5.56 NATO And .223 Remington Lethal Enough?

Anyone read that article on The Washington Times website about the Russian military’s new gear that’s being “shown off” in the Ukraine? It’s quite interesting. Rowan Scarborough wrote on April 20:

“They’ve got better equipment than they had five years ago,” said Scott Traudt, an executive with Green Mountain, a Vermont gun manufacturer. “They’ve got new grenade launchers that are awesome. The helmets are better than our helmets. The body armor is better than our body armor. They’re doing a lot of things right. I’m pretty amazed at it.”

However, it was something said later in the piece which really grabbed my attention. Scarborough added:

U.S. soldiers have complained that their main rifle and round, the M4 carbine and its 5.56, lacked lethality in Afghanistan against a Taliban enemy that does not often wear body armor. Without a shot to the head, the enemy could take several 5.56 hits and keep going, soldiers said in surveys…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

5.56 x 45mm NATO or 5.56 NATO was originally chambered for the M16 rifle and is a standard cartridge for NATO and many non-NATO armies. It’s similar, but not identical to, .223 Remington. Both are used extensively by American shooters, including preppers/survivalists.

Now about that part in the article where U.S. soldiers are complaining about 5.56 NATO and its “lethality”- should preppers/survivalists and others using the same or .223 be concerned their ammunition also won’t be lethal enough when it matters most?

Here is some more insight on 5.56 lethality from people who know a thing or two about the subject in a combat zone…

First, there’s this from a U.S. Marine scout/sniper who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq and submitted the following to The Truth About Guns website regarding a firefight in Fallujah, Iraq. He was using an M-16A4 with a heavy barrel, improved trigger, and scope- as well as standard 5.56 ammo- in the following action:

This bad guy took a knee and started to aim his RPG at our building. I fired once, hitting him square in the chest. The man stumbled a bit but regained his balance and steadied his weapon. I fired again, again hitting him. But this time, it did not faze him and he was able to touch off that grenade. The explosion rattled the building and injured a Marine below me on the second floor.

The bad guy dropped the RPG once he fired it, got up, and ran down the alley away from me. He still had the AK on his back. I fired again, twice, both times hitting him in his upper thoracic region. He was not phased. My L-T was shooting at him while yelling at his sniper (me) to kill him!

The man started pushing himself up a short wall near the end of the alley way. The wall was maybe 4 1/2ft tall. I decided to take a head shot at about 125yds. I centered the cross-hairs, and squeezed. JUST as the round broke, the man ducked his head, the bullet entered his brain housing group just at the base of the skull, effectively removing the back portion of his dome. I skull capped him.

He stumbled over the wall and fell down behind it, out of my view in the dead space. For a split second, I thought “there…” until I saw him RUNNING away from me, brains leaking from his head! As soon as I saw him, he fell down and did not get up again. It took 5 well aimed rounds to put this guy down. Granted, he was most likely on something, but it still took 4 in the chest, and one head shot to stop this guy. I was not the only Marine to be involved in something like this. Who is to say that an attacker in the U.S. is not “on something?”

Now, is the .223 (5.56) a deadly round? Absolutely! A .22lr is deadly in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing. Is it effective? In this Marine’s opinion, no. The .223 is a varmint round, meant to kill targets no larger than a rabbit or coyote…

Then there’s this from the Daily Mail (UK) website from just over a year ago that talked about Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) jettisoning the 5.56 NATO cartridge. Mark Nicol reported on March 16, 2013:

The rounds currently issued as standard to SAS troops for their rifles are 5.56 mm calibre. In future, the troopers will be given 7.62 mm rounds – which are almost twice as heavy and designed to kill with a single shot.

Last night, a regiment insider said: ‘The shoot-to-wound policy was based on the assumption that once he was wounded an enemy combatant would stop fighting, and so would his comrades to give him first aid.

But this backfired against the Taliban. The 5.56 mm rounds did not take a big enough chunk out of them, allowing fanatical insurgents to keep on fighting despite their wounds. As a result, more SAS soldiers were shot and badly wounded.

‘The need for a heavier round was highlighted in the regiment’s post-Afghanistan report. Tests are now taking place on at least three rifles specially designed to fire the 7.62 mm rounds.

‘The difference in killing power between 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm is startling – the heavier rounds pack so much more of a punch.’

Nicol added later in the piece:

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former Army commander, said: ‘The 7.62 mm round is a good, meaty bullet and will drop your enemy with a single hit. The 5.56 mm cannot compete with it for stopping power and, according to many soldiers, the round has fallen short in Iraq and Afghanistan.

‘Insurgents who would have been fatally wounded by a 7.62 mm have been able to continue fighting and endanger the lives of our soldiers.

‘This is a positive step and I hope other regiments give consideration to returning to 7.62 mm rounds in the infantryman’s standard rifle. It could save lives and win battles.’

So should preppers/survivalists and others using 5.56 NATO or .223 Remington be concerned their ammunition lacks lethality?

In the past, I understood these calibers were- if anything- at least adequate in lethality. I also thought firearm proficiency and shot placement skill had a lot to do with stopping the threat as well.

I don’t think I’m wrong in believing the latter (user ability) is still important.

Readers- care to add your two cents?

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Scarborough, Rowan. “Tactical advantage: Russian military shows off impressive new gear.” The Washington Times. 20 Apr. 2014. (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/apr/20/tactical-advantage-russian-military-shows-off-impr/?page=all#pagebreak). 29 Apr. 2014.

Farago, Robert. “Marine: .223 May Not Be Lethal Enough for Civilians.” The Truth About Guns. 9 Jan. 2013. (http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2013/01/robert-farago/marine-223-may-not-be-lethal-enough-for-civilians/). 29 Apt. 2014.

Nicol, Mark. “SAS to use bigger bullets to kill enemy outright after claiming ‘shoot-to-wound’ policy put their lives at risk.” Daily Mail. 16 Mar. 2013. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2294631/SAS-use-bigger-bullets-kill-enemy-outright-claiming-shoot-wound-policy-lives-risk.html). 29 Apr. 2014.

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2 Comments to 5.56 NATO And .223 Remington Lethal Enough?

  1. With all respect , the story about a head shot , and the insurgent running away is not believable . Any wound , resulting in skull fracture , cause enough displacement of the brain to render the neural control centers nonfunctional .
    The idea of running with brain matter dripping out would be similar to motoring on the road with pistons dragging on the pavement .

    The AR15 , and the NATO 5.56 round were designed for a particular purpose . Different situations may require a review of the weapons and tactics . But, i can think of few body wounds that would allow for continued fighting , in any caliber .

  2. richard fernandez on April 30th, 2014
  3. Thanks for that input richard fernandez.

  4. Editor on April 30th, 2014
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