The 7.62 X 54R round is a bottlenecked and fully rimmed rifle cartridge that was designed for use by the Russian Empire in 1891 and is still in service to this day, making it the second oldest military cartridge still in continuous use since its inception.
It was developed for use in the Mosin-Nagant family of rifles with the M91 being the first in 1891. Performance wise it is comparable to the US 30-06 Springfield round. This has made it popular with hunters. In the 1960s with the evolution of the Mosin-Nagant Sniper Rifle into the Dragunov SVD, a more accurate sniper round was developed by the Soviets. In the 1990s, this ammunition was improved by using a projectile with a steel penetrator core to combat the use of body armor.
Most people have become familiar with the 7.62 X 54R round through the popularity of Mosin-Nagant rifles and carbines. These rifles were imported en masse in the 1990s and sold cheaply as there were literally stockpiles of them in Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Poland, and everywhere else the Soviets left a footprint in the post-World War 2 years.
Yet, these were not the only rifles to still use this round. The SVD Dragunov was a successor to the Mosin-Nagant Sniper rifles of World War 2 fame. Some Mosin Nagants were manufactured by Remington in the United States prior to the First World War and Winchester chambered approximately 300,000 of its M1895 lever-action rifles for sale to the Russian military in 1915.
In addition to the Dragunov, the 7.62 X 54R round is used in Soviet machineguns to this day such as the PKM. The long-range capabilities of the round in a full auto role had made the PKM a deadly threat to US and allied snipers operating in Afghanistan and Iraq during the War on Terror.
As we compared it to 30-06 Springfield, the 7.62 X 54R round is a popular one for hunting medium to big game in the United States such as deer. Most shooters use Mosin-Nagant rifles and carbines for hunting rifles in either their original configuration as they left military storage or in a sportified configuration where the stock may be modified or replaced, and a scope mounted to the rifle.
While it is an excellent multi-purpose round, not much has been said about its use in the US by police agencies where 308 Winchester, 5.56 NATO and 6.5 Creedmoor are used in sniper or designated marksman rifles. However, over 30 countries in Europe have police forces who use the 7.62 X 54R round in their Dragunov sniper rifles.
Although the Mosin-Nagant M91/30 was never known as a tack driver, many were converted to sniper duty by the Russians and the Finns. Many of the Finnish-made rifles such as the M39 were remarkably accurate and are prized as target shooting rifles today.
Likewise, when the surplus rifles were relatively inexpensive, many shooters in the US worked on these rifles to make them more accurate for hunting and target shooting. Handloaded ammunition as opposed to the bulk imported ammo makes a huge difference with regard to accuracy and performance as well.
As a now 133-year-old military cartridge still in continuous use, the 7.62 X 54R round has seen a lot of military service. From the Russian Empire to the Soviet Union to the Chinese Red Army and the Viet Cong to the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan and the wars in Syria; this odd-looking rimmed bottle neck cartridge has seen it all.
If a 130-year history as a military and hunting cartridge does not speak to that round’s capability nothing else will. Much is dependent upon the barrel length of the rifle or carbine chambered in the 7.62 X 54R round. From a sub-20-inch barrel, expect performance similar to a 30-30 Winchester with a lot more noise and flash. Longer barrels, particularly if they are accurized, put performance similar to the 30-06 Springfield or 308 Winchester at times.
The 7.62 X 54R round is comparable in size to these cartridges with a 54mm case length and 77mm in overall length. Most loads generate 2600 fps of muzzle velocity with a 150-grain (or similar sized) bullet.
Recoil is manageable but again, this mostly depends upon the configuration of the rifle from which it is fired as well as the ammunition that is used.
SBR Ammunition offers a few select-grade hand loaded offerings for the 7.62 X 54R round. The 150-grain solid projectile and the 174-grain HPBT (Hollow Point Boat Tail) are both accurate and solid match-grade performers.