The Best Ammo For AK Training is Getting Harder to Find

I’m a bit of an ammo nerd, but I’m hardly a snob. As someone who privileges accuracy, I like to find a solid source for factory ammo that performs well in each of my guns. And one of the most important aspects for me is price; it can’t break the bank. But training is important too.

And that means tackling problems. There are some guns that don’t care what they eat. Accuracy is less important, sometimes, than sheer impressive violent speed of action. And that’s why I love my AK rifles, but even an AK can defecate in the proverbial place of respite.

Frangible Ammo

Let’s start with the positive. Inceptor Ammo made some great frangible ammo. These rounds are fascinating for those of us who geek out on ballistic performance.

A couple of key concepts to contextualize frangible ammo. First, it is often lead-free. Lead sucks. You don’t have to get shot with it to suffer from exposure.

Inceptor frangible 7.62x39 ammo and US Palm magazine
Inceptor. You can still find it out in the wild, but it is becoming rare. As of this writing, I can’t find any of the 7.62×39 for sale in retail channels. That doesn’t mean it is not available. And there are other options for frangible ammo. And the US Palm mag is a solid choice, too.

Not that you want to breathe any of the dust coming off of frangible ammo. Replacing lead with copper, as is often done, may still be deleterious. Though it can be used in shoot houses, I’d still recommend using it in a well-ventilated space, and nothing is more well-ventilated than the great outdoors.

Copper frangible ammo marks on steel target.
Copper frangible ammo, like Inceptor, leaves traces on steel that are visually stunning.

On the plus side, though, frangible ammo isn’t as prone to ricochets, jacket separation, or spall. It is safer to shoot steel up close with frangible ammo. How close? The manufacturers will have consulted some lawyers about this, and together they’ll make some recommendations. Follow those, you’ll be safe.

Does frangible ammo work as well for defense?

Short answer: yes. Inceptor Ammo touted some impressive muzzle velocities. What the calibers lost in bullet mass was somewhat replaced by additional muzzle velocities.

Complicated answer: also yes. But… There’s always a but, no?

The gun has to go bang. These rounds from Inceptor—one reason why I keep them around and buy them when I can find them is because they tend to generate malfunctions. I treat these as training rounds. I run them on steel, up close, and I treat the failures as opportunities to do real-time problem solving. Training.

Inceptor frangible AK rounds in a magazine. The copper/polymer blend to the bullet itself looks brown. These are well formed, fire accurately when they're not deformed, and fly fast.
The copper/polymer blend to the bullet itself looks brown. These are well formed, fire accurately when they’re not deformed, and fly fast.

This isn’t how Inceptor billed their ammo, which may be part of the reason why rumors about the company’s demise continue to swirl. Some calibers, though, remain available in retail. And some jokers buy ammo they never shoot, so it exists in the wild and can often be found in pawn shops and gun shows.

Needless to say, what makes this ammo great for training (or one of the factors, at least) also means I wouldn’t rely on it for defense.

AK Training Ammo

As mentioned above, these rounds tend to create training opportunites.

The Nose-Dive

Nose-dive malfunction in AK rifle. The polymer/copper bullets hit the hot chamber and lock up.
As the chamber got hot, nose-dives were common. The polymer/copper bullets hit the hot chamber and lock up.

The round pictured above is off the extractor (it never had the chance). It won’t yank free. And it won’t feed. Pull the charging handle back again and you’re going to get a double-feed (a misnomer, as neither is actually fed).

The double feed

Classic double-feed malfunction in AK rifle
Classic double-feed. This is a bitch to clear in an AK. Drop the mag and run the bolt, again and again.

I prefer to drop the mag at the first sign of a stoppage. That’s a lesson learned through experience, though. Don’t ask what the issue is–just run the series of motions that will clear almost all of the possible problems.

The Stovepipe

Stovepipe malfunction in AK rifle
You won’t know you have a stovepipe until the trigger doesn’t make the gun go—at least if you have your head down on the rifle and are firing rapidly.

I start with a mag-drop, then cycle the bolt twice (or three times if I’m feeling manic), and then reinsert the mag and cycle once more.

This will fix almost everything. The exception is if an empty casing gets hung up in the chamber. Then you have work to do, and it may require more than a bit of cover and some frenetic movements, too.

Loading Inceptor ammunition Century AK rifle
The Inceptor was hard to load, too. While this isn’t a malfunction, exactly, my son had to increase his grip on the Century to clear some issues. Dropping it to a thigh can give you that extra leverage. Just stay clear of that trigger and keep it in as safe a direction as is possible.

What if you want ammo that won’t fail?

The most reliable ammo I’ve worked with in bog-standard AKs remains steel, the kind of rounds that you find in a spam can. Steel case, lacquered, jacketed lead. Fancy brass-cased hunting loads tend to work, too, without fail. If you need ammo, check here for what’s available.

Failures, though, are incredible teachers. As much as I respect the AK for its unfailing reliability, the gun can have its hiccups. Working your way through them is crucial.

Begin with a solid rifle or AK pistol platform. Then make sure your mags work the way you want. And then, if your ammo won’t gum up the works for you, take the time to do it yourself.

Load some empties into the mag. That’s a great place to start training.

David Higginbotham is a writer and editor who specializes in everyday carry. David is a former backcountry guide in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Boundary Waters Canoe Area who was a college professor for 20 years. He ultimately left behind the academy for a more practical profession in the firearms industry and was (among other editorial positions) the Managing Editor for a nascent Mag Life blog. In that Higginbotham helped establish The Maglife's tone and secure its early success. Though he went on to an even more practical firearms industry profession still, he continues to contribute articles and op-eds as time and life allow.

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