Growing up deer hunting, shooting and reloading, I’ve always enjoyed shooting and learning about odd ball cartridges. One that I have become familiar with in recent months is the 7.62x54r. The Russian 7.62x54r is a former Russian military service round that was used for many decades by the Russians and their allies. Since the ending of the Cold War, thousands of Mosin-Nagant rifles chambered for the 7.62×54 round have been imported into the United States and can be found for a very low price.
In addition to the rifles, tons of surplus ammunition (some of which is corrosive) is also available. However, the available surplus ammunition uses full metal jacket bullets which are designed for military and not hunting purposes. For deer hunting, some sort of expanding bullet is needed. Though more expensive than the surplus ammunition, 7.62×54 ammo using soft point bullets is available from a number of manufacturers including Winchester, Hornady, Norma and Prvi Partizan. A 7.62×54 loading using a 180 grain bullet will create a velocity of about 2600 feet per second and 2700 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle. As 1000 foot pounds of energy is considered a rough minimum for a deer hunting cartridge, the 7.62×54 clearly exceeds that standard. In fact, the 180 grain bullet loading will produce over 1000 foot pounds of energy out to about 350 yards.
Though the 7.62×54 is not a traditional hunting cartridge in the United States, it has been used successfully for years on big game animals in other countries. Due to its familiarity to military veterans and wide availability, the 7.62×54 is commonly used as a hunting cartridge in Eastern European countries that were former Russian / Soviet allies. While the 7.62×54 falls short of 30-06 ballistics, the old Russian round is comprable to its American counterpart. As the 30-06 is considered to be a great all around hunting caliber, there is no reason to think that the 7.62×54 is not more than sufficient for deer and similarly sized animals.
The 7.62x54r or simply 7.62×54 is a rimmed cartridge, hence the ‘r’ designation in the cartridge’s name. It is important that the 7.62×54 designation not be shortened to avoid confusing it with the 7.62×39 used in the SKS and the AK-47 as well as the 7.62×51 NATO (.308 Winchester). The 7.62×54, 7.62×39 and the 7.62×51 are in no way interchangeable. If you are taking out an old service rifle to shoot or hunt, have the gun checked out by a competent gunsmith before firing it. These old guns may have been well used, abused or improperly assembled at some point in the past and may be no longer safe to shoot. But if the gun is safe, the 7.62x54r is more than capable of effectively taking deer, bear and other similarly sized animals.