Would the AR-15 be a good rifle for a SHTF survival situation? The simple answer is, “it depends.” The M16 223/5.56mm was original developed as a replacement for the M14 and the 308.
The mindset was to develop a lighter rifle and lighter ammo so that soldiers could carry the rifle further and carry more ammo. One drawback, instead of shooting a 150 or 180 grain bullet like the 308 Winchester / 7.62 NATO, the 223 / 5.56mm shots a 55 grain bullet.
Lets talk about some of the pluses and negatives of the 223 / 5.56mm:
1. To compensate for the smaller bullet diameter and lighter weight, the 55 grain 5.56mm is supposed to “tumble” after it hits flesh. The “tumbling” creates wounds and does quit a bit of damage to flesh.
I see a couple of issues with the “tumble” theory:
How does the bullet know whether its hitting a wall and should punch through, or flesh and tumble? When the bullet is made, is it granted with magical powers that tells it what the bullet is about to hit, and whether it should tumble or not?
All phun aside, the 223/5.56mm has problems getting through walls. Once the bullet hits something, and it tries to tumble, it loses its energy.
This is one of the big drawbacks to the 223/5.56mm, it relies on the “tumbling” effect to do its damage. But sometimes the tumbling can also be the bullets downfall – like when it needs to punch through something instead of tumble.
2. .308 is larger then .223 – this is a mathematical certainty that will never change. All things aside, the 308 will punch a larger hole, and will penetrate solid material better then the 223. Even when compared to the 30-30, the .308 bullet has a mathematical certainty of creating a larger hole then the .223 / 5.56mm.
3. On the plus side when compared to a .308 Winchester rifle, the 223 / 5.56mm ammunition is lighter, more compact, and sometimes cheaper.
4. Since the 5.56mm is used by militarys all over the world, sometimes you can find good deals on 5.56mm – like being able to buy the ammo in a sealed can. Which makes long term storage easy. Just buy a couple of the sardine cans of 5.56mm, and store them at your bug out location.
5. The 223 / 5.56mm is super accurate.
6. The 223 / 5.56mm has a low recoil, which makes it a great choice for people learning how to shoot, and small framed individuals. When a 105 pound 16 year old girl shoots an AR-15, its not going to dot her eye or knock her on her butt.
7. Accessories – the AR-15 and Mini-14 family of rifles has more accessories then you can shake a stick at. Whether its a new stock, scope, flash suppressor, magazines,,,,,, you should be able to find just about anything you want.
8. Replacement parts – AR-15 parts are easy to find. Go to just about any gun show with $200 and you should be able to get all the replacement firing pins and springs that could ever want or need.
9. Ammo can be cheap – sometimes there are sales on wolf or monarch amm0. I remember a couple of years ago Academy sports and outdoors having Monarch 223 at $2.79 for a box of 20. Except for the 22 long rifle, its going to difficult to beat those kinds of prices. But over the past few years 223 has gone up to the $6 – $7 for 20 rounds price range. Sometimes companies like Cheaper than Dirt will have sales.
10. The use of aluminum and plastics in the rifles construction has helped to keep the overall weight of the AR-15 down.
Hunting With An AR-15
This is where the big debate is – is the 223/5.56mm big enough to take deer sized game in a humane manner. The answer will vary depending on “who” you talk to. I know of lots of people who use a 223 for deer, but I personally would not. Then there are the people who profess that no, you should never use a 223/5.56mm on deer sized game.
My personal opinion, hunting deer with a .223 diameter bullet is like driving the family mini-van or SUV in the Indie 500. Sure, the SUV, car, truck, or mini-van can drive on the track, but its not going to be able to keep up with a race car. Would you rather drive a car that tops out at 100 miles per hour, or a race car that can go over 200 miles per hour? Do you want to punch a small hole or a big hole?
On top of the bullet diameter, what are you hunting? Is it deer, wild hog, bear, moose, elk,,,,,? There is an old saying – “use the right gun for the job.”
Use Enough Gun
Use enough gun to humanely take wild game. Calibers in that group include the 30-30, 270, 280, 308 and the 30-06. In a SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation, one of the worst things that can happen, is to see something while hunting and not have a big enough rifle to take it down.
Where you might see a 200+ pound hog that could feed a family for several days, the 223 does not take the animal down, and it runs off to die from infection a few days later. Its a lose-lose situation. The hog dies and only the worms and buzzards get a meal out of it, and your family goes hungry.
Then there are the local hunting regulations that vary from state to state. Some states strictly forbid hunting deer sized game with a 223/5.56mm rifle. There must be some kind of reason “why” those restrictions are in place.
A couple of things that the 223 / 5.56mm have going for it in the hunting arena, its accurate, easy to shoot by just about anyone and there are a variety of bullets available for reloading.
The accuracy and the recoil has already been discussed, so lets touch on reloading.
The most popular load for the 223 / 5.56mm has to be the 55 grain Full Metal Jacket – also known as the 55gr FMJ. One of the nice things about reloading is that bullets are available that are not normally found at the retail outlet store.
Through companies like Midway USA, reloaders can order bulk 223 bullets weighing between 45 – 64 grains, and in a wide variety of bullet types – soft point, hollow point and pointed soft point, only to name a few.
When looking for a survival rifle, there are a number of options besides the AR-15 or Mini-14.
- Remington 700
- Remington model 750
- PTR 91
- H&K 91
- M1 Garand
- Weatherby Vanguard
- Winchester Model 70
- Browning A-Bolt