Golden Tiger 7.62x39 Review: Top-Choice SHTF Ammo
As a kid, I never wondered what ammo my dad was loading when we’d go out to the range. All I knew at the time was that he’d put a couple of ammo cans in the back of his 1979 F-150 (we called it the Beast), put his SKS behind the seat, and we’d head out to the range. When the ammo shortages hit the USA, I asked him what was in all of those ammo cans (I wanted the inventory we had back in the day), and he said, “Golden Tiger.”
He said it was cheap, easy to get, and “pretty good ammo.” Unfortunately, the ammo market has changed dramatically since I started taking my own children to the range, and that same Golden Tiger we used to stockpile, is a little more challenging to find. But when I do see it in stock, I order it.
The Golden Tiger 7.62x39 is more than just Russian mil-spec ammunition. It’s accurate, reloadable, and you can get it for a good price. I’d definitely recommend stockpiling it when you can get it. If you’re in a hurry, check our inventory HERE.
However, if you want to read the many reasons Golden Tiger has earned such an excellent reputation, keep reading!
Golden Tiger is more than what you’d expect from Russian mil-spec ammunition. I like to refer to it as SHTF ammo. It’s cheap, quality ammunition that’s easy to stockpile and performs flawlessly. Essentially, you’d do well to have a few thousand-round boxes in your closet if society collapses to ensure your Yugo SKS or WASR 10/63 never runs dry.
The Golden Tiger 124-grain 7.62x39 FMJBT (full metal jacket boat tail) has a steel case, lacquer coating, and bi-metal jacket over its lead core. Moreover, even at a low price point, you get an FMJ with the boat tail design. If you're unfamiliar with boat tail bullets, this design increases the ballistic coefficient, which in turn helps make the bullet less susceptible to wind drift.
These cartridges come out of Russia, and as such, they’re technically designed for AK47 rifles. Naturally, the more common firearm here in the USA is the AR15, but the Ruger Mini-30 is an Uncle Sam approved (American made) rifle that utilizes the 7.62x39 cartridge.
These rounds performed pretty well, but the primers have that typical Russian hardness that increases the FTF (Fail-to-Fire) rate if your rifle often experiences light primer strikes. Light primer strikes can occur if your trigger springs are old and worn or if you've upgraded to lighter springs for a lighter trigger pull.
If you're considering stocking up on Golden Tiger, I will say it’s worth upgrading your rifle to accommodate them because it is some of the best SHTF ammo you’ll find.
Manufactured at the Vympel Ammunition factory in Russia (alongside Red Army ammo), these cartridges undergo stringent quality tests to ensure they perform. Golden Tiger ammo has a sealed steel case with non-corrosive Berdan primers.
The case mouth is also lacquer sealed to protect against the elements to ensure your ammo goes bang every time you pull the trigger. This means you can store it, in even the harshest conditions, and still count on it to perform.
Golden Tiger ammo also has a high muzzle velocity and ballistic coefficient for what it is. However, it is an FMJ, and we here in the US don’t use those for hunting. FMJs don’t expand on impact. So these guys are best for plinking, target shooting, bulk storage, and practice.
These high-quality cartridges come at a great price and have never disappointed me or any of the shooters I’ve talked to. Furthermore, the general consensus is that if the Golden Tiger 124-grain FMJ is one of the most coveted Russian-made cartridges in the US.
Golden Tiger ammunition is great for many things but not for everything. I like that it’s reliable, cheap, and performs exceptionally well. The lacquered case and sealant keep it functional even in harsh conditions (drop it, wipe it off, load it, and fire). For those of us living in the Southeast (America’s sauna), I’ve had no problems with Golden Tiger in high humidity or frigid temperatures (we get those occasionally).
One of the more surprising aspects of GT ammo is that it has a high ballistic coefficient. The BC is 0.3, meaning it’s nearly as good as any premium American rifle ammo. For reference, Federal’s American Eagle 124-grain FMJ has a ballistic coefficient of 0.298. For foreign ammo, the boat tail helps keep it on course.
Another interesting point regarding Golden Tiger ammunition is that we haven’t heard many reports of dissatisfaction from others. While some call it the King of the 7.62x39, the only complaints I’ve ever heard are the occasional FTF because someone needs a stronger trigger spring (light primer strikes can be common in the AR15). Of course, you’ll still get plenty of rounds to go boom, but ultimately this is Russian mil-spec ammo meant for an SKS or AK47.
Compared to other popular Russian 7.62x39 ammo, like Tulammo and Wolf, the Golden Tiger rounds seem to run a bit hotter and cycle a bit faster in some rifles. I’ve also never heard a single report of FTE (failure to eject). So, while that may happen, it isn’t likely.
Our California readers may not get the chance to try Golden Tiger in their home state. Moreover, Some indoor shooting ranges across the country may forbid its use due to the bi-metal jacket (and something about excessive lead exposure).
If you’re into reloading, Golden Tiger ammo probably isn't the best choice. First, the Berdan primers are a nightmare to remove and finding replacement primers is a massive headache compared to their Boxer brothers. Also the steel cases will wear down your reloading dies in short order, rendering them useless. In short, Golden Tiger ammo is a one-time use item, and that's ok because it's so inexpensive to buy 7.62x39 in bulk.
We’ve covered why we like Golden Tiger 7.62x39, but we haven’t deeply explored its best uses. The Russians use it for hunting, but we have different standards over here. So, we’ll let you know this now; this isn’t hunting ammo. If you need an excellent 7.62x39 hunting cartridge, check out the Hornady Black 123-grain SST.
Essentially without a polymer tip or soft point bullet (or other composition meant for expansion), Golden Tiger is perfect for plinking, SHTF stockpiling, training, and target shooting.
I try to keep an eye out for Golden Tiger, but truth be told, one of the greatest disadvantages of the ammo is that it’s rarely in stock these days. Another issue is that the primers are meant for stronger firing pin springs, so a rifle upgrade might be needed if you experience light primer strikes.
Clearly, I have a nostalgic bias for Golden Tiger. But I’d never give you a review that wasn’t well-rounded and critical of the ammunition. So, let’s take a look at the TLDR version of what’s written above.
- Excellent shelf-life
- Great price
- Excellent Reputation
- Challenging to find
- Hardened primers
- Not available in all 50 states
If it’s ballistics you’re interested in, we’ve compiled this table for you. Take a look.
If you want more than what an FMJBT can offer, Golden Tiger also makes expanding ammunition in 7.62x39. This ammo is even more difficult to find than the FMJBT, but it’s worth knowing what’s out there.
Remember when I said the Golden Tiger 7.62x39 doesn’t expand? Fortunately, the company also manufactures a hollow point version that does! Unlike a lead core, the HPBT (hollow point boat tail) is designed to fragment and increase wound size.
This type of bullet is better for hunting small to medium-sized game with thinner hides. This is ammo that you could actually use for deer hunting.
I have spoken quite a bit about Golden Tiger’s inventory issues here in the US. If you’re in the same predicament as I am, scrambling to find something of equal value and quality, there are a few options.
The Wolf 7.62x39 FMJs have a lot of similar attributes to the Golden Tiger. This ammunition has a steel case with polymer coating, and it’s non-corrosive. It’s a bit lighter and doesn’t have the boat tail. However, it’s also low-cost ammunition that you can easily buy in bulk.
The Wolf 7.62x39 123-grain cartridges are still high-quality Russian cartridges that feed and eject well. You won’t find many FTFs in each box if you’re using the right rifles. When you can’t find Golden Tiger, Wolf ammo will do.
If you’re ok with paying a little (like minimal) extra to get a higher ballistic coefficient, check out the PRVI Partizan 123-grain FMJBT. Similar to Golden Tiger, the PRVI has a boat tail design and sealed primer.
Even better, the PRVI 7.62x39 has a brass case and Boxer primer. If you’re into reloading, this is a much better choice than the Golden Tiger. However, be aware that rifles with violent extraction designed for steel-cased ammo (like the SKS and AK-47) might experience stuck cases as the extractor can rip off the base of the case due to brass being a softer metal than steel.
I'd recommend you buy a 20-round box to ensure your rifle likes it first, then if it does, feel free to load up on a bulk pack.
As mentioned above, choosing a new ammo to stockpile is a tedious and often overwhelming process. Golden Tiger won’t let you down as long as you have a rifle that can handle it. And even if you don’t, there are gunsmiths for a reason.
If you see that “In Stock” icon, just remember it’s highly unlikely you won’t enjoy this Russian FMJBT ammo. It has the quality standards of American ammo for a fraction of the price. When you open a 1,000-round case, you’ll instantly see what we’re talking about when it comes to the quality of these cartridges.
Yes, it’s designed for AK47s and SKS rifles and runs flawlessly in them. However, Golden Tiger 7.62x39 isn’t in stock as much as it used to be.
The Golden Tiger 7.62x39 is an effective combat round up to 400 yards. Beyond that, the FMJ projectile loses the speed and accuracy necessary to perform.
Yes. but you need to pick a 7.62x39 cartridge designed for hunting. Here’s an article explaining what you should look for in a hunting round in detail.
No. Brown Bear ammo is manufactured at the Barnaul plant in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Vympel plant manufactures Golden Tiger and Red Army ammo.
Norinco ammo has a steel core, and it’s Chinese ammo. Tula and Golden Tiger are both Russian ammo, but Golden Tiger ammo is manufactured in Vympel and Tulammo is made at the Tula factory.
Every great American manufacturer has its own variation of the 7.62x39. Remington includes its Core-Lokt technology to help control expansion. Winchester’s 123-grain 7.62x39 FMJ is a lot like Golden Tiger, however.
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