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Subject: The truth about the 5.56mm round
TriggaFingaz    1/24/2004 1:51:19 PM
To all infantrymen and gunusers out there , tell me this: is the 5.56x45mm round an effective round or is it so weak that you need more than one shot to drop a man? Some books say that it is absolutely lethal, able to stop one's heart owing to sheer velocity. Other accounts claim that enemy soldiers hit with this round continue charging. Some books claim it will tumble and dig multiple wound channels in the body, detractors claim it drills straight though people but yet has poor anti-material penetration. Which is more accurate? Please specify whether you used M193 or M855 'green tips'.
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Horsesoldier    RE:The truth about the 5.56mm round   1/24/2004 3:26:53 PM
There's been tons written on various discussion threads about this topic, and mountains more available online. The short version of the story (though I'm sure some will argue otherwise) is that 5.56mm is a highly effective killing round *when it strikes a target at sufficient speed to induce fragmentation.* That's the "multiple wound channels" stuff you're talking about. M193 is said by many to be a better round, in terms of fragmenting, but SS109 will also fragment and will more reliably penetrate body armor. If 5.56mm hits at speeds too low to ensure fragmentation (required speed varies by type of round -- a short search via Google should give hard numbers), it is basically a .22 round drilled into and perhaps through a target. In this case, lethality depends on hitting something vital like major arteries, brain/spine, lung(s) etc. The round is basically a trade off, sacrificing weight to allow more ammunition carried vis a vis full-caliber battle rifle cartridges like .30-06, 7.62x51mm (a rather modest reduction of .30-06 dimensions, and no reduction in ballistic performance), etc. There are lots of people out there these days who are wondering if perhaps we need to adjust the trade off back towards weight/power a bit, with calls for various 6-7mm rounds being floated, with 6.5mm and 6.8mm (if I am not mistaken) currently being looked at with some seriousness by folks in the US military. I personally am of the opinion that some dissatisfaction with 5.56mm stems from unrealistic expectations among troops that one hit will equal one kill, which is not a very defensable premise with any practical infantry rifle round. Somewhere between television/movies, where even ridiculously underpowered pistol rounds put down bad guys (but not the heroes) with the surety one would expect of an elephant gun and rifle qualification ranges where one hit is depicted as doing the job, your typical 18 year old private absorbs the notion that if he can put 60 (or 120) or so grains of lead and copper into a target, it will drop. Until troops get themselves into combat (barring some educational outside experience like big game hunting), they carry this belief, and then suddenly and bitterly complain that their bullets don't do the job.
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Scorpene    RE:The truth about the 5.56mm round   1/29/2004 6:12:20 PM
Like Horsesoldier said-- hunters know better than to bet the farm on one shot stops. We have seen plenty of animals keep going after being hit by the round that should have, by rights, taken them off their feet and kept them there. If you look on a game weight chart, the 5.56mm (223 Remington, there) is varmint-game weight rated, and is good for seventy pound game at one hundred yards. In many US states, you can't hunt deer with it-- it's considered too light. Put some 5.56 tracers through some trees or other brush, and you'll see them deflect when they hit the stuff. It is a trade-off. In order to get the two most common 5.56 rounds to work at their best-- that is, 55 grain M193 and 62 grain M855/SS109, you need to push them out so they hit their targets with about (and I am pulling the figure out from memory here) 2800 feet per second velocity. This translates roughly to a distance of seventy yards out of a sixteen inch barrel and two hundred and fifty out of a twenty. At that speed, the bullet will keyhole and bust apart inside the body of a target. Lower than that speed, and it doesn't happen. Result-- less stopping effectiveness. This is the main reason that I am boycotting Toys 'R Us, for selling the US the M8 carbine. If you look at the barrels, you see only two of them will be suitable ballistically to handle the round. This is also why the whole current hoopla over the rounds is going on, because the people who noted the problems were using M-4 carbines with 16-inch barrels, and at over seventy yards the rounds didn't have enough ass to take down the bad guys. One other thing I should mention is hard cover performance. One thing that the AK-47 and it's 123 grain M-43 pill does so well is chew through the stuff on a battlefield that targets tend to get behind-- trees, walls, car doors, etc.. The weight of the bullet causes it to get through whereas 5.56 and 5.45 tend to break up or stop on these mediums. This is a different parameter than body armor penetration, because we're not talking about getting through one layer of this or that. This is one thing that the 7.62X39 does really, really well-- and it's the reason why the round will stay viable on the battlefields even though it is outclassed on paper by various 5.56 or near grade rounds.
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wagner95696    RE:The truth about the 5.56mm round   2/23/2004 11:24:04 PM
HorseSoldier is correct about the problem being primarily one of unrealistic expectations. Too many people have 'learned' about guns from second rate movies. The problem is that much [most?] of what they have learned is incorrect. As hunters, at least American hunters, have gone from 'standard' cartridges like the 33-30, 308, etc. to super magnum calibers we have learned one thing. The kill rate has not increased. More powerful, flatter shooting rounds may slightly increase the effective range at which hits can be made but the percentage of kills and the rapidity of death really have not increased, at least not for the last 100 years. NOTHING works, instantly or otherwise, all the time. In past wars enemy have walked away from hits by .45 ACP, .303, 8mm Mauser, 30-06 and even 50 BMG and 20mm. A hit to a non lethal area is a non-lethal hit no matter what gun one is using. A hit to the brain or spinal cord is a show stopper, no matter what is being used. Anywhere else an inch one way or the other makes all the difference between a quick stop and eventual recovery. Combat is imprecise. If we are going to be realistic we must learn to accept that. In the last century there has not been a service rifle caliber cartridge used by any nation so inherently inferior in performance against personnel that its use had made the difference between victory or defeat. The qualities of the weapons themselves and the soldiers who use them is of ordinately greater significance that the caliber itself.
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Final Historian    RE:The truth about the 5.56mm round   2/26/2004 3:19:30 PM
I beg to differ on the 50 cal and 20 mm rounds though. Those are so big that flesh wounds are nearly impossible. Unless you get grazed, those rounds are almost certainly going to cause a mobility kill(incapacity), or more likely, a fatal wound.
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Rubicon    RE:The truth about the 5.56mm round   2/26/2004 4:03:48 PM
5.56 count just does not cut it. Read up on the Banana wars, that's where .45cal colt came from, also note that most sniper weapons, a.k.a one shot one kill ones use 7.62 round. I recommend reading up on Somalia, especially the "Blackhawk" incident, so you get a clearer picture.
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AJ101    RE:The truth about the 5.56mm round   2/28/2004 8:43:17 AM
Sniper rifles use larger calibres due to accuracy at range rather than stopping power at 300m. I don't think there's a need to change the 5.56mm as the NATO standard rifle round but it does help if you have one or preferably two designated marksmen in each platoon with 7.62mm chambered rifles for longer range engagements and shooting through material that a 5.56mm won’t get through. There's been a move among a sizeable (although certainly not majority) of western snipers moving to .50 rounds for anti personnel when previously they were used pretty much solely for anti material. This isn't because a 7.62mm round doesn't kill at 800m it's because it's limited at 1500m.
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Horsesoldier    RE:The truth about the 5.56mm round   2/28/2004 10:13:36 AM
>>Read up on the Banana wars, that's where .45cal colt came from,<< The .45ACP round got its start when .38 caliber Army service revolvers failed to pass muster in combat against the Moros in the Philipines. The forty-five was an improvement for the situations being faced in that operating environment -- but a 12 gauge shotgun would have been superior than either pistol. Relying on a side arm on a battlefield has never been a particularly good idea, if there is any chance you might have to actually defend yourself with it. >>also note that most sniper weapons, a.k.a one shot one kill ones use 7.62 round.<< "One shot one kill" has very little to do with the choice of round -- well trained snipers can place rounds reliably enough that they are not specifically looking for extra kinetic energy (i.e. Chechen and Russian snipers using .22LR suppressed sniper rifles for urban shooting and relying on face shots to kill or incapacitate). They are looking for extra range -- 5.56mm doesn't have the same legs as 7.62mm. Also, as I noted, 5.56mm was adopted to increase the amount of ammunition troops can carry, and trades bullet and overall round weight to accomplish this. If your mission parameters call for you to fire one, ten, or even twenty rounds, why outfit yourself with a round designed to allow you to carry a large ammunition load? Sniper rifles, like service rifles, make certain trade offs to accomplish their mission -- but they make different ones than you need for a service rifle, since your typical sniper is not concerned with things like high-volume of fire suppressive work, etc. >>I recommend reading up on Somalia, especially the "Blackhawk" incident, so you get a clearer picture << The firefight in Mogadishu proves my earlier point -- we are sending riflemen and other combat troops (and non-combat troops for that matter) onto the battlefield with unrealistic expectations (formed down at the instinctive/muscle memory sort of level) of what close combat is actually like. Whatever weapon and round you are using, when the enemy at close range and trying to come closer, you shoot him until he is dead or down. "Target up, target hit, target down" training ranges do not realistically train troops to employ 5.56mm or 7.62mm rifles. You'll note in Bowden's book, if I recall correctly, that he cites Rangers complaining about lethality of the SS109 'green tip' round. My recollection is that he did not note any Delta operators voicing similar complaints -- and they were using shorter barreled members of the M16 family, with limited fragmentation ranges. I'm inclined to suspect this reflects greater training -- both in terms of CQB training for shot placement, but also basic techniques like "two in the chest, one in the head" to ensure that an enemy at point blank range is out of the game. Also, how do you think events would have turned out if basic load for the troops on the ground was 4+1 20 round magazines of 7.62mm, stretched out over a day long fire fight, versus 6+1 30 round magazines of 5.56mm? I'm sure actual ammunition loads carried exceeded this, but you simply cannot carry as much 7.62mm as you can 5.56mm.
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TriggaFingaz    5.56mm round: it has to work- if in the right places   3/2/2004 3:20:26 PM
The 5.56mm has to be of some good- or else it would not have been adopted so widely in the western world and its Asian friends like S'pore, Indonesia and Malaysia who use 5.56mm weapons. Does the M855 green tip round offer better penetration against a vest with ceramic place than the 7.62x39 AK round? After all I heard that the AK round which is heavier is better at going through wood and concrete, the kind of material improvised bunkers are made of.
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Worcester    RE:5.56mm round: it has to work- if in the right places   3/2/2004 4:15:28 PM
SS109 does penetrate better than 193 and theoretically better than the 7.62x39 but that's just the theory. None will penetrate a sand-bag or a tree or a brick wall. To fragment properly for maximum damage, the SS109 round needs 2800 feet per second velocity; with a 21" barrel this is out to 200m range; with 16" this is 70m range. As said elsewhere, part of the problem is unrealistic expectations. Part is the doctrine that a wounded enemy is better than a dead one - it takes two to carry him away - which with the lower weight carry was used to justify "varmint" ammunition. It was also expected that in a full scale war, with arty etc., no-one would really notice. Now we're back in the world of infantry vs. infantry and everyone notices. What does it matter if you can carry and fire more 5.56mm if none of it will penetrate? Mogadishu was a perfect example of needing a lot of 7.62mm as well as the 5.56mm; it's why WW2 urban fighting was fought with both Tommy guns AND rifles - using 5.56 for both jobs in open country may be acceptable, but in a town it is wrong. As a user of 5.56 and 7.62 - and making allowance for my increasing age! - I would have had a 7.62 in Mogadishu: M-14, G-3, or my all-time favorite, the FN FAL. No need to worry about seeing all the target, just "double tap" the wall where the body should be and, no more target! In suppressive fire, a few single 7.62 rounds drilling straight through the walls has more effect on concentrating the minds of the opposition than a greater quantity of 5.56mm which tends to ricochet everywhere. When 7.62 is being used accurately, everyone is on the deck! 7.62 punch means you aim more, you use less and as for weight, I used to hump 250+ rounds regularly with no problem.
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PredatorDrone    RE:The truth about the 5.56mm round, DELTA complaints and Somalia   3/2/2004 5:39:00 PM
On page 208 of Bowden's "Black Hawk Down" you will find Delta Sgt Howe's musings on the ineffectiveness of the 5.56 mm green tip vs Delta Sgt Shughart's 7.62 mm. Of course, in the same book you will find the claim (on page 44) that an elderly Somali took perhaps a dozen 7.62 slap rounds, "...retrieved his weapon, and even got off a shot or two".
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