October 10, 2017
It was only a matter of time before a dark horse appeared from the East to challenge the 300 AAC Blackout. A few days ago, at the Big 3 East Media event in Florida, the challenger appeared when Wolf Performance Ammunition introduced their new 9x39mm Wolf cartridge. It's a cartridge many hardcore Combloc collectors and video game buffs have hoped for, but never actually expected to see reach US shores. Developed for Russian Spetsnaz units, the 9x39mm started life as a specialized military cartridge for use in suppressed weapons. It was designed as a replacement for the subsonic 200-grain FMJ 7.62x39mm load fielded with suppressed AKM rifles. Combat experience in various hot spots around the world, including Afghanistan, led the Russians to desire a cartridge with improved terminal performance and penetration. While the subsonic 7.62x39mm load worked, Spetsnaz units found its performance lacking. They wanted something better.
TsNIITochMash put a design team with N. Zabelin, L. Dvoryaninova and Y. Frolov to work developing a new subsonic cartridge in the 1980s. The end result of their work was the 9x39mm cartridge. Using the 7.62x39mm as a parent case, it features the same base diameter but the case has been blown out so the case walls are almost straight. Next they necked the case up to accept .362-inch projectiles. The standard military loads feature 250-grain AP bullets loaded to subsonic velocities. These provide the penetration and terminal performance Spetsnaz require.
Wolf Performance Ammunition has been working for some time now to offer a commercial version to American shooters and collectors. The new 9x39mm Wolf cartridge features a steel cartridge case with a non-corrosive Berdan primer. It is loaded with a mild powder charge and topped with a 278-grain FMJ-BT lead core projectile. Running at subsonic velocities, the 9x39mm Wolf cartridge is easily suppressed. Not only that, but it works very well even in extremely short barrels.
Along with the ammunition, Wolf will also be offering AR-15 upper receivers. Steve Dittner of Wolf Performance Ammunition has found the 9x39mm Wolf cartridge to work very well in the AR-15 platform. Through his testing he was able to optimize the barrel twist, gas port location and gas port size. His test mules also proved extremely quiet when run suppressed. Wolf plans on having AR-15 uppers, in a couple barrel lengths, on shelves by the beginning of 2018. They have also teamed with a company to bring AK rifles and pistols to market in 9x39mm Wolf. A number of other companies have expressed interest in producing rifles and pistols in 9x39mm Wolf including LaRue Tactical.
Collectors will love the 9x39mm Wolf. It is a historically significant cartridge. I expect American shooters will also appreciate its virtues once they have a chance to shoot it. It should make a fine short range pig and whitetail cartridge. It is an ideal cartridge to run suppressed. The 9x39mm Wolf has a lot of potential, including supersonic loads. While ammunition will not be inexpensive out of the gate, expect it to be priced similar to 300 BLK subsonic loads, Wolf expects prices will drop as demand builds. I look forward to seeing how the first cartridge to carry Wolf's name performs in the US market.