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The following is a comment posted by reader uncommon_sense:

Actually, the M16 platform (and the semi-automatic only AR15s) are not optimized to kill, they are optimized to wound. The U.S. military strategy for decades was that if you wound one enemy soldier, you actually take three off the battle field because two more enemy soldiers help their wounded comrade. On the other hand . . .

Common hunting rifles/calibers such as the wildly popular .30-30 Winchester or .30-06 Springfield are much more devastating to human targets. I would rather take a round from the rifle that the lunatic used in Newtown Connecticut over any hunting rifle or shotgun (with buckshot or slugs) any day.

In fact that brings up the law of unintended consequences. If a lunatic is going after a bunch of children, a single bullet coming out of a common .30-06 Springfield hunting rifle would have no trouble killing 3 to 5 small children. Thus it would only take about 5 shots (a common hunting rifle capacity) fired into a crowd of children to kill between 15 and 25. As awful as it sounds, spree killers would actually be more effective if they used alternatives to the type of rifle that the lunatic used in Connecticut.

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  1. Agreed. I have tried to explain this to several anti-gun friends and their eyes simply glaze over.

    Although everything I remember reading suggested the AR15 was left in the car during the Newtown school shooting – is there new info on that?

    • New info: shotgun left in the car. Which also would have been devastating, as the kids were all huddled in the closet.

      • Strange the weapons keep changing around in the shooting to please the media anti gun lessons. Think more spin is whats happening in the anti gun media.

      • Maybe it’s time for a refresher on The Truth About Guns. I find that many people still think that a civillian AR-15 is a military grade full-auto rifle that has no use for hunting or other sport because it will destroy anything. It’s ridiculous that people want legislation to be written and passed based on such false beliefs.

        • I was just listening to NPR (so no one can claim I never listen to the other side) and they had a BATFE agent explaining how he used an “AR-15” during his military service. That is a blatant lie to make people think that civilian gun owners have easy access to military grade firearms.

        • it makes me so mad when people talking about the Connecticut shooting say he used a legally purchased military grade assault rifle!
          A) it was a stolen rifle, because it was his moms (so not legally purchased for him)
          B) not military grade because not selective fire

        • bushmasters arent even “military grade” to begin with 😛

          theyre considered “hobby-grade” AR15s because theyre not milspec (not that such a thing makes them terrible or necessarily “inferior”. they are deadly in even mediocre hands and still very accurate).

    • Given the close range that shots where fired, no matter what he used it would have been deadly. This is nonsense argument with no valid point.

      The emotions are focused on black scary things and you want to argue ballistics?

      • im sure clueless gun grabbers wouyld rather take away the .22 ARs than a .30-06 because the .22 would look evil.

    • I have to agree on this.
      It also goes to show like in the aurora shooting, the 100 round drum might look cool, but in reality they are not reliable which saved lives that day.

      People ask me about banning black scary rifles and even pistols, I just pull up some cowboy action shooting and show them that. They looked shocked that rifles and pistols designed over a hundred years ago could be so effective. Obviously this isn’t exactly apples to apples, but I tell them. With the proper practice even revolvers, and lever action rifles can be absolutely devastating.

      But.. but.. but.. they say..
      I tell them that in many cases the new hardware which jams, and has other issues, saved lives, because let’s face it if you don’t know how to clear your rifle, regardless of make you won’t be very effective. We saw this in Aurora and also Oregon.

      The Okios shooter had a CA legal pistol and still caused terror. One one thing we can say for sure is all these places were gun free zones.

  2. As I understand it, “designed to wound” is a laughable fallacy. .223/5.56 was designed to kill, period. The idea behind the lighter round was to allow for more ammunition to be carried, and to limit muzzle rise, which .308 battle rifles are known for.
    When troops are under attack, they are firing back to save their live and end a threat, not busy looking for some theoretical “sweet spot” of wounding vs. killing to drain an enemy’s resources.

    • I agree, if you do some research into ballistic testing in the first rifles in Vietnam, they had a much different twist rate, the bullet flight was less stable, and when they hit targets they just went batshit and tore peoples bodies up.

      I would recommend American Rifle: A Biography, by Alexander Rose. Good, but boring read.

      That being said, I do agree that a 06 or a 12ga slug would be far more devastating, especially when compared with today’s 5.56 ammo, especially from truncated M4 barrels.

    • Agreed. This ‘fact’ is so often regurgitated on forums and in fun stores that many don’t even question its legitimacy. Akin to “tumble on purpose” and “hit in toe, out the head”.

      I won’t dispute the possibility of it being an unintended consequence, but as you mentioned: adoption of 5.56 was about logistics and perceived recoil.

    • +1, although rather harshly worded … The 5.56mm NATO cartridge was designed to kill, and to be effective in doing so. Early reports from Vietnam evaluators (Special Forces, SEALs and SOG, primarily) raved about the lethality of the round. Some AAR’s described heads “exploding” on impact–which is an effect that the modern M16 hasn’t been accused of causing. The concerns were about reliability; not lethality.

      Early M16’s and variants had very slow twist rates, causing the rounds to be very unstable and tumble on impact, thus causing tremendous trauma to tissues. This made them very lethal, but also very inaccurate through vegitation. The accuracy problems lead to the change to a higher twist rate, which lessened the effects on soft tissue. The M16 during Vietnam was very lethal if it could manage to hit an enemy fighter. Actually hitting enemy fighters turned out to be a problem.

    • As a Marine sergeant friend of mine commented to me during a discussion of 5.56 vs 7.62:

      “Look, your job as a trigger puller is to kill any motherf**ker in your sights as quickly as possible. With 5.56 the individual grunt can pull the trigger a lot more times with a basic combat load-out of ammo. Even if there’s a lower chance of outright killing the opposition with each shot, he’s trained to fire off more aimed shots than he would with have with an M14.

      On the other hand, when you absolutely want a particular motherf**ker to go down right effing NOW, what you want is 7.62. That’s why it’s the go-to option for scout/sniper teams, and why we use it in squad MGs.”

      Moral of the story: 5.56 is intended to kill, but it’s better balanced for combat effectiveness than the heavier, stiffer-recoil 7.62 round when employed by a typical US soldier or Marine.

    • I’m sorry but you are mistaken. In Marine Combat Training, we were taught that the round is engineered to wound so that two or three people were required to take the injured off the battlefield. We weren’t told to aim to wound but the intention is that the round will wound. It’s why the Corps started issuing 308 AR-10’s because terrorist/insurgents just leave their people and keep fighting.

      • thats not true.

        the 5.56 is not designed specifically to wound. that is a myth that refuses to die.

        and AR10s are not in service widespread. Only the SR25 variants used as very specialized weapons.

      • I had the same words from NCOs in the British Army, but both they and your Marines were wrong; never mind my citing “documents I’ve seen and you haven’t” (the UK gets fussy about official paperwork), just think the logic through.

        It might be different in the US military, but when we did section (squad in US) and platoon attacks, we were trained to leave casualties where they fell until we’d cleared the enemy position; the “reorganisation” phase where we took up a snap defence was when we tended to our casualties and redistributed ammunition.

        So, think it through: if 5.56mm is “designed to wound, so every casualty ties up three soldiers” then we’ve just inherited the enemy’s wounded, and taken that logistic hit on ourselves. (And finishing them off or leaving them to bleed is Not A Good Thing for more reasons than ‘because it’s naughty’). For ‘wounded, not dead’ enemy to be a factor, we have to have lost the battle first… so sort of pointless.

        We explicitly trained not to let casualties slow the momentum of an attack any more than absolutely necessary, and it seems sensible to assume the enemy is no more stupid or incompetent than we were, so if we were defending then the same logic applied: and, again, if we were successful in beating back the Red Horde, we’d remain masters of the ground and inherit all the dead and wounded lying on it, so those “just wounded, need lots of distracting effort” cases are now our problem.

        And did anyone, really, think the Soviets were going to divert any resources at all away from their “historically inevitable” victory, to treating the unfortunate but unavoidable casualties incurred on the way?

        Finally, while 5.56mm was definitely accepted to be “less powerful” than 7.62 NATO, it was also very much intended to be an adequate manstopper; but one that let you carry many more rounds. (Eighty rounds of 7.62 ball weighed a *lot* the first time I strapped it on, and that wasn’t a generous loadout).

        As a 1980s reservist, I started with an L1A1 in 7.62, transitioned to a L85 in 5.56, and (after the early bugs in the L85 were fixed) liked and trusted them both to shoot straighter than I could and make whatever they hit, stop bothering me and my friends.

        Fortunately I never had to try it for real: after forty years of heavily-armed stalemate across the Iron Curtain, when word suddenly reached Moscow that I’d taken the Queen’s shilling they collapsed in gibbering panic, disbanded the Warsaw Pact and tore down the Berlin Wall rather than face my terrifying might. You can thank me at your leisure 🙂

  3. Another unintended consequence may be that future mass killers simply don’t take the time to try to get a firearm and just build a big bomb. The worst mass killing at a school was accomplished with explosives, the result, 44 dead, 58 injured. Of course, no one will ever forget the 168 killed and 680 injured in Oklahoma City. TM did that because of what he perceived as a government over reach, I wonder what would happen with a gun confiscation.

  4. The military is not in the business of wounding. That is absolute bullcrap. Also, we are the only people that strategy would work on anyway.
    That wounding myth was never part of our rifle training. We were taught, “one shot, one kill”. Let’s stick to points that are actually based in fact, shall we?

    • Jim, are you a Marine or other service? Please see my comment above because we were informed that it’s designed to wound.

      • In 1981 in Basic at Ft. Benning Ga, home of the Infantry we were taught repeatedly that the 5.56/M16 was designed to wound, that way the enemy had to leave someone to care for the wounded. But the enemy either left the wooded or finished them off themselves!!
        Most of our Senior Drills were Vietnam Vets so I would tend to take their word!!
        They also told us the 7.62 was the round for One Shot/One Kill needs!!
        All I will say is: .308 Win at 500yds is definitely one for one!!!

    • god dammit people (unless youre joking then i forgive you)

      the 5.56 was NOT designed specifically to wound. for some history on the 5.56

      almost every former marine ive run into and engaged in a conversation about 5.56 is adamant that is why it was adopted. this is a steaming pile of bullshit.

      this is up there with the “changing the barrel twists to make the M193 more deadly”, which is also false since there was no change in ballistic characteristics when different rates were used. In addition 1:7 was adopted because it could 1.) stabilize heavier 62 grain SS109 type ammunition better 2.) stabilize tracer ammunition better

      • Why would anybody believe those myths about ‘trying to wound’ as it runs against basic common sense. An effing wounded combatant…..can still SHOOT AT YOU. Logistics were a huge reason for going with the 556 over the 762 (and politics, of course) because you could make more, transport more, and most importantly individually carry more ammo (per soldier) to the enemy. The arguement for less but hopefully better aimed shots with higher power 762 is an issue that can be delved into as well.
        In any case, we civilians can you hollowpoints…which can blow your ass off at close range, which is what I hear the freak used.

        • the Mk 318 round, which is commonly sold on the civilian market, and black hills 77gr (known militarily as the mk 262) can produce up to half a inch wound cavities in many instances with consistent (key word) propensities to fragment and yaw.

          LOL. the kicker is that theyre effective in both 20″ barreled rifles down to the 10.5″ SBR/Mk18/HK416D barrels. They are also capable of 700-800 meter accuracy.

          civilian 5.56 is nasty stuff, even the winchester 45 grain varmint rounds. case after case of police shootings in the US highlight 5.56 as decisively deadly, even against drugged up suspects. to compare the wound ballistics of ALL 5.56 to the M855 green tip is idiotic to say the least.

          and yes, enemy combatants that are wounded can still shoot back. soviet doctrine cared fuck all about the individual infantryman. against islamic insurgents? they care even less.

    • No, it’s true! And the 105mm howitzers were meant to just wound an entire bunker full of enemy soldiers, thereby taking 3 bunkers of enemy troops off of the battle field (since it will take 2 bunkers of enemy soldiers to evacuate and care for the 1 bunker full of wounded troops!). Yeah, I remember that day in basic training where they told us that if we encountered a “super threat” that needs to die now we call for the guy with the 7.62 rifle. Otherwise, the 7.62 guy just hangs out in the back, eats sandwiches and drinks coffee. Or no, wait, that wasn’t it, I just remembered that it would be too loud and confusing in combat to just yell for some guy with the bigger rifle to come take out the super threat, so what the Drill Sergeant said to do when we saw the super threat was to hold down the circle button on our nintendo controller while mashing the B2 button 3 times, then hitting up arrow down arrow up arrow down arrow, and that would give us a super power up for 10 seconds. Yeah, that’s what it was.

  5. Liberals “know” three things about firearms:
    1. They’re bad.
    2. All rifles are AKs.
    3. All handguns are Glocks.

    • And some of the more savvy antis know #4

      4. If you shot a deer with that thing (modern sporting rifle), there wouldn’t be anything left of it.

  6. What a stupid article. It’s stuff like this that makes me embarrassed to be a firearms enthusiast.

  7. At short distances a .22 LR will easily kill with half the velocity (at least) of a .223. Pretty sure my recurve bow only pushes an arrow along at 200 fps or so and could easily kill even with a field point on it. Not a good line of reasoning.

  8. The 5.56×45 was not designed to wound rather than kill, that’s a silly and false myth. Read some history books regarding the 5.56×45 and M16 and never was the requirement for a round to wound rather than kill.

  9. I don’t think it is appropriate or productive to post about a hypothetical situation as to which caliber would be worse or more destructive to innocent school children.

    • I hear the freak used hollowpoint ammo so the discussion is moot (military use FMJ). We are talking football sized crush cavities and TWICE the energy of a 357 magnum……..I think that will kill ya purdy good (762 is twice that….with most of the energy expended out the victim and onto the wall or whatever).

      • No, I’m sorry but you’re wrong. I have a buddy who was a Marine, and he told me that 5.56 is just to wound. You probably won’t kill anyone with it, you have to have a 7.62 to kill people. My buddy was a Marine and that’s what he said. The 7.62 is the “killing people” gun. It’s what he told me.

      • Sheesh Cowboy, you must be one tough sob cuz something hitting me with twice the energy of a 357 magnum in the chest will damn sure do more than wound me (unless your talking the classic Monty Python skit with the knight……”its just a flesh wound”—arms and legs cut off).

  10. Two terms come to mind in regards to the statement on the 5.56x45mm cartridge: “Incapacitation” and “lethality”.

    I think the designers of the cartridge might still around so it would be interesting to hear their story on it.

  11. A. Gun myth nonsense about intended wounding
    B. Inappropriate and in terrible taste

    So this website is now in the business of posting random wacko reader comments as fact? Another brilliant display of bad judgement.

    • so, now it’s the website fault that something was posted that you find utter nonsense and in bad taste? i guess we need more laws to protect you from another’s right to be offensive, nonsensical or tasteless. you kind of sound like all those liberal media anti gun nuts.

  12. I remember my DI telling us the NVA/VC referred to the M16 as “black death” due to it’s color and devastating wounding abilities.
    As for accuracy, the only time I remember that being of any concern was during qualifying exercises.
    One shot one kill. I was in the Army so I don’t know what Marine DI’s preach, but that sounds like sniper lingo to me.
    I served with three (3) different units in Viet Nam and I can not ever remember seeing an M16 that wasn’t constantly set to full auto.
    Aimed shots consisted of blasting hell out of everything in front of you.
    I believe that’s why the military dropped full auto in favor of the three (3) round burst setting.

  13. This is a really poor post. I’m surprised that it got its own feed on this site.

    First, the whole idea that the 5.56 was intended to would has been debunked several times. It cam have that effect, but it wasn’t the defined purpose. Ammunition capacity, ease of fire and weight of the ammunition were all reasons for going down to intermediate cartridges over the ‘wounding factor’.

    Second, very few rifles (especially hunting rifles) can match the level of violence caused by an intermediate caliber rifle. Sure your bolt action 30-06 might hit harder, but it hits fewer as well. And yes, it might kill 3-5 children all lined up nicely for you. That isn’t going to happen. Just a silly, intellectually dishonest comparison.

    I’m not for gun control or the AWB, but the arguments in the post are really poor. We should be able to think of better arguments than this shouldn’t we?

  14. I wonder about the so-called “plans” these schools are making. Multiple teachers said they put all their kids in a corner. So one shot would 100% hit at least one if not more.

  15. Found out that of the many of the young shooters, and kids in trouble that all were on DRUGS and were big players of games like Bat man , and hunger games… IN fact Russia has now banned such games. WE left God out and now our real god is the DEVIL… We are paying for our sins… We can stop all this killing if we want, BUT WE MUST REPENT….(that means do about fact) …

  16. The ballistic testing reports I’ve seen say that the .223 was designed to tumble on impact and break in two inside the target. If it didn’t it would be a high velocity .22 and not much more. I’ve seen the gel testing, and this is exactly what the round does.
    Not having been in the military I cannot confirm it, but I have read that the purpose of giving a soldier more rounds of less powerful ammunition was that there was a change in tactics, whereby soldiers use multiple rounds to pin the enemy down so that he can be destroyed with heavier arms. This is particularly true is non-urban combat, where most of the fighting now is at 300 to 500 meters. Even now there are on-going discussions and testing as to possible replacements of the M4 to get a longer distance round. (See, e.g., where there have been posts on this subject in the last year or so)

    I also know that there are a lot of different opinions as to the efficacy of the .223 round. Some like the soft shooting compared to 7.62, others, like my neighbor, absolutely hate the round and the M4. I’ve read complaints of vets from Afganistan complaining abut being outgunned because the Talibs have learned to engage at 500 plus meters, within the range of the 7.62 but outside the effective range of the .223.

    Lat but not least, a number of states–what that number is I don’t know, but California is one of them–have banned the .223 for anything larger than a varmint (coyote) because it is not effective for one-shot kills. Minimum required for deer is .243 .

    • You could call the 556 a ‘high velocity 22 and not much more’ but you would be doing a titanic disservice to the HIGH VELOCITY part of the equation……unless a 22 has TWICE the kinetic energy of a 357 magnum.

    • Maybe there were two reasons that the U.S. switched to 5.56. Maybe the reason the U.S. government changed to a weapon and and round with less range to force U.S. Soldiers to maneuver closer to their targets, thereby making it easier to hit the targets (and wound them). Ya see, if you give a Soldier a big 7.62 round and an M14 that’s accurate at greater distance then that Soldier is just going to lay WAY back maybe 700 yards away and try to shoot his target, and then when he finally hits his target it’s going to die from one round, but it’s going to take twice as many shots for him to hit it, BUT, if you give him a 5.56 he’ll have to get closer, so it’ll take fewer shots, and then when he does hit it it’ll just wound him, and then you take 3 enemy soldiers off of the battle field, YEAH, that’s the ticket. Does anyone realize how lame and convoluted this keyboard commando post has gotten? I don’t care, I’m going to stick around and ride it down just to see how lame it gets…

      • 1.) World War II studies concluded most infantry combat took place within 300 meters, typically under 150. any 7.62, which is effective up to 800 meters (1000 for ’06) is WAY overkill and is only ideal for marksmen/snipers. most infantrymen wont even take shots above 300 meters.

        2.) Even with a M14, (or M1), soldiers will still only engage targets they have LOS with, which is within 300 meters, and mostly within 150 meters. a 1000 yard rifle does not make a 1000 yard soldier. we learned this in World War I.

        3.) in order to pursue strategic/tactical advantages, the dead are temporarily left to fend for themselves until the battle is won. this is the case of US forces and is most certainly the case among Soviet/Eastern Armies.

        4.) the 5.56 was not specifically designed to wound. under the geneva convention, US soldiers are obligated to treat enemy wounded, so the “take 3 soldiers off the battlefield” would backfire if it indeed was the basis for the 5.56s adoption.

        5.) 7.62 NATO does have more kinetic energy than the 5.56 and has a longer max effective range. nobody is debating that. that doesnt mean 5.56 is “anemic”. you still have 16-1700 joules of energy being transferred to human flesh, which is more than a 357 magnum and MANY 44 magnum cartridges (excluding 44 magnum overpressure cartridges). that is not even accounting for the consistent yawing and fragmentation (energy displacement and hydrostatic shock).

  17. “Actually, the M16 platform (and the semi-automatic only AR15s) are not optimized to kill, they are optimized to wound. The U.S. military strategy for decades was that if you wound one enemy soldier, you actually take three off the battle field because two more enemy soldiers help their wounded comrade. On the other hand . . .”


    this has been debunked and refuses to die.

    there is no documentation anywhere that the US military or NATO relied on such a strategy. with the 5.56, you could carry more rounds (thus can shoot more commies) and it typically has quicker follow up shots (thus can shoot more commies) and is more controllable in automatic fire (thus can shoot more commies) .

    have you ever witnessed ballistic gel testing of the Mk 262 and Mk318 cartridges? those are designed to kill because they have superior accuracy and better energy displacement due to their expansion.

    “As awful as it sounds, spree killers would actually be more effective if they used alternatives to the type of rifle that the lunatic used in Connecticut.”

    that is pretty messed up but thats not why i disagree. i disagree simply because it is not true. 5.56 M855 green tip is common, though not the most commonly used civilian cartridge in the 5.56mm caliber. actually, FMJ 55 grain are the most common and various hollow points.

  18. Okay then …
    Regardless of what you think, believe, know, or whatever about the efficacy (I like that word from another poster) of the 5.56 / .223, the point is that other options are just as if not more lethal and banning 5.56 / .223 rifles accomplishes nothing.

  19. Somewhat off thread, they got 100,000 online votes demanding action on gun control. Suprisingly pathetic! There is 1 million CC holders in Florida alone. I remember in Wis when we were sweating the Walker recall, someone said, wait till the silent majority talks. I wasn’t a big Walker fan but I hated doyle’s guts. The fat lady hasn’t even stepped up to the mic yet(sorry Wayne), Randy

  20. The lethality/design myths for the 5.56 were just happy talk to make the troops think their new M-16s were better than their old M-14s. The 5.56 is a varmint round and was around a long time before the AR platform was developed. The 223 is a crappy round period..end of story. It lacks penetration and actually proved to be less accurate in Vietnam because it was easily deflected by dense foliage. Those who tout the effectiveness of the 5.56 and the superiority of the M-16 over the M-14 seem to forget that the troops had no trouble totting around their M-1s in the jungles of the Pacific Theater.

    • Yeah, it’s so crappy that is has been in use for over 40 years ans has killed countless people in that time. It was so ineffective that the North Vietnamese army began a propaganda campaign calling the 5.56 round in humane because of the damage it caused in hopes of getting it banned. You really seem to not know shit.

    • the M16 was better for a number of reasons.

      easier to mass produce, lighter, lower long term maintenance, it requires less materials, and less expensive.

      i would rather carry around 600 rounds of 5.56 than 200 rounds of 7.62. more enemy chests to burst.

  21. Well with the will more with more rounds it’s easier to establish a firebase. Then contain, control, and end it.

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