Andrew’s Note: Prepography reader Kim B wrote in to ask our firearms editor, Infidel the following question: “If you had an opportunity to choose between a 5.56mm (.223 caliber) , a 6.8 SPC or a 7.62mm (.308 caliber), what would be your choice? Based upon what factors?” That’s a great question…what’s the Best Prepper Caliber for the rifle? Here’s Infidel’s take on the topic:
Kim, thanks for the question. First and foremost, I am no expert. I consider myself a life time student of the gun and take every opportunity to learn. I have been blessed with some excellent shooting schools,great friends who show the same passion as me and life altering events. Thus I can get opinionated. But hang on, I will answer your question but first I’ll ask you a few… what role will this caliber be tasked to do? (defensive, hunting, target shooting)? Will you be carrying the rifle for long periods of time or distances? What kind of physical stamina do you have?
5.56 Is considered by many to be an all around great defensive round. It is light weight which means you can carry a lot of ammo. There are lots of accessories that can be had for this caliber as well. Ammo as well as reloading supplies (until these last two weeks) is abundant. I used to dislike this round because it was of small caliber and I am a big bullet fan. However, after using this caliber in my patrol rifle with ammo designed by suppliers to meet the needs of law enforcement, I would highly suggest this caliber.
What changed my mind? I was taking a Dean Caputo class on keeping the M16/AR15 running, when I posed him the question of short barreled AR’s if the velocity loss was worth having. Dean is a retired Kalifornia Law Enforcement Officer (LEO). His agency has had short barreled AR’s. He said they had been enough documented shooting within the LEO community to show that with good ammo, short barreled AR’s do the job within the 200-300 yard range. since then I have also had the opportunity to hunt with my AR that I built for self-defense. I took two hogs in Oklahoma. The worst was a lung shot and he only ran 30 yards. I was shooting a 55 gr ballistic tip.
In a SHTF moment, 5.56 will be abundant, LEO, military, and general citizens make it their main stay rifle caliber ammo. In Iraq I carried 15 M4 (30 round 5.56mm) magazines on me at all times (yea even that got heavy!). When you have to carry this thing 24/7 you get lazy when you don’t have many engagements. What I saw in a war zone would shock some folks. Even from the experts in the field.
If you look at the ballistics of this round, it looks almost perfect. I thought about getting into this round, but several things stopped me. Availability is not wide spread. Go to any sporting goods store and ask for it. If they have it, the cost is a lot more. Magazines don’t hold as many rounds. You don’t have the reloading supplies available as you do with 5.56 or .308 either.
However, if you have the extra money and can get a surplus of ammo and can reload, then go for it, but remember that your basic load will be heavier as well. That said, the ballistics are great so you have most of the good qualities of the 5.56 and can even use the same shooting platform. In fact, buy an upper receiver in 6.8 SPC and add it to your AR 15 lower and you can have two guns in one! That is a nice option to think over.
.308- AW, my first love. Remember big bullet theory. In fact, that was the caliber of my first rifle. It was the caliber that got me my 8 point deer. Great ballistics…don’t let someone tell you otherwise… yea there a flatter shooting rounds, but does it have the punch? Ammo availability, even years ago was good due to everyone hunting with it…even better now. You can also shoot long distance without losing “the punch.” Like anything else, practice often. Now the ugly…rifles in 7.62 weigh more and have lower ammo capacities. Did I say they weigh more…also, barrel length at least 16 inches. Muzzle blast is more as well…I know from getting blasted a few times. Usually not well suited for short range engagements, or close quarters battle (CQB).
Now for the million dollar question, which is the best prepper caliber…which one would I choose? I would go with 5.56. It is a good all around compromise of everything you need.
There are lots of 5.56mm rifle choices available, most notably the AR style and the Mini 14. I’ve owned both and they’re both good rifles, but I recommend you stick with the AR style in a ‘true 5.56mm’ (check back next week to learn what I mean by ‘true 5.56’) because it’s popularity means that there’s much better logistical support and the Mini 14 isn’t as conducive to CQB.
Thanks again to Kim for the question about the best prepper caliber rifle. If you have a security or firearms related question you can ‘shoot’ me a note using my Contact Page.