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Corrosive ammo in SKS/AK47

The SKS will outlive us all. There’s no question about it, Simonov created a carbine that will stand the test of time. Unfortunately – it just didn’t stand the test of the Soviet military. Well, not for long anyway, as its Kalashnikov cousin – the AK47 – soon took over. While its history is long and interesting, this post is concerned with the modern day application of the SKS with military surplus ammunition.

As much as the Soviets may have swiftly moved on to bigger and better (and more automatic) things, there are military forces all over the world that have made good use of the robust and reliable SKS. It’s been produced by Eastern Bloc countries and a host of Asian nations to the tune of around 15 million rifles, and has featured in many major armed conflicts. The rugged and forgiving construction of the rifle, ease of maintenance and affordability and abundance of ammunition means it will be around for a while longer with insurgent, rebel and militia factions all over the world. It’s also these three factors that keep it popular among sporting users such as hunters, plinkers and those prepping for the zombie apocalypse.

Benefits of milsurp ammo for the modern shooter

$$$ Military surplus ammunition is cheap and plentiful. If you live in the USA where importers bring in entire containers of disused Soviet arms to sell on to a willing public. Otherwise, it’s about as cheap as the cheapest commercial stuff.

Hungarian 7.62x39 from 1961 (copper wash) and 1971 (lacquer)
Hungarian 7.62×39 from 1961 (copper wash) and 1971 (lacquer)

Long shelf life If you’re storing ammo for “one day” the long shelf life of milsurp ammo probably gets you all excited. I’ve put some Hungarian ammo through my SKS that was head-stamped with 1961 and 1971 dates of manufacture. It went bang.

Steel casings This is a plus or minus, depending on how you look at it. If you’re after some cheap and cheerful time at the range, steel casings keep the cost of your ammo down (whether commercial or milsurp ammo) and also mean you don’t have to scour the range looking for your brass (which the SKS happily ejects in every direction known to man). Of course you’re a good range user who cleans up after themselves anyway, right?

Drawbacks of milsurp ammo for the modern shooter

It’s dirty But then again, if you’re looking at surplus ammunition, chances are the only other stuff you feed your SKS or AK is the cheapest factory fare, which is not much better.

It’s corrosive Well, no need to freak out about that one – we all know that military ammo in 7.62×39 is corrosive. So is 7.62x54R and a lot of 303 British too. Anything that’s been around as long as your father is probably corrosive.

However, all is not lost for the milsurp shooter on a budget. The chrome-lined bore of your rifle protects your barrel from nasty corrosive primer detritus. But the action, gas tube and magazine should still receive a thorough birthday after shooting corrosive ammo.

It’s FMJ Full metal jacket ammo is fine on the range, but it’s no good for hunting. It won’t create enough of a wound channel to quickly and humanely dispatch your game. Species commonly hunted with this round include small deer, goats, wild sheep and pigs. You don’t want an angry boar charging you down because you’ve put a pin hole through its lung. For those that keep spam cans of milsurp ammo next to their crate of SKS rifles ready to arm the family when the rebellion starts, FMJ isn’t your go-to either for the same reasons.

It’s tracer or steel core Tracer is sure fun to shoot, but the novelty wears off after you’ve emptied one or two mags. It’s also very hard to shoot because most ranges (quite reasonably) don’t want you to set their butts on fire. Same goes for forests or other hunting areas – not a good idea. Steel core again, is shunned by many ranges and also causes over-penetration on game and targets. If you’re buying milsurp ammo, try and avoid these two types of ammunition.


For hunting, plinking or “target shooting” with an SKS or AK-style rifle, milsurp ammo doesn’t offer many benefits that make the extra hassle worthwhile. I still have some lying around and will definitely let rip on a range trip if it’s just taking up room in my safe, but I wouldn’t go out to buy milsurp ammo specifically. If you look around and do some digging on the interwebs, chances are you can pick up some cheap commercially produced ammo for the same price as ex-military stuff. While it won’t be any more accurate or clean, it won’t get you in trouble at the range or rust out the gas tube on your rifle.

7.62x39 on stripper clips, ready for use in an AK47, NHM90 or SK
7.62×39 on stripper clips, ready for use in an AK47, NHM90 or SKS.


Geoff is a shooting and reloading enthusiast who would rather be at the range, but is content to write about it. He is a member of Waiuku Pistol Club, and shoots rifle, pistol and shotgun in various disciplines, occasionally, managing to get out for a hunt.

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