The Russian 9x39 caliber was built to meet a specific requirement - that of a subsonic, heavy-hitting round. The standard AK caliber rounds which are produced in subsonic configurations simply didn't meet the performance requirements, and the Russians wanted something better. Thus the 9x39 cartridge was born.
This round is reportedly being used to good effect by the Russian Forces in Chechnya and most likely by both Russian Spec Ops and Police forces. Photos from the huge school hostage situation (from a few years ago) witnessed several 9x39mm rifles in use by the Russian forces.
Reports from the field are that this round is very effective. One source is quoted to say that the round "simply knocks Chechen rebels flat". The source of this report is an article details Russian ammunition in the Guns & Ammo Combat Arms magazine published ca. 2004.
"In Russia the author interviewed two MVD officers who had just returned from a year's service in Chechnya. Their comments were that while the cartridge's accuracy was mediocre, its terminal performance was excellent, and it "knocked Chechnyans flat."
I have a scan of the article here. Apologies about the poor quality:
Original Russian Design
The cartridge. It is based on the 7.62x39 cartridge, and is basically a "necked up and blown out" cartridge with greater case capacity and .366 bullets.
Shown L-R is the SP5 ball, SP6 AP, and 7.62x39 M53 parent cartridge.
Blue tips are normally "training" rounds so I believe these are dummy rounds for handling/training purposes.
There are a surprising number of new generation rifles whose design is based around this cartridge. First on my list is the OC-14 Groza (aka Thunder) system.
Russian VSS "Vintorez" 9x39mm system. The VSS is reportedly unable to be fired without the integral suppressor. Intended for sniping/counter-sniping roles.
Some close-up pics of the disassembled rifle. Note the all-in-one discreet transport case! The axis pin apparently goes through the rail. The buttstock latches in place on a slide.
Russian AS "Val" assault rifle. Essentially the same receiver as the VSS, but with a different buttstock and pistol grip arrangement.
Good side-by-side comparison:
SR3 "Vikhr" compact assault rifle. Same receier as with VSS and AS rifles, but without suppressor and a different folding stock for a "Micro Assault Rifle" design.
Russian 9a-91 compact assault rifle. One of the smallest assault rifles ever built, it was designed as a PDW but with a standard caliber. The suppressor is optional and unscrews for OAL of only 15 inches with the buttstock folded.
VSK-94 sniper rifle. Based on the 9A91 family design, purpose-built with a fixed stock and suppressor.
The OTS-12 "Tiss" rifle - precursor to the Groza platform. Essentially an AKSU style carbine rifle in 9x39. More info here.
"There is nothing new under the sun". The pairing of 7.62x39 cases and 35 caliber bullets has been done before by small shops and individuals. All have relatively minor variations in the same design. The ballistics indicate performance is nearly identical to a .30-30 in a smaller rimless cartridge. There are probably other variations, however these I've listed are the ones I have been able to track down during the past few years I've researched this design.
The most simplistic is a design that only necks up the 7.62x39 cartridge to use a .35 caliber bullet. The reamer design in on file at Clymer Tool as the "350x39". I purchased this reamer to research the case design, and while I believe it would be a good "brush gun" cartridge, the smaller powder capacity could be improved. Reloading dies are normal 7.62x39 dies with the neck drilled out for the larger .358 bullets. Headspace would be a challenge due to the lack of a shoulder - presumably headspace would be made from the cartridge overall length as with straight-walled pistol calibers. Here is the 350x39 alongside the parent 7.62x39 cases:
A more logical design used the 35 Remington chamber as the "parent" and was for all intents and purposes a "35 Remington Short". Pic from the Accurate Reloading forums. Chamber reaming was done by running a 35 Remington reamer "short", and dies were 35 Remington dies cut short to handle the smaller cartridge. L-R is 7.62x39, 35x39 "Short", 35 Remington:
Another .35 "short" design (again from the Accurate Reloading forums):
And another - this one is nicknamed the "35 Gremlin" and uses 6.5 Grendel brass as the parent cartridge and necked-up to .35 caliber:
Yet another approach was a completely custom-built cartridge design with custom reamers and dies made to order. The cartridge was designed in the RCBS "Load" reloading & design software. L-R is the 35 Remington, Mini-35x39, and 7.62x39:
At one time, a gunsmith shop offered this conversion for the Ruger Mini-30 rifles based on this custom cartridge, but they informed me that the service was offered by one of their employees who no longer works there. Thus the service left with the employee.
This was featured in the 1993 Guns & Ammo Annual. An interesting read, and excellent information on powder selection and velocity for this type of project. Images resized to 1024x768:
- original sized scans are here - 6.5MB worth: