7.62x39mm vs 308 Win
Ballistics Performance Comparison of 7.62x39mm vs 308 Win Cartridges
The 7.62x39mm Soviet is perhaps best known for its use in AK variant rifles, while the .308 Winchester is a popular big game hunting cartridge. The Soviet may be a stronger choice for someone looking to shoot a high number of rounds from a semi-automatic rifle, or target primarily small game over smaller ranges thanks to its lower cost. The .308 Winchester packs a more serious punch (both in terms of recoil and energy), and that extra power will be needed if you’re targeting large game or want to fire across longer ranges. These two cartridges serve very different purposes, so it’s vital to know your own hunting goals as you evaluate the many factors that go into distinguishing calibers from one another.
The following ballistics tables show a side by side comparison of the 7.62x39mm vs 308 Winchester based on bullet weight and performance metrics including velocity, energy, usage and recoil.
|7.62 x 39MM||308 Winchester|
|Bullet Velocity (Muzzle)||2,350 ft/s||2,700 ft/s|
|Bullet Velocity @ 100 yds||2,053 ft/s||2,496 ft/s|
|Bullet Velocity @ 200 yds||1,780 ft/s||2,302 ft/s|
|Bullet Velocity @ 300 yds||1,535 ft/s||2,116 ft/s|
|Bullet Velocity @ 400 yds||1,324 ft/s||1,939 ft/s|
|Bullet Velocity @ 500 yds||1,159 ft/s||1,772 ft/s|
|Bullet Energy (Muzzle)||1,508 ft⋅lb||2,671 ft⋅lb|
|Bullet Energy @ 100 yds||1,151 ft⋅lb||2,283 ft⋅lb|
|Bullet Energy @ 200 yds||865 ft⋅lb||1,941 ft⋅lb|
|Bullet Energy @ 300 yds||643 ft⋅lb||1,640 ft⋅lb|
|Bullet Energy @ 400 yds||479 ft⋅lb||1,377 ft⋅lb|
|Bullet Energy @ 500 yds||367 ft⋅lb||1,150 ft⋅lb|
|Usage @ 0 yds||Large Game||Toughest Game|
|Usage @ 100 yds||Medium Game||Toughest Game|
|Usage @ 200 yds||Small Game||Large Game|
|Usage @ 300 yds||Small Game||Large Game|
|Usage @ 400 yds||Small Game||Medium Game|
|Usage @ 500 yds||Small Game||Medium Game|
|Recoil Energy||6.9 (125gr)||18.1|
|*Cartridge ballistics, usage and recoil figures taken from Sportsman's Warehouse rifle ballistics and rifle recoil tables. Recoil score based on weighted average of recoil energy and recoil velocity normalized between 1 and 10.|
Despite comparing a heavier bullet that is slowed down by its weight, the .308 Winchester has a clear advantage over the 7.62x39mm in terms of speed. The .308 Winchester starts out of the muzzle with another 350 ft/s over the 7.62x39mm. At 300 yards, this advantage has grown all the way to 581 ft/s. At 500 yards, the .308 Winchester is flying 613 ft/s faster than the 7.62x39mm. As we can see, the increased velocity of the .308 Winchester becomes even more important at longer ranges.
The heavier bullets and higher velocity of the .308 Winchester cause it to have significantly more energy, which translates to more stopping power, over the 7.62x39mm. Out of the muzzle, the .308 Winchester is moving with an additional 1,163 ft-lbs – an extremely significant difference. At 300 yards, that advantage is staying strong at 997 ft-lbs. At 500 yards, the .308 Winchester has 783 ft-lbs over the 7.62x39mm. Clearly, these calibers are in different classes of the type of game they are able to take out, and their effective range for ensuring a clean, ethical kill.
Trajectory greatly impacts your ability to shoot a target accurately, especially over long distances when factors like wind and gravity impact your shooting. Let’s compare a 123 grain 7.62x39mm against a 150 grain .308 Winchester, both zeroed at 200 yards. By 300 yards, the .308 will drop 8.5”, while the 7.62x39mm will drop 14”. At 400 yards, the .308 will drop 26 while the 7.62x39mm will drop 44”. We can see that the .308 Winchester is offering a much flatter trajectory.
There is a very significant difference in recoil between these cartridges, with the .308 Winchester packing nearly three times as much recoil energy as the 7.62x39mm. This is reflected in the increased energy and heavier, larger bullets of the .308 Winchester. Still, a difference like this should not be taken lightly: greater recoil will impact your ability to fire the gun accurately, and you should be confident that you can handle this amount of force. Experienced hunters can generally handle the recoil of the .308 Winchester, and it is considered a fairly manageable recoil compared to other big game hunting cartridges, but it certainly loses to the 7.62x39mm in this category.
If you’re looking for a new hunting cartridge, the type of game you’re targeting will make a big difference in your decision. This is also where we see the increased power of the .308 Winchester. At most distances, the 7.62x39mm is only going to be appropriate for small and maybe medium game. The .308 Winchester is a big game hunting cartridge that has been used to take down pretty much everything in North America. The .308 Winchester is also seen as a more accurate round than the 7.62x39mm, which is vital to ensure a clean, ethical kill.
Price & Availability
The 7.62x39mm is a very budget-friendly cartridge, and can often be found for about half the price of .308 Winchester. However, there is a smaller selection of bullet weights to choose from for the 7.62x39mm as compared to the .308. If you’ll be shooting a large number of bullets, this cost difference can certainly begin to stack up. Both rounds are quite popular, so there are options available from many of the top manufacturers.
The .308 Winchester has a bullet diameter of .308”, as the name suggests. However, while the “39” in 7.62x39mm might sound like it refers to a similar .308” diameter, it actually refers to the case length. The 7.62x39mm has a larger bullet diameter of .312”. The Soviet also has a shorter case length (1.524” vs 2.015”) and overall length (2.205” vs 2.8”) than the .308 Winchester. These differences combine to mean that the .308 Winchester has a case capacity nearly 40% greater than the Soviet, which greatly impacts its energy.
Bolt action rifles are very popular with hunters, and there is no shortage of bolt action hunting rifles chambered in .308 Winchester. You’ll be able to find multiple options from pretty much every major manufacturer. The 7.62x39mm has a far more limited selection if you’re looking for bolt action rifles. However, the 7.62x39mm is not really meant for bolt action rifles – its prominence comes from its use in the semi-automatic AK-47. While you can find semi-automatic rifles chambered in .308 Winchester, they’re going to cost you a bit more. The .308 Winchester is particularly popular on the AR-10 platform.
Which Caliber is Best?
If you’re looking for an inexpensive, light-recoiling round that you can shoot all day on a semi-automatic platform such as the AK-47, the 7.62x39mm is the clear choice. However, if you are looking to do some serious hunting, you’ll need the flatter-shooting, higher-powered .308 Winchester to help you take down larger game over longer distances.
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