When the 7.62x39 first came on the market in the United States in a measurable way, we all thought we had received the best 7.62x39 rifle that existed (the AK-47). It may have been true then, and it may even be arguable still now, but the many years of development and innovation surrounding the 7.62x39 cartridge has yielded a plethora of very nice 7.62x39 rifles that one could argue are among the best in the world for the cartridge.
Even if the AK-47 and the SKS rifles are still relevant for their reliability, durability and for other reasons, they always lacked certain small attributes that may be in demand from shooters in a more modern setting.
Enter the newest 7.62x39 rifles: More accurate, more stylistically concentrated and more apt to perform for the task at hand. The old and the new come together to make a well-balanced list of the best 7.62x39 rifle candidates for you to choose from (of course we included some AK-style rifles on this list).
What you are likely to find in this article, is that the 7,62x39 rifles are substantially capable rifles that can do many different things, that shoot a round that is widely accepted as a best in class for many of the tasks it is used for. This includes a wide variety of use cases. We invite you to keep reading to see if our opinions on the best 7.62x39 rifles enhance your understanding of one of the most popular cartridges in history.
Best 7.62x39 Rifle for the money - Comparison Table
If you know anything about the AK47, you know it’s never been a glamourous rifle, and it has never been made to a fit and finish level of some of the finest firearms of the generation. Part of that contributed to its unmatched battlefield performance and exceptional reliability. Gunsmiths know that tight tolerances offer very little tolerance for continued performance over the course of hundreds or thousands of rounds.
Unfortunately, it has led to a lot of criticism about the accuracy of the AK and kept the price point lower since most AK’s could be made with stamped steel and rivets. This is the anti-production-line AK47. It truly offers the best fit and finish from a production rifle in the entire production spectrum.
This enhanced tolerance build and high end finish and fit makes this AK capable of better accuracy more consistently and offers a legacy type rifle to those who want it.
- Exceptional build quality
- Great looks, less rattling sounds
- Great accuracy and still incredible reliability
- Much more expensive than the AK’s that come off the fastest production lines
This is best for:
An all-around experience with the AK47 platform. This is perhaps the best 7.62x39 rifle on this list.
If you want the inherent accuracy of the 7.62x39 this is an excellent choice. Everything about this rifle’s built is made for accuracy. This pairs well with the design of the cartridge which has deliberate benefits from a best practices perspective when it comes to making an accurate cartridge.
This is a perfect hunting rifle for those who find themselves in heavier cover or are shooting only medium game. For youth (because it’s sized well for smaller shooters and for youth), this rifle is a great option also. The balance and weight of the gun along with the length of pull (right at 13.5” and the fairly low recoil adds to the benefits of the cartridge.
- Classic Bolt action design
- Fantastic magazine
- Super high quality for the money
- No real Cons
This is best for:
Hunting, female or youth shooters who have a bit smaller frame (this is still usable by adult males, paying close attention to the LOP of 13.5”).
The heavily admired Czech Rifle could have easily been a modern-day popularity rival for the AK47. Had Czechoslovakia been more Imperialist in their mentality and had the USSR not been positioned in relation to Czechoslovakia as it was, it’s possible this rifle would be blanketing the rest of the world instead of the AK47. Geopolitically that didn’t play out, but it takes nothing away from the legitimate build quality and proven action of the VZ58.
It is NOTHING like the AK47, except perhaps that it has a slight passing resemblance. Correction: aside from a slight passing resemblance to the AK47, the only thing the VZ58 has in common is the ridiculous, almost legendary reliability. It’s more accurate than most production AK’s it’s got better fit and finish in general and it is its own design, not sharing a single component in common with the Kalashnikov outside of the cartridge it is chambered for.
Bottom line: it’s as effective as the AK, if not as iconic or well known. There are still nearly a million rifles in circulation around the world that bear the VZ58 stamp.
- Gorgeous workmanship for a wartime production, surplus rifle
- Sophisticated design that is still refined and simple
- Legendary reliability
- Above average accuracy
- The magazines are not as readily available as the AK or the AR, so if you are using this as a primary weapon system you’ll have to be selective and sourcing the mags may be a little more difficult.
This is best for:
All around fun, and general-purpose use for the 7.62x39 cartridge.
Ruger has been involved with the American story of the venerable 7.62x39 cartridge. They were making the Mini 30 Rifle in the mid 1970’s. The rifle has been a popular one among ranchers, hunters and sport shooters because of the great ballistic performance and the easy availability to ammunition.
This is a different rifle that does something different. But it’s every bit as capable as the Mini 30 at many jobs. It offers the benefits of more accuracy than even the Mini 30 (which was more accurate than the AK); the rotary Ruger magazine and a cold hammer forged barrel that adds longevity to the barrel life and keeps the cleaning and fouling to a minimum.
- Long life expectancy
- Ruger is a proven winner in the 7.62x39 world
- Doesn’t take a standard, available magazine (though the magazine is spectacular if pricey)
This is best for:
Suppressed use; moderate distance hunting and brush gun work.
The classic American 7.62x39mm rifle: Ruger’s Mini 30 is a legendary and uniquely American take on the awesome cartridge that is the 7.62x39. A hunting rifle that is good for more than just that; this rifle has all the creature comforts built in. Sling swivels; great sights; a very good ejection angle are all standard features.
High capacity magazines, top tier reliability and superior accuracy to the AK47, this is a serious option for those who want a rifle based on this time tested, battle tested cartridge.
- Great handling rifle
- High capacity, low recoil, great reliability
- Great iron sights
- Magazines are expensive
This is best for:
General use; as this is a well-balanced use case performer.
A fun gun that will be the envy of your friends both for the nostalgia and for the build quality and fun of the experience of shooting it. Instead of trying to source long lost ammunition and a very valuable gun to get an authentic STG experience this comes pretty close without costing an arm and a leg. It recoils heavier than the original STG 44 as it has a larger powder charge, but this is about as good as it gets when trying to replicate the experience.
- A ton of fun to shoot
- Very realistic experience
- Top quality replica of a storied firearm
- Pricey for a replica
This is best for:
Having a ton of fun, shooting a cheap to shoot gun that’s built to a great standard.
The Galil is an Israeli version of the Valmet Rifle, which is a Finnish version of the Russian AK. It’s slightly different than the Valmet; which is slightly different than the AK; which makes it a couple of iterations removed, but still retains some of the core aspects of the AK platform, which means it is reliable, easy to handle and proven in battle.
This is a very simple, very well proven design that has been in conflicts all over the world and would suit any user well if they want to have a relatively accurate, high reliability rifle with a distinctive style that is still clearly based on the AK platform.
- Serious credibility
- Decent pricing
- Good fit and finish compared to some other iterations of the AK
- No real Cons – a very well made AK
This is best for:
A general purpose rifle that is at home in the field for hunting as well as for target shooting or home defense.
All the best features of the AR-15 and most of the best features of the AK-47. This rifle is accurate, comfortable to shoot, offers great reliability (if not quite as good as the AK-47); and still allows for the use of standard AK magazines, which are cheap, plentiful and reliable, just like the cartridge this great rifle is built around.
This is a great hybrid design, that utilizes a quality build and an innovative thought process about how to best match up the features of the AR with the features of the AK. For many, this is a better fit for their specific needs than an AK with an AR stock and a mishmash forward furniture piece.
Great accessorizing is obviously available for this rifle and the cheap; easy to shoot 7.62x39 is easily fed through the gun in cheap plentiful magazines.
- Seriously easy to learn mechanics because you already know and love the placement of the safety selector and trigger components.
- Some of the best mags in the world at cheap prices
- Relatively light weight and easy to handle
- Infinitely customizable
- Pricier than either a base model AK or a base model AR
This is best for:
Users who cannot quite pry themselves away from the AR platform, but want the legitimate performance from the easy, cheap to shoot 7.62x39 cartridge.
This is simple: this is an American made, value version of the original production line surplus AK platform rifle. It is cheap, easy to use and familiar to AK users. Nothing else needs to be said: This is a barebones AK 47, that isn’t perfect but runs forever. It’s a VERY hard to match gun at the price, even if it is a bit rough around the edges.
Cheap to own, cheap to shoot and reliable as the AK has always been.
- Super reliable, even if it costs half as much as most AK variants on the market
- A bit rough around the edges
This is best for:
Being a single gun solution that you can’t really complain about. It works well; it doesn’t cost a lot to shoot or maintain and it is inexpensive to buy.
What can I use the 7.62x39 for generally?
Proven on the battlefield for more than two generations, this is a profoundly respected cartridge. We think it’s imperative that the rifles that shoot it can live up to the capabilities of the round as well. So far so good. Generally, all 7.62x39 rifles on the market are known for reliability and performance.
Home defense and tactical scenarios:
Historically this has been a defensive and tactical caliber of choice because of the great ballistics, extreme reliability and the cheap cost to implement the round.
The size of the projectile, the grain weight, and the inherent performance at that intermediate sizing spectrum makes this an ideal combination of lower recoil and high performance. The larger diameter and mass (thought it promotes better penetration) does not promote OVER penetration in close quarters.
This makes it almost ideal for home defense in rural and suburban settings. It may still have some concerns in strictly urbans settings, but many rifle cartridges do because of the massive power behind the projectiles.
All-in, the .30 caliber (and surrounding diameter) projectiles are almost ideal for human targets in tactical settings at close range from a stopping power perspective. This author might prefer a slower moving round like a subsonic .300AAC round for home protection in an urban environment, but no hardcore argument against the 7.62x39mm exists. It’s simply very good at that particular task.
That said, this is not JUST a home defense or defensive tactical round either. The venerable cartridge can be used for a wide range of uses.
Plinking and general fun shooting:
The 7.62x39mm cartridge and essentially all the best 7.62x39 rifles are just fun to shoot. They don’t cost a lot; they don’t recoil a lot, and they give enough power to make you feel like you are accomplishing something.
These cartridges are very accurate because of the taper, the shape of the projectile, the perfect match to the rifling twist rate and the very consistent production values of the cartridge.
Intermediate and even larger game hunting:
The size and static ballistics of the 7.62x39 cartridge make it perfect for hogs, deer, even elk if under certain conditions (like shorter ranges, not a huge amount of cover and smaller sized game animals). The round is proven on man sized targets up to about 350 pounds. It would be easy to expect the cartridge to be effective up to about 550 pounds, depending on the hide/skin and muscle distribution of the game animal target.
Handloads and factory extreme loads could easily push that upper limit considerably higher with the right rifle. Some of those rifles exist on this list below.
Why has the 7.62x39 become so popular in the United States?
Partially because of the “extreme reliability” of the cartridge; the guns that shoot it and the magazines associated with those guns, the 7.62x39 is an exceptionally popular round in the USA (and even around the world).
But that is not the only attribute it has going for it. The serious cost savings in ammunition is incredible. The per shot cost at times Is less than half of what other popular rifle cartridges cost to shoot. An abundance of producers who make top tier ammunition in the caliber also helps with the cost and availability. There is a very large amount of ammunition in the caliber available even during times of scarce ammunition stores or ammo crises.
Americans like reliability. The AK-47 and the 7.62x39 cartridge are reliable. Years and years of seeing this reliability converted many naysayers to the “dark side” ready to buy AK’s and other rifles (like the SKS).
Why is the 7.62x39mm always compared to the .223 Remington/5.56x45?
It might have roots in the Cold War Era mentality that the populace has been steeped in, in America (and likely in Russia) over the years. Always comparing “ours” versus “theirs” has been a thing for so long.
The two most popular rifles in the world from a military surplus perspective are chambered in these two cartridges (7.62x39mm for the AK-47 and 5.56x45mm for the AR-15/M4/M16). There is a huge amount of credibility and proven performance on both sides of the aisle.
The cartridges are generally used for the same purposes, though the .223/5.56 is generally considered to be more accurate when paired with the popular platforms; and the 7.62x39 is generally considered the better firepower option when used against most targets. That doesn't change the fac that the two cartridges are generally used for the same types of game (though the 7.62x39 is able to move up to a higher-level weight of game animals); they are generally used for plinking because of costs and decent availability and accuracy.
They are two proven cartridges that do well in their own spaces, and have a great carryover, such that you could use either for many of the same things. It’s why people so hotly contest the virtues of each cartridge. If you look at the performance of each through an objective lens, they each have their own special characteristics and preferred use cases.
A quick word about the 7.62x39 cartridge
The rifles are usable pretty much everywhere that appear in this list *(that’s not entirely true: New York, California, Massachusetts, New jersey and others have state bans on firearms that are popular platforms for the 7.62x39, and therefore, there could be some issues owning one of these rifles in those and other states). The ammunition may not be shootable everywhere, however.
Some of the ammunition is “bi-metal” ammunition, and therefore will pull a magnet, and cannot be shot against steel backstops and in some dirt berm ranges. This is because there are deflection/ricochet concerns and steel backstops generally are not equipped for handling such a fast moving, hard projectile, which can lead to holes being punched into the backstop. Please exercise caution when purchasing ammunition or shooting at public ranges when shooting this ammunition.
Some older 7.62x39 ammunition is considered “corrosive” because of the primer and powder components. This means that your barrel/bore can become rusted, pitted or otherwise negatively affected if not cleaned properly and comprehensively after each use. This goes for the chamber and action components as well.
The round is quite accurate, inherently. The best accuracy is not obtained out of the most popular rifles that shoot the 7.62x39mm cartridge however.
It is untrue that the AK-47 is “inaccurate” and it is absolutely possible to get 1.5-2 MOA out of a “standard” AK-47 with a few tweaks. However, the majority of shooters that use the AK 47 are typically showing 3-4 MOA out of their standard rifles. Good enough for a “battle rifle” but leaving something to be desired for the target or precision shooters.
It is not the ammunition that causes this inaccuracy. It is the methodology of production for the AK and other clones generally. With some basic tweaks and accurizing you can get much more respectable accuracy.
You could also opt for a gun that is built from the ground up to be more accurate too. Especially if you plan on hunting with the 7.62x39, which, if you read the above section about what is possible with the cartridge, you know, the caliber is an excellent hunting round for intermediate and even larger game.
Our final thoughts
When cheap ammunition and $250 AK-47’s and $75 Russian SKS’s blanketed the American shooting market decades ago, it was easy to pick the best 7.62x39 rifle. We think it’s very clear now, that through innovation, specialized hardware and improvements on the different aspects of ergonomics and comfort features, it’s much easier to think of a bunch of different rifles that can compete for the title of the best 7.62x39 firearm platforms.
While 7.62x39mm ammunition remains very low priced relative to other intermediate small arms calibers; and the ballistics of the cartridge are still quite sound relative to other offerings, the increase in rifle prices across the board makes it a more specific choice that requires a bit more due diligence to find the best 7.62x39 rifle for you and your specific use case.
We hope we have provided some insight to the current market offering and given you some food for thought that can help you to determine if it’s time to add another 7.62x39 rifle to your collection. We are confident these are your best choices, and that you cannot go wrong with any of these versatile 7.62x39 rifles provided they fit your use case.