Why is the 5.56/.223 still so popular?

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by citizenconn, Apr 11, 2022.

  1. 2ndtimer

    2ndtimer Member

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    I shot a bolt action .223 Rem for years before I bought my first AR. I also had a bolt action in 22-250 and preferred the .223 Rem as a Varmint cartridge. Less recoil so I could spot my own shots, easier on the barrel, cheaper to load (less powder required), cheap (back then) but very effective factory ammo (Federal AE 50 gr Tipped Varmint $8 per 20 or Fiocchi 40 gr V-Max for less than $20 per 50). And still today, love the .223 in a bolt gun for varmints out to 300 yards. Also love the AR’s for varmints and if bullets have to replace ballots some day in the future. (There is no way to miscount properly aimed bullets, unlike ballot counting shenanigans). AR’s and .223/5.56 ammo are inexpensive, highly effective for a number of applications with readily available affordable reloading components (except primers, which is true for everything else), and readily customizable in the AR platform. That is why it remains so popular and why the left so desperately wants to ban them.
     
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  2. Chuck R.

    Chuck R. Member

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    Everything is a trade off.

    For some applications the lighter, more compact carbine is preferable. HD for example, a walking varmint rig, use in blinds and stands.

    Really when you run the ballistic tables, the shorter barrels do lead to a decrease in MV, but that really only equates to a decrease in effective range. IF 90% of my shots are within 300yds, easily within a 16" barrels range, why carry a heavier (provided same profile), less compact rifle?

    I've gone the same way with big game rifles, my .260Rem and .350RM both wear 20" tubes. I loose at the max 60 FPS from each, using the standard belief of 30FPS per inch, which I really think is too high. When looking at energy and trajectory, I lose about 30-50 yards from the longer barrels. In practical application at normal hunting distances it's insignificant. Both are still capable to 300+ yards, well over the normal distance I shoot animals. For the trade off, I gain a lighter weight, more compact rifle, easier to carry and use in stands, blinds and woods (still hunting & drives).

    Even shooting distance with the shorter tube, it's just a question of an additional click or two to compensate for the lower velocity.
     
  3. Varminterror

    Varminterror Member

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    There’s too much bias to unpack in the original statement to be worth pursuing here.

    @citizenconn - don’t buy a 223/5.56. The rest of us will continue happily finding utility from them.
     
  4. Axis II

    Axis II Member

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    Cause its cheap to shoot and no recoil.
     
  5. Speedo66

    Speedo66 Member

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    American shooters have a love affair with American military cartridges.

    Anything from .45-70 through .30-06, .308, and pistol cartridges like .45 Colt, .45acp, and now 9mm.

    The fact that .223 has light recoil, is relatively inexpensive, and is accurate are all great, but the bottom line is if the military hadn't adapted it we never would have heard of it.
     
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  6. lightman

    lightman Member

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    Over the years whatever cartridge the military used has become popular in the civilian world. The 30-06, the 308 to a lesser degree, the 45 ACP, the 9MM and now the 223/5.56. Its just natural that the 223 is popular.

    The 223 is cheap to shoot, cheap to load for, has low recoil, is available in about any type of rifle. A lot of the guys in my Deer Club have their kids hunting with the 223 and with the correct type of bullet it works well. In my opinion its also makes a nice varmint round. Sure, lots of other cartridges shoot flatter but they also heat up quicker. You can use up a lot of barrel life on a 22-250AI if you get into a big Dog Town. Even the 223 will get hot!
     
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  7. d2wing

    d2wing Member

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    There are so many falsehoods in the original post I would call it trolling. The .5.56/223 is a far more effective round than it is given credit for. For most purposes it is considerably more effective than the 7.62 x 39. You can gain penetration by using another AR round. But you lose overall energy. The only way to gain is to use a case with more capacity like the Grendel. It is more about the bias of people that don't understand how bullets work than any major difference in capability depending on what you hope to accomplish. The .223 or Nato 5.56 is popular for the same reason the military has rejected many many replacement rounds. It works. Sometimes you might want more range and power. To gain enough you need a bigger gun in my opinion.
     
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  8. brmiller

    brmiller Member

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    The only 22s I want to own are my little 10-22 and a Ruger Mk III. They are for practice/fun at the range (cheap too). For everything else I'll stick to my 7.62 x 51s, thanks. :)
     
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  9. dogtown tom

    dogtown tom Member

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    Because in the AR platform, these aren't:;)
    Sure, all may or may not be great cartridges for various reasons, but that does not make for the most popular centerfire rifle cartridge in the USA.
    - 5.56/.223 is great for its intended purpose.
    - sport hunting effectiveness isn't something the military takes into consideration.
    - availability of AR magazines and accessories is second to none.
    - massive popularity means massive ammunition production means lower cost to consumer.
    - It'll put a hole in a piece of paper at a price far cheaper than the cartridges you mentioned.
    - not everyone hunts.
    - Good enough for the US military and every US LE agency means its good enough.
    - every one of the cartridges you listed was supposed to be a "5.56/.223 killer"......they didn't.
     
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  10. .308 Norma

    .308 Norma Member

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    I have not found that to be true. However, the 223 I had put coyotes down every bit as reliably as the 22-250 I use nowadays.
    As a matter of fact, I've said in other posts that the 223 I had was one of the few guns I've traded off that I genuinely regret letting go of. My 223 was one of those stainless Ruger 77s with an ugly (but functional) "boat paddle" synthetic stock. And even though I'm an avid handloader, I never loaded a single round of ammunition for that rifle because factory ammo was readily available, inexpensive, and worked swell for everything I wanted to use it for.
    I did let that rifle go though. I've joked about trading it in on a 22-250 because my wife has a 22-250, and my ego couldn't stand my wife having a faster and more powerful rifle than I had.;) But the truth is, I just wanted a 22-250, and everybody makes mistakes.:oops:
     
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  11. David Hoback

    David Hoback Member

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    Well let’s see, the AR15/M16 & 223/5.56 have been kicking Arse & taking names since 1964(made official in 1967). It’s the longest serving battle rifle in US, & 2nd longest in the world; running being Only England’s Lee Enfield & 303 British cartridge. My father’s unit in the Marines during Vietnam, was one of the last to still be using M14’s & trading up for the M16. He told me of his skepticism when being handed his M16 & 5.56 ammunition. Yet any shred of doubt dismissed in their first firefight with their new mastic, Mattel toys, LOL! My father loved his M16. It did it’s job effectively, was easy to clean & never failed on him. My father served US Marine Corps in Vietnam 69-70.

    As for the cartridge: I’m not sure how much more a round can offer? Any decent AR will fire 50gr. (Or lighter), to 77gr(in the magazine, heavier single loaded), quite effectively. It’s easy & forgiving to reload. I can name like 8 powders off the top of my head, that work very well. No argument for it’s roll as a Varmint round. Many, MANY medium sized game have been taken with it. Defensive purpose against 2-legged critters is unparalleled proven. (Back to military prowess)

    The rifle itself is easy to build, easy to maintain, easy to fix. Even catastrophic failures can be remedied in minutes! And, do we even need to mention cost effectiveness?

    So, while there is no argument that other cartridges exist capable of one or two of these tasks better, I ask, what other cartridge in the AR or any other setup, can boast a more complete resume?

    This is why it continues on my list of “must have calibers” for nearly 2 decades.
     
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  12. mshootnit

    mshootnit Member

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    I still have mine.
     
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  13. redcon1

    redcon1 Member

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    It's cheap to buy, cheap to reload, always available, accurate, well designed for its intended purpose, proven to be effective in it's intended purpose, battle tested, lightweight, well supported by the industry, there's little chance of suddenly not being able to find brass or bullets, and it's easier on the barrel than larger more powerful cartridges.
     
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  14. Keyfer 55

    Keyfer 55 Member

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    Cheep.
     
  15. BreechFace

    BreechFace Member

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    Not worth the effort in explaining.

    If one cannot see the benefits with a simple study of ballistics, economies of scale, reliable and accurate platforms chambered in it, aftermarket support, load-out weight advantages, load data, and proven reports over 40+ years of service (minus teething pains of the Vietnam War) then I don't know what to tell a person to convince them otherwise.

    And if they keep asking the question that is answered in their minds....what does that make them?
     
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  16. .308 Norma

    .308 Norma Member

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    Now you went and made me envious, darn it!:D
     
  17. mshootnit

    mshootnit Member

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    Well it was a gift from my dad, and some things are not for selling.
     
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  18. film495

    film495 Member

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    cause it is easy to learn to shoot and cheap and common, and one can carry quite a few rounds on their person. I don't think most people are interested in learning anything more than the basics, and learning a standard rifle firing a standard cartrige, maybe "the standard" .223 in an AR, all most need or want to know.
     
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  19. Mosin77

    Mosin77 Member

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    I think for practical purposes (pest control and even deer with good shot placement) the .223 does fine. Who actually takes shots longer than a few hundred yards? Sure some people do, or want to shoot at longer range recreationally, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. And for self defense or military use, again, realistic engagement distance especially in a civilian context is going to be well within that performance envelope. Add in that it’s comparatively very affordable, low recoil, and readily available in bulk, and you have a recipe for success. For bump in the night duty I’d rather have a .50 Beowulf out of a suppressed SBR, for hunting I’d rather have something with a bigger diameter. But .223 isn’t a bad choice by any means.
     
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  20. Nature Boy
    • Contributing Member

    Nature Boy Contributing Member

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    1. Accurate
    2. Economical
    3. Pleasant to shoot
     
  21. 35 Whelen
    • Contributing Member

    35 Whelen Contributing Member

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    WAY too much emotion and sentimentalism attached to the cartridge in question.

    A cartridge is only as "effective" or as "devastating" as the bullet it fires, (Really, cartridges in and of themselves are neither effective, nor ineffective. They're just a means by which to launch a bullet) and comparing the potency of an unnamed .224" bullet to an unnamed .310" bullet makes no sense at all. Anyone who has killed and butchered even a modicum of game at all will tell you that generally speaking, larger bullets are more effective than their smaller counterparts due to their greater diameter and weight. While little .22 caliber bullets travelling at relatively high velocities may create "devastating" wounds, they lack woefully in penetration, and penetration trumps a large shallow wound all day, every day. Before the breathless infatuation with the AR platform manifest itself via video games and internet forums, the .223 Remington was considered a medium range varmint round with roughly a 35-40 yd. advantage over other rounds such as the .222 Remington and lagging slightly behind the .222 Remington Magnum. But the lust for the platform has people shoe horning the cartridge into rolls for which it really isn't well suited. In order for .22 caliber bullets to be effective on medium game such as hog an deer, one must use specialized bullets where the 7.62x39, with its larger frontal area and greater sectional density when compared to a .224" 55 gr. bullet, will work fine with most any softpoint.

    So, love .223/5.56 all you want, but try to be realistic.

    35W
     
  22. ECVMatt
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    ECVMatt Contributing Member

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    When I was younger I spent a good amount of time on a big ranch in N. Texas. The owner wanted us to kill all the pigs and other varmints on sight. The original plan was to pay us for our ammo. I had a 6mm Remington and my buddy, the foreman, had about 30 different calibers. The first time the owner stopped by and had to pay the bill at the local store he put a stop to that immediately. He told us if we bought .223's he would give us all the ammo we could shoot. My buddy picked up a 700 BLD and I picked up Ruger MKII. The owner would drop off a 1000 rounds of 55 FMJ at a time. To say we went on a spree is an understatement. Like others have said, from prairie dogs to pigs it just plain works. I still keep a couple of bolt action .223's around and have a few AR's as well. I am confident that if I get a good hit it will work.
     
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  23. redcon1

    redcon1 Member

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    Let's look at it this way:
    At 500 yards, a Hornady 7.62x39 firing a 123 gr SST drops 104" and has 46" of lateral drift in a 90° 10 mph crosswind.
    At 500 yards, a Hornady 5.56x45 firing a 55 gr VMAX drops 53" and has 35" of lateral drift in a 90° 10 mph crosswind.
    The 7.62x39 will always carry slightly to moderately more energy but it is less likely to hit the target, especially at longer ranges with a crosswind blowing.
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  24. Mosin Bubba

    Mosin Bubba Member

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    The big selling point is being cheap. If 6.5 Grendel was 30 cents per round (in the Days Before) and 223 was a $1/round niche varmint cartridge, you'd have people singing the praises of the Grendel. "It's heavy enough to be efficient in a carbine, but aerodynamic enough to shoot at long range!" "It takes deer and pigs no problem!" Etc.

    I really don't care for the 223 in a 16" carbine, it's loud and the minimum-length barrel starts costing it the speed that sets it apart. But it's cheap so I keep buying it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2022
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  25. Madcap_Magician

    Madcap_Magician Member

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    I really don't understand what's confusing about it myself. Even the most common alternative chamberings are substantially more costly. So naturally since it is the primary chambering for the AR-15, the NATO standard caliber, and ammunition is relatively cheap for centerfire rifle calibers and widely available, most people will use it in the AR-15 unless they have cash to burn and are seeking out a specific niche usage for their AR-15 at which the 5.56 NATO isn't ideal. But how many people are doing that versus range plinking, varmint hunting, and home self-defense? There's the answer. For every guy who got an AR-15 in .300 BLK as a suppressor platform or in .450 Bushmaster to hunt big game, there's probably twenty guys who got one in 5.56 NATO to shoot paper at the range and defend their house if they need to do so.
     
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