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Introduced in 1943, the 7.62x39mm cartridge was originally chambered in the RPD Light Machine Gun as well as the SKS Rifle. Soon after its development, the entry of the iconic AK-47 into the Soviet military ensured the 7.62x39 would have a place for many years to come. The cartridge has been employed in militaries around the globe, and is used by many police officers and civilians.

The round is also known as the 7.62 Soviet and sometimes as the .30 Russian Short, though the latter of these is somewhat archaic. Thanks to its use in the AK-47, a semi-automatic rifle virtually everyone in the world has heard of, 7.62x30 ammo is used across the globe.

Because it was a round preferred by the Soviet Union in combat, it needed to be able to be fired in extremely warm and extremely cold climates in every region. Thus, a rifleman can use the 7.62x39mm in anything from the poles to the equator.

The Iconic AK-47

What the AR-15 is to the United States, the AK-47 is to Russia and the Eastern Slavic countries. The original design work began in 1945, but the AK-47 didn’t reach the Red Army until a year later in a fixed stock version. Seventy years later, the AK-47 (or “Kalashnikov”) is one of the most widely used weapons in the world both for civilian and military use. Indeed, of the 500 million firearms in the world in 2004, 100 million were Kalashnikovs and 75 million of these were AK-47s.

One of the hallmarks of the weapon is its service life. This can be as little as 6,000 or as much as 15,000. The difference is because there are so many variations on the weapon, made both with the utmost craftsmanship or cranked off of assembly lines in impoverished post-Soviet nations, that it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Indeed, the weapon is so iconic in Russia that it is the subject of a popular joke about the future as regards the rivalry between the United States and the People’s Republic of China for world dominance: “Optimists learn English, pessimists learn Chinese, realists learn Kalashnikov.”

The History of the 7.62 Soviet Round

There’s actually a fascinating history to the development of this cartridge. Like virtually everything else manufactured in the Soviet Union, the 7.62x39 round was the result of central planning. Unlike virtually everything else in the Soviet Union, central planning managed to get this one right.

It all started on July 15, 1943, when the Soviet Union was in the throes of its battle with Nazi Germany. This was the day that the Technical Council of the People's Commissariat for Armaments met to discuss an intermediate Soviet cartridge, something that the Red Army sorely needed.

As dictated by the Soviet central planners, the new cartridge was to be the backbone of the Soviet military. It would be used in a light machine gun, a semi-automatic carbine and a selective fire rifle. The cartridge was designed by (what else?) a committee in conjunction with the Soviet Union’s top weapons designers. The committee considered 314 designs before narrowing the field down to eight that were actually manufactured, then tested. By December 1943, the 7.62x41, the forerunner of the 7.62x39, began production. In March of 1944, the first 7.62x39s rolled off the line.

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