Is 7.62×39 Good for Hunting and Shooting?

7.62×39 has a place in my gun safe where my 30/30 used to be. It’s one of my favorite rifles to shoot.

7.62×39 will reliably kill a deer at 200 yards and black bear at 100 yards. With a scoped bolt-action or AR rifle, it is capable of sub-moa groups with good ammo, and 3-moa groups with steel cased ammo. 7.62×39 is faster and flatter shooting than a 30/30, and has a similar max hunting distance.

Is 7.62×39 Good for Hunting?

The 7.62×39 is a great cartridge for hunting mid-sized, and some large game animals, and yes, it’s quite comparable to the 30/30. It’s very capable of ethically taking hogs and deer up to 200 yards with decent ammo. In Russia, it’s commonly used to hunt mid-sized bears.

If most of your hunting can reasonably be done within 200 yards, this could be a super option for you. The fact is most deer in the country are shot under 100 yards.

It launches a 123grain, .308 caliber bullet 2,600 fps. With 1,600 ft/lbs. of energy, it’s pretty nice for most game animals. In fact, I’d happily use it for mule deer and black bear any day of the week. The vast majority of hunting is done within 200 yards, the effective zone of 7.62×39.

Consider this; the .308 rifle has enough energy at 650 yards to kill a deer, but nobody is shooting deer at 650 yards with a .380. The .380 can be a fine hunting rifle, but it’s more powerful than what’s needed for most hunting. That means more recoil than needed, which affects shooting.

larger, more powerful rifles can’t kill a deer more. Dead is dead. We like our big guns and loud booms, but being practical, often less is better. The 7.62×39 is a real sweet shooting rifle. It’s a moderate pressure round Specified at 45,000 psi max chamber pressure by SAMMI, a touch higher than the 30/30.

7.62×39 recoil

Being a mid-pressure round firing a somewhat lightweight bullet, it doesn’t generate much recoil. The average recoil of the round is 7 ft/lbs. Compare that to the .380 and 270, both with around 17.5 ft/lbs. of recoil. We’re talking less than half of .308 recoil.

Sounds like a great kid’s gun. Hey, if it’s a good hunting caliber for kids, it’ll work equally well for adults. We grown-ups approve of “youth calibers” for hunting rifles but choose much more powerful options for ourselves. Why? is it worth it just to beat up your shoulder more? Here’s a video I did on the recoil of this round.

If you’ve ever shot a 22, you know that low recoiling rifles are just plain fun. If you have a lower recoiling round, you will find yourself practicing with it more. You will become a better and more confident shot, thus becoming a more deadly hunter.

Often, we as hunters want to get the biggest, baddest, and most powerful gun we can, just to make a broadside shot on a deer at 116 yards. We think that we can kill them deader by hitting them harder and with more energy, often destroying large portions of game meat in the process.

Can You Hunt Elk With 7.62×39?

While you can hunt elk with 7.62×39, it’s not usually recommended. Making a good shot on an elk with a small rifle requires a distance under 100 yards, and a broadside shot angle. The 7.62×39 has enough penetration for the average elk but is underpowered on large specimens.

According to the state of Colorado, a minimum for elk would be a 24-caliber bullet with at least 1,000 ft/lbs. of energy at 100 yards.  Well, the 7.62×39 is a 30-caliber bullet with 1,100 to 1,200 ft/lbs. of energy at 100 yards.

Most elk hunters prefer 1,200ft/lbs. as the minimum bullet energy needed for a good kill with a broadside shot, and twice that if the elk is quartering towards or away from you. The key here is, if you’re going to do it, you need to be choosy with your shots and be willing to pass up a less than perfect shot.

If you are not willing to pass a less than perfect broadside shot angle, you should choose a hunting rifle with significantly more power like the .308 or 30-06. Elk are big animals and we owe it to them to let them die quickly.

Historically speaking, many smaller rifles have been used to hunt elk. It really boils down to your distance. How close will you be able to get to your animal? In the black powder cartridge days, hunters wanted to get within 100 yards to drop an elk with their smoke pole.

With the Hawkin Rifle, classic gun of the mountain men, hunters preferred 50 yards max to kill an elk with its 175-grain lead ball. Now that’s a tough hunt!

Can 762×39 Kill a Bear?

The 7.62×39 can be a good option for black bears but is not recommended for grizzlies. Hunting ammo in 7.62×39 has enough penetration to cleanly kill a black bear up to 100 yards away, and some hunters use it regularly.

7.62×39 is minimally practical for black bears. It works, but I wouldn’t want to use anything less than that. It’s more than great on your average 300-pound blackie, but only marginally so if you get one over 450 pounds that’s been eating from too many feed piles at night.

Here‘s a funny thing; most hunters say that a 44 Magnum revolver would a bear any day, but that is nearly equal in power to the 7.62×39. It’s true. Personally, I’d hunt Michigan black bear with it any day. Especially if I were hunting over a bait pile so the bear was close and I could wait for a good shot.

One day I’ll get drawn for a Michigan bear tag and will finally be able to take a nice bear with my AR chambered in 7.62×39.  Until then, I’ll just settle for deer, coyotes, and paper targets.

Using 7.62×39 for Wild Hogs

7.62×39 is a perfect cartridge for hunting wild hogs and is very popular with Texas hog hunters. Its low recoil will help you to get multiple shots in a sounder of hogs. The 30-caliber bullet makes good wound channels.  It’s a good 150–200-yard hog cartridge.

 I’ve talked with a lot of hog hunters and they all think favorably of this cartridge. Some folks simply don’t prefer it, but all of them would feel capable they could easily kill hogs with one. The average decent hog is only about 150 pounds. That’s nothing for 7.62×39.

Big hogs can top 300 pounds. That’s when you need to be more careful with shot placement.  With a bad shot angle i.e., quarrying to you, you may have to shoot through the shoulder to get into the vitals. Still, a lot of hog hunters swear by the 7.62×39 with basic, 124-grain soft point ammo

When I finally take that trip to Texas to visit my brother, I’m bringing my 7.62×39 for some wild hog action. With some quality controlled-expansion bullets, they won’t know what hit them.

What’s the Maximum Effective Range of 7.62×39?

The max effective range of 7.62×39 is 300 yards, but it’s best kept within 200-yards due to windage effects. Russia considers it good to 350-meters for military use. Most 7.62×39 bullets still have 800 ft/lbs., the energy of a 357-magnum, remaining at 250-yards.

If you want to be technical, it still has 9mm energy levels at 600-700 yards, but it has a drop of about 13 ½ feet and a wind drift of 6 ½ feet in a 10mph crosswind at that distance, so it’s pretty unpractical.

 Your max distance depends on what you are shooting. For deer, it’s 200 yards, black bear, 100 yards, and small game, as far as you can realistically make a hit, usually around 200 yards.

7.62×39 is limited more by a poor ballistic coefficient and low chamber pressure more than anything else. the pressure limits mean that you can’t really push the bullet to screaming fast velocities. It will never be flat shooting, or able to beat out the wind.

The low ballistic coefficient simply means that it’s not the most aerodynamic bullet out there. Its short and fat nature gives a common ballistic coefficient of around .300 to .255. those are low numbers and mean that it will shed its energy at a fairly rapid rate because of a large surface area in relation to its weight. It’s fast and slow

Who Makes the Best 7.62×39 Rifle?

The best 7.62×39 rifles are made by CZ, Ruger, and Bear Creek Armory. Ruger and CZ have very accurate bolt-action rifles chambered for it, and Bear Creek has the best value in a reliable Ar-15 in 7.62×39. All of them are good options for hunting and shooting.

CZ is the old standard in x39 hunting rifles. They are traditional wood stocked and made in Europe. CZ has well-earned its reputation for making durable and accurate bolt-action rifles. They can be a bit costly, at least compared to the common US-made hunting rifles.

One rifle that’s getting popular is the Ruger American Ranch Rifle in 7.62×39. it’s American-made with Ruger’s quality manufacturing that made the American Rifle a world-renowned success. It’s a shorter barreled, lightweight bolt-action that’s just perfect for packing or hauling around.

Ruger also has the Mini 30, it’s built on a scaled-down version of the old military M-14. The Mini 30 is super rugged, ultra-reliable, and accurate. But it’s a bit costly, usually costing around $800. That’s the reason it never got widely popular as a semi-auto 7.62×39. It certainly is capable though.

Then we have my favorite, the budget option. Bear Creek Arsenal has an AR-15, complete rifle, or finished upper, that’s rugged, highly functional, and the most affordable option. Uncommon for an AR-15, it’s a side charging rifle, available in either left or sight side charging.

They have 16-inch and don’t come with sights, but are optic ready. That’s what I went with. For $150 non-panic price, $300 during COVID, I bought a barreled upper to slap on my AR-15 so I could go deer hunting with it.

223 vs 7.62×39 for deer

7.62×39 is a perfect deer gun out to 200 yards. It has low recoil and will still hit a deer hard. Expect a good wound and clean pass-through within practical hunting distances. Hornady and Winchester make quality deer hunting ammunition in 7.62×39. Wolf SP ammo can work but are low quality.

Yes, the communist caliber is a fine choice for deer. It’s perfect for kids with its easy recoil and manageability. It’s fine for us adults too. 7.62×39 will cleanly kill deer without destroying much meat in the process. It’s a win/win.

With a broadside shot, there is no concern about taking deer out to 200 yards with it. if you have a bad shot angle, try and avoid the front shoulder. Shooting through the front shoulder on a quartering towards your shot can expend half the energy of the bullet before it reaches the vital organs.

Conversely, if you hit the rids, it will only expend about 8 percent of the bullet’s energy before reaching vital organs. The 7.62×39 will shatter the shoulder of a deer without hesitation. Deer are light-skinned animals that pose no need for high-powered magnum rifles.

7.62×39 is a really sweet shooting little round and if you haven’t tried it, you’re in for a sweet surprise. If you’d like to know more, I wrote another article about hunting with the 7.62×39. Here’s a link to it.

Jordan Buck

Jordan Buck is an outdoor writer, a man of faith, and a family man. He grew up hunting, fishing, and trapping. Jordan has taught marksmanship, woodsmanship, and self-defense classes. He has earned black belts in four martial arts and is a certified Krav Maga instructor. He also runs his own Gun Blog and YouTube Channel. Jordan enjoys giving his time and resources to help others and has spent 15 years volunteering in a boy's mentoring program He is and will always be an American Patriot. MOLON LABE

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