In defense of the 5.56mm NATO round

I recently blogged about Tony Williams’ presentation at the NDIA Conference in which he argued that that NATO needs a new rifle and machine gun round. Directly after his presentation Per G. Arvidsson, Chairman of the NATO Weapons & Sensors Working Group, gave a presentation in defense of the 5.56mm NATO round [PDF Link].

I don’t agree with Mr Arvidsson’s conclusions but I do think his presentation slides are worth looking at. They contain some very interesting graphs.

Breakdown of factors influencing inaccuracy.
M4 vs. M16

[ Many thanks to Owen for posting a link to the presentation in the comments. ]

I have embedded the presentation below …

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Burst

    This should set off flags to anyone capable of critical thinking.
    *First off, the comparison is to other NATO-std rounds only, none of them proposed as an alternative for an AR platform.
    *”There are no official documents that 5.56 has failed in any NATO army”
    I’m SURE that includes possible failure and after-action reports.
    *Most NATO nations (or at least anonymous sources in them) agree that we will continue to manufacture weapons using current ammo. Ya think?
    *Striking velocity: “only a 50m difference!” but what happens in those 50m?
    *Use of .50 against LR soft targets may not be a warcrime, but it’s hardly a solution. Somehow, not all soldiers are within sprinting distance of an M2 at all times. Similarly, enemies that aren’t complete morons try to disable the HMGs (and the large targets they’re sittting on) first.

    Contrast Larry Vickers’ earlier slideshow, wherein he makes actual POINTS.

  • AKβ„’

    Training..I agree that Armies of any Nation need more of it..especially marksmanship..and not just static range training either.

    I was fortunate enough to be born in a “red” state(Republican) and my parents(and by extension grandparents because my parents had to learn from someone) were shooters. I got my start on a vintage Winchester Model 69 .22LR.

    Before Tony comes in,I’ll beat him to the punch..
    Bullpups and Optics..and a new round..


  • Simon_The_Brit

    **If nations want to engage targets at long range, then it’s not about rifle calibre, projectile or barrel length, it is about training**

    I disagree, you can train as much as you like but if the weapon/calibre you have isn’t accurate or effective at long range, extra training isn’t going to make any difference.

  • SpudGun

    There seem to be a lot of ‘In defense’ articles popping up lately surrounding the M4 and the 5.56 round. Sources are springing out of the woodwork all over the place saying it’s the best rifle / caliber combination ever.

    Meanwhile, every manufacturer and his brother are churning out piston driven rifles in 6.5, 6.8 and 7.62 by the truckload.

    To be fair, they’re also churning out 5.56 rifles in the hope of winning military contracts – look how well the recent SCAR project went…oops wait.

    Is the 5.56 a lethal round? Yes, definitely. Can it engage targets beyond 800m? Yes, definitely. Do the vast majority of snipers, target shooters, hunters, etc. use 5.56 for accurate shot placement above 800m? No.

    Finally, wouldn’t Aavidsson’s advice about training, training and more training be the perfect mantra for adopting a new weapon’s system? After all, the ‘logic’ at the moment is to keep the M4 because the soldier already knows how to use it and doesn’t need extra training.

  • subase

    I too object to a few things.

    – Way too many exclamation marks!
    – Velocity isn’t the problem, bullets failing to fragment within the body with the M4 is. Reports of little stopping power are too numerous to ignore.
    – Shot placement under combat condition is extremely difficult, just aiming to hit people is hard enough as it is. Centre of mass is realistic. Special forces probably already know and train like this. A good idea for CQB training.
    – Lethality isn’t the problem, manstopping power is and the current 5.56 round out of the M4 is wanting. Nobody cares about shooting through metal plates, cars are no barriers and our impoverished enemies don’t wear armor.
    – 50 bmg was a stop gap, it’s too heavy, being replaced by the .338 Lapua Magnum.

    Saying that I would agree with their main theory and practically all their points. That the 5.56 is (barely) adequate and soldiers instead need better training to actually hit opponents. For Special forces though I think the 5.56mm is inadequate, too little stopping power at the very close ranges they fight at, maybe that’s changed with the new ammo.

    Designated marksmen will definitely have an advantage with a round with less recoil than the 7.62. Similar ballistics to a usable range but with less recoil and less weight, meaning more bullets and more chances to hit your enemy.

    Perhaps a phazing out of the 7.62 replaced instead by the .338 Lapua Magnum in sniper roles and the 6.8 for the heavy machine gun and designated marksmen roles. This creates less overlap since the ballistics are too close in regards to the 5.56 and 7.62 at those ranges, when you take into account the major weight and recoil differences between the two rounds. The only advantage I see for the 7.62 is barrier penetration but that’s not a sufficient enough advantage over the Grendel and 6.8 rounds. Also shooting at the enemy behind cover needs by definition more bullets to work.

  • Sian

    @Burst do you have a link to Larry’s presentation or slideshow? I’m having trouble finding it.

  • Trent

    I don’t have a strong opinion either way about the 5.56 NATO round, but I can clearly see that this presenter’s motivation was to defend his position, not to make a fair evaluation of the facts. This is made clear when he answers “NO!” to the question of whether the 5.56 is ineffective on the second slide, before presenting any information at all. He wanted to bias the audience towards his way of thinking from the beginning.

    This person seems to be arguing that the 5.56 has no disadvantages at all when compared to the 7.62×51 NATO. If he believes 5.56 has equal wounding characteristics and superior ballistic characteristics, why isn’t he arguing for the elimination of the heavier, slower 7.62 round?

    Oh wait, it’s because he’s carefully tailoring his arguments to meet a pre-conceived conclusion. Lying with a few stats and a lot of hearsay (or more like didn’t-hear-say).

    He should compare the performance of 5.56 NATO from 14.5 and 20-inch barrels, 6.5 Grendel/6.8 SPC out of similar barrels, and 7.62 out of typical 20ish inch barrels.

    Instead, he compares 5.56 out of 14.5 and 20 inch barrels while leaving the other examples out. He never compares 5.56 NATO to 7.62 when 7.62 would look better, but cherry-picks examples to make them look the same, or 5.56 to look better. For example, he shows 7.62 NATO flight paths to the same target being inferior to 5.56 NATO, while leaving out that most 7.62 weapons have magnifying optics allowing adjustment for such factors and that 5.56 weapons often have only 1x optics, making the same shot harder or impossible. He also leaves out that at long ranges, 5.56 doesn’t have much more impact power than a 9mm handgun at 50 yds.

    Very intellectually dishonest argumentation here. I hope somebody tore him up in questioning. But I doubt it.

  • Middle Man

    One theme from the presentation that cannot be underplayed in all the caliber debating is the old saw: “it’s the Indian not the arrow”. No matter what caliber, no matter what rifle, unless the guy pulling the trigger can make a hit all the number crunching in the universe is not going to amount a hill of beans in Arkansas. Alas, the half century’s worth of debate continues while the decision makers and budget controllers ignore most tenets of marksmanship beyond the basic 300m square range.

  • I saw that presentation and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He’d just been listening to several presenters in the US forces stating that (a) the 5.56mm SS019/M855 NATO loading had so many problems that both the USMC and the USArmy were rushing their replacement loadings into theatre, and that (b) everyone was extremely happy to get hold of 7.62mm weapons and wanted more, because they were so much better than 5.56mm at long range. He’d also just listened to me recounting the British Army’s experience, which closely matched that of US forces. And then he claims that there are no problems at all with 5.56mm NATO.

    I heard a lot of impolite comments about his views afterwards – one of them to his face.

  • zak

    My major problem with this presentation is that that the graphs have been made up to prove the speakers point. Only two of the graphs, the penetration ranges and first error budget graph include ranges further than 300m. And trying to prove that the 5.56 is effective at long ranges doesn’t work when you graph only shows short ranges. Mr. Arvidsson managed to show that at short ranges there is little difference between a 14.5in barreled M4, 20in M16 and a rifle using a 7.62, but he also managed to hide the difference between them at long ranges. Of course, Mr. Arvidsson would likely counter these issues with the assumption that most combat takes place at ranges under 300m; which could be considered valid, if this was still the year 2000 and several years fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan hadn’t shown otherwise.

    And while training is good, actual use in combat is better, and I doubt that very few of the 500 Swedish soldiers (mostly support types) in Afghanistan have actually seen any combat and thus are not qualified to say if their rifles are combat effective.

  • Bram

    What a load of sh*t. So when I looked out the top of my sand bunked at Iraqi troops and vehicles 800 meters away, looked at my 5.56 jammomatic poodle shooter and thought – damn I wish I had an M-14 (or even a Garand or Springfield), that was bad training? I thought it was realism.

  • You make some interesting points I enjoyed reading your blog. Personally I prefer the 7.62 however that said I served during the phasing out of the old reliable M1 Gerard 30-06 no question about stopping power there

  • Does that indicate the average soldier in a kneeling position will be off by an average of 40cm at 100m? That doesn’t sound right. What am I missing?

  • Ivan

    Of course, it looks great on paper… on paper. But I’m sure every one soldier in firefight thinking that his rifle is too weak! They want a lots of tanks and bombers falling on the heads of enemy and 120mm cannon in hands without recoil with endless ammo. And I want too, because it safety for my ass. Searching universal combined arms is always searching for compromise. 5.56 is good round, for suitable conditions(close and middle ranges), but I don’t think that there are many soldiers able to hit the target on 500m in rush of combat(and bullet keep enough energy), for this functions there is marksman with 7.62(hello M14, M110 and SCAR-H!). I think 5.56 can be much better with more massive bullet(5-6g) and near the same velocity.
    But in long perspective 5.56 have no future, if the something of LSAT program will turn in real gun, will be a new round.
    Ha-Ha! New patent!

  • * Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to reject any “facts” in a bulleted list where each item ends with an exclamation point!


    Seriously, though, anytime you over-use exclamation points that way, it makes me think you’re doing it to draw attention away from the weakness of your argument.

    As is the case here.

  • Ryan

    I was going to say that this is a pretty weak response to Mr. Williams presentation. We all know that the 7.62 is not best round for a light carbine. Yes we know it is heavier then the 5.56 and the wider projectile makes it lose energy faster the longer it is in flight.
    However, I think we can do better then both of these if we start fresh.

  • Ken

    Internet rumors? Really? I believe more than 1 actual article has been done on 5.56 performance against cover and targets. Rumors…LOL. πŸ™‚

  • Redchrome

    Which Larry Vickers document are you referring to?

    Indeed, the article makes *some* good points; but does gloss over some other possible criticisms.

  • Big Daddy

    I always wonder why official documents coming from the government and the military differ so much then what is heard from the mouths of the people who actually do the work.

    I also question NATO in it’s effectiveness as a fighting entity other then the British and American elements. For instance the reports I have read about the German effort in Afghanistan and the Italian in Iraq have not been positive.

  • Obummer

    If anyone has read Marcus Luttrell’s book, Lone Survivor, one would surmise that the SEALs of Operation Red Wing were probably glad that they were able to carry so much ammunition. The advantage of the 5.56 is that you can carry alot of it.

  • Nathan

    I have no idea what the first slide means so will give its creates the benefit of the doubt and assume that it makes sense in the context of its presentation.

    The second slide is indicative of authors who do not know what they are talking about. it is not a 50m difference, it is 50 m/s. This might seem like a minor typo but anyone with even passing familiarity with scientific methodology would pay very close attention to not doing something like that.

    50 m/s is also not that small at 300 m, it represents almost a 10% velocity/momentum difference and a bit more than that of an energy difference.

    That being said, even if 50m/s is an acceptably small difference I have no idea what this tells us about 5.56 NATO suitability vs other rounds.

  • Lance

    For the only time in history I agree with the Belgians at NATO! There is place for men with 7.62mm weapon and place in the squad for 5.56mm weapons both have there place. And prove again we wont be going to 6.5 or 6.8 any time soon. A squad with rifleman with M-16s and a few with M-14 DMR and 7.62mm GPMGs is the best match ever. It also shows that M-16s with 20inch barrels are better than a 14.5inch barrel carbine too. Army should reissue M-16 for Afghanistan.

    Interesting upgrade the Belgian Army is making to there FNCs new stock and 1913 rail for-end.

  • Hobbnob

    well my point of view is this: British forces changed from the battle rifle to a smaller caliber because they found in WW2 that most contacts were under 300m. Nowadays, I feel that a battle rifle is necessary because most engagements are well above this. Please tell me if i am wrong, that’s just my opinion on the little information I have.

  • ZomBkiller

    And we love using exclamation points after every sentance no matter how mundane it may be!

  • Thomas

    This “defense” completely ignores the “problem” with the 5.56mm NATO round; it is engineered to be effect within 300m. It may be, to be charitable, a medium range round and is actually a short range rifle round. It is adequate, inside 300m, for use against soft targets. Unfortunately, not all engagements occur within 300m and designated marksmen and HMG’s are not the answer. A military force will target long range weapons, if possible. And, if the military force is composed of relatively competent soldiers armed with weapons with an effective range of 500m to 800m, it has a distinct advantage over a similar force armed with weapons having an effective range only half as great as theirs. The British learned this disturbing fact during the American Revolutionary War.

    The terrible truth is that there is little that can be done to improve the effectiveness of the 5.56mm NATO round. It is what it is; a round having a 300m effective range.

  • Burst

    Sorry guys, I meant the Tony Williams one Steve linked to.
    Certainly Vickers has been less then forgiving of the 5.56s faults, but doesn’t deserve to be misrepresented. Whoops.

    If you haven’t read Williams presentation, do so, because the contrast between it and this one could not be more distinct.

  • jdun1911

    I want to add two points.

    Windage is the hardest part to determine. It is what get the best shooters in the world. If these people are having problems with wind, 17 years kid out of high school with no experience in firearms will have a full day with it. And unlike high level competitions there is no wind markers on the battle field.

    The report miss one very important part when it comes to long range shooting in combat situation.

    This video show a SWAT sniper competition.

    Notice in the video they are running with their rifle and gear and later on around a silly poll. Do you what this is called? That’s right physical activity. Do you know what happen when the guy look through his scope? That’s right his sight picture is screwed up because his body is in a state of flux. He have to mentally take control of his body to claim it down.

    The guy in the video carried less weight then a typical combat troop. His physical activity in the competition is nothing compare to combat. And don’t forget the massive adrenalin dump that will incur in stressful situations.

    The old saying that “hit counts and the rest is bullshit” is still true today. Giving a bigger caliber doesn’t not make them better shooters. All you adding is more weight.

    If you have a place that allows you to do physical activity in a shooting environment. I highly suggest you take full advantage of it. It will improve your knowledge and shooting ability as well as good exercise.

  • jdun1911


    Great book. People should read it.

    The problem I have with the 7.62 vs 5.56 debat is that people think it is a black and white issue. This is cause by the lack of experiences and training or in most cases here none at all.

  • The presenter seems to assume that soldiers are ALWAYS able to hit vital organs in combat. It’s absolutely ridiclous to say a 5.56×45 is just as lethal as a 7.62×51.

  • Don

    Well said jdun1911.

    That said, research suggests that in the next 10-15 years most engagements will be centered around urban areas and population centres. 7.62 is not an ideal round for those sort of engagements.

    It’s all about the power-to-weight ratios, more power =/= better.

  • Martin

    Exclamation points make statements extra super true!!!

    Does Mr Arvidsson write speeches for Joe Biden?

    On a more serious note, there isn’t anything wrong with 5.56 when it’s used properly, and it’s only used properly in the sub-500m realm. Anything over that can be done, but only with decent optics. 5.56 has it’s place, as does 7.62 and 50BMG.

    Obummer. SEALs carry A LOT of ammunition because it’s part of their operational doctrine. When they make contact with a superior force, they drill at throwing out a continuous stream of fire as they withdraw. It’s a tactic to put the enemy on their heels so they may escape.

    Developing a 6.x round is a waste of time and money. Any such round will be a compromise between 5.56 and 7.62. In then end, the same problems will remain. Ultimately they will complain that it’s overpowered for urban combat, and isn’t as good at long range as 338mag.

    Even if you change all the carbines/rifles/LMGs to 6.x, then all the DMs/MMGs should be 388mag to follow suit. The only result of pursuing a wonder bullet will be wondering why you did it in the first place.

    I still don’t understand the hostility against 7.62.

  • Sian

    @Martin The only problem I see with the 7.62 is that it’s a 57 year old design that was basically an adaptation of 30-06 to automatic rifles, and it doesn’t have the long-range ballistic performance of a modern design, and is a bit heavier than it needs to be with modern needs. A 7mm round designed from scratch today could do everything the 308 does, better and at longer range. The matter is, it’s not yet worth doing that redesign, because it still works just fine for what we ask it to do!

  • Lance

    Im seeing alot of M-4 and 5.56 haters crying at this article. But they seem to forget that its not JUST mony why the military dropped alot of the M-4 replacement programs and there updateing both the 5.56 and the M-4 there is not URGENT failer of the gun needing a fast replacement like there was in the USMC at the start of WW2 (M-1903 vs M-1). The M-4 is doing fine in its job 90% of solders agree and this whining from ar chair worriers news caster and nasty politicans is mostly due to predudece in favor of FN or Remington for gun who shoot the same round at the same balistics. Like what happend to the SCAR L it was dropped its SOOOOO Ilogical to goto a crappy all plastic gun and say its sooo much better because it has more plastic and looks futuristic. I hope this crap will be dropped by the media soon. Since change isnt going to happen soon.

    .223 is fine for CQB as long as you have decent HP or SP ammo.

  • jdun1911


    I think a lot of people does not understand how weight play into combat effectiveness because the majority of their shooting time is like this video:

    Nothing wrong with it but modern combat is not like that right?

    I can’t imagine how much damage these kids carrying over 70lbs of weight do to their body. I can’t imagine how much damage they are doing to their knees running full speed (slow motion if you called it running) dodging gun fires while carrying over 70lbs of weight. I can’t imagine how much damage their backs are taking. Can you imagine slipping while running at full speed carrying 70lbs of weight in a firefight?

    You got a lot people advocating these kids to carry more weight for what? A crack pop idea that bigger caliber = better hit ratio in combat at long range. That might be true if it were mainly static warfare (i.e trench) but we all know modern warfare is mostly dynamic. Modern warfare require lots of physical activities right?

    The primary concern is weight IMO and not larger calibers. Weight decrease combat effectiveness more than anything esle.

  • Tod

    An interesting note I found on a discussion about this on is that the European powers specifically do not use fragmenting rounds which makes accuracy significantly more important for them.

    Anyone here know anything about that?

  • Timmeehh

    Of all the previous comments Only SUBASE mentioned fragmentation. The accepted minimum velocity for 5.56 to fragment reliably is 2700 fps or 823 mps it is also known that 5.56 will NOT fragment below 2500 fps or 762 mps. Look at the graph above, even using the lower number, 5.56 is not effective beyond 150 m!

    Anyone who says that 5.56 is an effective long range man stopper is talking rubbish.

  • TheAmdMAN

    Ok, I’ve caught a few people here stating 5.56 is effective past 300m but then complaining the optics the military installs on 5.56 weapons won’t allow you to accurately hit anything past 300m/500m. So why aren’t we lobbying for better optics for the situation (being Afghanistan)?

  • Per

    Mr Arvidsson is not Belgian heΒ΄s from Sweden. And the rifel is the Swedish version of the FNC produced in Sweden by Saab Bofors Dynamics AB with licens from FNC

    Sorry for any spelling errors don’t write in english everyday =)

    // Per

  • “An interesting note I found on a discussion about this on is that the European powers specifically do not use fragmenting rounds which makes accuracy significantly more important for them.

    Anyone here know anything about that?”

    The concern is over some clauses in the Hague Conventions of a century or so ago. The 1907 Convention includes the following: “…it is expressly forbidden…to employ arms, projectiles or material calculated to cause unncessary suffering.” This is taken by some nations to ban the use of fragmenting bullets. The first British version of the 5.56mm SS109, the L2A1, was found to fragment on impact, so this was changed in the L2A2 which has a thicker jacket and does not fragment.

    There’s a more specific clause in Declaration III of the 1899 Hague Convention which bans: “…the use of bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body, such as bullets with a hard envelope which does not entirely cover the core…” This means that the USMC’s new MK318 Mod 0 SOST bullet would be unacceptable to Europeans, and possibly the new M855A1 too, since although not designed to expand, the jacket does not cover the tip.

    I’m not defending the European position, by the way, just explaining it. It’s also worth pointing out that if a major nation like the USA decided to formally abandon such Conventions it would work both ways: it would then be legal for anyone to use expanding bullets against US troops.

  • The best part of the presentation was the different range target that emphasized the importance of hitting head or vital organs in the center.

  • SpudGun

    @jdun – I totally agree, the modern warfighter carries an obscene amount of weight to get the job done.

    But…what’s the point of carrying more rounds of a lighter ammo when it’s chances of hitting the target at longer ranges are minimal to say the least?

    The Taliban aren’t stupid, in fact, they’re quite devious. They use weapons such as RPGs, PKMs and sniper rifles because they know they can’t be hit by the 5.56 at longer ranges. They’ll often use women and children as cover because they know the ‘foreign devils’ won’t use full auto suppresive fire.

    There are reasons the M-14 has returned to service in large numbers, SOCCOM is ordering SCAR-H’s and that the Brits have bought a 7.62 DMR. Yes, 5.56 is preferred for CQB, but Afghanistan ain’t exactly Manhattan when it comes to population density and architecture.

    As for preparing for future conflicts, whether they be urban, jungle, desert, short range, long range, etc., then the need for a ‘catch all’ round in 6-7mm becomes even more apparent.

  • Lee

    @Timmeehh: Yeah, that’s what stuck out at me. So the 5.56mm is a good round at under 150 meters and when shooting at targets who don’t use cover thicker than, say, a two-ply tissue. A bit of hyperbole there, but my point is that if you count on a round fragmenting to take down targets, then you have basically given up on being able to reliably punch through almost any cover to gets hits. So you need your targets at 150 meters or less and without cover. Good luck with that.

    I think eventually we will end up with something like the 6.5 for our rifles and light machine guns, but we will continue to have our troops suffer with the 5.56 for quite some time first.

    All that said, I do hope that the services are doing a better job at training to shoot under combat conditions now than they were doing back when I went through my training. We did lots of MOUT training, but only one live fire move-and-shoot range ever. Learning how to shoot under realistic conditions is important no matter what round you are firing.

  • Don


    Once again brilliant points. I’m in the Australian Army Reserve, and already we as bit part players carry a pissload of equipment and gear needed in todays’ modern warfare and engagements. This does not include equipment like helmets, NVGs, bulletproof vests, mostly force-multiplier stuff that defines Western / NATO-style armies’ superiority. I can only imagine how much more the good people at the likes of the SASR, RAR and Commandoes carry while having much harder objectives to achieve in much more inhospitable terrain.

    Ultimately, it’s not about building the most lethal or the hardest-hitting round. It’s the most reliable, consistent-performing and weighs low enough to be carried in substantial quantities to last a decent-lasting engagement round, with the most palpable cost that performs according to spec and training. 5.56 happens to be just that.

  • Alex

    @Tony Williams, Tod,

    That is in interesting question. Someone once told me US troops use fragmenting projectiles to be in accordance with the “unnecessary suffering” clause. Their reasoning was that a bullet that doesn’t fragment is more likely to cause a slow, bleeding death, whereas a fragmenting projectile will take the target out of their misery more quickly.

    You can argue it either way, really.

  • subase

    Weight is the all important primary factor as jdunn1911 has pointed out and this takes precedence above all else save in the particular roles of door kicking and sniping. (That’s why SOCOM adopted the SCAR 17s) Landwarrior, advanced optics and more armour is the future and that shit weighs alot.

    The 5.56 bullet is small and relies on velocity combined with fragmentation for it’s incapacitating effect. This bullet will not get any bigger, if anything it will get smaller. Casing technology advances such a polymer and caseless, will make that bullet go faster, which will increase it’s stopping power.

    The real question now, is whether the weight and recoil differences between the 7.62 and the 5.56 is justified. Designated marksmen can’t be expected to routinely make 500m+ shots, so why are they carrying the 7.62, which only shines well past that distance? (According to the military 800 max for sniping purposes, up to 1000 metre for area)

    It seems to me a smaller, lighter round with less recoil is the answer in this role. It can be fired in an accurized AR up to 800m. While for sniping with advanced optics, the 7.62 is outclassed.

    In regards to the swiss recommendation to shoot at the centreline of an opponent, it’s rather superfluous. Why? Cause the 5.56 works on velocity and fragmentation to incapacitate, so a shot to the lung, shoulder, stomach or vital organ, is just as effective in effecting the CNS, as a direct hit. Granted it won’t kill them, but it’s enough for them to stop shooting at you or render them ineffective in that capacity. It’s only useful at practically knife range in which case any finese in aimed shots, save for the head is a waste of time. (full auto zipline from centre upto the head is the way to go)

    In regards to the hague convention, I think that’s bogus. It’s well known with civilian self defence ammo that hollow tip bullets have much inferior penetration capabilities in comparison to FMJ rounds. Fragmenting rounds are probably not as effective as hollow points on bodies but their superior barrier penetration abilities make up for it.

    The problem with the M4 wasn’t that the bullets weren’t reaching fragmentation velocity, it’s that they were not fragmenting soon enough in the skinny, low muscle, low fat bodies of the afghans. This has been rectified with the new green tip ammo. without early fragmentation the 5.56 round is a very poor stopper but that’s the price one pays for more ammo. In anycase our half starved enemies can barely shoot to that distance and rely mostly on luck to score a hit. Although the 5.56 becomes a peashooter in an M4 past 150m it somewhat makes up for it in volume of fire, since you have to hit your opponent first.

  • subase

    In addition the higher up you shoot on a body the more difficult it is to score a hit. Since the upper body moves more than the hips and the head isconstantly moving. Aiming for the centreline might be useful for people running low on ammo or at very close distances but otherwise aiming for the centre and firing as many rounds as you can will have the higher chance of scoring a hit in combat. The head and hips even though containing the spinal cord are inferior places to aim at. The head because it’s too hard to hit and the hips because it’s not incapacitating enough. (They’ll still be able to use their gun and in forced prone position may become even more deadly and harder to hit)

  • Etienne

    jdun1911: While I agree that it is imperative to lessen the load carried by our infantry, especially in the high altitude, mountainous terrain often encountered in Afghanistan, do you not also agree that the 5.56mm is inadequate for the ranges therein encountered?

    Yes, the 7.62mm NATO is significantly heavier than the 5.56mm, however, the masses of 5.56mm carried are dead weight if they are unable to do their job, that is, hit and disable targets in combat. I do not advocate a wholesale switch to the 7.62mm (rather, I prefer a bullet between the two currently issued, with greater ballistic efficiency etc., essentially along the lines of the 6.5 Grendel) but the 5.56mm remains inadequate for the war our troops are fighting, and will likely be so for future conflicts (guerrillas, having the opportunity to be a bit more choosy in what range they engage from, will choose to engage outside the effective range of their enemies (i.e. our troops) wherever possible). Similarly, the 7.62 is inadequate as it is too heavy, bulky, powerful (at least in terms of sustained-fire recoil), and inefficient (compared to more modern designs) for the purposes of our troops.

    I think that the weight issue could be mitigated somewhat with better equipment. I live, work, and play at altitudes between 7000′ and 11,500′ (even going past 14,000′ in some cases), and for a while had issues with my pack when hiking. My shoulders, back, and knees could not last an entire day with a full ruck, and I was often slower than my companions while being no less fit and carrying no more weight. Then I purchased a new backpack which had been designed to place more of the load on my hips, and new shoes, which did wonders for my endurance. It made my load feel dramatically lessened (though the weight remained the same) and I was able to go further and longer and generally have a better time. While this all remains anecdotal, I believe that if a proper study were to be performed, it would find that better designed load bearing equipment could increase the performance of our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen currently involved in the conflict.

    But while the weight issue can be mitigated by better equipment, designing and fielding a better 5.56mm or 7.62mm is much more limited by the constraints of the design. The two cartridges can be changed only so much and still function in the weapons designed for them. That a new cartridge is called for seems obvious to me (as the technical limitations mean that the 5.56mm and 7.62mm essentially cannot become the round the troops call for) but it seems that the 7.62mm is a more effective stop-gap than even the new 5.56mm rounds being fielded.

  • Al T.

    There is a reason FMJ ammo is banned for hunting – it’s a notorious wounder of game. 5.56, 6.8, 7.62 – as long as we use FMJ, we’ll have this problem with effectiveness.

    Tony, it’s unlawful to kill prisoners, but the folks we are fighting do so. I’m sure that some Afgan loading his .303 is careful to use only FMJ – as opposed to some commercial JSP ammo he may have acquired.

  • Sian

    @Al T.: I think the Afgans are quite aware our boys are armored up, and that JSP will just flatten itself against body armor, so they’re using the Russian AP and API stuff when they can get it.

  • theamdman

    Maybe someone can answer this for me…

    I remember hearing somewhere 5.56 was not meant to kill, only to wound. The theory being 2 soldiers would be required to carry the 1 wounded soldier off the battlefield thus taking 3 people out of the fight instead of just 1. Did I not hear that or is it just total BS?

    I would say to us modern societies it would make sense, but to someone who doesn’t give a crap about their fallen comrades, I would doubt it’s a smart decision…

  • Lance

    The military isnt going to 6.5 or 6.8 and has said so. I dont know why we keep bringing them up. You guys havent given either the USMC Mk318 or the M-855A1 a chance to even be feilded and your calling for 6.8 SPC to be adopted the Spc Ops tried it early in the last decade and didint like the 6.8. It was as controlable on full auto as 5.56 and was too expenisve to mass produce.

    The thing is Even in Desert Storm the M-855 did well in combat in the M-16A2s the whole military had just switched too at that time. The type of enemy in afghanistain isnt as smart as some believe yes they are dangerious. Mist engagments happen closer than most people think I recently saw a documentary and troops were in fire fights around max range of 300 yeards. The is that the 7.62×39 chi com rounds Islamo Facists love to use are only accuarte out to 150 yards and max effective of 300 yeards. This was thesame in the Soviet Afghan war in the 1980s then it was 5.45×39 vs 7.62×39. 5.45×39 is about the same ballistics as 5.56 NATO and Soviet troops did on occasion had to deal with enemy armed in long range fights but thats why a man in there squad armed with a SVD Dragonov to deal with Lee Enfield armed hot shots. But most men found the AK-74 more than adiquate and superior to Chinese Type 56 (AKM) models we gave the Islamist in that war. Same here its just here we got alot of people who arnt there demanding what they want to be issued. Ohh and asper gun AKs sufferd in the dust of the sand box there too Russian troops had malfuntions too f there AKs whernt cleaned.

    Just sit back and see what these new 5.56 round do in combat. Its not like the crappy 7.62×39 is sooo superior in combat. Its worse in some areas to be accurate.

  • Martin


    7.62 may be a 52 year old round, but that’s an empty argument. .22 was developed in 1887, and it’s still fantastic.

    The moral and ethical problem with arguing over the development and adoption of a new intermediate round is that there is a need for heavier, long range firepower now. 7.62 works! Send it!

    6.5 Grendel and 6.8 Remington do almost match the performance of 7.62 (velocity, drop, energy…) So? Huzzah, they’ve reinvented the wheel! Hey, let’s spend a fortune and retool everything for no appreciable gain.


    Right you are about optics, and it sounds like a good case, but remains a catch-22. If you give them short range optics, they’re no good at long range, and if you give them long range optics, then they are no good at short range.

    Use 5.56 where appropriate.
    Use 7.62 where appropriate.

  • Lance

    @ SIAN

    The Taliban arnt armed by the Russian the Russian fight them in the Caucases region all the time.

    The ammo and weapons they get are from PRC which is Red China.

  • Alaskan

    Use 12.7(.50BMG) where? EVERYWHERE..


  • @Lance: “The military isnt going to 6.5 or 6.8 and has said so. I dont know why we keep bringing them up.”

    The US military is a huge and diverse organisation with lots of different spokesmen often saying contradictory things (and probably not even realising that).

    The May NDIA conference on weapons was kicked off by a joint keynote address from BrigGen Michael M Brogan, USMC, Commander, Marine Corps System Command, and BG Peter Fuller, PEO Soldier – two people who really do know what is going on with small arms – and they said that it is intended to carry out a “trade study” of calibres in between the 5.56 and 7.62 (6.5, 6.8 and 7mm being specifically mentioned) on a like-for-like basis, using SOST and LFS type bullets for all. As well as relative effectiveness, they will be examining how extra recoil will affect training and also the effect of extra weight (current USMC allocation = 210 rounds), but will also consider the “stored kills” (i.e. fewer rounds might be OK if fewer have to be fired to do the job).

    So we have to wait and see what that comes up with.

  • Hockler

    “Use 5.56 where appropriate.
    Use 7.62 where appropriate.”


    Trying to make one thing do everything usually results in being a generalist at everything, yet a master at nothing.

  • subase

    The 5.56 round is tailored to western nations fighting impoverished countries not fighting first world nations. A bigger bullet being more effective would be counterbalanced, by increased recoil and weight which translates to decreased ammo carrying capacity. All this reduces accuracy.

    The Afghans Ak rounds at that range are not ineffective but instead require alot of skill to actually hit something. That’s why most shots by Aghans are almost entirely luck based and rely on intense ambushes. (predetermined range makes shooting much easier)

    Although the 5.56 is inadequate in it’s stopping power past 150 meters, it’s not really necessary. Our impoverished enemies still die from their wounds due to their crap medical care, and their attacks are only minutes long due to their low ammo carrying capacity and fear of airstrikes, snipers and the superior training and firepower of nato forces.

    This is a response to the superior firepower of nato forces, not the increased man stopping power of their bullets. If you increase the bullet size you decrease carrying capacity and will reduce this overwhelming firepower unleashed by nato forces. Volume of fire, translates to stopping power by keeping pressure on the enemy with overwhelming fire, as a side effect increased chance of hits also result.

    I think a better solution would be to somehow incorporate tumbling and yawning into the bullet after it escapes fragmentation velocity. In this way the bullet continues to be an effective manstopper. This requires increased development of bullet technology, not increasing the size of the bullet, which in my opinion is just a crude low tech solution.

    I think the real problem is the heavy weight of the 7.62 round It’s a sniper round that is not being used at sniper distances. We should be using a lighter bullet.

  • Simon_The_Brit


    Maybe someone can answer this for me…

    I remember hearing somewhere 5.56 was not meant to kill, only to wound. The theory being 2 soldiers would be required to carry the 1 wounded soldier off the battlefield thus taking 3 people out of the fight instead of just 1. Did I not hear that or is it just total BS? **

    Total BS, A wounded man can still fire his weapon, press the firing button on his suicide vest etc etc.

  • @Hockler: “Trying to make one thing do everything usually results in being a generalist at everything, yet a master at nothing.”

    That would be fine, except that two questions need to be answered:

    1. Are the existing rounds really good in their respective roles?

    2. Is it possible to develop an intermediate round which matches the long-range performance of the 7.62mm with a lot less weight and recoil, plus has better hitting power and penetration than the 5.56mm at shorter ranges?

    IMO, the answer to 1 is “no”, the answer to 2 is “yes”.

  • Lance

    @ Tony

    The Marines arnt going to 6.8 SPC or they are adopting a 5.56mm IAR. 5.56 is ok till 300 yards trust me ive seen most engagemnts in war footage the 5.56 will kill a Islamo Facist well to 300 yeards. So the same for there 7.62×39 Chi COm AKs there useing. The few accounts of distence shooting a M-14 or M-100 will do the job. thats why we have a DM in a Squad. If its like Wannat send a AH-64D in to the fray itll take care of 200+ terrorist miles away.

  • A.K. for T-7

    If your Infantry is fighting correctly, the 5.56 is 100% OK. Have your platoons fight inside 200-300 meters using their 5.56 rifles, automatic rifles, LMGs and hand held grenade launchers. If the enemy is outside the 300 meters mark, it must be receiving a storm of 7.62 bullets, rocket grenades and mortar rounds from the Company GPMGs, recoilless cannons and light mortars. You trying to make an aimed shot or doing nothing will have the same overall impact in this combat scenario. Outside the 600 meters mark the badguys must be the main concern of the Battalion’s heavy MGs, automatic grenade lauchers and heavy mortars, and if this is not enough, there is already a safety margin to call in the Brigade’s howtizer fire.

    If you are patrolling outside the range of the covering fire of your unit or your firing base, or without this kind of support, something is wrong with your tactics, your plan or your unit terrain distribution. If not, fight the bad guys inside the 300m mark, if they start fighting at ranges longer than this, just make a radio call and watch them desintegrate. In fact this is the motto: patrol, make them show up, fight them if close, hammer them with big fragmenting exploding rounds if far and safe (out of 300m is OK), then get closer and finish the job. If you act like this the 5.56 will shine, since you will have a lighter ammo load to walk around with and a truckload of bullets to expend when necessary. All you have to do is use the right tool for the job, since you have everything set up properly.

    The 7.62 for everything advocates also may think of the resupply chain burden that this ammo represents. How easy is to ressuply a surrounded advanced patrol in mountain terrain with ammo that weights twice as much? By foot, imagine. By air, with choppers having to fly at extreme altitudes or in extreme hot temperatures, where their weight carry capacity drops dramatically, an ammo load that weights half as much makes all the difference. Look at the bigger picture, its more than simply pulling the trigger.

  • Simon_The_Brit

    ** @A.K. for T-7 If you are patrolling outside the range of the covering fire of your unit or your firing base, or without this kind of support, something is wrong with your tactics, your plan or your unit terrain distribution. If not, fight the bad guys inside the 300m mark, if they start fighting at ranges longer than this, just make a radio call and watch them desintegrate. In fact this is the motto: patrol, make them show up, fight them if close, hammer them with big fragmenting exploding rounds if far and safe (out of 300m is OK), then get closer and finish the job. If you act like this the 5.56 will shine, since you will have a lighter ammo load to walk around with and a truckload of bullets to expend when necessary. All you have to do is use the right tool for the job, since you have everything set up properly.**

    You make it sound so simple, why aren’t you in charge of the Military in Afghanistan ?

    How are you going to attract the enemy to come in close to 300m, when they know that by keeping further away they have the advantage, maybe each patrol in Afghanistan should the issued 72 virgins that’ll draw them in πŸ˜‰

    Does the Military Unit you serve in follow your guidelines as set out in your post ?

  • subase

    I think the soldiers will just need to suck it up that their bullets have inferior stopping power, and to just shoot people more than 3 times in CQB. That’s the price one pays for lighter ammo.

    Hopefully the new ammo does everything it promises and is disseminated to all troops and not just special forces.

  • subase

    Here is an article documenting in history the poor stopping power of the 5.56.

  • A.K. for T-7

    **How are you going to attract the enemy to come in close to 300m, when they know that by keeping further away they have the advantage**

    Simon, making this kind of comment just shows that you can’t barely read what was written. Seeing your enemy and keeping it outside 300m is a huge advantage since you can hit it hard with heavy artillery without the risk of being shelled. That’s why the VC hushed to engage in close range fighting with the US troops sometime back: they were just trying to avoid to be turned in an hamburger with forest salad.

    As for the rest of your comments, they deserve no response. I do not engage in this kind of argument using the internet. These are comments that should be made only if you have the guts to make them on a face to face conversation.

  • Lance

    @ AK the brit

    I dont htnik you know what fighting is like there either. To patrol by yourself outside of Armor Artillery or Air Support is stupid and tactics the US uses there puts patrols well inside range of close support. If your outside of your support haveing a 6.5 or 6.8 round wont make a differnce at ALL. you be over run and killed. When faceing 100+ bad guys and your just one squad. I think some peoples love of a 6.8 SPC has blinded them from common sense tactics, while chatting about it here.


    The 5.56 in some fire fights yes has stopping problems but its still better than the Chi Com 7.62×39 the islamist have. In open combat with marines the 5.56 has a exillent record since Marines use M-16s not carbines and teach there men to shoot instead of Army’s spray and prey tactics. Its all about tactics not a merical 6.8 SPC round.

  • Emperor Fabulous

    This is just a weird thought I had about the adoption of the 5.56x45mm cartridge. At the time the US must have known something about the 7.62x39mm cartridge, so why didn’t the US military adopt something that was just a little bit better? Make a roughly 30 caliber cartridge that could shoot a similar weight bullet just a bit faster, flatter, and farther than the Soviet round.

  • Simon_The_Brit

    @ lance & AK for T-7,

    We’ll have to live with our differences of opinion.

    Have a nice day.

  • JoeB

    If somebody has already said this, I apologize. I got tierd of reading the endless line of comments. So, having said that…

    5.56 is a great round in SOME conditions…
    7.62 is a great round in SOME conditions…

    you dont need to spend a quadrobillion dollars on a new round, just integrate both calibers into a squad. Maybe im missing something here but the thought of having a mix of 5.56 and 7.62 weapons together isnt such a bad idea.

    Im not going to go into huge detail because, well, im tierd, but GENERALLY the 5.56’s weak points (Range, stopping power, blah blah) are the 7.62’s strong points. And MOSTLY visa versa. Its cost effective.

    Can there be a better solution, yes. Is it going to cost alot, better believe it! But for the sake of simplicity (if you can even use that word in this case) integrating both rounds into a squad will definatly improve our firepower, and wont cost a whole deal of money. Which, really, isnt that what our military is trying to accomplish?

  • Darwin

    That report is a crock of shit. Ask any grunt in the field.

  • W

    in defense of the 5.56mm NATO round…

    because clearly NATO is conducting the brunt of operations in afghanistan…lol…

  • Josh

    yeah this is stupid propaganda I believe Guns and Ammo did a 5.56vs3006 accuracy test a few years back.
    not only was 3006 much more accurate at 400+yds it is way better at killing and ricochets much less.
    30 cal is also much better for anti-material at all ranges, that being said sure train a ton shoot em in the head or heart any round can be effective to a point.
    and to cap it apparently 338 lapua has insane precision and effectiveness and at 1000yd+

  • medudeman2259

    I was just thinking the same thing Simon_The_Brit. I don’t believe we need to stop making the 5.56 round its more out of place in some situations.

    Training isn’t going to effect the AR as much as the person using the AR. Its like if you sink 2 shots into something on before training and one after training the only thing that truly changes is the method of how you take that one shot.

    In the war today i think a more effective round would be nice to see, not to replace the 5.56 (more likely it would depending on its success) but more to make certain that it will not take so much to kill one enemy think of it like snipers, a one shot kill… end of story.

    A retired general from Vietnam actually witnessed someone still able to fire after checking if he had been hit by the 5.56, if this is true is one thing but thats also were i think in some ways the 5.56 round needs a little help

  • Fishtrombone

    I suppose not many have seen the effects of a 5.56 round?

    it’s not pretty

  • No-one has ever argued that the 5.56mm can’t inflict severe wounds – just that it can’t be relied upon to do so. Sometimes it’s very effective, sometimes it isn’t. That applies to all cartridges, of course (there’s no such thing as a guaranteed one-shot instant stopper in small arms), but the 5.56mm fails far too often.

    And of course, that’s an entirely different issue to the main one which is causing a shift back to 7.62mm in Afghanistan – the 5.56mm’s lack of effective range.

  • rdsii64

    THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ONE MAGIC BULLET FOR ALL SITUATIONS. The 5.56 NATO round is absolutely the correct round for what it was designed to do. Keep your shots inside the rounds effective engagement range it will indeed put savages on the ground for good. When you need to engage savages outside the performance envelope of the 5.56 NATO, use a 7.62 NATO caliber weapon. . When the 7.62 won’t reach far enough, its time for stuff that either comes from the sky or shot from something that on wheels to pick up the slack. This stuff doesn’t require an Ivy league degree to figure out