Below is an interesting post from the Insights Training Center email
list regarding the perennial 5.56 vs .308 debate.
xxxxx posted (<03/08/2009)
I was reading an article written by Paul Howe (can't find the article now, though)
where he said that the 5.56 round does not have the necessary stopping power,
and cited real-world experiences where the BG's did not stop fighting fast enough
after being shot with a 5.56 round(s). He felt that the 7.62 round was superior,
and therefore recommended the FAL as a general-purpose fighting/defensive rifle.
Which leads to my questions:
Is this view common amongst his peer group?
Why does Insights prefer the AR-15/M-4 over the FAL?
I haven't discussed this with Paul in depth but will next time I talk with him. I'll let
you know his response.
I did attend Paul's" High Risk Operator Instructor Course" a couple of months ago
(the shooting was about 80% rifle.) Paul shot his own AR (5.56) during the class.
In our equipment discussions during the course he did not have anything negative
to say about either the 5.56 cartridge or the AR platform.
I have also heard Paul give his talk on the "Black Hawk Down" mission in Mogadishu.
He did mention dissatisfaction with a situation(s?) where he shot someone and they
ran away (or had to be shot again). IIRC he was shooting M855, out of a short barrel-
ed rifle at targets a couple of blocks away and they didn't appear to react.
This doesn't surprise me because M855 out of a 14.5" barrel only has enough velocity
to reliably fragment out to about 100yds. Once the bullet is moving slow enough that
it doesn't fragment, it tends to simply drill a 5.56mm (0.4688"or 15/32") hole through
the tissue. If that hole isn't in brain, spine or significant bone there is no reason the
man will have to react immediately to being shot.
Which brings us to the time element of the equation. How quickly can we expect
a bullet to terminate hostile activity; 1-3 seconds, 3-5 seconds, 5-10 seconds?
How fast is fast enough?
If the BG continues his violent assault for 5-10 seconds after being shot by his intend-
ed victim I expect the defensive shooter will quite likely feel his shot was "ineffective."
Even a period of only 3-5 seconds can seem to be an eternity in a fight, and of course
the BG can do a lot of damage (or run out of sight) in that time. The fact is however
that no matter how much tissue damage is done to the heart, lungs, or most other
bodily structures; wounds to those structures will not reliably shut a person down in
less than 3-5 seconds (and often much longer.) This is regardless of the caliber of
the projectile causing the wounds. Hits to the brain or spinal cord are the exception
and often, but not always, produce more immediate results.
A couple of years ago I reviewed an LE shooting where a BG was hit 12 times with
an AR at a range of 9-12 yds. 10 rounds struck his torso producing fatal damage to
his liver, spleen, heart and both lungs.1 round struck his right femur fracturing same
(and starting his fall toward the ground.) 1 round entered through his left eye and
destroyed a significant portion of his brain (this was the last shot according to
forensics but they noted the BG was already falling at the time this round hit him.)
The shooting was captured on both video and (separate) audio recordings. The
elapsed time from the LEO's first shot to his 15th shot (total rounds fired) was just
under 5 seconds. During those 5 seconds the BG continued to fight, firing 6 rounds
from a .357 revolver. Having viewed the autopsy photos of the BG's heart, lungs,
liver and spleen I can tell you that the contents of his torso were pretty much trashed.
I just don't' believe that some other caliber would have made a significant difference
in the amount of damage. Trashed is trashed.
Was this a failure to stop? I spoke with the LEO shooter a couple of days after the
incident and that was certainly his perception. He commented that he got really
tired of seeing the big muzzle flash come out of the BG's gun and just wanted it to
stop. (The shooting took place at night in low light conditions.) Early in our conver-
sation he asked me what round they could use which would incapacitate a BG
quicker. My answer was that I didn't know of any weapon/caliber, that he could
physically carry, which I would expect to do any better.
My point here is that I believe many of the "failure to stop" incidents are based on
unrealistic expectations of what a bullet (any bullet) can do. Somehow we don't
find it surprising when a deer is shot in the heart/lungs with a .308 or 30-06 rifle
and runs 25 yds or more (sometimes much more) before dying, but if a human
doesn't immediately expire in-place when shot we think we need a different
I don't spend much time at all worrying about which caliber or particular load to
use in my defensive weapons. I want to spend the minimum time necessary to
select the cartridge I will use, because I know that developing the skill to deliver
them is a time consuming process. (Time, in life seems to be a zero-sum equation.)
My approach is to do enough research to insure that I have a round which seems
to go deep enough to get to the "good stuff" and expands/fragments reliably. In
most calibers there are numerous loadings which meet this requirement. I don't
really care which one of these I use.
Next I want to insure that particular cartridge is reliable in my gun.
After that it's all about developing the skills necessary to accurately deliver as
many of those rounds as possible in the shortest amount of time.
So what do I shoot in my AR? (14.5" barrel, 1:9 twist)
Mostly Federal 55 gr BTHP (why: because an LE agency I do training for paid me
partially in ammo and it meets the criteria.)
M855 (cause a found a lot of it cheap a while back.)
IF I lived in an apartment or townhouse with neighbors only a few paper thin walls
away, I wouldn't feel too bad with the Black Hills 60gr VMAX. I know it doesn't pene-
trate "deep enough" in the tests but many things in life are a compromise and if
over penetration was a higher priority on my list of criteria..