The 7.62x54mmR entered service for the Russian Army in the Mosin-Nagant rifle in 1891. The rifle remains popular with civilian shooters around the globe, and militaries still use the 7.62x54mmR as well. The most notable use of this cartridge is in the Dragunov sniper rifle. The PKM machine gun, however, is also chambered for the 7.62x54mmR cartridge. The 7.62x54mmR has more than 120 years of continuous service, making it the world's longest serving small arms military cartridge.
Some shooters reasonably believe that the R in the name of the 7.62x54mmR stands for Russian, but in truth, as is the case for so many other cartridges with the R designation, it stands for Rimmed, a protruding rim being a feature of the case. Ballistics performance numbers for the 7.62x54mmR are comparable to the .308 Winchester. The original load used a round nose full metal jacket bullet weighing 210 grains. That round was replaced in 1908 by a full metal jacketed spitzer point bullet weighing in at a much lighter 147 grains. This bullet weight has stayed the most common, but applications for this cartridge have spanned the gamut. For use by the line infantry, the bullet has a full metal jacket and steel core. Other bullet types for this cartridge include tracers, armor piercing rounds and ammunition specially designed for sniping applications.
The 7.62x54mmR generates respectable muzzle velocities greater than 3,000 feet per second; some loads even approach 3,500 feet per second. Bullets weigh between 147 grains and more than 200 grains. Muzzle energies for the 7.62x54mmR easily exceed 2,400 foot pounds, and it often still carries more than 1,000 foot pounds at distances of 500 yards.
Around the world, target shooters and hunters use the 7.62x54mmR since the cartridges are readily available, and in comparison to the .308 Winchester, much less expensive. The Mosin Nagant rifle is popular at the entry level in the US since many new shooters appreciate the affordable prices of the rifle and the ammo. The ammunition also enjoys the advantage of being sold in the well known “Spam cans,” steel cases that hold 880 rounds of ammunition and allow storage for indefinite periods of time. The main manufacturers of 7.62x54mmR ammo are Tula and Wolf, but some other manufacturers occasionally produce a run as well.
Hunters choose the 7.62x54mmR to take trophy game, and aspiring target shooters use the cartridge to win trophies at the range.