Did you know that it’s possible to get a 7.62x39mm AR upper? No, really–you can combine the iconic AK round with an AR platform… and it’s as easy as changing your upper to one chambered for 7.62.
Novelty aside, the 7.62x39mm round offers many advantages over the 5.56/.223 chambering most AR-15 rifles feature. It has a lot more power, which makes it great for hunting and it’s one of the most popular calibers in the world, so there’s usually plenty available.
Whether you stocked up on 7.62x39mm when it was impossible to get 5.56 or you’re just a fan of the round, you aren’t limited only to the AK platform.
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We’re going to talk a little bit about why you might want to shoot 7.62 with an AR platform rifle, as well as what to look for in a 7.62x39mm AR upper, and finally–our favorite picks for a 7.62 AR upper.
Sound like a plan? Cool! Let’s get into it.
Why Use 7.62x39mm for an AR-15?
First, we need to answer this question: why even go with the 7.62x39mm round for the AR-15? After all, the 7.62x39mm round is normally associated with the AK series of rifles.
But the truth is that the 7.62x39mm round can be equally as effective out of an AR as it can be out of an AK.
The 7.62x39mm was first developed at the end of World War II, and the first weapon chambered for it was the SKS. Two years later, it was used for the AK-47. The AK-47 became the standard-issue Soviet rifle and the most widely available automatic rifle in the world.
The AR-15 was originally chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO, which remains its most common round to this day. If anything, the 7.62x39mm in the AR is a more recent development.
7.62x39mm vs. 5.56
The 7.62x39mm is a larger round than the 5.56, with weights ranging from 122 to 150 grains on average. Ballistically, it is very similar to the .30-30 Winchester.
It can load a larger powder charge than the 5.56 can, which means that it is going to deliver more energy into its target, but at the expense of it being a little bit slower.
As with the .30-30, the 7.62x39mm is highly effective out to ranges of about 300 yards, but its energy decreases substantially beyond that range.
Nonetheless, within a range of 300 yards or so, the round is devastatingly effective and offers more power than a 5.56.
When to use a 7.62x39mm AR
If you’re going to be hunting medium-sized game within three hundred yards or so, the 7.62x39mm is a more effective round than 5.56 because it delivers more energy into the target.
With the 7.62x39mm, you can easily hunt game such as antelope, boars, and deer at these ranges.
5.56 is also a popular hunting round for many, but it has much less energy than the 7.62. That means you’re limited to closer ranges or running the risk of a less-than-lethal hit.
And while you could argue that you might as well use the AK-47 for the 7.62x39mm round, the truth is that the AR-15 is a more accurate platform (in general), as you can read in our AR-15 vs. AK-47 comparison.
Furthermore, you may just prefer the ergonomics of the AR-15 over that of the AK-47. If this is the case and you want a 7.62x39mm rifle, the AR should be a more appealing choice.
In short, a 7.62x39mm AR-15 is a generally better choice than the 5.56 AR-15 for hunting within moderate ranges.
If you plan on building your own 7.62x39mm AR-15, you’ll need to invest in an upper receiver. Let’s talk a little more about what an upper receiver is and what’s included.
What’s an AR Upper Receiver?
If you’re here, you probably already know the answer to this question, but we’re going to still go over it.
TL;DR: An AR upper is the upper half of an AR rifle.
AR-15s and other AR-type rifles are usually grouped into two major components: the upper and lower receiver. You can swap uppers and lowers around pretty easily without disassembling the whole rifle.
It is made up of the upper receiver housing, barrel, BCG, handguard, charging handle, forward assist, and dust cover. Obviously, all these parts can be swapped around too, but that usually takes a bit more gunsmithing than just swapping receivers.
Generally speaking, you can have a variety of uppers in different calibers, and a single lower receiver to use with them. And, since the lower receiver is the part legally considered a “gun,” you can build as many uppers as you like without DROS-ing a new gun each time.
So, if you were so inclined, you can have a 5.56, 7.62x39mm, 9mm, and .22 LR upper for all your rootin’ shootin’ AR needs, but only own one “gun”–or one lower!
Choosing the Best 7.62x39mm AR-15 Upper for You
As always, buying a gun or accessory is super personal. My body doesn’t look like your body, what I do with my gun might not be what you do. So, what I like might not be right for you.
However, that doesn’t mean I can’t tell you about what I think you should consider when shopping around. Then, you can make sure that you get what you need, without wasting a ton of money trying new things out.
These are the most important factors to consider when looking for a new upper receiver for your 7.62x39mm AR-15…
Complete or Stripped?
When choosing a new upper receiver for your AR-15, you will always need to decide between a complete or a stripped model.
A complete upper receiver is exactly that: it’s fully complete, assembled, and ready to go. Combine it with a complete lower receiver and you are good to go.
A stripped upper receiver, on the other hand, comes less than complete. A fully-stripped receiver lets you customize everything. Or, if you’re not too into DIY but want to customize a little, there are partial uppers out there, too.
Either way, it’s not ready to combine with a complete lower receiver to create a complete rifle. Depending on the stripped upper receiver that you choose, there are additional items that you will need to purchase and install.
Obviously, you should make sure that your receiver is rust- and corrosion-resistant.
Many upper receivers will come with a 7075 aluminum build for the body with a steel barrel, along with both a nitride or hard coat anodized finish. Aluminum in particular is a good choice because it is both durable and lightweight.
Dust Cover and Forward Assist
These items are a matter of choice. They aren’t necessary for your rifle to fire, but they can add to the reliability, especially in rugged conditions.
A forward assist is a handy little plunger at the rear of the receiver that allows you to force a stuck round into the chamber to fire.
It’s a feature created at the behest of the military and serves little-to-no purpose for your average civilian. Not every upper design incorporates one, so you get to choose if you want it or not!
Dust covers are a little, spring-loaded flap that covers the ejection port when you aren’t firing. It doesn’t do anything when you’re shooting, but it’s awful nice to have in between–especially when there’s a chance of grit and grime getting into the chamber.
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The Best 7.62x39mm AR-15 Uppers
Now that we’ve covered all of that, let’s talk about a few of our favorite 7.62x39mm upper receivers!
1. PSA Gen 2 KS-47 16″ Carbine Length 7.62x39mm Upper Receiver
If you are looking for an upper receiver that mimics the look of the classic M4 design, your best bet is the KS-47 carbine receiver. It’s an excellent, affordable choice.
This upper receiver is built out of high-quality 7075 T6 aluminum. It features a front sight with a cylindrical handguard, and it is also fully compatible with most KS-47 lower receivers that are on the market. It is not compatible with a standard AR-15 lower.
I repeat–it is not compatible with a standard AR-15 lower.
What it is compatible with, however, is AK-style magazines. So if that is right for you, this is the build to check out!
The barrel to this upper receiver has a 1:10 twist rate, which is optimal for the 7.62x39mm round, and it also features a nitride-treated finish for excellent rust and corrosion resistance. The end of the barrel features an A2 flash hider, and the rest of the upper is complete with a forward assist, dust cover, and a charging handle.
2. PSA Gen 2 KS-47 8.5″ Pistol Length 7.62x39mm Upper Receiver
Do you want to put together a pistol length 7.62x39mm AR-15?
First–why?! Second, then this is the upper receiver that you need.
The PSA KS-47 upper receiver is built out of durable and yet lightweight 7075 aluminum. It features a low-profile pistol-length gas block. The barrel is 8.5 inches long and heavy profile, which means that it should help keep recoil down for faster follow-up shots.
Like its bigger sibling above, it’s compatible with KS-47 lowers, not standard AR-15 lowers.
The barrel also features a 1:10 twist rate, which is optimal for the 7.62x39mm. The receiver has a free-floating handguard with M-LOK holes to accept slings, lasers, sights, and so on. The free-floating design helps aid with accuracy as well.
3. Palmetto State Armory AR47 16” Mid-Length 7.62x39mm Upper Receiver
Palmetto State Armory has committed to exploring what one can do with an AR platform and the 7.62x39mm caliber, and the AR47 is just one of the PSA designs taking advantage of the combination.
This upper is great if you want to get away from the more traditional M4 look and into something a little bit more modern–and you want to use an AR-15 lower!
You get a 13.5″ free-float handguard sporting M-LOK cut-outs and a full-length Picatinny rail. It’s forged from 6061-T6 aluminum with a black anodized hardcoat–not the flashiest, but certainly durable.
As for the barrel, it comes with a 16″ 4150V Chrome Moly steel barrel with a 1:10 twist rate (which is what 7.62 needs!). It’s an A2 profile barrel and comes with an A2 flash hider installed, but the muzzle is threaded so you can swap it out.
The upper receiver is forged 7075-T6 aluminum, which makes for a nice, lightweight build. And, if you’re a sucker for a “Made in the USA” sticker, this upper is manufactured in the States!
4. Palmetto State Armory PA47 16” 7.62x39mm Complete Upper Receiver
PSA again?! Yep!
Seriously–Palmetto State Armory has a great deal of love for the 7.62x39mm, and it shows. the PA47 is the 7.62 take on the classic PA15 design that the company produces. It has that vintage M4 styling but offers you more flexibility than the KS-47 upper if you happen to have 7.62x39mm AR mags.
It comes with a 16″ 4150 Chrome moly vanadium barrel with that sweet-spot 1:10 twist rate. The upper receiver is forged 7075-T6 aluminum and the entire upper is nitride-finished.
This is a simple, time-tested design. If you want a good value on your upper and don’t care if it’s the prettiest pony at the show, it’s really hard to go wrong with a PA47 upper.
And honestly? We kind of like the anachronism of using a classic, All-American monolithic A2 upper with the famously Soviet 7.62 round.
5. Radical Firearms 7.62x39mm HBAR Radical Upper Receiver
Now, for a little something different. Radical Firearms produces a pretty dang awesome drop-in 7.62x39mm upper that is touted as “law-enforcement grade.”
It has a pretty unique look–with a 16″ barrel and a 15″ flattop, free-float handguard, your li’l fingers will be nice and safe from hot barrels, unless you’re like, really working on getting burned. I can’t recommend that, but I can recommend this upper!
Like the rest of our list, it’s a 4150 Chrome Molybdenum Vanadium Steel barrel with a 1:10 twist, but it is a heavy contour profile barrel with a melonite finish. It adds some weight to your overall build, but it will greatly reduce barrel whipping when firing strings.
That’s great for the range, but maybe a little less helpful for hunting… unless you’re worried about 30 to 50 feral hogs.
6. Faxon ARAK-21 7.62x39mm Upper Receiver
Now for our bougie pick… and it’s Faxon! The ARAK-21 upper receiver is nice. And it strays from the conventional AR-15 upper in both styling and assembly!
First things first, let’s talk about that assembly. Like your regular AR receiver, it only needs a takedown pin and a pivot pin to install. Unlike your regular ol’ receiver, the receiver body and handguard are a one-piece unit that houses what Faxon calls the Barrel Assembly Unit (BAU).
The BAU is made up of the barrel (duh), gas block, piston, gas adjuster, and barrel trunion. It does not come apart, except for the gas adjuster knob. If you don’t like customizing every minute detail, you’ll probably be fine with this. If you do, however, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Because of the unique design, you are limited a lot in what you can customize. Only the firing pin, extractor spring, and ejector springs can be swapped out. No custom bolt carriers, gas systems, or handguard here.
However, you do get an awesome Faxon upper that has been specifically designed for performance, durability, and accuracy–without the mess of custom upgrades.
Full Rifle Build: CMMG Banshee Mk47
Decide that an upper isn’t for you? How about a full AR pistol build?
The CMMG Banshee is a fun little gat that uses the 7.62x39mm and comes with plenty of options so you can get just the right combination.
It has a billet 7075 T6 aluminum mid-size upper, and a billet 7075 T6 aluminum lower receiver with an integrated trigger guard. Interestingly, this rifle uses the PMAG AK mags, so you’ll need to be sure to pick up some of those. The handguard is a CMMG RML9 M-Lok.
If you like SBRs or AR pistols, you’ll probably like the 10″ medium taper chrome moly barrel (with a 1:10 twist rate). The pistol variation comes with a CMMG Standard RipBrace with 6-Position Enhanced Receiver Extension and Ambi Sling Plate–so you don’t need a tax stamp!
Honestly, it’s a ton of fun to shoot, and we think that you’ll probably have a blast with it at the range!
Any one of these upper receivers is a solid option for your AR-15, or alternatively, you can also go with any upper receiver that meets the standards that we outlined in our buyer’s guide section.
So what did you choose? We want to hear about it in the comments below!