Weapons: Plain Talk About 5.56mm Versus 7.62mm


February5, 2007: The debate over the merits of  7.62mm versus 5.56mm bullets has been going on since the M-16 was introduced in the 1960s. While each side has its proponents, only the "slow and heavy" crowd gets anything published, since only opposing the establishment is news. But there are plenty of supporters for the 5.56mm round. Many of them are in the US Army, and serving in combat.

Most of the complaints come from people who just like the larger (US or Russian) round, and their preference is more visceral than logical (as it is with many supporters of 5.56mm). The fact remains that soldiers would be able to  carry fewer of the larger, 7.62mm,  rounds. This is not a popular option among troops in the combat zone.  Those combat troops  know how to aim properly and take down the target, and find that the 5.56mm round does the job.

When a 5.56mm round hits one of those "slender" targets "that keep coming", what nobody mentions is that the serious wound (the idea that they cause little damage is incorrect) means that the target is probably going to bleed out in not too long (unless he gets treatment from a medic, which takes him out of the fight). This is because the 5.56mm round is a "tumbler" and will "tumble" at very high velocity. This causes enormous flesh and organ damage. Any bullet that hits the skeleton is going to knock the target down, but the 5.56mm causes more damage against soft tissue than the 7.62mm bullets. Troops have long been taught to aim at the torso or head. This is the sure way to take someone down with either round. Video footage of 5.56mm impacts is quite impressive. Nose around the net and you will find these videos. 

Regardless, the old question is, does a soldier really want to sacrifice the superior range and accuracy of the 5.56mm for the high caliber and low velocity AK-47 round, or the smaller quantity of heavier US 7.62mm rounds? For many, the answer is no. And further, being deeply engaged in a war is not the greatest of times to change weapon systems (especially in a modern age).

To sum it up, those who get hit by the 5.56mm and keep coming, aren't going to keep coming for long, and are easily taken down by the next round. One thing that the military is teaching now is that you don't just double tap, you keep firing until he goes down. I don't care if he's Navy SEAL, by round three, he's going down -- that I promise)--Staff Sergeant Sledge, currently in Baghdad