Wolf Military Classic 7.62×39: perfect AK-47 ammo

Russian ammunition has long been available in the US to anyone shooting the classic 7.62x39R AK/SKS caliber. While much if not most of it may look the same, there are significant differences. The vast majority of this ammunition is produced in one of two plants in Russia: Bear in Bernaul and Wolf in Tula. These are enormous plants that are emblematic of the Soviet military/industrial expansion during the Cold War.

While all ammo produced by Bear/Wolf has been steel cased, early production included a lacquer coating to protect against rust. This is all but gone now (a few pallets may remain in the back of a warehouse here or there) with the new cases sporting a polymer coating instead. This greatly reduces the problems with melted lacquer fouling the chamber. Of course, this problem really was only significant with .223/5.56 cartridges and not with the AK round.

What really sets the Wolf Military Classic JHP apart from the rest for me is the waterproof sealant around the bullet and the primer, the tighter quality control (currently at least) and the hollow point terminal ballistics. Interestingly enough, when considering full metal jacket ammunition, the terminal ballistics for .223/5.56 is more impressive than that of the 7.62x39R round. This is assuming relatively short-range engagements. This is because the AK round tends to over-penetrate (through-and-through) whereas the AR round penetrates a short distance, yaws then disintegrates causing massive wounding. In the case of the 124gr JHP round under consideration, this counter-intuitive condition does not exist. Nothing short of a .308 can outperform the devastating terminal ballistics of this round.

So, why don’t I buy some Winchester White Box then reload this round instead of only shooting factory ammo? Mainly it is an issue of cost. For me, the AK-47 fills the role of low-cost, high-powered, dependable defensive rifle, chambered in the second most common caliber in the Western world. Having a highly-tuned round would be a waste frankly. When was the last time you heard the phrase “7.62×39 Match ammo”? Given that the rifle was designed from the ground up to shoot steel cases (unlike most Western rifles) there’s no worry about broken extractors or ejectors due to the introduction of the steel case. So low-cost Russian ammo is perfect for this application.

There are many great online sources for this round. I normally purchase 1,000-round cases so that I can keep plenty of mags loaded with fresh rounds and still keep proficient with the weapon by shooting it on a regular basis. I probably shoot the gun 60-80 rounds a month, sometimes more in the warmer months. Again, this is just to keep familiar and make sure the gun doesn’t get rusty or full of lint or cobwebs.

So, what about practice rounds? Well, given the low cost of this round, it makes sense to simply use the same round in practice that I would for defensive purposes. It makes it simple to buy, shoot, store and plan for my AK ammo.

Sometimes simple is really good.

IO, Inc. AK-47: Quintessentially Soviet

With the expiration of the so-called Assault Weapons Ban (don’t get me started!) there has been a proliferation of Kalashnikov variants sold in the US. These rifles are almost always built on parts manufactured in former Soviet bloc countries. This is possible because the parts are imported to the US then built into rifles by US companies with a few US-made parts such that they qualify as domestically-produced firearms.


There are many companies that have gotten into the business of parts-built AKs, some of which have good reputations and some not-so-good. One firm that has been quietly building a name for itself is IO, Inc. of Monroe, North Carolina. I purchased one of their AK-47C rifles in 2009. This rifle has proven to be a perfect incarnation of the iconic weapon. That means that the rifle is a no-nonsense, no-frills rifle that just runs and runs. The imported parts are Romanian so the quality is probably not as good as a Yugoslavian kit but with this platform we are talking about relatively minor differences.

When I received the rifle I was surprised at how well it was put together. I have shot a lot of kit guns and I’ve seen some really awful fit/finish jobs. This rifle was nicely appointed with Tapco buttstock, pistol grip and Galil-style front stock. Tapco is no Magpul but they are good at making decent inexpensive components. The gun also came with a Tapco 30-round magazine, which I didn’t like much because it was too smooth and hard to grip.

Within about 300 rounds I did experience a problem: the tiny trigger disconnect spring broke. I contacted IO and they wanted me to send the gun back to them for warranty repair. The cost of the spring was nothing compared to shipping costs so I said “no thanks”. Honestly, they should have just sent me the spring but perhaps I spoke with the wrong person. Anyway, while tracking down that little spring locally, I formally met Glyn, our local USPSA guru, and the rest is history.

While the trigger was apart I took the opportunity to replace the “shepherd’s hook” trigger group retaining spring with a flat steel plate. Brownell‘s had everything I needed, as usual. That Shepherd’s Hook is really tough to reinstall so I was glad to see it gone. Also the retaining plate can’t break like a spring can. Since this repair/modification, I haven’t had any sort of failure or problem with the rifle and I’ve put several thousand rounds of Winchester, Wolf and Mil-Surp ammo through it.

A few other things I changed: I installed a 3-point sling because I just can’t get into that low-carry business. I want to actually aim my shots. I’m funny that way. Second, I installed a Tapco side-folding stock. The stock is a bit longer than the fixed unit it came with, which I don’t particularly like, but the benefit of the folder outweighs the slightly longer length of pull. Being able to wield the rifle in close-quarters is a big plus in my opinion. That and stowing it becomes much easier. Another must-have item for me is the excellent FSC47 “flash-suppressing compensator” from Primary Weapons Systems. With the heavier AK round this device makes a big difference in felt recoil and in target reacquisition. The funny red O-ring really is the right part: the comp stays put due to a spring-loaded retaining pin so the O-ring is just to stop the rattling of the comp on the barrel. Yeah, it’s an AK thing. 😉

I would consider this a good “truck gun” if I didn’t already have the SU-16C. Nevertheless, it is a solid performer that I would recommend to anyone looking for a decent, low-cost AK.

UPDATE: see my IO Inc. AK-47 update for 2013 post for further information about a problem that developed with this rifle.