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7.62x39 vs .308

7.62×39 vs .308 – A Comprehensive Comparison:

The ongoing debate between 7.62×39 and .308 ammunition has captivated shooting enthusiasts worldwide. Each cartridge has its own unique characteristics and specific applications, making it crucial to understand their differences. In this paper, we will delve into the nuances of 7.62×39 and .308 ammo, comparing their ballistics, performance, and best uses. Whether you’re a hunter, competitive shooter, or simply curious about these popular rounds, this comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge to make an informed decision when selecting between 7.62×39 and .308 ammunition.

History of .308 Winchester Caliber

The .308 Winchester, commonly referred to as .308, is a popular rifle cartridge that has a rich history in both military and civilian use. The development of the .308 Winchester can be traced back to the early 1950s when it was created by Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

The .308 Winchester is actually based on the military cartridge known as the 7.62x51mm NATO. The 7.62x51mm NATO was adopted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as their standard rifle cartridge in the late 1950s. The .308 Winchester was designed to be compatible with the military cartridge and to offer similar ballistics and performance in civilian firearms.

Winchester introduced the .308 Winchester to the commercial market in 1952 as a sporting cartridge. It quickly gained popularity among hunters and target shooters due to its versatility and performance. The .308 offered excellent accuracy, manageable recoil, and effective range, making it suitable for a wide range of shooting applications.

The .308 Winchester cartridge is known for its standardized dimensions, including a bullet diameter of .308 inches and a case length of 51mm. This standardization ensured that the cartridge could be safely used in a variety of rifles chambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO.

Over the years, the .308 Winchester has become one of the most popular rifle cartridges worldwide. It has been widely adopted by law enforcement agencies, military snipers, and civilian shooters for its reliability, accuracy, and effectiveness.

The .308 Winchester has proven its worth in numerous shooting disciplines, including hunting, precision shooting, and competitive shooting sports. It is commonly used for hunting various game, including deer, elk, and other medium to large-sized animals. Its versatility and long-range capabilities have also made it a favorite among precision shooters and long-range enthusiasts.

In addition to its civilian applications, the .308 Winchester has seen extensive military use. It has been employed by numerous military forces around the world for both rifles and machine guns. The cartridge’s reliability, effective range, and stopping power have made it a popular choice for military applications.

Today, the .308 Winchester remains a highly regarded and widely used rifle cartridge. It continues to be a favorite among hunters, sport shooters, and professionals alike, offering a powerful and versatile option for various shooting scenarios.

Overall, the .308 Winchester has a storied history and a well-deserved reputation as a reliable and effective ammunition caliber. Its legacy as a go-to cartridge for both civilian and military use has solidified its place in firearms history.

.308 Ammunition
.308 Ammunition

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History of the 7.62×39 Caliber

The 7.62x39mm is a rifle cartridge that originated in the Soviet Union and has since become one of the most widely used rifle calibers in the world. Its development can be traced back to the late 1940s when the Soviet military sought a new intermediate cartridge for their new line of firearms.

The 7.62x39mm was specifically designed for use in the AK-47 rifle, which was developed by renowned Soviet firearms designer Mikhail Kalashnikov. The cartridge was intended to bridge the gap between pistol rounds and full-powered rifle cartridges, offering improved range and stopping power over pistol-caliber ammunition while still maintaining controllable recoil and a lightweight cartridge.

The 7.62x39mm cartridge features a bullet diameter of 7.62mm and a case length of 39mm, giving it its name. It utilizes a tapered cartridge case and a round-nosed bullet, which contributes to its reliability and feeding characteristics in the AK-47 platform.

The cartridge was officially adopted by the Soviet military in 1949 and quickly gained recognition for its effectiveness in combat. It saw widespread use during the Cold War and various conflicts around the world where Soviet influence extended. The 7.62x39mm cartridge and the AK-47 rifle became iconic symbols of Soviet military might.

One of the defining characteristics of the 7.62x39mm cartridge is its intermediate power. It strikes a balance between the lighter, faster rounds of traditional assault rifles and the heavier, larger rounds of full-powered battle rifles. The cartridge offers sufficient stopping power for engagements at moderate distances while still allowing for controllable full-automatic fire.

Due to its widespread adoption and availability, the 7.62x39mm cartridge has been utilized by numerous countries and armed groups globally. It has been employed in various conflicts and has become associated with insurgency and guerrilla warfare due to its prevalence among irregular forces.

Beyond its military applications, the 7.62x39mm cartridge has also found popularity in the civilian market. It has become a common choice for hunting medium-sized game, such as deer or boar, in regions where its use is permitted. Additionally, it has gained traction among sport shooters who appreciate its affordability and availability.

In summary, the 7.62x39mm ammunition caliber has a significant and influential history. Developed for the iconic AK-47 rifle, it became a symbol of Soviet military might and has since become one of the most widely used rifle calibers in the world. Its intermediate power and versatility have made it a favored choice among military forces, insurgents, hunters, and sport shooters alike.

7.62x39 Ammunition
7.62×39 Ammunition

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Velocity and Energy:

In terms of velocity and energy, .308 ammo typically outperforms 7.62×39. The larger case capacity and higher pressures of the .308 allow for higher muzzle velocities, resulting in flatter trajectories and increased downrange energy. This makes the .308 more effective for long-range shooting and hunting scenarios that demand superior stopping power.

Effective Range of 7.62×39 vs 308:

The effective range of a cartridge depends on multiple factors, including bullet design, velocity, and intended use. While 7.62×39 ammo is effective within approximately 300 yards, the .308 extends its range significantly, allowing accurate shots at distances well beyond 800 yards. The .308’s extended range and better ballistic performance make it the preferred choice for precision shooting, hunting larger game, and applications that require greater accuracy and power at longer distances.

Recoil and Handling:

Due to its smaller size and lower velocities, 7.62×39 ammo generates less recoil compared to .308. This reduced recoil makes it easier to control and provides faster follow-up shots, making 7.62×39 ideal for rapid-fire engagements and situations that require quick target acquisition. On the other hand, the .308’s higher recoil may require more skill and practice to handle effectively, particularly in precision shooting scenarios where stability and control are paramount.

Cartridge Specifications:



  • Bullet diameter: 7.92mm (.311 inches)
  • Case length: 39mm (1.54 inches)
  • Overall cartridge length: Typically around 57mm (2.24 inches)
  • Bullet weights: Commonly available in the range of 122-154 grains
  • Muzzle velocity: Typically around 2,300-2,400 feet per second (fps)
  • Muzzle energy: Typically around 1,400-1,700 foot-pounds (ft-lbs)

.308 Winchester:

  • Bullet diameter: 7.82mm (.308 inches)
  • Case length: 51mm (2.01 inches)
  • Overall cartridge length: Typically around 71mm (2.79 inches)
  • Bullet weights: Commonly available in the range of 150-180 grains
  • Muzzle velocity: Typically around 2,600-2,800 fps
  • Muzzle energy: Typically around 2,500-2,800 ft-lbs

Key Differences:

  • Bullet diameter: The 7.62x39mm has a slightly larger bullet diameter compared to the .308 Winchester, which can affect bullet selection and terminal performance.
  • Case length: The 7.62x39mm has a shorter case length than the .308 Winchester, resulting in different cartridge dimensions.
  • Overall cartridge length: The .308 Winchester has a longer overall cartridge length, allowing it to accommodate heavier and longer bullets.
  • Bullet weights: The .308 Winchester generally offers a wider range of bullet weights compared to the 7.62x39mm, providing more versatility for different hunting or shooting applications.
  • Muzzle velocity and energy: The .308 Winchester typically has higher muzzle velocity and energy compared to the 7.62x39mm, which contributes to its extended range and greater stopping power.

It’s important to note that the specifications provided here are generalizations and may vary depending on the specific manufacturer, load, and rifle used. It’s always recommended to consult the specifications provided by the ammunition manufacturer for precise details.

Best Uses and Applications

Both 7.62×39 and .308 ammo have their strengths and are suited for different shooting applications. Let’s explore their best uses:

7.62×39 Ammo:

Recreational shooting and plinking: The affordability and availability of 7.62×39 ammo make it perfect for casual shooting and target practice.
Hunting small to medium-sized game: Within its effective range, 7.62×39 provides sufficient stopping power for hunting deer, hogs, and other similar-sized animals.
Close-quarter engagements: The maneuverability and controllability of firearms chambered in 7.62×39 make them suitable for self-defense and tactical situations.

.308 Ammo:

Long-range shooting: The superior ballistics and extended effective range of .308 ammo make it ideal for precision shooting, including long-range target shooting and competitions.
Hunting larger game: With its increased energy and penetration capabilities, .308 ammo is a popular choice for hunting big game such as deer, elk, moose, and bear.
Law enforcement and military applications: The .308’s stopping power and versatility make it suitable for law enforcement and military operations that require reliable and effective ammunition.



In conclusion, the choice between 7.62×39 and .308 ammo depends on your specific shooting needs and preferences. While 7.62×39 is known for its affordability, reliability, and close-quarter effectiveness, the .308 offers superior ballistics, extended range, and increased stopping power. Understanding the strengths and applications of each cartridge will help you make an informed decision when selecting ammunition for your shooting endeavors.

Need bulk ammo? At True Shot Ammo, we have a wide variety of handgun ammo and rifle ammo available to purchase. Please visit our website trueshotammo.com, call us at (888) 736-6587 or, you can email us at [email protected] for more rifle ammo options.

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