All-around Carbine: .357 Mag vs 7.62X39


August 8, 2003, 02:27 AM
After looking at my collection, I have decided that before I get another handgun, I want something that I can play with at slightly longer distances. I am looking to keep this gun inexpensive, because then I sock the rest of my taxrefund money into my Python fund.

The two guns I am trying to decide between are a Winchester Ranger, .357 lever action with a 16" barrel. Very handy gun...holds 9+1 rounds of ammo. On sale at Big 5 for $299.

The other gun I am looking at is the Saiga 7.62X39. Synthetic stock, 16" barrel. 10 round stock magazines. Available through Davidson's for $210!!!!!!! After Washginton's insane sales tax, it's over 100 less, which is a lot of 7.62X39 ammo.

Such a gun would be used mainly for punching holes in paper, and getting my wife used to a rifle bigger than .22. However, as a practical guy, the gun would also have to tackle deer sized game, or two legged varmints, should the need arise, given premium ammo.(I hesitate to use the SHTF term, but there you go...).

Either gun will probably get some kind of inexpensive visual aid, to help out my aging eyes, and I would be satisfied with 5 inch groups at 100 yards.

I really think either gun will do what I need it to do...just looking to see what other folks would choose given the choice.


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August 8, 2003, 05:29 AM
I dont have the Saiga, but do have the FEG SA2000. Which is an AKM with a 10 round single stack magazne. Ballistics of the 7.62x39 is similar to that of the 30-30. You can pick up a case of 7.62x39 ammo (1,000) rounds for around $85.

August 8, 2003, 06:05 AM
Go for the 7,62 Saiga, no question. The wife will be well served in her training, the AK mechanism soaks up recoil pretty well. As to the caliber comparison, you'll get plenty more versatility that way too.

August 8, 2003, 10:05 AM
As much as I am a fan of .357 Mag. carbines, I own an 1894C Marlin in said caliber, a .357 long gun is a luxury, not a necessity. For an all-around carbine I'd go with the 7.62x39. Within its limitations, it's fine for deer, and it doesn't really recoil all that much, at least in my SKS. Unless your wife is extremely sensitive to recoil, she should be able to learn to handle it. If she IS exteremely sensitive to recoil, the .357 Mag. carbine is a decent compromise. It's a bit light for my tastes for deer, although I'm sure many deer have been taken cleanly with it.

August 8, 2003, 12:02 PM
The Saiga's probably a lot more fun, being semi-auto. Also 7.62x39 is a lot cheaper than .357 if you buy imported Russian ammo.

For optics, throw a Kobra or some kind of red dot sight on it.

Brian Williams
August 8, 2003, 12:25 PM
I gotta say I love my Marlin 1894 in 357. It and my S&W 13 make for a great combo pack.

August 8, 2003, 06:17 PM
I don't have an Saiga, but I do have two AK's and 4 lever action .357's (and a .44 Mag) carbines.

While I love the lever action guns very much, the AK's are a lot more fun to shoot and mags, ammo, etc. are cheap as dirt.

You'll always be able to find carbines, but you never know what the next law may bring regarding assault rifles. Get one or ten while you can.

Just my two cents.

August 8, 2003, 09:52 PM
I started another thread on the Romanian SAR-1 which is an AK-47 clone. It seems to be well regarded and durable. They go for about 300 bucks and ammo and mags are cheap and plentiful. It might be an option over the Saiga because it takes standard 30 round AK mags, a definite plus. Check 'em out.

August 8, 2003, 09:59 PM
well, since you asked.....................

I would buy a decent condition SKS. I own two Russians, and have found them to be darn near ideal for a plinker, that can do double duty as a serious rifle if needs be.

The 7.62 has more get up and go than the .357, period.

I have a Rossi Mod 92, and while it is fun, it is not a serious rifle.

August 8, 2003, 10:36 PM
For sheer practicality, the Saiga has to win.
Ammo is cheaper and more powerful.
The gun itself is easier and quicker to reload.
It is an AK design, so the likelyhood of failure is pretty slim.
Now if you are looking for an excuse to buy one of those cool little lever action carbines, that is another story.
I would like to have one of those myself.:D

August 8, 2003, 10:41 PM
Now see, I have looked at SKS's, but around here, they are going for $160-180, depending on what kind ofshape they are in. The Saiga is onlylike $30 more than that, for a new in box gun. And I have heard that they are easier to mount optics on.

I may have to look into the SAR-1 thing, but...I also have my wife to consider, and while she is coming over to our side of things, the Saiga still looks more politcally correct to her...

Gary A
August 8, 2003, 11:11 PM
Just for my own circumstances, while I agree that the 7.62 x 39 is "probably" more practical for most folks in most cases, I just like lever guns, can't have everything I want, want some things more than others, and a .357 carbine does everything I need done in a small, light, handy carbine. While I do find shooting semi-autos fun, and conducive to using ammo at a faster rate, I don't find them more fun than lever guns. For me, they are pure bliss. I have a Marlin 1894CS, an 1894CB, and a Rossi stainless 20" (which may be the best of the three). Got a couple of 30-30s and lately have been really drawn to the .44 leverguns. Running out of time and room for the semis.

August 9, 2003, 08:35 AM
Given the choice, would go for the 357 carbine. Much more versaltile with bullets ranging from 110 gns to 180 gns. If handloading, versaltality increases substantially (easy with straight walled case and carbide die). Ya can load up combinations that would be very effective, but with "new or recoil sensitive" friendliness, without the possible negative association with "assault" rifle.

Am particulary pleased Marlin's 16 in carbine, with the newer style rifling. It appears to handles short light bullets (110 and 125) much better than the older micro-groove.

August 10, 2003, 11:17 AM
Between those two, I'd go with the 7.62x39, either in a Saiga or a SAR-1. (I understand that Saigas can legally be converted to the regular AK configuration later, if you add some US parts; I'm not sure how difficult the conversion is, however.)

As far as PC rifles go, the Ruger mini-30 would also be another possibility, except mags are scarce as hens' teeth (at least in post-Cretaceous hens:D) and they are two or three times more expensive.

Have you considered .223 also?

August 10, 2003, 11:24 AM
The problem is, 7.62x39 is a one-trick pony. 99% of the stuff out there uses the same 123 grain bullets. These are actually less adequate for medium game hunting than the .357's heavier rounds. The .357, after all, can fire 200 grain bullets with a much higher sectional density than the AK's. The biggest bullet I've heard of out of a 7.62 Soviet is 150 grains. Out of a carbine, velocities are greatly increased on the hot .357 rounds, so the 7.62 doesn't really pack more punch.

I like the SKS and the 7.62 Soviet, but there's no denying it has less versatility than the .357 from a carbine.

Also, handloading is much easeier and cheaper with the .357. You can also make your own bullets easily.

August 10, 2003, 07:08 PM
I have to disagree.

Federal is making a 123gr sp (with a boat tail) that is doing 2300 fps at the muzzle and 1455 ft-lbs energy.

No matter HOW you slice it a 180 gr bullet from a 357 is still only pushing 1250 (lets call it 1400 from a rifle) at 625 ft-lbs (let's call it 700 ft-lbs from a rifle). At 100 yards the rifle fired 357 BARELY makes enough energy to be legal for big game in Colorado, the 7.62 passes that bar with ease.

Your 357 has half the power even from a rifle, as a 7.62x39. The boat tailed bullet of the soviet ctg will have better downrange power as well, it will cavitate less and have less drop.

If I was going to hunt I'd opt for a true rifle caliber, like 30-30. Not because the ballistics are better (they are), but because the selection of bullets is better.

August 10, 2003, 09:13 PM
Apparently there are many ways of slicing a pie. One way to slice the 357 mag rifle pie is to load 180 gn Rem jhp over Lil-gun. Not coming close to max listed loads gave 1600 fps from 16 in Marlin. That is 1023 ft/lbs. Admittedly this is faster combination than most 180 gn loads.

Max loads under jacketed 125 grainers can give up to and maybe slightly over 2100fps. Either load is far more than 1/2 the power of 7.62x39. Gotta believe a 180 gn hardcast lead flat point or 180 gn jacketd flat point would have enough umph to completely penetrate most deer at reasonable range.

Still not as deer hunting capable as 7.62x39 with a good bullet, especially at longer range, but the 357 rifle is far more versaltile as much lighter loads can be used on a variety of other things and other purposes.

Given the choice of the two for just hunting deer, would certainly pick the 7.62x39. Have already dropped one in it's tracks with Federal's hunting load.

August 11, 2003, 01:29 AM
Zeke, you have a loading chart that says you can push a .357 that far? I'd hate to see a guy blow up a new gun.

Remember, when posting load info NOTE when it is a compressed or high pressure (to end of SAAMI spec).

August 11, 2003, 06:11 AM
For the 180 gn rem and Lil'gun combo, Midway's 357 magnum Loadmap. Page 163, first load tried was 13.5 gns of Lil-gun. Not even close to the max load listed, and the pressure listed for 13.5 gns is 28,200 psi. This jibed with minimal case expansion experienced and gave 1600 fps, actual chrono results. The cases must be trimmed to 1.272 (max) and bullet seated to be able to crimp at top of cannelure for reliable feeding in specific Marlin used.

The 125 gn loads tried started below Speer's starting load with V V-N110, and gave 2000 fps. Will carefully work them up a little, 2100 fps should be easy to obtain. Take note Speer does NOT use magnum or rifle primers for this combo.

Both loads tried are well below any listed max, and not even remotely concerned with blowing up the rifle, or the pistol they were tested in.

Actual tested info, is usually better than speculating.:scrutiny:

August 11, 2003, 06:25 AM
So what your saying is that this guy would be better off buying a .357 lever gun AND a reloading press with all the necessary components and load up some exotic carbine loads with it than simply buying a $200 saiga?

Just to make it more complicated why not get a 30-30 lever gun?

August 11, 2003, 06:38 AM
c_yeager-for the reasons the original poster was asking for , yes (ya don't need exotic handloads). There is a much greater variety of factory loads available for the 357 mag, especially when ya count in 38 special and introducing shooter to recoil greater than a 22.

Course it is just an opinion.:)

August 11, 2003, 07:44 AM
I have been a fan of the 357 for as long as I have been a shooter and enjoy it quite a bit. I reload for it as well. So , myself - probably would choose the 357 Mag. Can load to a wide range of power levels.

But the Saiga has the advantage of all that cheap ammo mentioned - hec just by a case and blast away! For ammo that inexpensive reloading is would not even be a consideration for me!

August 11, 2003, 08:08 AM
(I understand that Saigas can legally be converted to the regular AK configuration later, if you add some US parts; I'm not sure how difficult the conversion is, however.)
Its pretty simple to do, mostly an exercise involving a dremel. First you dremel off the rivits holding the bottom plate in, cut a hole for the pistol grip nut (newer imports come with that hole already cut), flip trigger guard around (Saiga uses the normal trigger guard, but backwards) and screw in place with a bolt and nut from the hardware store and dremel a section of pipe to act as a feed ramp and JBweld or screw in place, throw on the US parts and its good to go. Its not very hard, and only takes an hour or two plus however long the paint takes to dry (the reciever isnt painted under the bottom place, so you gotta do something about it).


August 13, 2003, 07:47 PM
Well, thanks for everyone's advice...I ended up letting my wallet make my decision for me...I ordered the Saiga 7.62X39 with the 16" barrel today off Davidson's...Should be here by Monday!

August 13, 2003, 08:04 PM
You'll love it.
I ended up letting my wallert make my decision for me
That was what finally settled me on the Kalashnikov platform instead of the AR.

August 25, 2003, 09:03 PM
So what your saying is that this guy would be better off buying a .357 lever gun AND a reloading press with all the necessary components and load up some exotic carbine loads with it than simply buying a $200 saiga?

Well....yes. :p

August 26, 2003, 12:44 AM
glad you made up your mind and bought yourself a nice rifle. enjoy it. regarding the debate about how fast a 357 carbine can push a 180gr. bullet, 1600 fps is child's play. I am pushing 1800 fps. in a 16-inch 94 trapper using lil'gun powder and i am not at max yet. accuracy is about 1.2 inches at 50 yards using a red dot sight. I am using hornady xtp bullets and regular ww small pistol primers. I am seeing zero high pressure signs and the primer pockets are holding up fine after 2 loadings. I believe I can push it to 1900 fps. while remaining safe. Also, this load was worked up in 90+ degree northern california weather. I don't know if the 357 is the equal of the 7.62x39, but for most U.S. citizens, it will handle all plinking chores, small game chores, most large game chores, and the vast majority of social work where a rifle would be appropriate and a private citizen would be within his rights to wield a rifle. Of course all of that means nothing if you want the Russian round and, if so, get it. It would work fine too :rolleyes:

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