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6 Best AK-47 Ammo Choices [7.62x39mm]: Brass & Steel

Need to feed the beast? We cover the best US and military surplus AK-47 ammo out there to fulfill all your 7.62x39mm wants and desires.

Here at Pew Pew Tactical, we’ve never made a secret of our love for the AR-15 platform.  

Modded AR-15s
Modded AR-15s

We’ve talked about how to build one, how to feed one, how to clean one, and…well, basically everything you need to know about one.

That said, it’s not the only shockingly popular rifle platform out there.

AK-47 with UltimAK
AK-47 with Ammo Crate

Enter the AK-47.

It’s the peanut butter to the AR-15’s chocolate, the red lightsaber to the AR’s blue. It’s the weapon of choice for movie bad guys (and real-world ones in many places) and is the only contender to the AR-15 platform’s title as “Most Popular Gun In The World.”

Today, I’ll go over a bit of history and then all the best AK 7.62×39 ammo out there!

Popular 7.62x39 Ammo
Popular 7.62×39 Ammo

Summary of Our Top Picks

  1. Best Hunting Ammo

    Federal Power-Shok 123gr 7.62x39

    Power-Shok is a go-to for hunting applications in just about any caliber, and this one is no exception.

  2. Best Self-Defense Ammo

    Hornady SST 123gr 7.62x39

    The SST bullet construction makes this a great option for any two-legged creatures you might be worried about.

  3. Best Target Ammo

    Fiocchi Shooting Dynamics 124gr 7.62x39

    Fiocchi's consistent loadings will give you a great shot at trying to squeeze the best group out of your AK.

  4. Best Plinking Ammo

    Wolf 7.62x39 FMJ

    Cheap and available in most places, that is a hard combo to beat.

Table of Contents

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Current Environment

Thanks to mass demand during 2020…the world of ammo has been turned onto its head.

On August 20, 2021, the US Department of State effectively banned Russian ammo imports. It was a huge blow, especially to the 7.62x39mm ammo that runs the AK-47.

PSA AK74 Ammo Pile
Steel Ammo Pile

AK-47: A Quick Rundown

The AK-47 is, no question, an absolute beast. It is a snarling, defiant beast that has been the driver of revolution and conflict from Cuba to Korea, and its storied history is as legendary as any in the world of firearms.

It’s easy to see why the AK-47 and its smaller-bore cousin, the AK-74, remain so popular — their lineage of rugged dependability and reliability. But beast though it may be, it still has to eat.

PAP M92 and WASR 10
PAP M92 and WASR-10

And that’s what we’re going to go over today — just what to do you shoot out of that AK, anyway?

There are a number of 7.62x39mm options available worldwide — so many that it can be difficult to choose.

We’ve sorted the best ones out, tested them, and came up with some instructions for picking the best of the best for your needs.

SHOT Show 2022 AK 105
Firing an AK-105 at SHOT Show 2022

Whether you’re looking to take your AK hunting (and incredibly viable notion, no matter what certain politicians may say) to the range, or your secret survival bunker in the desert, there’s an option for you.

The Many Uses of the AK-47

These days, the AK-47 isn’t just a weapon of war. It is found all over the world in the hands of regular civilians where laws allow it, and though you’re most likely to find the semi-automatic version, it’s still the same ‘ole reliable beast as the original.

The AK-47 and its venerable 7.62x39mm round can be used for hunting, target practice, plinking, competition, and even home and self-defense.

7.62x39mm
7.62x39mm

Whatever you’re looking to do with your rifle, you should match your ammo to your purpose if you want the best results.  

How to Choose 7.62x39mm Ammo

AK-47 ammo is available for every purpose, from hunting to target shooting to home defense.  

For the absolute best results, it’s essential to understand a little bit about the ammo made for the rifle as a whole. Particularly the differences between AK-47 ammo and the 5.56/.223 ammo you might be more familiar with.

Popular Rifle Calibers, Part I
Popular Rifle Calibers, Part I

There is a wide difference between the operation of the AK-47 and the AR-15 — both in how they operate and their overall design goals. If you want the most out of your gun, it’s important to consider this when choosing ammo.

So what was the AK-47 design goal? Be cheap, reliable, easy to use, and rugged as all hell. Sounds simple, right?

Well, there are some things you need to be aware of.

Understanding AK-47 Ammo

One of the key differences between most AK ammo and the 5.56 you’re probably used to is the prevalence of steel-cased ammo.

Assorted 7.62x39 (FMJ, Open, Soft, FMJ)
Assorted 7.62×39 (FMJ, Open, Soft, FMJ)

We have previously covered the differences between steel and brass-cased ammo, so I won’t rehash all that here, but there are some things that bear repeating.

First, steel-cased ammo is cheaper and is generally considered unfit for reloading. It may expand in unpredictable ways, causing carbon buildup, which can lead to extraction issues in some guns.

Now, the AK was designed to be fed cheaply and abused, so steel cases aren’t really an issue…in fact, they may actually run better.

This is because of the aggressive action and extractor on most all AK-pattern weapons. This aggressiveness is perfect for ripping a stuck steel case out of the chamber. However, it can actually be too effective when applied to brass cartridges — ripping up the softer metal and causing a serious malfunction.  

That said, your AK may run brass without issue, and modern versions will likely be just fine. Just be aware that service grade and older guns may be picky about casing types, and you may at the very least get brass cases with ripped sidewalls.

This means that in some cases, cheap surplus ammo is a good option or even the best option for your gun.

Boxer vs. Berdan Primers…and Corrosive Ammo

Now, we can’t recommend surplus ammo without talking about the Boxer vs. Berdan primer issue and corrosive ammo in general.

Boxer and Berdan primers are the two main types of primers used in centerfire cartridges today. The primary difference between the two is that Boxer primers have a single flash hole to ignite the powder, and Berdan primers have two.  

Boxer vs. Berdan primers (Photo: Ammunitiontogo)

From a practical standpoint, reloading Berdan primers is a pain in the ass, especially here in the West, as the tools and the primers themselves are hard to find. In general, we advise sticking to Boxer primers for this reason.

There is another reason, however. Most, if not all, surplus Berdan-primed rounds are corrosive.

When ignited, these older Berdan-style primers leave behind potassium chloride and sodium chloride, the latter of which is essentially table salt.

These salts are alkalis that react with hydrogen and oxygen in the air to form acids that will absolutely corrode your gun and leave it rusted beyond belief. Just think about what salt water does to metal after a while, and you’ll have a good idea.

Now, when we hear “corrosive,” it might seem like it’s just easier to say, “well, I just won’t use that in my gun,” and that’s perfectly fine. But this type of surplus military ammo, although getting rarer, is typically the cheapest option.

Like, $100-200 for 500-1000 rounds if you catch the right sale. That makes things a bit more appealing — but is it enough to overcome the thought of a rusted gun?

Fortunately, simple cleaning can usually stave off these issues…provided you do so promptly after shooting. And the sooner, the better. These salts break down in water, so a hot, soapy rinse can sort things right out.  

Baby Mama I'm Clean

If the thought of purposefully dunking your gun in a tub of water makes your skin crawl (as it does mine), there are several aqueous cleaning products like Hoppes #9 or Shooter’s Choice Aqua that will have you covered without making you feel like you’re doing the dishes.

Check out our guide to Cleaning Corrosive Ammo.

Best AK-47 Ammo

There’s really no one best AK-47 round out there, so we have to look at the best for each category.

  • Hunting/Self-Defense
  • Target Shooting
  • Plinking

Let’s start with…

1. Federal Power-Shok

The 7.62x39mm round fired by the AK-47 is ballistically very similar to the venerable 30-30 that has harvested many a whitetail over the last century. This makes it a great hunting round, especially in soft-point (SP) variants.

Best Hunting Ammo
45
at OpticsPlanet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

For hunting, I like Federal’s Power-Shok line in general. The 7.62x39mm SP version is a 123-grain deer-slayer on par with the best in this category. I have personally harvested numerous whitetail with this round, and it has yet to let me down.

2. Hornady SST

For two-legged threats, I like Hornady SST.

Best Self-Defense Ammo
39
at LuckyGunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

The SST pairs a steel case with a modern polymer tip that aids in retaining the bullet’s mass, barrier penetration, and expansion in soft tissue.

3. Fiocchi Shooting Dynamics

I’d be lying if I said 7.62x39mm would be my first or even fifth choice for an accurate target round. Looser manufacturing tolerances lead to an increase in reliability of the AK but a decrease in theoretical and practical accuracy.

That said, you can still get good accuracy results out of an AK, especially at closer ranges.

Best Target Ammo
18
at Botach

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

So if you’re looking for accurate target performance, I recommend Fiocchi’s Shooting Dynamics line of 7.62x39mm FMJ. They are an excellent mix of reasonable cost and highly consistent ammunition.

4. Winchester White Box

Finally, we have my preferred AK-47 use, which is good ole fashioned plinking. The AK-47 is a terror on the battlefield but also a terror when wielded against dirt clods, stumps, old boxes, and cans.

I have spent many an hour down in a nearby sandpit just shooting cans and the like, and I think, no disrespect to the great Kalashnikov, that this is just about the best possible use of the AK-47 today: turning money and gunpowder into smiles and noise.

32
at LuckyGunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Winchester White Box is typically available in most places. It is brass-cased and probably the cheapest ammo at the store that can honestly say “Made in America” on the side.

WWB may not be the best thing, but it’s always there, and their 7.62x39mm FMJ is as good as anything at the price point you’re likely to find.

5. Bear Ammo: Brown Bear

Next, we have Bear Ammo’s Brown Bear line, a non-corrosive, Russian-made, steel-cased, lacquer-coated FMJ round.  

Best Budget Plinking AK Ammo
6.25
at LuckyGunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

The lacquer coating makes it a little more expensive, but it feeds and extracts better than other steel cases while still being cheap enough that you can dump a magazine into a berm without your wallet crying too much.

What do you think of Brown Bear? Rate it below!

Readers' Ratings

4.96/5 (1685)

Your Rating?

6. Wolf Performance

Wolf is almost all polymer-coated bi-metal cases, and although it is Berdan-primed, it is non-corrosive. 

Best Plinking Ammo
11
at LuckyGunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Wolf is often among the cheapest options you may see in store, but with a lower price comes a few drawbacks. Looser quality control means you might experience slightly less accuracy and dirtier ammo, but this stuff runs and works well enough for plinking.

I keep a few hundred rounds of the FMJ stuff on hand for when I’ve had a bad week and want to really sling some lead at the range without worrying about what it’ll do to my bank account balance.

Final Thoughts

The AK-47 is a monster of a rifle, legendary, rugged, and as dependable as the sunrise. If you feed it right, it’ll last longer than you will, and it’ll bring you a great deal of joy along the way. These rounds will all do what you need them to do and then some.

Lots of Ammo
Lots of Ammo

What 7.62x39mm ammo do you use? Has this inspired you to want to pick up an AK of your very own? Let me hear from you in the comments below! If you’re looking for some great AK-47 recommendations, take a look at our Best AK-47: Complete Guide!

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38 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Jim

    I've got a couple dozen 200rd Russian battle packs and about 9000 rounds of Norinco. I don't have an AK yet, but the SKS will eat that steel up and spit out the cases all day long. The only time I buy 7.62x39 in brass is for my Mini 30. It's kinda temperamental.

    August 18, 2022 9:12 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Esteban

    Got a good deal on Global Ordinance...and it is not Russian. Maxxtech is good, Tullammo, Republic, BSP (Kasicstan) all run fine in my VSKA. The wife just bought a Zastava so we haven't taken that out for a test run yet. My AR can be finicky and hates steel ammo which the jams are frustrating but the AK never jams no matter what I feed it. Great article also.

    June 30, 2022 4:12 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    hawkeye

    What, I’m the first to mention Barnaul?

    September 22, 2021 2:04 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Doug

      I can't believe Barnaul isn't even mentioned. Widely used, good ammo at a good price.

      April 3, 2022 12:24 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Irritated

    "but that’s just because we have an excess of freedom where firearms are concerned)"

    Seriously? An excess?? Really???

    August 22, 2021 10:32 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      freeeedom

      thought the same

      though I would give the benefit of the doubt

      January 14, 2022 3:44 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Dennis Math

    Weirdddddddddd..........wonder how I managed to fill my deer tags the last 5 years running that nasty old Wolf steel cased sp ammo? Clean kills, dropped on impact and I'm talking Buffalo Co. By the way I own 9 AK47/74 rifles and have fired tens of thousands of rounds of various ammo and have YET to rip a case rim off the cartridge brass or steel. I swear a lot of these opinions are written by snowflake M4 weirdos that know NOTHING about the AK platform

    July 22, 2021 10:46 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Eric Johnson

    Picked up a WASR 10 February of 2020, I had owned AK's before, but AR's had become so cheap and easy that I sold or traded my old AK's. I saw this really good looking WASR in the local gun shop and decided to get back in the AK game. Then in August of 2020 I found a sweet Micro Draco and upgraded some bits a pieces on it with hardware from SLR. I run a red dot on the micro and a 3X from Rob Ski at AK Operators Union. Both guns a fun to shoot and reliable as heck. I run the WASR suppressed and love the Brown Bear 196gr through it. The 196 gr even unsuppressed is a treat to shoot it really mellows out the recoil. Upgraded triggers in both with ALG AKT triggers, had to do a polish job and remove the tail on the reset to get rid of that awful trigger slap, much better now. If you are on the fence about buying an AK, go do it now, PSA has some great rigs and you can find 7.62x39 ammo everywhere online.

    May 18, 2021 8:21 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Michael Dewood

      Good advice here. The whole idea is, of course, RELIABILITY, and this is where the AK shines. Yes, I have an AR..a couple, actually...and I have also had my share of the AKMs over the years, my first being a Norinco Dragunov. Just fell in love with it. But when I moved to Japan (for business) many years ago, I sold off everything before leaving (and NO, you cannot bring your AK there). So now, after all these years, I grabbed the chance to buy an unfired Yugo AK with ammo and mags, something you cannot even TOUCh without a ton of cash nowadays. I ain't letting this one go...

      August 2, 2021 9:25 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Barry E Lampel

    Mine is a newer Palmetto PSA, so although Communist ammo is ok, I give USA a thumbs up for PSA. Geco ammo is my preferred target ammo.

    August 31, 2020 12:54 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    T

    Best of both worlds: An AR Upper configured to shoot 7.62 x39 Soviet.

    August 31, 2020 9:18 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      JR

      I agree, once I figured out the bugs my AR 7.62 it has run great with cheap Russian ammo. Rifle is more accurate than I am.

      March 16, 2021 5:54 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    mike

    i use wolf or whatever is cheap. it runs fine every time.

    June 1, 2020 4:07 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    david robert york

    PEOPLE ALL I HERE IS IT WILL NOT FIRE IT WILL NOT WORK RUSSIAN 7,62-39 DO YOUR HOME WORK AND CHECK OUT GOLDEN TIGER 7.62-39 ! I HAVE SHOT HUNDREDS OF GOLDEN TIGER AND NOT ONE MISSFIRE> RUN A REVIEW ON IT AND SEE WHY..GREAT PRICE! GET IT ON GAMMO! TRY IT YOU WILL LOVE IT! I HAVE BOTH AK AND MINI 30

    May 26, 2020 4:54 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Mason

    The picture of the "7.62" round next to the quarter is actually a 300 blk round as you can tell by the hardly discernable bottleneck and slimmer profile as opposed to the more distinct and chunky casing for the 7.62

    March 27, 2020 9:25 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      All four rounds are 7.62x39, the lighting is just reflecting differently. Here is a picture of .300 BLK!

      March 27, 2020 9:37 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Sean Heien

        I'm pretty sure he was talking about the first picture of one round next to the quarter. It does indeed look like a straight-walled case leading into a very slight neck-down with a flush bullet to the case mouth. I'm pretty sure it's a mislabeled .300 AAC

        https://www.pewpewtactical.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/17.-7.62x39mm-1024x683.jpg

        August 30, 2020 2:08 pm
        • Commenter Avatar
          David, PPT Editor

          Oh, derp. Yep -- that's mislabeled! Thanks for pointing that out for us.

          August 30, 2020 2:25 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Jay

    Amen brother!

    March 16, 2020 6:11 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Cunty McShitterman

    If it's more then $0.18 a round after shipping I don't even bother with it. Wolf and Red Army Standard have been my go to over the last few years. Golden Tiger is also a favorite when available.

    October 24, 2019 7:29 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Keyser Soze

      Where do you find a round at $0.18 shipped? Haven't seen anything under $0.40 in a while now.

      April 5, 2021 1:02 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Brady

        HIs post was before corona.

        June 18, 2021 4:50 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Ideola

    I just came back from a session at an outdoor rifle range. Among other guns, I was sighting in my CZ 527 America chambered in 7.62 and fitted with a Vortex Crossfire II 2-7x32mm BDC scope. After zeroing in at 25 yards, I went down to the 100 yard range and proceeded to put 15 rounds of Bronze Bear steel-cased SP right through the bullseye. Next up, I tried some of the Fiocchi FMJ the range was selling. 2 out of 10 rounds failed to fire (light primer strike???), and I couldn't get a single one of the remaining 8 rounds into a cluster, much less on the bulls eye. Maybe I got a bad/old box of Fiocchi, but the 527 seems to loves the cheap Russian stuff. Next trip I'll try some of the Federal and Hornady.

    October 18, 2019 6:10 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Robman

    I normally have shot Tula in my AK since I got it three years ago. I have put over 2000 rounds of it down range without incident. Only complaint I have about Tula is that it does run kinda dirty. Also, I have heard from some sources that the bimetal projectiles used by Tula and some other manufacturers of inexpensive steel-cased 7.62x39mm is harder on the bore and can potentially decrease barrel life over time: is there any truth to this claim?

    I also have shot Winchester WB 7.62x39 on occasion and it is fine, but a little on the expensive side.

    The brand I really like is Sellier & Bellot; this is high quality stuff that shoots a lot cleaner than Tula, and costs significantly less than Winchester WB. I also think they use a real copper jacket/lead core bullet, not the bimetal variety. In terms of quality for the money, I would say S&B can’t be beat. Just got a case and when I use up my remaining Tula, this is what I intend to feed my AK as a steady diet (unless I’m hard up for cash, in which case I’ll still use Tula if that’s all the budget allows).

    July 20, 2019 10:33 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      David, PPT Editor

      S&B is one of my go-to brands also, for a lot of calibers! Steel cased ammo and bi-metal projectiles are harder on barrel throats than brass-cased copper jacketed projectiles. This mostly only increases the wear on the barrel and means it will become shot-out sooner. However, the savings you get from using cheap steel cased ammo is normally at least double what a new barrel will cost you (assuming you're shooting mid-priced barrels). Steel cased Wolf and Tula is what I always feed my AKs, it will take a few tens of thousands of rounds before the barrel is shot out and that is likely more than I will ever shoot in those guns!

      July 20, 2019 11:11 am
      • Commenter Avatar
        Nowshad Khan

        I think if, no steel bar in the bullet, then no problem with either steel or brass or copper jacketed .

        August 28, 2019 10:27 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Stevie C

    Just used Tulammo for the first time out of 40 rounds 10 were duds honestly worst ammo in my opinion

    April 22, 2019 5:40 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Simon

      I’ve used almost nothing but Tulammo and I’ve had my AKs for going on 4 years now with zero issues. Maybe you just got a bad batch

      April 29, 2019 9:50 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Matt

      This is an anomaly in my opinion. Tula is the best bang for your buck. I've shot thousands of rounds of Tula in my early '90s Norinco MAK90 and have yet to experience a malfunction. You might check the "dud" rounds for light primer strikes; could be a headspacing issue.

      June 8, 2019 3:28 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    it took ten 5 left 1 up two birds on each hand

    That was a good break down but if you have the non usa and mr.ks style ak he made and had to get it shipped over you can make 12ga auto with the saiga setup and some other one i haven't seen it just the 12ga the other one is I think 40 or 30 round from Russian made ak with a self fed box under it crazy it will mess stuff up exspecially the 12ga kit I seen made shells with to lugs one hits and the other blows up it doesn't matter about your douple barrel pistols your toast before you get out or when you role up or get out bad day sittin on the porch rockin see you caused trouble with me and your droppin lmfao giggle giggle giggle shew hahahaha smh with a smile bad day 5 up 1 down you got me

    April 12, 2019 1:59 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Kevin L.

    My Mac-90 isn’t that picky about which ammo I feed it. It’ll take that Wolf ammo and eat it up and spit em out. Never a issue with metal cartridges. Split some brass ones once but if I stick with steel casings, it will keep firing ‘till the barrel starts smoking .

    September 3, 2018 7:58 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Evan

    Tula ammo over Wolf polyformance ammo? What a joke.

    August 29, 2018 3:34 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Will

    Really no golden Tiger? Not to mention Wolf and with the prices of the "quality" ammo there wasn't anyw S&B? Or even military surplus M67 and its brass cased as well.

    August 29, 2018 3:11 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    DanH

    Definitely need to throw in Wolf Military Classic 124gr HP and FMJ.
    Also, Fiocchi seems to be underpowered. I did not chrono but point of impact hits several inches lower in my Arsenal SAM7, Yugo, and Ruger Mini 30. Groups are fairly good but hit lower than everything else I have tried.

    August 29, 2018 7:50 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Clayton Ross

    Wow what a pile,. Your whole section on acids base and salts was wrong at an elementary school level, water did not" breakdown" salt , salts dissolve in water, that's why they make things rust their hydro scopic and they attract moisture. Alkaline salts don't create acids, and the salts you listed are just plan salts with a pH of 7. Plus no mention of Golden Tiger, WPA, Tula8M3, you seen to like brass but did not list PPU . This whole article sound like it was made by some one who has not shot any cases of surplus and only shoots at a brass only range

    August 29, 2018 7:07 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ryan

      Man. Not trying to nitpick your post. But ironic calling the article “elementary school”, you have a lot of grammar and improper word usage. There is no such word as hydroscopic. It’s hygroscopic. Salts do dissolve in water and through my years wielding one in the battlefield, washing in water was pretty common. Then a quick lube of axle grease and/or gear oil from a junker. Good to go. Only ever had 1 failure in an AK out of tens of thousands of rounds. Of course, it had to happen during combat.

      August 29, 2018 9:45 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Ralph

    G O L D E N T I G E R

    August 28, 2018 10:18 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Notalima

    No Wolf Polyfomance or WPA? I'll take Wolf Poly over Brown Bear everyday and 5x on Saturday. ~$200/1K shipped with the right discount codes for SPG or Brownells...

    August 28, 2018 5:25 pm
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