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Educating fellow Jews about the sporting and defensive use of firearms. Especially Jews in North America, too many of whom are instilled with the belief that guns aren't for nice Jewish boys and girls.

If you know of notable Jewish shooters that should be documented on the blog, even if it is only at the local club level, I am happy to report and profile them. And don't be shy if that person to be documented is you! Please drop me a line at jewishmarksman at gmail dot com. Also follow me on twitter @JMarksmanship.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bring enough gun.

I recently had a conversation with a former IDF sniper who has emigrated to the US and is considering a handgun purchase, and possibly (hopefully!) getting involved in target shooting. We got around to discussing rifle calibers. I'll spare readers the gory details, but he described his firsthand observations of the superior stopping power of .30 caliber rounds versus .223. Put simply, hit a man with a .308 based round and he goes down. You might need several hits with .223.

Stopping power of a given bullet in a given cartridge in a given firearm is a complex topic, but one good metric is the simple physics formula for muzzle energy, E=.5mv^2. For a modern standard-issue US military .223/5.56mm round, somewhere in the ballpark of 1,282 ft·lbf (1,738 J) is typical. Back in WWII, our boys carried .30-06 Springfield rounds with over double that energy, 2,820 ft·lbf (3,820 J). A modern .308/7.62x51 round used by snipers and some infantry semi-auto rifles packs roughly 2,619 ft·lbf (3,551 J). By comparison, Dirty Harry's .44 Magnum handgun packed around 1,200 ft·lbf (1,600 J) of energy, slightly less than a .223 rifle. The 9mm handgun your local sheriff caries has, at very best, 519 ft·lbf (704 J) of energy, less than half the power of a M16/AR-15 .223-based rifle.

I don't hunt, nor have I ever served in the military. In my mind, a bullet is nothing more than either a) the caliber required by a rule, or b) a piece of equipment you try to use to gain an aerodynamic or weight advantage in the wind. For instance, if you shoot NRA Smallbore, you shoot .22LR by rule, and all match-grade ammo pretty much uses the same weight and shape bullet. If you shoot NRA High Power Service Rifle class, you shoot .223 or .308 depending on which model rifle you use, and you can experiment with different bullet weights and styles in your rifle and how the wind plays with them. In the Match Rifle class, you can shoot whatever caliber you want, and new caliber/cartridges come along every few years with bullets that have less drop and are more slippery in the wind. Some matches, such as Palma, require competitors to use certain bullets so there is no "arms-race" among competitors to gain an advantage through bullets with better aerodynamics. There is actually more to bullet choice, but to me as a target shooter, it never really crossed my mind that different bullets are more lethal than others in war or for hunting.

In fact, up until a few weeks ago I never had handled rifle bullets larger than .223 because I had no need to. But now with the Garand (and some .308 projects on the way...) I have had to buy some .308 bullets and got to see .223 and .308 side-by-side for the first time, as in the picture above. Yeah, compared to the .223 the .308 is a beast.

I find it interesting that in WWII and Korea our soldiers used the .30-06 cartridge in the Garand with .308 bullets, with lethal effect. When full auto infantry rifles became the military's way of thinking in Viet Nam (i.e. "spray and pray" usage of rifles by soldiers as opposed to training soldiers to be precise marksmen"), the switch was made to .223 because a soldier can carry more of it, pound for pound. And surprise, surprise, .223 ammo is cheaper than .308. There is, apparently, some serious questioning of that thinking going on, and it seems many troops would rather be armed with a .308 based rifle than a .223, and the .223 has been especially disappointing in Afghanistan and Iraq. I don't know if it's true, but some web sites report that the .223 was designed to wound, not kill, the idea being that by wounding an enemy soldier you also remove two of his fellows from the battlefield who have to carry him away. That thinking, if true, assumes a certain set of values in your enemy, who if he has those values, makes you wonder why you're fighting him in the first place. Today, I don't think our enemies and Israel's enemies have those kinds of values. Much better then, in my estimation, to arm our soldiers with a rifle designed to kill with one shot. And further, to revitalize the concept of a marksman versus a full auto random lead dispenser.

Meanwhile, as a target shooter, I like the idea that that a .308 gives me an extra .08" diameter over a .223, and therefore more likely that a shot near a line (well, within .04") will break the line and give me an extra point! Also the extra velocity and weight helps keep the wind from blowing my 10 into a 9! Mazal tov!


  1. I'd like to recommend a book for you to read. Its called 'The Gun' by C.J. Chivers. While the book spends quite a bit of time on small arms development, it really highlights how the West fell decades behind in the development of an intermediate cartridge and assault weapon for use in combat.

    The .223 is a fine varmint round. Just not so great for combat. The .308 is a powerful round but largely uncontrollable when used as a shoulder fired weapon in full auto. People can argue pro's and con's forever but i'm of the opinion that the West is still behind the curve in this area.

    BTW - People load 80 grain .223 for those longer distances when competing. It really lets one stretch it out fighting the wind issues at 600 yards. ;) I too love shooting .308 for competition but wouldn't be my 1st choice if the rifle had to be lugged for miles with the added weight.

    Found you through TTAG :)

  2. I have been meaning to watch Chivers on booktv.org for some time and just have not had time to sit down and pay attention:


    I use 77gr. xtc, and 52 on the reduced 100yd course. Just not shooting good enough to justify the extra X or two the 80's might get me at 600.

    The match rifle being built has a .308 palma chamber specifically for the new 155s.

  3. Hi, - found you through a link about your CMP Garand on Around O-Town

    I've never been in the military, and shoot for the fun and challenge. What sold me on .308 was it has more energy at 500 yards than .223 coming out of the barrel. You can see this on the Federal Premium online or downloadable ballistics calculator, and others. The .223 was developed during a war in a jungle, where soldiers had shots of 50 yards and less. It is apparently no match for the 500 yard shots of Iraq/Afghanistan.

    I have both .223 and .308 semi-autos (and a CMP Garand), and while the second two wouldn't be much fun to carry all day, my father and his generation carried a Garand. It's doing our guys a disservice to think they're not as tough as their grandparents.

    Oh, and as for books, "American Rifle - a Biography" by Alexander Rose covers the development of just about everything from the revolution through about Y2K.

  4. Thanks for stopping by Graybeard.

    "It's doing our guys a disservice to think they're not as tough as their grandparents."

    I hope you're not saying you got that impression from my post. I think this generation is just as tough, and all volunteer! I hope you mean that military planners are doing them a disservice by assuming that today's soldier can't manage a .308, and have been mistaken in not getting more .308 rifles and carbines into the field.

    I'm sure the .223 has its place. The problem I see is that our military planning needs to be more nimble in transition from rifle to rifle depending on the nature of the conflict.

    It's a shame we have the AR-10 and Ar-15, but no lower receiver that can swap between .308 and .223 upper receivers. That way, we could keep an arsenal of both uppers around as needed.

  5. As you concluded, I didn't mean you; I meant the Pentagon planners who made the decision to make the M-16 into the standard service rifle.

    There's an old saying that the military is always fighting the last war; that's they way I see using a jungle gun (which I think the M-16 is) in a wide open desert. You're exactly right about them needing to be more nimble, the way I see it.

    There is a lot of talk lately about the need for a new standard rifle that you may have come across. Here's a link to a pretty famous paper about "Taking Back the Infantry Half Kilometer" from the Army that talks about this problem.

    But, again, I've never been in the military; I'm just a gun nut and recreational shooter. I understand it's a big question from a logistics standpoint - the amount of ammo and spare parts they need to keep on hand, and I'm sure there's much I'm not thinking of.