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7.62×39 Vs 300 Blackout: Complete RECOIL Guide [2023]

To the average shooter, it may not be intuitive to want to compare .300 Blackout to 7.62x39mm, but once you dive into the ballistics, you find that these two are actually pretty similar. Since you’re here, you’ve probably already figured this out and are wondering which one is better for your needs, and how to choose between them.

Well, we’re going to try to settle that.

We’re going to take a close look at these two titans, compare their ballistics, overall pros and cons, and best use cases to help you pick the right one for your next rifle purchase or build, or upcoming shooting adventure. 

SOME IMPORTANT BACKGROUND

The 7.62×39 was developed for the Russian SKS and AK-47 rifles during the end of WWII with some small modifications in the early post-war. Since then, it has been a mainstay among the states of the former Soviet Union and has spread all around the world. 

It was originally developed as an intermediate cartridge to bridge the gap between pistol-caliber sub-machine guns like the PPSH and Thompson, and infantry rifles and machine guns firing .30-06 Springfield, and 7.62x54R. 

SKS with some… upgrades

There was also a lot of influence from the StG44, and its 7.92x33mm Kurtz cartridge, and the Soviets wanted something with similar performance out of a small rifle format. From there, the SKS, AK-47, and RPD machine guns were adopted and used.

In the US, the 7.62×39 is, of course, still popular with shooters who like the SKS and the myriad AK derivatives out there, but it’s also been shoehorned into the AR-15. Truthfully, the round will function in a small-action AR-style system, but it definitely wasn’t designed around working on that platform.

Of course, the idea of shooting a .30 caliber round out of an AR-15 sounds awesome, right? 

Well, AAC thought the same, and that was a big part of the creation of the .300 Blackout. AAC, known for their suppressors, wanted an easily-suppressible, .30-caliber round that would at least be close to the 7.62×39, while also working well in an AR-15.

Thus was the .300 AAC Blackout (.300 BLK) born. It was originally intended to be used with suppressed short-barreled rifles at close ranges, with subsonic ammo, and to fully burn its powder in a short, 9” barrel. 

Daniel Defense M4V5 300Blk Suppressed

In a short-barreled AR, .300 Blackout feeds and cycles reliably, and it doesn’t produce a huge amount of excessive combustion gas or a huge fireball at the end of the barrel. Subsonic loads fired through a suppressor are very quiet and still hit hard enough to reliably stop a human attacker or medium game animal inside of 200 yards.

.300 BLK AND 7.62X39MM TODAY

These days, both of these rounds are fairly popular, especially with hunters in areas like the Eastern United States, where most shots on medium-game animals like deer take place within 200 yards or so due to the terrain and dense brush. 

You can get a variety of rifles for each, as well as pistol-style cut-down guns without a stock, and ammo is available at just about every sporting goods store and online outdoor retailer.

BALLISTIC COMPARISON

As you can probably imagine, due to their similar sizes, and the fact that one was created to more or less imitate the ballistics of the other, these two rounds perform very similarly on paper. 

Depending on the exact brand and load for each, they’re going to be almost the exact same bullet weight, very close in B.C., but different in muzzle velocity. 

Left to right .300BLK, 6mm ARC, 7.62x39, 6.8 SPC II, and 5.56mm
Left to right .300BLK, 6mm ARC, 7.62×39, 6.8 SPC II, and 5.56mm

Generally speaking, 7.62×39 will have about 150-200 FPS more muzzle velocity than 300 BLK, if you’re shooting super-sonic loads.

Sub-sonic loads are basically identical.

REAL WORLD USES

Of course, numbers in a table can only tell you so much about how a round performs. Let’s take a look at some key use cases for these two rounds to give us more of an idea of where each one might outperform the other.

Hunting

Both of these rounds are popular with hunters, especially in places where close to medium-range shots are the norm. These rounds have similar down-range performance, similar performance against soft tissue, and a wide variety of rifles available that are appropriate for hunting.

The 7.62×39 has a longer effective range, but not enough that we’re willing to call it the winner on extra yardage since it doesn’t really have enough power to reliably drop medium game at those distances. Where things start to really differ is in terms of suppressed usage and the quality of available rifles.

300 blackout ammunition boxes
Lots of 300 BLK ammo choices!

The AK-47 may be the most common rifle on the planet, but it's not exactly a go-to hunting rifle. Older SKS rifles are fine for hunting, but they're neither precise nor easy to mount a scope to without extensive modifications.

Uppers in both 7.62×39 and 300 BLK aren’t hard to find for the AR-15. You can also find both in several bolt-action rifles, although these are a bit less common. Either option works well, and both provide basically the same ballistics.

The big difference for AR-15s will be magazines and feeding. Because 300 BLK was designed for the AR-15, it works better in a number of ways. 7.62×39 can work well, but it might take some more fiddling to get right.

Overall, if you’re shooting subsonic and preferably suppressed – 300 BLK takes the win with more availability and better parts. If you want supersonic, 7.62×39 might have a slight edge due to higher MV.

Target Shooting

When it comes to target shooting, energy, sectional density, and penetration are all less of an issue, and the playing field is leveled significantly. 

Both of these rounds are plenty accurate, and the available rifles for them are as well, though it may be a little bit easier to find a 1-MOA .300 BLK rifle than a 1-MOA 7.62×39 one here in the US.

And they both suck at long range, with most shooting topping out at around 300-400 yards, with the 7.62×39 winning out in terms of overall range.

US Palm AK

So to decide on this one, we have to look at another factor: ammo cost. And this is one where the 7.62×39 absolutely blows .300 Blackout out of the water.

It's hard to get a good average cost for ammo these days, considering how volatile things are in terms of price, but rest assured 7.62×39 is cheaper. It's about 30-40% of what .300 BLK is in most cases.

And when it comes to target shooting, price matters, especially for high-volume shooters. So this one goes to the Soviet contender. 

Self-Defense

For self-defense purposes, either of these rounds will be terrifyingly effective. Unless you’re Tom Selleck fighting corrupt cattle baron Alan Rickman in the 1800s (if you actually get that reference, let me know in the comments) then you aren’t ever really going to need to defend yourself at a distance of hundreds of yards.

In terms of tissue damage, these two rounds are going to be about the same, ditto mag capacity, reliability, availability of defensive ammo, etc.

Maxim 300 BLK

Where we start to see a difference is when we look at weapons more optimized for self-defense, like a short-barreled, suppressed weapon. And since most other aspects of these rounds are too similar to really split hairs over, that gives the advantage to the .300 BLK.

With the Blackout, you’re less likely to get gas blowback, it will cycle more reliably in a suppressed firearm, and you won’t lose (much) velocity shooting it out of a short barrel like you will with 7.62×39.

You also won’t get a mini flashbang of a fireball at the end of your barrel each time you shoot.

Suppressed Shooting

It's probably not a shock that the round that was specifically designed to perform well when subsonic and suppressed is the winner here, but there are still some considerations worth keeping in mind.

First, there’s a much lower drop in performance when you fire .300 Blackout out of a short 9” barrel. 7.62×39 really needs a longer barrel to perform well. Once you add a can to that, you end up with not quite a pike of a rifle, but pretty close.

Suppressed AK at CANCON 2022

Subsonic loads will often struggle to cycle in a semi-auto 7.62×39 rifle, and .300 BLK subsonic loads will run all day in almost any AR-15 on the planet. Easy call here.

Available Rifles and Ammo

We’ve touched on this a bit before, but when it comes to overall available rifles and ammo, at least in the Western Hemisphere, .300 Blackout is going to have more and better options available both in terms of rifles and the shiny brass things they eat.

Outside the US, it’s absolutely easier to get your hands on an AK variant or an SKS, or some of the 7.62×39 modern rifles, but here in America, you’re going to have a much easier time getting a .300 Blackout option. 

The same goes for ammo. There’s not a lot of match grade or subsonic 7.62×39 ammo available here in the US unless you’re willing to stalk online retailers looking for a good deal. For general target ammo, you can find plenty of 7.62×39, of course, but it's generally of lower quality. 

No FN SCAR Build (1)
The Cypher X and Plumb Precision AK trigger module allow for rock-n-lock calibers like 7.62×39, 5.45×39, and 5.56×45. With the Steiner CQT thermal red dot sight, it’s like an actual 21st century take on the AK platform.

Now, does that mean you can’t find an insanely good 7.62x39mm rifle that will shoot like a dream and take the wings off a fly at 100 yards? Absolutely not. There’s a huge number of great AK manufacturers and 7.62×39 uppers for ARs in the US if you want to go that route. You’ll just pay a premium for them.

The same goes for ammo. Higher-end or specialty 7.62×39 for hunting, self-defense, or subsonic use is definitely available, but in more limited quantities than equivalent .300 BLK ammo.

The one where the 7.62×39 wins out is when it comes to cheap surplus or steel-cased ammo. If you’re the “buy it cheap and stack it deep” type, then the Russian round wins.

LOOSE ROUNDS

Honestly, both of these rounds are great. They’ve proven themselves (obviously, the 7.62×39 a little more so, at least in terms of time in service), and they each have a place in almost any shooter’s gun safe.

If you’re looking to get one for a specific purpose, hopefully, this has guided you in the right direction. And if you’re looking for an overall winner the answer is simple…

…get both. 

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3 Comments

  • Billy says:

    I said I never had much use for one. Never said I didn’t know how to use it.

  • Andy says:

    Quigley Down Under is one of the most underrated Westerns of all time. How many of us want a Sharps 1874 in .45-110 with a 34″ barrel, double-set triggers, and Vernier tang sight specifically because of that movie?

    [raises hand]

    • Rusty says:

      You know your weapons. It’s a lever-action breech-loader. Usual barrel length’s thirty inches. This one has an extra four. It’s converted to use a special forty-five caliber, hundred-and-ten-grain metal cartridge, with a five-hundred-forty-grain paper patch bullet. It’s fitted with double-set triggers, and a Vernier sight, marked up to twelve-hundred yards. This one shoots a mite further.

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  • Quigley Down Under is one of the most underrated Westerns of all time. How many of us want a Sharps 1874 in .45-110 with a 34" barrel, double-set triggers, and Vernier tang sight specifically because of that movie?

    [raises hand]

    • You know your weapons. It's a lever-action breech-loader. Usual barrel length's thirty inches. This one has an extra four. It's converted to use a special forty-five caliber, hundred-and-ten-grain metal cartridge, with a five-hundred-forty-grain paper patch bullet. It's fitted with double-set triggers, and a Vernier sight, marked up to twelve-hundred yards. This one shoots a mite further.

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