The Poodle Killer Myth

No U.S. military service rifle caliber has been more controversial than the 5.56x45mm cartridge which was adopted in the 1960’s along with the M16 rifle. Somewhere along the line both Soldiers and civilians began to perpetuated the myth that the 5.56 round was designed to wound the enemy and not kill them. The logic behind this claim is that wounding the enemy puts a strain on their logistical systems with the added bonus that it requires other enemy soldiers to carry their wounded brethren from the field of battle thus lessening the number of combatants to contend with.

The only problem with this myth is that it is just that, a myth.

The U.S. military has never published any documents, requirements or doctrines stating a desire to adopt a rifle cartridge designed to only wound the enemy. The 5.56mm cartridge was designed from the beginning to kill enemies, not to wound or maim them. Ironically, when the M16 was first fielded many Soliders were amazed by the nasty wounds it inflicted.

Marine M16 Vietnam

A Marine in Vietnam firing a M16A1 which featured a 1:12 twist in its 20″ barrel.

When the M16 was first adopted, the rifle used a 20″ barrel with a 1:14 twist. The slow twist rate of the barrel meant the 55gr bullet of the 5.56mm cartridge was under stabilized. This, coupled with the thin jacket of the bullet fired at high velocity, contributed to the horrific wounds. The Russians thought the wounding characteristics of the M16 in Vietnam were intentional which influenced the development of their 5.45×39 cartridge for the AK74. Due to the wounds produced by the AK74’s 5.45×39 cartridge, it became known as the “poison bullet” in places like Afghanistan.

The instability of the bullet when fired out of the original 1:14 barrels of the early M16’s was not intended as it reduced accuracy and the effective range of the rifle. Fairly quickly the U.S. Military moved to increase stability of the projectile by going to 1:12 twist rate, which spun the bullet faster thus increasing stability. Later, in the 1980’s, the M16A2 would adopt a 1:7 twist rate which is now used in the modern M16A4 and M4 carbines. Many felt that 1:7 twist rate over stabilized the bullet which in turn caused it to zip right through bad guys causing minimal damage. The myth the 5.56mm was designed to wound and not kill gained traction.

Countless horror stories told by Soldiers about the 5.56mm’s failure to neutralize a target emerged from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which prompted the U.S. Military to investigate the claims the cartridge was ineffective. In 2003 the U.S. Army conducted a study that found the 5.56mm was actually a capable combat cartridge.  This quote from the study carries a lot of weight in my opinion.

In the end, “footpounds of energy” is misleading, “stopping power” is a myth, and the “oneshot drop” is a rare possibility dependent more on the statistics of hit placement than weapon and ammunition selection.  Effectiveness ultimately equates to the potential of the weapons system to eliminate its target as a militarily relevant threat.

m4s in afghanistan

Marines armed with a M16A4 (left) and a M4 (right). Both rifles feature a 1:7 twist.

I agree with this statement.  Shot placement will be the largest deciding factor in how effective a gun shot wound will be in terms of dispatching the enemy.  The horror stories about the ineffectiveness of the 5.56mm can be traced back to either unsubstantiated rumors and myths or to poor shot placement.

It’s also worth noting how the 5.56mm stacked up against the .308 in the testing.  For close quarters type combat the 5.56mm kept pace with the 7.62×51(.308) in terms of effectiveness which bucks conventional wisdom that states anything .30 caliber will trump anything .22 caliber.

It’s also interesting to note that when the U.S. military adopted the .308 to replace the 30-06, similar horror stories circulated.  The .308 was deemed to be inferior to the 30-06 by many Soliders.  Slowly these rumors faded with their demise being hastened by the adoption of the 5.56x45mm only a few short years later.

The 5.56mm cartridge is a fine service rifle cartridge that excels at close to medium range combat.  It is not well suited to long distance engagements which is why the U.S. military has moved back to the .308 for DMR’s (Designated Marksman Rifle) in the wide open spaces of the Middle East.  However, for a general purpose combat rifle or survival rifle you would be hard pressed to find a more suitable caliber than the 5.56x45mm under most circumstances.


MAC is an avid shooter, former MCSF Marine, NRA member, Oath Keeper and is commissioned as a Colonel by the Governor of Kentucky. Known for his videos on the Military Arms Channel, he also writes for The Bang Switch, for Shotgun News (Be Ready!) and freelances for Guns & Ammo. MAC has been a life long shooter who has an interest in all things that go "bang" but gravitates towards military type firearms.

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  • Nick

    Great write up MAC

  • Jay

    Yet another fantastic article. Mandatory reading for Servicemen

  • David Clark

    I am guilty of repeating the “wound instead of kill” myth a few times. I will henceforth cease and desist from that. Thank you and carry on.

    • SJ

      Me too . . .

    • Derek LeBeau

      As will I

  • borekfk

    If 5.56mm wasn’t good enough, it wouldn’t have lasted this long. Poor little .308 got sandwhiched inbetween the mighty .30-06 and the current 5.56mm

    • rob

      The 556 has too many contracts to be phased out quickly. Thus why we still use it. Also thin targets under 150lbs take more hits from 556 because it relies solely on velocity/tumbling and not mass tissue disruption that’s why u get poor reports. It’s best used on targets with mass to them. .30 caliber rounds rely on tissue disruption

      • MattW

        I fail to see what the number of ammo contracts has to do with anything. If the 5.56 was proven to be ineffective against soft and light armor targets, it wouldn’t take much to cancel existing contracts.

        And I would like to see what references you have to support the lack of effectiveness against “thin targets”. The wounding patterns on .22 and .30 caliber rifle rounds are not that drastically different given similar velocities and bullet construction.

        That is like arguing the 9mm isn’t as effective because it doesn’t make as big a hole as a .45 ACP.

        • Cybrludite

          I suspect the “Thin Targets” issue is due to how far the bullet travels in a body before it tumbles.It could be an issue if the bad guys were facing you dead on, but let’s face it:Achmed the Underfed isn’t going to be standing there like a B-27 target. You’re probably going to hit them at an angle, and that’s most likely going to give the bullet time to tumble.

          And as for Team Energy Dump, what you really want is for the bullet to leave the body while the tumbling is at it’s max. Bigger exit wound that way. More air in, more blood out.

  • Gee William

    Great write up MAC, I’ll be passing this along to some myth carriers. ;)

  • pcman312

    I remember reading somewhere that the 1:12 twist rate did not under stabilize the bullet and did not result in more horrific wounds. Unfortunately, I don’t recall where this was and I don’t recall the source material in detail.

  • Chad Baker

    How dare you allow facts to get in the way of a good story! I’ve spent the last eight years in the Army hearing other non-combat arms guys talk up the wound myth and it always sounded a bit fishy.

    I’m no expert on Soviet TTPs, but I cant imagine them caring a great deal about their own wounded Soldiers.

    • T. Lund

      I heard this in Basic training in 1983, Drill instructors told us it was designed to tumble, shoot them in the foot and it comes out their arm pit kinda thing. it takes 2 enemy soldiers to carry one wounded. Quote, Unquote. My drill instructors were all “Nam” combat vets.

    • Alex J. Fuller

      That wasn’t necessary. The Russian soldiers do care about their wounded. They are soldiers, not savages. Not much different from us, actually. They want to serve their nation, accomplish their missions, and go home at the end of their tour.
      The mujhadeen, on the other hand…

      • MAC

        People don’t know much about the Russian military outside of what propaganda they were told during the Cold War.

        • Alex J. Fuller

          You are correct, sir.From what I have seen of the Russian people, soldier as well as civilian, our nations could be the best of friends, if the pouting and posturing politicians on both sides would just get the hell out of the way.

  • FireMission

    Add to those stories from Iraq and Afghanistan the fact that many of our foes are hopped up on various and sundry drugs. Unless you get a direct CNS hit, one shot is not going to drop them instantly.

  • Josh

    Good write up, but does the report state/justify how ““footpounds of energy” is misleading””. Seems like it would be something pretty straight forward to me.

    • MattW

      He linked the study, but here is a more complete quote that explains why it is misleading when talking about “effectiveness” of a round. (Page 3, 2nd to last paragraph):

      “Some equate effectiveness with “stopping power,” a nebulous term that can mean anything from physically knocking the target down to causing the target to immediately stop any threatening action. Others may measure effectiveness as foot-pounds of energy delivered to the target – by calculating the mass and impact velocity of the round – without considering what amount of energy is expended in the target or what specific damage occurs to the target. In the end, “footpounds of energy” is misleading, “stopping power” is a myth, and the “oneshot drop” is a rare possibility dependent more on the statistics of hit placement than weapon and ammunition selection. Effectiveness ultimately equates to the potential of the weapons system to eliminate its target as a militarily relevant threat.”

  • Anthony Cambareri

    For a long time I’ve been trying to tell people that the greatest flaw was not with the bullet itself, but with the 1:7 or even 1:9 twist rate standard to the armed forces. The second biggest detractor (in my opinion) was the switch from the M193 cartridge to the M855.

  • Jacen

    Too bad people won’t listen and still continue to call the 5.56 caliber a pussy round

    • Chad Baker

      They call it a pussy round, but you don’t anyone willing to prove that by getting in front of it.

  • Bill

    Also, the “for wounding only” myth came from those very early reports that described the “wounding” channels it would create. No one calls wounding channels “kill” channels. Because of that terminology is why people helped to perpetuate the wounding only myth, despite the fact people die from wounds, regardless if it is instantaneous or otherwise.

  • tstrom15

    If people simply used a Physics book, they’d understand that kinetic energy is mostly determined by velocity: KE=.5m(v^2). This is why the 5.56 is so effective close range, because it’s going very fast. However, the change in momentum is greater in the 5.56 over long range due to it’s small mass and the associated drag forces at supersonic and subsonic speeds.

    • Garrett

      Yes, you are correct in that, but it is also the change in energy when delivered into a target. When a bullet passes through a target, it means it did not deliver all of its energy on contact and had “excess” to pass through and keep going. The 5.56mm is really good at entering a person and staying there, leaving all of its energy as body mass moving away from it, sort of like a billiard ball hitting into a bunch of others. You know you didn’t have any extra energy when the cue ball stops in a relatively short distance after hitting the triangle. All the other balls jet away, like flesh in a wound cavity.

      Physics is awesome.

  • Trevor Nisja

    MAC, didn’t you promote the whole “5.56 was designed to wound not kill” on one of your YouTube videos a year or two ago? :)

    • MAC

      No, I didn’t.

      • Trevor Nisja

        My bad I probably got you mixed up with another YouTuber then whoops!

  • Lonne Ranger

    Regardless of caliber, a bullet is going to hurt and multiple hits eventually kill. I know I wouldn’t want to be hit with any caliber round. In combat, the lucky round that hits your opponent in a vital zone is less common then a peripheral zone hit but neither are guaranteed to be a one shot stop . I have had nothing but good experiences with the 5.56 round and never bought into the myths as there were no real documented facts to support them. Great article as always. Thanks!

  • Aaron(Elementlmage)

    Regarding the myth itself, it is actually illegal under the Hague Accords to create a weapon of war designed just to wound or maim. It is specifically bared!

    However, you are perpetuating another myth: the idea that the wounding potential of the 5.56 cartridge has anything to do with the twist rate of the rifle. The short range brutality of the 5.56 is cause by the rear weight bias of the 55gr and 62gr bullet of the M193 and M855 bullets and the deep canalure that is cut into their baring surface.

    As long as the bullet is traveling at over 900m/s upon contact with the target it, it has enough energy to VIOLENTLY fragment when the bullet starts to tumble at 6 inches in, caused by the thin jacket around the cannelure.

    The reason why the M855 is not as lethal is due to the replacement of about 1/2 of the bullet core with mild steel. It will still fragment upon tumbling at over 900m/s, but not nearly as violently.

    The entire FAQ makes for good reading, and I so wish they stuck with the old format as it was all on the same page. But, whatcha gunna do :/

    • Aaron(Elementlmage)
      • Gregg Greenwood

        Good job with that reply Aaron! Thought it was ironic to “disprove a myth” by quoting another one.

        Twist rate does affect long range accuracy and what bullet weight is appropriate for that barrel. But a slower twist won’t make your AR “more deadly.”

        The Ammo Oracle is a great resource!

    • therealgreenplease

      Indeed “energy” is a meaningless statistic. However, “energy-delivery” is very meaningful. One of the reasons I’m a fan of the original 5N7 5.45×39 cartridge is that is not as velocity dependent as most 5.56 variants for terminal performance…. plus it’s cheap :D

    • Wildey

      To the best of my knowledge the U.S.A. are not a signatory of the acts that you just quoted, just like the Geneva convention

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  • Stomper

    I have taken two deer with my AR15 and in both cases they were broadside presentation, one shot kills, that shredded the aorta from the heart.

    In each circumstance when hit, the animal jumped straight up in the air about 6′ (I believe reflexively) and hit the ground dead.

    One animal was about 50 meters away, and the other about 75 meters. I wouldn’t raise my hand to get hit with a .223/5.56!

  • therealgreenplease

    Great write up MAC! Perhaps you could do some gel testing with different bullets and different twists at different ranges? It would make for a very interesting video/blog post.

    This is a personal opinion, but I feel that ~300yards is the maximum effective “combat” range for 5.56. Scoring lethal hits beyond that range is better left to a DMR or bolt action rifle IMO. As such, I feel a slower twist rate… say 1/9 (commercially available) or 1/10 (never seen one) might be better suited to commonly available 55gr ammo for a SHTF type scenario.

    As always, love the blog and love the videos. Keep up the great work.

    • Jeran

      While I agree that, yes, it was a great article, I dont agree with your statement of your opinion. However naturally you are entitled to it yes. Therefore I will only remark to it as opposed to childishly exploit it. As Marines, we must shoot from distances of 200, 300 and 500 yards. All with 5.56 in either an M4 or M16A4. Marine Corps wide, annually, we must do this. It is expected of us. Its a requirement. We can leave it at that or make an assumption that all Marines are designated Marksmen. Whichever it may be, the fact, not opinion, is that this round is undoubtedly capable, and should be regarded to, as a round that will not only reach out and touch someone, but it will do it in accurate fashion.

  • Del

    All I can say is that I dropped a 200 lb 10-point White-tail with a single round from an AR-15. Shot placement is the key.

  • Michael Andrew Smith

    It is interesting to note the difference in reputation between the 5.56 NATO and 5.45 Soviet cartridges. The cartridges’ ballistics are nearly identical, yet ours is regarded as “underpowered” while theirs is more than sufficient. Always wondered about that…

    • Del

      They say it with a heavy Russian accent. That makes all the difference.. ;-)

    • Alex J. Fuller

      The stuff coming at you is always more frightening than the stuff you’re sending back!

  • icepick37

    Huh. Gotta love when MAC starts dropping the big truth bombs. Funny how these myths always get around so much.

  • Dawgfather

    I think I enjoy comments from these “experts” as much as the article itself. I wonder if they even read the article before posting why the (30′ 06, .308,300 blackout,6.8 spc) is the greatest thing since sliced bread and how bad the 556 sucks.
    Maybe the Taliban states “don’t worry they use a .223 bullet” before attacking. Food for thought.

  • Daniel

    Very nice write up. All the facts about twist rates has me wondering if a 1/8 or 1/9 twist barrel would be a better choice for my build if I have mainly access to Walmart stock of 223 and 556. Rather then the “military standard”.

    That myth is perpetuated all the time around here as it being called a pea shooter.

  • jjmj

    If the round was only designed to wound I feel that NATO would not have chosen the round.

  • gloomhound

    I’ve heard that the “wound instead of kill” myth was started by the military to increase the percentage of soldiers willing to fire on the enemy. See Lt Col Grossman’s “On Killing” for the reasons why this might be the case.

  • Rusty_S

    “The instability of the bullet when fired out of the original 1:14 barrels of the early M16′s was not intended as it reduced accuracy and the effective range of the rifle. Fairly quickly the U.S. Military moved to increase stability of the projectile by going to 1:12 twist rate, which spun the bullet faster thus increasing stability. Later, in the 1980′s, the M16A2 would adopt a 1:7 twist rate which is now used in the modern M16A4 and M4 carbines. Many felt that 1:7 twist rate over stabilized the bullet which in turn caused it to zip right through bad guys causing minimal damage. The myth the 5.56mm was designed to wound and not kill gained traction.”

    This has been proven false by testing. The length of the penetration neck till yawing with 55gr FMJ was virtually identical in the 1/7, 1/9, 1/12 and the 1/14 projectiles. Stability in air and stability in flesh are two drastically differing things since flesh is orders of magnitude denser.

    • MAC

      I think you misread something. I didn’t say *I* believed the 1:7 over stabilized the bullet, I said “many felt”, which is true. Many did, and still do, believe the 1:7 over stabilizes bullets. That doesn’t mean they are right.

      Stability in flight is all the military has sought to improve, not in soft tissue. The 1:12 successfully stabilized the bullet of the 5.56mm so that it was accurate out to 500 yards on point targets and 800 yards on area targets (according to Marine Corps doctrine).

  • Drmaudio

    Some of these things will just never die. An interesting thing about the 30-06 vs. .308, is that in common military loads, the ballistics are damn near identical. The sole purpose of the .308 was to duplicate 30-06 ballistics in a shorter case so a shorter action may be used. Modern powders made this possible. Still, people had a hard time believing the smaller round could be as good, and the myth was started (and still creeps up now and again).

  • Thomas Ehrhart

    Tim is absolutely correct – Shot placement trumps all else. Most people can shoot 5.56 more accurately under combat conditions than larger calibers. You have to hit your target before you start to worry about the terminal effect. Small calibers came about because of the idea that when fired rapidly (Automatic) the pattern of dispersion from small, controllable cartridges would result in a higher hit probability at average combat distances (300m and in)- Project SALVO. Bullet construction within caliber has more to do with effectiveness than anything else. M855 was designed for the M249 and ability to penetrate armor of Soviet forces in anticipated ground warfare in Europe. When employed against malnourished combatants the result is not consistent. Think about your typical hunting rifle, say 30-06. You wouldn’t use the same bullet for Elk and Deer. Same idea. 5.56 is MOST effective at 150m and in for 14.5″ barrels and longer. 1:14 twist was used originally because that was the commercial twist of .22 caliber varmint cartridges barrels. When tested in arctic conditions, the Air Force discovered that it was not sufficient to stabilize the bullet and switched to 1:12. Dr Fackler tested both twist rates in the 70s and found nothing to substantiate that 1:14 was more lethal. Bullet construction and velocity at impact generally determine effectiveness. “The Great Rifle Controversy” by Edward Clinton Ezell is a great read for anyone interested in the development of 5.56.

  • Chris Kenney

    The twist rate of modern military M4s and M16A4s (1×7″) was dictated by the requirement to also fire the military standard tracer round wasn’t it? I tighter twist is necessary to stabilize longer (rather than heavier) projectiles. Or s this another myth?

    • MAC

      1:12 was fine for 55gr rounds. The 1:7 was designed to work with both 55gr and tracers, and later the heavier loads like the M855.

  • D. Hide

    I’ve never found myself particularly impressed by the 5.56, but I certainly would not want to get hit by one. And if the statements about low barrier penetration in non-AP rounds (eg. civilian defensive loads vs. drywall) are substantiated, I am definitely considering something in that caliber for home defense.

  • http://Facebook Dean

    There was a lot of controversy regarding the 5 56 shortly after the Battle of Mogadishu (Blackhawk Down) incident of 1993. A number of so called “reports” circulated stating that it took numerous hits to stop Somali clan members and advised that the 5.56 round was ineffective. I’m not sure how accurate the information was or if they looked into the widespread use of the drug Khat that was taken by many of the clansmen shortly before the battle erupted.

    • Hoff

      Khat more than likely had a big role in the mulit-hit “reports” you mention. As mentioned before shot placement is going to be the deciding factor on how fast they fall. Remember that our guys killed a bunch of Somalis… like a lot! Estimates vary, but the ratio is staggering.

  • Aaron

    …Another reason not to believe FPSRussia or Futureweapons. I find Tim to be a much more credible source than an guy with a Fake Russian Accent or a guy who claims to be a former SEAL who whispers menacingly at the camera.

    • Bradley

      Well Mac is definitely a former SEAL. You can verify that online pretty easily so no reason to doubt that. However, just because some one was in the military doesn’t mean the know about the science of ballistics. Besides he is just repeating what someone wrote for him to say.

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  • Chris

    Does anybody know of a ballistics test that has compared the 1:14 twist to the 1:7 twist? I would love to see how much difference there really is.

  • Dave Macheel

    I’ve taken a few classes with Kyle lamb, and to quote him” if you think 5.56 is ineffective, I can personally provide you with fingerprints to prove other wise”…

  • Brent

    …and somebody has to hump all that ammo…

  • The Old Gunhand

    As a Vietnam vet I can attest that the cartridge did more than just wound. You could shoot someone in the arm and the light bullet moving at a high velocity would hit bone and travel up the arm and exit at the neck. I do not remember a single person ever complaining about the M16 when I was in the Army.

  • chris

    the only reason the 556 sucks is the FMJ it does not expand. switch to a varmint round or a 78 grain deer round and youll see a huge difference. leave the practice ammo on the range where it belongs. the spin rate of the barrel has nothing to do with this.

    • Drew

      So you’d be willing to be shot with a M193 round and tell us all how ineffective it is?

      • rdsii64

        To say the the M193 55 grain ball round will not kill as intended is just plain dumb. If you are within its effective range the the shooter’s aim is true, you are going to die. You may still be breathing when you hit the ground but you are as good as dead. With that being said, I would rather stake my life on the Mk262 round than the M193. A round loaded with the 75 grain Swift scirocco would be the best.

      • Benjamin Allen Whetham

        Ah, the good-old Red Herring logical fallacy. I bet you don’t want to get shot with a BB gun either. Using your logic, we should be handing out Red Ryders to our troops.

        Now, if I HAD to be shot with a 5.56 then yes, M193 or M109 would be the best choices as they are the most ineffective options, in terms of terminal ballistics, available in that caliber. Compare the terminal ballistics of either of those FMJ rounds to even a generic Winchester soft point and you will agree that the FMJ rounds do indeed suck vs other bullet types out there.

  • Dominic

    Very interesting article. Thank you!

  • John W. O’Brien III

    My Drill Sgt. told me the wound vs. kill thing…. are YOU calling Senior Drill Sgt. Johnson a liar??

  • Matt

    I was serving with the Marine Corps right before the M4 came out. The thought process was that there was going to be more urban combat then open space combat. In an urban environment. The M4 is awesome. However the wide open desert it can’t compete. Hence the return of the .308.

  • Dann Cairns

    i had heard all that and then some. but i was under the impression that its adoption had more to do with politics than effectiveness.

  • rdsii64

    The high velocity round fired by an M16 service rifle has and always will be very effective a putting down savages. With modern bullet technology and advancements in propellents, it makes a fine hunting cartridge if your not trying to kills stuff in the next zip code. With a properly constructed hunting bullet and reasonable ranges, deer and pigs die just as easily as enemy savages.

  • Brian in MN

    MAC, take a look at the second post, by Bartholomew Roberts. He really tears up the article you linked. It is an interesting read.

    • rdsii64

      The problem with that article is they are shooting issued ball ammo. With todays modern propellants coupled with modern bullet technology I still have to agree with MAC. Unless I am mistaken, when this study was done we did not have rounds like the Mk262. When you couple that with the fact that we civilians are not bound by the same legal constraints as our military, this becomes a different discussion

  • yoni tidi

    In over 2.5 decades in service in Israel, I never heard a single time someone complain about our 5.56 rifles or 9mm pistols. We just went out and did our job, which was killing bad guys. As a sniper of course I had access to several 7.62 riles but never felt under gunned with my M16

    • Flip

      I managed to get hold of an Israel Weapons Industries new sniper rifle, the DAN .338 a .338 Lapua Magnum during it’s development stage. Before that, I used a bolt rifle in the same caliber, the end result was always totally devastating for the ‘target’. ie – none of them ever walked (or ran) away. OK – NOT a light weight BB gun, but NO-ONE walks away after taking a good hit from one of these babies. That’s what the bottom line is – one shot = one less asshole in the world to worry about.

  • Brian in MN

    The problem with the article is: “There were in fact better performing 5.56 mm loads than M855 in the JSWB-IPT testing and 6.8 mm clearly performed best of all. The “Figure 3” graph is misleading at best and is an example of scientific dishonesty at worst. It uses needlessly complex calculations, skewed graphing, overzealous mathematical averaging, and poor statistical manipulation to obfuscate important differences between test samples.”

    Follow the link I posted. Someone went to a great deal of effort to roast those two Majors.

  • chris

    the fmj 556 sucks if it didn’t it wouldn’t need all these columns defending it im not saying that it doesn’t work it just take several hits to do it, hence the reemergence of the 308.
    switch to a non fmj round and watch the difference. so complain all you want you know im right.

    • rdsii64

      The FMJ 5.56MM round does exactly what it was designed to do. It will defeat light cover and still have enough velocity to create a lethal wound at intermediate ranges. It was never intended to be a long range round. At of 300 yards the 5.56MM NATO round is as lethal as any other. When fired from a standard 20 inch M16 the M193 round will reliably frangment at the Cannalure out to 300 yards. The M855 round will penetrate a quarter inch of mild steal and still have enough velocity to cause a lethal wound at 300. Step outside of the 5.56MM NATO rounds proper engagement envelope and you are using the wrong caliber regardless of projectile.

    • a man

      You obviously have no experience with the 5.56. I promise you, if you took one fmj to your chest at even 100 yards, nothing in this world could keep you alive.

  • i surrender

    ok this is the last time ill respond that way you guys can argue among-st your selves this is how is rolls energy is everything if you have a fmj you have no energy dump into the target.
    i dont care what you can penetrate at 300 or 3 gazillion yards if your dont dumping any energy into the target your not stopping that target in one shot FMJ suck not saying they wont work eventually but they still suck. so you can sound cool with your m855 rounds and your m193 and 2s and what ever expanding round kick fmjs every time.

    • rdsii64

      Well first, I can tell you from my experiences at HPCo HQBN 1ST Marine Division what a standard issue NATO ball round can do when used within its performance envelope. When either the M193 or M855 strike the target (for the PC folks among us) either of these rounds will break apart at the Cannalure. I promise if you take a either one of these rounds in your chest cavity at 300 yards or less ( providing it was fired from a 20 inch barrel) these round will work exactly the way they were designed to work. The 5.56 NATO round was never a long range round and was never meant to be a 500 yard man stopper. when used the way it was designed it does what it supposed to do. When they started shooting them out of 14.5 inch barrels they changed the equation. When they started shooting savages across vallies in A’stan, they change the equation. Use it right and will kill you grave yard dead. As for an expanding round being better, your preaching to the choir. We all know that. we cant use expanding ammo in the military.

  • kimberfan

    also keep in mind, mill-spec 5.56 is a FMJ round with a steel core which = not so great at expansion/fragmentation if they used a HP, ballistic tip, barnes TSX, soft point, any type of varmint ammo, you would see a heck of alot better 1 shot kill rates even out to 500-600 yards due to the fact that it would fragment near 100% of the time.

  • rdsii64

    You obviously don’t know squat about either, and have never seen (pictures don’t count either) what either of these rounds can do when used correctly. There is no such thing as an M109 round. What you meant to say was the SS109 which is issued to the German Military. Our troops are issued the M855 with is simply the same round with a hotter powder charge. (the Germans found that they got better accuracy with their service rifle if they slowed the round down some) Having spent many years shooting more of this stuff than I care to remember. I PROMISE YOU that either of these rounds will kill you grave yard dead when used within the percribed peformance envelope. I don’t claim to be anybody’s expert, but I did spend enough time with the 1st Marine Division to know what I’m talking about. When used within their design perameters, if you catch one in the chest you are going to die. When you start shooting them out of barrels that are shorter than 20 inches, all bets are off. Those two rounds were never designed to be shot out of M4 Carbines at enemy combantants 400+ yards away. Give me a M16A4 with a standard 7 twist chrome lined 20 inch barrel and plain Jane issue ball ammo. No magic bullet is a substitute for marksmanship and shot placement. With that being said with the Mk262 round(77 grain Match king) and that same 20 inch M16A4 is my preference.

    • McThag

      A good way to think on it is the 14.5″ barrel is already some 200m farther away than it is in terms of velocity compared to the 20″ barrel.

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  • M. Christian

    Kinetic Energy is where its at. If the size of projectile is a concern, all one need do is take a peak at the sabot rounds currently used by our armor/artillery and compare the damage characteristics to older, solid rounds. Small, fast and powerful. Essentially, the same concept, only on a small-arms scale. The 5.56NATO round is more than capable, provided the person operating the weapon its discharged from is equally so.

    Just my observations.

    Also, I enjoy your youtube videos quite thoroughly MAC. Keep up the outstanding work.

  • Diesel

    The reason the twist rate changed was they changed from 55 grain to a heavier bullet. The 1/7 twist is to stabilize 77 grain ammo. The tumbling of the bullet is because the rear of the bullet is heavier than the front of it so it has more momentum and wants to go ahead of the front of the bullet once the bullet is deflected slightly by hitting the meat. The twist rates should be proportional to the bullet weight and they should perform the same.

  • Shmevin

    Good post Mac, however you neglected to mention the bullet construction playing a part in perpetuating the myth. The m193 round used in Vietnam was a simple yet devastating round which did exactly what it was supposed to do. The army had to go and screw it up. NATO pressured the US military into adopting the less lethal m855 steel penetrator round, which tends to fragment less reliably. Ar15.Com’s ammo-oracle provides a great resource on the history of 5.56.

  • Captain Kirk

    Rifle marksmanship in the US military has steadily declined as a result of tactics and doctrine that has relegated the infantry to a support role.
    The “Queen of Battle” no longer worships the rifle god.
    The AR 15 platform, firing that angry little 55 grain rocket punches way above it’s weight and will do the job providing the operator can hit anything.
    I saw just how pathetic “marksmanship” had become in Ft. Lewis back in the late ’70s.