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Myths About the NATO 5.56 Cartridge

Filed in Featured , Military , Rifles 215 comments

M16A1, M16A2, M4, M16A4

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding the current M16A1, M16A2, M4, M16A4NATO 5.56 round and its effectiveness on the battlefield. Now before you make a judgment as a soldier or as a firearm enthusiast (a more euphemistic way of saying “gun nut”), consider your sources. Who is it that is telling you the 5.56mm, or .223 if you prefer, is an ineffective round? Is this source an armchair general who has watched Blackhawk Down one too many times; or a Navy Corpsman who has been attached to a MEF fighting in Fallujah and has seen, treated and inflicted these wounds with his own M-4? People look at the .30-06 round from their grandfather’s M1 Garand and the 7.62×51mm round from their dad’s M-14 and compare it to the M-16/M-4’s 5.56 and think; “Wow, this is considerably smaller. Therefore, it must be less effective.”
Now Joe Nichols had it right when he said, “Size Matters.” However, when you are talking about combat cartridges this is not always the case, and I say that hesitantly. When the 5.56 was derived from Remington’s .223 in the late 1950’s, it was meant as a “force multiplier” if you will. By that I mean a soldier could literally carry twice as much ammunition as one who has the older 7.62 for the same weight. They wanted a soldier who could stay longer in the field without re-supply and could literally out-last and out-shoot the enemy in many aspects. The 5.56 is an incredibly fast and flat shooting round compared to the 7.62, but is under half the bullet weight.

So one might ask; ‘How in the world can a smaller bullet be more lethal than a bigger one?” One word: cavitation. Cavitation is the rapid formation and collapse of a substance or material after an object enters it at a relatively high velocity. I guarantee you have seen cavitation before. Next time you are in the pool or on the boat, look at your hand as it passes through the water or the propeller spinning. In both cases you will notice bubbles on the trailing edge of each. You see this because the liquid water falls below its vapor pressure. Without getting into physics and the hydrodynamics behind it, I’ll just leave it at that. When a human body is hit with a 5.56mm 62-grain bullet traveling at 3,100 feet per second; essentially the same thing happens but much, much more violently. For a split second, the cavity created inside the human body by the round from an M-16/M-4 is about the size of a basketball (if hit dead center of mass). The 5.56 creates this massive cavitation by tumbling through the body initiated by inherently unstable flight.

5.56 ballistic test

5.56 ballistic test

Other calibers of bullets travel through the body on, more or less of, a straight line after some fragmentation. When the 5.56 round was first designed by Remington, it was meant to tumble through a target, not kill with brute force. It did this not only by the relatively blunt shape, but also by using a rifle barrel with less of a twist. Next time you look at an M-4 or an AR-15, notice it says “5.56 NATO 1:7” on the barrel. This literally translates into; “the bullet will make 1 full rotation for every 7 inches of this barrel.” This was not always the standard twist set for the new NATO round. The first AR-15 made by Armalite, had a 1:14 twist making it a very, very unstable round. One can only imagine the orientation of the entry and exit wounds. Now if you haven’t figured it out already, the less the twist, the more unstable the round is. (1:14 twist is less than 1:7) It is said in “firearm enthusiast” legend that the first tests were done on pig carcasses and that the entry wound could be on the lower right stomach with an exit wound coming out of the back upper left shoulder. It left horrific wounds and terrible internal damage to its intended target, immediately drawing the interest of the US Military, in particular USAF General Curtis Emerson LeMay. That’s right folks, you can thank we in the United States Air Force for the M-16/M-4 legacy (I say this without sarcasm). He thought it was an ideal weapon for his deployed members of the USAF Security Forces for guarding the perimeters of Air Force installations in such places as Korea and Vietnam. Before military trials, Armalite increased the barrel twist to 1:12 to improve accuracy. But when tested in frigid Alaska, accuracy was decreased because of the increased friction from the denser, colder air. Therefore, the barrel twist was eventually increased from 1:12 to 1:9 and eventually to the 1:7 you see it today. Although some bull-barreled AR-15’s and Stoner Sniper Rifles can be found in a 1:9, most issued M-16’s and M-4;s are primarily a 1:7 twist.

This change increased the accuracy of the 5.56 round out past 500 meters, but decreased its lethality when striking a body. Now the real debate begins… How truly deadly is the 5.56? Well, this past April when I was going through Combat Skills Training at Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin, one week was spent in Combat Life-Saving class (CLS). The medics who instructed us had slide show after slide show of combat injuries they have treated over their last three deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. And let me tell you, these were not for the weak stomachs among us. If you are reading this article, I bet you are the same type of person as I to ask, “What calibers caused those wounds?” These men and women have seen the worst injuries of coalition forces and enemy combatants alike. The Geneva Conventions state that medics must provide medical care to all captured enemy personnel when able. Therefore, many Taliban and Jihadist fighters came across their operating rooms. After class one day I asked all of them, “Do any of you doubt the killing power of the 5.56 round?” They all answered with a resounding, “NO.”
I personally don’t like telling war stories but I do enjoy telling hunting stories. I have brought down 180 to 200+ pound deer with a 55 grain .223 FMJ (full metal jacket) with no problem. Yes, I know, the counter argument to that is, “Well that’s not an enemy combatant hopped up on cocaine, khat or adrenaline.” I understand that, but if you saw the exit wound or those on the pictures from the combat medics, you would certainly cease your criticism of the 5.56. However, there are certain design features of the M-16/M-4 that continue to puzzle me.

We have all heard the reports of those rifles failing during combat during Vietnam and even yet today. During the 60’s when it was first introduced, it was hailed as “the self-cleaning rifle.” Of course that was proven to be a myth within the first months of its service. Soon thereafter, cleaning kits, cleaning manuals with attractive cartoon-like characters, and muzzle covers were issued in large numbers. A lot of the first problems the rifle saw were due to using ball powder vs. stick powder. Ball powder burns hotter, faster and dirtier than stick does. This caused the rifle to gum up quicker in the humid atmosphere of Vietnam and mis-feed the rounds. The U.S. Military then switched back to the cleaner burning stick powder and added a forward assist to jam the bolt carrier forward after heat expansion and carbon build-up. The military saw this problem and fixed it fairly early on, so why haven’t they saw the clear flaw in the 100% gas-blowback operation of the firearm? Why haven’t they learned lessons from rifles such as the AK-47, AK-74, G36, SCAR and countless other who have switched to a short stroke gas piston?

gas piston operated

gas piston operated

So far rifles such as the HK 416, HK 417, SCAR and MAGPUL Masada have all incorporated this short stroke gas piston in their designs and have all seen massive reductions in carbon build-up, over-heating, and mis-feeds. If this needs any explaining; what this basically does is stop the hot, carbon-filled gasses just rear of the front sight and pushes a pistol-like rod back instead of the gas traveling all the way back to the bolt carrier assembly. It is even possible to convert current uppers to this gas piston system using such kits as those offered by Bushmaster. If the cost benefit is too great for these kits to be installed, why not begin to install them on the floor as they are now? They are 100% compatible with all lowers used by the M-16 and M-4.

So in conclusion, the main flaws of the M-16/M-4 assault rifle system is not necessarily in the round itself, but in one minor design feature of just the upper. This article is meant as a predecessor to a piece in the making on the advantages to switching to a round such as the 6.8 SPC or 6.5 Grendel. The 5.56 round is effective, but could be better. I want to hear your feedback. Tell me why so many people (mostly civilians) think the flaws of the rifle are in the round. I’m looking to you military folks; tell me about your operational experience with it. Airsoft players, armchair generals, and firearm enthusiasts; let’s hear your voice, but don’t comment on its “knock-down power” unless you hunt big game with a .223 or were once in the military and have used it in combat. Next up: A viable future replacement for the 5.56 and the M-16/M-4 combat rifles along with first-hand news from the front on forces already making the switch.

Remember; every rifle and every round can be equally as deadly when put in the right hands. We seek to find the perfect round and the perfect rifle to increase that number of hands.

Posted by Al Asad   @   22 June 2009 215 comments
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Jul 2, 2009
10:59 pm
#1 Tom :

this is very interesting, before i didn’t know what round was more effective 7.62 or 5.56 you have convinced me. Go M16

Jul 3, 2009
3:26 am
#2 bomar :

just the info I was looking for, Thanks Al.

Jul 6, 2009
2:24 am
#3 Drew S :

My squad member told me ,when he was in Iraq during the invasion, the trouble they had taking down the Saddam Fedayeen. He told me that the marines he was with had to shoot this one fighter nine times and he was still trying to get up. They ended up taking him down with a butt stroke.

Jul 6, 2009
2:49 pm
#4 Al Asad :

Drew S.: Taking him down with a butt stroke? That means they would have come right up to the enemy combatant while he was still alive and killed him. Per the Geneva Conventions, any enemy combatant or non-combatant is afforded the same medical treatment a friendly soldier would be once he is no longer deemed a threat. If the soldier was close enough and had the time to “butt stroke” him, then he was no longer a threat. Either your friend was not telling the truth and exaggerating, or he is a war criminal.

Technically I wasn’t saying that the 5.56 is a better round than the 7.62, or has more killing power. I just was stating its differences. The 7.62 is a deadlier round, but the 5.56 is more than enough to do the job. No matter what you do, a bigger bullet is usually preferable, but finding the happy median between weight and velocity is the key. The bigger the bullet, the more powder it takes to propel it to the target farther and more accurately; thus increasing weight. The purpose of the article was not to say the 5.56 is better than the 7.62, it was to say the 5.56 and M16/M4 platform is indeed effective in warfare.

Jul 7, 2009
5:50 am
#5 Adam :

The 5.56 round with the RIGHT bullets can be an effective round. I am however skeptical of the huge cavitation effects with a 62 grain FMJ bullet, especially in a 1:7 twist. I have heard of special ops using I believe a 77 grain HPBT from black hills with more “pleasing” results. One of the main issues with the 5.56 I have heard is not killing power per say, but its inability to effectively penetrate cover and structures, this is where the 7.62 has the biggest edge.

Jul 7, 2009
10:40 am
#6 Al Asad :


You are absolutely correct. The 5.56 does have a bit of a problem penetrating barriers with one shot because it lacks the momentum and mass to do so. However, multiple shots can do the job. Carriers of the M16/M4 have enough ammunition on hand to do just that. Barriers such as trees and other wooden structures do pose another problem though. the 7.62×39 can do it one shot whereas the 5.56 takes a few if at all. This is why the 6.8 or 6.5 have the mass, velocity, and accuracy to do everything a combat rifleman could ever ask.

Jul 9, 2009
6:55 am
#7 Steelghost :

Yes this article sheds new light on what I’ve learned of military firearms. There could be several reasons why some believe that the 5.56 (affectionately know as five-five-sixers by veterans) is innefective lies with field tests along with what the military expects of the jobs it will have to meet. As you have said, a round leaves a massive wound due to its “titanic effect” of disintigrating in the body. Adam pointed out that a larger round will pierce walls effectively, moreso than the 5.56 round. Other expectations include a round that are accurate and has distance to it. The bigger bullet fits these expectations better than a 5.56 round. The powder in the cartrige must be effectively picked to fit the firing systems rate of fire capability, along with the inertia from the cartrige eject that causes recoil, as a result there has been research invested in a gun capable of using caseless ammunition able to put three rounds into a single hole with the recoil of one m-4 round.but the gunpoweder pellets proved to be unreliable and tended to “cook off”. With changing technology as you know, new kits are added to weapon systems, armour is ment to stop a bullet, so they make a better bullet with a entry tip to get the primary round through the protection. Just like the anittank missiles have two detonations, one to destroy its explosive outer shell so the main charge detonates inside rather then destroyed and is prevented. So to get to the point, the military uses the round that fits its conditions best, although imperfect it does the job.

Jul 13, 2009
4:03 am
#8 cody :

i have fired tens of thousands of rounds at the oposing force with my SAW M249 and let me tell you it will stop that guy with the AK high on coke or what the hell ever. i also have had the privlage of using the MG-1MS in combat and the 7.62 round will knock em down harder but the weight of the ammo is a definate drawback. i still use the 5.56 daily

Jul 13, 2009
6:42 pm
#9 Will :

I still like the nostalgia of the .30-06, back when we used ‘merican calibers, and when men were men, etc. I’ve always had a fondness for the .30-06, and the .45.

Speaking of which, I wish they’d switch back to the .45, I’ve used a 9mm to bring down a rabid pitbull I noticed wandering around on my farm, and it took 2 shots to kill, the first hit, and it staggered for a bit, and the second shot dropped it. I would not trust giving anything less than a .38 to our boys in uniform.

Jul 27, 2009
3:11 am
#10 jeff :

I was a Marine infintryman from 2004 – 2008. I ate, slept, and showered with the weapon daily except on liberty. The M16 is a great weapon. I had a m16A4 in Iraq, did not clean it for three weeks then had to fire a full combat load through it (9 mags with 28 rounds a peace), not a single jam. The only time I had a problem was when I had shitty magzines. I have shot two hogs with the 5.56 and both of them I did not find. Recomend larger caliber for those. I never got the chance to shoot anyone. (thank god then i would be more insane then I am already) I mostly walked and drove around and handed out candy, ammunition (iraq police/ miliatary), rebuilt schools, searched vehicles, and asked were ale ba ba (bad guy’s) were. I am going to try to shoot a deer this fall and see what happens.

Aug 1, 2009
1:37 pm
#11 Elk :

That wouldn’t be a complete exaggeration or necessarily a violation of the Geneva conventions for that marine to use a butt stroke the lawful combatant. True, if that man were a prisoner (as in, he surrendered) they would have to help him. But since he failed to surrender and continued resisting, they had to neutralize the threat. That’s not a violation of the Geneva convention or the LOAC because the guy never surrendered. He persisted to attack.

As for the caliber, 5.56 has obviously gotten the job done. But if you ask those who were in Vietnam what they thought of their training rifles (7.62) in comparison to their field rifles (5.56), they would gladly shoulder the weight of a 7.62 round vs. a 5.56.

I should mention, it’s not the caliber that erks me (it has never been a “bullet issue”). It is the quality of gun and the tactics that colt is using to prevent the use of another company’s firearm (I think the HK 416 would certainly be an economic and reliable replacement). Besides that, colt’s firearm really is too temperamental for the field in comparison to some of the new models HK and SCAR have released. In testing, the HK 416 demonstrated its capability by being dunked in water and fired immediately after, being buried in sand and being fired immediately after as well. When I had to learn to low crawl my T.I.’s told us to never let the barrel dig into the dirt because it could jam up your rifle…how practical is that really? You’re crawling to your DFP avoiding bullets and you can’t concentrate on getting to your hole because your rifle might get sand in it and seize up! I’ll shoot a 5.56 if someone is shooting at me, but what good is it if my gun is a piece of dump?!

Aug 12, 2009
1:10 am
#12 Sapper Daddy :

I agree, I was a E-4 in the Army and a company sharpshooter for my unit in Iraq. And let me tell you, my M-16 A2 was one of the old, old, ones. It was originally an A1, but was reconfigured and had a 2 stamped directly over the 1 to make it a 3 round burst. The upper and lower receiver had about a 1/16 to almost an 1/8 of an inch to visible play between them. The rifling was almost nonexistent, practically a smooth bore. I am unsure as the the twist of the rifling. But I can tell you, at 400+ yards that weapon was accurate and deadly! Now that I am a pfc (Privet F@#&ing citizen for all you non military folks) I also have a FN FAL .308 (or 7.62mm) L1A1 Sporter assault rifle. And an AR-15 M-4 (.223 or 5.56mm). I Love them both, But prefer the light weight, cheaper round, less recoil, and overall diversity of my M-4 (and those are the same reason the military likes them also). My M-16 in the Army never let me down, and that is why I will never part with my AR-15 small round or not. And lets face it; if I shot bubble gum at you at 1300 feet per sec. You would still be just as dead.

Aug 17, 2009
8:52 am
#13 Me :

Very interesting, I learnt something new today
In an urban enviroment, shots will evidently be exchanged at close distances
Does the cavitation change with distance? (Vilocity)
Like is the round more unstable at a distance, or is it all the same..
And I think the 6.5 grendel is the round that should be used, decent vilocity, decent accurace, and a bit more punch, without too much additional recoil

Aug 22, 2009
9:01 pm
#14 Joe :

Isn’t it a bit superior to assume that an enemy combatant has become a POW once they’re engaged in close range? You’re calling a serviceman a liar or a war criminal based off of an assumption that it’s just as safe to attempt to subdue an armed combatant than to strike him? I mean, this would be a debate even amongst MMA experts, and yet you’re so quick to throw out such a condemnation?

Aug 26, 2009
8:40 am
#15 Peter Krs :

The 5.56×45 is too velocity dependent for it’s wounding capability, which dosen’t make it consistent in it’s performance. In Iraq alot of the reports of the 5.56×45 failing to stop enemy combatants is because the short barrel of the M4 which gives it a fragmentation range of only 45-50m. This is one of the reasons why they’ve come up with rounds like the 6.8 SPC and 6.5 grendel was for better performance out of short barrels and at longer ranges.
From Dr. Roberts:

“Combat operations the past few months have again highlighted terminal performance deficiencies with 5.56x45mm 62 gr. M855 FMJ. These problems have primarily been manifested as inadequate incapacitation of enemy forces despite their being hit multiple times by M855 bullets. These failures appear to be associated with the bullets exiting the body of the enemy soldier without yawing or fragmenting. This failure to yaw and fragment can be caused by reduced impact velocities as when fired from short barrel weapons or when the range increases. It can also occur when the bullets pass through only minimal tissue, such as a limb or the chest of a thin, malnourished individual, as the bullet may exit the body before it has a chance to yaw and fragment. In addition, bullets of the SS109/M855 type are manufactured by many countries in numerous production plants. Although all SS109/M855 types must be 62 gr. FMJ bullets constructed with a steel penetrator in the nose, the composition, thickness, and relative weights of the jackets, penetrators, and cores are quite variable, as are the types and position of the cannelures. Because of the significant differences in construction between bullets within the SS109/M855 category, terminal performance is quite variable—with differences noted in yaw, fragmentation, and penetration depths. Luke Haag’s papers in the AFTE Journal (33(1):11-28, Winter 2001) describe this problem.”

Sep 3, 2009
2:54 pm
#16 Some Airborne Guy :

I agree with you on one thing: the platform has to change. The M4A1 has too short of a barrel for the round to be effective. Unlike you, however, I do question the stopping power of the 5.56 NATO compared to a 7.62 especially when you put body armor into the mix. Any gunshot wound is going to be nasty. A 9mm hollowpoint rounds does terrible things, but it is not nearly as good as the 5.56. A 5.56 is good, but not as good as a 6.5 Grendel. Plus on the Grendel note, you can shoot accurately up to 1000yrds.

Sep 3, 2009
2:57 pm
#17 Some Airborne Guy :

Oh yah Will. 9mm is .38

Sep 3, 2009
3:00 pm
#18 Some Airborne Guy :

ALmost forgot,

AL Asad,
Bringing him down can mean a bunch of things: killing, knocking out, knocking him off his feet so they could subdue him…. You can’t say that because if you have ever been in a combat situation things happen. You weren’t there.

Sep 6, 2009
6:33 am
#19 James C :

To “Some Airborne Guy”
The Grendel may have great accuracy at range, but who can accurantly engage a man size target at 1000 metres? You’re lucky if you can see him at that range between atmospheric perspective and such. I have seen action and the M-4 worked great. Maybe you should learn to aim.

Sep 13, 2009
4:34 pm
#20 bubba551 :

I cannot speak for combat since my time in service was uneventful. I did, however, put a lot of rounds through the A1 (with the triangular hand guards) and under less tha ideal conditions (i.e. dust, rain, mud, etc).

I did not experience the legendary jamming we hear so much about. To simulate jamming, it was necessary to insert a spent blank cartridge somewhere in the magazine.

The only hiccup that I occaisionally saw was when using very old, very beat, magazines, but a single slap would solve this. This was also preventable, since it was very apparent that these mags were beyond their useful life, and would not be issued in a combat situation.

CAVEAT’: A little cleaning and a little of that magic [at the time] Break-Free went a long way.

Sep 16, 2009
2:17 pm
#21 ray :

5.56mm or 7.62mm.does not matter when i hit you in the chest or your head.i would rather do it from 500 yards(5.56mm and a m16a2)than under 200 yards if iam lucky(7.62mm and an ak-47)i know i have fired both at camp lejeune (yes i am a marine) and in the gulf war.

Sep 20, 2009
12:47 am
#22 GIJOE :

while i was in the military, i may not have liked the 5.56 round as much as the 7.62. before i joined the military, i fired regularly with a bolt action chambering 7.62, and hunted deer with it. but i carried the SAW for almost my entire time in service. i shot expert and can still qual expert on just about any weapon they throw at me, so accuracy was not something i worried about.

however, since my combat experience is limited to using the SAW, i really don’t think i have a fair grasp of how effective the round would have been in a carbine against an enemy from my own point of view.

often it was so much easier to walk several rounds into a target than to try to worry about sighting in the enemy and conserving ammo. in some cases controlled bursts were effective enough, but multiple rounds do make a difference. besides, i would probably have hated carrying the same number of rounds with the M60…

Sep 28, 2009
1:48 pm
#23 Norman :

The 5.56mm / .223 round is generally frowned upon as a hunting cartridge in Africa because of the amount of flesh/meat damage it tends to leave behind (cavitation). I have seen through and through shots with different effects, one being virtually no damage which is uncommon and secondly with massive damage caused by the cavitation effect. The other and most common is the one where the round totally disintegrates just after penetration leaving holes about the size of a baseball and sometimes much bigger just under the surface.

As a military round I do not and never will have any doubts about it’s capability. It shoots straight, kills effectively, is light to carry and easy on the recoil. It is very obvious to us outsiders that the M16/M4’s and have design problems with the gas operated action of the weapons and this looks like it is going to be overcome with the next generation assault rifles. Other manufacturers have opted to copy the AK gas operation system with huge success and more and more militaries are turning towards assault rifles chambered for this round.

Having used various assault rifles chambered for 7.62mm, 7.62X39 and 5.56mm in urban and bush situations, I can honestly say that the 5.56mm rounds only drawback is it’s tenancy to be easily deflected when shooting through thick scrub or bush. Other than this if used in an AK variant rifle it has proven itself to be extremely accurate and reliable. The round has two major advantages over the 7.26X39 round and those are it’s cavitation ability and it’s accuracy.
Whoever has a problem with it must simply learn how to shoot properly because this round will be around for a ling time to come.

Oct 8, 2009
3:25 pm
#24 McNamara :

The fact is that there is no “perfect” cartridge and no perfect rifle. The AR-15/5.56 combination has been in front line service for over 45 years, longer than any other US rifle.
Statements that the 62 grain 5.56 [ss109] is not a reliable stopper can be deceiving in context. Stories of crazed terrorists “pumped full of lead” seemingly immune from the puny 5.56 circulate like the plague. During WW2, very similar stories of Japanese suicide charges abound, in which Japanese soldiers [of generally small stature] received multiple wounds from the big 30-06 and managed to kill and wound US troops with swords, before being dispatched with pistols and bayonets. How is that possible ? It’s very simple, the only way to reliably incapacitate a determined attacker with as small a projectile as a rifle bullet, is to destroy the central nervous system or cause a rapid and complete loss of blood pressure. Unloading a magazine in the general direction of the enemy and expecting results is a poor substitution for good shot placement. Even with a destroyed heart, the brain has several seconds of reserve oxygen to use and five or six seconds can be a long time in a gun battle. The venerable AR-15 was not designed as a full on “battle rifle” but, in fact as an “assault rifle” for ranges up to 300 meters and to be controlable in automatic fire mode. To this end it has been completely successful. Frankly, this rifle and cartridge will be the standard to which other weapons sytems will be judged for some time to come.

Oct 9, 2009
4:02 am

It is ridiculous to even compare the 5.56 to the 7.62X51 (.308 Winchester), the 5.56 may have a 300fps velocity advantage, but the puny 62 grain bullet vs. the heavier 149/150 grain .308 cal bullet can’t penetrate as deep, hit nearly as hard or compare to the .308 at long ranges. The 7.62X51 has a larger frontal area, much higher kinetic energy and is vastly superior at any range. The .223 Remington was designed for small game under 100 lbs like coyote and fox not big game. If the author used 5.56 on deer sized game he broke the law. It is illegal to use anything under .24 cal. on big game in all states I’m aware of. Game and Fish departments made this law for a reason; it is inadequate on large animals! It doesn’t have the power period. You can kill an elephant (eventually) with a .22, but that doesn’t make it adequate for elephant hunting!

Secondly, if a bullet tumbles at all you can’t hit the broad side of a barn with it. Anyone who knows anything about rifles and ballistics knows this. If the bullet is unstable you won’t hit what you’re aiming at! The rate of twist on .223 (5.56) rifles was changed because the older rifles couldn’t stabilize longer heavier bullets (like the 62 grainer vs. the 55 grainer). I’m beginning to believe this tumbling bullet myth will last forever..

The little .223 (5.56) is very destructive to tissue at close range, (as all high powered rifles are) but when the velocity tapers off at 100+ yards it is like shooting .22′s at the enemy. That is why they keep shooting back (unless a vital spot is hit as McNamara was pointing out).

Oh yeah one last point… the 7.62X39 (AK47 cartridge) while far less powerful than the 7.62X51 NATO round managed to kill many soldiers in Vietnam because the enemy could shoot through trees and buildings that the little 5.56 could not penetrate. It has been said on the Military Channel that if our men had been equipped with the AK47 instead of the vastly more expensive M16 we may have won the war. The AK47 may not be the finely tuned rifle the M16 is, but it is a proven far better design with a better, more powerful cartridge. That is why the 7.62X39 can be legally used on deer sized game.

Nov 18, 2009
3:56 pm
#26 Sgt Moore 0317 :

to every one
ive seen and done the damage that a 7.62 can do to a human target ive been a 0317 (scout sniper) in the Marine corps for 6 years now and i spent 4 of those years over seas and going back for more in january. the 5.56 is a good round has decent stopping power and Al asad i have seen my fellow devil dogs put 5-10 rounds in a guy a couple of times and he decided to be a resilient lil bastard and not stop kicking. and not many soldiers give that loving Geneva Conventions shit a chance in a situation like that.
now back to the topic there is no great round or rifle but the 5.56 is a lil weak and i like us to go to the 6.8 6.5 area so maybe next time it will be 2 or 3 rounds


Nov 19, 2009
12:49 am
#27 Jeff :

I think this is completely true. This perfectly relates to an argument I was having with a friend the other day. We were talking about pistol hunting and the whole general “Concealable Weapon” topic. He started this by saying “Why would someone use an M9 (or any general 9 mm parabellum) over a M1911(AKA any .45 ACP)” I said: “Honestly I would use the Colt but all pistols can kill someone regardless.” Of course we somehow wound up debating the round effectiveness of any pistol round. My bottom line argument is that if any kind of bullet can go through you then you’re probably not going to come out of it alive. Of course there are pros and cons to using either of the rounds but they will both get the job done. 5.56 IS a lot weaker (based simply off size) than a Soviet 7.62 x 39, but it doesn’t mean its any less effective it shoots further, more accurately, with less recoil, and allows for a faster rate of fire. I have never shot anything with a 6.8 or 6.5 round so I cannot say anything about it. Thanks for the great myth disperser!

Nov 24, 2009
7:24 pm
#28 rus :

I notice that you originally note the round of the the ak-47 and ak-74 but surely the current Russian round of 5.45 of the ak-74 must therefore be, in the view of some even less effective!. Also I noted that the gas piston stroke of the Ak is also noted as a short stroke type. Thus are statistics suggesting that a smaller more range effective round has evolved as more important. If you look at the lastest range of combat weapons, sights are the key. I believe started by the UK with their crapy SA80 but it had a goodish sight compared with std open rings, thus allowing greater accuracy, this intern means less amo waste- thus longer in the field. Yes I am an armchair critic ( UK strict gun law.)

Jan 10, 2010
3:34 am
#29 Carl Schlichting :

It is a very effective weapon in a combat situation. I say this from experience

Jan 14, 2010
7:12 pm
#30 howard :

someone mentioned brush and trees.
in nam, when we had extensive firefights
in the jungle, 8 inch shells and napalm were the
real argument enders.
a good soldier has to have the
full array of firepower to call on and
pretty damn quick instincts on when to
make that call. i’d rather have the 223 and
an ak and the artillery and the jets following
me on patrol if you want my bottom line.

Jan 25, 2010
3:05 pm
#31 John :

I have found the 5.56 very effective at short/mid ranges (to 500yrds), single center mass hits normally stop the threat quite effectively with decent muzzle control.

One reason for the look at 6.8 (or the flatter 6.5) is that beyond 375yrds, movers over short distances become difficult hits. Another is material penetration, an example, through block walls and some ballistic vests recently encountered in the field.

I still think overall the 5.56 is the almost ideal round for the job (effectiveness/weight), though I have wondered in the past why the 22-250 wasn’t adapted, and generally concluded because of weight and size. The 5.56 should be retained for all the above reasons with 6.xmm versions available as compliments. They use the 6.5 Creedmoor in long range matches for a reason.

Jan 28, 2010
10:26 pm
#32 chuck :

the 5.56 is legal to use in Michigan as a deer cartridge,and is to my experince a very good at dropping deer, for I have taken three bucks one at 310 yds, which totally made the deer stand straight up and fall over backwards, the other two were taken under 150 yds and just dropped dead in there tracks no running off like when using my 30-06 which just punches right thru. and yes it works great on hogs also just drops them like candy out of a candy machine..

Feb 3, 2010
1:19 am
#33 JJ :

It was my understanding that, during Porject SALVO, the U.S. Government had tried find a replacement for the standard issue M16. Using standard ammo and flechettes(sp?) NONE of the rifles proved to be as combat efffective as the M-16. Having served in the Navy, I have no combat expierience with the M16. However, I do own a S&W M&p 15, chambered for 5.56. Might I say that it is probably one of the most accurate rifles I have ever owned. (I currently own a .223 H&R, a Winchester M70 in .30-06, and a Steyr m95 in 8x56r.) Whether it is the 5.56 round or the rifle itself, I am not sure. But I will never doubt this rifles combat effectiveness in the hands of a trained professional.

Feb 3, 2010
1:20 am
#34 JJ :

Crap. I spelled PROJECT wrong.

Feb 10, 2010
3:45 am
#35 ArcticTactical :

6.8 SPC have the StoppingPower of a 308 and is light as a 5.56 :) ))

Feb 12, 2010
7:24 pm
#36 david woods :

anybody who doubts the 5.56 needs to go shoot a grown dog with it and watch it rip the dog in two pieces,maybe more. no lie,iv done it.

Feb 12, 2010
7:28 pm
#37 david woods :

but, just give me a comp Bow a pack of camel 99′s and a M14 with a ACOG scope and ill be your gunney.

Feb 17, 2010
9:45 pm
#38 Former Sapper :

I’ve used the 5.56 in combat, as well as seen it used. It works far better out of a longer barrel. I used an M4 while some of my buddies had the older, longer barreled m16A2′s. I’ve seen a guy take 6 bullets with an M4 before going down for good, as opposed to just one from the A2. As far as jamming problems with the M16 platform of weapons, sure they do get dirty faster, but i shot thousands and thousands of rounds without a single jam. The problems I’ve seen have been with the cheap aluminum magazines used. I have, and would again without a doubt depend on an M16 platform rifle with the 5.56mm round in combat.

Feb 26, 2010
12:58 pm
#39 JeremiahPTTN :

I am a civilian, a bit of a gun nut but not a typical one (I don’t own enough fire arms to be a true gun nut). I love studying modern firearms and asking a bunch of questions. The overwhelming complaint of the 5.56 that I have seen in my independent studies is that it lacks the power to physically put the target down; which normally isn’t a problem because of the tremendous wounds that the 5.56 round creates. However, when facing an enemy that is drugged up, which i have heard can happen from time to time in Iraq, the 5.56 may not have the immediate killing effect one might require while clearing a building. No question about the 5.56 ability to kill the enemy, just question as to how quickly it will do the job against a target that is on some kind of drug that might prevent his body from reacting normally to the wound caused by a 5.56 round.

My opinion, formed by reading articles such as this, and various others is that the 5.56 is a brilliant round that gets the job done and if stays around I wont have much of a problem with it, but I think that the 6.5 or 6.8 would be a better round for our soldiers; just remember better is a relative word. Personally I was impressed by future weapons demonstration of the Barret M468 (which probably isn’t the best source out there but I’m just a civilian what do you expect? :P ).

Feb 28, 2010
6:15 am
#40 Mark :

Both rounds have thier uses, and are highly effective when utilized within their respective classifications. For a light infantryman the 5.56 is a better round; mainly for the lighter weight and unassisted sight range. The 7.62 (30 caliber based) is and allways will be a universal round for several reasons: Greater take down power at longer distance (with assisted sighting {scope for you non military pers.}). A little better accuaracy at greater range. Commonality of the round itself makes it number one in the U.S.. Frankly, I love them both.

Feb 28, 2010
11:01 am
#41 夏 令 :

I think the M16 is garbage! We are China’s 95 – rifle is the myth!

Mar 7, 2010
5:03 am
#42 Carl :

i have shot whitetail (and Coyotes) with a .223. For the whitetail i have used Barnes X bullet among other premium bullets. For ‘yotes I have used military ball and Nosler Ballistic tips. The exit wound, given a broadside lung shot, on deer is impressive with the x bullet. I wonder how NATO ball ammo would stack up? Just askin’ ‘cuz i don’t know/have no experience with these bullets on whitetail (or any other large game), I am sure it would kill them. I just wonder how fast. Bad guys, like Cape Buffalo, can do a lot a killin’ in a minute or two that it takes them to bleed out.

I am sure there are many cases of one shot stops with the .223. There are likely some re the 30-06 where one shot didnt stop a bad guy. I dont know. One could argue the relative ease shooting the .223 vs. the 30-06 and of the likely hit factors etc with each round taking all into account. But, if we have a person with a given amount of training (maybe never enough in this world where few of us actually shoot – much less hunt) which would be more effective – an M1 Garand or an M16? I would suggest that the WWII generation did pretty well with the Garand. Otheres would could argue that the M16 served well (after the teething issues were resolved) since it was concieved. I dont know which was “better”. I will continue to hunt large game with my 30-06. I will continue to kill coyotes with my .223 . All i know is that I like to shoot. I like to Hunt. I like to collect guns. And I say God Bless our Veterans – however they were (or are) equipped.

Mar 11, 2010
2:02 pm
#43 Tankface :

I am benchrest shooter. Accuracy is everything, if these soliders cant hit shit of course a 5.56 is not going to kill the enemy. I killed my bull last year with my Remington 700 .223. It is more than enough to kill a human if you hit them right. Im not in the army, I dont know too much about it, but the way I see it if you cant take your enemy down with one shot go back to the range

Mar 12, 2010
3:09 pm
#44 phil :

First to al asad Marines not soldiers, calling a Marine a soldier is an offense in itself. Second off in a combat situation you dont always have the medical staff on hand to take care of someone with that many holes in them so why not put him out of his misery. Rather than let him bleed out in pain. That and whos to say he still wasnt a threat to those Marines we were not there so who are we to say what is right and wrong. situation always dictates what that decision is. I believe The M16/M4 needs its improvements yes, but the5.56 is suffecient enough to drop a man. plus our armed forces personell are not all famiiar with firearms when the join most have never picked up and fired a weapon as a civilian. So they are not used to firing a weapon with the recoil of a 30/06 or .308 win(7.62x51nato) The 1 and 7 twist was designed to fire both M188 62 grain ball rounds which have an optimum twist rate of1/5 and the tracer which is slower and has an optimum twist of 1/9 so they went right in between to give them similar ballistics. why they switched for better accuracy over damage with the 1/14 twist rate is beyond me. Other than the fact that probably wouldnt be effective at 500 yds for either accuracy nor damage. now the 9mm shouldnt be in service peice of shit round traces along bones such as the skull instead of penetrating, thank God we are going back to the .45 in 2012 with the HK high capacity

Mar 19, 2010
5:08 pm
#45 Pablo :

Even a plain .22LR is deadly in the right hands.

Mar 24, 2010
7:55 am
#46 Tom :

The AR10 makes a better rifle. It uses a standard 7.62×51 NATO that’s in the inventory NOW.
Many of the small parts of the AR15 (M16) directly interchange with the AR10 reducing inventory changes. The 7.62 Cartridge will do something that the 5.56 won’t do, and that is to kill the SOB!!

Mar 29, 2010
7:10 am
#47 Tankface :

Tom, are you saying we should switch to an AR-10?

Apr 10, 2010
6:28 pm
#48 jericho :

the desigers of the m16 assault rifle should give the m16 a major upgrade to it.
first of all they should change the design and it compact,light and durable for special
ops operators in close quarter battle,room clearing, door breaching and so much more.

they should change the 55.6 NATO to 7.62 NATO round.

Apr 13, 2010
9:02 pm
#49 Brian :

I read your article fully and appreciate as well as admire your thuroughness and your logical strength. Now here’s my personal experience with using the 5.56NATO round of the M-16 and the 7.62X39 round of the AK-47.

I have used both of them in hunting game from boar to bear, and I have seen a lot of the information firsthand. I used teh guns that they were designed for, and have come to get a very realistic picture of the results.

The M-16 and its rounds are the best in idealized situations when shooting at slabs of balistics gelatin. The problem with balistics gelatin is that it’s just flesh wihtout bones or sinews. It’s also thick enough for the round to fully slow to a stop. The M-16 round is a very tempermental round. At short range, it is a highly effective round. I once used an old
M-16A2 to bring down a grizzly with a single triburst. The issue though is that the round isn’t a stop-dead kill. It takes time for the target to bleed out, and it’s much less effective against smaller targets. Against smaller prey such as fawnns and malnourished game, the round is much less effective, sometimes taking several hits to kill a human-sized deer.

The AK-47 and its rounds are the best in most real world hunting situations.The round will peice flesh and bone, and it will break whatever it hits. I used this on a 900 pound moose buck, and the animal just crumpled. I used the M-16 on it as well, but I had to wait for the animal to die. The AK round is one of the best anti-anything rounds on the planet. I managed to get a sideways shot at a bear, hitting it in the neck and resulting in a decapitation. I honestly know that this round has much more killing power than the smaller round. And combined with tighter riflign and a longer barrel, it could be one of the greatest bullets in human history.

A serious issue with the M-16 round is how erratic it is when it hits a fleshy target. Sometimes it will go stright through, some time it performs like the textbook says it should, and sometimes, it just disintegrates and leaves an apple sized hole in the target.

The problem with the AK-47 round is the weight. I personally like the bigger rounds because they do a lot more damage, but for a backpacket in Alaska, the lighter roudns are mcuh nicer to lug around, but it’s best to pull out the Kalashnikov when there’s a moose with your name on it,

Apr 30, 2010
10:12 pm
#50 HKent :

Comment is on twist rate and bullet construction: the deadliest .224 caliber on things about a foot thick is the .22-250 with a 1:14″ twist. The 55gr. FMJ bullet tumbles and breaks in half at the cannelure RIGHT AWAY, scattering jacket and lead in it’s wake just like Fackler says. This is because of a weak lead/jacket construction bullet barely stablized already and it de-spins on impact radically. I shot this combination in maximum handloads at coyotes and recovered them for bounty hundreds of times. People are no thicker than a coyote…a good hit and that’s it.

The opposite is true for the 1:7″ twist AR-15A2 with the strongly constructed 62gr. “Green Tip” which is designed to be very stable and penetrate (hence the “penetrator” core) which it does. It is so stable it is already out of the animal before it can destabilize and sturdy enough to not fragment.

As a civilian, get a polymer tipped HP bullet at the barely stable edge of it’s weight/twist combination and expect good results on unarmored targets. For the big bore shooters, Fackler also liked the old steel jacketed German 7.62 NATO they are selling now because it broke at the cannelure, too.

May 10, 2010
9:11 pm
#51 Nick :

ok. For one, I have been in both the Marine Corps Infantry and the Army Infantry. I have been in combat with both organizations in Iraq and I personally despise the 5.56mm round. YES, it will kill the enemy EVENTUALLY. Yes it will enter the body and tumble around and do all that damage and he will bleed out and expire. But a regular .22 long rifle will accomplish the same thing wouldn’t it? The fact is that you have to shoot the enemy mulitple times in order to take him immediately out of the fight. Just shoot him once and he will keep shooting back at, possibly killing you or a member of your squard. Even hunters will tell you the same thing. How often do you score a perfect shot with your .223 and watch your prey run off 100m and fall over dead? Pretty often. Well in combat that prey isn’t running in the other direction, he has a loaded AK-47 aimed at you. Now if you get hit with a 30-06 or a 7.62mm round you KNOW you have been shot. The shear knock down power of those 2 rounds will take an enemy combatent out of the fight and keep him out. So why not just keep the M16 and the A4 and just change the receivers to fire a 7.62mm round as the main battle rifle? So I am sorry, but I have to disagree with you, the 5.56mm round currently fielded by our military is not an effective round for any combat situation. It should be regulated to the field of outdoor adventure and not allowed into any realm where the lives of men depend on removing the enemy from the fight and keeping him out.

May 11, 2010
2:00 pm
#52 Me :

The issue with alot of the comments on here is that they are written by people that have never been in combat. They say you just need to learn to aim better, and you will kill your target on the first shot. How much time exactly do you think you have to aim when you’re working in an urban environment, and your enemy can come around any corner? Not alot, I promise. And yes, the M-4 (or M-16 if you’re still rockin one) will kill your target. The issue resides with how quickly you’re taking them out of the fight. If you’re clearing a building and an enemy combatant pops out at you, you take about a half second to aim center mass and pull the trigger. With a round like the 7.62, you will put him on his a$$, making you much safer even if it takes him a little bit to bleed out. With a round as small as the 5.56, you could hit him in the stomach and he can still be around until the end of the fight. The other issue arises less with the M-4/16, and more with the SAW. While it can be an effective weapon for a dismounted mission, they are still trying to stick some soldiers with them as their CSW (Crew Served Weapon). On my last tour one guy put 11 rounds through an oncoming vehicles hood without stopping the engine. If the driver hadn’t been killed in the process, that would have been a very bad day for that gunner. With the 240 (which utilizes the 7.62 round), you don’t have that problem. So in my oppinion, the M-4/16 is still good for distance shooting, but for our soldiers a heavier round with more knock down power would be much more effective. But that’s just my 2 cents.

May 13, 2010
5:19 pm
#53 Big Daddy Jesus :

If I were you, I’d be gay.

May 31, 2010
8:22 pm
#54 DJ :

I’ve never been prviliged to serve in the armed forces, but I have talked with many – MANY – guys who have been in combat. I have studied the subject for many years and here’s a summary:

1) Special forces veteran from Vietnam with YEARS of combat experience: “Anyone who questions the .556 has never been in serious combat. The round causes horrific wounds. Of course, if they didn’t hit an enemy in the head or chest, it might not stop him right away, but the 7.62 wouldn’t likely do any better.”
2) Combat medics think the .556 is more incapacitating than the 7.62 X 39 AK round.
3) The 7.62 X 51 U.S. round does unquestionably have more “knockdown power; however, it fragments and yaws less effectively than the .556. It is debatable whether the 7.62 is more effective at close range. Over 350 yards, or through vegetation, the 7.62 is superior.
4) Officers writing after-action reports generally report favorably on the .556. Civilian gunwriters almost uniformly bemoan the “lack of stopping power” of the .556.
5) The M-193 .556 round is generally better for in-close work than the M855, because the steel penetrator in the latter was indeed designed to penetrate. We went with the NATO standard M855 to use in both the M16/M4 and SAW’s, where the distance advantages of the M855 came into play.
6) Longer barrel = more speed and therefore more likelihood of stopping power; a 16″, 18″, or 20″ barrel rifle beats a 14.5″ or less.
5) I had a long and instructive conversation with a Marine Corps Squad Designated Marksman, who was a ballistics specialist. He was in the Fallujah battle, as well as the 3 week march to Baghdad at the war’s beginning. He saw dozens of shot Iraqis and many Americans, and he looked at every wound he could, out of professional interest. His conclusion was that he would carry an M1A (M14) IF he was in a vehicle. If he was on foot, he would carry an M4. He had great confidence in both rounds with proper shot placement. (Shooting an enemy in the gut won’t necessarily put him out of the fight quickly, shooting him in the chest very liklely will.)
6) There is a reason most special forces operators still carry the M4 or other .556 rifles, unless they need distance, in which case, the 7.62 (or other long range rounds) is far better, as in the Afghanistan mountains.

Jun 2, 2010
1:45 pm
#55 Chaos :

Wait till the Army’s new M855A1 rounds comes out this summer. You won’t be dissappointed.

Jun 7, 2010
5:05 pm
#56 Damion :

well if the m16 ar 15 platform is that effective just take the ak 47 platform put a 308 or 7.62X51 and chamber the ak for it and put a super v bolt in the ak you have a hell of a weapon

Jun 15, 2010
4:53 pm
#57 68W10 :

As a 68W, a combat medic for you civies, I have seen more pictures of the best and worst of both rounds in training than most service men see in their tour. I have seen US boys with faces completely destroyed by a 7.62 still live and have it put back together and come out being able to fight. I have seen exit wounds from a 5.56 so large that you could stick your fist inside and not get it bloody. I can tell you right now, the 5.56 is more than capable in its role, mid range engagement. At point blank, the 5.56 is traveling to fast to create the proper cavitation to kill a man, it literally goes straight through. So technically, the 7.62 is better at that range because it has a lot of bang. Yet for that logic, we can argue for the 12 gauge for that range, and in case you haven’t learned, the military uses just that for sweeping houses. This is what I think should be the main armament for soldiers on foot. M4 for mid range engagement with the 240B for heavy support, M249 for longer deployments (lighter weight), and combat shotgun for house sweeping. WOW! Thats what the military thinks too!
Except, they don’t give enough shotguns to sweep effectively, they fear a mid range engagement around every corner, and the military is too damn cheep. What we have is working, and well if I might add. What we need is more effective body armor.

Jun 15, 2010
4:57 pm
#58 68W10 :

That and perhaps an effective way of destroying their will to fight. Right now we are only giving them ale ba bas more reason to raise arms against us.

Jun 21, 2010
10:40 am
#59 Nabin :

These all grand M1, M14, M16 blah blah blah are nothing in front of Charra Gun.

Jun 21, 2010
10:41 am
#60 Suicidal Dream :

Yeap man……..I’ve heard of it but never have a chance of using this weapon…….I heard during my 18 months training.

Jun 21, 2010
10:46 am
#61 Amorphis :

Its far better for light infantryman as 7.93 is far much more better one….And this CHARRA has a high accuracy at greater range

Jun 21, 2010
10:49 am
#62 Avczc :

Oh USA! give me anyone of the four! I am in need of it……to kill the one who raped my sexy n hot life..uahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Give me any CHARRA to swipe out the one who f**ked me like a slut.

Jun 21, 2010
10:51 am
#63 Sushil :

What a poor story…………But don’t take seriously in anger.

Jun 26, 2010
9:34 pm
#64 Sipsip :

Great comment by SapperDaddy…those of us PFC’s who use the AR-15 for home defence (my home is not in the middle of town) and for recreational shooting want something that will put rounds in target accurately, quickly and reliably. If someone comes tear-azzin up our lane with mal intent, I know that popping him with a round or six from the -15 will cause him to rethink his immediate priorities and to exit the premises in a somewhat sloppy manner. A flatter trajectory works best for me in South Texas, where there’s no cover to deal with and I can line ‘em up true up to 400 meters out from my front door.

True, body armor and cover and distance complicate matters for every firearm…but for a standard rifled armament shooting a round that I can find everywhere, maintain with a minimum of specialized fuss and bother, and put wannabe home invaders down to earth with right after I head to the range for a couple hours, the -15 works perfectly.

Jun 29, 2010
3:39 am
#65 Wash :

According to the U.S Army, the reason upper receiver kits are not used is because it is not deemed a large enough jump in technology for them to spend money on, also why they didn’t switch to the HK 416 like Delta Force has. Nevermind the fact that in ’08 they bought 10,000 more rifles.

Jul 1, 2010
3:41 pm
#66 ken :

in 2007 my squad was hiding in a house conducting a ambush in iraq 2 armed men walked
into the street. the first one was a head shot and died on impact. the second one was hit 13 times and taken to the hospital. i testified aginst him 4 months later in a iraqi court. the m855 put him on the ground and removed him as a armed threat. that being said 13 hits should have killed him as he was only 100 meters away if you put holes in someone where there where none before you will have a positive affect. however i would like to use a better round such as the SOSTs BTHP that the marine core is currently useing in afgan as i perfure to put bad guys in the ground not in jail. thank you

Jul 15, 2010
3:00 am
#67 Steve :

I prefer 12 gauge with .00 buck….easy to aim,nice effect,and master of close range combat.

Jul 22, 2010
9:34 am
#68 Caleb :

I greatly enjoy this article.. I thank you for writing it. I have always figured switching to a bigger round (not necessarily saying 7.62 but 6.’s) would be a good thing to do especially with the type of war we’re fighting right now. I never fully realized how much damage the 5.56 round did, and I’ve seen some wounds. It goes without saying that the range that of which you shoot your target, the rifle it’s fired with, and where at in the body you hit, effects the exit wound. And that’s probably my case in what i’ve seen. I was the “typical” person who said 5.56 – accurate. 7.62 – deadly, so combine them. But accuracy combined (and made by) the spin will effect a person greater than what people think. For example, a pellet gun that shoots at about 700 fps can enter a man’s skull and bounce around, thus turning their brain into mush. That versus something firing at a much higher rate will go in and out with ease. Of course something entering your brain is bound to kill you, I use that example because it stuck with me when my instructors at JROTC had a guy who had that happen to. But once again, thank you for pointing these characteristics out. I honestly never thought of the rifle itself too, yet a do prefer the idea of converting or simply using gas piston rifles.

Jul 29, 2010
5:20 pm
#69 Jake :

I love the .556. It is a great round and i think we should stick with it. 7.62 is also a great round. They both are great and are used for different scenarios but they both compliment eachother perfectly. If i was sniping, give me a M14 and 1000 yard scope. If i was on foot, give me the full sized M16 (not a fan of the m4) tri burst.

No matter how you put it they both are capable rounds, and if put in the right hands, devastatingly effective.

Jul 30, 2010
10:19 am
#70 Doc :

I’m a medic in the us army. the 5.56 is effective in killing. It is lighter, which is great. could it have more knock down power? Sure but nothing is perfect. as of right now in Iraq we are urban with most battles happening with in 50-75 meters. I personally think one perfect consolidated AR isn’t the answer. If we do have to use only one then the rifle should be a bull-pup(reducing overall length) with the ability for full auto. there are a lot better equipped countries. It is kind of sad we are still using this old crappy design. Although innovative in the 50s, we are long over due for an update. In a perfect world we would have mission specific weaponry. Ex. For strictly urban fighting, 1 squad would have 2 sub machine guns, 2 AR w/ large mags, and 1 med long range rifle. Instead we have five people with a AR that poorly does all of that.

In Afganastan they know most soldiers can’t touch them past about 250 meters.I know what your thinking and I’m saying average. Having no optics ,because the army issues accogs to about 15% and most of the time its to people in the training room or other people who will never fire their weapon(ex. Sargent majors, captains, first Sargent, colonels, and other fobbets). so in Afghanistan we need that squad based sniper rifle, and optics to get the job done. and a different AR. The new ACR has different length barrels for different missions. This is just a small rant from a frustrated soldier. Sorry for your inconvenience.

Aug 5, 2010
4:47 am
#71 4EverLSU :

Considering that anyone considering a purchase for self defense based on this article will likely be a civilian, you’re comparing apples to oranges. Sure, one or two 3 round bursts will have enormous effects on the target, but that’s kinda’ moot for a civilian buyer. For a rifle firing a single round, I’d rather have an M-14. As a civilian…if I find myself in CQC, I’d rather have a shotgun, and a high powered pistol as a backup. Most of us don’t have the option of owning a weapon of firing more than one round per trigger pull, so I’d rather have a gun that I know will most probably have one shot, one kill efficacy…and no more than two pulls of the trigger total. I’ll take an M-14 any day. If you’re just arguing for arguing’s sake, in CQC, one could argue the MAC-10, or the Thompson 45. Depends on the situation. There is no perfect gun, nor a perfect round for every situation. There’s a reason there are so many makes and models used in so many confrontations.

Aug 15, 2010
12:49 pm
#72 john :

i thought the whole purpose of a 5.56 round was to leave the enemy screaming and wounded on the floor and not to kill them outright. this would take man power to treat the wounded individual thus weakening the attacking or defending force. if it takes 1 or 2 people to get this wounded person into cover then you have taken 2 or 3 weapons out of the equasion giving you the opertunity to get fire superiority.

Aug 16, 2010
10:15 pm
#73 Vova :

My personal opinion on the M-4 itself is yes there could be some improvements done to the weapon. Im in the service i have not once had my weapon jammed, misfire, or any form of a weapons melfuntion. i am not a fobbit I am a tanker and use this weapon daily. I ALSO CLEAN MY WEAPON DAILY !! thats another thing people should rememeber that it doesnt matter what kind of round you have in your weapon, the weapon will perform better when its clean. Now getting on to the main subject with the 5.56 i have never had problems with this round It will DROP SOME ONE VERY QUICK BELEIVE ME IVE SEEN IT. The ammunition is very light and effective with the gear we cary. But at the same time people should be careful when critisizing the 5.56 it will do its job now do your and learn to shoot better

Aug 21, 2010
3:03 am
#74 Ryan :

The “M16 family” especially its “M4 descendant” are still the number one assault rifle for me. Yes, the round matters but the 5.56 is still very deadly. I personally used an M16A1 and an M14 rifle in a field training exercise. The load capacity you can get with the M16A1 is more, or approx twice of that of the M14 in terms of weight. So a soldier can last longer in the battlefield with an M16. The load weight does matter when you are going up and down the terrains. The M4 version is much better since it is more compact in size and with some modifications, it is more versatile than the M16A1. Personally I would prefer the 5.56 rifles (M16/M4) in combat missions. But for some, they believe that the rifle chooses the shooter but generally, it is in the shooters preference. And every weapon is at its best when the shooter is well trained at it. No sniper is well versed with any weapon at first shot!

Aug 26, 2010
5:44 pm
#75 Bob :

Two items are missing from this debate. 1) velocity and 2) barrel length.

The M4 in all configurations is a engineering nightmare! It is not the caliber, but the weapon that is inadequate!

As two very different wars have proved, IRAQ CQB and Afghanistan Hilltop ambushes are different situations requiring different weapons.

Aug 29, 2010
10:15 pm
#76 Mike :

Gentlemen in a combat situation it’s kill or be killed correct? The weapon & ammo that kills or incapacitates the enemy best, penetrating whatever barriers might be in the way with the fewest rounds over the distances incurred in most situations that doesn’t weigh too much & is reliable without question is what you’re saying we need. AK rounds (122-125gr) penetrate walls & glass fairly well up close but drops 90+inches @ 500yds & has only at best 400lbs of energy. The best .223 loads (55 & 77gr) drops 36+inches @ 500yds with just over 500lbs of energy. The best .243 Win. & 6mm Rem. loads (85-100gr) drop 33-43 inches with 800-925lbs of impact. Of course these ballistics are probably with barrels longer than combat versions. With more energy and about the same drop @ 500yds why not the .243/6mm? I’ve shot the .243 & never heard of anyone complaining about the recoil of either. Maybe someday this round in an AK style gun will appear.

Sep 10, 2010
5:52 am
#77 GunRunner :

The Last ‘Big Lie’ of Vietnam Kills U. S. Soldiers in Iraq
By Maj. Anthony F. Milavic, USMC (Ret.)

At a Vietnam Special Forces base during 1964, I watched a U. S. soldier fire 15 rounds of .223 caliber ammunition into a tethered goat from an AR—15 rifle; moments after the last round hit, the goat fell over. Looking at the dead goat, I saw many little bullet entry—holes on one side; and when we turned him over, I saw many little bullet exit—holes on the other side. Over time, those observations were confirmed and reconfirmed, revealing that the stories we were told on the lethality of the .223 caliber cartridge were fabrications. Those false reports drove the adoption of the .223 caliber cartridge as the 5.56mm NATO cartridge and, ever since, Americans have been sent to war with a cartridge deficient in combat lethality; a deficiency that has recently caused the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

What is efficient combat lethality? The book Black Hawk Down quotes SFC Paul Howe’s description of SFC Randy Shughart, a soldier who elected to carry the 7.62mm M—14 into the urban battlefield of Somalia in 1993 rather than the 5.56mm CAR—15 (M—16—variant):

‘His rifle may have been heavier and comparatively awkward and delivered a mean recoil, but it damn sure knocked a man down with one bullet, and in combat, one shot was all you got. You shoot a guy, you want to see him go down; you don’t want to be guessing for the next five hours whether you hit him, or whether he’s still waiting for you in the weeds.’ [1]

With the wisdom of a combat veteran, Howe describes the lethality necessary for a cartridge in combat—one—round knockdown power.

How did we get from military cartridges with proven one—round knockdown power such as the 30—06 and 7.62mm to the 5.56mm? The journey starts with the term ‘tumbling.’ This term has been associated with the .223 cal./5.56mm cartridge, since early in its marketing as a potential military cartridge to this day. The very word, tumbling, prompts images of a bullet traveling end over end through the human body in 360—degree loops: in reality, it does not move this way at all.

Dr. Martin L. Fackler, COL., USA (Ret.) served as a surgeon in Vietnam during 1968 and, subsequently, pursued the research of terminal ballistics by observing the effects of bullets fired into blocks of ballistic gelatin. In ‘Wounding patterns for military rifle bullets,’ he reports the observation that ‘all’ non—deforming pointed bullets—this included the 30—06 and 7.62mm military full—metal jacket bullets—— ‘yawed’ 180 degrees while passing through the gelatin to exit base—forward; i.e., heaviest end forward. The 5.56mm projectile acted in the same manner with a very precise exception: These rounds ‘yawed’ to 90—degrees, and then fragmented at their weakened serrated band (cannelure) into two or more pieces when fired into ballistic gelatin. However, the 5.56mm projectile does NOT always yaw or fragment. Under field conditions, the probability of these effects is reduced by the following factors:

——The round strikes the target at less than 2700 feet per second. That velocity is reduced by: the farther the range to the target, the greater reduction in velocity; shortened weapon barrel length as is the case with the shorter M—4 carbine; and/or, manufacturing variances in the cartridge.

——Variances in human body thickness and flesh density and consistency.

In those cases, the bullet neither yaws nor fragments and causes only a pencil size hole through the body; i.e., small hole in, small hole out. Neither Dr. Fackler nor anyone else has provided any empirical data or estimate on the incidence of the 5.56mm yaw/fragmentation effect on enemy soldiers. Conversely, since first used by Americans in combat, there has been a consistent observation from the field—enemy soldiers continue to fire their weapons after being hit by multiple 5.56mm bullets; evidently, no yaw/fragmentation effect. Nevertheless, the term ‘tumble’ was apparently derived from idealized yaw action and, as suggested by the following, was chosen in lieu of the word yaw because it would ‘sell’ better. [2]

The book, The Black Rifle, M16 Retrospective by Edward C. Ezell and R. Blake Stevens, ‘ . . . is, so far as [the authors] could make it so, the truth about the controversial 5.56mm caliber AR—15 (M16)—what it is, what it is not, where it came from, and why.’

Edward C. Ezell, Ph.D., now deceased, was the Curator/Supervisor of the Division of Armed Forces History, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC and the editor of perhaps the world’s most famous gun book, Small Arms of the World. The Black Rifle contains one of the earliest characterizations that the .223 cal. bullet tumbled in a brochure produced by Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company, Inc. The caption written by the book’s authors reads, ‘From the first Colt AR—15 brochure, produced in a desperate attempt to interest somebody — anybody — in the merits of the AR—15′s ‘unmatched superiority.” In one of the three internal brochure illustrations is text reading, in part, ‘On impact the tumbling action of the .223 caliber ammunition increases effectiveness.’ [3]

In 1961, Colt’s did get somebody’s attention. The Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) of the Department of Defense (DoD) was enjoined by the Kennedy Administration to explore how the United States could support a foreign ally in a ‘limited’ war. In the spring of 1961, ARPA’s Project AGILE was implemented to supply ‘research and engineering support for the military and paramilitary forces engaged in or threatened by conflict in remote areas of the world.’ In October of 1961, ARPA provided ten Colt’s AR—15′s to Vietnamese Forces in Saigon to conduct a limited test. The Black Rifle remarks of this test, ‘The number of rifles might have been small, but the enthusiastic reaction of the Vietnamese and their American advisors alike who handled and fired the AR—15s was just as [Colt's marketing agent] had predicted.’ Armed with these positive results, ARPA succeeded in expanding the Project AGILE study by procuring 1,000 AR—15s for distribution among select Vietnamese units for field—testing. Ezell & Stevens write that this approval resulted in ‘ . . . saving Colt’s from almost sure financial disaster and also setting the stage for the most influential yet controversial document so far in the history of the already controversial AR—15.’ [4]

The purpose of this test, as set forth in, ARPA, ‘Report of Task 13A, Test of ArmaLite Rifle, AR—15,’ dated 31 July 1962, was ‘ . . . a comparison between the AR—15 and the M2 Carbine to determine which is a more suitable replacement for shoulder weapons in selected units of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF).’ The Project AGILE results were summed up, in part, by ARPA as follows: ‘The suitability of the AR—15 as the basic shoulder weapon for the Vietnamese has been established. For the type of conflict now occurring in Vietnam, the weapon was also found by its users and by MAAG advisors to be superior in virtually all respects to the M1 Rifle, M1 and M2 Carbines, Thompson Sub—Machine Gun, and Browning Automatic Rifle.’ NOTE: This study and its recommendations concerned the suitability of the AR—15 for Vietnamese soldiers, who were described by the testers to be of ‘small stature, body configuration and light weight,’ NOT larger stature United States soldiers. [5]

In any case, the report was widely read and some of its components came under serious question, especially those purporting to describe the demonstrated lethality of the .223 caliber cartridge. The following are three such examples from the Project AGILE report:

Example 1. ‘On 160900 June, one platoon from the 340 Ranger company was on a ground operation . . . and contacted 3 armed VC in heavily forested jungle.. . . At a distance of approximately 15 meters, one Ranger fired an AR—15 full automatic hitting one VC with 3 rounds with the first burst. One round in the head took it completely off. Another in the right arm, took it completely off. One round hit him in the right side, causing a hole about 5 inches in diameter.. . . (Rangers)’

Example 2. ‘On 9 June a Ranger Platoon from the 40th Infantry Regt. Was given the mission of ambushing an estimated VC Company.. . .

1. Number of VC killed: 5 [Descriptions of the one—round killing wounds follow.]

1. Back wound, which caused the thoracic cavity to explode.
2. Stomach wound, which caused the abdominal cavity to explode.
3. Buttock wound, which destroyed all tissue of both buttocks.
4. Chest wound from right to left; destroyed the thoracic cavity.
5. Heel wound; the projectile entered the bottom of the right foot causing the leg to split from the foot to the hip.

These deaths were inflicted by the AR—15 and all were instantaneous except the buttock wound. He lived approximately five minutes. (7th Infantry Division)’

Example 3. ‘On 13 April, a Special Forces team made a raid on a small village. In the raid, seven VC were killed. Two were killed by AR—15 fire. Range was 50 meters. One man was hit in the head; it looked like it exploded. A second man was hit in the chest, his back was one big hole. (VN Special Forces)’ [6.]

The above ‘field—reports’ are incredulous on their face and some in DoD requested that these results be duplicated scientifically. The Army Wound Ballistics Laboratory at Edgewood Arsenal attempted to do just that. Using .223 caliber Remington ammunition provided by Colt’s representative, they conducted their ‘standard lethality trials that consisted of measuring the cavitational and other effects of firing at known distances into blocks of ballistic gelatin, and where necessary, anaesthetized goats.’ They failed to duplicate the explosive effects reported by Project AGILE. In November 1962, the Army initiated ‘Worldwide’ tactical and technical tests of the AR—15 using U. S. soldiers. Edgewood was tasked to perform further lethality tests using modified .223 caliber ammunition. Ezell and Stevens describe the modifications: ‘They had modified some 55—grain .223 caliber ball bullets of Remington manufacture by cutting approximately 1/4 inch off the nose and drilling a 3/32—inch—diameter hole about 1/4 inch deep into the lead core of each bullet.’ The results? The authors continue, ‘As it turned out, even the hollow—points failed to duplicate anything like the spectacular effects recorded by the Vietnamese unit commanders and their American advisors, which had subsequently been taken as fact and much used as propaganda.’ [7.]

The .223 caliber cartridge was morphed into the 5.56mm NATO cartridge and adopted for the United States Service Rifle M—16 (formerly, AR—15) replacing the 7.62mm M—14. How could such propaganda have convinced the Department of Defense to adopt the .223 caliber cartridge? ‘All this was inspired by the principle —— which is quite true in itself —— that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper stata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily, and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large—scale falsehoods.’

Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf [8.]

As is usually the case, a judgment based on lies was to adversely affect those at the ‘pointy end of the spear.’ American warriors reported enemy soldiers continuing to close and fire their weapons after sustaining multiple hits by 5.56mm bullets. This happened as early as 9 December 1965 in the official ‘After Action Report of the Ia Drang Valley Operation . . ..’ popularized by the movie and book We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young. The commanding officer of the battalion engaged there, Col. Harold G. Moore, USA, writes of assaulting enemy soldiers being hit by 5.56mm rounds: “Even after being hit several times in the chest, many continued firing and moving for several more steps before dropping dead.” [9.]

Later in that war, a similar experience is voiced by Col. John Hayworth, USA (Ret.): ‘In one fire—fight, I saw my RTO place three rounds [of 5.56 mm] in the chest of a charging NVA regular at 50 yards. He kept firing his AK and never slowed down. At 30 yards, I hit him with a blast of double ought buck. It picked him up off his feet and he didn’t get up again.’ [10.]

In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the DoD increased the weight of the 5.56mm 55—grain bullet (M193) to 62—grains, replaced some of its lead core with a tungsten steel core, painted the bullet tip green and designated the new cartridge M855. In 1991, the Pentagon sent its warriors to the Gulf War with this new green—tip cartridge. Maj. Howard Feldmeier, USMC (Ret.) was there: ‘ . . . several Marines commented that they had to shoot Iraqi soldiers 2—3 or more times with the 62—grain 5.56mm green tip ammo before they stopped firing back at them . . ..’ That report is exemplified by one of an Iraqi officer who was thrown from his vehicle and set afire by an explosion: ‘Somehow he managed to hold on to his AK—47. He also got up, still on fire, faced the firing line of Marines and charged forward firing his weapon from the hip. He didn’t hit anyone but two Marines each nailed him with a three round burst from their M—16A2s. One burst hit him immediately above his heart, the other in his belly button. [He] . . . kept right on charging and firing until his magazine was empty. When he got up to the Marines two of them tackled him and rolled him in the sand to put out the fire. . . . He was quickly carried back to the battalion aid station . . .. The surgeons told me he certainly died of burns, but not necessarily from the six 5.56mm wounds . . ..’ [11.]

In spite of the above ‘lesson learned,’ the DoD dispatched its warriors to combat in Somalia in 1993 with the same flawed ‘green tip’ cartridge as testified in Mark Bowden’s book Black Hawk Down: ‘His weapon was the most sophisticated infantry rifle in the world, a customized CAR—15, and he was shooting the army’s new 5.56mm green tip round. . . . The bullet made a small, clean hole, and unless it happened to hit the heart or spine, it wasn’t enough to stop a man in his tracks. Howe felt he had to hit a guy five or six times just to get his attention.’

The Pentagon remained unmoved by that experience of its warriors and continued to send them to war underpowered. On 4 April 2002, I received an e—mail from a trooper in Afghanistan who appeals, in part: ‘The current—issue 62gr 5.56mm (223) round, especially when fired from the short—barreled, M—4 carbine, is proving itself (once again) to be woefully inadequate as [a] man stopper. Engagements at all ranges are requiring multiple, solid hits to permanently bring down enemy soldiers. Penetration is also sadly deficient. Even light barriers are not perforated by this rifle/cartridge combination.’ [12.]

Additional observations of the impotence of the 5.56mm round soon appeared in official and professional publications. In their official briefing ‘Lessons Learned in Afghanistan’ dated April 2002, LTC C. Dean, USA and SFC S. Newland, USA of the U. S. Army Natick Soldier Center reported: ‘Soldiers asked for a weapon with a larger round. ‘So it will drop a man with one shot.” In the October 2002 issue of the Marine Corps Gazette magazine, Capt Philip Treglia, USMC reflected on his Afghanistan experience in December 2001 by reporting that, ‘the 5.56 mm round will not put a man to the ground with two shots to the chest.’ Capt Treglia’s men were trained to fire two bullets into an enemy’s chest and if that did not knock him down, they were to shift fire to the head. This is the corrective action implemented for these Marines and many others in the Armed Forces for the impotent 5.56mm cartridge rather than equipping them with a rifle that fired a bullet with one—round knockdown power. And, as Capt Treglia reported, multiple hits with the 5.56mm bullet didn’t work any better in Afghanistan than it did anytime in the past.

In a 3 March 2003 written briefing, LCdr. Gary K. Roberts, USNR recommended to RAdm. Albert M. Calland, Commander, Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Command that he upgrades his command’s 5.56mm weapons to the 6.8mm cartridge. That briefing, entitled, ‘Enhancement of NSW Carbine & Rifle Capability,’ opens by observing:

Recent combat operations have highlighted terminal performance problems, generally manifested as failures to rapidly incapacitate opponents, during combat operations when M855 62gr. ‘Green Tip’ FMJ is fired from 5.56mm rifles and carbines. Failure to rapidly incapacitate armed opponents increases the risk of U.S. forces being injured or killed and jeopardizes mission success. [13.]

That statement was prophetic.

On 12 September 2003, in Ar Ramadi, Iraq elements of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group engaged enemy forces in a firefight. An insurgent was struck in the torso by several rounds of 5.56mm ammunition from their M—4 carbines (this is the current shortened version of the M—16 Service Rifle). He continued to fire his AK—47 and mortally wounded MSgt Kevin N. Morehead, age 33, from Little Rock, Arkansas. The engagement continued with the same insurgent surprising SFC William M. Bennett, age 35, from Seymour, Tennessee from a hiding place and killing him instantly with a three—round burst to the head and neck. SSgt Robert E Springer, threw away his M—4 carbine, drew an obsolete WWI/WWII vintage .45 caliber pistol and killed the insurgent with one shot. A close inspection of the enemy’s corpse revealed that he had been hit by seven 5.56 mm rounds in his torso. Also, in this engagement, these soldiers were provided with a commercially produced 5.56mm round of 77—grain weight vice the 62—grain bullets in use by general—purpose forces. Obviously, the larger 5.56mm round was of little consequence. [14.]

These reports are consistent with my own experience during three tours of duty in Vietnam from the goat incident in 1964 described above to service with the 3rd Marine Division in 1968—69; experience that repeatedly reminded me that this 5.56mm cartridge was nothing more than the full—metal jacket military version of the commercial .223 caliber Remington cartridge. The .223 caliber Remington was and is today commercially advertised and sold as a ‘varmint cartridge’ for hunting groundhogs, prairie dogs and woodchucks. The cartridge is offered with soft point, hollow point, fragmentation, or projectiles incorporating two or more of these attributes to enhance its lethality and assure a ‘clean kill’: one—round knockdown power on varmints. States such as the Commonwealth of Virginia do not permit it to be used for hunting deer or bear because its lethality—with or without those enhancements——does not assure a ‘clean kill’ on big game. [15] Yet, its full metal jacket military counterpart continues to be issued to American warriors in spite of almost 40 years of Lessons Learned that enemy soldiers continue to fire their weapons and have even killed our soldiers after sustaining multiple hits from 5.56mm bullets.

The lethality of the 5.56mm cartridge, sold on lies, cannot be fixed in truth. It is time the Department of Defense recognizes this ‘Big Lie’ from the Vietnam War and in the names of MSgt Kevin N. Morehead and SFC William M. Bennett replaces this varmint cartridge with one that gives our warriors that critical capability described by SFC Paul Howe above——one—round knockdown power!

The author’s 25—year Marine career included service as an infantryman and intelligence officer with highlights of three tours of duty in Vietnam and, ultimately, representing the Defense Intelligence Agency as a briefer to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense and other Washington area decision makers. He currently manages MILINET an Internet forum on international political/military affairs.
1. Bowden, M, Black Hawk Down, Penguin Books, 2000, p. 208.

2. Fackler, ML,”Wounding patterns of military rifle bullets,” International Defense Review, January 1989, pp. 59—64.

3. Ezell, EC & Stevens, RB, The Black Rifle, M16 Retrospective, Collector Grade Publications, Inc., 1994, p. 98.

4. Ibid. pp.99—100.

5. Ibid. pp.101—106.

6. Ibid. pp. 106—107.

7. Ibid. p. 116.

8. Hitler, A, Mein Kampf. James Murphy, translator. London, New York, Melbourne: Hurst and Blackett Ltd; April 1942; page 134.

9. Moore, Col. HG, ‘After Action Report, Ian Drang Valley Operation 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry 14—16 November 1965,’ dated, 9 December 1965, p. 8.

10. Hayworth, Col. J, E—Mail to author, 23 April 2002.

11. Feldmeier, Maj. H, E—Mail to author, 21 May 2002.

12. Anonymous, E—Mail to MILINET, 26 March 2002.

13. Roberts, USNR, LCdr. Gary K., Brief to RAdm Albert M. Calland, CMDR NAVSPECWARCOM, ‘Enhancement of NSW Carbine & Rifle Capability’ brief, 3 March 2003.

14. Jones, Bruce L., ‘MILINET: Case Studies in Combat Failures of 5.56mm Ammunition,’ 3 November 2003


on “The Last ‘Big Lie’ of Vietnam Kills U. S. Soldiers in Iraq”

Sep 11, 2010
2:00 am
#78 Steven :

While this did make me take a second look at the round I am still skeptical about it and can’t help but beliving the reports of the troops in afganhistan who say they shot an enemy solider with it 6 times and he was still standing

Sep 13, 2010
7:47 am
#79 Steve R :

“john Said,

i thought the whole purpose of a 5.56 round was to leave the enemy screaming and wounded on the floor and not to kill them outright. this would take man power to treat the wounded individual thus weakening the attacking or defending force. if it takes 1 or 2 people to get this wounded person into cover then you have taken 2 or 3 weapons out of the equasion[sic] giving you the opertunity[sic] to get fire superiority.”

This is true, but the problem with this is that, in our current conflict, WE are the ones providing medical care to wounded combatants. Thus, one of our soldiers wounds an enemy combatant, and now *we* lose 1-2 people to treat him.

Sep 16, 2010
6:35 pm
#80 chuck :

I hate the 556, give me a 6.8 or 7.62 nato any day of the week. I have deployed to Iraq twice and the 556 does not do shit to anything. When I shot a guy 3 time center mass you think he would be dead. Well guess what the guy was alive. Now our SDM armed with a m14 shots a guy in the center mass once and he is dead before he hits the ground. Enough said, we need a bullet with a lot more mass/knock down power.

Sep 23, 2010
7:49 am
#81 The Pro Rifle :

I have shot .375 swinging steel with 5.56 at over 300 yards and would not want to be hiding behind it. FMJBT (XM193 not the steel core) cuts clean through every time at that range.

I have shot the same steel with 7.62 FMJBT and while it still cut through, less rounds were on the gong.

I think both have their strengths and both are very intimidating. Anyone who claims less worry over being shot at with the smaller, sadly won’t make it home.

Sep 26, 2010
10:38 am
#82 ex sapper :

Great article. I am not from America but did see combat action and I used both a 5.56 ( r4 and r5 where I live) – general purpous and 7.62 sniper. It will both kill you. Something interesting – the 7.62 goes through a railway track leave nice clean entry and exit wounds but do not go through a sand bag. The 5.56 do not go through the steel but do pass nicely through a sandbag at short range 100 feet or there about. it leave messy internal wounds so yeah headshots with a .22 will also kill no matter how much body armour you wear.

Sep 27, 2010
3:34 am
#83 EchoZulu :

Will – FYI, 9mm hits literally twice as hard as .38

The 5.56 is a fine combat cartridge, because [as the author mentioned] it’s lighter and flatter-shooting than the 7.62, while both will reliably kill and neither will reliably penetrate SAPI plates, which definitely gives the advantage to the round the average soldier can shoot rapidly with more accuracy as well as carry more of in a world where it takes, on average, hundreds of rounds to add up to a kill.

Oct 10, 2010
5:44 pm
#84 Bruce :

Amazing…..this has only been debated in 300 other articles.

Absolutely incredible. I haven’t heard this argument for the 5.56 in the last 3 minutes.

Oct 29, 2010
5:44 am
#85 bilco :

5.56 lighter 7.62 heavier in erbin combt or defense pos HIT is HIT your dow and you won’t come back to the fight.

Nov 5, 2010
7:32 am
#86 Sascha :

Hi all together,
i shot the 5.56mm with the G36 when i was on service for german army. I guess it is bullsh…!
I also shot the G3 with 7.62mm and it was great. I guess they have to come back to the old 7.62mm rounds! They are way more effective! Even 9mm is more effective then 5.56mm! I cant understand why they take your boys to a war with that bullsh… rounds!

Nov 14, 2010
4:52 am
#87 Shooter :

A miss with a .50 is just as nonlethal as a miss with a .22. Shot placement is everything. The 5.56 is a more accurate round that either 7.62 round (x39 or x51). The 7.62 rounds are better against cover, but no more lethal for an accurately placed shot.

Nov 15, 2010
6:08 pm
#88 Bob Scruggs :

I first came in contact with the Stoner AR15 Now called the M16 in 1961 while stationed at the Marine Barracks at the Naval Ordnance testing Center at China Lake, Ca. We were attending a class on the AR15 given by an engineer from Armalite. When we first saw the AR15 most of us laughed at this plastic mattel pretend gun comparing it to the M1 Garand rifle we were issued. The instructor took our ribbing as a good sport and went on to say that the AR15 is a weapon of the future and as I remember, the AR15 was being evaluated by the US Army which at that time were issued the M14.The AR presented was a different rifle as we see today. I recall the instructor stating that the metal components had a kind of silicone material built in and never needed any lubrication and was well suited for all weather enviroments. The metal felt kind of slippery and there was a chrome lined chamber. The AR15 was not tested by the Marines stationed here as we were only a guard unit but was evaluated by civilian engineers stationed at the base.
Most of our NCOS were in the island hopping campaigns of WW2 or served in Korea and related stories of the Japanese Banzai charges and hand to hand combat with fixed bayonets and how the 03 or the M1 with the 30-06 cal saved there lives. Lets face it, the 9lb Mi rifle with a 16 inch banonet would be a better choice for hand to hand combat than the M16 with a short knife at the muzzle. Also the Japanese started the process to change over from the 6.5 cal to the 7.7 cal looking for a larger bullet before WWII knowing the need for more knock down power. As we see today the military is still seeking the same question as before, which caliber is the best and when they want to reach out and touch someone they reach for the the old 30 cal 308 .
The point is no state will allow the 5.56 cal to be used for hunting on any game beyond varmints so why do we equip our troops with such an inferior caliber.

Dec 2, 2010
3:23 pm
#89 Nate :

I am a USMC Scout Sniper with 3 combat deployments to Iraq, so I think I’m a pretty credible source on this subject. The 5.56 has plenty of “stopping power” when it impacts the right area of the body. I have plenty of experience firing the standard 62-grain 5.56 ammo, the heavier 77-grain 5.56 ammo, the 175-grain 7.62 HPBT ammo that we fire from our sniper rifles, and the .50-cal, so I have seen all of these ammunition types in action. I can tell you that the 5.56, when employed accurately and scoring those chest/neck/head shots will absolutely bring down most of your enemies. Between the temporary wound cavity, the fragmentation of the bullet itself, the tumbling effect of the projectile inside the body, and the hydrostatic shock that comes from being hit at close range (inside of 125m with the 5.56), this round will bring most targets down. However at longer ranges, the 5.56 fails to provide the velocity to penetrate deep enough into the body to really provide that knock-down power that soldiers on the battlefield look for. I have seen and hard of many instances of soldiers engaging insurgent fighters multiple times, scoring good hits, and the fighters continuing to fight. Drugs, as you mentioned, and just sheer will to live will keep a man on his feet a lot longer than you might think possible. As a warrior, I expect that if I score a good clean hit to a vital area of the body, my enemy will go down, and sometimes that just isn’t the case with the 5.56. Now ask me if I would rather be shot with our 5.56 of the 7.62 x 39 soviet round… I’ll take the AK hit any day of the week. The 5.56 does cause massive wound ballistics for all the reasons that we’ve talked about, but wounding effects and stopping power are not the same thing. If you’ve ever seen someone shot with an M14 or a similar 7.62 weapon, they go down. With much more consistency than the 5.56, they go down. Sheer bullet mass or “brute force” as you call it, causes a larger amount of hydrostatic shock, more effective penetration at those longer ranges, and a larger wound cavity. Yes, the 5.56 is effective, but so is a .22LR if I score a t-box shot at close range. That is not a good argument for the effectiveness of a round. As a soldier, you need to know that scoring a hydraulic hit as opposed to that circuitry hit will effectively drop your opponent. Especially in this day and age where your enemy probably has a suicide vest or grenades or some other self-detonating capability strapped to them. Simply injuring, even maiming, your enemy is not enough. They need to be incapacitated and I have not seen an effective argument for the 5.56 over the 7.62 in this capability. Just my two pennies. Do with it what you want.

Dec 4, 2010
12:22 pm
#90 sam :

@ rus
“I believe started by the UK with their crapy SA80 ” You obviously have researched you point loads , because The SA80 is one of the most effective guns In the world, along side the AK-47. Just because your american doesn’t make your guns “the best evarrrrr”. The fact is our troops with the standard issue SA80 have had way better results in afghan, mainly cause we’re not droping shells or bombs on our own allies.

Dec 11, 2010
9:05 pm
#91 MBeck :

I shot the 7.62 in the SLR/FN FAL and the 5.56 in the R4 and R5. In the change-over to the 7.62 there were a number of issues on ranges of blokes getting shot in the upper body because the round would go through the sand-bags and into those stood in the trough below the targets, filling in the holes and keeping track of round placement. I never experienced this myself as this was in the wake of the 7.62 replacing the 303 in the British Army. In South Africa and SWA I used a .303 Enfield No.4 rifle for marksmanship and found it the best. The 5.56 was brought in to injure people, not killing them, and thus take them out the fight along with two of their comrades assisting their evacuation from the field. It wasn’t a bullet designed to kill as much as to injure, unlike the 7.62 and .303. I’m not advocating these as replacement calibres for standard U.S usage, but I’d sooner have something else a bit more powerful and a bit more accurate in Afghanistan if I were there.

Dec 21, 2010
11:51 am
#92 Pdog :

i dont care how big the bullet is, get it in the T box and you have instant incapacitation.

Jan 2, 2011
5:06 am
#93 Spc Forces :

Sorry to say but the 5.56 round is used now in the field until a replacement is found. Ie the 6.8 which is in the works dbl the power. And to the scout sniper if it took your devil dogs 12 rounds it’s bc the marines Nvr really learned to shoot. I do close qt combat have been in the service since 89 still in Spc forces and mainly do counter terriost now. Close qt nothing beats the 5.56 round it’s a nasty mean load dosent take me more than a dbl tap and it’s over. I Nvr shoot once it’s not taught nor a good idea and we use 75 grain similar to the hornaby taps I have dbl tapped at 200 yards which is slow moving but good shots and have taken threats out fast due to the 75 grain having a little more kick. I am sniper qualified and shoot 50 cal marine 40 yes they hit hard but in the field when you are doing building sweeps what do you want if it gets hairy big holes and less rounds or more rounds and better shots ? DE OPPRESSO LIBER but first and formost RANGERS LEAD THE WAY can’t argue with in field service that’s someone like me had over pictures movies or fucking CNN. Pull your fake m-4 or ar 15 out hit your target in the head or dead center mass then come back and talk

Jan 10, 2011
6:12 pm
#94 son of a soldier :

Im not in the military but my father was in the 4th Infantry Army from ’82 to ’86 and was special forces from ’87 to ’96 and he prefered the 7.62 for the raw stopping power, my father’s favorite weapon was and still is the M14. Even though he doesnt talk about his experiences much I know that he’s seen quite a bit of action. For long distance engagements he overwhelmingly prefered the 7.62 but liked the 5.56 for urban fighting. Saying that he never would actually carry the m16 into the field but used his handgun for cqb. My father was a seasoned veteran and he’ll tell you that the 7.62 was better. My dad is a pretty big guy so the amount of ammo he could carry wasnt really affected,but he’ll tell you that quality is better than quantity.For him personally,the 7.62 was the only thing he would ever use.

Jan 12, 2011
7:31 pm
#95 coldbrew :

any enemy combatant not in uniform is not protected under the Geneva Convention. so if the guy wasnt wearing an army uniform, al asad, he was not considered a soldier.

Jan 14, 2011
8:14 am
#96 Travis :

The 5.56 NATO round is a great round. The round has almost no recoil action. but it does have it’s down fall like in the 249 saw. At 200m It took me 1/2 of a drum to take down an enemy. I watched him from the prone position go limp then start to crawl away when I was reloading. So I began to dump at him again which is confusing as hell.The marine core has adoped a new squad automatic weapon to make a more compaqed weapon for current and future operations. The military has changed and the only thing that has gotten heavyer is the soldiers which are almost all mecinised now, so I don’t see chaining to a heavyer bullet could hurt our effectiveness on the battle field.

Jan 14, 2011
8:41 pm

‘Some Airborne Guy’ said – “Oh yeah Will, 9mm is .38.” This is not true. A 9mm is actually .356 caliber. Now, that being said, what is called a .38 Special is actually .357 caliber, hence the ability to fire .38 Special ammo in a .357 Magnum. The .38 Super is also actually .356 caliber, but with a longer case than the 9mm. However, it is only with handloads that the .38 Super will outperform 9mm +P rounds
My experience with the 5.56 was with the M16A1. (As an interesting side note, the rifle I was issued was not manufactured by Colt but by GM Turbohydramatic Division).
I found the weapon to be very accurate and routinely hit my target at 500 meters. To me, who was used to hunting with a .338 Win Mag, the rounds seemed tiny, but I will say they did seem to do damage all out of proportion to their size. I only ever experienced one jam and it was when the weapon was fired full auto, but I tended to keep my weapon meticulously clean.
It only makes sense that in my era this weapon was not as favored as the M-14/15 in 7.62. After all, it was usually being fired in heavy brush, where the lightweight little round was much easier deflected. Today combat with this weapon is not typically occurring in areas with dense growth to deflect it. It does however see constant use in urban and suburban settings where the need to shoot through obstructing man-made objects and materials is not infrequent. I think the 6.8mm, with it’s heavier bullet and 44% greater energy will be a boon in these scenarios. Semper Fi.

Jan 16, 2011
4:37 pm
#98 SteelW0LF :

“Al Asad Said,
Drew S.: Taking him down with a butt stroke? That means they would have come right up to the enemy combatant while he was still alive and killed him. Per the Geneva Conventions, any enemy combatant or non-combatant is afforded the same medical treatment a friendly soldier would be once he is no longer deemed a threat. If the soldier was close enough and had the time to “butt stroke” him, then he was no longer a threat. Either your friend was not telling the truth and exaggerating, or he is a war criminal.”

This is incorrect. You are thinking of after the battelfield is “secured”. I was in the same battalion that spearheaded our invasion of Iraq, but ETS’d 1 year befor. I knew some of the guys that were in some of the famous pictures durring the invasion.

When you are assaulting an enemy position, also refered to as “sweeping” it, the assault team shoots anything that looks like an enemy soldier, whether its moving, bleeding, or not. After the assault team passes through and the support by fire team moves up, they to “sweep” the objective….doing the same thing.

People that get captured and takn to a hospital do so for 1 of several reasons:
-the assault soldier wanted to capture enemy for intel.
-they felt sorry for the guy.
-2 different teams missed him.
-or they were not “assaulting a known objective” like an enemy bunker or trenchlines or the like.

Feb 2, 2011
3:54 am
#99 Tom Lee :

As an ex-Special Ops with lots of combat experience It’s not the round, its one’s ability to use the rifle and adjust tactics based on the tools he has to use. Most of the time you don’t shoot a person once, and if you do it’s in the head at close quarters. if you shoot someone from far once, it gives you time to get closer and shoot him again.

Also, there is a reason for sniper teams, and teams of different skills and tools. At the end of the day it goes down to how well can you plan and execute your mission with the tools you have and how well can you men use what they have. The round’s “effectiveness on the battlefield” is directly related to one’s ability to use the weapon.

Feb 3, 2011
6:09 pm
#100 State Dept Guy :

The 5.56 round is a good even great round and has done an admiral job for almost 50 years. However, with the increase in body armor and the need to engage in urban areas where things like cinder blocks, doors, and even car doors and windows the need for more kinetic energy is a growing concern. The need for a round like the 6.8 or 6.5 is to me an odious one. Simply put IMOP we need to replace a good round with a better round. The sheer weight of the NATO 7.62 limits the amount of rounds that can be carried and it is very difficult to accurately fire even in bursts over a sustained time. I am not referring to a LMG or SAW role here, but in role of an assault rifle. Thus, this very effective round to me is a non-starter for such a role.

Feb 3, 2011
8:32 pm
#101 mark :

Me i belive and have always belived in the M16 and it’s 5.56 round all i hear about it is that it’s not effective i belive it’s probley the most effective round in the military because it’s light and deadly thank you for publishing this article.

Feb 5, 2011
4:20 pm
#102 Steve Bentley :

I beg to differ. As a Vietnam Veteran that used the M-16 and the M-14 in combat, I prefer the larger 7.62 round for it’s stopping power alone. Now, there are different ways of looking at the “effectiveness” of a particular caliber of ammuntion. The choice of the 5.56 round was made for it’s “force multiplying” factor not due to the fact that the soldier could carry more ammo but because of it’s tendency to wound the enemy rather than kill him. A wounded enemy combatant takes at least two and possibly as many as five other soldiers to medivac him out of a combat zone. So, if you take six soldiers out of combat with each hit, this is what they refer to as the “force multiplier” effect.

You can ask any combat veteran and he’ll tell you that he’s seen enemy combatants hit with the 5.56 from an M4 and keep coming until he’s hit by a 7.62 from a heavier gun. If this were not true, why would the Marine Snipers continue to use the M40 if the 5.56 is so superior? You may see a “designated shooter” using a modified M4 but not the sniper teams. They may carry the M4′s for automatic firepower should they get into a tight just like we carried the M14 equipped with the optional disconnect lever for a backup. Here again, the greater knockdown power and greater range of the 30 caliber round. Check the ‘effective range” of the two rounds. The 30 caliber round’s effective range is twice as far.

Even the Russians have experimented with the smaller round in the AK-103, I think it is called. It shoots a 5.4mm round of some kind. Notice that they haven’t adapted it for all their forces either. Matter of fact, just like our military, the Russians are looking for a replacement weapon for the old AK.

I’ve kept my discussion limited to the “effectiveness” of the 5.56 versus the 7.62 round. I have avoided the discussion of the “platform” or weapon effectiveness. I am just thankful that in Vietnam I had the “choice” of what weapon I wanted to take to the field and that choice was the M-14. In my honest opinion, the M-16/M-4 weapon has many more deficiencies than it does qualities. Just when you need the weapon the most is when it’ll let you down. It overheats, gets dirty, and jams due to the “direct impingement” design of the operating system of the weapon. It also takes two or more shots to stop an enemy that is shooting at you with a 30 caliber weapon that is much more lethal.

To carry the discussion a bit further, back in early 1900′s, the government let out a contract for a new sidearm that had “one shot stopping ability”. At the time, the military was using a 38 caliber revolver as a sidearm. John Browning invented a pistol that was eventually adopted by the goverment because it met the “one shot stopping ability”. It’s commonly known as the Colt 45 and the reason for it’s stopping ability is the caliber of the round it fires. In World War Two, the weapon in our arsenal that the Germans feared the most was the Colt 45 because of it’s lethality. Then, some wise acre got the idea that we ought to conform to NATO specifications and adopted the 9mm NATO round as the standard sidearm round. The 38 caliber round uses a bullet diameter of 0.357″ and the 9mm uses a bullet sized 0.355″. Now, most of the Special Ops members are requesting the old 45′s back or the beastly 10mm round that is used in the Colt Delta Elite pistol and a few others. Care to guess why? “If you’re going to fight with a handgun, take one that the caliber starts with a 4.”

Stopping power is the name of the game in combat. Try it for yourself. Go deer hunting using a rifle chambered for 223 Remington and another chambered for 308 Winchester. Now, since you’re deer hunting, you’ll be required to use soft pointed ammunition which is against the Geneva convention. A well placed shot with the smaller bullet may take the deer down on the spot but the larger caliber is more likely to do that. You don’t have to be a combat soldier to know that, any hunter knows the larger caliber bullet has more knock down power. Simple do a study in “exterior ballistics” and you’ll understand. If you go purchase a rifle for hunting dangerous game, they don’t try to sell you an AR-15. They say you need a rifle chambered for a 375 H&H Magnum or larger. There is no more dangerous thing in the world than an enemy combatant with an AK coming after you.

Now, you make up your own mind from what you’ve read here. The story from a Navy Corpsman (God Bless them for what they do) or a MEF combat Marine. We all have our opinion and most of them stink. Go form your own.

Feb 15, 2011
4:37 pm
#103 Jonathan Gartner :

Stoner originally had the M-16 as a .308 the saws is little more than a upgrade of a M-16 the .223 is lighter to carry the only good thing about it. I have used just about every type of weapon that has existed (including the ultra rare gyro pistol). The .223 does not cut it except for shorter range “fixed” postions. Unforunately even the squad weapon is now .223 (I belonged to national champion M-60 shooters) I can literally hit you before you even come in range. In the city it is effective but I like a shotgun (mossberg bullpup) or a .45 (9mm has a hard time take down with one shot). Any rifle runs into problems in MOUNT (to long in room to room). In the end run make mine a .308

Feb 16, 2011
6:12 am
#104 guard :

Having used both in the military 7.62 5.56 among others. The 5.56 is easlier to contol during RAPID FIRE . perferred amunition 7.62 range AT&T reachout and touch someone.

Feb 18, 2011
7:57 pm
#105 Mark :

I just want to say that I will be using this for my next class. The guys from 1-27IN Cco, thanks you.

Feb 19, 2011
5:51 am
#106 K Mooney :

The Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned (MCCLL) took a look at this issue during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in 2005. What MCCLL found was that the numerous “first hand” accounts of 5.56 deficiencies in combat were neither accurate nor “first hand.” After extensive interviews with actual shooters and witnesses, MCCLL determined that the 5.56 round utilized in the M16 family of weapon systems performed remarkably well in the combat environment, and that the numerous reports of failure had no basis in fact.

Feb 21, 2011
3:28 pm
#107 mike lafkas :

Its not about anything other than money and egos that got the .556 into play. Government contracts have never been fair or truly put the soldiers first. Look at the Dragon skins Debacle/ cover up and the fact that a .223 isn’t legal to hunt anything over small lightweight game. What the soldiers need is a 6.5 Grendal with twice the mass of the .556 and super sonic to around 1200 yards. It fits in an M-4 platform and bullet weight is negligible. It’s to bad something so simple would take years to implement if at all because of the same reasons that brought the AR into play over Dads good ole M-14 in the first place. Which have all been dusted off and put back in the field in a designated marksman role.
Ask the question as to which rifle the soldiers would rather have a 7.68 R.E.P.R with a 16 and 20 inch upper or an m-4.then see how that vote turns out.

Feb 21, 2011
3:37 pm
#108 mike lafkas :

7.62 sorry

Feb 24, 2011
2:54 am
#109 J :

Fit a larger round in the .223 case, refit with new barrels and ports and save a FORTUNE on upgrading the current rifles… no full new uppers or mags et al, and no vast redesign needed.. *tho piston would be better than the ar’s current gas system ofc but thats almost another subject* cheaper, easier and likely as effective as a full upgrade to 6.5/8..

Governments like to save money :D

Feb 28, 2011
5:49 am
#110 Rich :

Thanks for the article. While in the Army, I did train with the M16. It felt nice in the hands, it was accurate and it had little kick and to top it off, it had a 30 round magazine. I’ve heard a lot of stories over the years and the way I see it is the 5.56 was and still is a good round if your target is within a 200 yard range or closer and he is not wearing body armor. Here is the problem our men and women will face in the future even more than they are now. Body armor is more common now than ever and it has become cheaper, lighter and more effective than it used to be. The 5.56 was not designed to punch through body armor. It was designed to hit the target, do severe damage and contrary to what many here have said, it was designed to not kill the enemy, but to leave him alive so that there would be a psychological and human factor for the enemy to consider. A wounded soldier would get help from another soldier, but a dead soldier doesn’t need help. If you are dragging a wounded soldier off the battle field, than you are not shooting back.

Of course, what we now face is body armor and keeping our soldiers at safer distances while still having the ability to kill or wound the enemy. In my opinion, and I’ve looked at the 6.8 SPC, I believe it to be only slightly better than the 5.56. The 7.62×51 is much better for punching through armor, but I believe the .270 Winchester is a better round than any of the aforementioned rounds. A 130 grain .270 Win is still hauling ass at 2202 fps with 1404 ft-lbs of energy at 500 yards. A 150 grain 308/7.62×51 is 1916 fps and 1223 ft-lbs of energy at 500 yards. The .270 Win also shoots flatter. It could be used for both assault weapons and sniper weapons. The .270 Win is more powerful that the 30-06 and is almost as powerful as a 300 Winchester magnum…in my opinion, perfect for long distance and shooting at lightly armored targets like enemies wearing body armor or thinly armored vehicles or even walls in buildings where the enemy is hiding.

But then, a .270 Win costs about 2-3 times as much as a 5.56 and you can’t carry as many…who needs 30 rounds for 6-10 kills when 20 will almost always give you 20 kills?

The .270 Win is actually a 6.8 mm bullet just like the 6.8SPC. What I am not crazy about with the 6.8SPC is that it is not much more powerful than the 5.56. It was developed to make up for the deficiencies of the 5.56, especially at long distances, but it really isn’t very much more powerful than the 5.56. I understand that it is easier for the conversion to be done to the existing 5.56 weapons, but in my opinion, this is just a band-aid and eventually, we will need to make a new weapon with something more powerful than the 6.8SPC. The 270 Win or a minimum of the 308 Win should be the future of US combat weapons. As an option, the 6mm Remington is more powerful than the 6.8SPC and less powerful than the 308, but being that we’ve had the M16 for over 40 years, we should probably do it right the first time on our next assault weapon.

Feb 28, 2011
6:14 am
#111 Rich :

Another funny thing that seems to rear its head from time to time is the 9mm/.40/.45 arguement. My personal choice for home protection is a 9mm. Chances are you will be shooting at less than 10 yards and the 9mm is plenty up to the task. A .40 in my opinion is not much of an upgrade if at all. But the good old .45acp…I used them on a regular basis while in the Army. The 1911 was an awesome hunk of metal. For military, the 9mm may not b the roud of choice, especially when considering body armor. But, unfortunately, I don’t think the .45acp is going to work well against body armor either. It is big and slow and will likely not penetrate. A round that I was surprised never really worekd out was the 10mm. The 10mm is as powerful as the .357 magnum and is not as long, so it is easier to design a pistol that fits most hands, unlike the single stack .357 auto mags. The .357 sig is an option, but why go to that when the .40 is roughly the same.

In any case, the 9mm has proven itself an excellent round against people with no armor. Our military needs something more substantial though and I don’t think the .45acp is it. maybe a 9mm with a lenthened case, but that would require a weapon that can withstand magnum level power…that is it, a 9mm magnum. It even sounds good.

Mar 8, 2011
5:31 am
#112 HUNTER :


Mar 29, 2011
4:09 pm
#113 FIERO :

I completely agree with u . I have read many articles about combat effectiveness of 556 in iraq and afghanistan and i had concluded that decrease in stopping power of 556 only occured when it is used from a m4 carbine or other carbines which is essential in urban cqb. I suggest that armies should choose bullpup assault rifle which will not only decrease overall length while maintaining barrel length of m16 and khalisnikov . Problems with bullpup can be solved with assault rifles like fnf2000 and a-91. I further suggest that armies should bring up a new version of 556 which should have ultimate performence by +p+, new grain bullet or by use of new type powder.

Apr 4, 2011
3:36 pm
#114 Macca :

Interesting debate indeed! To add my two pennies if anyone has ever fired a Kalashnikov compared to an L85 A1/2 then the difference is markably different. The same goes for the old SLR of the uk forces used in the Falklands. Accuracy is vey import and and the 5.56 makes a terrible mess and range is markedly increaded by a capable marksman using a SUSAT. The SLR was called the “elephant Gun” for a reason but unless ur an elephant ur going down with an 5.56 round easy. For the average combat soldier it is a great size and always complimented with gpmg support and lsw in any fire team. I’d easy carry six mags with 30 rounds, 4 grenades and 500 gpmg ammo on a standard ops. For ammo amount, accuracy and fire rate I’m biased to the 5.56 but that’s just my experience. Final point is that the most prolific sniper Ive heard of was a mr Billy sing from the Anzacs during ww1 and he had around 200 confirmed kills with an old lee enfield! Size dosnt seem to matter when ur shot.

Apr 4, 2011
11:36 pm
#115 Ray :

Just give me the 7.62 and be done with it. Unless you’ve been in the field then you don’t know what your talking about. Period. End of Subject

Apr 21, 2011
12:11 pm
#116 Johnny :

The .556 was an excellent round in Iraq. It easily penetrated car windshields and exploded insurgent brain matter with enthusiasm. All that was missing was some classical music while our M16s went to work. Bottom Line- If you doubt the .556, you lack combat experience.

Apr 26, 2011
4:06 pm
#117 Chris :

.22 rimfires are used for hunting and create carnage to medium/large mammals (UK) .

9/10 men are just putting rounds downrange to keep the baddies pinned. 556 makes more sense. More rounds, more survivability

Apr 27, 2011
6:02 pm
#118 dspanishrose :

O.K …People lets start thinking about new “IDEAS” and find creative ways to make our weapons more powerful/deceptive!….HOW ABOUT CREATING CLEAR WEAPONS! (the enemy can’t detect)….for example: clear jets made out of clear metal/hard plastic…. clear guns…. clear tanks….clear submarines (this one is powerful in water)… clear bombs…..& etc,!…….here’s something to think about (if possible!)…–Why NOT?! —–IMAGINE?

Apr 28, 2011
1:14 am
#119 Another Marine :

Well said Sgt Moore. I was pretty miffed at Al Asad’s comment about the Geneva convention until I read your response… I was in the Iraq invasion in 03 and fought Fedayeen myself (who happened to be coked up Jordanians) and it took a lot to put them down. I was pretty quick to find myself a good AK, slung my 16 and saw a lot better 1 shot kill ratio with the AK… M16 is more accurate yes out past a couple hundred yards granted but who cares when the guy comes over a berm 20 feet away… I want a round that will drop him in his tracks…

Rich… i agree the 9mm is ok against people with no armor… if you bring your own hollowpoint +p loads to the battlefield and ditch the NATO ball crap…

… Oh wait… that’s against the Geneva convention… sorry Al Asad… no one would do that…

Apr 28, 2011
1:21 am
#120 Another Marine... again :

oh… and as for cavitation… the M16 A1 with it’s 1×12 twist was pretty unstable and did cause some serious damage… the newer models with their 1×7 twist are much more stable and have largely defeated the cavitation principles of the gun….

Apr 28, 2011
10:43 pm
#121 Don S (Ret) :

Shot placement is everything. I investigated hundreds of murders over the past 28 years. The victim’s were hit with everything from .22 short to 8mm Mauser. All those hit with any caliber in vital areas died. Those hit in non vital areas with all handguns lived and two hit with .45 auto fmj didn’t even know they had been shot in the abdomen. I had 5 who were hit with 5.56 from mini 14′s. 2 head shot and 3 upper torsos. All died with one shot. All were .55 fmj and all exited leaving 3″ to 5″ exit wounds. The victim hit with the 8mm Mauser bullet was struck in the shoulder while bending forward and died as a result of the bullet traveling diagonally through his torso and ending up lodged in his hip.

May 2, 2011
4:23 am
#122 Chris :

As someone whos been through several ballistics classes on the the 5.56 OTBT (Its called open tip boat tail not hollow point) and also sniper school (with a ballistics class on 7.62) I can say most of you are saying “knokdown power” and phrases of that effect. Its called hydrokinetic shock (may be misspelled) and it has next to no play involved in ballistics. The simple truth is shot placement. Anything other than a head shot relies on blood loss. Bigger hole= faster blood loss= faster death. The 5.56 has huge cavitation making it an ideal round for the average Infantry soldier. The 7.62 has better range yes but most soldiers will never engage anyone further than 600m which is well inside the range of 5.56

May 12, 2011
9:30 am

AS A HISTORY Buff and a Former Recon Marine and SAS trained Raider Marine i would always rely on my BAR, 20 Rounds and in combat the wirght of ammo is surprisingly lite when you are being shot at!! i fired M-16A1 and the M-14 rifle Neither has the stopping or killing power of the 30-06 Ammo i had with my BAR, 20 round Mag and i did not worry about the enemy hiding behind a concrete wall. amour piercing ammo and the 172 grain round went right trough all. and at distance,s beyond 1000 yards a 30-06 round turns into a deadly hit, 5.56 has it,s place in close quarters combat but at distances beyond 300 meters nothing says hello like the 30-06 round and in Iraq and Afganistan , the 30-06 would be the king of battle, you ever shoot a pie pan off a fence post at 1100 yards with an 5.56, did not think so. And i wonder how our Military continues to be pussified by lighter and lighter weapons that can not hold a candle to the Garand US Caliber 30 or the BAR

May 17, 2011
9:14 am
#124 josh :

5.56 is what we use so get over it

May 19, 2011
5:46 pm
#125 Brian :

This article is nonsense. If the author would have done some actual, and basic research into the issue it would have been clear that the .556 has performed less than adequately in real-life, combat situations. Ballistics gel in no way simulates the drive and will behind a human being’s desire to survive. The .556 round with its high velocity impact does not create the necessary tissue damage in order to achieve lethal hits in many instances. With the .556 you have score “perfect hits” ( direct hits to vital organs and arteries) in order to put someone down permanently or turn them into a human sieve. With larger caliber rounds, you can be off slightly and achieve lethal hits due to inflicting a wider area of tissue damage that can reach out to vulnerable areas of the body without achieving a direct hit; additionally, the impact of a larger caliber round has an added measure of lethality due to its slower velocity. The slower velocity of the 7.62 mitigates the problem over penetration, transferring all or most of its kinetic energy directly into the target. The .556 on the other hand, is highly susceptible to over penetration due to its much higher velocity, especially at closer ranges.

The .556 round was created during the vietnam era after McNamara’s “number crunchers” at MIT did some lame-brain study which concluded that the more rounds you fire, the more enemies you will kill; thus the M16 was born with its lighter ammo so that infantrymen could blast away on fully automatic with all of the extra ammo that they were carrying. Despite McNamara’s Ivory Tower elite’s calculations, the hit to kill ratio completely dropped and we lost a lot of valuable marksmanship skills in the military as a result.

It was time for a new round 30 years ago. Let’s save the varmint rounds for the prairie dogs and gophers.

May 21, 2011
9:29 am
#126 Glenn :

To Al Asad were you in the Iraq War? First the Fedayeen was Saddam’s most loyal fighters. Fedayeen means that they were suicide fighters, they Martyred themselves for the former Iraq Dictator. Several times during the invasion, in certain situations, ROE was thrown out the window due to well placed mortar rounds and only what seemed to be civilians. I personally have never seen a person hit by a 5.56 stand back up. They were so hopped up on Adrenaline though that it did take several shots to send them to paradise.

May 21, 2011
9:40 am
#127 Glenn :

To Chris
“hydrokinetic shock (may be misspelled) and it has next to no play involved in ballistics. The simple truth is shot placement. Anything other than a head shot relies on blood loss. Bigger hole= faster blood loss= faster death. The 5.56 has huge cavitation making it an ideal round for the average Infantry soldier. The 7.62 has better range yes but most soldiers will never engage anyone further than 600m which is well inside the range of 5.56″

Actually being in battle and the optics we have these days they give us the means to make the well placed shot. When the 5.56 penetrates the body it begins a turning cycle tearing everything within apart.

May 25, 2011
3:54 pm
#128 Andrea :

During the training our sergent said to us that a 7,66 will wipe a soldiers leg but a 5,56 will wipe an entire firesuqad (couse the team 4-5 mans will be slowed by the injuried soldier)

Jun 4, 2011
6:05 am
#129 Infidel :

Al Asad, you know better than that, They walked right up and and put a bullet in his head. That’s the way its done we don’t have time to play games with a hodgies that wont go down, threat removed move on. 55.6 great round

Jun 13, 2011
5:07 am
#130 Jim :

Ok I am a iraq vet ur army airborne main support with the infantry. I didn’t kick down doors but I have been in a lot of fire fights. And I hate the dame 556 or 223 call it what u whant!!! I’m sorry if some one else already said this but unless u have the black tips which I did and still u have a huge problem!!! Black tip is armer piercing and Illegal for u civilians… Ur talking about hitting bare skin at point blank if u shot threw a blanket or door or anything not up against there skin the 556 loses almost all of it’s energy. And that’s my problome. Even my black tips fly of tumbling I can shot 30 rounds at a car And the guy on the other side get up and run away. The bullets don’t come out strait so it’s like pissing in the wind. And if they have armer and are a cuple blocks away or behind anything I’m pissing in the wind. but a AK comes out in a strait line so if ur on the other side of a car the bullets still have energy and come out where I point at. So if ur fighting little kids and farmers like we did most of the time in Iraq ya it works great.. But if they have any armer or are behind almost anything the 556 is dog shit if u think I’m wrong that’s cool. If u think but it goes threw a car door try the other door and see how strait the line is mine always tumbled and didn’t land where I aimed! Pluse the 76 round drum for the AK that only needs a cuple twist on the drum is so much better then having to change out M-4 mags every week so my rifle doesn’t jam when the springs get weak from long term use.. A 10in barrle with a folding stock on a AK is so much nicer then a M4 in combat…

Jun 17, 2011
3:19 pm
#131 Rob Annandale :

I used both NATO 7.62 and 5.56mm firing weapons during my military career, and found both to be highly effective in the right situation. The South African Defence Forces R-1 (FN 7.62mm SLR) built under licence would go through an African termite ant hill, which will stop a car dead in it’s tracks, and kill the aggressor on the other side of it. The R-4 and the shorter barrelled R-5 (Israeli Gallil 5.56mm) were effective close quarter battle weapons, both reliable and accurate up to 500 metres and 300/350 metres respectively. For target shooting or the sheer pleasure of it the R-1′s 7.62 mm wins, but in combat the R-5′s 5.56 mm would be my weapon of choice.

Jun 24, 2011
5:35 am
#132 Hunter :

thank you for posting this. i am a little tired of people bitching and moaning that the US is stupid for making the m16 a 5.56 round instead of a 7.62. i agree the upper reciever needs work, but the US army is testing out rifles and looking for a contract to replace the m16. i personally would like to see the acr or hk 416 enter service. they seem to be the best fit.

Jun 24, 2011
3:25 pm
#133 Infidel :

Hey guys right tool for the right job.5.56 M4 with good optics good for close combat street fighting, M14 7.62 Heavy barrel good optics long range, Right tool for the right job. If you cant shoot well under pressure neither one will help you.

Jun 24, 2011
10:12 pm
#134 M.W. :

Go back to the Carbine. .40SW carbines. Call it the M-5

.40 makes a good hole reliable .40 as opposed to a .22 or .308 hole.

Jun 27, 2011
9:35 am
#135 granicus :

I would just like to correct some of your initial information. The original barrel twist was 1:14, and was changed to 1:12 so the round could stabilize (for accuracy reasons) in cold weather. The move to 1:7 came from the Marine Corp wanting to preserve their tradition of long range shooting with the dual purpose of making a heavier armor piercing bullet to deal with the threat of the enemy (at the time, the Russians) equipping their troops with body armor. The heavier bullet wouldn’t stabilize in the 1:12 barrel, so they changed it to 1:7. While accurate, the heavier bullet doesn’t create as wide a wound channel and tends (at short ranges) to go in and out without making the large exit wounds. It doesn’t get the chance to dump all that kinetic energy into the target as efficiently as the older round/twist. The 1:9 twist barrel was developed as a compromise; it could still handle the heavier rounds that required a faster twist, but was useful for the the 55 grain round in that it didn’t over-stabilize the bullet, reducing it’s effectiveness.

Jun 29, 2011
10:46 pm
#136 Mondo104 :

I have to put in my $.02. Over the last 30 years I have seen dozens of articles in the shooting press debating this very topic. Much of the ballistic and anecdotal evidence could support the position of either side. And, I doubt very many folks, whether experienced or laymen, have had their minds changed as a result. It is similiar to the debate over whether Liberals are actually human … or not. In the big picture I doubt the calibers employed had as much of an impact on the outcome of a military campaign as the resolve of the political class and the subsequent “Rules of Engagement.” Or, maybe I’m just nostalgic for the good old days when the U.S. entered a military conflict with the antiquated objective of winning. But, I digress.
What I want to say is: embrace the difference. I have several different guitars as well as several different types of hammers. I also own rifles in 5.56 and 7.62 as well as in hunting calibers like .300WSM and 7mm Win Mag. I own sidearms in .45 ACP, 9mm and .357. If the type of weapon is not dictated to you (as is the case with our brothers in the services), you use what fits the situation and with which you can accurately place your shots. The best weapon is most often the one you have at hand. Speaking of powerful weapons at hand; some of you could benefit from the use of a powerful tool that is right at your fingertips. It is called “Spell checker.”
More and more my emphasis is on 5.56, 7.62×51 and 9mm as the tactics of this oppressive regime manipulate the ammunition supply available to the citizenry. These are the most available and affordable calibers to stockpile. Well, I hope you have found my little rant informative, entertaining and free of any rancor or personal bias. Out.

Jul 17, 2011
10:41 pm
#137 Gary :


Which round: NATO SS109 vs 146Gr (i think) 7.62x51mm has a longer / flatter tragectory?

I’d like an outside opinion. I haven’t taken the time to plug this into the computer…

I’m wondering if the SS109 (M855?) out distances the 146gr 7.62x51mm NATO rounds.

Jul 22, 2011
11:22 am
#138 Civil-War Volunteer :

very interesting but more violent

Jul 27, 2011
5:07 am
#139 Doc :

I am not a major fan of the 5.56 NATO, at range, in close quarters against unarmored personnel it is an effective range. But bullet placement is very important when my Ma was in Ireland her one of the men on her street was shot 3 times in the head with a 5.56x45mm (NATO) round. He is still alive today, with no brain damage. Simply because even at the close quarters of a street battle the skull is usually strong enough to stop or redirect the shot. Now at the same time, a shot through the torso or neck, will be more then enough to kill a combatant. At the same time, that torso shot will take TIME to kill your opponent vs. a larger round (.30-06/7.62×51 mm) will kill your enemy faster because of the fact it will impart more force on impact, causing more damage to the CNS by transfer of energy. But it is a trade-off, long range accuracy vs. reduced recoil and weight. Both will do their job, but the length of time and tolerances of round placement all come into play. I will say, I use a M&P15 chambered in 5.56x45mm for home defense. And that is the best I can say for the rounds effectiveness, I’m willing to entrust my families life with the round, I believe in its effectiveness, from what I’ve seen of it, and the charts I’ve read.

Aug 1, 2011
8:08 am
#140 rambo :

What a crappy debate! Lets just use nukes to kill the enemy

Aug 4, 2011
5:45 pm
#141 gunny :

I personally think that the troops overseas should be given the option of which round to adopt possibly in the form of the SCAR weapon system because even in the different calibres it will still have a high degree of commonality in terms of parts. I personally believe that both the 5.56 NATO and 7.62 NATO are equally effective just in different ways. The 5.56 obviously has the advantage in terms of weight meaning you can carry double the ammunition of the 7.62 and while it may not cause the same amount of damage you can afford to double tap the target to ensure it is down, whearas the 7.62 will almost always take down the target with one shot you, can only afford that one shot because you will be carrying less of the ammunition. The only reason for it to take 3, 4, 5, even 6 rounds to take down the target is poor shot placement. If youre not hitting the torso or head nothing short of a .50 BMG is going to be able to eliminate the threat in one shot. However with the right shot placement a simple .177 airgun can be incredibly lethal. The military should not force either round onto the troops but give them the choice based on their own opinions.

Aug 9, 2011
7:04 pm
#142 Kyser :

Proper weapon for the Proper Job, in a urban envoirment, the Ar-15 Seris is amazing, even though I’d wish for a 1:9 or a even back to the 1:14. I loved how in the article you mentioned the fact most people don’t realize the barrel twist issue and how the round orignally acted. Now for Mountainous terrain and say Artic Envoirment, the 7.62 Nato performs outstandingly due to its extended range and weight. Picking the right tools for the right job, it’s the same Argument for the 9mm Vs. .45, but let me ask you this, would you let me shoot you either willingly without fear of bodily harm or death? No, because a weapon works on a fear principle. Also like Gunny said, Round placement is key, you could hit someone with a .22 in the right spot and put them down instantly or nick them with a 7.62 graze and they still fight. As for the guy getting shot three times in the head by a 5.56, he was either very loved by someone or very lucky.

Aug 14, 2011
11:32 pm
#143 Infidel :

3 shots to the head and no damage, Very hard to swallow.

Aug 18, 2011
3:50 am
#144 bill :

i thought the CIA switched to the NATO .556 after integration ( desegregating ) the military in order to track friendly fire casualties ? during that same period there was an enormous upheaval in HAITI and PAPA DOC DUVALIER TOOK CHARGE OF THE TON TON MACOUTE ( UNCLE BOOGIE MAN ) AMERICAN DERIVATION : UNCLE TO.M.. And, they believed they could determine if the african americans were working with the TON TON MACOUTE TO PROLONG THE WAR IN VIETNAM AND IF THE REPORTS WERE TRUE THAT SOME AMERICAN UNITS IN THE KOREAN WAR WERE TAKEN PRISONER AND ONLY THE BLACK MEN IN THOSE UNITS SURVIVED.

Aug 29, 2011
4:14 am
#145 3 tours afgan :

In 3 tours I have never loaded a magizine with green tip ball, first 2 was using LR (designed with finer powder to burn faster in short M4 barrels) hitting 500 no issues. 3rd was bunker rounds, most engagements were at 600+ so we carried more m16 and sdm. I have never had my m4 jam, but I cleaned it 15min per day, and 1 hour every 2 weeks or after heavy use. I have faith in our current platforms (the older magizines have been phased out).
Rather then 556 or 762, it should be 556 and 762 (m16/m4/m110/mk11/saws/240/203/6 packs/ ect), the party mix always works best (but makes the armor cry). Gas blow back is more accurate by design, it we want to invest money in upgrades, i’d go for optics and supressors.

Aug 29, 2011
6:17 pm
#146 That was she :

Whoa nice article!!

Sep 10, 2011
3:37 pm
#147 Stephen :

Re: Drew S’ squad mate.

It really depends on what “still trying to get up” means – does that mean he was still moving because he simply wasn’t dead or does it mean he was doggedly attempting to “re-engage himself in the conflict” and going for his weapon etc.?

You can shoot a wounded combatant who’s trying to shoot you at close range but you can’t walk right up to a wounded enemy and shoot him twice in the head. Equally you don’t just have to fall down and lie still if you’ve been shot yourself but hostile action does leave you open to hostile reaction.

The difficulty is working out what happened after the fact, especially if only half of the story is still alive and it all happened so fast.

Sep 10, 2011
11:18 pm
#148 Matt :

Food for thought: The DC Sniper used a 5.56. All but one victim died from one shot. range was usually @50 meters – always torso shot.

Apr 13, 2012
11:40 am
#149 john gan :

M16 is from the philippines. M16 is made by a filipino then it goes to the american soldier to upgrade. m16 is more accurate than other.. proud to be filipino

Nov 2, 2012
6:37 pm
#150 J. Truax :

As a former U.S. Army infantryman I can tell you that the 5.56 round is perfectly effective. In the hands of a trained marksman the M-16 is so accurate that I was able to regularly score hits to the face and throat at 300 yards. Believe me, if this round strikes a target in the face or throat, it does not matter what he’s on… he is simply very dead. Fix the gas system, and make our troops train even more on the rifle and there is no problem.

Nov 29, 2012
10:37 am
#151 R :

Comment #75 and comment #113 nailed the hammer to the head . Barrel length plays a massive and I mean MASSIVE role in the effectiveness of the 5.56 NATO .M4 carbines are not adequate for engagements beyond a stone throw . Yes an m4 will kill you at mid to long range ” IF ” your shot placement is perfect … Good luck on that in combat . When the army chopped 5.5 inches off the barrel of the AR platform they also chopped the effectiveness of the 5.56 NATO in half . If you want to put an attacker on its back with one shot , the m16 is your ticket … Not the m4 . I do think that the fs2k is a step in the right direction , it is a good compromise , it maintains barrel length so that the 5.56 NATO retains its potential and it still allows the rifle itself to remain compact enough for entering and exiting vehicles … Just my two cents . Adequate barrel length ( 18+ inches ) + compact ( fs2k for example ) + adequate velocity ( keeping a 5.56 NATO round above 2700 fts for as long as possible to permit long range reliable bullet fragmentaion ) + 55gr 5.56 NATO = Super deadly within 150 yards … Blows holes in a person the size of basket balls deadly … Or just stay with the m4 carbines and keep having to put 5+ rounds to a attacker before they go down … Your choice … Chose wisely .

Dec 3, 2012
8:10 pm
#152 Walt :

Saw pics brought back from nam by cuzz the tissue damage by the m16 was unbelievable 1 round takes a leg off 2 or 3 cut the body into halves made a 44 mag look like a bbgun.

Jan 9, 2013
11:52 pm
#153 SSGT Pride :

Look at it like this guys….
We WON the Revolutionary War
We WON the war of 1812
We WON the Civil War (If your a Northie!)
All guns shooting 7.62 and Larger

What have we won since switching in Viet Nam to 5.56?
Viet Nam? Nope we just packed up and left
Iraq…nope we just packed up and left
Afghanistan…Nope were about to pack up and leave!

Jan 13, 2013
10:42 pm
#154 RED :

Would you agree that the M4/M16 is not well-liked by members of the United States armed forces due to the difficulty of cleaning it and the weapon’s propensity to jam when exposed to ambient conditions, like air?

Feb 3, 2013
12:39 am
#155 Ressin :

Ya know, you make some good points…
The biggest one is that people who know little or nothing about combat tend to write as experts.
As a veteran who has used an M14 through the M4′s of today, I would say any of these types of arguments/discussions are academic. Nice to chew back and forth, but do little.
In broad brush strokes, you cannot beat the 5.56 rifle or caliber (for all of the reasons stated in the article above)unless you change your metric. Changing the unit of measure used against this rifle, changes the argument.
Until we come up with an energy weapon, this will be the epoch of kinetic weapons-even if you change something, it is still going to shoot something out of a barrel whether is does it by expanding gases or a magnetic field

Feb 17, 2013
4:08 pm
#156 TerblTim :

That was an excellent and informative article.
It finished by asking an elephant of a question…why are “we” still using a direct gas blow-back system?
However, it did NOT address the single loadest and longest-lasting complaint of the 223/5.56 cartridge. That being; that dispite the “nastiness” of the wounds it makes and the greater volume [of ammo] a man can carry, it still Does-Not offer the proverbial “knock-down” of larger calibers, (most notably the 30-cal family.)
This is the single most disconcerting issue of the front-line combat elements who experience many opportunities to evaluate on this subject. That multitude of experiences tends to make the individual’s evaluation become based on the visible results obtained from the different cartridges at the time they are fired, (as opposed to after the shooting stops.)
The technical details don’t seem to matter as much when the charging psyco-jihadist absorbs 3 or 4 hits before giving any sign of succumbing to the cumulative effects of them. When your buddy (using a 30-cal weapon of any description) shoots the next hostile and it takes just ONE SHOT to achieve a knock-down it leaves a lasting impression regarding the expectations of desired effects at the time the shots are being fired. When these differences are seen repeatedly the individual cannot help becoming biased in favor of the weapon that seems to give more of the desired results or fewer of the “undesirable results.”
We all understand the logistical superiority of the wounding capabilities of the 5.56 but during the battle a soldier wants to see the enemy fall down as a result of a hit. Without qualifying remarks, the 30-cal family of weapons offers that highly-reassuring result with far more reliability than lesser calibers.
As a “force multiplier” the 223/5.56 is a failure in the mind of the line soldier simply because it seems to require more shots to achieve the “desired effect.”
Let’s not lose sight of what that desired effect is.
The front-line soldier wants to see his enemy-target FALL DOWN upon being hit! Any other reaction has a negative effect on the confidence he assigns to his weapon. It is a terrible thing to enter into combat with the sure-knowledge that your weapon cannot really be expected to knock-down a solidly hit enemy. This single issue is a huge source/cause of why we have so many soldiers on anti-anxiety medication in the mid-east theater. Lack/loss of confidence in the equipment you are forced to use results in frayed nerves.
Looking at wounds AFTER THE BATTLE is not a realistic way to evaluate the effectiveness of the cartridges DURING THE BATTLE.
Been there, done that.

Sep 20, 2013
1:35 am
#157 Steve :

I just wanted to say that not only was it so that a man could stay in combat longer without resupply. It also wasn’t meant to kill a enemy combatant right away. If you kill one man in combat, you take one man out of the fight, but if I just wound him at first, I take at least two possibly three or four out of the fight.

By the way, I am a USMC Infantry Vet and currently serve in the US Army Reserve.

Sep 21, 2013
12:01 am

All I can say is: thank you for clearing that up for us! Still, there will always be missconceptions, even the other think that.

Oct 22, 2013
8:36 am
#159 r pistol :

I see I am coming to this debate late, but I was a grunt with C Co. 1st Bn, 5th Marines 1967-8. The first few months I carried an M 14 with selector switch and I loved it. It is true that you can’t fire auto and stay on target unless braced, three round bursts are pretty much max, but accuracy, reliability and knock down power are superb. I only saw one jam, not my rifle and it was caused by a broken firing pin.

The VC did not like to engage us at long range(250 plus yds.) as our accuracy was dominant over their AKs and SKS rifles also other than their trained snipers, they weren’t marksmen like we were. But when I hit an enemy he went down, often wounded but down and out of the fight.

In April, 1967 we turned in our M14s and were issued M16s and soon thereafter found ourselves slugging it out with the 2nd NVA division in the Que Son Valley, which they felt they owned, on Operation Union and Union 2 and Swift. We had repeated rifle jams and hundreds of good Marines were KIA in these operations.

We won them all and destroyed the 2nd nva division but we cursed the M16 as it lacked reliability, knockdown power or accuracy after about 250 yards, so that put us in about the same range as the enemy.

Finally, the catastrophic wounds your Corpsmen showed you must have come from mortar rounds or artillery. Unless they have changed the ammo being used since 1968, the round did not tumble or tear gaping holes as you suggest, it made normal wounds like other bullets and the lack of tighter rifling in the barrel simply made it less accurate. You can however hold it down much better on auto and the recoil is much less.

As for shooting a guy multiple times and failing to down him, I was point on a platoon patrol in the Summer of 1967. I caught a single VC in the middle of a large paddy, 200 yds from any cover. I yelled “Halt” and he started running left to right at about 250 yards away. I emptied a 17 round magazine firing semiauto and he was still running. I couldn’t believe how bad my marksmanship was and loaded another magazine and dropped him after 4 more rounds.

When I got up to him I saw I was not missing, he was so shot up, he was swiss cheese, but still alive. He motioned for a drink of water and I squatted next to him and handed him a canteen. The tossed a grenade between my feet. I ran and dived behind a dike and he died in the blast. so I don’t know how many times I hit him but it was a bunch and he still tried to kill me. As for the 17 round magazines, the springs were defective in the 20 round mags and they would jam if you put in more than 17-18 rounds.

I sure hope they fixed the problems we encountered in VN, but I think the 7.62 round is far superior for all purposes except weight and any combat Marine will take a little more weight for a battlefield advantage, they are half packmules anyway.

Nov 19, 2013
12:21 pm
#160 Kili :

To be honest, only 15% of 5.56 rounds has lethal effect as you said in your article. 85% 5.56 bullets hits target and goes straight without this effect. After laboratory test it was stated that tumbling effect for 5.56 occured after penetrating 120mm inside target – so in combat 5.56 has greater chance for overpenetration before tumbling and gaining lethality.
Most engagements in conflicts between 1939 and 2001 was at distance up to 300 meters. From 2002 this distance changed – e.g. Talibans mostly engaged US and British forces from 500 m up to 800 – 900 meters. This is way further than effective range of 5.56 rounds. Those infos are based on reports after engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Dec 28, 2013
7:04 pm
#161 JBev :

The term “Knockdown Power” is often derided by gun experts, but, let’s look at simple physics.

A rifle bullet accelerates to full velocity in about twenty inches. When it hits the target, it dissipates its kinetic energy into the target throughout the duration of its penetration, usually about 10 inches. Kinetic energy has a component of time, and therefore, the more quickly it dissipates that energy, the more force is transferred to the target, pushing it in the same direction as the impact. Thus, “penetration” is inversely proportional to “knock-down power” for a given mass-at-velocity of projectile, example, shotgun blast.

A larger bullet is not only heavier, but has more frontal area capable of displacing some of the target’s mass outward, and along the axis of motion. Given the same velocity and the same mass, the larger diameter/caliber bullet will decelerate more rapidly than the smaller bullet due to frontal area.

However, limited only by same velocity, the larger caliber bullet can be both heavier AND larger in diameter, thereby offering better penetration through air (ballistic coefficient = range), better penetration through objects and tissue, and more rapid energy transfer upon impact (“knockdown power”).

Now, why constrain ourselves by velocity instead of pursuing a devastating, ultra-high-velocity round? Because the barrel life of a weapon declines exponentially above about 3200 fps due to the plasma effect of the expanding gases propelling the projectile. So, in the meantime, we address the infantry’s total-system lethality through accuracy enhancements (ammo, sights, and scopes), putting more small arms in the field, providing higher round-counts, improved marksmanship training, and expanded portfolio of weapons.

This “gun freak” prefers a match-grade FAL loaded with Hornady 150 gr. SST’s within reach…

Dec 31, 2013
12:56 pm
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Jan 29, 2014
9:36 am
#163 jacob :

I love all the comments made by you fake veterans. I was in Vietnam, bullshit!!! What 60+ year old veteran surfs the internet looking to post comments? Most of our “real” Nam veterans hardly know what the internet is!!! And they could really care less! Yet there’s hundreds of these so called nam veterans posting comments everyday. And they all post comments about how effective the .45 was, or how ineffective the 5.56 was. These folks are nothing more than caliber fanboys trying to convince the other side why their cartridge is better. My grandfather actually fought in nam, experienced more combat than you phonies ever will, and said that the 5.56 would “tumble”, and quickly incapacitate the vc. There’s your real answer from a real veteran.

Feb 25, 2014
1:54 am
#164 klh :

I have been a homicide investigator for the last 8 yrs. I can tell you that I have been up close and personal with the effects of the 5.56 and 7.62X39mm. And yes when I see them they are dead, but I can tell you that the damage caused by the 7.62 is about double that of the 5.56. I can even tell the deference between if the guy used a hollow point or a FMJ. As for 163 Jacob’s statement, my dad was in Nam and he is an internet junkie.

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2:55 am
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Jun 24, 2014
2:47 am
#169 Jeremy :

I went with the 7.62 AK over the 5.56 AR because of where I live. If I lived out in flatlands or wide open areas, I would want the 5.56, but I live in a relatively dense populated area without a lot of need for 500+ meter accuracy. No question the 7.62 AK will destroy cover and penetrate through more to get to the intended target better than the 5.56 AR will. Plus the AK is a much more practical “WROL” kind of rifle IMO because it requires very little maintenance to keep it in functioning order.

Jul 1, 2014
2:44 am
#170 joe dixon :

I have used the M-16 rifle for about my entire 11 years in service. I had no trouble out of the rifle what so ever in fact I had quite a bit of confidence in what ever issue rifle I had at that time. The biggest problem I had encountered was individuals who neglected maintenance that’s all. I personally like the FN/FAL not so much because it fires the 308 although a part of it, but its overall design features and those features of the gas piston would be the move in the right direction. If they want to replace the 556mm round then those on high need to get with bench rest shooters and look at the impressive selection of intermediate rounds they play with. Just another Marine. 03/11.

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Jul 4, 2014
3:27 pm
#172 Vincent :

What do you guys think of the AK 74. , 5.45 round called the poison bullet. Less recoil than M16 , better range , better tumble. And the weapon platform is a lot more reliable in all weather conditions?

Jul 11, 2014
6:56 am
#173 2-504th PIR :

This is just my experience with the M4 and green tip ammo.

In Afghanistan we would shoot wild dogs (I’m a dog lover and admittedly it’s fucked up). I shot a dog from about 50m and double lunged it. It ran prob another 75m, multiple hits from M4s, and kept on going. A M14 hit him in the front leg, and it just dangled by the skin. M4s didn’t seem to phase him.

In Iraq, I got in a close firefight. Standard M4. 50-75m. One of the first few rounds and he went down, but flopped around violently. Fired half a mag. PQ2 & nvgs you know where your shooting. Second guy jumps out, finish the mag. Cleared the bodies. The first guy, multiple hits, one round hit him in the cheek. The wound was about the size of my hand. He was incapacitated, but alive for a while. It was God awful, to say the least. Second guy, multiple hits. One round hit the sternum. Dropped him stone-cold dead.

I have mixed feelings about the 5.56. There’s tons of factors, but for simplicities sake as a battle-rifle and humping, it’s versatile and my “go to”. I’m biased, but because of God and my M4 I’m still here. I full heartedly believe 77grain HPBT would be optimal though.

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Jul 21, 2014
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#176 shannon :

The big problem that occurs is engagement with the enemy at distances beyond the effective range of the round…. the baddies knew this and would set up shop just out side of range and pop shot. I think using a heavier 90 grain bullet with higher bc would solve the problems up close, down range, and improve penetration…. berger designs 90 grainers that have bc1′s over .550 which is impressive for the weight of the bullet. if you could afford a bit ore room in the mag and feeding ramps this dude would take care of business.

Jul 22, 2014
6:03 am
#177 Richard :

Personally, I’m a vet that has seen action in both Kosovo and Iraq, and I can tell you from personal use of the weapons, the M16/M4 are outdated and dangerous to use, and only part of the problem is the round. I won’t go into to many details, but I hit a guy with 3 rounds center mass, and he kept coming. He kept firing for almost a minute before his brain finally got the word that he was dead. Yes, the round is lethal, but it is not an instant thing, and while they are still alive, they are still fighting. That guy had 2 soldiers pined down with his AK on full auto, and he very well could have killed one or both of them in the time it took him to die. We need something with more punch than 5.56 while still allowing for more ammo to be carried than 7.62. I am all in favor of a new modern firearm for the military based on a 6.5 or 6.5 round.

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Aug 21, 2014
6:02 am

Based only on my personal use of the 5.56 NATO round for hunting and in ballistic gel testing has led me to one very important but over looked point. I have found that the move to a 1/7 twist rate barrel in 5.56 NATO only gives a minimal improvement gain in long range accuracy yet becomes a major problem with terminal ballistics. Using the present 62 grain penetrator and 77 grain tracer rounds and the current 1/7 twist rate in military barrels causes these rounds to be overly stable and in most cases they are passing through the intended target with a major reduction of internal damage compared to the same rounds used in barrels with a twist rate of 1/9 or slower. Since the effectiveness of the 5.56 NATO round has a direct correlation to the bullets ability to tumble on impact and stop threats then this characteristic should be carefully considered when a twist rate is chosen. To correct this problem the only logical answer would be to reduce the barrels twist rate to a minimum of 1/9 with 1/10 being optimum while holding good accuracy out to 300 yards and acceptabile accuracy at 500 yards. This change in twist rate would have the greatest effect on stopping a threat in close combat situations where the high velocity and stability are now causing the 5.56 NATO round to pass through the target without tumbling and/or breaking apart and causing separate wound canals. While a change to the twist rate to 1/9 or even 1/10 will cause a drop in accuracy at extended ranges of around 500 yards, the round at this point is past it designed ability for targets above a large varmint. Yet even at 500 yards plus using a 1/9 to 1/10 twist barrel the true objective of keeping any opposing force engaged until heavier fire power can be laid down is still obtainable while any direct hit of the 5.56 round will inflict the maximum damage. I find the 1/9 twist rate barrel a better choice for a tactical rifle using 55 to 77 grain rounds. The 1/8 twist rate for long range tactical using 70 plus grain rounds and the 1/7 twist rate for a target/sniper rifle in 5.56 with the heaviest match rounds.

Aug 21, 2014
9:31 pm
#180 man :

I’d just like to see them switch to the 6.5 grendel so that we can get some cheap grendel on the surplus market. Plus, with more velocity than a 308 at 100 yrds, it’s not a bad little round. Certainly better than a 5.56 and lighter than a 7.62 nato.

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#186 Landkomptur 1FL US :

The problem I see with the 5.56mm round is the world is changing and lightweight composite body armor is becoming more readily available the 5.56 round as said in the article wasn’t intended to punch through on brute force which is exactly what you have to do when dealing with an armored target. the other option it to batter the target with blunt force trauma. the 5.56mm is not very effective at both of these options.

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Dec 6, 2014
4:22 pm
#207 Walter :

right after wwII the British developed a bullpup rifle, the E2 that could hit a man size target at 700 yards and was controble on full auto. As best I remember the size of the round, a 100g 6.5 or 7 mm at 2300 feet per second. The round would bend when it hit something. I believe it was used to hunt deer and wild pigs and then could put then down at 500+ yards. The rifles had a scope and the people shooting them were very good shots.
A often overlooked advantage of the 223/m16 is the second shot. I do not know of anyone that clames a person with a m14 could shoot two targets faster that they could with a m-16. When the targets shoot back, I want to hit them first.

Dec 7, 2014
1:50 am

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