Soviet 7.62x54r ShKAS API. Cool stuff, but safe to shoot out of rifles?

I recently acquired 4 boxes of these Finnish repacked Soviet ShKAS API rounds and have been doing some research on the history of these. Fascinating history but I have also noticed a fair bit of conflicting information on whether these were safe to shoot out of rifles or not. Some say these were great sniper rounds and are loaded to higher standards because they were specifically for use in aircraft where you don’t want to have to deal with a malfunction/jam. Others say it will cause the bolt to stick because it’s higher pressure than standard ammo making it unsafe to shoot, and definitely don’t shoot out of svd’s. Because of the higher pressure I also read ShKAS rounds were made with thicker primers cups and case heads. I wonder if anyone here has any experience with these and what the consensus is about firing these out of a rifle?

Here’s a link with a great article about the ShKAS machine gun and the ammo developed for it:

Pictures of 2 of my boxes, one opened, one still sealed:

Youtube video of these actually being fired:

You seem to be asking if it is safe to shoot.

Without being a qualified gunsmith with the firearm in-hand neither I nor any one else here is qualified to answer your question with out examining your firearm and the ammunition.

As such, the question does not belong on this forum.

The information you posted is interesting, thanks for that.


Your load is the “ZB-46” API-T - extra made for the ShKAS (3 grooves to reduce barrel friction as the ROF was very high).

Too many ignorant people seem to be playing in the web when they state on ShKAS loads.
ShKAS rounds are not having a higher gas pressure!
The difference to rifle ammo is:

  • thicker case walls on the sides (to take the high feeding stress)
  • deeper seated and crimped primer, primer cup is shortened for this purpose
  • early loads had a double crimp on the case neck and a deeper seated projectile
  • and as no API was made “for ground troops only” during WW2 they issued ShKAS loads for infantry use and laquered the cases in order to ease extraction (difficulties resulting from thick case walls)
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Let me rephrase my question and clarify. I was really just asking whether they are safe to fire out of rifles for curiosity’s sake because that is the one thing a saw so much conflicting information out there on. I want to go ahead and clarify I’m not going to shoot any of mine and I don’t want anyone to be mislead with a wrong answer and try to shoot some of theirs either. That being said I still wonder why this rumor exists and if there is any truth to it? Perhaps that can be discussed without giving anyone any direct advise on a “safe” or “not safe” because as PetedeCoux stated I’m sure there are to many variables to just give a blanket yes or no answer.

To what I saw in the past years your boxes are very scarce (in Europe)! It would be a pitty if one would shoot these.


Awesome thanks for the info, I didn’t know they were ZB-46 API-T and was curious about the 3 grooves too. And now I wonder if the ejection issues you hear about people having with bolt action rifles is simply just because the cases weren’t lacquered and the malfunction scared people.

The extraction problem definately comes from the ShKAS thick wall cases!
As said that was the reason why infantry issue ShKAS API had an extra coat of clear laquer.

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Just found out something else really interesting about how the Soviets had 3 different “class” ShKAS cartridges, basically 3 different grades it seems.

Color codes for the 3 different “class” cartridges:
Primer annulus of 1st class ShKAS cartridges were lacquered red. 2nd class cartridges were annulus coded with colorless lacquer (if any). Annulus of 3rd class cartridges were black.

First class cartridges were fit for use in synchronized ShKAS machine guns shooting between the blades of rotating air-screw of single engine fighter aeroplanes. Use of 2nd class was allowed in the observer’s machine guns or the ShKAS guns mounted to the wings of ILYUSHIN I-16 fighters or to the nose of twin-engine bombers. Use of 3rd class cartridges was completely prohibited in ShKAS machine guns instead they were issued to the infantry.

So if I’m not mistaken the cartridges that were extra-lacquered and issued to the infantry were all the 3rd class cartridges unfit for use in aircraft. Now that’s just how the Soviets used them, the ones I have were captured and repackaged by the Finns at some point (don’t know what year or where this happened). I wonder how Finnish army reissued and used these after they had them in their possession? Neat stuff!

Being somewhat an oddball here as my collecting was begat from shooting, I can help you somewhat sir.

I like to fire some collector’s cartridges to just see what they do IF they aren’t too rare & I have several to spare.

I have fired Shkas api from my favorite Mosin & they are quite impressive on their penetration qualities. They will go through a LOT of stuff, considering them being around 80 years old & they notably out penetrated surplus M2AP that was much newer from my Garand. Bonus points for the large, daylight visible flash upon impact. Very fun stuff.

Whether its TECHNICALLY safe, I dunno. I’m just a poor farm kid that likes ammunition that does neat things. I have no access to a ballistics labratory but I can tell you this, other than the bolt being slightly stickier than standard ball ammunition, I noticed no ill effects in my Mosin.

Have a great day.