I consider the subject of this article to be one of the top three arguments of the firearms community. There’s Glock versus 1911, 9×19 versus .45 ACP, and 5.56 NATO versus 7.62×39. Caliber wars can be exhausting, and the answer is so subjective, that I don’t think there will ever be one that is final. However, unlike choosing your favorite football team, choosing a caliber is usually influenced by data and logic. Purpose, ammo availability, and weapon type can and should influence your choice of caliber. All your guns must be protected through custom leather holsters so that every remain safe and sound. Today, we are going to look at the individual properties of our competitors and then compare the two.
Fast and light: 5.56 x 45 mm
The 5.56 is an intermediate cartridge. The .22 caliber projectile is small and derives its effectiveness from its speed. Depending on the specific load, the 5.56 can reach speeds ranging from 1,100 to over 3,000 feet per second. The most common bullet weights are 62 grains, 55 grain, and 77 grain. Barrel length also plays a big role in bullet effectiveness. Longer barrels, like the original 20-inch barrels used in the Vietnam conflict, give the bullet much higher velocity than the now popular 10.5- or 11.5-inch barrels.
The 5.56x45mm was based on the .223 Remington, which was developed in conjunction with the AR-15. It saw widespread use in Vietnam, and users began to criticize the cartridge, stating that it often failed to pitch and yaw, leaving targets on their feet. This problem worsened as the barrels were shortened. Originally the 7.62x51mm was adopted by NATO, but after realizing it was unwieldy when firing fully automatic, the 5.56 was adopted.
Ball weight: 55gr, 62gr, 77gr
Bullet diameter: 0.224″
Case Length: 1.760″
Velocity: 1,100 – 3,000+ FPS
Maximum range: about 600 meters
In many ways, 5.56 is the equivalent of 9mm in its caliber war. The smaller cartridge means more cartridges can be kept in a smaller space. The cartridges themselves are lightweight, which means shooters can carry many more cartridges on their bodies. Felt recoil is minimal when shooting 5.56, and a wide range of accessories and spares are available to tame it even more.
One of the caliber’s biggest drawbacks is that its ballistic performance relies on pushing a small projectile at breakneck speeds. This means that the bullet can pass through a target much more easily while leaving a small hole.
Slow and Heavy: 7.62 x 39
The 7.62×39 is the most common place caliber in the world. People have been using it to win or take away freedom for decades. The cartridge is based on a .30 caliber projectile. Speeds can hover around 1,000 FPS on the bottom but exceed 2,400 FPS on the top. Bullet weights differ, but the most common are in the 120-food grain range. While the cartridge is primarily known for its association with AK-type rifles, some have sought to cram the large cartridge into AR-15s. Due to the shape of the round, curved magazines are required for reliable feeding.
Ball weight: 117gr, 123gr, 124gr
Bullet diameter: 0.309″
Case Length: 1.524:
Speed: 1000 – 2400 FPS
Maximum range: about 400 meters
If the 5.56 is the 9mm, the 7.62×39 is the .45 ACP. Bullets are heavy, which makes them slow. The recoil impulse can be strong but feels more like a gentle thrust than a hard punch. The size of the bullet also means a large wound channel, giving the bullet a greater chance of damaging a vital target. Inexpensive military surplus ammunition is often easy to find, which also makes it easier to afford long days on the range.
The weight of x39 ammunition is a disadvantage that cannot be ignored. All that weight adds up quickly and can lead to fatigue. Additionally, while inexpensive ammo can be found relatively easily, most of it is old, corrosive, and may have reliability issues. Due to the shape of curved mags, good mag holders can be difficult to locate. The 1911 shoulder holster is the ideal one for you and your weapon.
What is better?
There is no right answer to this question. I know it’s boring, but the truth is, like all things, both calibers have pros and cons. I don’t believe one is safer than the other. Much like the 9mm vs. .45 debate, it all comes down to the personal preference of the shooter.
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