Thoughts on .30 Carbine and .223/5.56x45

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Oct 3, 2008
I was thinking of picking up a .30 Carbine, mainly just for fun and possibly
defense if ever needed. I hear a lot of Internet chatter about the .30 Carbine
being an ineffective round and it's better to go with the .223/5.56 (hereafter called 5.56).

Although I can see why for long ranges past say 150 yards or so you'd want the 5.56,
for short ranges I don't see much of a difference when comparing 5.56
coming out of a 16" barrel.

Here are two examples:

.30 Caliber

Bullet: 110 Grain Federal Power Shok Soft Point
FPS: 1,954
Ft-Lbs: (110 * 1,954^2)/450400 = 932 ft-lbs.
Penetration: 15" (then exited block)
Expansion: 0.461"

.223/5.56 grain Barnes Triple-Shock.html

Bullet: 62 Grain Barnes Triple Shock
FPS: 2,752 fps
Ft-Lbs: (62 * 2,752^2)/450400 = 1,042 ft-lbs
Penetration: 17"
Expansion: 0.408"

I picked 2 of the premium bullets from the testing.
It looks pretty close to me. The wound cavity from the .30 Carbine
actually looks bigger then that from the 5.56 (but that could just be lighting).
They both penetrated and expanded well.

Is it a toss up at close range?
Inside 100 yards, the 55 grain M193 bullet is going to create a much larger temporary wound cavity than any bullet I would trust for defense in a .30 carbine.

There are plenty of stories of bad guys not going down after being shot by each caliber.

Then there are stories about how the .45 Auto blew some guy's arm completely off, or knocked him completely off his feet.

You decide what you want to believe.

A .223 or a .30 carbine between the shirt pockets is going to cancel most folks plans.
I have a 30 carbne

I have two Universal Carbines with no scope or custom changes.
At my club range I can hit a steel plate at 260 yards 8 out of 10 times.
My G/F likes it as a home gun and at close range it's lot like a 357 mag.

Not grate but not something you can not Ignore.
I like them I want an AR but a M1 is a good rifle.
you can get a Uni carbine at gun shows for 300 or less an AR is 700+

Ammo is 23 to 75 cents a round.
Just my thoughts.
"Just for fun", you can't really go wrong with either option (but 5.56 is cheaper and easier to come by). However, for defense, I'd focus on the ergonomics and controls of the weapons more than the cartridge: if you're fumbling with a mag or can't get the safety off in doesn't matter what it is. Personally, i find the M1 handles better for me, but you've got to shoulder them both to make that call for yourself.

Inside your home, i'd consider the noise, muzzle blast, and (over)penetration of the rounds; so defensive ammo, not the hunting ammo referenced by the OP.
If the M1 Carbine was good enough for these guys, it's good enough for taking out a BG.
Marines were killed so fast on Iwo Jima that any Marine could pick up a M1 Grand if he wasn't satisfied with his Carbine.

I'm a fan of the AR and .223 but I also have ten M1/M2 Carbines.
My primary HD gun is the AR but I have no doubt if I grabbed a M1 Carbine it would get the job done.
Inside your home, i'd consider the noise, muzzle blast, and (over)penetration of the rounds; so defensive ammo, not the hunting ammo referenced by the OP.

My Mossberg 590 is my goto for Home SD. Lighting off a rifle inside a home has to be really freaking
loud! :)
For general plinking, I'd rather have the .30 carbine. I cast my own bullets for it and produce high quality ammo for it for next to nothing. For serious self-defense, I'd rather have the .223. You really can't just judge performance looking at the numbers on paper. You need to shoot both at real targets and see what happens to them. I've routinely shot holes in steel plate with .223, but that's never happened with the .30C.

Go to your local sporting goods store and check ammo availability. Your local shop might not even carry .30 carbine, but just about any store will have .223.

One added thing. My local gun range divides handgun and high powered rifles into separate ranges. They do however allow people to shoot pistol carbines at the handgun range, and the .30 carbine is accepted there. So, I don't have to pick up and move to a different range like I would if I wanted to shoot the .223.
Jim Cirillo of NYPD stakeout fame stated in both of his books that the .30 Carbine loaded with 110 grain soft points was the best rifle for stopping power, and stated that it worked better on bad guys than the .223/5.56, so I guess it will work.

Just my .02,
As a member of the New York City Stake-Out Squad (1968-1973) Jim Cirillo’s only job was to confront the most hardened and dangerous armed criminals in the city.


Not saying Cirillo was wrong, but there has been some development since 1973.

I'd rather have the 5.56 in a light varmint load. Much less chance of a heavy slug over penetrating and the light weight 5.56 has been a proven man stopper. BSW
think of the 30 carbine as a pistol caliber. something akin to 9mm or 357. it continually gets compared to rifle rounds like the 30-06 etc and that's where a lot of the badmouthing comes from. the rest comes from full metal jacket ammo. I have both, the 223 is punchier, the there's nothing wrong with the m1 carbine. especially the soft point remington rounds walmart carries.
For the .30 It seems like they could make a loading for it out of a pointed FMJ and that might help the terminal performance. Someone just has to look at it as a practical self defense tool compared to the other $300 option - a quality SKS. Not to say the RN FMJ isn't capable of stopping a person, it just seems to me that if you're going to spend $300-400 on a plinking rifle that could double up as a home and self defense set up you'd be better off with an SKS or AK variant given the price of the rifle and the price of ammo. I'd love to have an M1 just for the nostalgia. I even have a buddy back in PA who hunts whitetail with an M1. I also have a buddy back east who shoots whitetail with an SKS and they have better loadings available with better bullets.
Here's a link to a discussion and PDF on M193.
Doesn't look like a bigger wound cavity compared to the above.

Yeah, if you trust the .30 carbine to feed softpoints, you're gonna get whompin' factor closer to M193 performance at close range for sure.

I'd need to shoot a heckuva lotta "tactical" ammo in a carbine before I would trust it.
From what I have read, soldiers who had access to both the M-1 Carbine and the M-16 in the early years of the Viet Nam War generally believed both were equally effective. I heard a few say they prefered the M-1 Carbine because it was more reliable and didn't jam ... but those familiar with the AR's history will know there were early development problems that were later largely solved.
The 5.56mm. round has a flatter trajectory and better muzzle energy, and is more common and less expensive.
The .30 Carbine is not a pistol round, it's at best a medium/low power rifle round, and remains effective today. But it won't have the range. If you're thinking in terms of home defense the only real difference is cost and availability .... and 5.56mm. wins there.

W.E.G. said:
... if you trust the .30 carbine to feed softpoints ...

Uh, yeah, before you commit to using .30 Carbine in a defense gun get some HP rounds and go to a range and see how reliability works. Some carbines will not feed them reliably. A little work on the feedramp by a gunsmith or someone who knows what they're doing might help this problem. The carbine was developed for use with ball ammo (FMJ rounds) and in 1941 not a lot of people gave much thought to hollowpoint bullets, if they did they were refered to as "dum-dums" and international agreements generally prohibited their use by the military. Whether we signed the relevent documents or not, we abided by that term and the military uses ball type ammo.
My CMP Inland carbine feeds SP ammo perfectly...and it shoots tight groups out to 100yds without trying hard. I use it for my HD weapon in preference to shotgun, AK, and AR.
As much as I like the AR and AK, the carbine is lighter, and handles like it was custom made for points like a finger.
I've come to the conclusion that 7.62x39mm is an excellent choice for a general-purpose cartridge. It's inexpensive (about $300/thousand) and widely available, which translates into more trigger time. Premium ammo is also available at prices comparable to other cartridges.

Combine it with an inexpensive SKS and you have a rugged carbine that's fun to shoot inexpensively, and for defense you have a cartridge with better "barrier blind" performance and comparable terminal performance (premium ammo - wound profile for Hornady TAP - than either .30 carbine or 5.56x45mm. No need to stock up on magazines either - just inexpensive stripper clips.

An SKS and 1000rds ammo can be had for about $700.

M1 Carbine info and wound profiles:

Good luck with your choice
A nice Romanian Draco AK pistol for be nice. It packs a 30 cal punch and velocity in the 2000 ft sec even at 100 yd distance.
well if all we care about is cheap and "effective" just get a 30/30. (or the sks or an ak clone. and home defense, get a shotgun.) but to the OP, with the right bullet, at the right range, against an unarmored target, there isn't a whole lot of difference. I'd also be less worried about over-penetration from a 30 carbine. I have both AR and m1, and the m1 is more fun to take to the range. {though my 357 lever gun is more fun than both.}

556 is a more useful cartridge, but the m1 is no 22LR.
Have to admit I really don't get .30 carbine (unless I was storming trenches or going house to house...)
If you make your decision solely on foot-pounds or feet per second, the 5.56 may be the way to go.

But , IMHO, math is not the only way to choose a rifle. Pick them up. Swing the gun around (safely) and think about which one feels right.

To me, the M1 Carbine feels like the best rifle made. And they're so pretty.

Like a wise man said, either round between the shirt pockets will change a man's plans.
From a layman's view, I'm very much not a fan of 5.56 as a military arm. In FMJ, a .22-caliber bullet can be bad, but it can only do so much in the near-instant timespan that a military arm should.

As a civilian, you get to choose JHP, and that turns a .223 at 3000 FPS into a wicked little beastie.

All told, no BG will know the difference, but your ears and neighbors might.
You need to shoot both at real targets and see what happens to them.

The problem with this is that the law enforcement community frowns on shooting at "real targets". Paper and steel aren't going to tell you what you need to know about bullet performance.
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