Two Letters Re: .223 For Long Range Sniping?

Again you are “on target” with your assessment of the Blackwater / Najaf / 800 Meter video. Nice informative letter too from Griff, we appreciate that detail and background! More than just sound bites and snapshots, SurvivalBlog is about quality information.
I think what Griff stated is very informative as to the actual mission. In my mind the Blackwater guys were laying down high quality suppressive fire, but when this becomes “sniping” might largely be a matter of semantics. I guess it would be in the rate of quality hits, something we’ll never know. I am sure they were very effective in their mission, but they may have been even more effective with an M1A with a [muzzle] brake on it. To me they demonstrated the value of the AR platform as a spotter weapon to a true sniping rifle. When employed by well trained people the [.223] AR type can do a lot, but you are very correct to point out that there is a reason the militaries of the world don’t use 5.56 for sniping – it’s not very good for that purpose. The 7.62 x 51 NATO is a far more effective round and the trend is decidedly for even more powerful rounds, namely the 338 Lapua and 50 BMG. Regards, – A. Friendly

Dear Jim,
One other point to consider with military calibers is the ammunition.
Critical wounds and kills are caused by:
1.) Hitting a major organ or central nervous system (brain, brainstem, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys). In this case, any caliber is effective, but it requires precision.
2.) Trauma. for this, the more energy transferred to the target, the better. The key word being “transferred.”
3.) Loss of blood. This means penetration.
In 7.62mm NATO, US loadings are very tough ball [full metal jacket] ammo that simply drills holes. This makes it “cleaner” per the Hague conventions. At close range it punches through and much of the energy isn’t transferred to the target. However, once you back out past 100 meters or so, you have a large, trauma-causing bullet that retains energy well.
In 5.56mm, military ball is designed to shatter at the cannelure. At close range, the wounds are devastating, and can be more severe than 7.62mm. Of course, that comes at the cost of retained energy at range, meaning less energy for trauma. As I’ve noted before, the advantage of 5.56 for military purposes is the ability to carry a lot of ammo and inflict “stopping” wounds. However, in a survival situation, one should try to avoid extended firefights for many obvious reasons. Also, 5.56mm isn’t great for large game, and overkill for small game where a .22 rimfire will work.
German and Swedish 7.62mm through the 1980s, if one can find it surplus, has a similar construction to 5.56mm, but in a more powerful round. This can be devastating.

Soft or hollow point 5.56mm isn’t as good at penetrating as ball, but it does cause much more effective wounding for a longer range. The obvious corollary is, so does .308 or 7.62mm soft or hollow point. Once we cross from ballistic wounding to bullet wounding, the heavier bullet causes more damage. End of story.
For myself, I certainly intend to keep AR-15 platforms on hand for several reasons, along with a good supply of ammo. Depending on the scenario, I might consider taking it as a primary rifle, but I hold military trophies for my marksmanship, practice with it regularly and have a
But for conservation of ammo, space and weight, all around utility and reliability, the first gun to have on hand is a bolt action 7.62mm [NATO], 8mm or 7.62x54R with a cheap case of milsurp and some commercial hunting ammo. Alternately, one can file or cut the points of military ammo to the core to gain a softer bullet (only an emergency measure for people who are experienced handling ammo, because of the potential danger).
After that would be a semi-auto 7.62mm which offers some additional flexibility and capacity. The AR-10 is excellent, shares common features with the AR-15 for familiarity, and is pricey. Both the HK91 and the FAL are available in the US for moderate prices as new weapons or kits. In all cases, I recommend military calibers because of the price and availability. – Michael Z. Williamson