Well, they’ve obviously not been shooting many poodles lately

5.56 NATO Dimensions

5.56 NATO Dimensions

Steve at The Firearm Blog notes British soldiers also complaining about 5.56mm NATO

In the Telegraph:

A survey of more than 50 servicemen who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan concluded that the 5.56mm calibre rounds used by British soldiers ‘tailed off’ after 300 metres yet half of all Helmand firefights are fought between 300 and 900 metres.

This seems to make sense and be perfectly reasonable. After all, our Special Forces found out pretty much the same thing in 2001. A lot of them switched to the heavier Mk 262 from the M855 green tip.

But then there’s:

Taliban marksmen use powerful 7.62mm ammo for their AK47 machine guns, according to a report of the study in The Sun.

If they’re trying to argue that AKs firing 7.62 Russian are outshooting guys with 5.56mm SA80 rifles, they’re going to have to do a lot of convincing. Since they use the term “machine gun”, maybe they mean the 7.62x54mm used in the PK-series. But then they’re arguing apples and oranges.

Yes, the 5.56 leaves some things to be desired. Particularly out of shorter barrels.

Yes, a heavier intermediate round such as the 6.8 SPC or the 6.5 Grendel would probably do better in a wider range of circumstances, particularly at longer ranges.

Yes, full size rounds like the 7.62×51 fired from a full-length rifle pack quite a wallop.

But let’s not whine about 5.56 at medium to long range and then extol the 7.62 Russian or medium machine gun rounds in the media.


  1. Actually, almost every ‘assault rifle’ round ever designed, starting with the 7.92×33 kurz round, was optimized for targets within 300m – where studies have shown that the vast majority of direct-fire fights in the age of smokeless powder have taken place.

    While the Mk262 Mod 1 will do better than the M855 at longer ranges, this is primarily a function of better accuracy.

    The 6.8 SPC tails of significantly after 300m as well – it was designed mostly to deal with the problem of 5.56 not having enough oomph at the closer ranges common in urban combat.

    Of the alternative rounds you mention, only the 6.5 Grendel was really designed for long ranges, due to the 6.5’s excellent ballistic coefficient.

    And the 7.62 NATO – designed to mimic the ballistics of the .30-06, which assumed (as did all armies back then), that the ordinary rifleman needed a weapon he could employ at ranges out to 1,000 yards – would definitely work well where fire fights over 300m are common. Wonder what the British Army did with their L1A1s?

  2. The Brits I met would trade in their crappy new rifles for the old FAL clones in a second – just as many of us wanted the M14 back. Far better rifles with a far better mid to long-range round.

  3. The REAL farce of the whole “medium”-power disaster is that 7.62x51mm NATO rifles with low weight, low recoil, and NO barrel rise have been available all along; the Spanish CETME Rifle, the Swiss SG-510, and the German H&K G3.


    As for the 5.56x45mm, it glances off twigs and raindrops, has less than half the reach of the 7.62x51mm, 1/3 the total mass of the 7.62x51mm, 1/6 the Residual Energy at 500yds of the 7.62x51mm, no penetrating power, no stopping power, no anti-material utility, and no more of a “Meat Axe Effect” than ANY OTHER conical rifle bullet.

    The lower weight, allowing you to carry twice the ammo at a given weight, doesn’t matter either — you need to shoot more than TWICE as many rounds TWICE as often with 5.56x45mm to do the damage of 7.62x51mm.

    The tendency to fight at ranges within 300m is also completely meaningless, because it doesn’t justify *not being able* to fight at distances beyond 300m… OR that a bullet tailored for a shorter range will always — without exception — end up having the same weaknesses outlined above.

  4. It’s my understanding that the 6.8 SPC performs better at 50 meters and under(especially for penetration)but actually does worse than the 5.56 over 50 meters.

  5. The problem is that our military is standing by analyses and trade studies which do not stand up to field data.

  6. Blacktail – I like my HK91, but it I wouldn’t call it “low-weight.” No lighter than a synthetic M14 – too much steel in that bolt. Recoil is less than a .308 bolt rifle but way more than an M16. It is definitely a big-boy rifle.

  7. CETMES and G3s are no featherweights, but anyone who tires out easily while carrying a 10lb rifle isn’t physically fit to be a soldier.

    Especially when one considers that an Assault Rifle isn’t just a gun — it’s also a Pole-arm and a Club.

Comments are closed