Kalashnikov pattern rifles are dependable weapons that are well suited to defense of home and family in virtually any situation. While the sexier AR might be more popular and offer some advantages, the AK is still a solid choice and every bit as capable in practical terms. One of the more popular ammo choices for use in these rifles has been TulAmmo, or Tula for short. Tula is not a manufacturer, though. Like Wolf and the various colors of Bear, it is an importer. Is the ammunition that is sold under the name Tula suitable for defense?
Inevitably, any time rifles are discussed, someone will bleat that a rifle should not be used for defense. The most often cited reason is that they believe a projectile fired from a rifle will “blow through your neighbor’s house and kill his family”. These folks are unaware of the fact that any projectile that is capable of penetrating deeply enough to reliably stop a bad guy will also penetrate through multiple walls and most common building materials.
The way to mitigate risk to neighbors is to choose an effective round that requires less shots (and less potential misses) to put down a bad guy and to be mindful of the direction in which you are firing. That said, I know of no instance of a justified home defense shooting that resulted in injury to bystanders that was caused by the homeowner.
We know that 7.62x39mm is solid performer when loaded with modern bullets by Western manufacturers like Federal or Hornady but Tula is perceived as very low quality ammunition. Is it suitable for defensive use? Is it at least good enough to stock in quantity for periods of civil disorder?
In this test, the 124 gr soft point is absolutely devastating but it penetrates just a little less than the recommended minimum of 12”. Would that be enough for most situations? Probably. Is it good enough for your needs? You are the only one who can make that determination but something that may help in that decision is the fact that soft point ammunition tends to penetrate more deeply as range increases because longer range results in lower impact velocity which, in turn, results in reduced expansion and fragmentation, meaning greater weight retention and smaller frontal area.
So while this load might not be ideal for home defense, it could be an excellent choice for “stuff” hits the fan preparation. At any distance more than across the room, it should meet minimum penetration standards and even at extreme close range it is still probably “good enough”.
If 124 gr soft point produces penetration that just barely fails to meet the standard, what happens with a heavier bullet of similar design?
That is quite a bit better, at least in terms of penetration. 16” is well within the FBI recommendations. Not quite as impressive a wound channel, but still effective and much more damaging than FMJ. The longer bullet may not feed well in all rifles, though, and the lower velocity means a more curved trajectory. That point of impact shift is probably unimportant for home defense in normal times unless you live in a rural area. If you plan to rely on the same rifle and ammo during a civil emergency though, you might need to take longer shots and the shift is something to consider.
What about 124 gr “hollow point”? Will that perform any better?
As is typical for Russian “hollow point” rifle ammo, this bullet did not expand or fragment at all and simply yawed severely then left the block without doing any more damage than FMJ. While that would certainly ruin a bad guy’s entire afternoon, it is not the best performance that can be produced by 7.62x39mm.
If all things were equal, which would you choose? Depending on the purpose to which you intend to put the ammo, different choices might be made and there are certainly better choices out there. If you wished to put aside a large quantity of ammunition for a rainy day, either of the soft point choices would likely work well.
One factor that should be noted when looking at test results for Russian ammo is that the factories often change projectiles. The bullets may look similar to the ones used in other loads but it is possible that they could perform differently so if you intend to purchase ammo in bulk, buy a small quantity first and ensure that it functions properly in your rifle. If you can, shoot it through a row of milk jugs full of water to verify that the bullets in that lot are capable of expansion. You should also consider buying some high quality ammunition from Federal or Hornady for at least one or two magazines and leave the cheap steel case stuff for a rainy day.
Ultimately, having any ammunition at all is better than having none. Only you can determine where your needs lie on the spectrum of price vs. quality.
Andrew Betts served with the Arizona National Guard for over 12 years, including a tour to Afghanistan. Visit his YouTube Channel for more great shooting information.