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PPU 7.62X39

Product review: Prvi Partizan ammo

Prvi Partizan ammo has been on the market for years – decades even – but has only just started to make an impact in New Zealand. Or so you thought. Abbreviated to PPU, Prvi Partizan as we know it today has been around since the 1940s, although the company traces its roots back to the late 1920s and has had a few different names as wars and politics have shaped Europe.

My Serbian friend tells me it’s pronounced “pr-ah-vi”, not “privvy” as most people sound it out. It translates roughly to “first partisan” and gets its name from the long and thing rifles produced for partisan forces by the factory in earlier years.

War – what is it good for?

Well, most of the sporting arms and ammunition we enjoy today share their history with their military counterparts. A tonne of the most popular hunting and sporting cartridges today are military cartridges from the past 100 years or more, including:

  • 7.62×51 NATO (.308)
  • 5.56×45 NATO (.223)
  • .300 AAC Blackout
  • 7.62×39
  • 7.62x54R
  • 6.5×55
  • 7.5×55
  • 7.92×57 Mauser
  • 30-06
  • .303
  • .338 LM
  • .50 BMG
The price of PPU makes it hard not to stock up.
The price of PPU makes it hard not to stock up.

Not to mention the endless array of pistol ammunition too. Of course the search for bigger, better and boom-ier things has led to a surge in development in the cartridge market today, much of which is driven by shooters who demand a high level of accuracy. Ammunition that used to only be available to wildcatters for varminting or bench rest shooting is now common place in the USA and is making its way over to New Zealand as well. Rimfire is also growing in leaps and bounds with the .17 WSM making waves in the shooting community.

But what about those stalwarts of scrub hunting and cheap and cheerful plinking? The cut down .303 bush guns and the semi-auto fun-makers in 7.62×39? Well, PPU is your knight in shining armour. For those that love shooting their military calibre rifles without breaking the bank, the ammunition produced by Prvi Partizan is worth your consideration.

On the plus side

While you might think Prvi hasn’t been in the New Zealand market for a while, it actually has. If you’ve shot Highland ammo, you’ve shot PPU. It’s the brand they’ve been using down here. In terms of military cartridges, Highland hasn’t been the cheapest, but it’s a step up from the dirty steel-cased stuff from Russia. It’s certainly better than putting corrosive ammo through your firearms, especially if you’re not that thorough with your cleaning.

Annealing marks on .303 and 7.62x39 PPU factory rounds.
Annealing marks on .303 and 7.62×39 PPU factory rounds.

Prvi Partizan ammunition is brass cased and generally considered to be good brass for reloading. Many Swedish Mauser fans rate the 6.5×55 PPU brass behind Norma and Lapua, but ahead of the American-made stuff. In terms of how soft or long-lasting it is, I can’t personally say. I’m on my second round of firing with this lot of brass and haven’t seen anything untoward yet, but we have a ways to go before anything should be cropping up. When I do get my brass into the higher firing counts I’ll post again to let you know, but considering I have over 140 cases for 6.5×55 alone, I doubt that will be any time too soon.

Considering how good the brass is, it’s certainly worth the price. This is especially the case with calibres like the .303 where you might only have a few options, all of which are more expensive. Not only do you get an acceptable level of accuracy out of it, but you have (I’m guessing) between 6 and 10 more reloads out of them – if not more.

What is the cost? I’ve seen the blue boxes cropping up in a few stores around the country and they’ve ranged in price from $31 to $36 for big rounds like the .303 and 6.5×55. The 7.62×39, which I’ve bought for a reloading experiment, runs at around $30, but if you go to the right Hunting & Fishing, you can pick it up for $25. Most stores will give you a bulk discount if you buy a few packets anyway.

How accurate is it? Well, how long is a piece of string? How accurate a particular round is will be determined by many contributing factors, not least of which are shooter skill and the particular firearm in question. The picture below shows PPU 139gr FMJ 6.5×55 three shot test groups, one is about 1.5 MOA and the other is 2.6 MOA. These are shot from my cut-down 20.5″ barrelled Husky M38. The other target, for comparison, is another reasonably priced brand, Sellier & Bellot 140gr SP, at 2.4 MOA.

PPU 139 gr FMJ and S&B 140 gr SP
PPU 139 gr FMJ and S&B 140 gr SP


This is not bad, considering many are happy to get 3 or 4 MOA groups with milsurp rifles and cheap ammo. However, you don’t get many people bragging about S&B brass for reloading. The picture below shows the S&B group with an unfired round for reference. Bearing in mind that the orange circle is about the size of a kill zone on a deer, this is very reasonable accuracy. If these groups were zeroed in, every shot would be a clean kill.

S&B 2.4 MOA group with unfired 6.5x55 round for comparison.
S&B 2.4 MOA group with unfired 6.5×55 round for comparison.

The negatives with PPU

Well, no one on the range is going to look at your ammo tin on the range and think your other car is a Porsche. But, if you don’t mind that, there’s not much to gripe about with Prvi Partizan. So far I have only shot .303, 7.62×39 and 6.5×55 in PPU and each has performed better than I would expect budget ammo to. I also find it to be quite clean, generally speaking.

However, if you’re wanting superb accuracy without hand loading your own ammo, this may not be the ammo for you. I would suggest trying it – your rifle may love it – but you may be better off paying one and a half or two times the price to get match-grade ammo.

0.64 MOA group shot off a bi-pod with PPU brass, Federal Match primers, 142 gr SMK HPBT projectiles and 34.7 grains of AR 2208.
0.64 MOA group shot off a bi-pod with PPU brass, Federal Match primers, 142 gr SMK HPBT projectiles and 34.7 grains of AR 2208.

There may also be variations in weight of brass and even wall thickness or hardness. This is pure, untested speculation. The only reason I say this could be possible is that the low price indicates that the machinery that produces this brass may not be as thoroughly regulated or maintained as those operated by Hornady or Lapua. The staff may not be as well compensated. But who knows?

What you may wish to do is individually weigh up the clean and empty brass out of a box or two, and see what the variation is between cases. Some spread is to be expected, but too much could have an effect on reloading. You could also see how much water each case holds to determine case-wall thickness and internal capacity. Anyway, I’ve been managing to get smaller than 1 MOA groups out of this brass, so I’m not complaining.

Overall, I think it is well worth the purchase. The accuracy is good enough for hunting ammo if you get the soft point variety, and there’s certainly a place for it in the safe if you just want plinking ammunition or a source of cheap brass.

Lyman bullet puller with 6.5x55 round in large collet.

Product review: Lyman Magnum Inertia Bullet Puller

It’s an unfortunate fact of life for reloaders – at some point, you’ll need to pull bullets and start again. For me,this happened recently when I made a mistake with my mechanical scale while reloading for 6.5×55. I was tossing up between a press mounted bullet pulling die and a ‘hammer type’ inertia puller, when my mind was made up for me.

As often happens when you’re at your local gun store, you see something that you’ve been meaning to get for ages. For me, it was a bullet puller (as well as some dies, a cleaning rod, solvent, shell holders and more, but hey…). My initial leaning towards an inertia bullet puller was (typically) the cost saving. Most hammers are able to handle a huge variety of calibres, while a bullet-pulling die requires a collet for each calibre you’re pulling.

When I saw the Lyman Magnum Inertia Bullet Puller under the glass counter, the decision was made. Most of the impact-type pullers I’d seen did not cater for larger rounds like .416 Rigby or .338 Lapua Magnum, or even Winchester WSMs or Remington Ultra Mags. According to the packaging – the Lyman does! While I didn’t need to pull a big game magnum round any time soon, I liked the idea that I could if I really wanted to.

Putting it to the test

The Lyman Magnum Inertia Bullet Puller has all the instructions you need on the packaging.
The Lyman Magnum Inertia Bullet Puller has all the instructions you need on the packaging.

Well, how did it work? Simply and easily. I did make a simple mistake, which I’d be remiss not to share. I didn’t want to mark the plastic of my brand-new-hammer-looking-thing, so I started rapping it on a piece of timber. No dice. Then on a laminate bench. Damn… That bench top now has a massive bulge in it from being hammered into oblivion with no bullet-pulling success.

Resigned to the fact that I had made a dud purchase, I gave it a few quick raps on the concrete floor, and lo-and-behold – success!

The long and short of it

Using the Lyman bullet puller is extremely easy. It covers just about every calibre you can think of and is a cinch to use. You simply select one of the two collets, depending on the calibre you are dealing with. You slip the loaded round into the collet so the rounded edge is facing the primer end. It will sit nicely in the extractor groove.

The next step is to put the loaded round in the body of the hammer, while the collet keeps it suspended. Screw in the retaining cap and give it a few good whacks on some concrete or something to separate your ammunition into powder, projectile and primed case. I found the end cap could come a bit loose, which may require tightening after a couple blows – not a big deal really.

The instructions are on the packaging, including the size of collet you want for various calibres, so the whole process really is super easy.

I don’t like pouring powder back into the container once it’s been loaded for a while. No particular reason, I just don’t. I prefer to know the powder I’m using is 100% what it’s supposed to be when I’m loading fresh rounds. So, for that reason, powder from pulled rounds gets put straight into the hopper and used for plinking ammo. Or, if I have another jar of powder that is almost empty, I’ll put it in there and use fresh powder from a new bottle for my target loads.

Pulled SMK bullet and PPU brass.
My freshly pulled SMK ready for reloading.

The bullet itself is obviously reusable. The primed brass is too – unless, you are taking your round apart because of an issue with the primer. Now, do not try and decap an unfired primer. I shouldn’t need to explain this, but it’s basically crushing the primer from the anvil end – which will make it go bang. Not fun for your decapping pin. Not fun for you. The best way to get a primer out so you can reuse the brass is to fire the round in your rifle. You can simply load the primed case into your gun and pull the trigger (outdoors, with the muzzle pointed a safe direction – i.e. the same way you would treat it if it were a normal round). Now you can decap.

What you shouldn’t do with an inertia bullet puller

Pulled bullet with powder and case.
A pulled bullet resting in powder.

Lyman recommends on the packaging to not use the product without safety glasses. There’s not much danger in it, but you can guarantee that if anything is ever going to go wrong, it will be the one time you’re not wearing protective gear. So, as with your regular reloading (because you’re working with explosive components), chuck on some safety glasses.

You should never try and pull bullets from rimfire ammunition. It will go bang. You will regret it.

You shouldn’t expect perfect bullets if you’re using projectiles with plastic tips. Kerry from tells how his Nosler Ballistic Tips were damaged when using this exact same puller. Bear in mind, when a bullet is moving at supersonic speeds, there is a cushion of air in front of the projectile, which means slight deformities aren’t the end of the world. This is why hollow points aren’t less accurate than FMJs. They are often more accurate because of the weight distribution.

The collet sits in the extractor groove, holding the round in place.
The collet sits in the extractor groove, holding the round in place.

That’s the theory behind Sierra Matchkings anyway, and it seems to be working well so far. So, while I wound’t mind if my lead- or plastic-tipped rounds got a bit of a crumple in them, I wouldn’t use them for target loads. Repeatability leads to accuracy. I would use rounds like this for hunting at normal ranges or general plinking or practice – they’ll still do their job and expand on game.

If you are concerned about the condition of the your match rounds or long-distance projectiles, a press-mounted bullet puller might be what you’re after. However, I have used the Lyman puller for SMKs, and it’s worked out just fine, with no damage to the projectile tip that I can see.

Reloaded rounds in MTM 50 rounds ammo container.

The importance of a good reloading bench

Reloading is a great way to extend your enjoyment of shooting in New Zealand. In fact, for many it becomes a hobby in its own right. There are only a few items you need to start reloading, but there are many added extras that can enhance accuracy, ease of reloading, confidence and even the appearance of your completed rounds.

It may not even cross your mind, but a solid reloading bench is one of the most essential tools for your first foray to into producing your own ammunition.


First off – is your bench of solid construction? When reloading, you are reshaping the brass – especially with full length sizing dies, as opposed to neck-sizing dies. This can require a fair bit of force, and if your table is flimsy, it may bend a bit before you fully cam over and get the full effect of your sizing die. This can mean the shoulder won’t be bumped back quite enough, or the base of the round (before the extractor groove) will be slightly too large. This isn’t the end of the world, but it can make it hard to chamber your rounds, and can introduce inconsistency into your reloaded rounds. Inconsistency is the enemy of accuracy.


Is your bench level? A solid chunk of wood supported on cinder blocks may be fine in terms of taking the pressure exerted in sizing a round, but if it’s not level, your powder scale could be off.

This is less of a problem with electronic scales, but as I covered in a previous article, it can affect mechanical scales such as the Lee Safety Powder Scale.

Height, light and storage

This is more about comfort and ease of operation than anything else, but it’s not hard to realise that good conditions lead to a quality product. If you’re sitting in the same spot for hours on end, you’re much more likely to produce something of value if your back isn’t aching and you can actually see what you’re doing.

Storage is a must, and investing in a storage solution like a bin rack is not a bad idea. Keeping your brass separated by number of firings is easier this way. You can also organise your products by calibre or even the specific rifle they’re for. Lockable storage is a good idea for powder and other dangerous components. Don’t forget to store powder, primers and completed rounds separately and in their appropriate and labelled containers.

Match quality rounds reloaded for half the price of factory ammo.

How to save money on reloading

Reloading not only allows us to create accurate rounds tailored to specific rifles, but also helps to keep down the cost of shooting. Components can be costly in New Zealand, especially powder which accrues charges for dangerous-goods handling.

The cost of reloading of in New Zealand can be high compared to buying components in the States, and unfortunately a lot of this does come down to those handling charges. Whether it’s the shipping, handling and import charges on bullets and brass or the explosives handling fees on powders and primers, there’s always something that makes it more costly to assemble your own ammunition at this end of the world.

Fortunately there are a couple ways to reduce the cost of hand loading your own ammo. Here are two that I recommend.

1. Shopping around

There are numerous gun stores in Auckland and the rest of New Zealand that sell reloading components. There may only be a few major ones, but there are also plenty of local shops that stock what you need.

In order to find the most cost-effective way to produce match-accuracy rounds I put together a spread sheet comparing the cost of the primers, brass, powder and projectiles at around eight different stores. By comparing prices around the country I managed to shave off more than 50 cents a round. That’s $50 per hundred rounds. Not bad.

When shopping around, don’t forget to account for courier fees. For example, when purchasing some Sierra projectiles I found that the cheapest store in the country was around $10 cheaper than my nearest gun store. Given the $4.50 courier charge and the time it would have taken to reach me, I opted to go the slightly more expensive route.

2. Economise where possible…

…without sacrificing quality. In some areas you may wish to spend a tiny bit more. For example, Federal Large Rifle Match primers cost me less than a dollar more per 100 than less consistent primers. That’s an area where I don’t mind spending a tiny bit more.

When it comes to economising, not everyone can afford to buy vast quantities of powder at a time. However, you can increase your powder economy by 10 per cent very easily.

ADI Powders are manufactured in Australia, and as a lot of shooters know, many Hodgon powders are produced at the ADI plant. In fact, ADI provides a handy sheet that lets you find the Hodgon equivalents of their powders. There is also info for other manufacturers as well.

The reason this is such a bonus for New Zealand reloaders is that not only can you support a company that is kind of local (across the ditch is better than across the world), but if you buy their 500 gram containers, you’ll be getting 10 per cent more than an American manufactured equivalent 1lb which is 454 grams. Usually at the same price too.

There are always ways to make your reloading cheaper, hope these two help!


PPU brass and Federal Large Rifle Match primers.

Accuracy in reloading

Just how important is accuracy in reloading? Well, it depends how accurate you want your rounds to be. The key to achieving consistently good rounds is removing every source of variance possible – you are going for repeatability. In other words, to get your bullets in the same hole every time, you need to make sure that all  the variables that go into making them are as controlled as possible.

Match vs. Plinking ammo

If you’re reloading ammo to burn at the range, you can afford to take a “set and forget” approach to your reloading. Once you have your powder trickler set to the right volume, you should be getting fairly consistent charges. You’ll also only need to measure your COAL a few times to ensure that the rest will be coming out the same. This is good enough for general ammo production, and will be as good or better than factory ammo at a third of the cost (depending on your components, etc.).

However, for match ammunition or for working up a load for a new rifle, a lot more precision is required. I tend to weigh every charge on a scale before seating the projectile. Every round is exact. If it’s not, I pour another charge and start again. Because the powder trickler goes off volume and the scale goes off weight, some standard deviation is to be expected.

Resized case in shellholder.
Match performance is the result of repeatable procedures.

I also measure the COAL of every single round. Not because my settings have changed, but because slight variations in even the most expensive bullets do happen. Those that aren’t exactly the same get pulled or used for target practice. Why be so pedantic? Because we’re eliminating every possible variation to make sure our ammo production is as uniform as possible from round to round.

I know of people that do this to the extreme. The weigh every bullet they use. They have a log for every casing, rejecting ones that produce inferior accuracy due to differences in metal hardening or other aspects that are beyond the average reloader’s comprehension. This is for the accuracy fanatics. And more power to them, but I enjoy a fine level of accuracy for the amount of effort I put in. It’s each to his/her own. If I had to be as pedantic about my reloading, I probably wouldn’t enjoy the actual shooting as much. But everyone is different, and for some of the shooting fraternity, ultimate accuracy is the ultimate goal.

A proper work space

Whether you’re reloading for 3-gun, varminting or 1000 yard shots, one thing’s always necessary; a properly prepared working area. A space that is free from clutter, mess and distraction is essential.

Before I learnt this lesson, I’ll admit I knocked over a few cases full of powder and so on. Everything should have its place in a reloading station. A good example of how much your work area affects your ammunition production is a mistake I made a few days ago…

Working up a load I was preparing six rounds at 1-grain intervals to take to the range. With six different charges, that’s a total of only 36 rounds, but there’s a lot of finicky business around getting the charge weights right every time. About half way through I move my scale from one bench to another to make room for something. Once settled on the other bench, the charge come up at a different weight.

Now this wouldn’t be a problem if I was using a digital scale, I would be able to hit TARE and know I was working with a clean slate. However, with my mechanical scale, things aren’t quite so simple. The difference in weight readings was because my bench was on a lean… Something had got under one of the legs and was causing the weight on one side of the scale to dip down. The difference was about 1.2 grains. Yup, I just painstakingly produced about 18 rounds that were completely useless because I had no idea what the actual charge was.

Not the worst set back in the world, but a good lesson to learn – always prepare your space thoroughly before starting your reloading procedures.

Hand loaded 6.5x55 rounds. Featuring PPU brass and 142gr Sierra Matchkingds.

Check your reloading data. Then check again.

Reloaders are a unique bunch. They represent the line that divides casual shooters and members of the shooting community. Anyone that does any great volume of shooting will reload. So will people interested in achieving the ultimate in accuracy for their particular firearm. Reloading is a unique skill that takes a while to learn, and there are lessons for those who are new to the game. The first one is – check your data.

Check your data before you purchase your components

If you’ve just bought your first reloading kit, dies, shell holders, etc, etc, you want to cracking into producing some highly accurate, super cheap rounds. Hold on. Before you run to your local gun store to buy the cheapest (or most expensive) projectile for your rifle, do some research.

The internet is a vast resource for reloaders. There are plenty of forums that are overflowing with useful data and personal reloading recipes. You’ll also find that most manufacturers will have some load data on their website, or will provide you some by email. This is an authoritative source of information that you can trust.

So, start your search with the forums. Find out what people are using in your particular type of firearm. Certain models, barrels and magazines will have preferences for different weights, seating depths and powders. Once you’ve got a general feel for what would suit your purposes (cheap as chips for plinking, best round for accuracy, great wounding for hunting, etc.), narrow it down to one bullet to start with.

If you’d like some good info on what kind of round is good for your rifle, check out the Knowledge Base at Nathan Foster’s Terminal Ballistics research website.

Check your data when you buy your components

Another great resource is your local gun shop owner or gunsmith. On my last trip the gun store I learned something about conflicting data that I had. I went in to purchase reloading components for my Husqvarna M38 Swedish Mauser. I was armed with reloading data from Sierra (I was purchasing 142 gr Sierra HPBT Matchkings) and data from the powder manufacturer. However, I wasn’t sure on the figures as the powder manufacturer stated a starting load close to the maximum load recommended by Sierra. They also had different seating depths/COALs.

6.5x55 with a 32.6 gr charge and a 3.100" (78.75 mm) COAL.
6.5×55 with a 32.6 gr charge and a 3.100″ (78.75 mm) COAL.

My thought was that the powder manufacturer was trying to sell more powder at the expense of my brass and barrel, but in chatting to one of the sales guys at the local store, we quickly figured out that the powder manufacturer’s specifications were dangerously high for my rifle. The reason being, Sierra’s load was built up for a rifle of similar vintage to mine (the test rifle was Swedish Mauser M96), while the powder manufacturer’s data was figured off a brand new action with a custom built barrel. This made more sense as I realised the 0.050″ difference was to allow for the long throat of the Swede, while modern actions would be a bit tighter.

Whether these rifles were actually used to test these loads or it was done entirely withing a ballistics calculator and other software is unknown to me. Regardless, the same data for the same calibre and projectile came out completely different from two very authoritative sources. So, remember when reloading to always get as much information as possible at every step of the process.

And of course, reloading and shooting hand-loaded rounds comes with risk. Start at minimum loads and work your way up until optimum performance is achieved or pressure signs start to show. If your bolt is stiff on extraction or primers come out flattened or cratered, dial back on the powder a bit.