Rambling Thoughts on Rimmed Rifle Cartridges and the 7.62x54R
by Greg Ritchie
[7.62x54mmR - (c) 7.62x54r.net]
I have long had an affinity for rimmed rifle cartridges. I think mainly because my favorite rifle is the break barrel single shot. There just seems to be something natural about a rimmed cartridge and the break barrel action. Plus, there is an advantage to having a rim to grab a hold of when pulling that fired case from an extractor only equipped rifle.
I have had a few such rifles chambered for rimmed cartridges. The 22 Hornet, a custom chambered 219 Zipper, 30 WCF, and a 45/70. The My current for fun rimmed cartridge is the 300 Blackout Rimmed. Simply have a rim cut made, no other changes are made to the rifle. Run a 357 Maximum case through your 300 blackout die, trim to length and you have your 300 Blackout Rimmed cartridge. You can use a 357 Magnum, but it leaves a short neck.
What I have never had was a rimmed cartridge that was capable of stretching out to bean field ranges of 300 / 400 yards or beyond. The 30/40 Krag was my first thought. It would be an easy rechamber, but the brass was too hard to find and was expensive when you did find it. My next thought was the 303 British. Brass was plentiful. I could take one of my 30 caliber barrels , rechamber it, and have my own little pseudo wildcat, the 30/303 British.
Then my plans changed. At the gunsmith talking about my idea, weighing the option of the 30/303 or just stubbing a proper .311 barrel when the Smith asked. Have you ever fired a 7.62x54R? No, I had not. Well, I want to give you something. That something was a sporterized Mosin. 27 inch barrel, the bolt had been re-worked to allow the side mounted scope which was angled to place the scope centered over the bore. A ring type safety had been welded to the cocking knob, and the trigger had been smoothed. Thus began my affair with the 7.62x54R.
I hunted with that rifle exclusively that year. It accounted for a couple of nice deer. I felt the barrel was a bit long and found a nice M44 that had the bayonet lug cut off. The next year I hunted with the M44. I found it to be a much better rifle for hunting, at least once I entered the woods. It also was the foundation of the "shoot them and cook them at the same time" jokes that started about the little rifle.
About this time I began reloading for the 7.62x54R. I had been saving my Winchester brass and had a few cases. Suitable bullets were available from Speer, Hornady, and Sierra in weights from 123 grain to180 grain. My powder of choice was IMR 4064, chosen because it had been a good powder for the other military cartridges. I was leading for. I was not disappointed. Later I tried IMR 4350, which worked well for the 174 / 180 grain bullets, but was a bad choice for anything else. Then Varget came along, it has become my favorite powder for the Russian round.
The 123 / 125 grain bullets have not worked so well for me. While they can be pushed to speeds around 3100 feet per second, they were never very accurate.
The 150 grain bullets from Sierra, Hornady, and Speer is where the 7.62.54R begins to come into its own. They can be loaded to around 2800 feet pre second. I especially liked the Hornady 150 grain spire point. Still, in my opinion, this is not the best bullet weight for this cartridge. While the initial velocity is good, the ballistic coefficient is not the best in these .311 / .312 bullets. Velocity falls off quickly and penetration can suffer on larger bodied deer and pigs.
Hornady makes a 174 grain round nose, Speer makes a 180 grain round nose, and Sierra makes a 180 Pro Hunter that are suitable for the 7.62.54R. This is where the rifle shines. 2400 to 2500 feet per second is the norm for these bullets. I like the Hornady 174 grain round nose, and this was my mainstay for woods hunting. I still have a few hundred of these left, but when they are gone, I think the 180 grain Sierra is going to be my choice. They are just as effective at woods ranges as the Hornady, but they have a more streamlined shape making that longer shot across the soybean field a bit easier. Expansion seems to fall off below about 2200 fps though, so about 300 yards is about as far as you want to use them on a game animal. PPU also makes a 180 grain .311 bullet, if you can find them. They are good performers, thought the jacket seems to separate from the core when expanding. The core stays together though and maintains about 75% of its weight.
Speaking of PPU, they make brass for the 7.52x54R and it's readily available, which is a good thing as I am having a hard time finding Winchester brass lately.
For low cost plinking the Lee Precision cast C312-185-1R is a good choice. I cast them from straight wheel weights, gas check them, and keep the velocity to around 2000 feet per second.
One observation. The various 308 bullets are not a good choice for the Mosin. They invariably start tumbling a short distance after they leave the muzzle. Most of the Mosins I have slugged measure about .311 - .312, some even larger. Even the Finnish versions I have slugged generally measure around .310. Add a rifle that has a rough, dark bore from corrosion and the problem can get even worse.
I still don't have my break barrel 7.62x54R. I do have a 1:10 twist 22 inch 30-30 barrel though. I believe a 7.62x54R reamer would clean up the chamber. I could use a .308 expander ball in my dies to take advantage of the plethora of. 308 bullets. Hmmmm.....Maybe some day!