For the Russian Kalashnikov weapon series three different types of cartridges are most important to understand as being the most complementary goods imaginable. The cartridge types described on this website are the 7.62 x 39mm intermediate cartridge, the 5.45 x 39mm small caliber intermediate cartridge and the powerfull 7.62 x 54R cartridge. For these three types of catridges regular several examples are given  


7.62 x 39mm (M43 cartridge)

The Kalashnikov assault rifle has been based on the view that the standard rifle was arranged for long range shooting while the fighting appeared to occur within distances of less than 100 meters. This meant that the cartridge of the standard infantry rifle was much too powerful for these battle conditions. Furthermore the manually operated bolt action rifles had a lower rate of fire. To a certain extent this was compensated by the sub machine gun but the major draw back of that weapon category was that it was arranged to fire less powerful pistol cartridges. The solution was the combination of both weapons. A rifle that was able to fire fully and semi automatic with a cartridge powerful enough to disable opponents within 100 meters. These requirements were the cradle for the development of the intermediate cartridge the 7.62 x 39mm. Germany is often exclusively ascribed to intermediate cartridge developments based on the for mentioned changing views, but historians do not entirely agree on that. Most likely it depends on what exactly the definition is of an intermediate cartridge. The same discussion for example goes for what exactly the first assault rifle was. Although the German MP44 Sturmgewehr is often seen as the first weapon of that category other sources hold the view that the Fedorov Avtomat is the first assault rifle.

  An instruction poster of the Czech army for teaching the diversity of 7.62 x 39mm cartridges like blanks, tracer and armour piercing.

Taking the German developments as a starting point then the pre-war German 8 x 46mm developed by RWS can be seen the kick off of the intermediate cartridge developments. Probably thereafter ongoing research led to the Geco M35 cartridge with cartridge measurement 7.75 x 40mm. Several similar intermediate cartridge projects were running in Germany like the DWM 851 short cartridge 7 x 39mm. Probably the Polte short cartridge was the overture to the 7.92 x 33mm cartridge. For this cartridge the German Sturmgewehr was designed which was successfully fielded in on the Eastern front. The Russians were impressed by the effectiveness of the cartridge and the MP44 and realized that this type of weapon would determine future developments. 

Their battlefield experience with the German Sturmgewehr stimulated to do research after a Russian intermediate cartridge. It became the 7.62 x 39mm nowadays probably the most used cartridge on the planet. The cartridge's nomenclature M43 refers to the year 1943 when it was developed. The Simonov self loading rifle was the first rifle that was chambered for the M43 cartridge. Although this rifle would never play such an important role as the AK47 did, it was the first step in the world wide acceptance of the M43 cartridge. The RPD machine gun was another important Soviet weapon that fired the M43 cartridge. Of course the most important step came with the AK47 and the AKM assault rifles. Due to the success of both weapons the M43 cartridge is now the most common intermediate military rifle cartridge circulating on the globe and made by many many countries. The M43 cartridge was standardized in the Warsaw Pact and despite the Czech Republic designed its own weapons it had to follow the standardization regulations regarding the M43 cartridge. For that reason the Vz52/57 self loading rifle and the Vz58 assault rifle were both chambered for it. The cartridge is even used in a wide diversity of hunting and sporting arms. The successor of the M43 cartridge is the M74 5.45 x 39mm cartridge. 

One of many interesting examples of sporting arms chambered for the 7.62 x 39mm cartridge presented here is a traditional looking Lee Enfield rifle designated the M10A1 made by Australian International Arms Pty. Ltd.


5.45 x 39mm (M74 cartridge)

One of the immediate advantages of the intermediate rifle cartridge is that the soldier is able to take more ammunition. The weight of one intermediate round is a fraction compared with the standard cartridge. Another important step in the evolution of the military cartridge world wide is the development of the small bore, high velocity round with lightweight bullet. It is said that research in this field only found place on the West side of the Iron Curtain but this is anything but an indisputable fact. During the late 1950s the United States were doing research which led to the adoption of the .223 Remington in 1963 by the U.S. Air force and by the U.S. Army in 1967. Presumably at that time the Russians were already working on their own small-bore high velocity cartridge namely the 5.6 x 39mm cartridge. The fact that the United States' army adopted this new type of cartridge must have been an extra impulse for Russia to find a successor for their M43 cartridge. It became the M74 with cartridge measurement 5.45 x 39mm. Despite what military analysts expected the Soviet army adopted the new M74 round in 1974. The new assault rifle that was designed for it was the AK74 this was a further modified AKM rifle. The intention was to have all the 7.62 x 39mm AK weapons replaced by the new AK74 weapon family but the the AKM is still in service.


7.62 x 54R

Of all cartridges described on this webpage this cartridge is by far the oldest. It is more than 100 years old and still in use by armed forces world wide but also by sports shooters and hunters. The cartridge is used in the Dragunov sniper rifle and several machine gun of Russian design like the well known PK and the PKM. The origin of the 7.62 x 54R mm cartridge goes back to the 19th century. Around 1889 the Russians were doing research after small caliber rifles. In 1891 the cartridge was released for the bolt-action Mosin-Nagant rifle. The original bullet used for the cartridge was round-nosed but later on it was replaced by spitzer bullets. Other well known rifles the cartridge was used for are semi automatic rifles such as the SVT36 and the SVT40. The cartrigde was used during two important different epoches namely the late Tsarist era and the Soviet era. 

An instruction poster of the Czech army for teaching the diversity of 7.62 x 54R mm cartridges like blanks, tracer and armour piercing.

 As said it is still an important cartridge for the Russian armed forces a remarkable piece of evidence how well this old cartridge meets the modern military requirements. As is the case with the M43 cartridge also for the 7.62 x 54R mm cartridge several interesting small arms were arranged that do not have a Russian origin. One of these is the American Winchester Model 1895. It was designed by John Moses Browning. The contract was between the Winchester Repeating Arms Corporation and the Russian government at that time.