5.56 or 7.62


December 15, 2010, 12:33 PM
please forgive a question that will seem elementary to experienced shooters unlike myself. I am beginning to purchase guns that I want to shoot and that would have application in a real world scenario as well....I am going to buy an assault style rifle in the next few and don't want to spend a ton of money on a rifle that has the fewest applications. The only thing I really know regarding this issue is from my father who said while in Vietnam 5.56 has its issues but generally performed for him.

I have some money to spend on this venture so really want to get a top quality firearm in either caliber.

thank you in advance and again apologies for the elementary nature of it.

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December 15, 2010, 12:40 PM
what do you plan to use the rifle for? it makes a difference.

December 15, 2010, 12:43 PM
Are you referring to 7.62x39 or 7.62x51 aka .308?

5.56 has low recoil and is a great close to mid range round.

7.62x39 recoils a little more and has less range. Also hard to find good ammo for it so long range accuracy suffers dramatically.

7.62x51 recoild much more than the other two but is a good bit more powerful. It's also good for long range out to 1000 yards or so.

Ask yourself what you want out of this rifle and then decide which round is better to meet that want.

December 15, 2010, 01:09 PM
plan to use recreationally as well as defense I suppose....

December 15, 2010, 01:14 PM
I would suggest a 5.56 to start, AR's are going a really good prices right now. I am working on collecting parts for my second AR, they are addictive.

December 15, 2010, 01:26 PM
I agree with Rshooter on this one. For recreation, the 5.56 can be accurate out to 300 yds (and further if set up right). The 7.62x51 (.308) is, IMO, one of the all around great recreational rifles because I love long range shooting and its capability is FAR superior to the 5.56 in this situation.

However, for defense, it really is almost no contest in my opinion. (though I'm sure people will argue) The 5.56 allows for more accurate and faster follow up shots (due to less recoil) and penetration will be less than with a 7.62.

My reason for saying 5.56 is that although you can shoot further with the 7.62 if long range shooting is your thing, the fact that the 5.56 is better for SD is the deciding factor. (again, just my opinion)

December 15, 2010, 01:28 PM
in that case i would favor a flat top AR in 5.56

December 15, 2010, 01:38 PM
add an eotech and some training to what sappyg said and you have a fun shooter that you can bet your life on

December 15, 2010, 02:06 PM
I was thinking 7.62/308 because it is a common ammo...has many different applications...good stopping power in all situations and not sure what else....I have the money to be a high end rifle in either caliber just want to make sure I get one that the experts think is appropriate....

December 15, 2010, 02:12 PM
Go check the prices of 5.56 and 7.62, and figure which one will allow you to practice more often.

December 15, 2010, 06:34 PM
I'd suggest an AR style rifle, 7.62mm, gas piston, cold hammer forged barrel, pop-up iron sights. If you can get one with a non-reciprocating bolt, that's even better as the charging handle on standard AR requires you to pull rifle out of firing position for reloads/charging. If you want reliability but aren't too particular on accuracy, go AK.

December 15, 2010, 06:41 PM
5.56 in an AR platform. Very accurate, little recoil, easy to customize to your need, widely available milsurp.

December 15, 2010, 07:28 PM
I own several rifles in each caliber (5.56, 7.62x39 and 7.62x51). For a first rifle an AR in 5.56 is pretty hard to beat. The ammo is cheap, plentiful and accurate. The AR platform really is the lego of rifles, so it can grow as your needs change.

7.62x39 is a great caliber. It hits hard, is inexpensive to shoot and combat accurate out to 200+ yards. My SKS' and Mak-90 are so reliable I really cant remember the last time one had a malfunction.

7.62x51 is really an all around caliber. Up close or far away the round is a real stopper. In a platform like the M14 you get accuracy plus the ability to put al lot of rounds down range in a short period of time. It's downside is that it is expensive to shoot even with russian or surplus ammo.

December 15, 2010, 08:43 PM
If its going to be for paper and goblin shooting, a 5.56 is the absolute way to go. Lower recoil = more accuracy = more rounds hitting the black or critical areas on a marauding goblin. With the high velocity of 5.56, most bullets will tumble and violently break apart, resulting in some rather nasty wounds. A 7.62 with hollow-point (JHP) or soft-point (JSP) bullets will do the same or better, but you also have more recoil to contend with in a 7.62. 5.56 comes in JHP and JSP flavors too.

Cost of ammunition is also going to be a big consideration. 7.62x39 and 5.56x45 are roughly equivalent price for range ammo. .308 is at best twice as expensive. For most 5.56x45 ARs you can also get a .22lr conversion kit, and have the option of lots of trigger time for comparatively little money.

Training, training, and more training is going to be the deciding factor with which caliber and rifle you will be most proficient with. That said an entry to mid level AR-15, with a .22lr conversion kit will make it more financially viable to become a competent shooter than a 7.62x39 or 7.62x51.

December 15, 2010, 08:58 PM
Recreational use: 308 is pretty fun, but most people opt for AR15s over 308 battle rifles, and for many good reasons I think. 5.56 is a little cheaper and it's much easier to find affordable ammo in quantity, so you get to shoot more. Frankly it depends on how much recoil you prefer. My best advice is to hit a local range where you can rent some guns.

As far as defense goes, that really depends on your situation. Defense from bears? or maybe criminals in an urban environment? The AR-15s at the local IDPA carbine matches dramatically outnumber the .30 cal guys. Quick followup, large magazine capacity, and lots of accessory options. Either will probably serve your defense needs. Both rounds are extremely deadly at < 150y.

December 16, 2010, 01:20 PM
Yes, most new shooters go for an AR, because they shoot a cheaper round and they are very modular and customizable, and they can be as cheap or as expensive as you want. Plus, the reality is that the vast majority of shooters, no matter how great of a shot they say they are, don't have a very good grasp of the fundamentals of marksmanship, and therefore don't have the ability to hit man-sized targets at the ranges where the AR starts to become ineffective unless they're on a frickin bench rest or something. That is to say at ranges over 300m or so. Also, a lot of people like the idea of the run-and-gun CQB stuff over more long range shooting.

Now the 7.62x51 is a Rifleman's round. With just plain old 147 grain ball, it absolutely shines where the 5.56 starts to trail off, that is from 300m on out to 800 or so, and is of course effective at closer ranges, as well. It really handles the wind better at ranges over 300, and it delivers a lot more energy and/or penetrates more "cover" once it gets there. If you have the skill to use it to it's ballistic effectiveness, you could wreak havoc on a group armed with poodle shooters or kalashnikovs by staying outside their max effective range and delivering well-placed shots at the "Rifleman's cadence" of one shot per breath.

The 5.56 AR is better for close quarters shooting, though, since it is generally lighter, shorter, and has less recoil than most 7.62 battle rifles. I guess it depends on whether you think you and your rifle are going to face primarily close quarters situations, or avoid CQB as much as humanly possible and mostly engage from longer ranges?

Personally, I like having both, as they complement each other nicely. However, my do-it-all rifle is my 7.62 M1A.

This post is geared toward a 2-way-range type situation because you asked about "assault" type rifles for real-world use, and I assume that's what you're talking about. If you want something just to plink with at the range, then you may have some different considerations.

Carne Frio
December 16, 2010, 04:27 PM
I agree with post #3 and I own and shoot all three of those calibers
in both pistols and rifles. As a beginner, start with the one that fits
your budget.

December 17, 2010, 12:09 AM
A 20" A2 with a fixed carry handle will hold its own shooting 77 grain bullets out to 600 yards and more. Just because you shoot a heavier bullet with more powder doesn't mean it is a better 600 yard rifle.
I have shot and seen many ARs that make the M1A guys look silly on a HP course.

I also do not believe putting a bunch of ornaments on my service style rifles. I want it to be able to keep its zero despite what I put it through. That could be as a boat paddle, being thrown in the vehicle to bug out, etc. The A2 sighting system is second to none IMO.
I'd have to say if an AR is setup correctly with quality parts it will out shoot many rifles out to 600 yards, and a little beyond. Without issue for sure.

December 17, 2010, 12:37 AM
To jacklucas89:

5.56 ammo is cheaper than 7.62 ammo more than 99.99999% of the time. Finding a cheap AR15, however, is the tricky part. Guns are like musical instruments: you get what you pay for. However, the cheap, yet good ARs that I know of can be found online at places like gunbroker.com (the ebay for firearms) and some gun shop that allow you to buy their products in stock online. I bought my DPMS online for under $900 (ar15pro.com, go ahead and try there if you want), and it works like a charm.

Overall it does depend on what you're looking for.

December 17, 2010, 02:10 AM
If you have the skill to use it to it's ballistic effectiveness, you could wreak havoc on a group armed with poodle shooters or kalashnikovs by staying outside their max effective range and delivering well-placed shots at the "Rifleman's cadence" of one shot per breath.


Good luck with that theory. The fact that it just doesn't work at all is largely why everyone on the planet has relegated 7.62x51 to marginal roles.


December 17, 2010, 04:52 AM
Yep, that theory works well on paper and in the movies... but kind of hard to keep out of the other sides effective range while you are firing a round every 3 seconds....

my vote for the original posters question is 5.56... better choice of ammo, especially in bulk. the big draw for the 7.62x39 stuff was the ammo was cheap... a lot of it was corrosive and just about all of it is dirty as all get out still. There is good 7.62 American made ammo out there, but you are not going to get much of a deal on it.

December 17, 2010, 10:01 AM
I was a .308 guy while being forced to carry a military gun in a caliber I thought better for feral French hunting dogs.

What I learned is that .308 battle rifles are old school, usually with poorly located operator controls, heavy, and I never shot it past 150 yards. A .30-30 lever does much better at hunting.

I learned I really liked a lot of what the AR does, I just wanted an edge on the caliber for deer. I had already sold the .308, I'm building an AR in an alternate caliber so I can have all the easy use of the gun, but with almost 50% more power.

If you don't plan on shooting hundreds of rounds a month, the ammo expense is no worse than bolt gun ammo. Some whine about it, but they got spoiled shooting taxpayer supported military surplus and reject for .25c a round. ONLY mil calibers enjoy that, and the older stuff is much harder to find. .308 is slipping away as we shoot up the last of what surplus is left, I know I tried to rid the world of it.

Another factor is that for the price of a nice scope, you can get all the simple reloading equipment you need, and it will last longer than the gun. That puts ammo down in the surplus price range, regardless. It also means you don't worry about whether the UPS truck delivers, or if the local BoxMart is sold out during a panic.

It's worthless to know 5.56 is cheap when there is none to be had.

December 17, 2010, 11:17 AM
+1 on the recommendation of an AR15 with a 22LR conversion or dedicated 22LR upper on the side.

December 17, 2010, 12:00 PM
Either of the two you can t get wrong.

December 17, 2010, 12:55 PM
How about an sks? Cheap, fun to shoot, easy to carry, double as a deer rifle in a pinch...what's not to like?

December 17, 2010, 01:11 PM
If you have the skill to use it to it's ballistic effectiveness, you could wreak havoc on a group armed with poodle shooters or kalashnikovs by staying outside their max effective range and delivering well-placed shots at the "Rifleman's cadence" of one shot per breath.
Effective range of 5.56x45mm Mk262 77gr OTM is at least 700 meters (765 yards). I doubt a typical M1A would outrange that under realistic conditions; that puts you in the realm of specialized long-distance optics and tuned match loads.


Mk 262

The Mk 262 is a match quality round manufactured by Black Hills Ammunition made originally for the Special Purpose Rifle (SPR). It uses a 77-grain (5.0 g) bullet that is more effective at longer ranges than the standard issue M855 round.

Two versions of the round have been procured to date. Initial production runs, designated Mark 262 Mod 0, lacked a cannelure. Subsequent production, designated Mk 262 Mod 1, added a cannelure to the bullet for effective crimping.

According to US DoD sources, the Mk 262 round is capable of making kills at 700 meters. Ballistics tests found that the round caused "consistent initial yaw in soft tissue" at 300+ meters. Apparently it is superior to the standard M855 round when fired from an M4 or M16 rifle. It evidently possesses superior stopping power, and can allow for engagements to be extended to up to 700 meters. It appears that this round can drastically improve the performance of any AR15 platform weapon chambered to .223/5.56mm. Superior accuracy, wounding capacity, stopping power and range power has made this the preferred round of many Special Forces operators, and highly desirable as a replacement for the older, Belgian designed, 5.56x45mm M855 NATO round.[34]

December 17, 2010, 08:24 PM
Effective range of 5.56x45mm Mk262 77gr OTM is at least 700 meters (765 yards). I doubt a typical M1A would outrange that under realistic conditions; that puts you in the realm of specialized long-distance optics and tuned match loads.

I can't speak for what the round was doing ballistically out at that range, but I've seen a first round hit on a steel chest plate at about 1200 meters through an M4 with Mk 262 during a class. (This included a spotter lasing the precise range and then figuring wind and drop with a ballistic program on a PDA, but that's still either real lucky or sub-MOA ammo.) I've also seen the spotter on that bit of messing around (who was one of our SOTIC instructors) make consistent hits at 800 meters with iron sights when we first got issued SPRs and Mk 262 to go with them. As far as I could tell, shooting a bunch of it myself, it will outperform the accuracy capability of most issue M4s and most shooters very reliably.

December 17, 2010, 11:07 PM
I was issued M262 along with my M16 SDMR in 2005. We routinely shot it out to 400 plus meters with not much effort. At 600 meters things became a bit tricky and at 800 meters it was downright hard.

I might not have been making first round hits at 800 meters but I would definitely ruin your plans.

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