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Rifle Cartridges: .308 Win vs 5.56 Nato



Feature | Man holding different bullets | Rifle Cartridges: .308 Win vs 5.56 Nato

Compare the .308 vs 5.56 Nato and find out how they are so different from each other.

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In this article:

  1. 308 vs 5.56 Nato Uses
  2. .308 Win vs 5.56 Nato Cost
  3. Confidence in Shooting

.308 Win vs 5.56 Nato | Spot the Differences Between the Two

308 vs 5.56 Nato Uses

Reserve ammo | Rifle Cartridges: .308 Win vs 5.56 Nato

When it comes to .308 Win vs 5.56 Nato, which one is better? That's often the question gun enthusiasts ask.

These are not the only two rifle cartridges in the world, but they are among the most popular ones. It's not unusual to compare the two.

Doing it, though, is like pitting a banana against a pineapple. It's hard to point out their similarities.

While both are fruits, they couldn't be any more different from each other. One may be better than the other depending on the situation.

If you're prepping for the zombie takeover, you'll likely want to have two rifles, one chambered in each. While the bigger of the two is better ballistic-wise, the 5.56mm will be more abundant.

It makes a great addition for when it's time to start putting zombies out of their misery. Semi-automatic rifles using Winchester Nato rifle ammunition will likely do the job.

Bolt-action rifles chambered in the correct bullet rounds are just as deadly. You can also use both of these cartridges for defensive and hunting situations.

The similarities end there, however.

If the primary goal of your weapon is to stop an advancing enemy, the top performer is going to be the .308 all day long. The same is true if you want to hunt deer.

Regardless of the barrel length, it's the bigger cartridge that contains more powder and a bigger grain bullet.

Let's take it a step further than what gun users all know to be correct about these two. After all, there is always more that goes into it than ballistics.

If you only want to do some target practice for fun, the 5.56 will likely be your best bet based on the cost. Its usefulness also extends to the tactical department.

.308 Win vs 5.56 Nato Cost

Now, compare the 308 vs 556 ammo cost. Usually, bigger projectiles, which are 308 ammo, cost more money.

There are a few reasons for this. To keep it simple, they need more material for production.

Because of this, the 5.56 Nato ammo is cheaper by about $6 to $7 per box of 20 rounds. Reloading with these bullet rounds are slightly less expensive than the other.

While that much money doesn't seem to break the bank, a closer look reveals the opposite.

What if you believe running 20 ammo rounds through your rifle every week for a year (52 weeks total) will make you a better shooter? You will wind up saving over $300 if you choose the 5.56.

Of course, shooting a gun is like eating potato chips. You can't eat only one pack.

In other words, who goes to the range and only runs 20 ammo rounds through their rifles?

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Confidence in Shooting

Shooting practice | Rifle Cartridges: .308 Win vs 5.56 Nato

AR15 VS AR10 – 5.56 VS 308 Photo by Edwin Sarkissian [Youtube]

Confidence comes from constant practice. You heard the saying “Practice makes perfect.”

Not everyone may agree with this statement, but most understand the philosophy.

If you want to be a great shot, you need to practice shooting on a regular basis. If you're going to practice more with the smaller cartridge because it costs less per round or is an overall more manageable cartridge, that is the better choice for you.

There is another thing to consider when talking about confidence in shooting. It is the amount of felt recoil that is going to hit your shoulder with each steady squeeze of the trigger.

What Is Recoil? It is the gun's backward movement after firing the weapon. In principle, it balances the forward momentum the gun gained during shooting.

If you feel like someone is punching you in the arm each time you shoot, you may want to opt for the smaller of the two.

Plain and simple, when it comes to .308 Win vs 5.56 Nato, the former packs a bigger punch. Note, though, if you listen to some guys, shooting an AR in 5.56 is like firing a bazooka.


Compare .308 Win vs 5.56 Nato better with this video from Edwin Sarkissian:

To sum it up, with regard to .308 Win vs 5.56 Nato, it is a matter of preference. Figure out which gun you are more comfortable shooting.

Think about the costs involved also. Decide what you need the gun for.

These steps will help you choose the right one between the two.

Don't forget, though, these are not your only options. There are more of them, so you may want to give them a try as well.

When it comes to .308 Win and 5.56 Nato, which do you prefer? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Editor's Note: This article was originally published in June 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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  1. bob onit

    June 25, 2016 at 1:59 PM

    ar 10 ,with cmmg upper ,3×9 optic co-witnessed with steel-sites shoots 1”-2” moa at 200m at 300m bumps to 1”-4–moa painted steel can hear and see hits ,optic on 5 power

  2. gunfighterman

    June 13, 2015 at 5:37 PM

    Obviously the author of the article has never seen a gsw from a 5.56 first hand. I do agree with the thinking of a 7.62×51 in combat but I beg to differ on his statements on the 5.56 in combat. I have seen time and time again on the handy work of the round and believe me isn’t pretty by any means and it’s even more devastating if the round is either a HP or PSP.

  3. James Maxwell

    June 8, 2015 at 10:34 AM

    When I was in Viet Nam (66 – 68) I had to opportunity to fire on a regular basis. I carried the M-16, M-3
    (Grease Gun), the M-1 and even the ’03. Out section had a strange collection of weapons for a comm
    unit that never left base. I found all of the tremendous fun to go to the range with several boxes of
    ammo and be able to shoot to my hearts content. I also learned about the problem with the M-16
    at that time frame and experienced failure that were consistent with the cleaning of the weapon. It
    soured me on the weapon. Since that time I have had to opportunity to fire different configurations
    of the AR platform rifles chambered in both the .223 round and the .308 round. I must admit with
    the minor changes for the most part I really enjoy the new AR platform much better than the old
    Viet Nam era weapons. A friend of mine with has a rifle from the early Viet Nam era that he acquired
    and has the license to keep a fully automatic weapon) which he breaks out from time to time to compare
    it to the newer version of the weapon. While it is the same weapon and the changes are internal it is
    almost like night and day in shooting them. For shooting hogs the .223 is still a blast but to take one
    down with one shot consistently I will take the .308 ever time hands down. I prefer the Bold
    action rifle over the AR platform in most circumstances as it is more accurate for me at the ranges
    I shoot.

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