Herschel: Considerations In Selecting .223/5.56 Ammo

It ain’t always what it seems.


41 responses to “Herschel: Considerations In Selecting .223/5.56 Ammo

  1. SemperFi, 0321

    Gee, and I’m constantly being told here how great the 77 gr. is.
    My old 1/12″ twist M16A1 and CAR-15’s keyhole 68 gr BTHP at 30m, which is not a bad idea either if you want to create a nasty wound at close range, but shit for long range accuracy shooting.
    There’s a plus and minus to anything you shoot, but I’m still a big believer in the 55 gr. M193 at 3,250 fps, it was designed for high velocity and hydrostatic shock. That doesn’t happen when you connect with tiny bullets at 2,600 fps or slower. They make holes similar to a cleaning rod going thru. Better yet, why not use varmint rounds and stay away from armored areas.

    P.S. Those steel cased Russian Wolf 55 FMJ are squib loads, m.v. is something like 2,900 fps and pile up right under the ejection port, not my idea of the ideal M-16 round, even for practice.

    • What weight and type powder do you use for 3250?

      • Confederate miner

        I would say he is using standard m193 ammo. He is most likely firing out of 20 inch barrel. That was what the round was meant for. Everybody wants 16 inch barrels so now you can’t even hardly find an ar with 20 inch.i can’t stand 16 inch barrel.

      • SemperFi, 0321

        H335 (military WC844) 26.0 gr with 55gr. V-Max.
        Every reloading manual shows some difference, but it’s around 3,200 fps , 20″ A1. I need to chrono it myself soon, so I know what each rifle is actually shooting for fps.

        • I am fond of the Vmax for its energy-shedding capabilities. Thanks.

          • The V-Max will blow up on a belt buckle. Forget penetrating armor plate.

            While I’m about it, I will try once again to state the difference between AR500 and real, mil-spec armor plate. AR500 is meant for TARGETS!

            Go here for the rest of the story:


            I’ve tried several times to head of this debate about AR500 without apparent success.


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            17th, 2015
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            Posted: August 15, 2015 in Future Developments, Swag
            Tags: M193, Maingun Advance, Maingun Patriot Plate

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            AR500 Is. Not.The. Shit.

        • I have chrono data on 26.3 grains of WC846 at 3325 FPS in a 22″ Remington 700 VTR 1:9 twist. That propellant I was told burns like BL-C2. Works just as well in my 20″ AR with same twist. Same propellant works for .308. I mostly shoot it (‘plinking ammo’) with 55 grain FMJ such as Berry’s or Hornady. Shoots about 1MOA from the bolt gun. My WC846 was a ‘surplus item’ with I bought it. I’ve compared it side by side with BL-C2 and they seem to be comparable.

          H335 with a 55 grain VMAX shoots sub MOA. Varget is also very good but being a stick is more irritating to meter vs ball. 41.9 gr RE-15 with 150 grain Hornady SST .308 is very good, producing tight sub MOA groups at 100 yards. My .308 is also a Rem 700 VTR. Terminal performance on deer and antelope with that SST is incredible.

          Your mileage may vary.

      • SemperFi, 0321

        Std .mil M193 is supposed to be 3,250 fps, that’s what the VN era M-16A1 was designed to shoot. I shot USMC high expert (238/250) with that combination in the mid 70’s.
        Today’s M193 loads aren’t all the same, why I posted that comment about Wolf 55 FMJ. Somebody gave me 2 boxes recently, shot it sighting in a scope last month. Didn’t feel or sound normal, but rather like a squib load. Looked it up, it’s not good milspec repro.
        My handloads are in military brass also, the 26.0 gr WC844 is supposed to be near milspec, just under the max case capacity too.

    • SF0321,

      Hey, you want my load data for my Nosler 77 grainers ? I can also send you the data for my Barnes 85gr OTMs. 😊

      Standard issue ammo for the IDF is now their 77 grain Razor Core round. US military has been using the 62 grain Green-Tip for years. Oh, and SF elements have been using the 77 grain MK 262 for many years themselves.

      Guess the US military need to revert, errrrr regress, back to 1972 and the M16A1 and 55 grain rounds, eh ?

      Nevertheless, the posted video tests provide some convincing data why M193 is a viable round. Mr. Smith provides some great data. However, it only serves to remind me of the incessant arguments, when I was a younger lad, of the .45 ACP vs 9mm Luger arguments.

      I’ll stick with kinetic energy vs velocity for now. But, as suggested by Mr. Smith….it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a case of M193 in storage.

      SF0321, here’s wishing you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and a safe New Year.

      • SF0321 & ALCON,

        FYI the latest issue of AR-15 Magazine (On newstands until 13 FEB 17) offers a detailed article on page 132, “Multitask”. The author explains why the new Barnes 85 grain Precision Match bullet/cartridge may be the most versatile 5.56mm round available. He writes well of the 55 grain pill and provides several comparison charts of 85 vs 55 (velocity @ distances, ballistic coefficients, etc).

        Hell, I may just decide to get rid of my 77 grain cache and go to the Barnes’ 85 pill.

        • SemperFi, 0321

          Dan III,
          Looks like you’re trying to make a .243 out of a .223. 🙂

          I have 3 A1’s and an A2, I’ll stick to my 55gr loads since they work so well in that platform.

          Happy holidays to you and yours also!

    • …and the Russian ammo burns very dirty too. Which translates to heavy fouling and need to clean more often (sooner).
      Without digging up my record book, IIRC, I’ve chronographed the M193 at near 3,300 out of a 16 inch barrel with 1/ 10″ twist.
      Not bad for a poodle shooter.

    • The 77 gr. was producing one-shot DRT sniper stops out of M-16 platforms in Iraq, when the M855 62gr with steel penetrator was punching nice neat, minimally effective woundings, followed by target escapes. That is the forte of the 77gr rounds.

  2. Guess I’m going shopping for Christmas!!! I could use a pallet or two.lol may have to acquire it a box at a time

  3. Hmmmm, we have two sets of ar 500 plates, and two,sets of ceramic plates. Our ar 500 plates did not have the bed liner, we applied it, after we had them awhile.

    I’ll have to give this serious thought. Our personal range also has “30” AR 500 plates, on swings. We’ve never penetrated any of the ar500 targets. Closets target is 540y longest is 1400y.

    My 338 LM, rocks em big time, with enough energy to slam em back flush to the ground. That’s roughly 2800,

    Our 190 SMKs out of a 31 inch Krieger # 9 barrel, crono’s right at 3004fps, consistent. Never punched a plate, got,to,be the distances.

    Just had my 300 WM, chamber opened up to work with the Berger 215, and the barrel shortened to 28. When I screw the thunderbeast on the fuckers like 300 ft long. It’s a tack driver.

    Got a Schmidt and Bender PMII scope, P4F reticle,

    We were not aware that 223 was punching ar steel. This changes things.

    Anybody know if the 193 s are punching ceramic?


    • If I’m not mistaken, certified testing requires them to be stationary rather than located on swings or swivel or other such apparatus that allows them to move.

    • I wouldn’t get too excited about fragments coming through. Note that those are, as are most, not standalone plates. They need soft armor behind them to catch fragments and spall. Think about that when you think a plate carrier is all you need. Put some Kevlar behind it.

      CA is right about VMax. The poly tip also protects the tip and improves feeding, unlike traditional soft points. Don’t expect much barrier penetration though. Fine for people and other varmints. Less so for general purpose.

      M193 will penetrate more than M855 under many conditions. It doesn’t do much on the backside, though. PMC is particularly bad about fragmenting. M855 does improve penetration, but it’s real potential is tumbling in tissue and breaking into two relatively large pieces that penetrate more than small fragments.

  4. The answer is simple… be skilled enough to hit something NOT covered in armor. Kinda makes me want to step up my game a tad. Center mass is not the answer. I think Max Velocity speaks about hips and heads. Wisdom in that.

  5. Waiting in Idaho

    My two neighbor kids punched holes in my AR-500 target (100yds) with a .204 Ruger with 34gr Balistic Tips. Looked like it had been drilled on a press. My .338 Lapua with 300gr Bergers hardly leave a dimple. Its a whole new world when you start talking about muzzle velocities over 4200 fps. Just a thought.

  6. just plain todd

    CA, try 21 gr of IMR 4198 and a 55 gr FMJBT. i believe that to be a pretty close dupe of M193. the AR was originally designed around that powder. i use IMR 4895 for plinking, but even at a max load, its still way short of M193 velocity. i gotta admit, i don’t worry about this 22 cal stuff. i’m set up around M2 AP in 30 cal. merry white kwanza!

  7. But pretty much any weight is still recommended for face and groin area?

    There are many factors involved. One difference I noted in the 2 videos is that the III plate is standing up, so the bullet hits real close to perpendicular. The III+ plate is curved and is mounted on its side and the point of impact is near the top (as it is mounted) giving an angle between the bullet and plate. He notes no spall fragments on the table as further proof that any spalling was deflected upward.

    What would be the effect of M193 against level III at an angle? The effective armor at the point of angled impact is thicker than the actual armor.

  8. The only downside to a 20″ barrel is getting in and out of a vehicle rapidly with the weapon or trying to deploy it within the vehicle. A very long time ago, I used 20″ barreled M16s, both A1 and A2 varieties in MOUT training and had no problems with them. In addition, the 20″ barrel boasts a longer sight radius so optics are not required for good long range shots, until one becomes an old geezer like me.

    From a technical point of view, the M193 round is better in every respect until ranges exceed 300m. It is also much cheaper and easier to manufacture than every other round that the military has or is considering. Part of the reason that M855 showed up was that the Marines wanted to be able to hit out to 500m. The M855 could do that while the M193 was challenged to do so. Unfortunately, the vast majority of shooters, myself included, can’t make use of this longer range accuracy in field conditions. The Army did studies and found that proper target identification/acquisition past 300 meters is normally a questionable proposition at best, at least until you get into open terrain, such as Afghanistan. In addition, the 1:12 twist is absolutely great for 55 grain ammo and has the added benefit of theoretically higher velocities and longer barrel life due to less resistance, although in practice this difference will be minimal. The only downside to the 1:12 is that it can’t use all of the ammunition that can potentially be found, unlike the 1:7 twist.

    Based on this, I would argue that the best rifle for the eastern half of the USA for people interested in self protection would be an AR platform in 5.56 with a 20″ barrel. I would get a 1:7 twist simply because of potential logistics needs, but I wouldn’t buy anything but M193 for bulk service rifle ammunition purchases.

    • Doom,

      Who makes a 20″ barreled ARmalite with a 1/7 twist ?

      Someone correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t M193 made to perform and stabilize in 1/12 twist barrels, not 1/7 twist ?

      • Strangely enough, we were issued M193 for rifle qualification instead of M855 with our M16A2s when I was in the Army. It worked just fine out to our 300 meter maximum range. The worn out 20 round magazines however were a different story. Currently, as a civilian, I shoot 55 grain out of 1:7 twist carbines and it works well all the way out to 200 yards, the longest range that I have available to shoot it. It should work out well past that point as well. There is no theoretical problem when it comes to over stabilizing bullets, just under stabilizing them so 55 grain works in 1:7 but 62 grain and above doesn’t work well in 1:12. FN makes a 20″ barrel rifle as does Colt.
        Also, one can be assembled out of parts as well. If I didn’t already have a carbine, I would get one of the 20″ guns. Unfortunately, they weren’t available when I bought mine. I am considering upgrading a carbine to a full sized rifle.

    • SemperFi, 0321

      I’m sure more than a few folks have short AR bbl’s tucked away for later, so don’t get worried about everyone getting hung up in their vehicles. I’ve ‘heard’ an 11.5″ bbl works just fine in a Jeep.
      And most of us that live in Wyomingstan/Rocky Mtn’s have bigger guns than poodle shooters for these wide open windy spaces. But thanks for the input.

  9. The key to all of this is distance. If you’re close, OF COURSE you’re going to penetrate. At 100 meters, nope. If you’re at 10 meters and wearing body armor, you’re about to be captured or shot dead anyway. Let’s see results on film at 100 meters before everybody gets their skirts blow up.

  10. ALCON,

    “It ain’t always what it seems.”

    Darn tootin’ it ain’t.

    Although the video is somewhat enlightening it has no application in the real world. The tester/shooter not only used a 22-inch barreled .223 to get maximum velocity but, he shot the plate at 7-8 yards ! So, in reality he did the “test” to imply that M193 could penetrate Class 3 body armor at any range. When, in reality, it cannot.

    I would challenge The Wound Channel to shoot that same body armor @ 300 meters where velocity would be in the neighborhood of 1750-1850 fps. Then we would see how much penetration the beloved 55 grain pipsqueak can get at that combat distance.

    As I’ve remarked in the past. It’s all about kinetic energy, mass vs velocity. While The Wound Channel cites a 3,300 fps (at the muzzle) as though that is spectacular in and of itself, it is deceiving in the fact viewers take away the recorded velocity is at combat distance. That number was only used to help justify the body armor pentration at < 25 feet.

    "It ain't always what it seems."

    • In agreement with much that you say. My concern has never been maximum velocity but rather the KO of a round. The KO determines more of an actual knock out punch on animals regardless of two legged or four legged. Instead of simply multiplying wt x vel it takes into account bore diameter. Multiply bore diameter times wt times velocity. This has been used by big game hunters for over 100 years. Why for me I prefer the 7.62×51. One of the why’s military and contractor “designated marksmen” use the 7.62×51. This really comes into play in dusty and high wind environments. Add distance to that equation and it continues to be true. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours. LP

  11. My opinion of course and shared by others. 7.62×51 (mil vs of 308) rules. For those who state that you can carry more ammo in 5.56, take a look at “the actual” load of the BAR (30-06) gunners when they went into the Pacific islands during WW2. The BAR chest rigs will still carry 12 twenty round magazines of 7.62×51 quite nicely. And with a rifle (BAR) that weighs 3x the weight of the typical M-4 AR. Guess my father’s generation were a bit tougher. So the question of which 5.56 round to use is a non-question. Except of women and children. What I believe. That being said I do own two very nice high end AR’s in 5.56. My load is the 68 grain Sierra BTHP match backed up by CCI match small rifle primers and 26.2 grains of Hodgen BLC-2 powder. 2850 to 3000 fps depending on rifle used with a pressure of less than 49,800 CUP..

    • Thank you for all that, LP. 7.62×51 rules, from ten feet to 1000yds.

      Let’s say it won’t punch armor at twenty feet. Anyone care to don said plates and receive that shot right on the breast bone? Death from blunt trauma is just as dead as through and through. At any rate, you wouldn’t be worth shit for hours, if not days and certainly not combat effective, leaving yourself vulnerable to capture or a coup de grace.

      And that 68 gr .223 Sierra bullet is devastating. Doubts about armor penetration though but in flesh it’s a killer. I think that’s the one Bill Wilson had loaded in his .556 AR hog killer round.

      • ’06,

        “Death from blunt trauma is just as dead as through and through.”

        I’m thinking it may be even more deadly than through and through.

        Want to take this opportunity to wish you a very good Christmas and a safe New Year.

      • SemperFi, 0321

        I’ve got a .375 H&H (300 gr-4,600 ft lbs) and a .416 Taylor (400 gr-5,000 ft lbs), both loaded with Hornady steel cased FMJ’s. Even if they didn’t penetrate, your belly button and backbone would be fused together.

        Who cares what you’re shooting or carrying, the final moment before a firefight may find you with nothing more than your concealed 9mm, then what? So much for all the mental masturbation over how great your poodle shooter bullets are, because it’s at home, or in the car trunk.

        • Big bullets don’t need speed, and little ones need all they can get.

          Mic McPherson, upon firing a 600 Nitro at Raton, NM, was heard to say that at some point during recoil he was pretty sure his shoulder blades met hard at his spine!

          • SemperFi, 0321

            I fired a black powder 4 bore (1″ bore) once, it was a hugemassivepush, shook me silly, but I’m more scared of a .460 Weatherby. That has more sharp bone crushing torque than most of us can handle. I honestly believe folks can tear their brain housing loose with that kind of repeated recoil. But if you have to shoot someone in armor, give them your best.


  12. ca – according to the reloading charts, 55 gr hornady fmj can be pushed to 3460 using a max load at 26 gr of accurate 2460 and still have some lea-way to max chamber pressure. i don’t load 55 grain only because my fn rifle seems to like 69 gr sierra with its 1 in 8 twist. grouping is all that counts for a squirrel gun on steroids. and right now it’s cheaper to buy m193 in the big box just to keep on hand. that 5.7 x 28 that everyone hates was originally tested at the nato pdw shootout back in 2002 with little plactic core 23 grain bullets and at 2800 fps, it went thru kevlar vests, the design goal. most of what you can get now is the ss195lf, 28 gr copper jacket aluminum core. might be more practical to think in terms of ratio of targets wearing kevlar to targets with plates, or no vests at all, and select your round based on that. targets with plates are best handed off to your overwatch with that 300 mag, or 338. most plates are rated only to take one 30-06 round, then all bets are off. and nobody wears plates over their face.

  13. The video is of marginal informational quality.

    The NIJ standards are in a pdf online

    For starters, the round used to certify Level III is nominally the M80 7.62 ball round equivalent.
    Secondly, the range distance is 49.2 ft, i.e 15m +/-1m.
    Not the 7 yards in this video.

    While it might be useful to know that some M193 ball will penetrate a Level III plate from a longer barrel fired at close range, that only proves the truism:
    There’s no bullet that can’t be stopped, and no armor that can’t be defeated.
    Just like “There ain’t no horse that can’t be rode, and ain’t no rider that can’t be throwed.”

    Somebody shooting .223 out of a longer barrel, will probably do so with a barreled bolt action, and thus with a scope, and your body armor won’t likely matter a skinny damn, because they’ll likely be shooting you in the head with that set-up. Sunscreen, NIJ rated to Level 0, isn’t getting you much help.

    Anybody shooting M193 at bad breath range won’t care about your armor either, because while your plates will stop one round, maybe even several, but “all them other bullets flying in from everywhere” (to quote the mayor in Support Your Local Sheriff) will probably undo that plan, and even if they don’t, the next string of fire will follow Mosby’s suggestion of “heads and hips, kids”.
    Heads I win, tails you lose.

    There ain’t no magic bullet, and there ain’t no magic armor.
    Some situations are bad, or good, for either one.

    The three golden rules of marksmanship remain the same:
    1) Hits count. Misses don’t.
    2) With hits, where matters just like with buying real estate: location, location, location.
    3) Anything worth shooting, is worth shooting more than once.
    Life is dear, and ammo is cheap. Keep shooting till it’s dead.

    Body armor’s job is to thwart as many of those goals as possible.
    Up to the point where the cure is worse than the disease.

    Equip yourselves wisely.

    • And there you have it, The Summation!

      Thanks, Aesop for your usual clarity.

      Aesop… where errant debates go to die!

    • Aesop, You are dead on, pun intended. Good post. A brief comment on Mosby’s comments. This was taught to us contractors in Afghanistan. Shoot center of mass and if they don’t go down go for the hips with the idea the round is likely to hit bone and take them out of the action. Since my departure January 2013 it has been brought to my attention that due to the number of BBIED, head shots are being taught. Hit the enemies switch and they can’t detonate. All useful information even here in CONUS.