Big Guns: 308 vs 7.62x54r

  • Jack Collins

When it comes to big caliber battle rifles, two calibers come to mind. In one corner, you have the 7.62×51 NATO, also known by the moniker 308. In the other, you have the lesser-known 7.62x54r, sometimes simply called “7.62 x54.” Both of these cartridges feature big bullets with plenty of powder, capable of reaching out and touching a target at long distances. In this post, we’ll take a look at these rounds and compare the 7.62×41 (308) vs the 7.62×54 (7.62x54r).

What is 7.62×51 NATO (308)?

The 7.62×51 NATO, aka the 308, is one of the most ubiquitous big-bore rifle rounds in the Western World. It was originally derived from the 30-06, the round used in the M1 Garand. The US Army introduced the cartridge with the M14, which borrowed heavily from the M1 Garand but added a detachable box magazine. Other NATO countries adopted the 7.62×51 cartridge with other battle rifles, notably the FN FAL in the 1950s.

The cartridge’s days as NATO’s primary combat round were numbered, though. In the 1960s, testing revealed that soldiers armed with AR-15s chambered in 5.56×45 could effectively out-gun soldiers with M14s using 7.62×51 since they could carry more ammo. However, NATO still uses the 7.62 as its go-to round for DMRs and sniper rifles. It’s also earned a place as one of the top hunting rounds worldwide, thanks to its huge power and range.

What is 7.62x54r (7.62mmR)?

While it may not be as familiar to us over in the Western Hemisphere, the 7.62x54r is a venerable cartridge with a long history of military and civilian use. In fact, it’s the oldest round still in military service anywhere in the world. Originally designed for the Mosin-Nagant in 1891, the cartridge has seen use in conflicts like the Boxer Rebellion, Russo-Japanese War, both World Wars, and up to the current Russo-Ukrainian War. Currently, the Russian Federation uses the cartridge in its SVD “Dragunov” platform, along with the SV-98 bolt-action sniper rifle.

Although it’s easy to confuse with the 7.62×39 cartridge (aka the “AK round”), you definitely shouldn’t do that. The 7.62x54r has significantly more powder and a much bigger bullet. Here’s another easy mistake to make with this round’s nomenclature. The “r” at the end of its name stands for “rimmed,” not “Russian.” Take that to the bank at your next trivia night.

All the Different “Flavors” of 7.62x54r (from L to R): Sellier & Bellot HP, Czech Silver Tip, Hungarian Silver/Yellow Tip, Wolf Soft Point, USSR 1986 Steel Core, Yugoslav Surplus, and USSR 1940s Lead Core. Photo Courtesy of CynicalMe.

308 (7.62×51 NATO) vs 7.62×54 (7.62x54r)

While both of these cartridges have similar names (and similar sized bullets) there’s plenty that sets them apart from one another. Here are some of the differences and similarities between them. 


7.62×51 NATO (147gr FMJ)

7.62x54mmR (181 gr FMJ)




Case Length



Overall Length



Muzzle Velocity

2,800 ft/s

2,580 ft/s


3,470 joules

3,614 joules

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