Why the AR-15 is the Best SHTF Gun – Part I of II

The e-mails, the comments, the controversy, the stir; I have to explain why I crowned the AR-15 (and all 300_blackout_blk_subsonic_rifle_aimpoint_silencerco_supressorits variations) the best gun for TEOTWAWKI (see original post). The way some of you responded, you’d have thought I’d insulted your mother, because your top choice wasn’t mine. I need to break this post into a two-part weekend post, SHTF homies. I gotta explain. It has to be done.

I know most of you already have your own belief on what the best SHTF/TEOTWAWKI gun is, and I suspect most everything I’m about to say here won’t change your mind, but it might, particularly if you base your opinion on most of the SHTF related blogs out there criticizing the AR-15, overstating its disadvantages and never fully explaining its many advantages. I should also preface this post with the note that there is no single gun that will meet every need. For this reason, people should reference my Top Ten list again and buy 10 . . . of each. ;-)

The single biggest criticism of the AR-15 is usually its cartridge size. Stories get cited of soldiers needing to hit insurgents 3-4 times in the torso in order to bring them down. In Part I of this two part post I’ll respond to this criticism. In Part II I’ll describe the many other advantages to the AR-15 that either aren’t mentioned or fully defined on survivalist sites.

The Criticism – it’s a “varmint round” that has no business on the battlefield.

Critics happily say this and move on; but as is often the case, there’s more to the story. We need to look various products EPIC20 code colorado veteran 400x250more deeply. A typical varmint round in a .223 is a 40-55 grain bullet. A typical .223 varmint rifle will have a 1:12 or 1:14 barrel twist. Virtually all of the the boxed .223 rounds you’ll find at stores like Wal-Fart and Dick’s Sporting Goods will be 55 grain full metal jackets. I can only assume, since critics rarely specify which cartridge they’re referencing, that they’re speaking of this more common cartridge. The military originally issued a 55 grain copper-jacketed lead-core bullet. The “bad performance” stories from the Vietnam-era are the result of this cartridge and a poor, original M16 design that has since improved exponentially. The 55 grain bullets are great if you’re hunting groundhogs or coyotes, but for SHTF purposes? Not my first choice.

Today’s standard issue cartridge for NATO forces is the 5.56mm M855 62 grain bullet with a metal-jacketed, lead alloy core and a 10 grain hardened steel penetrator tip inside. This penetrator tip provides semi-armor piercing capabilities that improves the AR-15’s ability to puncture hard targets. It can penetrate both sides of a steel helmet 700 yards away.

“Penetrates both sides of a steel helmet 700 yards away,” you say, “but what of these stories of soldiers hitting insurgents 3 or 4 times before they fall down? What good is it then? I’m sticking with the AK.”

Hold up. The problem with the M855 is that it was originally designed to penetrate an enemy’s shtf_survival_cache_shtfblog_windham_weaponry_308_ar10_r18fsfsm-308_aimpoint_comp_ml3_outdoors_midwest_industriesprotective vest from a distance while still having enough power to deliver damage. Your average insurgent isn’t equipped with protective vests, however. The M855 round can zip right through an unprotected opponent rather than mushroom or tumble. ADDITIONALLY, today’s soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan is now using an M4 variation of the AR-15. The barrel length is only 14.5″ which means that the bullet does not have the extra 5.5″ of barrel length found in an M16A2. This greatly affects the cartridge performance, because the bullet does not have the extra time in the barrel to increase velocity.

The M855 cartridge is great for penetration purposes in a small cartridge. I recommend everyone have a utb banner 400x250 fisherman no code + FREE SHIP codepile. They’re great for SHTF purposes . . . but still not my first choice.  What survivalists want in 5.56mm cartridges is what many Special Forces units are already using, something beefier, like the Black Hills 77 grain Mk262 cartridges. These bullets weigh 24% more than those of the M855. What the Mk262 loses in M855 penetration it gains in terminal ballistics, so for your average non-body armor wearing insurgent, the Mk262 cartridge will deliver a more lethal hit, more combat damage.

Read this portion of a larger Guns and Ammo article (here):

When a five-man Special Forces team looking for Scuds in Iraq ran into a reinforced Iraqi infantry company, the future looked grim for the Americans. Facing overwhelming odds, it was quickly decided that three men armed with sniper rifles would cover a hasty retreat back to the LZ. With these odds death–or worse–seemed certain.

Yet the ensuing firefight did not go as the Iraqis had planned. Rather than being overwhelmed, the three Americans instead put down a hail of highly accurate rifle fire. Advancing against this murderous wall, entire sections of Iraqi infantry were simply cut down. Screaming and rattling away with their Kalashnikovs on full auto, they were knocked from their feet by carefully aimed shots. When staggering losses finally broke their spirit, the surviving Iraqis either threw down their weapons or simply ran away. Scattered about lay the bodies of 167 of their comrades. The Iraqi dead lay in mute testimony to the Americans’ tenacity and marksmanship skill.

With the criticism of poor terminal performance leveled by many on the 5.56×45, you would think those 167 Iraqis were cut down by 7.62mm M14s. Such was not the case. They fell to 5.56 Mk 12 sniper rifles firing 77-grain Mk 262 Open Tip Match ammunition. Developed to offer increased accuracy, range and improved terminal performance over the standard 62-grain M855 load, the Mk 262 has performed quite well in actual combat.

Those that know AR’s know this is true. Cartridge selection, barrel twist, and barrel length all offer quite epic water filtersdifferent results. These 77 grain bullets are not yet standard issue for U.S. military personnel, and if you’re loading them in your own AR-15, you really need a 1:7 barrel twist to fully stabilize the larger bullet as opposed to the more common 1:9 twist found on most AR’s. These larger 5.56 77 grain (and up) bullets are getting used more widely and they still retain the very high level of accuracy one comes to expect from an AR-15. People that criticize the .223/5.56 cartridge as a useful SHTF round should first specify exactly WHICH variation of the bullet they’re referencing. They need to specify what barrel length and what barrel twist. All of this matters, but rarely gets discussed. A 77 grain hollow-point (or similar) bullet from a 1:7 20″ barrel offers dramatically improved terminal performance over a 14.5″ barrel shooting an M855 cartridge.

The now seemingly age old debate between the AK and the AR generally comes down to ballistics, reliability, and accuracy. It’s widely accepted that while the AR is far more accurate the AK delivers a greater punch. The 77 grain bullet closes that gap, and if it’s *punch* that you’re after, skip the AK-47 altogether and go straight to the .308 M1A or FAL. That way you have superior *punch* AND you retain accuracy.

Tomorrow I’ll cover the factors BEYOND ballistics that help make the AR-15 the best SHTF gun.

– Ranger Man

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46 comments… add one
  • 1919A6 December 22, 2007, 4:03 pm

    The original AR-15 (M-16) had a twist of 1-14 and the 55 grain FMJBT was barely stabilized. The purpose of this combination was the almost immediate tumbling of that bullet upon entering the enemy’s body. Massive energy dump and massive tissue distruction. These were the first ones to Vietnam with the SF advisors and WORKED! However, the military in its infinite wisdom wanted a rifle to use against Soviet eskimos therefore took the infant M-16 to Alaska and found that the 1-14 would not stabilize the 55 grain bullet at all. Change the twist to 1-12, accuracy improved in Alaska but the effect on VC targets in 120 degree Vietnam was disappointing to say the least.

    The comments about 1-7 and 77 grain bullets in the hands of specially trained SF unit in Iraq is hardly an universal mark of effectiveness. Comment of Carlos Hathcock, his bolt action 30-06, and his M-14 armed spotter who wiped out the NVA company!

    • Anonymous October 17, 2014, 12:55 am

      You really compared Hathcock and his 06 to a fire fight with m4’s!?? .?

      • Bill Randall October 18, 2015, 9:35 am

        we aint in the military. we can have any bullet we want in our rifles. It’s not the fault of the AR15 if you are too cheap and lazy to load up a few hundred rds of 60 gr Nosler Partition softpoints. Missing a lot is not the answer. Hitting a few of them, especially if done swiftly, with a silencer, especially at night with luminous sight inserts and NVD goggles, changes everything. You won’ have uncle sugar to come bail you out. Once you run out of ammo, it’s over for you. The Ciener .22lr conversion unit and 60 gr Aquila subsonic 22 ammo better handle 90+% of your shooting, post shtf, or you’ll be dead.

  • ryan December 22, 2007, 5:14 pm

    I think your disclaimer about the “best SHTF gun” was accurate but I think “best SHTF assault rifle” would be closer to your intent. It is a great post comparing the balistic effectiveness of different 5.56/.223 bullets. I read something on another blog that partially settled the 9mm vs .45acp. debate “stopping power is a worry of those who can’t hit the ten ring, talk less and practice more”. I think it fits well in this situation also. If you put rounds in an imaginary dinner plate in the middle of their chest just about any gun will do the job.

    That brings us to the big advantage of the AR-15 family. They are accurate and thus more likely to hit targets then alot of other guns, definintely anything soviet.

  • Angry Oracle December 22, 2007, 6:20 pm

    Well stated. There are always two and half sides to every story and no universal truths when it comes to firearms and ammunition selection.

    • Dubbz May 19, 2016, 12:57 pm

      That ” two sides to every story ” is so true! I find it funny that Russians using 5.45 X 39 in their AK -74s don’t cry about penetration or stopping power and yet US soldiers with supposedly more training , and with ” more accurate” M-4s can’t stop bad guys !

      Kind of tired of this ” somebody told somebody” BS; my nephew was deployed to Afghanistan twice and never had one of these ” my rifle jammed at the worst moment” or ” I couldn’t stop a red headed talib ” with a shot or two story.

      I worked as a LEO for 24 yrs and heard the same BS about .38 rounds , then the 9mm and I’ve seen criminals one shot STOPPED by .223; what I’ve noticed is that bad shot placement or MISSING flat out was usually the problem .

      I would trust my AR-15s and the assortment of ammo I have ( federal x193, lake city xm855, even the few hundred rounds of 69 grain which my Spikes and BCM rifles seem to like, to ” stop a threat” or knock off small to medium game.

      Considering soldiers SURVIVED shots and walked away with ” man stopper” wounds from 30.06 and 8mm in WW2, I’d imagine if the modern soldier or LEO ran into similar situations while using 5.56 X 45mm , maybe they should ” double tap” or take a DEEP breath and go for shot placement…

  • Mike in MN December 22, 2007, 8:53 pm

    That was a very well done argument. Thank you, I’m keeping it for future reference.

    Anything will do if you, the shooter will do. If the shooter can’ t put rounds on target, nothing will save them.

    And if one keeps in mind that no gun is a magical one shot anywhere on the opponent will drop him deader than last nights pork roast with one bullet nonsense, one can really see than gun debates are people really just circle jerking.

    It’s what a lot of “What’s the best?” debates completely miss.

  • Dennis December 22, 2007, 8:58 pm

    Another plus to the AR family is when the SHTF there will be all those dead National Guard and RA troops lying around for resupply.

  • Dr. Richard December 22, 2007, 9:02 pm

    One more advantage of AR-15’s is that they are a bit more affordable than M1-A’s, even when one buys high-end trijicon or aimpoint scopes. I have both but .308 ammo is getting quite expensive. There are also some good carbine operators training classes available at the Quantico Shooting Club at the Quantico marine base, Blackwater NC, Frontsight, etc.

  • Luis in Utah December 22, 2007, 10:23 pm

    great post. If you can’t hit the target with the AK, what good does a “greater punch” do?

    • dubbs February 6, 2015, 11:37 am

      Avg civilian AK is about 3 moa to at worst 4moa- plenty accurate for 100 yd and less shooting . The currrent 5.45 x 39 AK 74 can easily do 2-3″ groups at 100 yds even off iron sights. Neither the Ak or the AR 15 carbine are designed as long range precisipn weapons!!

      SHTF isnt somr “mad max” zombie/ cannibals/”obamaggedon”( as some ignorant posters have said)- its bad times like the winter storms that rocked the east coast or hurricsn katrina aftermath, or the 1992 riots in southern california

      • kiljoy616 July 29, 2015, 12:59 am

        Maybe the military version is not ( I can attest to that) but sub moa AR are available from multiple vendors. My experience with quality civilian version have taught me that the Military does not always get the best.

  • 1919A6 December 22, 2007, 10:25 pm

    I just love these X vs. Y articles and opinions.

    The only “best for the situation” is the ONE YOU HAVE IN YOUR HANDS at the time!

  • DW December 22, 2007, 11:16 pm

    1919A6……..you got it!

  • 1919A6 December 23, 2007, 12:18 am

    To gain a real understanding of WHY the 223 is ballistically INFERIOR, one needs to go back to the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth century. The individual or small group of individuals will be in the same predicament as the infantryman of that era. The rifle will be the only arm available to deal with a multitude of situations that will unfortunately require dealing with COVER. Trees, walls, glass windows, sheet metal of vehicles, etc.

    The 22 bullet does not have the mass nor velocity to defeat COVER. The 30 bullet in the 7.62 NATO round is not much better, BUT it IS better. COVER will be an issue and there being nothing else readily available to deal with it.

    Thus, the targets will be harden by cover and the 30 gives much better penetration of COVER than the 223.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like 223, even got a couple of them; but it’s like this – Nobody in their right mind takes a Bowie knife, a BIG Bowie knife, to a GUN FIGHT on purpose!

    • dubbs February 6, 2015, 12:29 pm

      And yet the only time our military forces have been “out gunned” was the Little Big horn , where the BIG bullet 40-70 single shot spring field couldnt match the rapid fire of the 44-40 winchester level action used by sitting bulls people!

      Even in current combat situations, people keep harping false claims that 300m accurate old russian and chinese ak47s are out ranging our 400m accurate M-4 carbines and 500m M-16s, simply not the case( insurgents are using 30 cal rifles to harass troops to we respond with .30 -50 cal sniper weapons)

      Even examples of civilian poiice engagements, like the LAPD North Hollywood bank robbery incident, against ak 47 wielding, heavy body armor wearing criminals, well placed “inferior” .223 rds punched thru the body armor and took the last suspect down( the other one ran out of bullets and committed suicide)

      While I agree with backwoods and open plains types who go .30 cal or large rifle rounds for hunting and longer range shooting, I really laugh at the ” punching through walls, cars,etc” mindset; we are NOT in a free fire ZONE, we are in heavily populated America!! You have to shoot through a car( with uneven surfaces and various material configurations) or a building, that means your target probably isnt an imminent threat you cannot avoid or out manuever!!!( Ive seen med. Velocity hand gun rounds go through cars as a former LEO
      So I know 5.56 x 45 can do it!)

      Even with a breakdown of the govt due to natural disaster or plague, or economic meltdown, re-establishment of order will occur . And those who THINK they are the ” last man on earth” will pay penalty for their excessive acts.

      Anything considered more than defensive, will be judged harshly and with little remorse.

      As for returning to lugging around an M-1A?? If it was kicking the ass of an in shape 19 yr old private, I doubt some middle aged bubba who hasnt slept on the ground for anytime longer than a wknd camping and hunting trip, is going to last long in “survival mode” while toting backpacks filled with essentials on ” the road”.

      I have a PTR-91, a Remington 700 bolt action, and several BCM and Spikes ARs- IF I had a go to gun in a urban or suburban wrol or disaster scenario, its going to be my 5.56 carbines( I got a garage full of necessities that can last me and family a year )

  • R. Stephen Dorsey December 23, 2007, 4:39 pm

    I agree with your Part 1 analysis and would like to add a few comments of my own. As the last Captain of Ordnance at Springfield Armory, I was also the Project Officer for the Special Purpose Individual Weapon (SPIW), aka “the dart rifle”. That 3000+ fps weapon fired an extremely light, finned metal dart that, on hitting anything fiberous, turned into a fishook that dumped all of its energy on the target. And it wasn’t fazed by 1/4 in. steel plate, either. However, as one of your respondents noted about the deflection of the .223 on brush, it simply would not “dig” for an enemy. That is roughly true of the current .223s but it is not the kiss of death to chosing the AR, either, in my opinion.

    What I haven’t read in the comments to date is any knowledge of the XM or M193 round which was commonly used with the early M16s (and is not being used in Iraq now). That bullet (see gelatin tests in The Ammo Oracle) literally explodes into fragments deep in the target at higher velocities. That velocity restriction gives me the same terminal results (nasty) within 140 yards with my 16 in. bbl. Bushmaster with a 1:9 twist rifling. This same bullet is found in the Israeli-mfg. Q3131 and Q3131A ammunition found in Winchester white boxes. After 140 yards from my 16 in. barrel, the bullet only delivers the much-maligned “ice pick” effect. So, long range sniper it’s not but that’s what the .308 is for IF YOU MUST SHOOT AT THAT RANGE. (I personally feel that most long range SHTF shots might better be saved for closer, more certain hits. The important question here, for me, is do I want to give away my position and to what advantage? )

    Another option I didn’t see discussed is a simple, very cost-effective reload using a bullet like the 55 gr. softpoint Nosler. This lethality of this load is not restricted to velocity and will begin to open on impact (but continue to “dig”). From the 16 in. Bushmaster, 1:9, at 50 yards this bullet blew conical holes in the test soggy catalogue (3+ in. thick), emerging with a hole about 7/8 in. wide. And, this same reload gives me 1 minute of angle accuracy at 100 yds. That’s good enough for me. While there must be soft point .223 bullets out there that will explode on the target surface (or so I read on some blogs), this is not the case with these Noslers.

    As to the defeat of cover, I fully agree that both the .308 and 7.62mm x 39 will be better (though the Russian round isn’t in the league of the 7.62 NATO round). I shot this comparative test back in the 1960s with the M14, the M16, the AK and the SPIW. The SPIW round was worthless, the M16 slightly better and the M14 destroyed the brush and kept on digging – sometimes sideways. However, the 7.62mm NATO round requires a heavy rifle and, for weight, gives significantly fewer rounds available for the shooter. The scenario will drive the choice of calibres IF YOU HAVE A CHOICE. If you don’t, become competent with what you have and reserve your shots for hits, not hope.

    Regarding the 9mm, another much-maligned calibre. I didn’t sign the Geneva Convention. Therefore, the bullets exiting the muzzle of my Beretta are not FMJ and are as lethal as needed. I love the .45 Auto round but it has the same drawback as the .308 in terms of number of rounds in the magazine. And, a larger capacity .45 Auto just doesn’t fit my smaller hand. Bottom line: If I can hit it with my 9mm, it will develop a larger hole than 9mm/.35 cal. and that should provide some immediate incentive to the target to modify its behavior.

    Finally, I won’t get into a discussion of the urban myths that have grown up around the M1 Carbine (e.g. won’t hit, won’t stop a target, etc.). My experience with the M1 Carbine is that the FMJ bullet will penetrate all the way through a man and then some. FMJ will penetrate light metal. e.g. helmets. However, as with the .223, the bullet is everything. With a hollow point or soft point “hunting” bullet, the M1 Carbine becomes a very lethal little gun that is inexpensive, reliable, accurate and VERY handy. And, it takes 30 rd. magazines that are available everywhere. With this bullet, the 100 yd. terminal ballistics are everything you could reasonably ask, i.e. plenty adequate. If targets were likely to be varied, a shooter could carry a couple of 15 rd. magazines with FMJ and the balance in soft points. Bottom line: I don’t care what Uncle Alvin said about his wartime experience with the carbine. A good M1 Carbine is an excellent,, lethal weapon for the 150 or so yard engagements when given the right ammunition. And, its handiness is even better than the AR family of “shorties”.

    Responding to the implied criticism of the testing of the M16 in Alaska and its failure to perform well (the ammunition), there was a reason for the test. For any of those who have missed lying in the snow in eastern W. Germany when the temperature was 4 degrees Farenheit, the air is a lot denser than in the swamps of Viet Nam. That dense air has a marked effect on the midrange ballistics of lighter bullets. When you’re outnumbered over 4 to one, that sort of thing makes a difference. Hence the test and the changes it wrought.

  • Jerry in So IL December 24, 2007, 5:02 am

    I can say this, IDOC use the 55gr SP 223 out of there Mini 14s. The last inmate shot trying to escape, was DOA with a less than perfect torso shot at 450 yards from a tower Mini. One shot, and drop one from the count!

  • 1919A6 December 25, 2007, 1:36 am

    R. Stephen Dorsey – I was in W. Germany opposite the Warsaw Pac with the M16A1. As with anything, WHY is very pertinent to ask, thus the M14 was just as good as the M16A1 with the 1-12 barrel because the U.S. Forces in W. Germany during the Cold War might as well had the code name “U.S.S. Arizona” for that was the purpose of those forces – to insure that if the Soviets attacked Europe the population of America would stand with them after losing ALL those AMERICAN in the first wave of Soviets!

    Frankly, a mix of 556 NATO and 762 NATO is the better solution. The better shots with the 762 NATO and the rest with 556NATO. Something on the order of the USMC mix of M1s to BARs in Korea.

  • Michael Z. Williamson February 19, 2008, 3:02 am

    191A6: Your information is incorrect. I’ve posted elsewhere on this blog, but will summarize again:
    1:14 was insufficient to stabilize bullets in cold Arctic air, a consideration during the Cold War. They changed to 1:12 to remedy this.

    It DOESN’T MATTER what twist rate you use. ALL rifle bullets tumble on hitting flesh, due to the denser medium. The twist rate is only relevant to the LENGTH of the bullet you are shooting. 1:14, 1:9, 1:7, all same as far as tumbling in flesh goes. 1:0.00005 still would.

    “Turns cover into concealment” is utter BS. Myth. Armchair bravado. But if you want to lay a $100 down and do side by side penetration tests, I’ll be glad to take your money. Both 5.56 and 7.62 will shatter cinder blocks and keep going. Neither will penetrate a standard sandbag. Both will punch Level IIIA armor (actually, two of them). One of many demonstrations can be seen here: http://www.TheBoxOTruth.com

    Ranger, I hate to disagree with you on your blog, but you’re backwards on bullets. 55 gr M193 shatters at speed and creates devastating wounds. The twofold problem with the current engagement is that a 14.5″ barrel doesn’t get the round past critical velocity for even half the distance that 20″ does, and the M855 round is too sturdy and massive to shatter. It’s a decent mid-range shooter (300-500 meters). It’s not a good choice in closer combat. The lighter bullet at faster velocity yields better energy on target and wounding.

    As to “varmint” rounds, keep in mind that a coyote has a thicker skin than a human, and a different profile and internal arrangement. Apples and oranges.

    Incidentally, if I can only have one gun, it’s my Remington 870 with an 8 round tube and an ACOG.

    Number 2 is an M4:)

  • Davion May 23, 2008, 8:37 pm

    Here is my two cents… I personally own and fire both an .223 AR15 (16″) and an .308 AR10 (20″).
    Ballisticly, the 10 makes much larger holes in things. But in the end of the world scenario, I would have to grab my 15. It all comes down to weight. My fully loaded 10 w/ scope and ammunition weighs a hefty 14lbs compared to my 15 which weighs in at around 8.5lbs.
    Yeah I agree shot placement is key. But in a SHTF situation I can carry a lot more ammunition for the weight. And as an added bonus my wife can handle the weight and recoil of the .223 chambered AR15.
    Just my two cents….

  • Kevin October 14, 2008, 6:09 pm

    I personally am a fan of 7.62 – if I shoot someone I want them to go down and stay down (unlike the army that wants to create wounded for buddies to carry away). It seems to me that whatever your caliber, it would make sense to alternate FMJ or armor piercing with expanding bullets in your mag. That way you can go thru cover/armor but also have the lethality on an unprotected zombie. Also, it seems that after going thru steel plate, an FMJ might be larger caliber than it started, although probably less massive.

  • Kyro October 30, 2008, 11:22 pm

    If you can afford it, get 2 each of the following:

    AR-15 Variant in 5.56mm Nato

    AK-47 or AKM Variant in 7.62x39mm Soviet (1 in 5.45×39 is ok for fun)

    FN FAL, M1A/M14 or HK G3/91/CETME in 7.62mm NATO (AR-10 too is ok I guess)

    Remy/Mossy 12 Guage Shotgun with tons o’ buckshot and slugs

    .45ACP, .40 S&W or 9x19mm pistol that you like and works well

    Lots of ammo
    Lots of mags
    Web Gear/Chest Rigs/Mag Carriers/holsters
    Cleaning Gear for your firearms

    With this your tool box will be complete, and you can choose your tool accordingly.

    If I had to pick ONE end-all, be-all rifle to have I’d pick one of the aforementioned rifles above and practice with it a lot.

    Use what you have, apply strategy and tactics accordingly to your capability. Rinse, repeat.

    If things go bad, be sure I’ll pick “a long and a short” no matter where I go.

  • GunRunner September 17, 2010, 2:18 pm

    The .223 is dead, it died in Vietnam but it took BlackHawk Down to bury it.

    The Last ‘Big Lie’ of Vietnam Kills U. S. Soldiers in Iraq
    By Maj. Anthony F. Milavic, USMC (Ret.)
    At a Vietnam Special Forces base during 1964, I watched a U. S. soldier fire 15 rounds of .223 caliber ammunition into a tethered goat from an AR—15 rifle; moments after the last round hit, the goat fell over. Looking at the dead goat, I saw many little bullet entry—holes on one side; and when we turned him over, I saw many little bullet exit—holes on the other side. Over time, those observations were confirmed and reconfirmed, revealing that the stories we were told on the lethality of the .223 caliber cartridge were fabrications. Those false reports drove the adoption of the .223 caliber cartridge as the 5.56mm NATO cartridge and, ever since, Americans have been sent to war with a cartridge deficient in combat lethality; a deficiency that has recently caused the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

    What is efficient combat lethality? The book Black Hawk Down quotes SFC Paul Howe’s description of SFC Randy Shughart, a soldier who elected to carry the 7.62mm M—14 into the urban battlefield of Somalia in 1993 rather than the 5.56mm CAR—15 (M—16—variant):

    ‘His rifle may have been heavier and comparatively awkward and delivered a mean recoil, but it damn sure knocked a man down with one bullet, and in combat, one shot was all you got. You shoot a guy, you want to see him go down; you don’t want to be guessing for the next five hours whether you hit him, or whether he’s still waiting for you in the weeds.’ [1]

    With the wisdom of a combat veteran, Howe describes the lethality necessary for a cartridge in combat—one—round knockdown power.

    How did we get from military cartridges with proven one—round knockdown power such as the 30—06 and 7.62mm to the 5.56mm? The journey starts with the term ‘tumbling.’ This term has been associated with the .223 cal./5.56mm cartridge, since early in its marketing as a potential military cartridge to this day. The very word, tumbling, prompts images of a bullet traveling end over end through the human body in 360—degree loops: in reality, it does not move this way at all.

    Dr. Martin L. Fackler, COL., USA (Ret.) served as a surgeon in Vietnam during 1968 and, subsequently, pursued the research of terminal ballistics by observing the effects of bullets fired into blocks of ballistic gelatin. In ‘Wounding patterns for military rifle bullets,’ he reports the observation that ‘all’ non—deforming pointed bullets—this included the 30—06 and 7.62mm military full—metal jacket bullets—— ‘yawed’ 180 degrees while passing through the gelatin to exit base—forward; i.e., heaviest end forward. The 5.56mm projectile acted in the same manner with a very precise exception: These rounds ‘yawed’ to 90—degrees, and then fragmented at their weakened serrated band (cannelure) into two or more pieces when fired into ballistic gelatin. However, the 5.56mm projectile does NOT always yaw or fragment. Under field conditions, the probability of these effects is reduced by the following factors:

    ——The round strikes the target at less than 2700 feet per second. That velocity is reduced by: the farther the range to the target, the greater reduction in velocity; shortened weapon barrel length as is the case with the shorter M—4 carbine; and/or, manufacturing variances in the cartridge.

    ——Variances in human body thickness and flesh density and consistency.

    In those cases, the bullet neither yaws nor fragments and causes only a pencil size hole through the body; i.e., small hole in, small hole out. Neither Dr. Fackler nor anyone else has provided any empirical data or estimate on the incidence of the 5.56mm yaw/fragmentation effect on enemy soldiers. Conversely, since first used by Americans in combat, there has been a consistent observation from the field—enemy soldiers continue to fire their weapons after being hit by multiple 5.56mm bullets; evidently, no yaw/fragmentation effect. Nevertheless, the term ‘tumble’ was apparently derived from idealized yaw action and, as suggested by the following, was chosen in lieu of the word yaw because it would ‘sell’ better. [2]

    The book, The Black Rifle, M16 Retrospective by Edward C. Ezell and R. Blake Stevens, ‘ . . . is, so far as [the authors] could make it so, the truth about the controversial 5.56mm caliber AR—15 (M16)—what it is, what it is not, where it came from, and why.’

    Edward C. Ezell, Ph.D., now deceased, was the Curator/Supervisor of the Division of Armed Forces History, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC and the editor of perhaps the world’s most famous gun book, Small Arms of the World. The Black Rifle contains one of the earliest characterizations that the .223 cal. bullet tumbled in a brochure produced by Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company, Inc. The caption written by the book’s authors reads, ‘From the first Colt AR—15 brochure, produced in a desperate attempt to interest somebody — anybody — in the merits of the AR—15’s ‘unmatched superiority.” In one of the three internal brochure illustrations is text reading, in part, ‘On impact the tumbling action of the .223 caliber ammunition increases effectiveness.’ [3]

    In 1961, Colt’s did get somebody’s attention. The Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA) of the Department of Defense (DoD) was enjoined by the Kennedy Administration to explore how the United States could support a foreign ally in a ‘limited’ war. In the spring of 1961, ARPA’s Project AGILE was implemented to supply ‘research and engineering support for the military and paramilitary forces engaged in or threatened by conflict in remote areas of the world.’ In October of 1961, ARPA provided ten Colt’s AR—15’s to Vietnamese Forces in Saigon to conduct a limited test. The Black Rifle remarks of this test, ‘The number of rifles might have been small, but the enthusiastic reaction of the Vietnamese and their American advisors alike who handled and fired the AR—15s was just as [Colt’s marketing agent] had predicted.’ Armed with these positive results, ARPA succeeded in expanding the Project AGILE study by procuring 1,000 AR—15s for distribution among select Vietnamese units for field—testing. Ezell & Stevens write that this approval resulted in ‘ . . . saving Colt’s from almost sure financial disaster and also setting the stage for the most influential yet controversial document so far in the history of the already controversial AR—15.’ [4]

    The purpose of this test, as set forth in, ARPA, ‘Report of Task 13A, Test of ArmaLite Rifle, AR—15,’ dated 31 July 1962, was ‘ . . . a comparison between the AR—15 and the M2 Carbine to determine which is a more suitable replacement for shoulder weapons in selected units of the Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces (RVNAF).’ The Project AGILE results were summed up, in part, by ARPA as follows: ‘The suitability of the AR—15 as the basic shoulder weapon for the Vietnamese has been established. For the type of conflict now occurring in Vietnam, the weapon was also found by its users and by MAAG advisors to be superior in virtually all respects to the M1 Rifle, M1 and M2 Carbines, Thompson Sub—Machine Gun, and Browning Automatic Rifle.’ NOTE: This study and its recommendations concerned the suitability of the AR—15 for Vietnamese soldiers, who were described by the testers to be of ‘small stature, body configuration and light weight,’ NOT larger stature United States soldiers. [5]

    In any case, the report was widely read and some of its components came under serious question, especially those purporting to describe the demonstrated lethality of the .223 caliber cartridge. The following are three such examples from the Project AGILE report:

    Example 1. ‘On 160900 June, one platoon from the 340 Ranger company was on a ground operation . . . and contacted 3 armed VC in heavily forested jungle.. . . At a distance of approximately 15 meters, one Ranger fired an AR—15 full automatic hitting one VC with 3 rounds with the first burst. One round in the head took it completely off. Another in the right arm, took it completely off. One round hit him in the right side, causing a hole about 5 inches in diameter.. . . (Rangers)’

    Example 2. ‘On 9 June a Ranger Platoon from the 40th Infantry Regt. Was given the mission of ambushing an estimated VC Company.. . .

    a. Number of VC killed: 5 [Descriptions of the one—round killing wounds follow.]

    1. Back wound, which caused the thoracic cavity to explode.
    2. Stomach wound, which caused the abdominal cavity to explode.
    3. Buttock wound, which destroyed all tissue of both buttocks.
    4. Chest wound from right to left; destroyed the thoracic cavity.
    5. Heel wound; the projectile entered the bottom of the right foot causing the leg to split from the foot to the hip.

    These deaths were inflicted by the AR—15 and all were instantaneous except the buttock wound. He lived approximately five minutes. (7th Infantry Division)’

    Example 3. ‘On 13 April, a Special Forces team made a raid on a small village. In the raid, seven VC were killed. Two were killed by AR—15 fire. Range was 50 meters. One man was hit in the head; it looked like it exploded. A second man was hit in the chest, his back was one big hole. (VN Special Forces)’ [6.]

    The above ‘field—reports’ are incredulous on their face and some in DoD requested that these results be duplicated scientifically. The Army Wound Ballistics Laboratory at Edgewood Arsenal attempted to do just that. Using .223 caliber Remington ammunition provided by Colt’s representative, they conducted their ‘standard lethality trials that consisted of measuring the cavitational and other effects of firing at known distances into blocks of ballistic gelatin, and where necessary, anaesthetized goats.’ They failed to duplicate the explosive effects reported by Project AGILE. In November 1962, the Army initiated ‘Worldwide’ tactical and technical tests of the AR—15 using U. S. soldiers. Edgewood was tasked to perform further lethality tests using modified .223 caliber ammunition. Ezell and Stevens describe the modifications: ‘They had modified some 55—grain .223 caliber ball bullets of Remington manufacture by cutting approximately 1/4 inch off the nose and drilling a 3/32—inch—diameter hole about 1/4 inch deep into the lead core of each bullet.’ The results? The authors continue, ‘As it turned out, even the hollow—points failed to duplicate anything like the spectacular effects recorded by the Vietnamese unit commanders and their American advisors, which had subsequently been taken as fact and much used as propaganda.’ [7.]

    The .223 caliber cartridge was morphed into the 5.56mm NATO cartridge and adopted for the United States Service Rifle M—16 (formerly, AR—15) replacing the 7.62mm M—14. How could such propaganda have convinced the Department of Defense to adopt the .223 caliber cartridge? ‘All this was inspired by the principle —— which is quite true in itself —— that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper stata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily, and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large—scale falsehoods.’
    Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf [8.]

    As is usually the case, a judgment based on lies was to adversely affect those at the ‘pointy end of the spear.’ American warriors reported enemy soldiers continuing to close and fire their weapons after sustaining multiple hits by 5.56mm bullets. This happened as early as 9 December 1965 in the official ‘After Action Report of the Ia Drang Valley Operation . . ..’ popularized by the movie and book We Were Soldiers Once . . . and Young. The commanding officer of the battalion engaged there, Col. Harold G. Moore, USA, writes of assaulting enemy soldiers being hit by 5.56mm rounds: “Even after being hit several times in the chest, many continued firing and moving for several more steps before dropping dead.” [9.]

    Later in that war, a similar experience is voiced by Col. John Hayworth, USA (Ret.): ‘In one fire—fight, I saw my RTO place three rounds [of 5.56 mm] in the chest of a charging NVA regular at 50 yards. He kept firing his AK and never slowed down. At 30 yards, I hit him with a blast of double ought buck. It picked him up off his feet and he didn’t get up again.’ [10.]

    In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the DoD increased the weight of the 5.56mm 55—grain bullet (M193) to 62—grains, replaced some of its lead core with a tungsten steel core, painted the bullet tip green and designated the new cartridge M855. In 1991, the Pentagon sent its warriors to the Gulf War with this new green—tip cartridge. Maj. Howard Feldmeier, USMC (Ret.) was there: ‘ . . . several Marines commented that they had to shoot Iraqi soldiers 2—3 or more times with the 62—grain 5.56mm green tip ammo before they stopped firing back at them . . ..’ That report is exemplified by one of an Iraqi officer who was thrown from his vehicle and set afire by an explosion: ‘Somehow he managed to hold on to his AK—47. He also got up, still on fire, faced the firing line of Marines and charged forward firing his weapon from the hip. He didn’t hit anyone but two Marines each nailed him with a three round burst from their M—16A2s. One burst hit him immediately above his heart, the other in his belly button. [He] . . . kept right on charging and firing until his magazine was empty. When he got up to the Marines two of them tackled him and rolled him in the sand to put out the fire. . . . He was quickly carried back to the battalion aid station . . .. The surgeons told me he certainly died of burns, but not necessarily from the six 5.56mm wounds . . ..’ [11.]

    In spite of the above ‘lesson learned,’ the DoD dispatched its warriors to combat in Somalia in 1993 with the same flawed ‘green tip’ cartridge as testified in Mark Bowden’s book Black Hawk Down: ‘His weapon was the most sophisticated infantry rifle in the world, a customized CAR—15, and he was shooting the army’s new 5.56mm green tip round. . . . The bullet made a small, clean hole, and unless it happened to hit the heart or spine, it wasn’t enough to stop a man in his tracks. Howe felt he had to hit a guy five or six times just to get his attention.’

    The Pentagon remained unmoved by that experience of its warriors and continued to send them to war underpowered. On 4 April 2002, I received an e—mail from a trooper in Afghanistan who appeals, in part: ‘The current—issue 62gr 5.56mm (223) round, especially when fired from the short—barreled, M—4 carbine, is proving itself (once again) to be woefully inadequate as [a] man stopper. Engagements at all ranges are requiring multiple, solid hits to permanently bring down enemy soldiers. Penetration is also sadly deficient. Even light barriers are not perforated by this rifle/cartridge combination.’ [12.]

    Additional observations of the impotence of the 5.56mm round soon appeared in official and professional publications. In their official briefing ‘Lessons Learned in Afghanistan’ dated April 2002, LTC C. Dean, USA and SFC S. Newland, USA of the U. S. Army Natick Soldier Center reported: ‘Soldiers asked for a weapon with a larger round. ‘So it will drop a man with one shot.” In the October 2002 issue of the Marine Corps Gazette magazine, Capt Philip Treglia, USMC reflected on his Afghanistan experience in December 2001 by reporting that, ‘the 5.56 mm round will not put a man to the ground with two shots to the chest.’ Capt Treglia’s men were trained to fire two bullets into an enemy’s chest and if that did not knock him down, they were to shift fire to the head. This is the corrective action implemented for these Marines and many others in the Armed Forces for the impotent 5.56mm cartridge rather than equipping them with a rifle that fired a bullet with one—round knockdown power. And, as Capt Treglia reported, multiple hits with the 5.56mm bullet didn’t work any better in Afghanistan than it did anytime in the past.

    In a 3 March 2003 written briefing, LCdr. Gary K. Roberts, USNR recommended to RAdm. Albert M. Calland, Commander, Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Command that he upgrades his command’s 5.56mm weapons to the 6.8mm cartridge. That briefing, entitled, ‘Enhancement of NSW Carbine & Rifle Capability,’ opens by observing:

    Recent combat operations have highlighted terminal performance problems, generally manifested as failures to rapidly incapacitate opponents, during combat operations when M855 62gr. ‘Green Tip’ FMJ is fired from 5.56mm rifles and carbines. Failure to rapidly incapacitate armed opponents increases the risk of U.S. forces being injured or killed and jeopardizes mission success. [13.]

    That statement was prophetic.

    On 12 September 2003, in Ar Ramadi, Iraq elements of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group engaged enemy forces in a firefight. An insurgent was struck in the torso by several rounds of 5.56mm ammunition from their M—4 carbines (this is the current shortened version of the M—16 Service Rifle). He continued to fire his AK—47 and mortally wounded MSgt Kevin N. Morehead, age 33, from Little Rock, Arkansas. The engagement continued with the same insurgent surprising SFC William M. Bennett, age 35, from Seymour, Tennessee from a hiding place and killing him instantly with a three—round burst to the head and neck. SSgt Robert E Springer, threw away his M—4 carbine, drew an obsolete WWI/WWII vintage .45 caliber pistol and killed the insurgent with one shot. A close inspection of the enemy’s corpse revealed that he had been hit by seven 5.56 mm rounds in his torso. Also, in this engagement, these soldiers were provided with a commercially produced 5.56mm round of 77—grain weight vice the 62—grain bullets in use by general—purpose forces. Obviously, the larger 5.56mm round was of little consequence. [14.]

    These reports are consistent with my own experience during three tours of duty in Vietnam from the goat incident in 1964 described above to service with the 3rd Marine Division in 1968—69; experience that repeatedly reminded me that this 5.56mm cartridge was nothing more than the full—metal jacket military version of the commercial .223 caliber Remington cartridge. The .223 caliber Remington was and is today commercially advertised and sold as a ‘varmint cartridge’ for hunting groundhogs, prairie dogs and woodchucks. The cartridge is offered with soft point, hollow point, fragmentation, or projectiles incorporating two or more of these attributes to enhance its lethality and assure a ‘clean kill’: one—round knockdown power on varmints. States such as the Commonwealth of Virginia do not permit it to be used for hunting deer or bear because its lethality—with or without those enhancements——does not assure a ‘clean kill’ on big game. [15] Yet, its full metal jacket military counterpart continues to be issued to American warriors in spite of almost 40 years of Lessons Learned that enemy soldiers continue to fire their weapons and have even killed our soldiers after sustaining multiple hits from 5.56mm bullets.

    The lethality of the 5.56mm cartridge, sold on lies, cannot be fixed in truth. It is time the Department of Defense recognizes this ‘Big Lie’ from the Vietnam War and in the names of MSgt Kevin N. Morehead and SFC William M. Bennett replaces this varmint cartridge with one that gives our warriors that critical capability described by SFC Paul Howe above——one—round knockdown power!

    The author’s 25—year Marine career included service as an infantryman and intelligence officer with highlights of three tours of duty in Vietnam and, ultimately, representing the Defense Intelligence Agency as a briefer to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense and other Washington area decision makers. He currently manages MILINET an Internet forum on international political/military affairs.

    1. Bowden, M, Black Hawk Down, Penguin Books, 2000, p. 208.

    2. Fackler, ML,”Wounding patterns of military rifle bullets,” International Defense Review, January 1989, pp. 59—64.

    3. Ezell, EC & Stevens, RB, The Black Rifle, M16 Retrospective, Collector Grade Publications, Inc., 1994, p. 98.

    4. Ibid. pp.99—100.

    5. Ibid. pp.101—106.

    6. Ibid. pp. 106—107.

    7. Ibid. p. 116.

    8. Hitler, A, Mein Kampf. James Murphy, translator. London, New York, Melbourne: Hurst and Blackett Ltd; April 1942; page 134.

    9. Moore, Col. HG, ‘After Action Report, Ian Drang Valley Operation 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry 14—16 November 1965,’ dated, 9 December 1965, p. 8.

    10. Hayworth, Col. J, E—Mail to author, 23 April 2002.

    11. Feldmeier, Maj. H, E—Mail to author, 21 May 2002.

    12. Anonymous, E—Mail to MILINET, 26 March 2002.

    13. Roberts, USNR, LCdr. Gary K., Brief to RAdm Albert M. Calland, CMDR NAVSPECWARCOM, ‘Enhancement of NSW Carbine & Rifle Capability’ brief, 3 March 2003.

    14. Jones, Bruce L., ‘MILINET: Case Studies in Combat Failures of 5.56mm Ammunition,’ 3 November 2003

    15. http://www.dgif.state.va.us/hunting/regs/section6.html#legaluse

    on “The Last ‘Big Lie’ of Vietnam Kills U. S. Soldiers in Iraq”

    • professorstein April 21, 2016, 1:27 pm

      This is probably the most ignorant rambling I’ve read in weeks. But thanks for quoting Hitler and demonstrating what a complete moron you are. In the meantime, despite your bias and conspiracy theories, half the world uses the AR15 platform for law enforcement, special forces and military. And you’ll notice it’s the educated and civilized half of the world. But thanks for at least demonstrating in your ramblings all the scenarios where the person firing the 7.62 rounds never hit their target. I was actually surprised those incidents didn’t involve the usual 7.62 jam. Thanks for the entertainment.

  • Dave November 24, 2010, 4:21 pm

    Gun runner thats some pretty interesting read.

    meh, if the .223 is good enough for most armed forces in the world, its good enough for me. If the AR platform is good enough for the passed 60 years, its still good enough for me. For ballistics performance, I mean shot placement is something most people need to take in consideration too.

    I remember seeing this inmate who got shot 5 times at point blank range in the stomach area with a .357 and one in the face and he was still alive!!

    personally I’d run a 7.62 carbine as a SHTF rifle but thats just me.

  • WWD88888 April 4, 2011, 1:44 pm

    My SHTF rules: use whatever is easiest to acquire ammo, parts, oils, and clips for. You also need a .22 pistol, a 12g shotgun with a wide variety of shells. Axes, knives, cammo, can openers, packs, shovels, etc. are going to be invaluable.

    Rifle-wise, it is a toss up. A 20″ 1/7 HBAR match AR or a .308 M1A. The .308 would be more versatile, but the bits and pieces for the AR more plentiful. When the M1A breaks, it is done.

    • dubbs February 6, 2015, 1:17 pm

      And yet the only time our military forces have been “out gunned” was the Little Big horn , where the BIG bullet 40-70 single shot spring field couldnt match the rapid fire of the 44-40 winchester level action used by sitting bulls people!

      Even in current combat situations, people keep harping false claims that 300m accurate old russian and chinese ak47s are out ranging our 400m accurate M-4 carbines and 500m M-16s, simply not the case( insurgents are using 30 cal rifles to harass troops to we respond with .30 -50 cal sniper weapons)

      Even examples of civilian poiice engagements, like the LAPD North Hollywood bank robbery incident, against ak 47 wielding, heavy body armor wearing criminals, well placed “inferior” .223 rds punched thru the body armor and took the last suspect down( the other one ran out of bullets and committed suicide)

      While I agree with backwoods and open plains types who go .30 cal or large rifle rounds for hunting and longer range shooting, I really laugh at the ” punching through walls, cars,etc” mindset; we are NOT in a free fire ZONE, we are in heavily populated America!! You have to shoot through a car( with uneven surfaces and various material configurations) or a building, that means your target probably isnt an imminent threat you cannot avoid or out manuever!!!( Ive seen med. Velocity hand gun rounds go through cars as a former LEO
      So I know 5.56 x 45 can do it!)

      Even with a breakdown of the govt due to natural disaster or plague, or economic meltdown, re-establishment of order will occur . And those who THINK they are the ” last man on earth” will pay penalty for their excessive acts.

      Anything considered more than defensive, will be judged harshly and with little remorse.

      As for returning to lugging around an M-1A?? If it was kicking the ass of an in shape 19 yr old private, I doubt some middle aged bubba who hasnt slept on the ground for anytime longer than a wknd camping and hunting trip, is going to last long in “survival mode” while toting backpacks filled with essentials on ” the road”.

      I have a PTR-91, a Remington 700 bolt action, and several BCM and Spikes ARs- IF I had a go to gun in a urban or suburban wrol or disaster scenario, its going to be my 5.56 carbines( I got a garage full of necessities that can last me and family a year )

  • Mobile Safety Certificate Gold Coast August 18, 2014, 8:34 pm

    Wonderful things here. I will be quite content to look your posting. Thanks a lot a whole lot and I am looking ahead to get in touch with people. Can you please shed us a mail?

  • Anonymous January 6, 2015, 12:41 am

    If SHTF you all gonna starve to death. Those of you with better rifles will starve to death a little slower.

    • Sol Lewinski August 4, 2015, 6:47 am

      My rifle stock is made with synthetic fibers made of Muscle Pharm Whey Protein Powder, brah. I can just boil it down and drink my sustenance.

  • Gary August 11, 2015, 12:53 am

    Thanks for a very well informed, articulate, rational and realistic approach to the AR 15 discussion.

    I’ve watched a lot of videos on YouTube and other sources. Some are good, some are ill-informed, uninformed or pseudo macho rants by tough guy wannabes.

    I always want to want to ask or know if any of the tough guys have ever served in the military, if they’ve ever fought in combat, if they’ve ever been shot or wounded and if they’ve ever shot and killed anyone. I prefer real time and real life experience rather than arm chair quarterbacking.

    So thanks for a knowledgeable perspective and article.

    • Anonymous December 21, 2015, 8:57 pm

      I’ve done all of these, including the being wounded part. I never felt undergunned with an M4 in Anything urban, but I always had someone with a 240 close by.
      During my last tour in Afghanistan which was very rural, each squad had an M14 and a shotgun to use as the squad leader saw fit, and I generally preferred having the M14 in hand given the terrain we were in (engagements beyond 500 meters often).
      I really like 556 for within its capabilities, but it does have limitations, then again 762 does too. It is easy to double tap a guy with an M4, try doing that with an M14.

  • Bill Randall October 18, 2015, 9:41 am

    scoped, a good 11.5″ barreled AR, with 69 gr bthp Sierra ammo, is fully capable of effective sniping at 1/4 mile. That’s plenty of range, when you know to also have 7.5″ of silencer. That combo is still a handy package and it will break down in 5 seconds to conceal in a pack reassemble in 10 seconds to fire. Need NVD goggles and luminous sights and enough sense to avoid open areas in daylight hours. For best performance, need a free float tube, triggerjob, GI bipod clamped on the tube (not the barrel) and an anti-cant bubble level on the scope, or a scope that has such a level built into it.

    choosing other calibers is choosing to either be LOUD/stupid, or have a bipod only rlfle, like a 22″ M1A with 10″ of silencer. (also stupid).

  • Bill Randall October 18, 2015, 9:56 am

    best to stay underground during daylight if shtf. best to have subsonic .22 (ie, BB gun quiet thru the AR’s. 22lr conversion unit) for nearly all of your shooting. yes, you can have a silenced 22 handgun and a 30 AK, but yu won’t be able to use a single rd from the looted NG armories, and your handgun practice won’t build rifle skill. the “can” makes the full power 223 ammo so “tame” to use that practice (regular high speed .22lr ammo) DOES make you faster at hitting with the silenced 223. 308’s are 18 rds to the lb, 60 gr 223’s are 35 rds to the lb, 60 gr 22′ Aquila ammo is 100 rds to the lb. 30 rd AR mags weigh 5 ozs each. 30 rd steel AK mags are 11 ozs each. 20 rd steel 308 mages are 7 ozs each. the carbon fiber AR weighs 4 lbs, with 11.5″ barrel. the 223 silencer weighs 3/4 ozs, as does the .22 unit. the aluminum scope mount and scope for the AR total 1 lb, the bipod, 1/4 lb. the heavy barreled M1A is 11 lbs, scope mount and bipod for it total 2 lbs and the silencer for it is 1.5 lbs. 6.7 lbs vs 14.5 lbs and the M1A has no .22 option. Then the mags and ammo weigh twice as much for the M1a, making it a stupid choice. The 8 lbs saved by the Ar’s weight means that I can carry 270 rds, and have the same weight as the M1A guy with no ammo! Making noise and having flash at night will SOON mean that your gear will be ong to your killer. make half of the 8 lbs saved be 140 rds of 223 and 400 rds of subsonic 22 rimfire subsonics and by the time I fire that ammo (intelligently, thru the silencer) I’ll have TONS of guns and ammo. only idiots will be in the open, in daylight, once shtf.

  • a.stone December 22, 2015, 5:32 pm

    Ok… the 55 grain is an intentional load. It is well known by both European and American military that severely wounding an enemy on the battle field is more advantageous than killing him. A wounded man requires at least one if not more men to carry him away from action. This means one round pulls three or more combatants off the engagement field. Next is the psychological effect a wounded man has on his other co-combatants. Wounded men scream, cry and bleed these all subtract from enemy moral. Next is the not dead factor. A dead co-combatant becomes a martyr and can increase enemy aggression within the engagement.
    These are a few reasons why the m4 standard issue round is 55 grain light armor piercing. Its intentional. All the European nations use similar if not the same round for the same reasons.
    Now you can understand why the 55 grain projectile is so battle friendly… of course that’s just the reasoning of the world’s top military forces… surely u know better.

    • Steve in idaho July 23, 2016, 1:47 am

      For myself personaly I wouldnt want to get hit by a rock comeing from a sling shot. Im now dealing with the thought of down sizing to a more practical arms and ammo supply. I think thats the impression I got for some of you. Example, I have about $1500 plus into a 300RUM, I dont hunt! My first AR-15 was entry level which looks like orig M16. My second was put together by a vet who made his living building ARs and reloading. I have over the years accumulated ammo for both weapons above. In theses times of uncertainity , me I will trust the AR because I shoot for accuracy and have experienced the rate of fire and accuracy out to 300 yards and beyond. Every comment I read is good and really sound. When I finally put the AR down I want them dead not my family. Maybe the inexperience of combat (mine would have been Vietnam) alot of you will laugh at me but I dont give a rip! It goes back to that slingshot & rock thing. My pistol of choice is a commender style 1911. My wifes is a SP101 357 mag which she LOVES. Ive been thinking about a pistol style AR. Theres more to clear out in gun safe . None of them will do me any good to look at & I dont see my wife shooting the 300. On the shtf scenario, there will be worse things to worry about than the absolute best DIRTBAG stopper. With GOD as my witness I would do all I could for family & friends. No I wasnt on soap box just my THOUGHTS AS AN AMERICAN CITIZEN? I often think back on the 70s and what the vets went through. Thankyou to you all of every conflict!

  • durability is the question August 4, 2016, 12:20 am

    I really don’t question the lethality of 5.56. I am more curious about the durability. When I look at the modern world and those individuals without access to the support of a modern, wealthy army and it’s armorers, they seem to be using non-impingement based designs, ak-47, m1 carbine, shotgun, bolt action rifles. If we look at used gun stores for semi-autos, there is always a supply of SKS, maybe a mini or 2, 7600, I rarely see a used AR on the gun rack.
    You read about mujahid in the Soviet war cleaning akm/ak’s with a rope tied in knots and old motor oil and hammering barrels as straight as they can. These are some primitive people living in what we would consider teotwaki conditions. I don’t really see the precision tool the AR is surviving that. Actually, if you think about it, “groups” from jungles to desserts, which are surviving “outside the system”, for whatever reason, seem to favor non-AR platforms.
    I think when one talks about shtf and teotwaki scenarios these are different things. I see shtf as a “recoverable scenario”, duration unknown, but not a total loss of civilization. teotwaki is a total loss of civilization. so planning for such scenarios should use existing and current data in our real world.
    Therefore my question with the AR is more a durability question. For real world “data” i look at used guns, what is prevalent, or absent, what are groups with limited resources using. It is not about bullets, anyone here can stockpile a tremendous wealth of any given caliber in this greatest nation on god’s green earth. But what tool will continue to work 6 months, 1 yr, 2 yrs, 5 yrs, god forbid 10 yrs from now with limited or scarce resources?
    Caliber be damned, unless you intent is to be aggersive and seek engagement, which requires resource and logistics.
    shtf – non-impingment because of cleaning needs, delicacy and parts durability
    teotwaki – simplest design, sa, bolt action, maybe a lever
    maybe i’m wrong, how durable do you think an AR is? could the collapsible stock survive an assisted fall from a 200 lbs guy on concrete like a rifle? repeatedly? Can it go uncleaned for long periods, be cleaned with field expedient resources and be repaired with field expedient parts? Can you use it as a club and still have a functional weapon today, tomorrow and next year?

  • durability is the question August 4, 2016, 1:03 am

    Also, anyone who is banking on special bullets should wake up. The reality is what you have is all you have unless you get it somewhere else. So when the hollow points are gone in the 9mm, it leaves a 9mm hole. same for small caliber rifles. so hp 5.56/.223 is great and when it’s gone you leave fmj .223 holes. my point is not that these are poor caliber choices. it is the philosophy of “why carry .45 with less rounds when my 9mm hollow point expands and i can carry more rounds” or “5.56 77 gr will do the trick like x39”. This is not a realistic philosophy for the scenario’s presented in shtf/teotwaki because it requires someone to stockpile and rely on this specific ammunition to make the tool effective. No one ever talks like this about .45, .357 and x39, .06 or x51 because even fmj will leave a wound cavity big enough to incapacitate. Proof of this is the off-sited vietnam era AR data. The M-16 was a tool intended to kill man, this is not shtf/teotwaki, but an aspect of it. Similar in the way a bow and arrow carried by an indian served multiple roles. native bows did not exceed 40 lbs, not like modern hunting bows, old english long bows or mongol/turkish war bows which could exceed 120 lbs. yet the native bow effectively killed prey and enemy.
    Also mobility is a consideration. if you stockpile 10k of the good stuff, but have to move, how much can you take and what will you be able to requisition in the field. sounds like money left behind maybe. if you can have 2x or 3x fmj for the hp, up caliber and practice. If that’s your psychology, it would suck to rely on special ammo and come across a stockpile of 9mm fmj or 55gr 5.56 as opposed to .40/.45 fmj or ww2 era ’06.

    • Wordmahn October 27, 2016, 11:07 pm

      Wow. Some of you guys must watch a lot more Walking Dead and post-apocalyptic flicks than I do. If it comes to the point where reasonably well prepared people run out of oil, cleaning equipment, and spare parts for their ARs… If we blow through the X thousand rounds we have stashed (and actually survive that much combat!) and have to think about scavenging rounds from burnt out armories, hiding underground all day, subsisting for long periods on wild game, etc… If it gets THAT bad and stays that bad that long… IDK. I’m prepping for short term melt downs. They could be bad. Think the Balkans. Getting my head wrapped around anything much beyond that makes me feel crazier than I am and hinders me from living life now. And think: If there were a large-scale nuclear exchange or something of that magnitude, is ANY amount of prepping likely to avail? I could be wrong but I believe that a reasonable amount of effort in prepping is wise, but an excessive amount might become a morbid obsession. But, peace. Not wishing to offend anyone here. Just hoping to present some food for thought.

      And, BTW, a light, handy AR in 5.56 with appropriate optics and superb ammo like Black Hills TMK would probably meet 95% of anyone’s PERSONAL defensive and hunting needs quite well. Any long gun beyond that would reasonably be classed as a specialty piece more suited to group tactics and or offensive operations not usually associated with SHTF survival scenarios. The exception IMHO would be a suppressed, subsonic repeater like an AR in 300 BO with night vision and/or thermal. Pricy, but if one could afford it they would own the night.

      • Mike b. February 25, 2017, 5:00 pm

        You sir, win this thread,hands down.


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