7.64x54mmR cartridge.

The 7.62x54mmR Cartridge

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.

Five 7.62x54mmR cartridges in a stripper clip.

Five 7.62x54mmR cartridges in a stripper clip.

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
R  =  rimmed

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.

Wikipedia diagram of 7.62x54mmR cartridge design.

Diagram of the 7.62x54mmR cartridge design.

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.

Three 7.62x54mmR cartridges showing primers and headstamps.

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.

7.62x25mm Tokarev, 7.62x39mm, 7.62x52R cartridges.

Left: 7.62x25mm Tokarev
Center: 7.62x39mm
Right: 7.62x54R
The 7.62x25mm Tokarev round at left, used in pistols and submachine guns, has a very blunt bullet. The other two, rifle rounds, have far more aerodynamic spitzer type bullets.

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.

Brown Bear Russian commercial 7.62x54mmR cartridges.

Commercial 7.62x54mmR Ammunition

Commercial 7.62x54mmR ammunition is available. Here is a package from Brown Bear, made in Russia.

Bernaul Cartridge Plant 7.62x54mmR ammunition package.

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.

Map of Russia.
Detailed map of Russia and Kazakhstan near Novosibirsk.

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.

Commercial and military surplus 7.62x54mmR ammunition.
Commercial and military surplus 7.62x54mmR ammunition.

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.

Commercial and military surplus 7.62x54mmR ammunition.
Commercial and military surplus 7.62x54mmR ammunition.

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.

Wooden crate of military surplus 7.62x54mmR ammunition.
Wooden crate of military surplus 7.62x54mmR ammunition.
'Spam Can' Russian military surplus 7.62x54mmR ammunition package.

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...

Marking Meaning
7,62 Caliber
ЛПС Bullet type
ГЖ Case type
Л54 Lot series & number
77 Cartridge production year
188 Factory
ВТ Powder type
92 Powder lot number
77 Powder production year
С Powder source
440ШТ Quantity

Decoding Soviet Military Surplus Ammunition Labels

Let's see how to decode the markings:

7,62ЛПСГЖ
Л54-77-188
ВТ 92 С
77
440ШТ.

Above is what we see on the can's lid. At right and below are quick guides.

Caliber / Bullet type / Case type
Cartridge:
Lot - Year - Factory
Powder:
Type Lot/Year Source
Quantity

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 880ШТ and it contained two metal packages marked 440ШТ?

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 Russian-language Wikipedia and two U.S. military training manuals, TM 30-544 Russian Military Dictionary and 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" filetype:pdf

Case
Type
Meaning
ГЖ Bimetallic case
(gilding metal
clad steel)
ГЛ Brass case
ГС Steel case

7,62ЛПСГЖ    —    Caliber — Bullet type — Case type

Bullet
Type
Meaning
Б Armor-piercing
(also Б-30, Б-32)
БЗ Armor-piercing incendiary
БЗТ Armor-piercing incendiary tracer
(also БЗТ-44)
БП Armor-piercing
БС Armor-piercing with special core
of tungsten carbide instead of
carbon steel
(also БС-40, БС-41)
БСТ Armor-piercing with tungsten
carbide core with added tracer
БТ Armor-piercing tracer
Д Heavy (long-range) with lead
core instead of carbon steel
З Incendiary
ЗП Incendiary
Л Lightweight bullet
ЛПС Light ball bullet with
mild steel core
МДЗ High explosive incendiary
П Spotting / ranging (also П-41)
ПЗ Incendiary spotting / ranging
ПП Enhanced penetration
ПС Spotting / ranging with mild steel core
ПТ Spotting / ranging tracer
СНБ Armor-piercing sniper
Т Tracer (also Т-30, Т-45, Т-46)
57-У-322
57-У-323
Cartridge with
higher powder charge
57-У-423 High-pressure cartridge
57-Х-322
57-Х-323
57-Х-340
Blank cartridge
57-НЕ-УЧ Training cartridge
7Н1 Sniper bullet

An added two-digit number indicates a bullet with a pattern introduced in that year. For example, Б-30 and Б-32.

Cyrillic Latin Cyrillic Latin
А A Р R
Б B С S
В V Т T
Г G У U
Д D Ф F
Е YE Х KH
Ж ZH Ц TS
З Z Ч CH
И I Ш SH
Й Y Щ SHCH
К K Ъ
Л L Ы IY
М M Ь '
Н N Э EH
О O Ю YU
П P Я YA

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:

Factory
Code
Location
3 Ulyanovsk Уляновск
17 Barnaul Барнаул
38 Yuryuzan Юрюзань
60 Frunze
(now Bishkek)
Фрунзе
188 Novosibirsk Новосибирск
270 Voroshilovgrad
(now Luhansk)
Ворошиловград
304 Lugansk Луганськ
539 Tula Тула
711 Klimovsk Климоск
T Tula Тула

Л54-77-188Lot 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").

ВТ 92 С
77

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 a 'Spam Can' of Russian military surplus 7.62x54mmR ammunition with the provided can opener tool.

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.

Freshly opened 'Spam Can' of Russian military surplus 7.62x54mmR ammunition.  Cardboard layer on top of the ammunition packs.

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.

Freshly opened 'Spam Can' of Russian military surplus 7.62x54mmR ammunition.  22 paper packets of 20 rounds each.

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.

Freshly opened 'Spam Can' of Russian military surplus 7.62x54mmR ammunition.  22 paper packets of 20 rounds each.  One central packet lifted out with the cloth ribbon.

Below is a stripper clip of 5 military surplus rounds ready for loading!

Five 7.62x54mmR cartridges in a stripper clip.
Range
yards
Velocity Energy
m/sec ft/sec joules ft-lbf
0 863 2833 3577 2638
50 826 2711 3275 2415
100 790 2592 2993 2207
150 755 2476 2731 2014
200 720 2363 2487 1834
250 687 2253 2262 1668
300 654 2146 2052 1513
350 622 2042 1856 1369
400 591 1940 1676 1236
450 561 1842 1511 1114
500 533 1748 1360 1003
7.62x54mmR and .30-06 cartridges.
7.62x54mmR and .30-06 cartridges.

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.