Old rounds vs. new rounds (a 5.56mm thread)


July 7, 2006, 11:13 PM
Why does the 5.56 get a bad rap?
I have read reports of Japanese soldiers taking 8 hits from a Garand and Phillipine moro tribesmen who kept coming after being hit by a 30-40 Krag.
It got me thinking.
I had always thought that eventhough the 7.62 Nato and similar rounds are heavier and the guns that use them are heavier, they were "better" because they are more powerful.
This makes me wonder though. If someone keeps coming after taking multiple hits from a 30'06, what else could you really do to stop them short of decapitation?
What I am saying is if they take several hits from an AR, how is that really any "worse" than the failures to stop in the past from Garands and Krags?
Were those incidents less common with the older, more powerful rounds?
Has this been something that has plagued us since the days of the Brown Bess and the Charleville?

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July 7, 2006, 11:46 PM
I would say , that statistically , that those occurences happened less with the bigger rounds thant the 556. Plus i bet the rest of the story was" before he realized it , 2 minutes later he bled out from the huge gaping exit hole, and died", on those bigger rounds.

July 7, 2006, 11:56 PM
Well, let me ask you this question. Why is .30 caliber rounds legal for say deer hunting in many states while .22 caliber rounds in many cases are not?

Number 6
July 8, 2006, 12:07 AM
Well, let me ask you this question. Why is .30 caliber rounds legal for say deer hunting in many states while .22 caliber rounds in many cases are not?

The physiology of humans and wild animals are very different, and such a line of reasoning does not address how effective the 5.56 round is against human targets.

July 8, 2006, 12:13 AM
Why does the 5.56 get a bad rap?Because:

Soldiers complain.
People have a strong tendency (desire?) to believe old is better than new.
Heavy bullet loadings from a short barrel are diametrically opposed to the original philosophy of the 5.56.
People have a strong tendency (desire?) to believe that they know best.
People who don't like the 5.56 seize on any negative report and trumpet it to the winds.
Soldiers don't have a strong tendency to spontaneously tell people how well their guns kill people.
Human nature is to deflect blame when things don't go well--inanimate objects are handy targets since they can't tell their side of the story.

That's the short list.

July 8, 2006, 12:13 AM
Alot of those people used drugs in large amounts. So pain is not an issue and you have to physically destroy their body structures. Some terrorists in Iraq use drugs as well and can become impervious to pain. People have survived wounds from 50 caliber weapons. It's not that "x" round failed to stop an opponent, it's how often "x" round failed to stop an opponent that is important.

July 8, 2006, 12:16 AM
...Has this been something that has plagued us since the days of the Brown Bess and the Charleville?

Well, with the Brown Bess, I believe the issue sure wasn't "stopping power". Think of them as a 10 Ga Shotgun, firing bore-sized soft lead balls, not wimpy little sabot-warpped deer slugs. We're not talking grains here, but '10 roundballs to the pound'. Similar bullets and charges were used by Ivory Hunters to take elephants and stop lions. Heavy bullets at moderate speeds might suprise you.

5.56, to my understanding, is a short-range varmint round, which had the advantages over .308 Win of lower recoil and size+weight for carry. .308 Win was chosen over .30-06 to feed better in auto or semi-auto. All have proven to effectively kill people.

Stopping somebody is a different problem it would seem. I doubt the Japanese soldier charging after eight gunshot wounds was shot in a manner to be effectively stopped. Assuming a head shot would effectively stop someone, I don't believe that it would matter if it was 5.56 or 7.62 . Then again if that soldier was shot eight times by the main deck guns of the USS Missouri, shot placement wouldn't be an issue either.

I'd rather have the 7.62 for shooting longer range though.

July 8, 2006, 12:36 AM
On a scoped AR-15, can you see target hits through the scope still, like you could see them with a heavy varmint rifle? Or does the lighter rifle preclude that, soaking up less recoil?

That might be an advantage to the 5.56/.223.

On my .223 varmint rig I can see hits. A little upscale, with .22-250, the recoil is enough to throw the scope out of alignment.

July 8, 2006, 12:42 AM
Heavy bullet loadings from a short barrel are diametrically opposed to the original philosophy of the 5.56.

I dunno if that's a downside. The ability to shoot heavy bullets helps buck the wind.

July 8, 2006, 12:56 AM
IIRC, the Brown Bess was a .75 caliber. I think a 12 gauge is a .735. That would make the Bess about a 11 gauge, wouldn't it?

Getting back to the point.
What I was wondering is if when we went from say the .45-70 to the .30-40 (I think that is how it went but I may be wrong), were there complaints about this little newfangled round that was meant for killing rats but certainly not big enough to take the place of the old rifles?

July 8, 2006, 01:43 AM
A few years ago I did not like the 5.56, but that has changed. I didnt like it because of some of the people that I have seen shot with it, did not go down right away.
There was something that these people have in common, none of them were shot in truely vital areas. I was expecting to much out of the round. a 5.56 isnt necessarily going to drop a man with a shot to the shoulder, niether is a 7.62.
In my experience, everyone that was shot in the chest or the head with a 5.56 has stopped what they were doing. They didnt all die but they sure didnt keep fighting.

July 8, 2006, 01:58 AM
The ability to shoot heavy bullets helps buck the wind.Useful in long-range competitions, to be sure.

However, the 5.56 in specific (and all assault rifle cartridges in general) were originally predicated on the observation that soldiers rarely see and are almost never able to effectively engage the enemy at ranges beyond 300-400 yards. Therefore long range wind performance was irrelevant to the original design philosophy.

July 8, 2006, 09:36 AM
C-Grunt,well said. I used the M193 round in Nam 68-69.It was very lethal.The myth of the 30 caliber is perpetuated in large by those never in combat. Byron

July 8, 2006, 10:27 AM
Well, let me ask you this question. Why is .30 caliber rounds legal for say deer hunting in many states while .22 caliber rounds in many cases are not?

These are the same states that tell that a .44 Russian is fine for deer, and a .22-250 is totally inadequate. Politicians make the rules, doesn't mean that they know there *** from a hole in the ground.

July 8, 2006, 10:34 AM
Regarding combat use, the 5.56 does have some very real limitations.

The weapon of choice, the M4 with it's 14.5" barrel, has submachine gun performance, not rifle performance.

From everything I've learned about the round, 5.56 mainly relies on it's lightweight construction to cause incapacitation. Upon entering a human body, it tumbles quickly then breaks apart, explosively fragmenting and causing a large wound channel. Except for a few variations (German 7.62x51 for one), 7.62 relies on merely tumbling. A bullet will only fragment reliably at very high velocities. This means that the range is very short for the best terminal effects of 55gr. M193 5.56 and even shorter for M855 62gr since it's of stronger construction, moving at lower velocities. Shorter barrels make this problem worse.

The current steel cored M855 round was designed for penetration over all else. This makes it actually less effective against unarmored targets than the previous M193 round. The only advantage M855 has over M193 is it will penetrate hard targets at a slightly further distance. However, due to M193's higher velocity, it has better penetration (and fragmentation) performance up close.

Using a 20 inch barrel and 55gr M193 or the newer Mk262 rounds, the 5.56 rifle can be a very effective weapon out to 200 yards or so. After that, it's terminal performance is at the low end of the scale.

July 8, 2006, 11:02 AM
DMK, accurate info on the M193. My experience was with the A1,20"barrel with most contact under 100 yards and usually under 50. The M193 did what it was designed for.I agree 200 yards for proper fragmentaion from a 20" barrel. Not sure of the distance the average infantryman is firing in Iraq/Afaganistan. Byron

Will Learn
July 8, 2006, 03:02 PM
It seems that follow up shots may be easier to take using the 5.56 cartridge, giving more opportunity for a kill shot i.e... spine/brain.

July 8, 2006, 03:32 PM
Also when we're talking the military don't forget they're using fmj rounds not some nice big expanding ballistic tip round. We usually talk about the military being handicapped without 9mm jhp's and I think the same can be said of rifle cartridges too.

As to the original question, the impression that some people give is that failures to stop are more frequent with 556 than 7.62nato. I have no idea if thats actually true or not.

July 8, 2006, 04:41 PM
Also keep in mind the "I shot him 7 times before he went down" crowd, who only made 2 hits. ;)

July 8, 2006, 05:43 PM
Or none.

Number 6
July 8, 2006, 06:50 PM
One of the most informative members I have read on the THR has been Blackhawk 6. Here are two of his posts and the threads where he explains his experience with the 5.56 rounds. They are good reads and address many of the complaints people have about the 5.56 round.


July 8, 2006, 07:24 PM
Things don't always work as advertised.

July 9, 2006, 01:30 AM
Another problem is that we are going to these rediculusly short barrels affecting reliability. The M4 is bordering on being a submachinegun and the AR gas system does not like that. If you go with a subgun length barrel you are going to get subgun performance. Since we have the same amount of gas volume, regardless of barrel length, we now basicly have mini rockets. The gas that does not accelerate the bullet because of the short barrel still produces recoil, flash, and blast. This affects controlability in rapid fire.

I do not like 5.56 as a combat round in FMJ, with better bullet construction it could be a superb combat round. I do understand the need to carry large amounts of ammo as well, however we piss that away by using "humane" bullet construction. I also do not believe that the AR-15/M-16 is the best weapons system. This is mainly from my observations and person experiences with other peoples AR rifles. (That tended to jam alot.) Blackhawk 6 made the point of why the M249 does not get so much flack for using 5.56. I have met more people who did not like the M249 than people who did not like the AR. I was given several reaons for hate of the 249. Mainly it involved issues with disassembly, maintaince, links not holding ammo correctly, the open bolt operatoni allowing sand and grit to get into the weapon, and other things.

July 9, 2006, 07:01 AM
Then if you gave them a 16 inch 50 cal they would bitch about having to pack the thing and then gripe it weights to much to aim fast. Personly I find the XM-193 type a lot more deadly on varmits deer and most anything than M-2 ball. Seems kind of like sticking them with a 7.62 dia pointed drill rod unless it hits bone. Bottom line is I think is just poor hits is all,top of the sternium or up the air intake they aint going to walk it off.

Thin Black Line
July 9, 2006, 08:29 AM
what else could you really do to stop them short of decapitation?

Good shot placement, ie, a small hole in the small intestine or grazing a
limb from a FMJ regardless if it's .223 or .30 that doesn't strike a major
artery/vein or smash bone won't make a "quick" kill. 30 seconds where
the guy is still able to fire at you and doesn't lose consciousness certainly
won't seem quick to you. You wouldn't believe the damage the human
body can take --including loss of limbs, getting blown "in half"-- where the
person is still able to carry on a coherent conversation. In this world,
though, 30 seconds is relatively quick, but this is why maintaining cover
(if you can) is a good thing. :)

Really "Old Rounds":
Civil War surgeons had a terrible time with those slow-moving balls that
had a tendency to smash bones, leave pieces of lead behind if not the
entire thing, and cause all sorts of nasty infections. They amputated when
they could, but the wounded guys would linger for days before they succumb
to one thing or another. Even back then, tourniquets were in use and
quite a few wounded soldiers made it to the docs. Imagine trying to do all
this without the benefit of x-rays to locate bullets/fragments and
determine the extent of broken bones just by feeling around --OW! :eek:

We have a better survival rate due to improvements in medical care despite
the "new" rounds. South Africa has plenty of people who show up at
ERs with 9mm FMJ bullet wounds --they don't have a higher death rate
because they made it to the hospital and received good medical care in
the first place.

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