5.56/.223 penetration through brush?

This is a discussion on 5.56/.223 penetration through brush? within the Defensive Ammunition & Ballistics forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; In the event of a need for neighborhood/area defense (looting, riots, etc) my go-to carbine right now is a 5.56mm Mini 14 Ranch Rifle with ...

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Thread: 5.56/.223 penetration through brush?

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    VIP Member Array 10thmtn's Avatar
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    Question 5.56/.223 penetration through brush?

    In the event of a need for neighborhood/area defense (looting, riots, etc) my go-to carbine right now is a 5.56mm Mini 14 Ranch Rifle with a scope. I live in a typical suburban area, with homes all around, so accuracy is a must (hence the scope). [Note - my Mini 14 is one of the newer ones, and is plenty accurate, so no Mini 14 bashing here, please.]

    My concern is that there is also a fair amount of brush, vegetation, and trees in my area. In Vietnam, the 5.56mm got a reputation for being deflected by brush more than the heavier Soviet 7.62 x 39 used by our enemy. Also, the 7.62 got a reputation for better penetration through brush, which could turn cover into concealment.

    So, my question is this - do I need something in .30-30 or 7.62 x 39, or is the modern 5.56 (especially in heavier bullet weights like 62gr or 77 gr) up to the task? While I carried the M16 in the Army, I (fortunately) never needed to shoot anyone with it, so I have no firsthand experience to draw on.

    My sight lines are limited to 200 yards max, so I see no real need for something like a .30-06 or a .308, though I have considered them - I think there would be too much risk of over-penetration.

    Thoughts? First hand experience?
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    Somewhere in some old magazines I have from back in the 1970s/1980s there is an article in which gun writer came up with a "brush busting test" consisting of a large box with a bunch of dowel rods through which he fired. He tested all the "usual suspects" reputed to have brush bustin' capabilities but in the end found that the two cartridges that consistently got through his contraption with any semblance of accuracy were the 55 grain fmj .223 and the 110 grain fmj .30 Carbine of all things!

    Not sure what this proves but it did come as a surprise.
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    VIP Member Array 10thmtn's Avatar
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    Thanks for jogging my memory!

    The guys at www.theboxotruth.com did similar testing. Here is their results summary:

    http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/bot40_5.htm

    Here is the result with 55 gr 5.56:

    http://www.theboxotruth.com/docs/bot40.htm

    So, it seems brush may get the bullet sideways, but it will not deflect it much. If the BG is right behind some brush, no worries. If anything, getting the FMJ bullet sideways may increase its terminal effects.

    If you need to fire through brush at a target way beyond (not my scenario where I live) then a heavier caliber will be somewhat better.

    So...I might be better off stocking up on some heavier weight 5.56/.223 ammo than getting a whole new gun/caliber. Hmmm...
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10thmtn View Post
    ... So, it seems brush may get the bullet sideways, but it will not deflect it much. If the BG is right behind some brush, no worries. If anything, getting the FMJ bullet sideways may increase its terminal effects. ...:
    Yup. I think I'd much rather take a 'through and through' than have a 5.56/.223 round key-hole me. Back when I qualified on the M-16 in 1983, they routinely key-holed the targets. We were told that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
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    I am not an expert, but here is my personal "take".
    Some background -
    In the very early 60s, "observed" the following, in "real" situations.( CQ)
    a. 5.56 - poor performance in the "brush". Deflection was a factor but it's failure to penetrate ( limited to LIGHT cover, Med - Heavy = nope.
    b. 30 cal. carbine - fair performance in med. brush, but deteriorated over distance.
    c. 7.62x39mm - good performance up to light trees
    d. 7.62 NATO - Very Good, up to med. trees

    I own a 5.56mm Mini 14 Ranch Rifle ( new version) & a 7.62 NATO ( SOCOM16) Here is my "take today ( based on training scenarios & hunting )
    Modern "take"
    a. 5.56 ( based on the "new" ammo avail.) - fairly good up to heavy brush, then iffy.
    b. 7.62 NATO - enough said.

    My personal opinion - In a Urban situation & in the hands of an typical shooter, the "mini is a good choice.( with proper ammo.) The reason I say this, is that with a 7.62 NATO, although very effective in turning "cover" into concealment" ( incl. autos), "collateral damage" is intensified.
    Let us all hope & pray, we never have to put our "choice" into action

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    I don't think "keyholing" is ever a good thing, and it certainly doesn't do much for accuracy. Much of the earlier M-16 keyholing lore was the result of mismatched bullet weight and rifling rate, and it still goes on today as evidenced by the various rifling rates offered in the ARs.

    My experience with the .223 was in Wa St plinking rockchucks with 55 grn BTSPs. I once shot a coyote in the back of the head at about thirty yards as it ran away. The bullet disintegrated inside the skull and never exited. That turned me off as to using the cartridge for deer. It would definitely need a heavier bullet than what I loaded.
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    VIP Member Array 10thmtn's Avatar
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    My concern is dealing with BGs taking shots from directly behind cover, which in my area consists of brush and trees. If the 5.56 keyholes upon hitting brush, it will still strike the target immediately behind. One of the factors in the terminal effect of the 5.56 is the round tumbling and fragmenting, which produces tremendous wounding. Keyholing will, if anything, magnify that effect.

    BUT...one issue to be aware of is that the lighter 55 gr loads are more prone to tumbling, especially in the slower twist rate barrels. My Mini is a 1:7 twist, so it stabilizes everything from 55 to 77 gr bullets - good for accuracy, bad for terminal effect. The way to get around this is to get 77 gr JHPs or JSPs. You get the penetration and stability of the heavier bullet, while still getting good terminal effect due to bullet expansion (which is not something the military can use, due to their use of FMJ only).

    Anything that will go through a tree is probably too much for a suburban area - too much risk of overpenetration. Besides, my Mini holds up to 30 rounds, so if I need a few to chew through some cover, there are still plenty left in the mag.

    So...I started out thinking I might need a .30-30 or 7.62 x 39 to deal with brush, but now I'm thinking I might be better off investing in some heavier 5.56 JHPs or JSPs instead. Darnit - kinda was hoping to justify a new carbine.
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    10th, unless you live all by your lonesome, you need at least one decent "reach out and touch someone" long arm per competent shooter in the house. And if you DO live alone, then you need at least one long arm per shooting port (window), right? I hope that helps your justification.

    But back to practical matters, bullet deflection. Think in terms of geometry: If your target is immediately behind brush, then even a 30 degree deflection of the bullet would hardly matter - the lateral deflection from your point of aim would only be a couple of inches. But if, say, the trees and brush were close to your house and the BGs are lurking 100 yards out, then the bullet deflection will indeed matter. In that case, I recommend cannister shot...

    And just as a data point, the last time I shot at deer, I was in a large tree stand (affectionately dubbed "the condo" since it had walls and a roof!) shooting at some does trotting uphill at about 80 yards. I was so intent on my sight picture through the scope I saw the muzzle flash. I was swinging the gun after the first shot, and the does were oblivious to the gunfire until a shot went through a large tree branch, breaking it clean off and the branch crashed noisily to the ground! By "large" I mean at least the width of my palm, about 4 inches... branch was about 10 feet away. 168 grain .30-06 round... almost as good as a chain saw.
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    VIP Member Array 10thmtn's Avatar
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    That's an interesting debate, actually. Unless you live in really wide open spaces, I'm not sure you can justify a self defense shot at "reach out and touch someone" distances.

    In my area, it's a moot point anyway. You just cannot see much farther than about 200 yards at the absolute max. That's well within the capability of the 5.56, especially with a scope.

    Here's another thought, though - as far as penetrating cover and brush...I do also have a 12 gauge shotgun, with a 20 inch barrel and rifle sights. As seen in the testing referenced above at TBOT...it seems a 12 gauge slug will plow through brush and probably small branches with ease. I currently do not stock slugs, and have never used them - I keep my shotgun loaded with buckshot for use inside the home. Any idea if you can hit with accuracy out to about 200 yards with them? If so, that might be another option.
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    [QUOTE=10thmtn;1850324
    I currently do not stock slugs, and have never used them - I keep my shotgun loaded with buckshot for use inside the home. Any idea if you can hit with accuracy out to about 200 yards with them? If so, that might be another option.[/QUOTE]

    Depends on your definition of "accurate." I bet I could hit a refrigerator 8 times out of 10 at 200 yards with my rifle-sighted short-barrel 870, with the first 2 shots being "sighters." But hit the kill zone on a deer at 200 yards (say the size of a paper plate)? I'd be hard pressed to do that with my solid-receiver, scoped, fully-rifled slug gun shooting the best sabot slugs. Think of slugs at that range as "suppressive fire"!
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    Distinguished Member Array LanceORYGUN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10thmtn View Post
    Thoughts?

    I would say that shooting someone hiding behind vegetation would typically not be considered a valid self-defense scenario.

    I would advise against even attempting such a shot, as it would put an additional onus on the shooting. And who wants any additional burden to be able to justify your shooting?

    A civilian shooting in self-defense is nothing even remotely like being involved in a fire fight in Vietnam.

    .
    Last edited by LanceORYGUN; January 14th, 2011 at 08:05 AM.

  13. #12
    VIP Member Array 10thmtn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gasmitty View Post
    Depends on your definition of "accurate." I bet I could hit a refrigerator 8 times out of 10 at 200 yards with my rifle-sighted short-barrel 870, with the first 2 shots being "sighters." But hit the kill zone on a deer at 200 yards (say the size of a paper plate)? I'd be hard pressed to do that with my solid-receiver, scoped, fully-rifled slug gun shooting the best sabot slugs. Think of slugs at that range as "suppressive fire"!
    OK, thanks. I also did some research after posting, and it seems slugs are out of consideration. With all the homes all around, I need more accuracy than that affords.
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    VIP Member Array 10thmtn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LanceORYGUN View Post
    I would say that shooting someone hiding behind vegetation would typically not be considered a valid self-defense scenario.

    I would advise against even attempting such a shot, as it would put an additional onus on the shooting. And who wants any additional burden to be able to justify your shooting?

    A civilian shooting in self-defense is nothing even remotely like being involved in a fire fight in Vietnam.

    .
    That depends. I was thinking of a temporary breakdown of law and order scenario...think roaming bands of looters or rioters. Some of whom may be armed, and who may decide to take pot shots at you from a distance, possibly from behind cover.

    By way of background, I have some experience in this arena. We were deployed both to Southern Florida after Hurricane Andrew, and also to Somalia. So, I've faced mobs of angry, hungry people before. The good news is that if you take out the biggest trouble makers, the rest of the crowd tends to disperse fairly rapidly.

    So, while I do not think this is a likely scenario, it is possible - and has happened before, even here in the USA (Hurricane Andrew, Katrina, various racial riots over the years, and etc). I also live only a dozen or so miles outside of a very large metro area...if the government starts cutting back on social welfare payments in this economy, things could get really ugly really quickly.

    One of the considerations is that you need accuracy (in order to hit just the armed BG and avoid collateral damage), but you also need firepower, in case the crowd decides to rush you (unlikely in the face of gunfire, but can happen if they are close enough). Add in the need to penetrate light/moderate cover - but not so much power that you risk over-penetration.

    If the Ruger Mini 30 could shoot the cheaper steel case Russian ammo, I would just save up for one (and a scope) and be done with it. [Edit - Spoke to Ruger this morning...they no longer warn against the steel case ammo. What they said was to avoid the military surplus stuff, due to hard primers and loose specs. The commercial ammo - Tula, Brown/Silver Bear, etc should be ok...but then the tech cautioned to try a box first before buying a whole case. Still sounds to me like if you want to shoot cheap Russian ammo, get a Russian gun.]

    As it is, I'm debating just getting heavier ammo for my Mini 14, or a package lever gun with a factory scope, or an SKS or an AK (and having to fiddle with it to mount a scope).

    I have a headache!
    Last edited by 10thmtn; January 14th, 2011 at 10:31 AM. Reason: more info
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    Distinguished Member Array Dragman's Avatar
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    bruch for me means go with the biggest heaviest bullet possible. IMO
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    Well if it's a brake down of sorts like you're refering to.

    One or some are takeing cover behind brush and doing pot shots and what not.

    I will saturate the area with a good amount of rounds from my rifle of choice I can tell you that. most likely it'd be 5.56 Nato Ball 55gr. M855.

    I'm sure I'd break down that brush with the first several rounds...but the last several will have a better chance of hitting the threats. plus the splinters flying around would also help...pretty good psychological effect too.

    Plus the wife with the shotty using slugs. For some reason she gets all "juiced" when she shoots my 870..yells "YEAH!".

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