From the J.A.Freeman AK47 / AK74 Website
AK rifle ammo identification
The 7.62x39mm cartridge was invented by the Russians and adopted as
the M-43 cartridge in 1943. The cartridge was developed in response to
getting there ass's kicked by the Germans with their new Mkb-42 assault
rifle that fired the 7.92x33mm cartridge from it's 30rd mag. Latter in
1944 the German developed the Stg-44 which used stamped sheet metal receiver
and 30rd mag. The Stg stands for Sturmgewher which translates to Assault
Rifle. The first rifle the Russians designed to fire the new cartridge
was the SKS-45 adopted in 1945. The 10 shot fixed mag of the SKS just
didn't cut it and the AK-47 that used a 30rd mag was adopted in 1947.
The Chinese leader Chairman Mao Tse-dong formed very close ties to the
Russians in the early 1950's. This resulted in lots of aid from the Russians.
Some of the aid was the boxing up of the machinery of whole factories
to produce the SKS and AK-47 rifles. The Russians supplied the machinery
and technicians to set the factories up. The SKS,AK-47,and the 7.62x39mm
cartridge were adopted by the Chinese in 1956. This resulted in both
rifles and the cartridge being called the type-56 for year of adoption.
Chinese steel core ammo was banned by the BATF in a letter to FFL dealers
and importers in Febuary,1994. All Chinese ammo was imported till May
of 1994 when Pres. Clinton sent a letter to the BATF outlawing imports
of Chinese ammo and guns.
The first 7.62x39mm ammo imported
to the USA was military surplus. It was packed in 2 sealed metal
tins per wooden case. The ammo for the SKS rifle was packed in
550 rounds per tin,1100 rounds per wooden case. It was on 10rd
stripper clips with 2 or 3 stripper clips per 20rd or 30rd paper
wrapped bundle. Some were tied with string and some not.
All ammo packed in the paper wrapped bundles has steel core bullets.
The Chinese surplus ammo was also packed in 20 round paper wrapped bundles
tied with string in tins of 700 or 720. Wooden cases of 1400 or 1440.
Here is a pic of the headstamps of Chinese ammo. The top number is the
number of the factory that produced the ammo. The bottom number is the
year of production.
Here is a pic of the earliest and latest dated Chinese ammo imported
to the US.
How to tell if your ammo has
steel core bullets
cartridge in the center has a steel core bullet. The others on
either side have lead core bullets except the one on the right
that is a experimental round that has plastic beads in the nose
and a lead core.
You can't use a magnet to check if your ammo has steel core bullets!
Chinese ammo uses bullets made with copper plated steel jackets,
So using a magnet is useless because it will be sticking to the
steel bullet jacket and not the steel core. The only way to tell
if your ammo is steel core is to pull a bullet. Steel core bullets
are over 1" long,
have a boat tail, and have black sealer on them. In the pic the
steel core bullet is on the left and the lead core on the right.
factories 31, 71, 311 and 351 made lead core ball. (maybe 61 also,
but not sure)
Any other Chinese factory code will be steel core.
Lead core ball from 31 ALWAYS has a green case mouth seal.
Lead core ball from 71 ALWAYS has a knurled crimping groove on the
Lead core ball from 311 and 351 is harder to tell, but generally
the rounds have NO case mouth seal or primer seal and date from 1991-1994
The earliest known lead core from 31 is 1990 dated.
The earliest known lead core from 71 is 1988 dated.
All the commercial ammo was packed in the
same style wooden crates as the surplus ammo. The first commercial
ammo I saw was the green box Norinco that was packed 20rds per
box,600rds per tin, and 2 tins per wooden case of 1200rds. Afterwards
all the ammo was packed 60-20rd boxes per wooden case and all the
boxes were wrapped in one large clear plastic bag.
Chinese 223 Remington ammo mfg. by Norinco was imported in 20 rd yellow
boxes with a Styrofoam insert. It was brass cased, boxer primed, with
a 55 grain fmj bullet. The headstamp is a C at 10 o'clock, a J at 2 o'clock,
and a single digit for year of mfg. at 6 o'clock.
This ammo came packed 60- 20 round boxes per 1200 round wooden case.
Having shot and reloaded the cases several times I can say that it is
pretty good ammo.
military surplus ammo was imported in 7.62x25mm,9x18mm Makarov,
7.62x39mm, and 7.62x54R mm. Commercial packaged ammo was imported
in 7.62x25mm, 9x18mm Makarov, 9x19mm, 45acp, 5.56x45mm / 223
Remington, 30 Carbine, 7.62x39mm, 7.62x51mm / 308 Winchester,
and 7.62x54R. The Chinese 30 Carbine ammo was pretty interesting
as it had the same headstamp as US military ammunition made at
the Lake City Ammunition Plant in 1952. That is "L
Small quantities of Russian ammo was imported
from other countries but was in small amounts intended for the
cartridge collector market or mislabeled as to country of mfg.
Until the fall of the Soviet Union all arms and ammo were banned
from import to the US by law. A large amount of Russian steel core
7.62x39mm ammo was imported in late 1993/early 1994 but due to
the BATF re-classifying 7.62x39mm steel core ammo as armor piercing
ammo in February 1994. The import or sale of 7.62x39mm ammo with
steel core bullets by FFL holders was banned to anyone one but
military, law enforcement, or other govt. agencies. So very little
of it made it into the hands of shooters or collectors. As you
can see in the picture below it came in unmarked 20rd boxes.
The re-classifying of steel core ammo put
a stop to the import of Russian 7.62x39mm ammo till 1995 when a
large amount of ammo was imported from Germany. In Germany stocks
of former East German steel core ammo from Russia, Romania, and
East Germany had the bullets pulled and lead core bullets seated
in the cases so it could be imported to the USA. This ammo even
though new bullets were used the cases still had the corrosive
primers in them. So make sure to clean your rifle thoroughly. The
banning of steel core ammo in February 1994 and the banning of
all Chinese ammo imports in April 1994 resulted in the price of
a case of 7.62x39mm going up to over 3 times the price it was before
the 1994 ammo import bans. The import of the large quantity of
the re-bulleted German ammo resulted in the price dropping from
over $300 per case to a little under $200 a couple months after
it was first imported. In 1997 imports of new production Russian
7.62x39mm ammo with lead core bullets started coming into the US
and case prices started dropping. The first was packed in plain
white boxes with black printing. In this pic the box is unfolded
so all the printing can be seen but it is the standard style 20rd
box that all 7.62x39mm Russian ammo comes in.
The first Russian ammo for AK rifles imported in shooting quantities
was imported by Intrac Arms International LLC and was 5.45x39mm. It was
imported in 1997 along with the first AK rifles imported chambered for
the 5.45x39mm cartridge the Romanian CUR-2. This ammo had lacquered steel
cases loaded with a 70 grain lead core fmj bullet. The headstamp is a
3 over 96 denoting mfg. by Ulyanovsk in 1996. It was packed in 30rd paper
wrapped bundles with paper separators in each bundle and the bundle was
stapled on both ends. There were 36-30 round bundles per sealed tin of
1080 rounds. Two tins per wooden case of 2160 rounds. Each case came
with a tool to open the tins in a cut out in the inside of one side of
the wooden case's wall.
This ammo has corrosive primers which can be noted by the color of the
primer. Notice they are gunmetal grey and not the gold color of non corrosive
primers in current imported Russian ammo.
USSR / Russia Mfg. codes 5.45x39, 7.62x39 and 7.62x54r
3 = Ulyanovsk
7 = Amursk (Vympel)
17 = Barnaul
60 = Frunze
270 = Voroshilovgrad
539 = Tula
711 = Klimovsk
188 = Novosibirsk
Along with the numbers there are also letters and symbols used on Russian
commercial ammo. The pic below the headstamps of Ulyanovsk ammo has the
two arrows in the circle like on the box. The Barnaul uses the square
with the letters in it like on the box. The unmarked box on the right
is Klimovsk and the top symbol is used on the headstamps of cartridges
mfg. by them.
Tula Cartridge Works produced ammo at first with a TCW headstamp which
later became the WOLF brand of ammo. Early imports of Tula ammo came
in white boxes with black printing. Early imports of Wolf ammo had TCW
headstamps even though they were packed in Wolf brand boxes. Now all
the Wolf brand ammo has a WOLF headstamp.
As you can see from the pic below the Russians have remained with the
same design 20rd box but the graphics have improved over the years. A
plain unprinted box imported in 1997,1998 printed box,1999 graphics,1999
colored box,2001,and 2004 boxes on the right with photo quality graphics.
Currently there is rifle ammo being imported
from 4 Russian ammo factories Ulyanovsk, Vympel, Barnaul, and Tula. The
Klimovsk factory stopped producing ammo as the last imported was in 2002.
Some factories produce ammo under their brand and other brands. Ulyanovsk
produces ammo in the blue and white boxes under their name and also the
Sapsan brand of ammo.
Barnaul produces ammo under the Barnaul, Monarch, and RAM brands. The
RAM stands for Russian Ammunition Manufacturing.
Tula produces only the Wolf brand of ammo and Vympel only produces Golden
Tiger brand ammo.
The Bear brands of Russian Ammo
Currently there are 3 types of "Bear" rifle ammo imported
the Silver Bear, Brown Bear, and Golden Bear. The different colors in
the name of the "Bear" ammo denote the type of finish applied
to the steel cases.
Silver = zinc plated
Brown = brown lacquer
Golden = brass plated
The Bear ammo is imported
with soft point, hollow point, or full metal jacket bullets.
The Silver Bear ammo was imported with two types of fmj bullets.
The first type of Bear ammo imported was the Silver Bear in 2000
that was made by Klimovsk with a standard fmj bullet. Later the "match" Silver
Bear ammo was imported made by Ulyanovsk with a fmj bullet with
a nipple on the tip.
The next type ammo imported was the Brown Bear in 2001 and the Golden
Bear in 2004. The Silver Bear and Brown Bear ammo imported before 2004
could be mfg. by Barnaul, Ulyanovsk, or Klimovsk. Ordering a case of
Bear ammo was a toss up as to which company made the ammo You had to
look on the box once you got it to see which company made it except the
Match Silver Bear which has only been made by Ulyanovsk. For details
on what cartridges and bullet types are available go to the importers
Bear ammo website
The Russian ammunition
After the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 the country was separated into
two Germanys. The eastern half was controlled by Russia and the western
half by the USA, Britain, and France. The eastern half was called the
Soviet zone of occupation till 1949 a government organized by the Soviets
named the country Deutschland Democratic Republic. The DDR was controlled
by the Soviets so the DDR army adopted Soviet military arms and tactics.
Due to political and economic forces the Soviet govt. collapsed in 1989
as did the governments of most of the eastern European countries controlled
by the Soviets. East and West Germany were reunited into one government
in 1991. With West Germany having been a North Atlantic Treaty Origination=NATO
member since 1955 all DDR military equipment was incompatible with NATO
equipment so was sold off as military surplus.
The First 7.62x39 ammo
1992 Century Arms imported 15 million rounds of DDR 7.62x39mm
M43 ammo which has steel core bullets. This ammo was not in boxes
but sold loose in 1000 rd lots. It had headstamps of DDR ammo
factory codes of 04 and 05. The two digit dates of the headstamps
were in the 1960's to 1980's. This ammo had a grey lacquer finish
on the cases and was corrosive primed.
Later Century Arms imported some DDR
ammo in boxes.
Besides the M43 ammo blanks and practice ammo
was imported. The practice ammo was sold by Century Arms in 1000
rd lots that came packed loose, in 20rd boxes, or in 10rd blister
packs. The bullet was a copper plated steel jacket that had a plastic
core that weighted 63 grains. It works well in AK rifles but is
iffy functioning in SKS rifles. In the pic blanks, plastic core
in the blister pack and box.
After the 1994 reclassification of steel core
7.62x39mm by the BATF as armor piercing ammo millions of rounds
of M43 ammo was remanufactured in the former DDR. This ammo was
of DDR and Hungarian mfg. denoted by the 04,05,and 22 factory codes
of the headstamps. The M43 bullets were pulled a new mfg. lead
core bullets were seated in the cases. It was imported in late
1994 and 1995. While legal to import with the lead core bullets
all this ammo still had the corrosive primers in it. It was packed
in white 20rd boxes with black printing and sold in 1000 rd cases.
It was the first ammo to come in after the ban on Chinese guns
and ammo that made the price of 7.62x39mm ammo rise to over $300
per case. All ammo from East Germany is corrosive primed. So make
sure to clean your rifle as soon as possible after firing it.
For more information use
the links below
- Pre & Post
Ban Chinese AK47 Rifle Overview
rifles were imported from the People Republic of China (PRC)
till imports were cut off in May of 1994. They were... Click
Here for more
AK47 Rifle Overview
not untill 1997 that the arms embargo was completly lifted
that rifles were allowed to be imported from Romania. So
there is no such thing as a .... Click
Here for more
AK47 Rifle Overview
AKM rifles were / are imported from Egypt. The factory was
shipped to Egypt lock, stock, and barrel from Russia. The
Russian's set up.... Click
Here for more
AK47 Rifle Overview
semiautomatic AK-47 type rifles imported from Russia were
the Saiga 7.62x39mm imported by B-West Tucson, AZ USA in
Here for more
to change handguards on AK rifles
NEEDED: Vise or Quick Clamp, hammer, rubber
/ wood / rawhide mallet, screwdriver, punch, adjustable
wrench, padding for vise jaws (old leather belt, rubber,
rags, etc..). After removing the bolt carrier from the
Here for more
to load a 75rd and 100rd AK47drum
7.62x39mm drums for AK type rifles were made in 75rd and
100rd versions. The only difference between them besides
capacity is ... Click
Here for more
drum and magazine overview
2 types of drums imported for use in AK-47 rifles that
are chambered for the 7.62x39mm cartridge are the Chinese
type and the Russian type. The Chinese type drums are easy
to spot ... Click
Here for more
- AK47 rifle ammo identification
|The 7.62x39mm cartridge
was invented by the Russians and adopted as the M-43 cartridge
in 1943. The cartridge was developed in response to.. Click
Here for more