The 5.45×39 is a copper washed, steel cased, lead and steel core bullet with a hollow pocket behind the full metal jacket tip. As a controversial choice of ammo, the 5.45 draws many questions: What are the benefits? Does it perform well? Will it corrode your rifle? What is needed to shoot 5.45 in my AR 15? To help you decide if the 5.45 is the ammo for you, let’s take a closer look and answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
One of the main reasons for the demand of 5.45×39 ammunition is availability. The 5.45 was introduced by the Soviet Union in 1974 for use in the AK-74 as a military and police issued rifle. Because of its use in the Soviet Union, there are multiple national armories that manufacture the ammunition making it more readily available. Besides the occasional importation dry spell, the 5.45 is stocked in almost any place in America that supplies ammo. Even after the spike in gun and ammo sales following the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, 5.45s were still on the shelves and as available as 9mm.
Another benefit of the 5.45 is its incredibly cheap price. The cost can vary, but 1000 round cases go for about $200. Compare this price to another type of ammo like the .223 which is going for about $400 per 1000 rounds, and considered “a good deal”. Perfect for the AR person on a budget, you can swap out your upper and save money at the ammo counter while still being able to shoot your rifle. It has been estimated that by the time you have shot 6,000 – 10,000 rounds through your 5.45 upper, you will have already paid for it.<.p>
Soft Tissue Impact
Many people feel that the 5.45 is weak and doesn’t have a lot of stopping power. The round can actually pack a pretty ugly hit because it creates a unique cavity when it hits soft tissue. The bullet yaws at a shallower penetration depth than other bullets which results in a significant wound. Take a look at the wound channel image below. Due to the hollow tip, the bullet will make two full tumbles. It will start to tumble at around 11 cm. The first tumble is the temporary wound cavity, and then the second tumble is the permanent wound cavity.
The biggest complaint about firing the 5.45 is that the ammo is pretty dirty and in some cases can cause corrosion. After a day at the range and hundreds of rounds shot, many shooters clean their firearm right away to avoid any corrosion from happening. Luckily, there are new options available that can prevent corrosion from the cheap 5.45. VooDoo Innovations (VDI) has recently come out with their new Complete 5.45 Conversion Kit that features their unique Melonite treatment that resists carbon adhesion and increases corrosion resistance. The kit includes everything you need to build a 5.45 upper including:
- 5.45 16” Carbine Length M4 Profile barrel
- LifeCoat 5.45 Bolt
- Wolff Extra Power Hammer Spring
- 5.45 Stainless Steel 30-round Magazine
- 5.45 LifeCoat A2 Flash Hider.
The price and availability of the 5.45 makes it easy to create a stockpile of ammunition you can use for training or just shooting for fun. The unique wound channel proves the bullet is not weak like some critics have said and is indeed a threat that can be fatal. With new products on the market it is easy to convert your AR 15 to shoot 5.45×39 bullets and without the fear of corrosion. Are you sold?