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Why You Should Get a 5.56 Rifle: Uncovering Hidden Benefits

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It’s no surprise that the 5.56 rifle has become a popular choice for home defense and hunting – it’s versatile, accurate, powerful, and uses cost-effective ammunition. This blog post will uncover the hidden benefits of owning a 5.56×45 rifle and explain why it may be the ideal choice for you.

Table of Contents
Versatility: 5.56 Rifles are Great for Anything
– 5.56 Rifles for Home Defense – Decent Power Without Over-Penetration
– 5.56 Rifles for Hunting – Good Terminal Performance on Small & Medium Game
– 5.56 Rifles for Target Shooting & Competition – Great Accuracy with the Right Setup
5.56 Ammunition Availability
The AR-15 As the Most Popular 5.56 Design
Various 5.56 Firearm Designs for Every Task

1. Versatility: 5.56 Rifles are Great for Anything

5.56 Rifles for Home Defense – Decent Power Without Over-Penetration

The 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge and its civilian counterpart, the .223 Remington, are some of the most potent home defense rounds available on the market. Yes, we have our beloved 9mm Luger, which rules the world of self-defense, offering great handgun capacity, a manageable report, and decent terminal performance. But, if you need a firearm with a longer barrel, a 9mm PCC (pistol-caliber carbine) may have an over-penetration issue. The thing is that 9mm bullets are heavier – a 55-grain 5.56 bullet is more than twice as light as standard 9mm loads that use 115-, 124, or 147-grain bullets. Fired from a longer barrel, heavier bullets gain even more energy and velocity, and as they fly downrange, they lose them much slower than lighter projectiles. So for those concerned about over-penetration, and you must be concerned, choose a 5.56 AR-15 rather than a 9mm carbine.

Also, compared to semi-auto pistols, 5.56 rifles deliver deeper penetration with less recoil. More manageable recoil promotes faster follow-up shots due to less recovery time.

Additionally, the average magazine capacity of 5.56 semi-auto rifles, which are often AR15-style rifles, can be as high as 30 rounds (or more with an extended mag or drum mag), giving you superior firepower compared to full-size handguns, which typically hold up to 19 rounds. Some exceptions include Glocks, such as the Glock 17, which may be fitted with an extended Glock mag holding up to 33 rounds. But, with such a setup, you’ll get an unbalanced pistol.

Also, as the most popular design chambered for the 5.56, AR-15 rifles are highly versatile in terms of ammunition. Depending on your intended purpose, you can choose different ammo types, such as .223 Rem hollow points or 5.56 NATO full metal jackets with a wide range of bullet weights and velocities. Moreover, the AR-15 is a highly customizable platform, and with an ocean of accessories available, you can turn your standard build into a specialized home-defense system.

5.56 Rifles for Hunting – Good Terminal Performance on Small & Medium Game

If you’re interested particularly in deer, it’s noteworthy that many states don’t allow deer hunting with a 5.56 rifle. The main reasons are lack of power compared to larger calibers, such as .308 Win and good old .30-06. As we’ve mentioned, 5.56/.223 has lighter bullets that lose energy and velocity faster and transfer less kinetic energy upon impact. Less tissue damage leads to a less optimal killing effect on larger game animals such as deer.

If you live in a state that allows 5.56/.223 rifles for deer hunting, you must be a responsible and ethical hunter and shoot deer only if your marksmanship skills are really good. Choose heavier bullets and hit vitals from a shorter distance.


On the other hand, these rifles are ideal for small game such as prairie dogs, cottontails, jackrabbits, and other varmints, and with proper shot placement, you can take down a coyote and wild hog.

Now, what about ammunition? One of the most common issues when using 5.56 and .223 ammo in the same rifle is that one may assume they are interchangeable. However, this is not always the case. While both cartridges use .224 caliber bullets, the difference lies in the firing chamber pressure. 5.56 rounds are designed to be fired from rifles with 5.56 chambers. These chambers have a longer throat than .223, allowing for higher pressures to build up. It means increased velocity and energy for the bullet.

In contrast, rifles chambered for .223 should never be used with 5.56 ammo because the pressure generated could exceed what is safe for a .223 chamber and cause potential damage to the rifle or even injury to the shooter. Therefore it’s important to ensure you’re using the correct round.

When shopping for ammunition, you should also pay attention to the bullet design. Since the 5.56 NATO is a military cartridge, it uses FMJ bullets that are non-expandable. The .223 Rem comes with hollow-pointed bullets which expand on impact, don’t over-penetrate, and cause more damage.

5.56 Rifles for Target Shooting & Competition – Great Accuracy with the Right Setup

The 5.56 NATO round is excellent for target shooting and 3-gun competitions. Generally, the longer the barrel, the more accurate the rifle will be. That’s why AR-15s with 20-inch stainless steel barrels rule here. 5.56 bolt-action rifles are incredibly accurate too. Cleaning your rifle regularly is essential to ensure it remains accurate over its lifetime, especially if you want an AR-15 with a rifle-length gas system.

2. 5.56 Ammunition Availability

One more reason why you should consider choosing a 5.56 rifle is ammunition. 5.56 ammo is very popular and widely available due to the prevalence of the AR-15 platform, meaning there’s an abundance of this type of ammo out there. Besides, 5.56 rounds are usually cheaper than most other rifle rounds because a lot of people shoot it and drive down the cost per round via competition among retailers. Additionally, you can switch from 5.56 to .223, as the latter can typically be fired safely in a 5.56 rifle chamber with no extra modifications needed adding even more convenience to this already versatile and affordable platform!

3. The AR-15 As the Most Popular 5.56 Design

ar 15 handguard

As most rifles chambered for the 5.56 are AR-15s, it’s worth discussing the benefits of owning this platform.

First of all, the AR-15 is a modular, incredibly customizable system, allowing you to tailor your rifle to fit exactly what you’re looking for. Different needs can be addressed through various AR upgrades: variable optics, extended magazines, adjustable stocks for better ergonomics, muzzle brakes for decreased felt recoil and increased accuracy, lightweight M-LOK free-float handguards, and a variety of aftermarket triggers for smoother pull or faster action.

Secondly, the AR-15 platform is lightweight and ergonomic, providing shooters with a comfortable experience even after long shooting sessions.

4. Various 5.56 Firearm Designs for Every Task

Here we’ll be discussing various barrel lengths for the AR-15 as well as different weapons that are not AR-15s.

The most common barrel lengths for AR-15s are 16 inches, 18 inches, and 20 inches. These lengths support a variety of uses, from target shooting to home defense, depending on the shooter’s preference. The 16-inch barreled rifles have a better balance between portability and accuracy, whereas the 18- and 20-inch barreled rifles generally offer further improved accuracy.

Some users may opt for shorter versions such as M4-style carbines having 14.5-inch as a standard. This shorter barrel length is ideal for close-quarter combat scenarios but sacrifices some accuracy and muzzle velocity. AR pistols can also be found with even shorter barrel lengths of 7-10 inches, sacrificing range to gain maneuverability in close quarters.

Pay attention, though, that from January 2023, all rifles having a barrel shorter than 16 inches are deemed Short Barreled Rifles, whether or not equipped with a pistol brace. So be sure to comply with all the regulations when considering having an M4-style rifle or an AR pistol. Learn more here.

If, for some reason, you don’t want an AR-15, you can choose from a variety of non-AR-15 5.56 semi-automatic rifles as well as 5.56 bolt action rifles. Some great non-AR semi-auto designs include the Steyr AUG A3 M1 and IWI Tavor X95 bullpup rifles, the IWI Galil Ace Gen 2 inspired by the AK-47, and the MarColMar Cetme L roller-locked rifle. If you want uncompromised accuracy, consider Ruger and Mossberg 5.56 bolt-action rifles.


Owning a 5.56×45 rifle can offer numerous benefits beyond shooting recreationally. It can provide advantages in self-defense and home defense due to its impressive accuracy and availability of maneuverable options with shorter barrels. Rifles like the AR-15 are also relatively lightweight, which is good if you plan to spend a lot of time together. 5.56 rifles are also great for hunting small and medium game animals. You may also hunt deer provided that it’s legal in your state, you are a good marksman, and your system is optimized for that.

Additionally, purchasing an AR-15 allows the owner to customize their rifle with parts tailored precisely to their needs, allowing for greater customization.

Explore more of the best 5.56 rifles at GRITR Sports. We’ve gathered quite a collection of firearms made by such trusted brands as Bravo, Ruger, S&W, Sig Sauer, Steyr, Kel-Tec, and many others.


What makes the 5.56 caliber rifle superior to other types of rifles?

The 5.56 caliber rifle is superior to other types of rifles due to its lighter weight, lower recoil, higher velocity, accuracy at mid-ranges, the maneuverability of shorter-barreled versions, and reliability.

What kind of accuracy can I expect from a 5.56 rifle?

The effective range of a 5.56 for target shooting is 500 yards. However, it fails to deliver 1,000 ft-lbs of energy beyond 100 yards, so the effective range for hunting is limited to 100 yards.

How does the recoil of a 5.56 rifle compare to other types of rifles?

The recoil of a 5.56 rifle is generally considered to be much lighter than other types of rifles, such as those chambered in larger calibers like the .308 Winchester or .30-06 Springfield. The 5.56 round is relatively low-powered compared to larger rounds, resulting in less recoil for the shooter.

Are there any safety considerations when using a 5.56 rifle?

When using a 5.56 rifle, it is important to wear eye and ear protection, always treat it as if it were loaded, never point the muzzle at anything you do not intend to shoot, and never leave the firearm unattended. You can safely fire .223 Rem ammo out of the 5.56 chamber.

Are there any modifications or accessories available for a 5.56 rifle?

Yes, there are a variety of modifications and accessories available for 5.56 rifles. These include scopes, magazines, stocks, grips, bipods, flash suppressors, muzzle brakes, slings, and more. Additionally, aftermarket parts such as triggers, barrels, and bolt carriers are also available.

Timothy Chandler

Timothy Chandler is a long-time outdoor enthusiast and shooting range regular who decided to put his passion into words. Having tried an immeasurable number of firearms during his hunting trips across Texas and several other states, Timothy has accumulated a knowledge base worthy of sharing. The possible blanks in the expertise he compensates with the help of his numerous shooting buddies. Timothy is set on a seemingly impossible mission to try it all in the realm of firearms. Follow him on his never-ending journey through the gun world.

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