The 7.62x54mmR Cartridge
The 7.62x54mmR cartridge was introduced as a service cartridge 123 years ago, in 1891, and remains in military service today.
It has the longest service life of all military cartridges in the world. It is currently used mostly in sniper rifles such as the Dragunov (the Снайперская винтовка Драгунова or Snayperskaya Vintovka Dragunova, SVD) and some machine guns such as the PKM. As for history, it was designed for the Imperial Russian Винтовка Мосина or Vintovka Mosina, the "3-Line" Rifle sometimes called the "Mosin-Nagant" outside Russia.
|7.62 mm||=||bore diameter|
|54 mm||=||case length|
Its ballistic performance is similar to that of the 7.62x51mm NATO or .308 Winchester cartridge, and close to that of the .30-06 Springfield.
Its cartridge case has a capacity of 4.16 ml. The official C.I.P. guidelines say that the 7.62x54mmR case can handle up to 390 MPa (or 56,564 psi) piezo pressure.
Metallurgy became more important in arms design around the time of the cartridge's development. The gun's receiver and barrel obviously had to be stronger to contain the higher pressures of smokeless powder. The ammunition's case also had to be strong enough to withstand increased pressure and then be yanked from the chamber by the extractor and kicked aside with the ejector so the next round could be automatically stripped from the stack in the magazine and slammed into place.
The bullet's jacket and its binding to the core had to withstand the rapid linear and rotational acceleration through the rifled barrel. The common rifling twist for this round is 1 turn in 240 mm (or 9.45 inches); four grooves of diameter 7.92 mm, lands of width 3.81 mm and diameter 7.62 mm.
The original design used a 13.7 gram (210 grain) round-nosed full metal jacket bullet. Although it seems obvious to us in today's world of aviation, pointed bullets have better aerodynamic performance. The French were the first to recognize this, with a design in 1898.
The French bullet design of 1898 was followed by a German version in 1905 and the U.S. .30-06 Springfield in 1906. The pointed shape came to be called spitzer, from the German word for "pointed bullet", Spitzgeschoss. Use of a German term makes sense, what with Germany always marching around Europe shooting up the place.
The Imperial Russian forces had noticed the ballistic disadvantages of the round-nosed bullet in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904. In 1908 the Russian armory introduced the Лёхая Пуля or Lyokhaya Pulya, the pointed bullet. It is a 9.7 gram (148 grain) spitzer-shaped full metal jacketed bullet. The 1908 design is the one still used today, some 106 years later. There have always, of course, been slight variations around the main spitzer design. The Dragunov SVD sniper rifle uses the 7N1 variant, with different powder and a 9.7 gram (152-grain) boat-tailed FMJ bullet.
The British finally followed with their Mark VII in 1914. Pointed bullets had caught on.
Commercial 7.62x54mmR Ammunition
Commercial 7.62x54mmR ammunition is available. Here is a package from Brown Bear, made in Russia.
It's interesting that it's the same paper-wrapped package of 20 rounds found in the military "spam can" packages.
That's a military surplus package torn open at left in this picture.
Bear is made at the CJSC Barnaul Cartridge Plant in the city of Barnaul.
Barnaul, or Барнаул, is an important industrial center, producing a lot of heavy machinery, tires and furniture.
Barnaul is the administrative center of Altai Krai, near Russia's borders with Kazakhstan, China, and Mongolia. It's on the Ob River south of Novosibirsk. It's well west of the Ural Mountains in southern Siberia. See the yellow cross on the map above.
At right you see it on the Ob River, just a little way (on Siberian scale) south of Novosibirsk.
At left you see both commercial and military surplus 7.62x54mmR ammunition.
Above at left, you see the Soviet military surplus cartridge (red rim on bullet) above the Bear commercial cartridge (green lacquered case).
Below at left, you see the Bear commercial cartridge on the left and the Soviet military surplus on the right.
The commercial cartridge case has a clear headstamp: "7.62x54R" and the CJSC Barnaul emblem.
The headstamp on the surplus cartridge is much less distinct: "77" and "188". We will see below that the "77" (as in 1977) and "188" refer to the year and factory of manufacture, respectively.
Notice that the commercial headstamp is impressed (concave) while the military surplus one is raised (convex). Military USSR cartridge headstamps are raised on 7.62x54mmR and larger and sometimes on 7.62x25mm, and impressed on 7.62x39mm and 9x18mm cartridges.
Here are two views of the military surplus (copper-washed case and red band around bullet) and commercial (green lacquered case) ammunition.
Below are two views of a wooden crate holding military surplus ammunition. Let's see what those markings mean.
The lower white paper label seems to be in either Czech or Slovak, added to explain the Russian markings written in the Cyrillic script to someone who reads a language that is Slavic but written in the Latin script.
Inside the wooden crate are two green metal "Spam Can" containers, as seen at right. Resting on top is the included can opener. These are Russian military surplus, or more precisely, Soviet given their vintage.
The wooden crates were opened, inner packages removed and swapped between crates as the dates and lot numbers don't match.
The short version is that ЛПС is equivalent to "military ball" in U.S. nomenclature, but...
||Lot series & number|
||Cartridge production year|
||Powder lot number|
||Powder production year|
Decoding Soviet Military Surplus Ammunition Labels
Let's see how to decode the markings:
Above is what we see on the can's lid. At right and below are quick guides.
|Caliber / Bullet type / Case type|
Lot - Year - Factory
Type Lot/Year Source
Let's start with the easy part.
7,62 specifies the caliber.
Like most Europeans, Russians use "," to indicate
the decimal point.
Next, almost as easy:
Did you notice that the wooden case was marked
and it contained two metal packages marked
ШТ is short for штука or shtuka — item, thing or piece. Two 440-round cans go into one 880-round case.
As for the rest of the markings, here is what I have
figured out with the help of the
and two U.S. military training manuals,
TM 30-544 Russian Military Dictionary
TM 30-546 Glossary of Soviet Military and Related Abbreviations.
You may also want to ask Google to search for a
a DIA document from August, 1984 with explanations
of headstamps and packaging for most if not all countries:
"small-caliber ammunition identification guide"
Caliber — Bullet type — Case type
(also Б-30, Б-32)
|БЗТ||Armor-piercing incendiary tracer
|БС||Armor-piercing with special core
of tungsten carbide instead of
(also БС-40, БС-41)
|БСТ||Armor-piercing with tungsten
carbide core with added tracer
Heavy (long-range) with lead
core instead of carbon steel
Light ball bullet with
mild steel core
|МДЗ||High explosive incendiary|
|П||Spotting / ranging (also П-41)|
|ПЗ||Incendiary spotting / ranging|
|ПС||Spotting / ranging with mild steel core|
|ПТ||Spotting / ranging tracer|
|Т||Tracer (also Т-30, Т-45, Т-46)|
higher powder charge
An added two-digit number indicates a bullet with a pattern introduced in that year. For example, Б-30 and Б-32.
Realize that, of course, the Soviets used Russian's Cyrillic alphabet. In some cases, such as the letters А К, М, О and Т, our corresponding Latin character looks the same. But often, the Cyrillic only looks like a Latin one. For example, Cyrillic В is equivalent to Latin V, Cyrillic Н is equivalent to Latin N, and so on. Others, like Cyrillic Ж, И, Ш, Щ, Я and several others are unlike anything in the Latin alphabet. Here is a quick guide to the Cyrillic alphabet:
Lot series & number — year — Factory
Notice below that the cartridge lot series and number Л54 was repeated on the cardboard liner sealed inside the metal case.
Also, the production year and factory number, 77 and 188 (Novosibirsk in this case), are in the somewhat indistinct headstamp.
The table at right is for Russian factories. Other countries of manufacture will have their own codes. Bulgarian, for example, will have "10" in a double circle (and use БР as an abbreviation for "count" or "quantity").
As for the powder type and source, as seen at left, ВТ is the type, С is the source, and it's lot #92 from 1977. However, I have no idea of how to interpret the type and source codes! I see a lot of confused postings in on-line forums where people think that ВТ means "Boat-Tail" bullet. Remember that these cans are labeled in the Cyrillic alphabet and so ВТ is equivalent to Latin VT! However, the frequency of this misunderstanding suggests that ВТ is a common powder type.
Opening The Ammunition Can
That's more than enough analysis, let's open this up!
Here I am cranking away with the included can opener tool. It's a right-handed tool and you open the can in a counter-clockwise direction.
Don't worry about memorizing that, it's the only way it works.
Finally! The can has been painted green with a spotty coat of varnish or lacquer.
Be prepared to sweep up the paint flakes! Or else make sure to do this where you don't mind making a slight mess.
Notice that the cardboard liner under the lid repeats the lot series and number, Л54 in this case.
Watch the serrated edges of the lid! Pry it off and lift the cardboard liner out of the can.
Underneath the lid and cardboard liner you will find 22 tightly-packed paper packets of 20 rounds each.
One in the middle has a cloth ribbon sticking out from either side. Notice that in the fully packed picture at left.
Use that ribbon to lift out that one packet. Once you get one out, others can be removed much more easily.
Below is a stripper clip of 5 military surplus rounds ready for loading!
According to measurements at 7.62x54r.net, military surplus ЛПС rounds fired from an M1891/30 Винтовка Мосина or Vintovka Mosina should provide the performance shown in the above table.
At left is a comparison between the 7.62x54mmR cartridge, at left in each image, with the American .30-06 cartridge.