Chinese 7.62x39mm "Special Ball"

I’m hoping that our new Chinese friend can shed some light on an unusual Chinese made cartridge. This 7.62x39mm ball cartridge has a standard copper washed steel case with the headstap “31 90” (and reportedly “31 91” as well) with a green case mouth seal. The projectile has a lead rear core with a space in the front of the jacket that is filled with small, white plastic balls. These first appeared on the US shooter market around 1992-1993. The story that came with these cartridges was that they were from a shipment destined for Iraq that was intercepted during the “Gulf War”. The first ones I saw were in plain brown 20 rd. paper wrappers. Many years later, I found the same cartridges packed on SKS chargers in 30 rd. paper wrapped bundles, each bundle sealed in a clear plastic bag. Years ago I asked Bill Woodin about these. The answer that he got from some Chinese engineers that visited the Lab were that “they were just something we tried”. The packaging suggests that these were military issue loads, not commercial lead core for the US market (due to the steel core ban), but they only are known or one or possibly two years of production. Does anyone know more about these?


My understanding is this was done to fill the space left by removing the steel core and using only lead. This allowed them to use the boattail bullet from the M43 without a steel core and still come out at 123grains rather than, like the Russians, at 154grains.

Yes, from sectioned examples, it appears that the lead slug is pressed into the plastic balls, so they are acting as a “stop” for the seating of the core. If one looks at the Russian made lead core ball projectiles that also use the M-43 jacket, they accomplished the same thing without using anything to stop the lead core during the seating operation. The result is a large air space in the tip of the jacket. Different approaches to the same problem? Maybe, but I would like to know the Chinese answer, and why they changed to a more simple, flat based lead core projectile in 1991. Was there some other goal with this design besides a manufacturing technique?


The factories would have had dies and core machines for the M43 projectile and loaders set up to throw powder for the M43 cartridge. By adding the plastic all these things could be used unchanged. The lead core is the same, the bullet swaging die, etc. Once production and order increased for the 123gr lead core cartridge they could dedicate lines and make the necessary changes to accommodate the US legal bullet.