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5.56mm Stopping power

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by ModernTechnician, Sep 22, 2007.

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  1. ModernTechnician

    ModernTechnician member

    Oct 21, 2006
    I'll get in trouble for this one, you can bet on that!

    I just sent this as an e-mail to a Firearms Expert...

    "I am responding to your article: More about 5.56mm Lethality.

    I find it incredible that we are having the same argument we were engaged in during the Vietnam War.

    The point was then and is now, that if the U.S. continues to mandate FMJ ammunition, the switch to the 5.56mm round is a dangerous concept (for our troops.) In terrain where dense foliage is encountered it borders on criminally insane.

    I was a member of A USMC Reconnaissance Battalion and served three tours in Viet Nam. In that war Special Forces troops (specially those troops that shadowed that enemy in the field,) were permitted to carry pretty much what they wanted. The clear winners were 7.62mm AK(s), 7.62mm M60(s), 7.62mm MAG 58(s) even the 7,62mm M-14 and of course in close range, Shot Guns. Pistol cartridge weapons were early disappointments and despite the gun rags of the day extolling the virtues of the Swedish K(s) and Uzi(s), firing the full patch 9mm Parabellum were HUGE disappointments in the field! Hush Puppy and Welrod carrying designees shot for eye sockets.

    7.62mm NATO rounds had the advantage of being more difficult to deflect, unlike the 5.56mm. Even the snubbed 7.62 X 39mm Soviet was observed to have better capability in theater although lacking some in long range abilities. The issue 5.56mm (.223) was woeful at best, the projectile had extremely poor penetrating capabilities often deflected by twigs and light foliage! In wet climates the water would often bead up in the barrel and if you didn’t elevate the muzzle and open the bolt to drain off the water, a round would burst the barrel rendering the weapon useless. A buttstroke or frag hit on the stock turned it into a paperweight, similarly the top of the forend.
    (I remember the allies questioning a prisoner in the Parrot Beak incursion. When asked why his unit which had been in a good defensive position with a huge advantage in numbers had abandoned their posts and melted away so quickly? He responded that when it became obvious that the small Special Forces units (of Colonel Simmons) were armed with heavier weapons that could borough through the hasty cover intended to defeat the 5.56mm firing M-16(s), they fell back on their training which told them to disperse and create smaller units that would cover retreats to minor fall back positions (not giving away the major facilities they had,) even melding in with friendly noncombatants as they went. We were astonished!)

    Special Forces units bonded together and made the recommendations (among others) that, heavier caliber longer ranged weapons were necessary. Their belief was that the next conflagration would be in the sand, not the jungle. FMJ ammunition should be done away with, as it minimized the damage to the enemy and maximized collateral damage to civilians and friendly forces. The reliance on fully automatic fire was tactically unsound and in fact dangerous. And finally that a weapon that had to be cleaned at every available opportunity to remain reliable, was not a system that we needed or wanted. Finally that weapon systems for the Infantry should be designed by Infantryman with combat experience, and mediocre systems meant to satisfy logisticians needed to be set aside as poor tactics, period.

    Our belief was that caseless ammunition developments and sintered metal projectile technology would be utilized and answer our requests. But that was not and has not been the case! I guess that is what happens when a Country changes from a Nation of Hunters Plinkers and Gun Bearers to one that surrenders weaponry for greater public safety touted by a press that has long since surrendered all loyalty to anything but ratings and themselves.

    We were assured that our concerns would be met. Largely that was a lie. Only Marine Commanders acted on our recommendation about Desert Warfare Training, with the exception of one deployment in Egypt.

    Then President Carter signed our M1911 .45 automatics away and charged the Pentagon to also adopt a 9mm sub gun, something Infantry had resisted in the field for years! The .300 Magnum was made even more difficult to field as a Sniper Weapon. The Interim 5.56mm M-16 became the integrated weapon system despite some revolt and active discarding in tank and APC units.

    The M-16 was improved by Marines who knew how to shoot, but it was a case of making due with what you were issued. Not answering the system’s inadequacies.

    They slipped the .50 Cal. Rifles by, probably telling all the armchair warriors that it was for Munitions Disposal! (God Job guys!)

    Despite this, Desert Shield/Swarm went well due to air power and few noted the plethora of shortened and improved M60(s) and Sniper rifles.

    From Mogadishu to the current Afghanistan and Iraq deployments, combat is taking on a different flavor and the Rocket Propelled Grenade Launchers and Explosives along with .30 caliber weapons all in abundance with our enemy are pointing out some glaring inadequacies that an absolutely fine group of young people have to deal with. The Nation should be appalled at the lack of common sense, ineptness and blatant disregard that went into its 5.56mm procurements! The common Infantry man does his best with what he is issued. In the public few cared and fewer still know the difference!

    And that is why I wrote you this e-mail. The Firearms Community above all, should be unified and assist the advancement of adequate defensive and offensive weaponry! If I may borrow heavily on the similar Marine saying ‘Let no ghost ever come back and say ‘If only I had been better equipped!’

    Your comment: ‘The assertion that a larger caliber would increase effectiveness so much that a smaller ammo load wouldn't matter is shaky at best.’ is one of appeasement. The technology is there to make a better round smaller AND lighter. The 6mm/223 experiments were exceptional; (A caseless 6.5mm boat tailed projectile with an exceptional ballistic co-efficient would be even better still.) A better platform would just be the greatest yet!!!

    Not trying to hold where we’ve been and what we’ve done over anyone, if anyone wants to listen, great; if it is not that’s o.k. too, (it is what we are used to!) I’ll be gone soon, many of us old corps will. However if you want to earn the title firearm expert, earn it! Don’t stand in the way and hold your nose.

    If Shooters Hunters and Hand-loaders don’t drive developments, you might find your Grandson or Granddaughter in the field with a 17 caliber plastic weapon and a tactical readjustment that allows higher losses among ground troops a more palatable ‘SOP’!


    “I was at the range the other day and witnessed one of these ‘Cult of the AR’ gentlemen removing an aluminum rifle case from his new Cadillac, as his Son stood by waiting patiently. The gentleman put up a customized 5.56mm that had Picatinny rails sprouting from all directions and I’d hazard to guess there would be an appropriate spot on that rifle for just about anything an idle mind could dream up! My guess is that it must have set him back a few thousand dollars! His son when the area was clear removed a leather rifle case with three initials on it. He withdrew a laminated stocked M1 Garand that just took my breath away! When I got the opportunity I asked him why he was shooting the old ’06 dinosaur and he said, ‘It was my Grandfather’s rifle.’ and his rifle coach wanted him to practice with it because he could fire it at the 1,000 yard range back home and because it wasn’t bothered as much by shooting in the heavy wind at Black Canyon! As they were firing at the metallic silhouettes I pushed him a little and mentioned his father could carry much more ammo than he could in the field. After his father finished really struggling with the Rams, the boy walked up and downed 10 Rams for 10 shots with a sole clip reload. And after he cleared the weapon he smiled and said, ‘Yeah he needs to…’”

    That you could carry 10 times more ammo if your personal defense weapon were a .22 short is not comfort enough to say that you are better armed tactically…
    Specifically if that system jammed when you dropped in the yard."

    Was curious how others here felt...

  2. elmerfudd

    elmerfudd Participating Member

    Aug 29, 2007
    I'm not going to speak for the military, but I think that for civilians 5.56 doesn't make as much sense as a larger caliber. The two main advantages of a small caliber are controllability and light weight, but for civilians these really aren't half as important as they would be for an infantryman. Very, very few of us have select fire weapons and most of us envision defending a static position, (usually our homes or businesses), in the event of civil unrest. If you're not moving around, then weight really isn't much of an issue. Personally I'd rather have the extra range, power and penetration of a .308 over a 5.56.
  3. Macgille

    Macgille New Member

    May 6, 2007
    N. Calif
    Modern Technician, AMEN brother. I was issued the M1 and later the M14. I felt fully convinced that anyone within 800 meters was mine.( I was younger and could still see then.):what:

    When the Army went to the .22 popgun I was one of the testers in CDCEC(combat developements command experimentation center.) The reports on the AR15 was almost universally negative. I guess because we were riflemen in those days.:)

    To arm an Infantry unit with a weapon that was fragile, temperamental, and underpowered was a criminal act. To continue with the same weapon is stupidity. Huge amounts of ammunition leads to huge amounts of misses. I have always though that in order to put the enemy down you have to put metal in him. I've never seen a soldier scared to death by rapid popping noises.:neener:

    There are plenty of calibers that would be better than the .22 popgun. Almost anything bigger than 6.5 MM. What we should do is the same thing the Russians did. Arm all of the third world countries with the M16 while we go back to .30 cal. That would fix 'em.:D
  4. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

    Dec 20, 2002
    Well, M.T., I don't know you, but I have issues with some things you've said.

    Who were you assigned to? I'm a little surprised that you claim to have been a Recon Marine, and then immediately speak about SF. So, were you a Recon Marine, or SF?

    I've spoken with a gentleman who was a technician on some caseless cannon projects. There's a fairly common sense reason why caseless ammo hasn't really made it for hard use yet, but since it's common sense, I'll leave it at that.

    I have served next to ODA as recently as this year. With the option to carry practically anything, they typically carried shorty M4s and didn't complain about it.


  5. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

    Dec 20, 2002
    That's an interesting comment, and similar statements were used to argue against the adoption of the M1 Garand...that some of you are now arguing for.
  6. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Alma Illinois
    Which Battalion and what years?

    I served in the Army with a former Navy Corpsman who was with Force Recon. He lives near me now. They didn't have much in the way of unconventional weapons. They started out with the .45 M3A1 Grease Gun then went to M14s and then some M16A1s.

    In Oct of 1988 I was a student in the 47th Infantry Division Sniper School. One of the tactics and field craft instructors was a MAJ from the MN ARNG named John Plaster. MAJ Plaster was SSG Plaster in Vietnam and ran recon for MACV-SOG. It's funny, but his experiences didn't reflect what you posted either. In fact in his book, SOG A Photo History of the Secret Wars has a section in it, The CAR-15 VS. the AK from which I'll quote a passage:
    From pp 141
    I enlisted in the Army on 6 Dec 1974. I retired from active duty on 1 November 2003. I spent my entire career in Infantry and at the end Field Artillery units. I have used the M16 series in every climate from the arctic to the desert and my experiences don't reflect yours.

    Surely during your service you mus have observed some heavy caliber tracers being fired? Isn't it amazing how even .50 cal and 14.5mm bounces and deflects off tiny little branches? Weren't you just amazed how one could hit a little something and shoot almost straight up?

    Everything deflects off little twigs and branches. It's the angle that it hits the obstruction, not so much the velocity or the mass.

    That is a danger with every .22 caliber weapon. Including the AK-74.

    Butt strokes break wooded stocks all the time and hits by fragments break them too. And the M16 as fielded in Vietnam didn't have a top of the fore end. The hand guards are left and right. Only the XM177 series had tops on the fore ends.

    Really?? Which COL Simmons is this? Are you referring to Arthur D "Bull" Simmons of Son Tay Raid fame? What weapons were his men carrying? Have you got a reference for this story. It's almost one am where I'm at so I'll look it up tomorrow.

    Really? Do you have a reference or copy of this report. I still have AKO access I'd like to read it. Actually, I spent a long time studying all the professional literature on the subject. And outside of an article in Infantry Magazine by Stanley Crist advocating a new 6mm round for both rifles and machine guns, I didn't see anything advocating a bigger caliber until the 5th SF began circulating some papers on the 6.8 SPC. I'd be very interested in reading that report. What special forces units bonded together to make this report? There wasn't a joint command for SOF until the 1980s.

    You are aware that we are required to use FMJ ammunition because we signed the Hague Convention? It's not a decision the military can make.

    Who relies on full auto fire? Full auto fire was only permitted in a couple special circumstances in every unit I was in. Another member here, was a Company Commander in Vietnam and he handed out Article 15s for the unauthorized use of full auto fire. So just what organization relies on it?

    What weapon needs to be cleaned at every available opportunity? Not the M16 brother....

    The M16 was fielded to Vietnam because the commanders in the field demanded it. The logistics people hated it, because there were production problems and they eventually fielded it without support equipment like cleaning kits. Not because it never needed cleaned but because they weren't in the system.

    The fact that case less ammunition isn't feasible for military use might have something to do with why it was never adopted......

    pssst...ever hear anything about the National Training Center at Ft Irwin CA. It's in the high desert near Stockton. Every Brigade in the Army has been rotating through there for more then 20 years. I did a rotation there as part of the OPFOR....

    The M9 wasn't adopted as our service pistol until 1985. Ronald Reagan was president then. What 9mm sub gun did we adopt? Some special units got MP5s, but they were never fielded in any quantity.

    What .300 Magnum is that?

    Really? When did this happen? The actual history is that the M14 was dropped from production and it was decided to standardize on the M16 until another program the SPIW (Special Purpose Individual Weapon) which was never completed and could be called the father of the ill fated OICW.

    In the Army tankers kept their M3A1 Grease guns until 1997 when the M4 was fielded in quantity. Mechanized units used the M16 from it's adoption till the present. No one rejected it.

    That's why there is a big debate going on between the gunfighters and the yellow glasses crowd over the the M16A2 being designed to shoot at Camp Perry and the adoption of the M4 which is designed to fight with....:uhoh:

    Last I heard that fine group of young people are winning every firefight they get in. Despite the so called inadequate weapons. In January 2006 my son who at that time was an Infantry Sergeant in 4th ID engaged in his first firefight. 5.56x45 and the M16A4 served him well that day and through more then 200 combat patrols. Just the same as it served me and countless other Soldiers and Marines who've used it over the years.

    Well....I won't post exactly what I think, but I hope I've given you some tings to think about....

  7. rangerruck

    rangerruck Mentor

    Jan 12, 2006
    Texas, baby!
    a nice 6mm would do nicely. Heck there is allready a real nice cart out there for the offing, the old 5.7 x52 savage hipower. fires a 80 grain pill at 3400fps.
    very schwing. i was in the Army as well, but I don't care to bring up my experiences then. suffice it to say, i loved it whenever i would get assigned to , or take charge of a 60 mg crew.
  8. Rob96

    Rob96 Participating Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    Allentown, PA
    I seem to recall in the Book of the AR-15 it is stated that Special Forces was impressed with what the 5.56 did to the enemy. I have spoken to members of SOCOM and they relate the same thing from theor experiences in the sand box. Hit haji right and he is out of the fight. In Mogadishu, part of the problem with the "skinnies" was that they were hopped up on Kat.
  9. HorseSoldier

    HorseSoldier Mentor

    Jul 13, 2006
    Anchorage, AK
    This old chestnut again? :rolleyes:
  10. ArmedBear

    ArmedBear Senior Elder

    Sep 8, 2005
    Look, a few years ago, the US military conducted a study in order to determine [strike]that[/strike] whether the 5.56 was as effective as the 7.62 NATO in battle.

    After much [strike]posturing[/strike] testing, they concluded that it was just as effective, especially when fighters used double-taps.:p

    No shi'ite.

    Of course, on the whole, it might be a lot better for a given soldier to carry a lot more 5.56 rounds and use them, than to have to conserve a much more limited amount of 7.62 because it's much bulkier and heavier in quantity. Firefights in Iraq are not deer hunting. Number of rounds per man matters.

    The weapon system and weight really matter, too. The M4 is a helluva good urban fighting weapon that can serve as an infantry rifle when needed. The 5.56 works perfectly in it. I don't see a 7.62 version, and there won't be one. It's too heavy, there's too much recoil, and it's too big.

    Just because a .450 Marlin might be more "effective" as a medium-range one-shot stopper than damn near anything else, that doesn't mean it would be a good choice for standard military issue. Ditto for any other round. There are many factors that interrelate, and the 5.56 works as part of the equation. Note that the Russkies adopted a similar, even smaller, round, as well. They did NOT stick with the 7.62x39.
  11. rhubarb

    rhubarb Active Member

    May 28, 2005
    South Texas
    Where do these kooks come from?

    I know a guy who earned a Silver Star in Vietnam. I asked him once about the effectiveness of the 5.56 round. He said, "You shoot, he dies. Then you shoot another one. He dies too." He seemed puzzled by the question. Asked about reliability of the M16, he said that clean guns work.

    As to alternative platforms, he said he loved the grease gun, the Tommy gun was too heavy to carry all day, and .45 ACP was the only pistol cartridge. He said he'd used a lot of different weapons and that his arm of choice was an M16.
  12. Joe Demko

    Joe Demko Mentor

    Dec 30, 2002
    Just two minutes from sanity.
    You'd think trolls would long since have learned their lesson.
  13. cpttango30

    cpttango30 Active Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    It is rather simple. Your 10 man squad can put say 6000 rounds down range in 1 minute the bad guys can put that same ammount down range. But they can carry half what your guys carry? Who do you think is going to win the firefight? He who has the most ammo wins.

    I spent 8 years in the army did 3 rotations to NTC with 1st Cav. I packed my m16 every time it spend 10 out of 14 days in the field on a dusty bulldozer adn never failed to fire when I needed it to.

    I myself would rather carry 5000 rounds of 5.56 ammo vs carying only 2500 rounds of 7.62 ammo any day.

    Now I had at one point or another had just about all the different weapon systems. I was a m-60 gunner for a while, then they replaced my pig with my piglet (M249) Then I got HOGZILLA (Mk19 mod4) I was happy with all of them. We never were issued the M-240b but I am sure I would have shot that and carried that too.

    If you are going to go with the bigger is better then Why is the military issuing the Mk19 to everyone. I had a sling that way I could carry it off the shoulder. Then you can only carry 10 rounds but then again they are 40mm in diameter so they should be the best.

    I really wish the arm chair commanders would stop beating this dead horse.

    Lastly: The first reports on the car-15 were all negitive because the old guys did not think that a rifle with out a wood stock would be any good. They did not like the Futureistic (sp) look of the new rifle. Infact the first winter test in alaska were rigged and the CAR-15 were lubed with a lube that would get really gummy in the cold causing it to jam.

    Some people need to watch the History channel some more (Tailes of the gun)
  14. jerkface11

    jerkface11 Mentor

    Oct 27, 2005
    I've got a gunrag around here somewhere where they tested various cartridges against foliage to see what deflected the least. The only two that still hit the target after encountering branches and leaves were .22 hornet and 416 rigby. I doubt either of those would be a good military cartridge. Of course I still demand that the armed forces buy a new AR variant that will handle .250 savage.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2007
  15. GunTech

    GunTech Senior Member

    Mar 16, 2007
    Helena MT
    The after action report referenced above by ArmedBear noted that the complaints about the lack of effectiveness of the 5.56 came primarily from personnel who had never engaged in close combat.

    As far as wasting ammo, one thing that everyone fails to take into account is that casualty rates dropped at the same time ammo expenditure rates climbed, due to the use of suppressive fire. I'll gladly trade ammo for US lives.

    The whole marksmanship stuff is bull promulgated by people who shoot on target ranges, and not at people who are shooting back. So you can hit a target at the range at 800 yards. Try doing that from an awkward figting position, at at moving target in camouflage and using terrarin, all while being shot at. After running a couple of hundred yards with a full rucksack on.
  16. kurtmax

    kurtmax Member

    Jul 21, 2007
    I don't see what is wrong with the M-16 as a military weapon. It isn't terribly unreliable, and 5.56mm goes bang. Personally, I dislike the AR platform. I think it's ugly and the rifles don't feel right. AK style weapons are much better imo, but that's just personal preference.

    I do agree that 5.56mm isn't the greatest civilian caliber. I'd much rather have 7.62x51NATO or 7.62x54... Mobility and volume isn't an issue for me.
  17. LaEscopeta

    LaEscopeta Active Member

    Feb 23, 2005
    Los Estados Unidos
    As noted in posts #4 and #6 above, several “facts” listed in the original post can be verified as incorrect (year the M9 9mm pistol replaced the M1911 .45 caliber one, the president at the time, etc.)

    Several other “facts” cannot be verified either as either true or false (“I remember the allies questioning a prisoner in the Parrot Beak incursion….”) Maybe this happened exactly as described above. Maybe it did not happen at all. We have no way of knowing so the intelligent person will not consider these un-verifiable facts when considering the effectiveness of the NATO 5.56 round or AR-15 type weapons.

    It should be noted the SAS was the first to use the AR-15 in combat, in Borneo in 1963-1966, several years before the US Military adopted it in Vietnam. They chose this weapon over the standard issue 30-something caliber rifle of the British military at the time. Three other verifiable facts:

    1. The SAS (along with other units from several countries) was supporting a local government against a communist insurgency based in save havens in an adjacent county, supported by the USSR and Communist China. Similar to the Vietnam war
    2. They were fighting mostly in the jungle, like the Vietnam War.
    3. They won.







    Some people don’t like the 5.56mm round and they never will. It is a free country they can dislike what ever they please. And some of these people keep digging the same “facts” to support their dislike and “prove” the 5.56mm is inadequate. Again, they can do so if they like. But an objective review of the facts will lead to a different conclusion.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2007
  18. glockman19

    glockman19 Senior Member

    Mar 16, 2007
    I agree. Personally,
    I have shot AR's and M1A/M-14's and given the choice I'd trade off less ammo for more power, penetration and extra range.
  19. rero360

    rero360 Active Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Fredonia, NY
    Me personally, I like my M4, I liked my M16 A2, M249, M240B, M2 and MK19. I like being able to carry 14+ mags with me and not be terribly burdened.

    Can I engage an enemy out at 800 meters with my M4? highly unlikely due to skill and terrain, however I'm more concerned about the bad guy thats 100 meters away, him, if I can get a bead on him he is going down.
  20. elmerfudd

    elmerfudd Participating Member

    Aug 29, 2007
    And for civilians, I think it's mostly a false choice. I can stockpile the same amount of .308 as I can 5.56 and I'm not going on any road marches with a 100 lb. rucksack, so I'd prefer the more powerful cartridge. Soldiers are in an entirely different situation and I won't presume to speak for them.
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