300 BLK vs 7.62×39 [Best Rifle Round Showdown]

by Travis Pike

November 6, 2020

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East meets West in today’s showdown between the young and nubile 300 Blackout and old warfighting 7.62×39. Both calibers are popular in the modern rifle market, and both sport a 30 caliber projectile aimed for intermediate use.

So which is better?

Why 300 Blackout vs 7.62x39mm?

Before we dive into which is best, we need to say why we want to compare the two. What’s the driving reason why the 300 Blackout and the 7.62×39 should be compared, contrasted, and debated?

Well, at their core, both rounds are intermediate cartridges designed for semi-automatic and select-fire weapons, and both sport a 30 caliber projectile. They are both designed for use inside of 300 yards or so, but they can stretch their legs with the right load, the right rifle, and the right shooter.

Dimensionally they are painfully similar. The 7.62×39 is only 4mms longer than the 300 Blackout, which comes in at 7.62×35. Bullet diameter is finicky. In the United States, 30 cal means a .308 bullet diameter. In the former Soviet States, 30 caliber means .311.

For all practical shooting purposes, there is no difference, but it does cause a reloader to pause and ensure he has the right projectile for the right task.

Now, let’s hop into the reviews!

Spec300 Blackout7.62x39mm
Bullet Weight Range115-220 gr122-154 gr
Common Bullet Weight120 gr / 220 gr123 gr
Energy Range498-1360 ft/lbs1516-1607 ft/lbs
Velocity Range1010-2800 fps2104-2421 fps
Bullet Diameter.308".311"
Case Length1.368"1.524"
Overall Length2.26"2.205"
Base Diameter.376".447"
Case Capacity26.5 gr H2O35.6 gr H2O
Max Pressure SAAMI55,000 PSI45,010 PSI

7.62×39 MM

The Russian powerhouse that is very effective, cheap and available, and offers more energy at the target. At home in AK-47 style rifles.

300 Blackout

A modern American round that excells as a subsonic option for suppressed shooting and shorter barrels. At home in AR-15 style rifles or pistols with silencers.

7.62×39 History and Purpose

Russia went into war like every other European country, with men armed with bolt action rifles, submachine guns, and crew fed machine guns. World War 2 changed small arms design around the world, and the Germans created the first real assault rifle with the STG 44.

After the war, the Americans and Western Europeans moved onto full power, magazine-fed rifles like the M14, the FN FAL, and the G3. The Russians went in a different direction and flirted with a carbine known as the SKS in the new intermediate 7.62x39mm round in 1944.

The SKS was quickly replaced by the AK 47 and then the AKM in the same caliber. The 7.62×39 owes it’s existence to the 7.92×33 German round, but it went on to be a more prolific round than the old German ever could.

The 7.62×39 was designed for engagement distances out to 300 yards. The Soviets learned that most infantry engagements take place at that range, and most Soviet soldiers couldn’t shouldn’t beyond that range anyway. The round is a fierce little fight stopper with excellent barrier penetration and lots of energy.

The 7.62×39 went on to serve as not only Russia’s main battle cartridge, but every other Soviet state then adopted it. Russians weren’t finicky with who they sold or gave guns to, and China, Vietnam, North Korea, and many other Asian countries also adopted the round and the gun. Outside of the United States and western Europe, the 7.62×39 blossomed in the middle east, Asia, and Africa on top of its popularity in Eastern Europe.

The Soviets later replaced the cartridge with the 5.45 and the AK 74, but to this day, the 7.62×39 still serves in dozens of different countries. While it might not be the main service cartridge of Russia anymore, it still serves on in the modernized AK-15 in limited numbers.

Best 7.62×39 Ammo for Every Situation

While this cartridge has been around for quite sometime, it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. Chcek out some of our recommendations for different scenarios.

Best Defensive Rounds

Hornady Black 123 GR SST

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Primary Arms $1.10
Brownells $1.25

Best Hunting Rounds

Federal Power Shok

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Brownells $1.20
Natchez Shooter’s Supply $1.22

Best Plinking Rounds

Wolf Military Classic

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Brownells $0.30
Natchez Shooter’s Supply $0.30

300 Blackout History and Purpose

The 300 Blackout is a young buck compared to the ole Russian Warhorse. The 300 Blackout was designed with a few ideas in mind. SpecOps dudes wanted something submachine gun like, with more power, more range, and more penetration than the 9mm round could provide. They also wanted a weapon roughly the size of a submachine gun that was easily suppressed.

The 300 Blackout was born from the 300 Whisper. The 300 Whisper was a wildcat cartridge that was never standardized or submitted to SAAMI. Advanced Armament Corporation saw the potential of such a cartridge and developed the 300 Blackout, and with a submission to SAAMI, the cartridge became standardized.

The 300 Blackout delivered on all of the needs for special operations commandos. The use of a 30 caliber round presented an easy option for versatility. You can run heavy 220 grain rounds that are subsonic and super quiet. You can also instantly swap to supersonic rounds for greater range and barrier penetration.

The round works perfectly with short barrels, and 300 Blackout can achieve max velocity with a barrel as short as 9 inches. When combined with a can, the gun is still shorter than your standard unsuppressed carbine.

The final design intent was to give a smaller and lighter platform similar performance to that of an AK in 7.62×39. The 300 Blackout most certainly owes dues to Russia’s second finest export behind suicidal authors.Best 300 BLK Ammo for Every Situation

At the time of writing this, 300 Blackout is still the newer kid on the block with less gun owners having 300 BLK-chambered rifles. This makes it easier to find different types of rounds for different occasions. 

Best Suppressed Rounds

Sellier & Belliot SubSonic 220 GR

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Sportsman’s Guide $0.65
Brownells $0.80

Best for Defensive Use

Hornady Black 110 Grain V-Max

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Sportsman’s Guide $1.15
Brownells $1.30

Best for Plinking

Wolf 300 Blackout Steel Case

Marketplace
Cost Per Round
Ammo.com $1.29

Ballistic Comparison

These rounds are similar in many ways, and even when you compare ballistics, you get a very similar story. At least when you compare like with like in regards to bullet weight and design. When you compare a 124 grain 7.62 x 39 with a 120 grain 300 Blackout cartridge, you get nearly the same rate of drop.

The differences are neck and neck to 500 yards, where the 300 Blackout tends to drop more than the 7.62×39. The biggest difference comes in energy. The 7.63×39 is loaded to higher velocities on average, and this translates into more energy.

That all being said, it can be difficult to compare the two ballistically because both loads have tons of different projectile loadings. The 300 Blackout is particular has the selling point of easy to find subsonic rounds for suppressor use.

7.62×39 mm has loadings up into the 154 grains, but the ole Russian cartridge has nowhere near the same amount of different loads as the 300 Blackout. That being said, the differences are usually within 10% of each other, so it’s not a major victory or total route.

The 7.62×39 tends to hit harder and squeeze out a hair more range than the 300 Blackout. The cost is higher recoil. The 7.62×39 has a great reputation for penetration and does an excellent job of penetrating cover and keeping on the move. The 300 Blackout has a reputation for being able to move easily from subsonic to supersonic loads on the fly.

Here’s the closest comparison we could make: a factory Hornady 125gr 300 Blackout load compared to a factory Wolf 123gr 7.62x39mm load:

300 Blackout vs. 7.62x39mm Ballistics
Distance (Yards)300 BLK Drop (125 gr) 300 BLK Energy (125 gr)7.62x39mm Drop 7.62x39mm Energy
1000"1043 ft/lbs0"1220 ft/lbs
200-7.8"819 ft/lbs-6.21"1842 ft/lbs
300-27.44"639 ft/lbs-22.76"1581 ft/lbs
400-62.24"500 ft/lbs-53.33"1355 ft/lbs
500-116.4"398 ft/lbs-102.92"1177 ft/lbs

Recoil and Muzzle Rise

The higher case capacity of the 7.62×39 gives you more room for powder, and that gives you more penetration, a higher velocity, and better energy. That’s great, right? Well, it also gives you more recoil and higher muzzle rise.

The 300 Blackout is a much smoother shooting cartridge. The 7.62×39 is kind of like a hammer. It hits on both ends, and you feel it. The 300 Blackout is more surgical, with recoil much more pleasant and controllable.

That being said, the 7.62×39 recoil isn’t brutal or painful by any means. For shooters, the increase in recoil is going to mean longer split times. The 300 Blackout will allow for faster and more accurate follow up shots than the 7.62×39.

Suppressed Use

The 300 Blackout was made with a specific purpose in mind, and part of that purpose was suppressed use. The 762×39 was made by Russians who just saw a brutal war where suppressors weren‘t a thing. It’s no big surprise that the 300 Blackout is the better choice for suppressor use.

The 300 Blackout is unique in the fact you can easily swap between a magazine full of supersonic loads for more velocity and range to a mag full of subsonic rounds that eliminate the supersonic crack.

When you pair a subsonic load with a suppressor, you get a very quiet rifle that’s efficient and reliable.

You can most certainly suppress a 7.62×39 weapon, but it won’t be as quiet or as efficient and reliable as the 300 Blackout option.

Rifle Selection

What choices do you have in rifles when you choose a caliber? You can easily find AR-15s in both calibers. You can also find AKs in both calibers; that being said, 300 Blackout AKs are boutique guns. 7.62×39 ARs are available at every price point, from boogie builds to budget PSAs.

Ruger has made it, so both guns have variants of the Mini 14 and bolt action designs. You can get a very light bolt action rifle in either caliber that makes a great short-range hog, deer, or coyote popper.

The 7.62×39 has a several decade lead on the 300 Blackout, so you’ll be able to find some classics like the SKS in the caliber. Guns coming out of Europe tend to favor the 7.62×39 more like the Bren 2. However, 300 Blackout has crept in like a virus and is taking over. The Tavor, the MCX, the BRN 180, and most new rifles hitting the market eventually get a 300 Blackout chambering.

Our Take: Which is Best?

This isn’t an easy one because both rounds are great. They serve almost as direct competitors when it comes to effective range.

If you asked me which would I choose, I’d go for the 7.62×39. Why?

Well, I don’t own suppressors, and I already own guns in that caliber. That’s really the only reason I’d take that route.

For everyone else, I’ll make it really easy for you.

When You Should Pick 7.62×39

If you want an AK pattern weapon, then go with the 7.62×39. If you live in a ban state and want an affordable carbine, the SKS is a great option that’s almost always legal in its original form in restrictive states. You can get an AK in 300 Blackout, but holy crap, are they expensive.

If budget and price is a concern, then go with 7.62×39. It’s super cheap and made in bulk by Eastern European companies.

If vodka is an acceptable cleaning solution for your rifle, then choose the 7.62×39.

If you want to hold a gun over your head and scream Wolverines, go 7.62×39.

When You Should Pick 300 Blackout

Do you want a AR 15 in a 30 caliber cartridge? Then go with the 300 Blackout. Yep, ARs exist in 7.62×39, but the 300 Blackout’s compatibility with almost all AR parts make it easier. Plus, ARs in 7.62×39 can be finicky magazine wise, and you need a heavy-duty trigger spring to deal with those hard Eastern European primers.

If you want a short-barreled rifle or AR pistol, then the 300 Blackout does perform better form barrels as short as 9 inches.

If you want to suppress the weapon, then 300 Blackout is the best choice. You can easily toss in subsonic loads and have a very quiet weapon.

If you want to pull down your NODs, attach a can, and LARP as an operator, go with 300 Blackout.

Shot Out

Both calibers serve a certain purpose and do it well. I would say that ultimately 300 Blackout is the better round due to its versatility. However, when you take everything into account, the low, low price of the 7.62×39 will keep it kicking around for decades more.

What’s your favorite round?

More importantly, why is it your favorite round?

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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