Now that the rifle was completed I needed to find self-defense and hunting ammunition to feed it. For both applications I wanted a round that was accurate out to 100 yards and would expand reliably. Although I might be willing to stock up on cheaper ammunition for SHTF or practice rounds I was also willing to pay a little extra for premium rounds for hunting and self-defense rounds. A quick search showed a bit of a downside for selecting this caliber; there wasn’t a very good selection of hunting ammo.
Hornady had a round listed on their web site but finding it (at the time) proved to be an impossible task. Winchester had the Hog Hunter Special for $24.99 per box of 20. TulAmmo had offerings in 154 grain soft points as well as 122 grain hollow points. Brown Bear (Barnaul) had a 125 grain soft point that seemed to be reasonably priced and fairly easy to find online. So, I bought a couple boxes of each and headed to the range.
TulAmmo 154 grain soft points
TulAmmo 122 grain hollow points
Brown Bear 125 grain soft points
Winchester Hog Special 123 Grain “Power-Points”
The TulAmmo didn’t make the cut. It was inconsistent and not nearly as accurate as I would want it to be for hunting.
The 122 grain hollow point was suspect in terms of its effectiveness as a hunting round and the accuracy left even more to be desired. It was the least accurate ammo tested with a four to five inch spread in even the best groups. Based on this ammo I was really worried that this project would fail.
The TulAmmo 154 grain soft points were my favorites going into the testing. Reasonably priced and fairly easily found I also liked the idea of the heavier soft pointed bullet. The accuracy wasn’t bad but the bullet drop and inconsistency concerned me.
The Winchester Hog Special 123 Grain “Power-Point” were my ace in the hole but at $24.99 for a box of 20 it was a very expensive card. The printed specs claimed 2365 fps at the muzzle. That would calculate out to be around 1527 ft/lbs of energy which was pretty good and I figured American-made ammo would be pretty accurate and consistent.
Even with my shooting, instead of the ringer I brought along to verify my testing, I was able to see 2 inch groups at 100 yards. Any flyers were my fault not a problem with the rifle or the ammunition.
The Brown Bear 125 grain soft points were brought along as a it of a lark. I really didn’t expect anything better than I have seen from the TulAmmo. Both are made in Russia and everyone knows Russian quality control, right? Boy was I wrong. These rounds have a claimed velocity of 2445 fps which translates into around 1659 ft/lbs of muzzle energy according to my calculations. The manufacturer (distributor actually) only claims 1633 ft/lbs. Still the best energy numbers of the bunch. The big question would be the accuracy and consistency. Just to make sure of the results I was seeing, I called in my “ringer” to shoot a three shot group. Because of time restraints we used the same target as we did for the 122 grain TulAmmo.
At 100 yards with three shots he was able to group them within less than an inch and two of the shots went through the same hole. The Brown Bear ammunition had the best numbers, the best accuracy and was very consistent. At a little over $7.00 for a box of 20 there were not exactly a bargain but they were pretty close. The only question, how would they perform against something a bit tougher than paper.
Between time, weather and other factors it took me almost two years to get an answer to that question. I’ll only make you wait a week.
Next week we’ll take a look at the effectiveness of this round for hunting.
A few side notes:
Prvi Partizan (PPU) makes a 123 grain round nose soft point in 7.62×39. It is brass-cased and boxer primed so it can be reloaded and can be used on ranges that don’t allow steel-cased ammunition. I tested this round in a separate test session several months after I tested the other ammunition. It performed very well at the time in terms of accuracy and consistency. The claimed specifications looked good (2640 fps and 1659 ft/lbs of muzzle energy). The price was OK at around $11.00 per box of 20 but as I mentioned the cases could be reloaded. During that range session I was basically feeding each round by hand as I had run out of the house without any magazines. I was concerned about how these rounds would feed since they are significantly shorter in overall length that the specs for the caliber call for and the bullets were round nosed instead of pointed. Sure enough, once I started feeding them from a magazine the accuracy went out the window and I experienced jams about every three or four rounds. The jams weren’t in the rifle but in the magazine itself. The rounds were so short that they would move around under recoil and jam up. I also discovered that the long gap and to the feed ranp and rounded nose resulted in the bullets deforming against the ramp and/or chamber mouth. Bullets with big gouges in the nose don’t fly as straight even over relatively short distances. I have recently discovered that they offer a pointed version of this round as well. I may try it in the future.
Reloads – I have yet to find a bullet/powder combination in any reference book that can give me the performance of either the Winchester or Brown Bear loads. I am not sure that the loss of several hundred fps and energy is balanced by the higher quality bullets I can buy and use.
Recoil magazine performed a pretty comprehensive set of tests using a CZ-527 bolt-action rifle chambered in 7.62×39. Their focus was more geared towards the self defense side of things but the results, although more comprehensive in every way, were similar to what I was seeing with my AR. To see their results click here.