A Gun Tests reader asked how well an over-the-counter AK-47 can shoot, so we bought one and an SKS and went to the range.
Recently, a Gun Tests reader requested that we gauge the accuracy of 7.62x39mm loads in the AK-47 rifle, with an eye toward evaluating the AK for ad hoc hunting, if the opportunity arose. Many of these rifles are in use in America, so determining the ability of the rifle to humanely harvest a deer or hog seemed like a good idea to check out. The 7.62x39mm cartridge is often compared to the 30-30 Winchester in power, and if the AK-47 and its loads were accurate enough, then the pair could be counted upon to take thin-skinned game at moderate distance. The question is, how accurate is commonly available ammunition in an average AK-47 at 100 yards? To find out, we obtained an AK-47 from the used rack at a pawn shop. The rifle featured an NDS receiver and seemed well put together. While we were there, we also grabbed an SKS chambered for the same round, in this case a Chinese rifle in excellent condition with matching serial numbers on its parts.
Benchresting the AK and its long magazine produced some difficulties. We found it is not an easy rifle from which to coax accuracy. The SKS was easier to use well off the bench, especially when using the onboard iron sights. After initial sighting work at 50 yards to get on the paper, we fired a succession of three-shot groups at 100 yards, sighting both at the base of an 8-inch bull. At the end, we found the SKS to be slightly more accurate with the ammo we selected.
In broad terms, then, we think most shooters can get commonly available AK-47s to shoot around 4-inch groups at 100 yards, good enough to take game at that distance. We had slightly better results with the SKS, and would think of it as a 3.5-inch gun at that range. Also, we found a few rounds these guns preferred, so if you’re attempting to knock a hog in the head, you might consider starting with our winners in your own AK or SKS. Following are our ratings for eight ammunition choices suitable for the AK-47 or SKS variants, and you can also scan the results in the accompanying table.
Note: Prices have changed since we began this test, so the cited costs aren’t necessarily current.
|Tula 122-gr. FMJ||AK-47||SKS|
|Average Velocity||2224 fps||2269 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||1339 ft.-lbs.||1394 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||4.5 in.||3.6 in.|
|Wolf 123-gr. FMJ||AK-47||SKS|
|Average Velocity||2280 fps||2301 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||1419 ft.-lbs.||1446 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||4.2 in.||3.8 in.|
|Winchester 123-gr. FMJ||AK-47||SKS|
|Average Velocity||2266 fps||2321 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||1402 ft.-lbs.||1471 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||4.1 in.||3.8 in.|
|Fiocchi 123-gr. FMJ||AK-47||SKS|
|Average Velocity||2281 fps||2312 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||1421 ft.-lbs.||1459 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||3.5 in.||3.4 in.|
|Winchester 123-gr. JSP||AK-47||SKS|
|Average Velocity||2290 fps||2331 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||1432 ft.-lbs.||1484 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||3.6 in.||3.8 in.|
|Remington 125-gr. JSP||AK-47||SKS|
|Average Velocity||2325 fps||2380 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||1500 ft.-lbs.||1572 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||3.9 in.||3.6 in.|
|Hornady 123-gr. SST||AK-47||SKS|
|Average Velocity||2341 fps||2355 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||1496 ft.-lbs.||1514 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||3.7 in.||2.9 in.|
|Cor-Bon 150-gr. JSP||AK-47||SKS|
|Average Velocity||2325 fps||2354 fps|
|Muzzle Energy||1800 ft.-lbs.||1845 ft.-lbs.|
|Average Group||3.8 in.||3.6 in.|
|Notes: Average velocity readings were recorded by firing three-shot strings over a Competition Electronics Pro Chrono. The muzzle was 12 feet from the first skyscreen. Ambient temperature: 29 degrees. Elevation: 815 feet above sea level. The accuracy figures are the average of three three-shot groups. For accuracy, we fired the test gun from a benchrest bag at a 100-yard target.|
Hornady 123-gr. SST H8078
Purchased from CheaperthanDirt.com for $36.43/50, a quick calculation shows that 20 shots would round out to be just less than $15, to put the numbers on par. The Hornady SST is put up in steel cases, which is fine, and the ammunition is priced fairly. The Hornady 123-gr. SST was among the better AK loads and also gave the best results of any of the jacketed-soft-point loads when fired in the SKS rifle. But we gave the most weight to the AK results because that is what the reader asked for. The Hornady 123-gr. SST is arguably the best buy JSP by no small margin.
Gun Tests Grade: A (Best Buy)
Fiocchi Shooting Dynamics 123-gr. FMJ #1836515864
Purchased from MidwayUSA.com for $8.86/20, the Fiocchi loading cost almost twice what the Tula load costs, but if you want superior accuracy, the Fiocchi delivers. Complete reliability is there as well, and you have no worries concerning extractor wear as with steel case ammunition. The Fiocchi load was among the most accurate tested. We wondered what it might do in a more accurate rifle than our AK and SKS choices.
Gun Tests Grade: A
Winchester 123-gr. FMJ Q3174
Purchased from MidwayUSA for $17.95/20, this is a good solid choice, widely available, reliable. It was accurate enough for meaningful practice. However, it is expensive and cost nearly as much as the JSP loads. But it burns cleanly and offers a brass cartridge case for reloading.
Gun Tests Grade: A
Remington Express 125-gr. JSP R762391
Purchased from CheaperthanDirt.com for $24.21/20, this soft-point hunting load is reliable, accurate enough for hunting, and uses a JSP bullet. The price is favorable. However, the Winchester and Hornady loads were incrementally more accurate. The Remington did best the Winchester load in the SKS.
Gun Tests Grade: A
Winchester 123-gr. JSP X76239
Purchased from CheaperthanDirt.com for $26.62/20, this was the most accurate of the JSP loads in the AK rifle. Clean burning, accurate and reliable, the Winchester 123-gr. JSP seems to be available from numerous outlets. It is more expensive than either the Remington or the Hornady JSP. It was the only load that performed less accurately in the SKS than the AK-47.
Gun Tests Grade: A
Cor-Bon Hunter 150-gr. JSP HT762X39150
Purchased from Midway for $33.99/20, any way you slice it, the Cor-Bon Hunter load has the most energy of all of the loads tested. It is accurate enough, and while we did not test penetration and expansion, this is a load that is more comparable to the 30-30 WCF than the other loadings. It’s definitely pricey, but with good performance. At the present, it is difficult to obtain.
Gun Tests Grade: A
Wolf 123-gr. FMJ
We bought this from MidwayUSA.com for $6.19/20, making it the second least expensive loading tested. It was also the second least accurate, so we got our money’s worth. There were no malfunctions of any type. We rated the WPA Military Classic down one grade on accuracy, but it is still a good resource and a good buy for practice and plinking.
Gun Tests Grade: B
Tula 122-gr. FMJ ULO76201
We bought this at CheaperthanDirt.com for $4.79/40, making it the least expensive ammunition tested — and also the least accurate. Just the same, this ammunition is accurate enough for practice, and it is cheap. The only malfunction of the test came when a steel-cased Tula cartridge was caught in the magazine lips of the AK-47. We rated the load down one grade for poor accuracy and another for the malfunction. We’d use it for informal practice and plinking.
Gun Tests Grade: C
Written and photographed by R.K. Campbell, using evaluations from Gun Tests team testers.