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Best 7.62×39 AR-15 Uppers [2023 Buyer’s Guide]



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The AR-15 platform has become synonymous with versatility, offering shooters a wide range of options to customize their firearms. 

One popular choice for AR enthusiasts is 7.62x39mm caliber, famous for its power and reliability, not to mention being the round used by the venerable AK-47.  

In this article, we will dive into the world of 7.62×39 AR-15 uppers and highlight some of the best options available for those looking to experience the potency of the caliber.

Why Choose a 7.62×39 Upper?

Let’s start by talking about why you might want to opt for a 7.62×39 upper in the first place. 

Ammo Cost 

One of the significant advantages of 7.62x39mm is its affordability. It is commonly available and typically less expensive than other rifle calibers, making it an attractive choice for shooters who want to spend more time on the range without breaking the bank.

These days, 7.62×39 is about the same or even more than .223 Rem – but we can hope that changes as prices normalize.

Barrel Life

7.62x39mm is known for having moderate recoil and less barrel wear compared to high-velocity rounds. This results in extended barrel life, allowing shooters to enjoy their rifles for longer periods before requiring barrel replacements.

Kinetic Energy

7.62x39mm delivers impressive kinetic energy, making it a reliable choice for medium-range shooting. 

Thanks to its greater bullet mass and higher energy relative to 5.56x45mm NATO, 7.62x39mm provides better stopping power and performs well against soft targets, making it suitable for hunting or self-defense purposes.

Within 300 yards, it provides significant stopping power, making it suitable for hunting, self-defense, or target shooting.

Fun Factor

Finally, shooting 7.62x39mm from an AR-15 is just plain fun. It offers a unique shooting experience, combining the familiarity of the AR-15 with the hard-hitting characteristics of the cartridge.

Cons to Consider

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses. There are a few downsides to keep in mind too.

Extractor/Bolt Life

7.62x39mm can be demanding on extractors and bolts due to the larger case being forced into a bolt designed for something much smaller. While it works, there is less metal around the rim, and loses out on durability.

(left) 7.62×39 AR-15 bolt Vs. (right) standard 5.56 NATO bolt

This can potentially lead to more frequent replacements or maintenance compared to other calibers. It is essential to use quality components and properly maintain your firearm to mitigate these issues. 

Parts Interchangeability

One of the huge benefits of the standard AR platform is interchangeability. However, you lose a lot of that with 7.62x39mm. Upper and lowers are often incompatible between brands and even within brands. 

It’s crucial to ensure compatibility when selecting components and accessories to avoid headaches in the future. Choosing a complete upper group can help you avoid some of the difficulty of making sure your parts are compatible, at least within the upper assembly.

Some Finessing Required

7.62×39 AR-15 uppers may require some fine-tuning and adjustments to run smoothly. This can involve optimizing gas systems, buffer weights, and magazines to ensure reliable feeding and cycling. While it may take some initial experimentation, once properly tuned, these uppers can provide excellent performance.

Recoil

7.62x39mm generates more recoil than 5.56x45mm NATO. This can affect follow-up shots, especially when shooting rapidly. This can be mitigated through tuning the rifle and using a muzzle brake, but the same can be said for 5.56.

Accuracy & Range 

Lack of accuracy with 7.62×39 is often more the fault of the ammo than it is the gun. Because this has been a budget caliber for so long, there really aren’t a lot of loads that focus on long range accuracy.

On top of that, it tends to drop like a rock once it gets past about 300 yards.

Top 7.62×39 AR-15 Uppers

Still convinced that a 7.62×19 AR-15 upper is for you? Great! Let’s talk about the best options out there.

CMMG Banshee MK47

One of the standout features of the CMMG Banshee MK47 is its compatibility with AK-47 magazines. In fact, CMMG was the first manufacturer to make a lower that was compatible with AK-47 mags. 

This gives shooters a lot more options since AK-47 magazines are available in more capacities and just easier to source than AR-47 mags. AK mags also feed more reliably than AR mags. 

The downside of this is that it must be used with mid-size Mk47 lower receivers. For the record, both the Banshee MK47 and Resolute MK47 are great options for pairing with the Banshee upper. 

The Banshee MK47 is a complete upper group, including not just the receiver, but also the complete bolt carrier group, barrel, ZEROED AR15 Polymer Dust Cover, ZEROED Mk47 Ambi Charging Handle, and ZEROED Linear Compensator.

In terms of ergonomics, the Banshee MK47 offers a compact and lightweight design that is highly maneuverable, with both 8” and 12.5” barrel options available. Its short barrel length and overall length make it ideal for close-quarters engagements or applications where mobility is crucial. 

The Banshee MK47 incorporates ambidextrous controls, allowing for easy manipulation of the firearm from either side, enhancing versatility and adaptability.

This upper is available in seven different Cerakote finishes to give you just the look you want, and the M-LOK handguard and Picatinny rails along the top of the receiver group give you plenty of real estate for adding your favorite accessories. 

Palmetto State Armory KS-47

The Palmetto State Armory KS-47 gives you a more budget-conscious alternative that still uses AK-47 mags. Again, however, you again have to be sure to use a KS-47 lower. And, in fact, there actually two generations, and while you can use an upper from one gen with a lower from the other, it won’t perform as well as if you used Gen 2 parts for both. 

However, it’s still very modular, using an AR-style configuration that allows easier swapping of parts, and different barrel configurations with the same lower receiver. 

And speaking of configurations, the KS-47 is available in a bunch, including a stripped upper and several different complete upper assemblies with 8.5, 10.5, and 16-inch barrels. The various complete offers allow you to go for a more AR-15 or AK-47 aesthetic.

Palmetto State Armory AR-47

The PSA AR-47 upper is another cost-effective option, but in contrast with the KS-47, the AR47 uses AR-15 magazines. It even allows shooters to utilize their existing AR-15 lower receiver for even more affordability. 

There aren’t as many configuration options for the AR-47 as the KS-47, but you still have several options to choose from, including options with an option with a 7-inch barrel, one with a 10.5-inch barrel, and two 16-inch barrel options. 

All have M-LOK handguards and a top Picatinny rail for mounting your various accessories. All also have a threaded barrel with an A2-style flash hider. 

Faxon ARAK-21

The most notable feature of the Faxon ARAK-21 is its unique operating system that combines a long-stroke piston with a rotating bolt design. 

This gas piston system reduces recoil, minimizes fouling, and enhances the overall reliability of the upper. The long-stroke piston design ensures that the ARAK-21 operates smoothly and consistently, even in adverse conditions. With this system, you can expect consistent, reliable cycling with minimal maintenance. 

The unusual system does mean that only the firing pin, extractor spring, and ejector spring are interchangeable with standard AR-15 parts, but this upper can be used with a standard AR-15 lower.

The Faxon ARAK-21 also offers excellent customization options. It features a full-length Picatinny rail on the upper receiver and an M-LOK handguard, offering plenty of flexibility for accessory attachment. It comes in two configurations, one with a 12.5-inch barrel and one with a 16-inch barrel.

Radical Firearms 7.62×39 Upper

The Radical Firearms 7.62×39 Upper is a popular choice for shooters looking for a reliable and affordable option. With a 16-inch barrel and a low-profile gas block, it offers consistent performance and accuracy. Compatible with most standard AR-15 lower receivers, this upper is easy to integrate into your existing firearm collection.

The Radical Firearms 7.62x39mm Upper features a 16-inch barrel with a carbine-length gas system, ensuring reliable cycling and consistent performance. The HBAR profile barrel is constructed from durable 4150 chrome moly vanadium and finished with melonite, enhancing longevity and corrosion resistance. 

This upper is available in six configurations with 10.5, 12, and 15-inch barrels, each available with either an M-LOK hybrid rail or an M-LOK thin rail. Regardless of the barrel length, the muzzle is threaded and capped with an A2 flash suppressor. 

Parting Shots

A 7.62×39 AR-15 upper offers shooters a powerful and versatile platform that combines the familiarity of the AR-15 with the hard-hitting capabilities of 7.62x39mm.

Whether you're looking to save on ammunition costs, extend barrel life, experience more kinetic energy within 300 yards, or simply have fun with a hard-hitting caliber, a 7.62×39 AR-15 is a great choice. 

And whether you're looking for an affordable option, AK-47 compatibility, or piston-driven versatility, there are a variety of choices available to suit your needs. Each option that we’ve included here brings its unique features and advantages. The right one for you just depends on your individual wants and needs. 

So, explore the options, choose wisely, and enjoy the thrill of shooting a 7.62×39 AR-15.

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