The 7.62x54R Cartridge



 The task of finding a round sufficient to replace the old Berdan II cartridge was not an easy one.  The Berdan cartridge was one of the most powerful black powder cartridge rifles of its day, and the Russian army wanted something comparable.  Like many other weapons of the day, the new cartridge would be smaller in caliber and more suitable for use in a magazine fed rifle.  The new round was round nosed bullet in a brass case loaded with black powder.  This new cartridge was soon designated as the M-91.

Experience in the Russo-Japanese war showed that the round nosed M-91 lacked accuracy and range.  A new cartridge was soon developed in 1908.  It used the more powerful smokeless powder as well as a spitzer (pointed) bullet.  This gave the bullet a much longer range and better accuracy.  It was also lighter than the M-91, this allowed soldiers to carry more rounds with them into battle.  This new bullet was designated as the Type L (light) bullet.  It was the standard cartridge used in World War One and during the Revolution.

The next development in the 7.62x54R cartridge occurred in 1930 as the Red Army completed a number of modernization programs.  A new heavier round weighing 182 grains was introduced.  It was called the Type D (long range) bullet.  A special round for the ShKAS machine gun was also manufactured.  It is very powerful and can damage normal rifles if fired from them.

Armor piercing rounds based on a Boino-Rodzevich design came into existence in 1930.  They had a steel core and an outer jacket of copper or lead.  When the round struck the target the outer jacket would melt from the heat of impact and act as a lubricant for the heavier steel core.  A further development of the armor piercing round was the armor piercing incendiary and the armor piercing incendiary tracer cartridges.

Incendiary and tracer rounds were introduced in the late 1930's.  Their development was similar and involved a hollow bullet filled with a chemical substance.  The incendiary rounds were filled with phosphorous and aluminum mixture that burned very well.  Later rounds used Thermite which burned even better.

Tracers came in two forms.  One version burned for green five seconds and covered 1200 meters (although it was required to reach 1500 meters).  An anti-aircraft tracer was also created.  It was unique in that it burned red for 800 meters as it ascended, then burned green as it fell back to earth.  This version was soon discarded, but the first model was kept to the present day.

Special Purpose 7.62x54R Cartridges

Over the years a number of specialized cartridges came into existence.  In the early 1940's special subsonic rounds were made for use in silenced weapons.  These have two types of markings - one used before 1941 and the other was used only after.  We do not have any of these rounds to display here as they are very difficult to find.  Another special round that was developed was the ranging incendiary or PZ cartridge.  This round was developed for use in machine guns and is very dangerous to fire in infantry rifles.  It has a complicated striker and explosive within the bullet.  It is unstable and can explode if mishandled.

The last special purpose cartridge that we know of was developed for use in the SVD sniper rifle and known as the 7N1 and 7N14.  These rounds were designed by Sabelnikov, Sazonov, and Dvoryaninov to be more accurate than the conventional ball ammunition then in service.  According to Russian sources the round proved to be 2.5 times more precise than the Type L or Type LPS in use at the time.  It has no special markings, but can be distinguished from regular cartridges only by writing on the ammunition case.


Round Type Picture/Color Bullet Weight Comments
M-91 Picture Not
13.636 grams
(210 grains)
Early round nosed bullet, replaced in 1908.  Brass cased with black powder loading.
Type D
Heavy Ball

Yellow Tip
182 grains Discontinued in front line service by 1970.
Type LPS
Light Ball
(Lyokhkaya Pulya Obrazets)

148 grains Is loaded with mild steel core.
Type L
Light Ball
(Lyokhkaya Pulya Obrazets 1930)

148 grains


 If made before 1970, this will be a lead core bullet with copper plating. 

If made after 1969, it is loaded with steel core "LPS" bullet.


Green Tip
148 grains The range of a tracer was required to be 1500 meters, but was actually closer to 1200 meters.  The tracer compound was a mix of barium salts, magnesium, and aluminum.
Armor Piercing Incendiary Tracer
(Broneboino-zazhitgatel'naya trassiruyushchaya)

Violet and Red Tip
142 grains (approx)  Its burn compound was originally a phosphorous/aluminum mix, later rounds used thermite.
Ranging Incendiary

Red Tip
142 grains (approx)  Its burn compound was originally a phosphorous/aluminum mix, later rounds used thermite.
Armor Piercing

Black Tip
170 grains  
Armor Piercing-Incendiary
(Broneboino-zazhitgaltel'naya trassiruyushchaya)

Black & Red Tip
155 grains  Its burn compound was originally a phosphorous/aluminum mix, later rounds used thermite.
Crimped Tip
No projectile  



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Sources Cited

(1) Bolotin, D.N. Drury, Soviet Small-Arms and Ammunition, Finnish Arms Museum Foundation, 1995. Print.
(2) Lapin, Terence W., The Mosin Nagant Rifle, North Cape Publications, 1998. Print.