The Mosin Nagant’s 7.62 x 54R Cartridge: 11 things to know

7.62x54R Has Been in Continued Military use for 130 Years

It was first developed in 1891, in an attempt to create a repeating smokeless powder rifle that would be able to hold its own on the battlefield against the early Mauser designs of the 1870s and 1880s. The bolt-action repeating design was new technology and proved better than lever actions.

The Russian Empire sought to keep its military might secure and worked to design a new, simple repeating rifle and a powerful (at the time) smokeless powder cartridge as a battlefield weapon. The cartridge officially never changed since, although different bullet options are used today.

This cartridge predates the trusty 30-06 by thirteen years. There are two interesting parts to the design. the case has a fairly sharp taper to it. This was done to aid in extraction. If a case moves the tiniest bit back, it comes out easily even in a severely dirty chamber. The tapered case allows it to come out easily when a straight-walled case would just get stuck.

Then there’s the rim. That’s what the “R” stands for in the name. The cartridge has a very large, distinct rim. This is part of an old-school thought. The rim makes it easier for the bolt face to grab and hold the cartridge. At least it did with some older designs.

The rim also creates an issue with designing a reliable magazine, but the Russian figured that out over a hundred years ago. I find that interesting because gunmakers today have a lot of trouble trying to make a rimmed cartridge feed reliably from a box magazine when the Mosin Nagant has done that perfectly since the 1800s.

7.62x52R can be More Powerfull than 30-06.

7.62x54R is a goofy cartridge by today’s standards. It’s a huge case, partially filled with a large volume of slow-burning smokeless powder. The specs on the cartridge require a low chamber pressure, hence the slow-burning powder.

The slow-burning powder is pretty crappy in short barrels of the Mosin carbines, pushing a 180-grain bullet about 2,200 fps. But in a full-sized, 29.5-inch barrel, it will usually get just shy of 2,800 fps. those long barrels allow the Mosin to reach its full potential.

Standard 180 grain 30-06 rounds have a published velocity of between 2,650 and 2,700 fps. Some hotrod loads will be faster, but that’s the normal range. Here’s the kicker: the data on 30-06 velocity is based on a 24-inch barrel, but the average 30-06 barrel is 20 inches.

We see closer to 2,550-2,600 fps from store-bought 180 grain ammo in a standard 30-06 rifle. The standard 7.62x45R (the Mosin Nagant) preforms to published data, around 2,750 fps. That means that the average Mosin is more powerful than the average 30-06.

7.62x54R is Technically 5% Less Powerfull than a .308

I know what you’re saying, and no, I’m not contradicting myself. The previous section explains the difference in standard barrel lengths between the Mosin and 30-06. Here, we will compare rifles of the same barrel length.

Mosin carbines have a 20-inch barrel. Most .308 rifles have a 20-inch barrel. Here’s how they stack up. A standard 150-grain load in a .308 with a 20-inch barrel is going to be around 2,700 fps. a 7.62x54R in a 20-inch barrel, such as a Mosin carbine, clocks in at around 2,600fps with a similarly weighted bullet.

So, all things equal, the Mosin is a tad under a .308. However, since all things aren’t usually equal, the 7.62x54R tends to edge ahead of the 30-06. It may look funny with that funky long barrel, but if it looks stupid and works, it’s not completely stupid.

The 7.62x54R can be a Tack Driver!

I know it usually has a bad rap for inaccuracy, but that’s not the bullet’s fault. I and others have all shot MOA and sub MOA with this cartridge. Just not in the standard rifle. The old Mosin, like all the military rifles of its time, was made without much thought to pinpoint accuracy.

It used to be considered fine if you kept an 8-inch group at 100 yards. Stocks and triggers were crude, and the sights lousy. It can certainly be a good shooter. The 7.62x54R in a good rifle will perform like any match-grade 30 caliber rifle. it’s mostly all in the rifle. Even bad ammo in a good rifle can shoot 1 to 3 MOA.

This has been proven time and time again. the real issue here is that most of the rifles chambered for this cartridge are crudely made military guns with more thought given to operating under any condition than to shooting tight groups.

I recently gave a spruced-up Mosin to my brother in Texas. That rifle shoots MOA with steel-cased Barnaul ammo all day long. It’s all about the rifle.

The most Common Sniper Rifle in the World fires 7.62x54R

The Dragonuz Sniper is used across Europe and even in Asian countries. It’s a semi-automatic rifle that looks like a stretched-out AK47. That’s because It’s made with a lot of the Kolishnikov design put into it.

There are over 50 nations that have issued this rifle to snipers since it was made in 1963. There is an updated version, but it wasn’t much different from the original. This gun is what kept the 7.62x54R cartridge on the map for military use. It’s the most widely used sniper rifle in the world.

It’s not considered a good rifle by our standards in the US. The Dragonuv is clunky, heavy, loose-fitting, and not overly accurate. I’d be amazed if one would consistently hit the 4-inch gong at my gun club’s 400-yard berm.

That same range hosts a statewide law-enforcement sniper competition. None of them have trouble hitting the 3-inch gong. A lot of the world has a different perspective on firearms than we do in the US. We prefer precision and marksmanship to just shooting a lot in a general direction.

The Dragonuv can shoot 1 MOA, which is sufficient for a good shooter to make hits to 800 yards. However, that usually requires fine-tuning the trigger, getting more quality ammo, and playing with the stock quite a bit. The barrel length ranges from 22 to 24 inches, so it doesn’t really get the full potential of the 7.62x54R cartridge.

The Original 7.62x54R Load was Crap

Not too surprising for one of the first military smokeless powder cartridges, the first rendition of 7.62x54r was a royal failure in ballistics. The original loading, used from 1891 to 1908 fired a blunt, round-nosed 210-grain bullet at a velocity of 2,200fps.

That’s a pretty crappy velocity from a .30 caliber smokeless powder rifle. It really was hardly anything more than black powder rifles could reach at the time.

This was due to the old way of thinking that a heavy, blunt bullet would create a larger wound. The dismal round had a max practical distance of 400 yards. Early in the 1900s, it was finally determined that a lighter bullet would give an advantage on the battlefield.

The 210-grain bullet was replaced with a 147-grain Spitzer bullet which gained 630 fps and 400 yards of practical killing distance. This new load made the gun much flatter shooting. Interestingly enough, the original load was downloaded by today’s standards. The original load generated about 43,000 psi of chamber pressure, while modern loadings can generate over 55,000 psi in the same gun.

7.62x54r has been used by the US Marines.

When I bought my first Mosin Nagant, the gun store clerk who had recently come back from Afghanistan, told me that he had fired the same round from old Soviet machineguns while in the service. According to that tall marine, they had brought the old machine guns out of storage and used them in training drills.

With a bit of research, I dug up information on how the US marines worked to familiarize themselves with variants of the Russian PK machinegun. It was commonly used by both our enemies and allied in the war, and it was deemed necessary to know how to properly operate one of these old machineguns from the Cold-War era.

It makes great sense to familiarize yourself with a weapon that is common in battle. They did the same with the AK47. I can imagine multiple scenarios where it might be handy to be able to use the weapons of your allies or enemies. I always advocate for cross-training. learn to use weapons other than what you have.

If you had any experience with any version of the PK Machinegun in the Service, I’d love to hear about it in the comments at the bottom of the article.

The 7.62x54R was developed before the Mosin.

Oftentimes, a new cartridge is developed alongside of a new rifle, but that’s not how it worked out. I’m not sure who actually designed the cartridge itself. The only records that I can find point out that it was developed by the Russian Empire.

7.62x54R first came into light when it was introduced into service as the new standard-issue cartridge for the Russians, alongside the 3-line rifle, later renamed the Mosin Rifle. The whole renaming thing was due to one of the main engineers, Captain Sergei Mosin, raising a ruckus that his name wasn’t on the gun.

The cartridge was designed first, then the Russian government had engineers submit designs to use it in a full-length rifle. Captain Sergei Mosin’s design was the choice, but some designs from Émile Nagant, a Belgin gun and automobile maker, were also applied to the finished product.

The Mosin Nagant is Still Used by Modern Militaries

Modern may not be the right word for it. Several nations in the middle east have and still use the Mosin Nagant as a sniper rifle. They popped up from time to time during the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some were original PU sniper configurations, and some were a slightly more modern adaptation.

The Mosin is currently issued in small numbers in Syria, I think, (a lot has gone on there lately). It’s even reportedly still used by Russian police and military units from time to time. Most of the modern fighting Mosins are all in a sniper configuration.

It’s no surprise really. It worked then and it’ll work now. It’s used in the same capacity as other bolt-action rifles utilized by the US military. Slow fire applications, mainly in support positions. Some of these rifles have seen nearly constant military action for over 120 years. Sure, they’ve likely been refurbished but it’s still an ugly feat of old-school die-hard engineering.

The 7.62x54R Is Considered a Bear and Moose Gun in Europe

This shouldn’t be surprising if you look at the ballistics. Bauraul sells one particularly effective load for large game. They have a 203 grain, traditional copper jacketed lead soft point bullet loaded in a steel case. It’s a budget option and a hard hitter. It’s a slow one too. Anything over 180 grains really starts putting the breaks on with the 7.62x54r

Consider that the Alaskan game department recommends .308 and 30-06 with a 200-grain bullet for coastal brown bears. The Mosin is certainly up to the task. Just realize that a bullet that heavy from any of these calibers is going fairly slow and will have a lot of drop and wind play unless it has a high ballistic coefficient.

If the only rifle you have is chambered in 7.62x54R, don’t feel too underwhelmed. Even in a shorter 20-inch barrel, it will still be sufficient at a shorter distance. A 20-inch barrelled 7.62x54R has ballistics similar to a 30/30, just with a lot more noise and a sizeable fireball at the muzzle.

It’s not just for big animals, the 7.62x54R cartridge is a perfect choice for deer, antelope, and wild hogs. It’s a perfect rifle for medium and large game. Pretty much everything short of serious African game is more than manageable with this cartridge.

It’s a Flame Thrower in Short Barrels.

This cartridge simply does not burn its powder in short barrels. I’ve seen my fair share of flame spouting Mosins because the powder won’t burn in a 20-inch barrel. That creates a pretty big fireball. If you fire it near dusk, you may have to wait a few seconds to get your vision back. That’s another downfall of this cartridge. It just doesn’t lend itself well to compact rifles.

Some have estimated as much as 30 percent of the powder doesn’t burn up on that barrel length. All that powder continues to burn up out of the barrel. If you want both a flashbang and a rifle in one, hey it’s a package deal.

If you have a few minutes to spare, go to Youtube and search “M44 Mosin Nagant Fireball”. It’s impressive.

Biden Doesn’t Like the 7.62x45R

Joe Biden has specifically talked about this kind of deadly weapon. He has condemned such “weapons of war” and “guns designed to kill people”. His press secretary is probably preparing a speech right now on how gun stores have flooded our streets with high-power military-grade rifles, and the Russians are behind it.

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4 Comments

  1. E. Scott Smith says:

    What modern rifle stock would you recommend for a mosin nagant? Also, medium to long range scope. I would like to dig my old nagant out of the locker and build one of those nail drivers you talked about.
    Thanks,
    E. Scott Smith

    1. My favorite stock is the Archangel AA9130. It should fit any Mosin. Some require a little sanding out of the stock under the receiver because some of the rifles have out of spec dimensions. The Archangel is a modern tactical look and is an adjustable stock. If you want a beautiful wood stock, you need to go to Boyds Gunstocks online.

  2. Rick Dobbins says:

    Love tour page! I have two Moist Nuggets, both bought at Big5 for $125 each. Good Ol\’ Days. One is a throw down gun, the other I accurized with Milsurp\’s Bedding Kit. Sweet, beautiful, sub-MOA shooting rifle now! Keep up the great work Jordan!