There is an internet myth floating around about the 5.56 that I would like to clear up. It goes something like this:
“The 5.56 round was created to ‘wound’, not kill because an injured soldier is a bigger drain on the enemies resource than a dead soldier.”
The people arguing this will often say that the “enemy” will essentially lose 3 people for every wounded soldier, as they will devote two people to each one to care for them.
There are several holes in this argument. For starters, wounded soldiers can still shoot back!
Secondly, anyone who served in the military or knows people who served in the military can tell you that the US military is in the business of killing people. I’ve heard this from many people in the US military. My brother, who served in the USAF told me that one of his drill instructors made this point abundantly clear to them while in officer training. There is simply no way they would design a primary service rifle with the intent to merely “wound” the enemy.
Lastly, I cannot think of an enemy we have been at war with in the past 50 years that cared half as much for their wounded as our troops do.
You can see the wound profile of the original US military 5.56 round, M193 in the graphic above. These graphics were provided by Dr. Martin Fackler, an American military officer, surgeon, and wound ballistics expert.
Something many people don’t realize is that the 5.56 is as devastating as it is when it fragments. Another thing they don’t realize is that fragmentation does not always occur, even under ideal circumstances.
M193 rounds after close encounters with ballistic gelatin at various velocities. (Fackler)
You can see that the fragmentation tends to be more dramatic at higher speeds. It is also more reliable.
You can also observe the wound channel of the M855 round here:
As you can see, the 5.56 round is extremely devastating when it does fragment, and it is indeed very lethal. Particularly within range of it’s fragmentation threshold.
Remember, there is no substitution for good shot placement. Regardless of caliber.
Myths like this (“the 5.56 was designed to wound”) die hard. Hopefully we can help a few more people learn the truth.
For more information, you should check out the ammo oracle. It’s information on this subject is legendary.
Did you miss 5.56 Ammunition, Part I?