Reloading 7.62x39?

Discussion in 'Hunting & Fishing' started by GroovyMike, Jun 22, 2010.

  1. GroovyMike

    GroovyMike Well-Known Member

    Does anyone here reload 7.62x39 for the SKS?

    I picked a couple of .312 Lee Molds for cast lead projectiles (155 grain 2 cavity mold, and 185 grain single cavity mold).
    I have sizing dies in both .312 and .314. Although I have not yet tried the projectiles sized to .314

    I am trying to find a load for accurate delivery at ranges +/- 100 yards with enough power for white tail.

    I’ve had good results on white tail with factory ammo, but would still like to develop my own load.
    My experiments with Red Dot powder did not produce anything useful for 7.62x39.

    IMR’s 3031 gives me accuracy sufficient to keep all shots on an 8 inch pie plate at 100 yards with the 155 grain gas checked bullets.
    I can live with that if there are no better options, but I suspect another powder may deliver better results.

    I have just begun to play with Alliant’s 2400 powder and hope to test the .314 sized bullets at my next range session.

    What has worked for you?
  2. GroovyMike

    GroovyMike Well-Known Member

    Mr. Ed Harris was kind enough to share his loads with me. Here is his published article:

    here's his published article:

    Practical Dope on the 7.62x39

    By C.E. Harris—Updated 3-27-94

    I have reloaded thousands of rounds of 7.62X39 ammunition with both cast bullets and jacketed, in the AK and the SKS. I got frustrated with the AK as accuracy of these seems is generally poor, at best about 5-6" at 100 yards. The SKS is more reasonable, about 3-4" and is still a real bargain these days. Most SKS rifles group better with cast bullets than they do with ball ammunition. If you are new to cast bullet shooting or not inclined to do a lot
    of experimenting, I recommend 14.5-15.5 grs. of Hercules #2400 with the Lee .312-155-2R bullet, cast of wheel weights and sized .312". With this load the rifle functions like the proverbial pony trotting, and dumps the cases right
    at your feet! You can also try 18-21 grs. of 4198 or 16-18 grs. of 4227 with any bullet from 122-125 grs.

    The gas ports on these guns are larger than they need to be for reliable functioning. Lead fouling of the gas port is not a problem, but the gas piston and cylinder will foul, which can affect functioning if neglected. The gas
    piston should be removed and cleaned with Break Free, Marvel Mystery Oil or Dexron IIe ATF and 000 steel wool after each use, and the gas cylinder scrubbed with a shotgun bore brush. Liberally lubricating with Break Free,
    Marvel Mystery Oil or Dexron prior to reassembly eases the fouling problem.

    You can fire several hundred rounds between cleanings if you avoid super heating the rifle with rapid fire so that the barrel becomes too hot to hold in the bare hand. If you do so, and let the rifle cool without stripping and cleaning it immediately it will be difficult to disassemble!

    I have not found lead fouling to be a problem in ordinary National Match Course style firing, but only in factory endurance tests of the Ruger Mini Thirty when I was at Ruger. Ruger does not recommend handloads of any type. Therefore, they don't recommend cast bullets at all. However, in my experience cast loads about 1 grain heavier than the minimum which cycle an SKS or AK will work in the
    Ruger. These pose no real functional problem as long as the gas piston and its recess in the slide handle are kept clean and well lubricated. The only common cast bullet designs which are correct for the my original NEI designs
    for this caliber and the Lee .312-155-2R and TL.312-160-2R. The latter two are adaptations of my original NEI design with minor changes to suit Lee's manufacturing process, and to change the appearance slightly so the Lee version would have a distinct "product identity." Now that NEI is back in business (51583 Columbia River Hwy., Scappoose, OR 97056) Walt Melander can provide my original 52A design with its 1-1/2-degree tapered forepart or a stepped-diameter design similar to Lee's adaption, but with a blunter nose shape which is better for hunting. Accuracy-wise there is no difference between them. I designed these bullets with the intent to have the heaviest bullet which could be loaded without the GC poking into the powder space, and which would be big enough on the forepart to fill the large throats on the AK and SKS, as well as in the 7.62x54R Russian, .303 British, 7.65 Argentine, 7.7 Jap, etc Use of a heavier bullet is also better suited for the typical 10-inch twist rates of 7.62x39 barrels. These bullets have only one grease groove, (which is enough) and a substantial crimp groove .26" from the base. The rear driving band casts .312", the front band .310" and the forepart ahead of the crimp groove is .308." The ogival radius starts from this point in order to maximize bearing length. These bullets have proven very accurate in a variety of military rifles for
    target work at up to 200 yards. They out shoots ball ammo in the SKS or AK with any reasonable load. In a bolt- action target rifle they are capable of 1-1/4" 10-shot groups at 100 yards, and in a 2-groove 03A3 Springfield or M1917 Enfield they average around 2 moa ten-shot groups at 200 yards with iron sights, with refined loads.

    I use 1 part of linotype to five parts of wheel weight metal for competition in my .30-'06 M1917 Enfield and M1903 Springfields up to 200 yards with 16 grs. of #2400, 20 grs. of 4227, 13 grs. of Red Dot or 12 grs. of 700-X. Accuracy of these light cast bullet loads is far better than Ball M2 service ammunition. I use the same charges in the .303 British and 7.62x54R Russian as well. I fill the grease grooves with 50-50 Alox beeswax (Lee brand) then tumble Lee Liquid Alox on for a light golden overcoat. These
    loads don't lead for continuous use over the National Match Course, even over double-strings of rapid-fire.
    Above 1800 f.p.s. I use the same alloy, but cast the bullets "hot" until they are uniformly frosted, then quench them directly from the mould. The heattreated, double-lubed bullets will stand 2000 fps. in wheelweight alloy
    without leading, if shot straight from the mould without sizing, being GC'ed in a .313" die. A caseful (28 grs.) of Accurate 2230, 2460, or H335 gives around 2000 f.p.s. in the 7.62x39.

    Accurate Arms 1680 is very similar to the Olin 680 Ball powder, though slightly slower. Both of these powders are used in 7.62x39 ball ammunition, with a charge of 24 grs. being correct for service velocities with 123-gr. jacketed bullets using the Accurate-IMI propellant, and 23 grs. for the slightly faster Olin powder. For a full-power load approximating service ammunition you can also use 26.5 grs. of RL-7 or 25.0 grs. of IMR or H4198. With cast bullets the minimum load with 1680 which functions the SKS with the Lee .312-155-2R is 16 grs. In the SKS this produces about 1420 f.p.s. and 3" groups at 100 yds.; 18 grs. gives 1630 f.p.s. and 4" groups in the SKS. I did two strings with the Olin 680 for comparison with the NEI 155-gr. cast bullet at 18 and 19 grs., respectively, which gave 1810 and 1930 f.p.s. I would not exceed 19 grs. of Olin 680, or 20 grs. of Accurate 1680 with the 155-gr. cast bullet, as these are both full loads.

    The following tables provide additional test data on the 7.62x39. Jacketed bullet handloads for 7.62x39- Lapua cases, Fed. 210 primers, Ctg.OAL 2.19" from CEH article in Handloader's Digest 12th. Edition, 1990, p.125.

    20" P/V on Univ. Receiver. Vel. 24" Sako
    123-gr. FMJ
    24.5 H4198 2264 fps 48,170 cup 2377 ;
    26.5 RL-7 2325 fps 52,000 cup 2451 ;
    28.0 H322 2180 fps 42,300 cup 2287 ;

    150-gr. SP
    28.5 BLC2 2030 fps 40,000 cup 2140 ;
    23.0 RL-7 2050 fps 52,000 cup 2162 ;

    Accurate Arms 4th Edition for 7.62x39, SKS with 20.5" barrel

    123-gr. FMJ
    24.0 A1680 2233 fps
    26.5 A1680 2350 fps
    26.5 A2230 1840 fps
    29.5 A2230 2086 fps

    PS Ball for comparison, velocities from SKS with 20.5" barrel Chicom 101-71 2415, 11 Sd East German 04-77 2448, 11 Sd

  3. GroovyMike

    GroovyMike Well-Known Member

    My previous tests of 7.62x39 loads were through a Chinese SKS. Last night I shot the Yugo SKS with various loads of Alliant’s 2400.

    As a control I used my previous best load of 23.5 grains of IMR3031 behind the 155 grain gas checked lead bullet. These cycle well and are ‘minute of paper plate’ at 100 yards with iron sites and my poor shooting. This is the load I am trying to beat.

    I found that 14.5 grains or less of Alliant 2400 will not cycle the action with any projectile that I am using.

    But the gas checked cast lead projectile from the .312 155 grain Lee mold cycled well with 15 and 15.5 grains of 2400. I tried these projectiles after running one batch through a .312 sizer and another batch through a .314 sizer. Both shot well at 50 yard ranges without any noticeable difference in my rifle. Every rifle is different, so remember that my results may not be the same as yours. I did not shoot them at 100 yards yet. That will be the next range session with several SKS for side by side comparison of the 3031 load and the 2400 loads.

    I really like the idea that I can get similar performance with 15.5 grains of powder instead of 23.5 grains. Yea, I’m that much of a bean counter that I calculated that the 2400 load gets me 451 cartridges loaded per pound as opposed to 287 from 3031. So 154 more loads per pound of powder. That is a significant difference!

    I also tried the 2400 loads with 152 grain ‘tracer’ mil surp projectiles of .3105 diameter. I tried with loads of 14.5, 15, 15.5 and 15.7 grains of powder. None of them cycled the action at all. Apparently the lead bullets expand in the bore enough to generate more pressure to operate the gas system. But by manually cycling the action I did get good 50 yard accuracy from the jacketed projectiles with every powder load. Each 50 yard five shot group was under a 3 inch spread – again using iron sites and my poor shooting. With more care I’m sure they would shrink, but I am not really interested in a load that won’t cycle the semi’s action. So on to other loads.

    Next steps – try the cast lead loads at 100 yards in tenth of a grain increments, and load up the jacketed projectiles with 2400 at 16 – 18 grains in half grain increments. Buy some R-7.

    The experiments continue!
  4. GroovyMike

    GroovyMike Well-Known Member

    Another range session shows that +/- 15.5 grains of 2400 is a viable cast lead load. Jacketed projectiles seem to do well at about 17.5 grains of 2400, but I am still not sure that either is more accurate than 23.5 grains of IMR3031.
  5. HozayBuck

    HozayBuck Well-Known Member

    Shooting cast bullets in a semiauto is not a good idea, the lead will in time block off the gas port, I did it with my FAL..and got ribbed by my gunsmith who was needed to clean up the mess...

    This is what happened to me..your results may differ...
  6. GroovyMike

    GroovyMike Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the warning. It's a good reminder not to load cast lead to high velocities. I'm guessing that you were pushing those bullets pretty fast. Generally, if you keep cast bullet loads under 1500 fps there is no leading of the barrel. You can go faster than that with a gas checked bullet but in general I try to keep velocity fairly low with cast lead projectiels and have had no problems to date.
  7. GroovyMike

    GroovyMike Well-Known Member

    As with all reloading - use the loads in the manuals- not mine:

    Back to the range last night and with test loads of the mil surp surplus projectiles (varying in weight from 150-155 grains) - 5 shot groups at 50 yards with iron sites with an unmodified Chinese SKS:

    Tried IMR3031 in 23 and 23.5 grains without finding a load that reliably stayed on an 8 inch paper plate at 100 yards.

    19 grains too light to reliably cycle.
    20-21 grains worked well and grouped about 6 inches at 50 yards
    22 grains functioned and groups shrunk to about 5 inches but it felt like too much for the gun. Cases do not show excess pressure signs but the rifle cycled with added recoil - ie felt like the springs were fully compressed.
    23 grains - too hot and less accurate.

    15 grains (my cast lead load) did not cycle with jacketed bullets.
    17.5 grains did not reliably cycle
    18 grains cycled perfectly and delivered +/- 6 inch groups.

    24 and 26 grains functioned perfectly and delivered +/- 6 inch groups. 26 might be a bit hot. I recommend backing down from that a bit.

    So - all in all I was very pleased. I have 3 powders that will deliver functional reliability and enough accuracy that I don't feel like I am wasting componants. My plan is to now tweak these loads in tenth of grain increments and find the one that delivers the most accuracy at 100 yards.

    Again - don't use my loads - consult published reloading manuals, I'm just sharing my experience.
  8. SnakeDoc

    SnakeDoc Well-Known Member

    That ammo is still relatively cheap. Get set up for loading but buy plenty while you can. My two cents.
  9. SwampRat

    SwampRat Old Salt

    I reload for the Mini-30. I do know that there is a BIG difference in 7.62x39 for the Rugar vs the SKS. The Rugar has a bore of .308 while the SKS is a LITTLE bigger (.310-.312). Please do not shoot SKS ammo in a Mini-30!!!

  10. ZombieHitman

    ZombieHitman Member

    Like you, I cast bullets for a variety of calibers, both handgun and long gun.
    Any long gun bullet gets a gas check on principle, as it's often difficult to get the bullet stabilized in flight if it's not going fast enough.
    Handguns, typically with velocities under 1100fps, and a good lube on the bullet, you'll rarely see leading of the bore.
    Long guns are another story in my experience.
    I use LOTS of high temp type lube, light tension in the neck, seat the bullets just off the rifling in the chamber throat, and get very good results in 308, 223, and 50.
    There's a wealth of information on the cast boolits forum, for those who are interested in learning how to do it.
  11. GroovyMike

    GroovyMike Well-Known Member

    yes there is!
  12. ZombieHitman

    ZombieHitman Member

    That's awesome Mike!
    As an aside, my bud and I are looking at doing a rework on a Mosin Nagant 91/30, which uses the 7.62x54R cartridge, so it will use a standard 308 bullet.
    It's a little involved, as we'll be replacing the barrel, reworking the trigger, and putting a sporter style stock on it, but the idea is to learn a few things as well as build one that's super fun to shoot.
    With the number of them that are available on the super cheap, I don't feel too bad about hacking one up for the project.
    Way cheaper than an AK or SKS too...can usually get 3 or more MN's for the price of an AK/SKS...
    Out of the box, same minute of trashcan lid accuracy too...until they get cleaned up well, and the bore unfouled!
    Still, a super inexpensive "ATSHTF" hunting/defense type firearm, and ammo is readily available on the cheap too.
  13. GroovyMike

    GroovyMike Well-Known Member

    Shoot it before you scrap it. I've owned two Mosins. A model 1891 (Czarist rifle) which was minute of angle accurate right out of the box with its cracked stock. I only paid $37.50 for that rifle, sold it for $125 and bought it back for $125 later. The other was a model 91/30 (Soviet era) that held 6-8 inch groups at 100 yards. Learning things is always worth while but it would be a lit easier to just shoot a .310-.312 bullet in the Mosin for better accuracy. If you want a fairly inexpensive 308 bolt action, the Ishapore 'Enfields' already do that with a 10 round magazine.