Tag Archives: Prepper Guns

.22LR: Truth & Myth

.22LR: Truth & Myth

It’s easy for the prepper survivalist to get lost in the endless confusion, attempting to discern between wants and needs. Is it a small knife or big blade? Do you carry a handgun or a rifle? However, it is even more important to determine the difference between what is a trend…and what will actually work in the field. In most cases, the right answer is: it depends on the situation.

The .22 Long Rifle rim-fire cartridge has had an excellent run, and built a legendary reputation, since its inception in 1887. The cartridge itself has been enveloped in tales of unfathomable deeds in the backwoods, taking everything from grizzlies (usually shot in the eye) and field mice (usually shot from the hip). Though, these are stories often repeated by old frontiersmen and armchair online forum dwellers alike. Anecdotal ‘evidence’ might suggest that the .22LR is the ‘do-all’ round, but is this actually true? Is it the perfect survivalist cartridge, providing enough kill power on small game while limiting damage to the meat, yet delivering just enough punishment in a ‘tactical situation’?

It is important to explore what the round can do, and more importantly, what it cannot do. All too often, we envision our own survival situations, handling our trusty Ruger 10/22, dispatching small game by the bundles and carrying home a sack of deceased critters as the sun begins to set, right on time for dinner. We even imagine ourselves bagging a whitetail, because we got a ‘lucky shot between the eyes’. If this is truth, then the .22LR should be the only rifle for the survivalist, but my gut tells me, this is probably not a reasonable expectation of the old cartridge – and you might want to pack other ways of procuring meat sources.

The Two-Fold Achilles Heel of the .22 Long Rifle

I’ve often heard it said, “If you poke enough holes in something, it’ll go down.” Usually, this is said by avid .22LR advocates, defending their ancient heritage or new purchase. While this statement does carry some obvious truth, many experienced outdoorsmen, and especially those who study ballistics might disagree on grounds of practicality.

One of the most crucial aspects of a round’s utility has to do with the hydrostatic shock factor.  ‘Hydrostatic shock’ is defined as…

The observation that a penetrating projectile can produce remote wounding and incapacitating effects in living targets, in addition to local effects in tissue caused by direct impact, through a hydraulic effect in liquid-filled tissues.

Referencing an article written by Dave Henderson, it takes a velocity of at least 2,000fps in order to deliver the death-dealing power necessary for an incapacitating strike on the shooter’s target. Essentially, you want the round to hit the target (four-legged critter or two-legged crazy) and make them cease whatever activity they were previously doing, whether grazing, climbing, or pointing a weapon in your direction.

The hottest of hunting .22LR loads are cruising along at 1,280fps at the muzzle. If the shooter wants to reach out to 100 yards, that velocity drops to 1,015fps, about half of what’s needed to achieve the same hydrostatic shock factor that most center-fire hunting rounds can deliver. Simply put, there’s just not enough ‘punch’ to bag that whitetail with a .22LR, likely causing either an agonizing drawn out death by hours of bleeding, or months of injury and subsequent starvation to the noble beast (hence, the legality issue in almost every state).

Also, a slower round is going to have accuracy issues. Of course, we’ve heard of Bob Munden-types lobbing a .22LR, 400 yards into a bowling pin – but let’s face it, 99% of us aren’t that good from a bench, much less in the field. Even with those 1,280fps zingers, you’ve still got a drop of 3.5” at 100 yards, and that’s without having to compensate for wind. With only 37 grains, moving at that velocity, a slight breeze would ruin the shot.

Either way, the survivalist does not harvest the deer, coyote, or raccoon, wastes a round, and in certain scenarios, risked identifying his or her position from the report of the shot.

Also, one more fatal flaw commonly associated with the .22LR has to do with it’s questionable reliability. Indeed, no backwoodsman would ever consider a Savage bolt-action or a Ruger 10/22 as an unreliable rifle. These rifles have offered astounding performance for decades; however, reliability is also heavily dependent on the quality of the rounds being fed. Unfortunately, rim-fire cartridges are disproportionately handicapped in this respect, compared to their center-fire counterparts. Primers, insufficient pressure, and quality control are usually the culprits.

If you’re shooting a rim-fire cartridge and the bad guy in your sights is shooting a center-fire cartridge, pray you didn’t get a rough batch from the factory.

Why You Still Need a .22LR

Nevertheless, while the .22LR might have its drawbacks, it’s important for us to remind ourselves that we are mistaken if we attempt to identify a ‘do-all’ round. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, especially in terms of firearms. All cartridges have their strengths and weaknesses, and the .22LR is no exception.

And, the .22LR does have strengths…lots and lots of strengths.

Talk to any .22LR owner and they will laugh at you after telling them how much you spent on ammunition for your centerfire. This is perhaps one of the most obvious strengths of the old cartridge. Being able to spend less than $20 on a 500-round ‘brick’ of ammo is what has .22LR lovers shooting, while everyone else on the firing line has shot their budget and gone home.

Of course, from the survivalist’s perspective, being able to carry 1,000 rounds of any kind of ammo is a lovely proposition. A fifth of that in .308 is still tediously heavy but in .22LR, carrying that amount of ammunition is a breeze. The .22LR is a tiny round without much brass, lead, or powder.

Do you remember how I said that the .22LR is inferior to most hunting cartridges because of it’s low velocity? The interesting part is the fact that the .22LR is superior to other hunting cartridges…because of its low velocity. Without the presence of hydrostatic shock, meat does not get obliterated upon penetration. Thus, you can take rabbit all day long, preserving the meet with a .22LR, whereas a .223 would leave nothing but a mangled attempt at acquiring a meal.

Simply put, the .22LR is the best selling ammunition on the globe for good reason. Brad Zozak, from TruthAboutGuns, calls the Ruger 10/22, “the single most popular firearm of all time.” In a SHTF scenario, you might not be able to replace the stock on your Springfield M1A – but check any abandoned farmhouse, and you’ll most likely find replacement parts for your 10/22 (and probably .22LR rounds to go with it).

The Purpose of the .22LR

Overall, the .22LR should not be expected to perform the functions of other, better-suited rifles. At the same time, one should also not expect a .30-06 to effectively take and preserve the meat off small game – arguably the type of game you’d want to harvest in the first place.

However, the survivalist that hopes to sling a Ruger 10/22, trek through the woods, and be sustained on that alone is unfortunately mistaken. It takes the ability to hunt big game to survive (both for the nutritional value and also for the other resources that can be procured from the beast), meaning that a centerfire-hunting rifle is absolutely crucial over the long haul.

If the survivalist hopes to remain true to the craft (and not kick the bucket in the backwoods), it takes more than just the possession of a .22LR rifle. It takes the ability to trap and forage for wild edibles in order to live in somewhat of a comfortable state of self-reliance. One needs to intelligently pack for survival scenarios. From carrying knives to packing a fire starter, everything needs to be picked thoughtfully. The legendary frontiersmen of the 19th and 20th centuries relied more on their survival kits than they did on their rifles, and for good reason.

The .22LR is a fantastic survival cartridge, but it shouldn’t be your only option for filling your game bag and your gut. Stay safe, keep your guns ready, knives sharp, and never forget to memorize the basics of preparedness.

About the Author – Usman is a writer, outdoor enthusiast, technology lover, and knife collector.

.223 vs. 5.56 – What Is The Difference?

.223 vs. 5.56 – What Is The Difference?

The .223 and 5.56×45 NATO cartridges are nearly identical rounds that have led shooters toward countless debates, confusion, and frustration. But understanding the differences between these two rounds isn’t all that difficult when you cut you through the misinformation. In fact, with just a little background information about each cartridge and an understanding of how you plan to use your firearm, you’ll find yourself better prepared to make a decision between the two calibers. You’ll also know the risks, if any, of shooting a 5.56 round in a .223 chamber.

The History of .223 & 5.56

Remington submitted the .223 Remington round to SAAMI (Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute) in 1962 as a sporting round generally considered a varmint cartridge. Since then, .223 Rem ammunition really hasn’t changed in terms of cartridge dimensions or the pressure that it is loaded to, according to Gun Digest 2013. That makes sense, as SAAMI is pretty rigid with their testing and once a standard is set, it tends to remain that way for the life of a given caliber. While variances on the .223 Remington round have popped up, such as the .223 Wylde, which is a round many feel is a good compromise between the pressures and performance of .223 and 5.56, .223 Remington is far and away the most popular of the .223 calibers.

On the other hand, 5.56×45 NATO has never been submitted to SAAMI because it’s a military round, loaded to a military standard that is quite different from SAAMI’s standards. As you can imagine, military standards are very exact and quite rigid all over the world. That’s not to say military standards are better than SAAMI, it’s simply that the way they each measure different attributes of a round are different so you can’t truly stack the rounds side-by-side and understand the differences between them. This variance in standards plays a huge role in the confusion that surrounds the .223 vs. 5.56 debate today.

In summary, the military measures pressure one way and SAAMI measures pressure in a different manner so the two calculations can’t be compared side-by-side, helping spur more discussion, confusion, and even misinformation about these two calibers.

Are 5.56 and .223 Rounds Interchangeable?

In terms of the exterior dimensions, 5.56×45 and .223 cartridges are just about identical so there are not really any concerns about fitting each round in your chamber, it doesn’t matter if you’re chambered for .223 or 5.56, the round will likely load. However, pressure varies between the two rounds and that pressure change can be significant depending upon your firearm. Generally, 5.56×45 ammunition fires at a higher pressure than .223 Remington ammunition. A typical range round of 5.56×45 will hit a peak pressure of around 60,000 pounds per square inch while a comparable .223 cartridge’s peak pressure will be about 20-percent less.

To help function under those increased pressures, many 5.56 chambers are larger in critical areas than .223 chambers. Specifically, the area of the chamber known as the leade or throat of the barrel will be different. This throat or leade portion is the area of the barrel in front of the chamber just before the rifling begins. So, if you load the same exact round in both a .223 chambered firearm and a 5.56 firearm, the extra area in the 5.56 chamber will help safely handle the pressure loaded cartridge and potentially lead to less potential wear and tear than if you  fired the 5.56 NATO round in a .223 Rem firearm.

Also of note, odds are you’re going to get slightly faster muzzle velocities using 5.56×45 ammunition than you would if firing .223 Remington.

So what does it mean? For most shooters, the general rule of thumb as it relates to each round is that you should not fire 5.56 in a firearm chambered for .223 while you can safely fire .223 in a 5.56-chambered firearm.  But it’s not that cut and dried.

There are several cases where shooters have documented firing 5.56 in their .223 firearms with no major problems and while a major malfunction, such as an explosion is possible, it is extremely unlikely to happen. You see part of what led to this way of thinking is because of the SAAMI standards for testing. Given a highly pressurized barrel, 5.56 rounds in a .223-chambered firearm are not a great idea. Most civilian .223 rifles on the market today, however, are much more forgiving than the barrels used for SAAMI standard testing so you’re likely to not only avoid major malfunctions but you’ll likely not even be able to tell the difference when firing 5.56 in a .223 Remington chambered AR-15.

Keeping that in mind, if you are relying on an AR-15 in a survival situation, you will likely want to invest in ammunition that is ideally suited for your specific chamber. Because of the pressure each round is loaded and the tolerances accepted by most modern sporting rifle barrels, even if not ideal in terms of wear-and-tear, you will likely be able to effectively neutralize a target using either caliber.

How to Tell .223 Remington and 5.56×45 Cartridges Apart

So you’re stuck in a place where ammo is scare and you come across rounds that appear to be appropriate for your firearm. Since .223 and 5.56 are nearly identical in physical appearance, how do you know if it’s .223 Remington or 5.56×45 ammo? The quickest and easiest way is to examine the head of the cartridge. If it’s 5.56, it’ll be stamped be stamped with a NATO insignia, which looks like a circle with a plus sign (+) inside of it. If it’s .223 Remington, it’ll say .223 Rem.

Photo Credit: TheFiringLine.com
Photo Credit: TheFiringLine.com

So Which Caliber AR-15 is Better?

The short answer about which caliber is best for you depends on your particular needs. The .223 Remington is the mostly widely produced caliber and while you likely won’t want to fire 5.56 in your firearm often, in an emergency you could easily get away with firing a few hundred rounds if necessary. The bottom line is this: if you want to be as safe as possible, always shoot .223 Remington ammunition. The .223 Rem cartridges will safely fit and fire in any rifle chambered for either .223 or 5.56.

In terms of pricing, .223 ammunition and 5.56 ammo cost about the same amount per round and both are readily available most of the time on the U.S. civilian market. If you’re not sure what you’ll be using the firearm for, most shooters find 5.56 chambered firearms more appealing because of the flexibility they offer when it comes to firing either .223 or 5.56×45 rounds.

About the Author:

Mark Ollendale is a life-long shooter and firearms enthusiast obsessed with ammunition. Passionate about helping protect the 2nd Amendment while spreading the benefits of firearm ownership to new shooters young and old, Mark works for online ammo retailer AmmoForSale.com.