7.62x39mm vs .308 Winchester: What Should You Know?

Is 7.62×39 The Same as .308?

The .308 and the 7.62✕39 are two iconic rifle cartridges with a deeply rooted history in military customs. Both cartridges were created with a specific purpose in mind for a military application, which successfully crossed over into the civilian market.

The only similarity between these two cartridges is that they both use the same bullet. We’ll be able to judge how these two cartridges compare to one another by comparing them side by side.

Russian engineers developed the 7.62×39 cartridge shortly after World War II. The SKS and AK-47-style rifles are the main firearms that can fire the 7.62×39 cartridge. The.308 bullet, subsequently known as the 7.7251 NATO, was created by the American military. The cartridge was initially successfully employed with the M14 rifle and the M60 machine gun.

Both cartridges are widely used in the field of recreational shooting. The 7.62×39 cartridge is one of the most widely used in the globe due to the widespread use of SKS and AK-47 sniper rifles. Shooters used the .308 Winchester cartridge as soon as Winchester adopted the cartridge for civilian version and applied their own designation to it.

While both cartridges are excellent and will serve you well, deciding on the best option will mostly depend on your planned use. This article will look into the beginnings and histories of each rifle cartridge, as well as their benefits and drawbacks, and which rifle cartridge will best meet your needs.

Brief History on 7.62×39 and .308 Winchester

Before we get to the specific figures and comparisons of these cartridges, let’s touch a bit on where these cartridges come from and how they entered our shooting culture and lexicon to better help you appreciate what they were originally made for. We will also compare the cartridges’ fundamental features in this section.

.308 Winchester

The Winchester Repeating Company introduced the.308 Winchester rifle into the shooting world in the United States in 1952. The 7.62×51 NATO round, which American soldiers using the M14 Garand in Vietnam used, has a domestic equivalent known as the .308 caliber.

Although its time in the military was brief in this role, American manufacturers saw the cartridge’s potential for usage in the civilian sphere, particularly in law enforcement and hunting. The.308 Win and its NATO round are still employed in the military today, but not as frequently as they were during the Vietnam War.

In the hunting world, the .308 has flourished and amassed a devoted following. It is ideal for usage in whitetail territory with dense cover due to the bullet weight and tremendous energy. It’s a fantastic medium to large game rifle that, in the right circumstances, can be used to take just about any large game species worldwide.

There is a tonne of ammo available for the .308 caliber due to its enormous popularity. The.308. is now more adaptable thanks to a variety of bullet weights and designs.

Although they are technically separate cartridges, we will refer to the 7.62×51 NATO and the 308 Winchester interchangeably in this article. It would be challenging to distinguish between a 7.62×51 NATO and a 308 Winchester if you were to compare them side by side. There are, however, very little variations in the case proportions that cannot be seen with the human eye.


One of the most popular cartridges in use today is the 7.62×39. In the 1940s, the Soviet Union devised its basic design. Since then, it has undergone various design changes to become the contemporary cartridge we use today.

Both in gun shooting contests and close-quarters fighting, this cartridge is frequently held in high respect. Its popularity has recently slightly increased among hunters as well.

There are a variety of bullet and cartridge options for the 7.62×39, including full metal jacket and soft point tip bullets that are better suited as hunting ammo. The majority of 7.62×39 ammunition uses bullets weighing between 12 and 25 grains, with certain versions using bullets in the 150 grain range.

Differences Between 7.62×39 and 308 Winchester

The 7.62×39 and 7.62×51 NATO cartridges are significantly dissimilar to one another. According to your intended use, each cartridge has pros and cons of its own.

This article’s objective is to make you aware of these distinctions so you can choose the ideal rifle caliber for your requirements. We won’t be “crowning a champion” because each of them is excellent in their respective position.

Now that that is out of the way, let’s compare these two superb military cartridges side by side!

Cartridge Specs

It’s a good idea to examine the cartridge casing in order to gather some information while contrasting two technically different cartridges. We need to start by addressing the main complaint I get from new handloaders. The bullet that the 7.62×39 shoots have a 0.312″ diameter rather than a.308″ diameter.

Because of the nomenclature used—7.62×39 vs. 7.62×51 NATO—this is rather confusing. You might reasonably anticipate that they would discharge the same bullet diameter based solely on the name, but that’s not the case!

The.308 cartridge is obviously considerably bigger than the 7.62✕39 round right away. The neck diameter is comparable, which is to be expected considering that the bullets’ diameters differ by only 0.004 inches. The case base is substantially broader and the length and overall length of the.308 Win are also an inch longer due to the placement of the bullet.

Because of this, the.308 can retain a far larger powder charge and endure more pressure when it is ignited. It’s interesting to note that the 7.62✕39’s specifications match those of the 30-30 round, which is frequently used for hunting.

The variation in case capacity is the next significant distinction between these two iconic rifle cartridges. Compared to the Russian 7.62✕39, the 308 Winchester has roughly 40% larger case capacity (56 gr vs 35.6gr).

Given that the 308 Winchester cartridge case is about half an inch longer than its Russian counterpart, this makes a lot of sense because a longer cartridge will have a larger case capacity. Recoil, range, and trajectory will all be impacted by that additional powder charge, which we shall discuss below.

Last but not least, the 308 Winchester can withstand 17,000 psi higher pressure than the 7.62✕39.

7.62×39 vs. 308 Recoil

Many shooters are curious about the variation in recoil between two shots. Not out of concern about the recoil, but rather because of how it would affect subsequent shots. Low recoil helps keep the firearm focused on target when firing multiple rounds quickly, but heavy recoil takes longer to center.

Even if the two cartridges’ recoil energies differ, an adult hunter or shooter can easily handle even the cartridge with the highest kick.

In this 7.6238 vs. .308 part, we are comparing the actual recoil energy that is produced when the cartridge is fired. Although higher energy will result in more sensed energy, this energy cannot be felt. A lot more factors affect felt recoil than just the cartridge being utilized.

The rifle, as well as your stance and shooting technique, will all have an impact on “felt recoil.” We will just compare the two in terms of recoil energy for the purposes of comparison.

There is simply no competition in this comparison. You probably already know which rifle cartridge will experience more felt recoil. The felt recoil of the 308 Winchester cartridge is over 2.5 TIMES more than that of the 7.62✕39. You can see why if you go back to the specifications section.

The.308 can hold a lot more powder and, generally speaking, fires a bigger bullet. Of course, other performance factors should also be considered when making a decision, but if this tendency holds true for the rounds we chose, there will undoubtedly be significant disparities between these two cartridges in a variety of categories.

The felt recoil of the 7.62×51 NATO will often measure around 22 ft/lbs, whereas that of the 7.62✕39 will be closer to 8.7 ft/lbs. That difference is like “night and day”! With the 7.62✕39, follow-up rounds will be quicker and shoulder wear will be significantly reduced. Because the 308 Winchester’s cartridge dimensions dwarf those of the 7.62✕39, it can fire bigger bullets at higher pressures, velocities, and energies. This causes more recoil to be felt.

Additionally, when comparing the felt ecoil of these two rounds, we find that the.308 round generates significantly more energy than the 7.62✕39 round.

Is The 7.62×39 More Accurate?

Talking about accuracy can be difficult because so much depends on the shooting platform and the shooter. I’m going to venture a guess here and suggest that, overall, the 308 Winchester cartridge will be the more accurate cartridge.

The 308 just has better ballistics, as you’ll see in the sections on ballistics below. It features a better ballistic coefficient, flatter trajectory, higher muzzle velocity, and higher supersonic limits.

The type of cartridge casing is the second factor in accuracy. As was previously indicated, practically all 7.62✕39 ammunition is steel cased. While steel case 308 Winchester ammunition is available, brass case ammunition predominates.

Short version: Brass is more malleable than steel and will improve the seal surrounding the cartridge chamber when it is fired. Due to the seal, the powder will burn more consistently and less gasses will leak back into the chamber.

Since ammo does not deform significantly when shooting, there is less of a seal surrounding the chamber, which allows more gas to return to the chamber. Again, consistency is directly tied to precision, and in my opinion, match quality 7.62✕39 ammo will always be a more accurate cartridge than typical factory 308 ammo.

Trajectory Difference

When comparing two cartridges, the trajectory is likely one of the most debated ballistic characteristics. In no way to belittle the intelligence of anyone, but bullets do not fly in a straight line. Instead, the flight path resembles a parabola, and the steepness of bullet drops can vary based on the rifle cartridge and individual round.

Both hunters and competitive shooters prefer rounds with a flatter trajectory. Less bullet drop is what we mean when we say something is flat. Less dramatic changes are required because there is less bullet drops as the projectile goes downrange. Fewer modifications increase the likelihood of hitting the objective and decrease the likelihood of making mistakes.

Short Range Trajectory

Given what we have learned about the 7.62×39, you have probably already concluded that the short range trajectory will likely be the most crucial for these two rounds. In the field of hunting, the 7.62✕39 has grown in popularity, particularly when used to take down medium-sized wildlife at ranges under 300 yards.

Cartridges plainly differ from one another. The 7.62×39 and.308 rounds cluster closely together, while the.308 rounds exhibit a flatter trajectory at 200 and 300 yards. However, the.308 exhibits a flatter trajectory, with an average bullet drop of 4 inches at 200 yards and 14.68 inches at 300 yards.

Neither rifle cartridge is cumbersome at either range. At 200 yards, the 7.62×39’s average dip in trajectory is 6.88 inches, and at 300 yards, it is 24.24 inches.

Both of these cartridges will be simple to aim within a 100-yard range.

Of course, with only ten rounds examined, there is always a potential that these findings do not accurately reflect the cartridges.

Even with a larger sample size, the.308 Win rounds still exhibit significantly lower bullet drop than the 7.62✕39 rounds, especially at ranges of 300 and 400 yards. Many hunters will also tell you that even a difference of two inches in bullet drop—which is what we see in the averages at 200 yards—can be very helpful in the field.

When you get to the 300 and 400 yard ranges, the 7.62✕39 average really starts to decline, with additional bullet drops of 10.7 and 25.7 inches, respectively.

Even if you can probably anticipate how these cartridges would appear at further distances, let’s take a closer look at the long range trajectory.

Long Range Trajectory

You may need to have a solid understanding of how the full power rifle cartridge you are using works when shooting shots at distances of 300 yards or more if you’re on the range or out hunting. We’ll go ahead and say that you might use the .308 instead of the 7.62×39 for this style of shooting.

So let’s compare our ten rounds to be completely thorough. We are measuring bullet drop in inches across a range of 500 yards with a zeroed-in distance of 200 yards, similar to the short-range.

In this instance, the data are rather obvious. The.308 easily surpasses the 7.62×39 at long range shooting. It’s nearly tough to aim accurately with the 7.62✕39 at these distances. If you’re good, it might be manageable at 300 yards.

Although the 7.62×39 has an average bullet drop of 50 inches at 400 yards, the shot will be challenging because of the low velocities and low BCs. All but the most accomplished long range shooters will find it nearly impossible to adjust for a 100-foot drop, even on flat ground with no wind. This will affect how the 7.62×39 is applied.

From 300 yards to 1,000 yards, the 7.62×39 bullets have a bullet drop that is nearly or more than twice that of the.308 Winchester rounds. The 7.62×39 round is once again showing a pattern of lacking the characteristics one would expect from a rifle cartridge wishing to be utilized out over 300 yards.

And while this does not imply that the 7.62×39 round is a subpar round, it does indicate that there is probably not going to be much of an overlap in shooting applications.

When doing any study on cartridges, you will come across a quantity known as a ballistic coefficient. Long-range shooters typically pay closer attention to it, but hunters should also consider it.

You may determine how streamlined the bullet is by using the ballistic coefficient, which is generated from a calculation that considers several different factors from rifle cartridge and bullet specifications.

The bullet is less sensitive to drag and wind drift the higher the ballistic coefficient. The ballistic coefficient is crucial for shooting at games from distances of 100 or more yards in less than optimum circumstances. Theoretically, a bullet with a better ballistic coefficient will require fewer adjustments to place shots accurately.

The ballistic coefficient, to put it simply, is a numerical measure of how streamlined and aerodynamic a bullet is. The bullet will be less influenced by wind drift and air resistance the higher the number.

Again, there is a definite difference between the two cartridges, as there has been with everything we have examined thus far. The.308 rounds, which also include a.45 and a.5 round, all have BCs that are close to or higher than.4.

The ballistic coefficients are substantially smaller when compared to the 7.62×39. None of the chosen rounds exceed .3 in accuracy. Given what we know about the ballistic coefficient and how it affects things, it makes sense why the 7.62×39 bullets lose more muzzle velocity than .308 ones.

We observe a rather significant variation in the ballistic coefficients of these two rifle cartridges, which is consistent with the smaller sample size. As we saw before, the .308 Winchester has a better ballistic coefficient than the 7.62✕39mm average.

There is some variation in the BC for the .308 Winchester, however, there are a lot more options available for higher BCs rather than more rounds that are closer to the average 7.62✕39 BC. Additionally, we observed that all of the 7.62✕39 rounds we compiled and for which the BC was reported fell between 0.24 and 0.299.

These averages show a significant difference between the two rifle cartridge types in terms of ballistic coefficients. This also means that the 308 Winchester bullets are more streamlined and the massive muzzle velocity loss that we observed with the 7.62✕39 at longer distances makes a lot more sense.

7.62✕39 vs 308: Sectional Density

Another element that affects a bullet’s stopping power is its penetration. We will calculate the potential penetration using the sectional densities of the various rounds we have chosen. Calculations incorporating the bullet weight and diameter bullet will yield the sectional density.

The penetration increases with sectional density. Of course, there are other variables that affect penetration, like the bullet’s kind and design, but for the purposes of this comparison, we’ll keep with the SD.

The .308 would have a somewhat better chance of deeply penetrating the target based on sectional density. The SD of the 7.6239 round with the heavier grain is slightly higher than that of the other rounds fired from the same cartridge. Considered in light of the velocities, this further supports the claim that the.308 will have more penetration.

Again, this is assuming no consideration for bullet design, but from the perspectives of SD and muzzle velocity, the .308 bullets ought to penetrate more deeply than the 7.62✕39mm rounds. That might or might not be a benefit for either cartridge, depending on the applications you have in mind.

The 7.62×51 NATO rounds consistently outperform 7.62✕39 rounds in terms of penetration, with an average sectional density of 0.25 versus 0.18. According to this, the 308 Winchester will have greater penetration than the 7.62✕39, which may or may not be advantageous depending on the target and the intended use (more on that later).


How well an object in motion will stay in motion is one of the core concepts of momentum. Momentum reveals how much resistance a bullet can overcome when discussing a bullet’s terminal ballistics or its capacity to pierce barriers.

As with all of the sub-categories under stopping power, the bullet’s design will play a significant role. However, for the purposes of this article, we will ignore this fact; instead, we urge you to consider bullet design when choosing your particular round because it is a crucial factor in how your bullet will perform terminally.

Since we have already discussed the two components of momentum, you should already be aware that there will be some variations between these two rifle cartridges. The momentum of the bullet is a function of its mass and muzzle velocity.

The .308 Win rounds have slightly more momentum than the 7.62✕39mm rounds from the muzzle out to 500 yards, on average about 20 lb/ft more momentum. The .308 Win rounds had higher muzzle velocity and heavier bullet weight, which are the factors used to compute momentum, therefore this finding makes sense.

The tendency continues as more rounds are added, and the average discrepancies actually widen a little bit, with a little over 20 lbs/ft.s of momentum favoring the.308 Winchester at each yard marker. We can say with some confidence that the.308 Win will provide you more bullet momentum than a 7.62✕39mm factory load based on this comparison.

The comparisons of these two cartridges’ ballistics and terminal performance will come to an end with that. There are a few more topics to consider before we go on to the application area because many buyers on the market think about them while deciding between two cartridges.

Ammo Price and Availability

There is absolutely no comparison between the 7.62✕39 and other calibers when it comes to affordability and buying in quantity. Even while that Russian ammunition could be a little erratic, it is still inexpensive and simple to obtain in big amounts.

You may readily find non-corrosive 7.62✕39 rounds for $0.32 per round as of the writing of this article. You could purchase an extra spam can for much less if you want to go even more inexpensively. Just remember that anything fired from a spam can be corrosive, so you’ll need to take extra precautions to clean up afterward.

The.308 Winchester hunting rifle cartridge will cost significantly more because it is bigger in every way. It sports a larger powder charge, cartridge casing, and bullet.

Steel-cased 308 ammunition costs $0.60 per round. Compared to 7.62✕39, the price per round is almost twice as high. From there, it only gets better. If not more, quality 308 hunting ammo will cost you at least $1 each round.

The 7.62✕39 is unbeatable for volume shooting, but there are a lot fewer bullet types available. The majority of 7.62✕39 ammunition has 123-grain bullets that are either soft point (SP) or complete metal jacket (fmj).

However, there are several different bullet alternatives for the 308 caliber. In the 308 caliber, speciality bullets such as Fmj, hollow point match grade, spitzer, ballistic tip, soft point, partition, and a plethora of other options are all available.

Additionally, you have access to a variety of bullet weights. There are many options, ranging from a lighter bullet with 120 gr to a bullet that weighs 180 gr.

The 7.62✕39 hunting rifle caliber is the one to use if you wish to shoot in large numbers on a budget. The 308 Winchester will better meet your needs if you’re seeking for some unique bullets to complete a certain task.

Rifle Availability

There are numerous possibilities for each cartridge when it comes to sniper rifles, but each one performs best in a particular kind of firearm. Every significant firearm manufacturer offers options for bolt action rifles in the 308 caliber.

Almost any gun shop in the contiguous United States will have a Remington 700, a Savage Axis, or a Ruger American available for purchase.

Your selections are considerably more constrained if you desire a bolt action rifle in the 7.62✕39 caliber. Your only actual choices are the CZ 527 and the Ruger American Ranch.

The 7.62✕39 is the best semi-automatic round available. The AK-47 is the most widely produced rifle in the world, as I already indicated, and if you decide to go this path, you have a tonne of choices.

Or if you prefer the SKS platform, those are also accessible and affordable. The CMMG Mutant is one of many firms that have adapted the AR platform to run 7.62✕39.

Semi-automatic choices for the 308 Winchester are still abundant but slightly more expensive. The AR-10 platform is by far the most widely used in the USA, but there are other options as well. All of these semi-auto 308 Win options—the Springfield M1a, FN-FAL, Scar 17, and Kel-Tec RFB—are good choices.

In conclusion, the 308 is supreme for bolt action rifles. The 7.62✕39 is incomparable for affordable semi-automatic choices.



Recently, the 7.62×39 caliber has gained popularity for hunting, but I believe the 308 Winchester is the superior choice for shooting medium- to large-sized wildlife. The bleeding of muzzle velocity that we covered earlier in the Trajectory section is a significant problem when utilizing the 7.62×39 caliber for hunting. A bullet loses kinetic energy as it slows down.

The general agreement among hunters is that a bullet’s muzzle velocity energy should not go below 1000 ft-lbs in order to ethically take a deer or other medium-sized game animal. At 200 yards, the 7.62×39 is far below this limit.

That is a relatively small effective large game hunting range. The 308 Winchester, on the other hand, is still crushing at 500 yards with well over 1000 ft-lbs.

There is no doubting that for medium to large sized animals, the 7.62×51 NATO is the best long range option and is favored among long-range shooters. Since it lacks the kinetic velocity necessary to humanely harvest an animal greater than a deer, the 7.62×39 should NOT be utilized for anything larger.

I assure you that no Alaskan guide will venture into a bear habitat with an AK-47; the round simply lacks the knockout power necessary for use.

Additionally, due to fair chase laws, several jurisdictions do not permit the use of semi-auto rifles for deer hunting. This implies that your choices for a bolt action hunting rifle in 7.62×39 are very constrained.

Although it may appear that the 7.62×39 is ineffective for hunting, that isn’t the case. It’s a suitable choice for deer hunting, although there are better options available, such as the 6.5 Creedmoor, 243 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, 300 Win Mag, and of course the 308 Winchester.

However, the 7.62×39 is best for hunting varmints like groundhogs, coyotes, and feral pigs.

The 7.6239 accurate cartridge is perfect for this use due to its low felt recoil impulse, which enables speedier follow-up shots. This is helpful for taking on many targets, such as feral hogs, which frequently move in herds and have the power to completely destroy a field in a single night.

Varmint hunting laws are often far less restrictive (i.e., semi-automatic weapons are permissible), and bag limits are greater or even unrestricted.

In conclusion, take your Remington 700 or Savage 110 rifle chambered in 308 Winchester if you intend to hunt at a distance. Lock and load your SKS or AK-47 before heading outside to perform some varmint control.


The 308 Winchester will often pierce deeper than 7.62✕39, as we noted earlier when talking about penetration. This can be advantageous when you’re out in the field hunting bear or elk, but it can be a huge issue should you need to defend yourself.

When it comes to self-defense, overpenetration is a major liability since you want every bullet you fire to hit the intended target (bad guy).

Even when acting in self-defense, you are still responsible if you harm an innocent bystander. Since current home building uses very fragile material that is poor at stopping big rifle calibers, we aim to avoid over penetration as much as we can.

All things considered, the 308 Winchester will over penetrate in a close-range self-defense scenario more than I am comfortable with.

I’m responsible for any harm my 308 Winchester round may cause to the house or its residents, therefore the last thing I want is for it to land there. In an interior urban or suburban scenario, the 308 just has too much muzzle energy to be used; instead, you would be far better off with a 7.62✕39 or even 300 Blackout ammo.

The 7.62✕39 is a superior choice for close-range self-defense since it has less recoil for quicker follow-up shots and penetrates the target less than a 308 would. The chance of hurting an innocent bystander is lessened, but not completely eliminated, by this.


There will almost always be instances in which one intermediate cartridge outperforms the other in a comparison of two cartridges. We are not here to declare one of these cartridges to be better than the other, as we indicated before in this essay.

We intended to establish a basis for comparing two widely used cartridges on the market, and we believe we have succeeded in doing so.

Both the 7.62✕39 and 308 Winchester hinting rifle rounds have been successfully used in combat; they will serve you well as long as you take responsibility for shot placement. They both perform admirably for their intended purposes and will both be fantastic additions to your gun safe.

While we can’t declare one is better than the other, we do hope you can use this page to decide which intermediate cartridge would be most useful for your particular shooting situation.

Regardless of the hunting rifle cartridge you select, make sure to visit the range and exercise your Second Amendment rights as much as you can before they are lost to gradual regulations that restrict our freedoms.

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