Friday, April 2, 2021

Saving a lot of money on defensive rifle practice ammo


On more than one occasion, I've suggested that it's not a bad idea to have an upper receiver group for your AR-15 chambered in something other than the "traditional" 5.56x45mm NATO.  I've usually recommended 7.62x39mm Soviet/Russian, because of its significantly lower price compared to cartridges like the 300 AAC Blackout.

Here's more evidence that, even in this age of drastic ammo shortages and soaring prices, the cost differential can still be very much in your favor.  SG Ammo, my favorite online dealer, sent out its latest newsletter yesterday.  In it, the following rounds were advertised:

500 Round Case - 5.56mm 62 Grain Green Tip FMJ M855 IMI Ammo Made by Israel Military Industries - $399.00.  This translates to a cost per round of 79.8 cents - let's round it to 80 cents.

1000 Round Case - Wolf 7.62x39 122 Grain FMJ Ammo Made by UCW - $439.50.  This translates to a cost per round of 43.95 cents - let's round it to 44 cents.

(There's cheaper 7.62x39mm available from SG, but it has corrosive primers [not a problem if you clean your rifle after every range session, but a complication I'd prefer to avoid if possible].  Also, unlike this type of Wolf ammo, it's coated in lacquer, a Soviet and Russian standard for mil-spec steel-cased ammunition.  Their weapons are designed around it, so it doesn't cause problems for them, but the AR-15 has tighter tolerances, so it can experience some difficulties feeding and functioning with steel-cased ammo in general, and lacquer-coated ammo in particular.  I don't mind that for training purposes - it gives me a chance to practice failure drills, something we should all be doing regularly - and anyway, the malfunctions are few and far between.)

Thus, even at today's appallingly inflated ammo prices, decent-quality 7.62x39mm can be had for only slightly more than half the cost per round of decent-quality 5.56x45mm.  That's a very compelling saving.  What's more, if you know what you're doing and can get the parts, you can build an AR-15 upper receiver group in 7.62x39mm for about $450, even today.  (I just priced the components to confirm that.  It's a realistic total.  If you prefer, you can buy a pre-built one, in carbine or pistol configuration, for $499.99.)  That means you could buy 1,000 rounds of Wolf 7.62x39mm, and an upper receiver group to fire it, for $939.49 - not much more than the cost ($798.00) of 1,000 rounds of IMI 5.56x45mm (it's a difference of only $141.49).  After that initial expense, every time you bought ammo for training purposes, you'd pay about half the cost per round for 7.62x39mm as opposed to what you'd have had to spend on 5.56x45mm.

Savings like that are not to be sneezed at.  If you're finding it difficult to afford (or to justify the cost of) 5.56x45mm training ammo, you might want to consider that alternative.



FinnHarps said...

Sounds like a good idea. What mags would the AR lower w/upper chambered for 7.62x39mm use?

Magpul makes 20 and 30-round mags for the 7.62x39 cartridge but lists it for the AK platform. Does it also work on an AR lower?


Peter said...

@FinnHarps: Several companies make 7.62x39mm magazines for the AR platform. I prefer the Duramag range:

Midway USA also make their own house brand magazines for that cartridge:

I've used both companies' products, and been satisfied.

Brad_in_IL said...

Another option is the "Bravo" 22lr conversion kit from CMMG. I mated up that little device with a 16" 5.56 Stoner upper. Note - the CMMG kit does not like notched AR hammers, so there's that. Couple weeks ago I took my setup to the range for stress testing. I was shooing 38- and 40-grain copper plated Aguila, 36 grain copper plated Federal bulk pack stuff, and poly coated CCI Clean. All ammo was spec'd for at least 1200 fps, aka high velocity. The Aguila was by far the dirtiest, nastiest, smelliest ammo of the lot. It also felt a tad bit "hotter" than the other stuff. After ~700 rounds, I gave up. I could not make the system jam, bugger up, or otherwise stop running. Clean up was awful, but the concept works. It allows me to run all my standard "short range" AR drills for a fraction of the cost of .223/5.56 ammo, save the "magazine" malfunction drills.

One other caveat ... For the aforementioned stress test, groups were okay - about 2" at 50 yards, but I did not set my optics for accuracy - impact was about 4 inches below point of aim. No surprise considering the diff in velocity between rimfire and full house .223/5.56 fodder.

There you have it .. another option for reduced-cost training.

Unknown said...

If you build a AR platform firearm based on the 7.62 X 39 ammo, make sure you have a good supply of extractors. My experience seeing them on the range as well as John Farnam's Quips comments is they tend to break fairly regularly.


Eck! said...

From teh school of save a buck...

I prefer the .22 nitro-piston air rifle. Only 1100fps.
I figre at 50 yds If I cant hit it with that a
.300 blackout isn't going to help.

That and an abundance of active gray targets...


Peter said...

@Unknown: Good point on the extractors, but I submit the problem is compounded by failure to clean your weapon after every use. Most of the breakages I've seen have been on weapons that had fired hundreds or thousands of rounds over several range sessions without being cleaned, particularly the chamber and bolt recesses. By keeping those areas clean and lubricated, I've never yet had an extractor (in any caliber) break on an AR-15. (The relatively "dirty" ammo in 7.62x39mm doesn't help, of course - the firearms get dirtier a lot faster than with 5.56x45mm.)

YMMV, of course - it may be I've just been lucky - but I suspect a lot of people simply don't bother to maintain their weapons as they should.

Will said...

Those Duramags are made by C-products, Saw a video demo at SHOT back before they made them available. They were designed to function in a full auto system, which indicates a good design. You can shoot a Russian caliber AR with most any 5.56 mag, as long as you don't load more than 5 rounds, as the taper of the case makes them tilt enough that they won't feed.

Will said...

that ammo you show is listed with "magnetic bi-metallic" jacket. That translates into a mild steel jacket with a copper wash. Probably has a steel core, with a lead sleeve between core and jacket. These tend to be very accurate, until the barrel rifling wears. That bore will be a loose smoothbore by 6k rounds. Accuracy will be gone long before that count. The Russians and other users throw the gun away at 6k.

Don't shoot this at metallic targets, or indoor ranges.
It will fail the magnet test in competitions.
This is Berdan primed, so no reloading the case.

Not as good a deal as it first appears. I would class it as SHTF trade goods, unless you have a stash of spare barrels.

Peter said...

@Will: Yes, I do have spare barrels; but I have one with over 5,000 rounds of 7.62x39mm through it, all Russian mil-spec, and it shows no signs of undue wear. I don't think the problem is as severe as some make it out to be.