. Try extending it by 180* spins at a time until you get consistent firing.

      And if you already know and/or tried this, my bad for wasting your time.

  11. So I have a feeling that “cheaper than dirt”, does not know the difference between 7.62x54R and 7.92×57. That being said, Moisn Nagants are very good rifles. For just playing at the range I like using the Bulgarian silver tips (who honestly cares if the neck splits a little once in awhile), I’ve never had one FTF or a a casing brake in the rifle. Even now after the “weapon ban” scare 54R and mosins are still priced well. A mosin nagant makes a very good Christmas present, and they are just plain neat.

  12. This windex/ammonia myth has perpetuated too long. Simply research the solubility of potassium chloride, it dissolves in water far better than anything else – about 900 times more readily than ammonia.

  13. I love the round, it is very powerful and , in my 91/30, very accurate for a 7.62. We have a 300 yd range, and a 5 or 6 inch group at that distance is generally where mine lies. Not too shabby for milsurp.
    I picked up the rifle a couple years ago off a friend at my club, it was in really nice shape. For $150. The ammo is very inexpensive, and still very available. It’s a fun gun to plink with, but I could see it replacing a 30/06 for hunting if there was a simpler way to mount a modern scope to it. Plus, as all of you have commented, the cleaning is a b&*ch- but worth it in the long run. Have fun and be safe fellas.

  14. Just dropped my M-N into an Archangel stock and it works like a dream!
    Looks pretty bad a$$ too!!!
    Tight groupings very possible for an average shooter.
    And most of all, I love the big bad round.
    Normal solvent cleaning and light oil soon after firing surplus ammo (fully strip bolt) keeps firearm clean and rust free out here in the arid desert.
    Them Ruskies really knew what they were doing back in the day!!!

  15. I got my first Mosin Nagant when I traded a fellow Deputy a Crimson Trace Laser for his Glock 17. Since then I have been hunting with it for the last 5 years. So far I have did no problems taking down deer with it. Last year I shot a button head buck and a doe at a range of 220 yards within 30 seconds. I fine the rifle is very accurate
    at that range. I use a Nikon 3X9 Scope and scope mount from Cheaper Than Dirt. I could not bare to cot the bolt that came with the rifle because of the matching serial number, so I went on line and bought another bolt to be cut down to have the bent bolt put on it. I had Gander Mountain mount the scope and headspace the bolt and both worked out great. Earlier this summer I did a Camo job on the stock using one of the Dip Kits from “”. I will be going hunting next week and can hardly wait to try to get another deer or two this year. I also traded the same person 300 rounds of Chinese 7.62 X 39 ammo for a second Mosin. Not a bad trade since I got the Chinese ammo from another friend for free. The Mosin is a great way to shoot cheaply.

  16. @Merle: The reason to use ammonia is to speed drying.

    I haven’t had a chance to shoot my new-to-me SVT yet (this summer was too hot and dry, fire danger was extreme), but I have no issues with shooting corrosive ammo in my PSL. Very easy to clean, soak the brush end of a boresnake in windex or whatever and pull through the bore. Run a wet patch through just to make sure, then run an oiled patch through.

  17. Hate to pick nits but in both the article and the picture caption, it should be “less expensive”, not “less inexpensive”
    Otherwise, great article, thanks!

  18. Great gun to teach marksmanship to beginners, and to practice your own, since it is so expensive. Kick is strong for beginners, but again a good way to start since they will be forced to adapt and accommodate to it. Learning a bit of gunsmithing with this gun is fun as well. Modifications can be made without undue anxiety since they are so inexpensive. Stripping the stocks and refinishing them can be fun as well. We have been pretty creative with ours. The gun grows on you, especially after personalizing it as above.

  19. I am new to rifles this year, never owning one, and only firing 30-30 hunting rifles of friends. Bought first Russian made Mosin 91/30 cleaned the cosmoline and went to range. Was very impressed with power but very manageable recoil. I fire Russian surplus and some Priv-Par new production. A little less power from new production but both go BANG! when you need them to. I then picked up a Finnish 1944 production Mosin and it’s highly accurate, putting 3 shots touching at 75 yards and I am not a good shot. I would recommend a good Mosin for anyone as hunting rifle or just fun. Just remember to not shoot surplus ammo at indoor ranges, only use new lead production, the surplus will penetrate any indoor ranges backstop, penetrate the exterior block walls, and penetrate anything outside the building. Only use new production lead ammo indoors. Know whats behind what you are shooting at!!! You will enjoy this ammo and rifle, and just remember to clean after shooting. Solvent and lube cleans best.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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..

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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.

Discover more from The Shooter's Log

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading