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

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

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.

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

That said, its not the only shockingly popular rifle platform out there.

AK-47 with UltimAK
AK-47 with Ammo Crate

There is another, a dark power risen from the East that has also participated in just as many wars and conflicts, precipitated just as many threats of divorce from angry spouses, and captured the hearts of just as many gun enthusiasts the world over.

It’s the peanut butter to the AR-15’s chocolate, the red lightsaber to the AR’s blue.  Its 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”.

I’m talking of course about Kalashnikov’s finest, the AK-47.

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AK-47 Intro

The AK-47 is, no question, an absolute beast.  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, given this lineage of rugged dependability and reliability.  But beast though it may be, it still has to eat.

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

PAP M92 and WASR 10
PAP M92 and WASR 10

There are a number of 7.62x39mm (the AK’s primary flavor) options available around the world, and even at American retailers, there are so many that it can be difficult to choose.

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

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

And I guess that’s probably enough of me running my mouth, let’s get to it.

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 (okay, mostly in the US, but that’s just because we have an excess of freedom where firearms are concerned) 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 it’s venerable 7.62x39mm round can be used for hunting, target practice, plinking, competition, and even home/ 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 best results.  

And if you don’t have an AK yet…or want an upgrade…check out our Best AK-47 Buyer’s Guide.

How to Choose 7.62x39mm Ammo

AK-47 ammo is available for every purpose you can imagine, from hunting to target shooting to home defense.  You’ll have no trouble finding a myriad of 7.62x39mm options that will meet your needs…so much so that your chief problem is likely going to be which one of those options is the best for your gun and for your intended purpose.

I’ll get to my preferred loadings in a minute, but I want you to understand why these options are my favorites, and what you should know about picking out ammo for yourself.  Like I always say, give a man ammo and he’ll shoot for a day, teach a man to choose ammo, and he’ll blow all his money on it. Or something like that.

For the absolute best results, it’s important 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, in fact, a wide difference between the operation of the AK-47 and the AR-15 and most other Western center-fire rifles, both in how they operate and what their overall design goals are.  If you want the most out of your likely expensive investment, it’s important to take this into account 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)

Now, I’ve gone over the differences between steel and brass-cased ammo before, so I won’t rehash all that here, but there are some things that bear repeating.

First, steel-cased ammo is cheaper but is generally considered unfit for reloading, and it may expand in unpredictable ways, making it slightly less reliable overall unless you’re paying extra for more precision, in which case you might as well buy brass.

Now, the AK was of course 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 aggressive action and extraction are perfect for ripping a stuck steel case out of the chamber, but it may actually be too effective when applied to brass cartridges, ripping up the softer metal and causing one hell of a malfunction.  

That said, your AK may run brass without issue, and modern versions will very 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 can actually make cheap, surplus ammo 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.  

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 and the react with hydrogen and oxygen in the air to form acids that will absolutely corrode your gun, AK, AR, Glock, whatever, 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.

Corrosive Ammo Horror, Calguns
Corrosive Ammo Horror, Calguns

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, while it is getting rarer, is cheaaaappp.

Like, $100 for 500-1000 rounds if you catch the right sale.  That makes things a bit more appealing, but can it 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 actually break down in water, so a rinse in hot, soapy water can actually sort things right out.  

Cleaning Corrosive AK Ammo with Hot Water
Cleaning Corrosive AK Ammo with Hot Water

If the thought of purposefully dunking your gun in a tub of water makes your skin crawl (as it does mine) there are a number of aqueous cleaning products like Hoppes #9 or Shooter’s Choice Aqua that will sort your issue right out 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 (7.62×39) round out there, so we have to look at the best for each category.  These are:

  • 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 years.  This makes it a great hunting round, especially soft-point (SP) variants.

Best Hunting AK Ammo
24
at LuckyGunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

For hunting, I like Federal’s Power-Shok line in general, especially the 7.62x39mm SP version, which is a 123gr deer-slayer on par with the best in this category.  I have harvested numerous whitetail with this round, fired from a trusty Yugo SKS, but performance will be the same in an AK-pattern gun.

2. Hornady SST

For two-legged threats, I like Hornady SST.

39
at LuckyGunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Steel cased ammo, like AK’s tend to like best, plus 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 7.62×39 would be my first or even my fifth choice for an accurate target round, especially fired from an AK as the looser manufacturing tolerances lead to an increase in reliability, but a decrease in accuracy.

That said, you can still get good results out of an AK, especially in closer ranges.  I’ve actually seen a few at local 3Gun matches wielded by folks who placed relatively high.

Best Competition AK Ammo
11
at Cabelas

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

So if you’re looking for accurate target performance I recommend Fiocchi’s Shooting Dynamics line of 7.62x39mm FMJs is a great mix of reasonable cost and highly consistent ammunition.

4. Winchester White Box

Finally, we have my preferred AK-47 use which good ole fashioned plinking.  The AK-47 is a terror on the battlefield, but it’s 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.

For just ripping through a mag, or making Coke cans dance on a distant berm, I have a few recommendations.

First, Winchester White Box is available everywhere, and is brass-cased and probably the cheapest ammo at the store that can honestly say “Made in America” on the side.  It’s like Waffle House.

19.75
at LuckyGunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

WWB may not be the best thing, but it’s always there, and their 7.62×39 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, which is a non-corrosive, Russian-made, steel-cased, lacquer-coated round in FMJ.  

Best Budget Plinking AK Ammo
6.25
at LuckyGunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

The lacquer coating makes it a little more expensive, and of course, you can’t reload it, 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.

6. Tulammo

Finally, we have good ole Tula.  Tulammo is almost all polymer-coated bi-metal cases, and their AK offerings are no different.  

12
at LuckyGunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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.

What’s your take on the most affordable AK ammo…do you go with commie ammo for commie guns?

Readers' Ratings

4.9/5 (262)

Your Rating?

Parting Shots

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. What more could you want?

If you’re looking for some great AK-47 recommendations, take a look at our Best AK-47: Complete Guide!

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!  Looking for more ammo…check out our Ammo & Reloading resources.

16 Leave a Reply

  • 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.

    1 second ago
  • 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).

    2 months ago
    • 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!

      2 months ago
      • Nowshad Khan

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

        1 month ago
  • Stevie C

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

    5 months ago
    • 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.

      4 months ago
    • 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

      5 months ago
  • 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

    6 months ago
  • 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 .

    1 year ago
  • Evan

    Tula ammo over Wolf polyformance ammo? What a joke.

    1 year ago
  • 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.

    1 year ago
  • 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.

    1 year ago
  • 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

    1 year ago
    • 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.

      1 year ago
  • Ralph

    G O L D E N T I G E R

    1 year ago
  • 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...

    1 year ago
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