5.56 vs. 7.62

What's the Difference?

The 5.56mm and 7.62mm are two popular calibers used in firearms. The 5.56mm, also known as .223 Remington, is commonly used in rifles such as the M16 and AR-15. It is known for its lighter weight and higher velocity, making it more suitable for longer-range engagements. On the other hand, the 7.62mm, also known as .308 Winchester, is a larger and heavier round used in rifles like the M14 and AK-47. It offers more stopping power and is effective at shorter ranges. While the 5.56mm provides better accuracy and maneuverability, the 7.62mm delivers greater impact and penetration. The choice between the two depends on the specific requirements of the mission or the shooter's preferences.


OriginUnited StatesUnited States
UsageMilitary and civilianMilitary and civilian
Effective RangeUp to 600 metersUp to 800 meters
VelocityVaries depending on bullet typeVaries depending on bullet type
Magazine CapacityVaries depending on firearmVaries depending on firearm
RecoilLower recoil compared to 7.62Higher recoil compared to 5.56
Common FirearmsM4, AR-15, SCAR-LM14, FN FAL, AK-47

Further Detail


When it comes to firearms, the choice of ammunition plays a crucial role in determining the performance and effectiveness of the weapon. Two popular calibers that are widely used in military and civilian applications are the 5.56mm and 7.62mm. In this article, we will compare the attributes of these two calibers, exploring their differences in terms of ballistics, recoil, range, and terminal effectiveness.


Ballistics refers to the study of the behavior of projectiles in flight. The 5.56mm and 7.62mm rounds have distinct ballistic characteristics. The 5.56mm, also known as .223 Remington, is a smaller and lighter round, typically fired from rifles such as the M16 and AR-15. It has a higher muzzle velocity, which translates to a flatter trajectory and better long-range accuracy. On the other hand, the 7.62mm, commonly referred to as .308 Winchester, is a larger and heavier round used in battle rifles like the M14 and FN FAL. It has a slower muzzle velocity but delivers more energy upon impact due to its larger bullet size.


Recoil, the backward movement of a firearm upon firing, is an important consideration for shooters. The 5.56mm round generally produces less recoil compared to the 7.62mm. The lighter weight of the 5.56mm bullet and the lower powder charge contribute to reduced recoil, making it easier to control and allowing for faster follow-up shots. In contrast, the 7.62mm round generates more recoil due to its heavier bullet and higher powder charge. This increased recoil can affect accuracy, especially during rapid fire or when shooting from unsupported positions.


The effective range of a firearm is determined by various factors, including the caliber of the ammunition. The 5.56mm round is known for its excellent long-range performance. Its higher muzzle velocity and flatter trajectory allow it to maintain accuracy over longer distances. This makes it well-suited for engagements in open terrain or when engaging targets at extended ranges. On the other hand, the 7.62mm round, while not as effective at long ranges as the 5.56mm, excels in medium-range engagements. Its larger bullet size and energy transfer make it more effective against targets at intermediate distances, providing better stopping power.

Terminal Effectiveness

Terminal effectiveness refers to the ability of a bullet to incapacitate a target upon impact. The 5.56mm round is designed to fragment upon hitting soft tissue, causing significant damage and increasing the chances of incapacitation. This fragmentation effect is more pronounced at higher velocities, making the 5.56mm particularly effective at close to medium ranges. However, at longer distances, the fragmentation may be reduced, resulting in less terminal effectiveness. In contrast, the 7.62mm round, with its larger bullet and higher energy transfer, tends to create larger wound channels and has a higher likelihood of incapacitating the target, even at longer ranges.


Both the 5.56mm and 7.62mm calibers have their own strengths and weaknesses, making them suitable for different applications. The 5.56mm offers superior long-range accuracy, lower recoil, and effective fragmentation at close to medium ranges. It is commonly used in military rifles and civilian sporting rifles. On the other hand, the 7.62mm provides better stopping power, making it ideal for medium-range engagements and situations where penetration and terminal effectiveness are crucial. It is often employed in battle rifles and designated marksman rifles. Ultimately, the choice between these calibers depends on the specific requirements and preferences of the shooter or the mission at hand.

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