5.56mm and 7.62mm: The Facts and Other Ramblings

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5.56mm and 7.62mm: The Facts and Other Ramblings

Postby bishopMP » Mon Aug 15, 2011 11:37 am

Sorry Cat and Faden. :oops:

From the comments stemmed from this thread:
viewtopic.php?f=24&t=19047

Tired of the "AK47 vs. M16", or "5.56mm NATO is weaker than 7.62mm"? Me too.

I'm not going to side with any particular bullet because its comparing apples to oranges - which I like all bullets - so I will distribute FACTS (I hate it when people make me work :| ):

A bullet, by itself, is only as good as you can throw it. Effective range of a bullet is only as good as the rifle it is paired with. So in this comparison, I will compare the M16, M4, M14, AK47 and M24 (7.62mm)......which I HATE comparing these together, but will nontheless. I am really going to try to not get into the specifics and details of all the different loads of all the individual rounds...so I'm going to assume some knowledge is already known and be as blunt as possible.
In Snowmans comment, "...with the M4...your effective range is dropped 500 yards from the 7.62's effective range", I do not know what weapon system he is basing this off of, so I provided some numbers from common type weapons (also, 500 yards is around 455 meters - +5/-5 meters);

M16 (5.56) - effective range - 550 meters for a point target, 800 meters for an area target.
M4 carbine (5.56) - effective range - 500 meters point, 600 area.
M14 (7.62) - effective range - 450 meters point, 800 area.
AK47 (7.62) - effective range - 350 meters point, 550 area.
M24 (7.62) - effective range - 800 meters.

Effective range: Distance at which a weapon is expected to fire accurately to inflict damage or casualties.
Point target: A precise target of small dimentions.
Area target: Target consisting of an area rather than single point.

Now, you cannot overcome physics. The 7.62 (around 2,400 feet per second in AK47) is obviously a heavier round, and can inflict more damage due to it being a bigger round - thus why I hate comparing these two rounds. The science of the 5.56 (around 3,100 feet per second in M16) is in the design...the higher velocity and proper twist rate of the smaller round can create extreme wound cavities, similar to what the larger rounds produce.
(Fun fact: Stoner actually created and proposed the AR-10 - a 7.62 rifle - to the military first, but was denied due to late submission in testing...the AR15[M16] that we know today was made by some other dudes in Stoners office).

The 5.56 round (especially the M4 carbine), were made for close range engagements (remember - maximum point effective range for M4 is 500 meters - thats 'close' in their eyes) We all know in the real steal world, a perfect length barrel, and especially barrel twist and quality production, paired with proper bullet/load will result in optimal results from your selected platform. Unfortunately, the military isnt issuing 24'' match barrels and match ammo to every grunt in the field. Since the rounds effectiveness relies on its velocity, therein lies its weakness (with the M4 at least).

(Fun fact: At 300 meters - range at which the Army zeros its the M16/M4 - the front sight post is actually larger/wider than a human body. The Army taught us to use the front sight post as a measure against the human body to determine proper engagement range).

So using a M4 carbine - with a muzzle velocity around 2,900 FPS...and taking from my dissertation I wrote in the 'Politics/Military' thread long ago...I stated that around 2,400 FPS, the 5.56 bullet starts to lose its maximum effectiveness on human targets. This is because the velocity/spin energy combination isnt enough to cause the bullet to yaw and create fragmentation/tumbling effect (extreme wound cavity) on target. As oppose to the M16, with a muzzle velocity of around 3,100 FPS, it has a greater distance it can cover before it starts to lose its maximum effectiveness (youre still going to hit the target, it just may not shatter the bullet and cause maximum damage). Obviously, you can HIT targets at range, you just have to remember the golden rule;

1. Shot penetration.
2. Shot placement.

Remember when old man Cheney accidently shot his hunting partner in the face with bird shot? Good shot placement, bad shot penetration. If you can achieve both penetration (45% of solution) and placement (45% of solution), then the rest (10% of solution) is from the bullet composition/weight/type/load/dynamic/build.
Either way, you still incapacitated an enemy. Even by wounding him, you just took him, and possibly one/two more that are going to his aide, out of the fight. The military doesnt keep 'humane' at the top of its priorities...more like tactic via effectiveness (a 'humane kill', is a precise shot....not a random shot - hunting 101).

(Fun fact: In developement of the 5.56, design required it to penetrate an issue helmet, body armor, and a steel plate. It also must retain beyond the speed of sound at 450 meters, and have the wounding capacity of the M1 carbine [the .30cal little brother of the M1 Garand]. The weapon design for the round was required to be no more than 6 or 7 lbs with a 20 round magazine).

So in the comment by Snowman, "stopping power is slaughtered", I wouldnt say it is 'slaughtered', more like 'maximum effectiveness is decreased at great ranges'.

However, the 7.62, in all its large glory, paired with the traditional AK47, wasnt a good combo for the long range engagements....but that is where the round is most deadly due to its yawing and tumbling. Again, either way you still shot and incapacitated an enemy or two.
But I'm tired of this....comparring the 5.56 to the 7.62 is like comparring a boxer to a higher weight class boxer.....or a speed/distance boxer to a close-in/power boxer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rumble_in_the_Jungle) Those that see no problem with that, I'll start comparring the 7.62 to the .50 cal BMG. There is no contest because there shouldnt be a contest. They are two different rounds, with two different results, with two different reasons behind them, for the same purpose....you just have to know how to use what you got.


Now, the "biggest fish story" ever told;
Vietnam and the M16 - in a nut shell.

Battle hardend vets of WWII still serving get alerted for war in Vietnam. They get there, carring a block of solid wood and steel forged from the fires of Zeus' lightning and the loving embrace of Aphrodites teet...a weapon only true warriors know....the M14.

Next thing they know, they are handed a small, light weight, black, plastic thing that shoots little bullets. Rumors in the military spreads faster than Herpes at a strip club...it was said the M16 was built by the Barbie toy home company, Mattel*...and that it was made of space age materials that never needed to be cleaned. It was true, at the time, the M16 did have a 'futuristic' look to it, and it did have an impressive fire rate, and it was lighter. But the bullets were so small. But they could carry twice as many rounds as their VC enemy at the same weight compared to an AK47 load.

* http://www.snopes.com/military/m16.asp
So the thought was; faster cyclic rate, twice as many rounds, same load weight = superiour firepower over the enemy. Looked good on paper. (Speaking of paper, I cannot find, for the life of me, where an artical said Stoner only made his firearms for sport/ paper shooting, rather than military purposes. If one could provide that, I'll glady eat that last sentence).

So, what were the troubles?

1. Grand daddy of them all - cartridge powder was changed because of the inability to mass produce it...so it was replaced by a different, untested powder....which seriously gummed up the inner workings, causing just about all major jams and malfunctions. The accelerated powder (I remember part of it was nitroglyceran) actually increased the ROF from around 800 something, to 1000 rounds a minute. This one major problem was the root of all the negative reputation of the M16. Still, to this day, people comment about the gumming up and jamming. And yet, I've never seen nor heard of anyone within ear shot, on the civilian range or 8 years in the Army, about having a weapon caused malfunction (usually magazine or round malfunction), that wasnt soldier caused. I have a friend that will not clean his AR15 until he gets a jam or failure to fire....he has, to my understanding, shot tens of thousands of rounds so far without a hitch. The problem is pretty much non existant today, yet the reputation remains regardless of advancements.

2. Non chrome lined barrel and chamber. This caused a lot of brass extraction failures. Even some modern firearms dont have chrome lined barrels/chambers....I like my barrels how I like my Huffy USA bicycles.... chromed.

3. Cleaning kits were not issued or were just disregarded - This was because some thought the rumors were true...it WAS a space age weapon that cleaned itself when it fired! As mentioned above, the new type powder was the main problem, however, every soldier is taught how to clean/maintain their weapon. Not only did it serve a purpose, it was also a means of discipline. To mistreat your gear or your weapon, is to mistreat yourself, as a soldier. It is a direct reflection of who you are, as a person, as a soldier, and as a member of the United States Armed Services. Dont be a Jessica Lynch....and then try to capitalize on your poor soldiering discipline by writing a book and appearing on Oprah.

4. Inadequate barrel twisting (IIRC 1/12 twist - current M16A2 is 1/7) - did not twist the bullet enough to provide maximum damage. Its less-than adequate twisting wasnt enough to stabilize the round, causing increased chance of defective and erratic bullet behavior.

So what happend?

1. Buffer recoil springs added to help control the ROF to about 700RPM. The barrels and chambers eventually became chrome lined. The Army and Marine Corps did a MAJOR training course on cleaning/maintaining/servicing the weapon. Issued cleaning kits and made sure everyone maintained their weapon/gear. Acceptance increased and failure reports dropped dramaticaly.

According to this report;
http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD ... tTRDoc.pdf
The M16 was widely accepted by grunts in Vietnam. Out of the 2000 something troops questioned, about 40 wanted to replace the M16 with another weapon....30 something of those guys wanted the CAR15 (the shorter non-M4, M16... but something that looks extremely close to the M4...but not).

So, going back to Snowmans comment, "The issue in Vietnam was that soldiers were shooting VC 20 times or more, and they weren't going down."
My guess is, since it was a jungle terrain (and even in some dense forrest in the US, you cant see 10 feet in around you), that a lot of engagements were patrols walking around, and stumbling into each other. Spray and pray, whoever has the most and fasted firepower, wins...kinda like Call of Dooty: Modern Warfail. Maybe US troops fired 20 rounds, and might of only landed 3 rounds on one, or several targets? That seems more likely than someone getting shot 20 times, and not going down. Gotta keep in mind that the 5.56 does extremely well in closer ranged (within 500 meters, but in this case, lets say 400 meters) engagements. Most of the time in the thick jungle, I'm sure these guys were within 100 meters (330 ft) of each other....but that is just speculation on my part.

Current conflict:

Another one: "The military has even started issuing more and more DMRs per rifle squad in Astan because the 7.62 is far superior to the 5.56 in that environment."

This is probably the most true statement you have made so far. While exact numbers of DM per squad changes by the mission, it is a known fact throughout the military and in the firearms community , that the smaller M4 carbine doesnt have the range neccessary and velocity needed to bring the 5.56 to its maximum effectiveness (as I said earlier, it still hits targets). This is where the longer barreled M16 would work out much better, but beyond that, the larger, longer shooting 7.62 round would be most effective - as long as its in a proper weapon system. The terrain of Asscrackistan is very mountainous with wide open ranges. The sniper/counter sniper roles are very heavily enforced and regulated, and with a soldier load already nearing the 90-100lbs mark, much more DM's cant be added en masse.

Mud summed it up: "Most soldiers don't need a rifle that's effective out to 1000 meters, because most engagements occur inside of 300 meters anyway. That's why DMRs and snipers exist: to take on the odd situation where accurate, long-range firepower is needed."

This isnt to say the 5.56 w/M4 is worthless. You can still hit targets, just not at the maximum effectiveness of the round, so it MIGHT* take more rounds to kill** a target. I dont think some of you understand what incoming fire can do to a person...precisely hitting targets or in the area around you. Suppression may not be as effective in airsoft, but it does wonders in real life.

*Remember, the rules - shot penetration/placement.

**Remember, the military uses small arms to incapacitate the enemy to the point where they cannot actively engage anymore. Them dying is just a side effect. Simply wounding an enemy has a higher probability that it will take two or more enemy troops out of the fight to care for the wounded...which puts them in the line of fire. This is a very common tactic...even Velociraptors use it.

So, I wouldnt say 'far superior', I would say it is more effective. Remember, a fighter must understand the limitations of himself, and his opponet, and shouldnt just come out power swinging (Ali vs. Foreman).

(Fun fact: The US Marine Corps kept the M16 because of its ability to keep maximum effectiveness of the 5.56 round at greater ranges).

Defgun wrote: "From a humanitarian standpoint, shoot someone once, not three times: No excess suffering. From a military standpoint..."

You cannot have a military standpoint if you have never been in the military. And I think your definition of "suffering" is slightly different than others. Usually, more bullets = less suffering...because youre dead.
And I dont know about others, but in Iraq, I was told that "mercy shots" were unacceptable. I know of at least one incident, when I was in country, where a Marine "mercy killed" an unarmed wounded insurgent. A news reporter caught some of it on camera, and that is what started the hoopla. The troop said the insurgent was making a suspect move. I am unaware of the outcome of the situation.

EDIT: Actually, there seems to be a lot of this happening:
http://www.snopes.com/politics/military/marine.asp

Also by defgun: "The one major thing needed for a military weapon is not compactness or capacity, but reliability. Your gun fails while shooting paper... find a bench and examine it. If your gun fails in combat, ask God how the weapon failed."

Again, not in the military or "in the loop", so how would you know what the military needs in a weapon? You certainly arent going off personal experience, so I can only imagine you are regurgitating something you heard somewhere else. A weapon is only as reliable as the soldier is disciplined in wielding it. I can have a knife made of the strongest materials, but if I threw it in the ocean for 20 years, and then it fails when I try to use it...is it the weapons fault, or mine?

And: "Phasing out the M14 for the M16 was the first time our military phased out clearly better equipment for clearly inferior equipment that just so happened to be cheaper... and far less reliable, not to mention effective."
Yet again, you are not a military historian, nor can you make military history. Less reliable - yes, at first - reasons explained above. Cheaper - I dont know - but I do know its not cheap to replace all service rifles in the military. I believe reliability and effectiveness has been covered.

Bruno: "I also thought the M14 was phased out due to issues with the wood stock warping from the humid jungle environment of Vietnam"

This is partly true. It wasnt only phased out for warping...it did have warping issues with the stock. However, they did make a fiberglass stock that was issued later, but production delays caused slow issuing. The big issue was how uncontrollable the M14 was in full auto fire. With the dense jungle, the weight was also a big issue.

Actually, the concept of the M14 was flawed from the start. It was meant to cover the roles of four weapons (full rifle, carbine rifle, submachine gun, support weapon). It proved to be too much for one area, and too little for another. It could be because of the M14, that we have the weapons we have today. This doesnt take away from the actual awesomeness the M14 can provide if used properly.

Snowman: "I just dislike how things in the military are more about "what can we do to make everything about roses and happiness" instead of "what can we do to improve combat effectiveness".

That is very noble, and I wish it were true....I wish it were about roses and happiness.

In summary:

Shot penetration and shot placement is 90% of the solution...the remaining 10% is bullet based.

The 5.56mm is a small, extremely fast moving projectile that causes maximum damage by precision firepower and fragmenting/tumbling through flesh. Based off the M4 carbine, the maximum damage range is between 50 - 300 meters (although point accurate shots up to 500 meters) . Since accuracy at range isnt an issue, beyond the ideal range, the round is producing less-than maximum damage, due to velocity loss.

The 7.62 is a larger, slower projectile that cause maximum damage by brute force due to its weight and balancing at greater ranges. Based off the AK47, the range of the round cannot make point accurate shots past 350 meters, where in other weapon systems can, has proved to provide maximum effectiveness of the round.

The reputation of the M16 was tarnished from the start: changes in gun powder composition after testing and before fielding, poor training, lack of equipment and rumor problems. The only weapon manufacturing related issue was case extraction problems, which was fixed with chrome lined barrel and chamber. All problems were fixed, and are pretty much non existent today.

Besides all these numbers and details, I believe we all are looking past this fact: if you are shot, it is going to take you out of the fight. I dont care if you are hit once, three times, or 20....its going to suck.

In conclusion, how and why the military does things the way it does, should never be an issue to those that are not/were not in the military. Comments like; "it shoots little bullets", "it has no stopping power", and "reliability is an issue", clearly show that some dont know what they are talking about and are just repeating. Civilians that hold their choice firearm/round on a high pedistal, and dump on what current US Military issue firearm/round with biased word-of-mouth rubbish, obviously doesnt do his/her own reasearch or fact gathering to form their own opinion. I feel sorry for those that continue to suck on the ever flowing nipple of lies, false information and rumors...for they will never learn true respect of all firearms in the shooting world. And dont say you do, because you dont.

If this conversation (5.56 vs. 7.62) took place on a real steel board, it would only last a couple of minutes due to its obvious miss match of apples to oranges.


A personal issue of mine (but similar to what I said above) - Unless you have patroled with a full combat load - weapons, ammo, water, armor, medical supplies, radio comms, and other misc. gear....you have no right to say what is better for those in the military. Until you have patroled the streets of a hostile area, or slept under a hot HMMWV in the desert because it was your only cover, or climbed the mountains of an ambush valley, or fought for your life defending a firebase, or had to push through in a convoy in an area high in IED's and landmines, or stayed awake for 36 hours straight doing missions with only one day of food and water, or thought your buddy was just shot - only to find out he wasnt....but then later found out he was...you cannot say A **** THING about what YOU dislike about the military! Freedom speech allows you to say what you want...whether it holds ground in any converstaion or not will greatly depend on the content of your complaint.

You want to change things? Join the military, get experience, go to college, become a beuracrat/politician, and propose a change.
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Re: 5.56mm and 7.62mm: The Facts and Other Ramblings

Postby SjKimber » Mon Aug 15, 2011 11:40 am

Dam I love you bishop. Would that be considered bromance?
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Re: 5.56mm and 7.62mm: The Facts and Other Ramblings

Postby ncvikingx97 » Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:29 pm

Great article.
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Re: 5.56mm and 7.62mm: The Facts and Other Ramblings

Postby Jonas » Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:38 pm

Can I please sig this entire thing?
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Re: 5.56mm and 7.62mm: The Facts and Other Ramblings

Postby thunter124 » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:09 pm

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Re: 5.56mm and 7.62mm: The Facts and Other Ramblings

Postby faden » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:40 pm

Loc... jk

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Re: 5.56mm and 7.62mm: The Facts and Other Ramblings

Postby St Chris008 » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:46 pm

I will be saving this for when I see a 5.56 vs 7.62 arguement. Very informative read, Bishop. Thanks for taking the time to write that all out.
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Re: 5.56mm and 7.62mm: The Facts and Other Ramblings

Postby adog12341 » Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:52 pm

Great read Bishop, thanks. :)
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Re: 5.56mm and 7.62mm: The Facts and Other Ramblings

Postby Native » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:12 pm

Great read, thanks for taking the time and writing it.
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Re: 5.56mm and 7.62mm: The Facts and Other Ramblings

Postby blackhawk13 » Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:21 pm

Wow, that was the clearest explanation I have ever seen. I have some questions though:
1. You talk of 7.62mm with several weapons, but I thought the AK was 7.62x39mm while the M14 is 7.62x51 NATO. Is there much difference between the two?
2. 9mm vs. .45? :lol:
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