Survival Defense .223 vs .308
Dr. John Woods 06.22.15
If ever there was a campfire debate among preppers, this is one of the best ones. Like any spirited conversation comparing one firearm caliber against another, there are pros and cons on both sides of the fence. Rarely does anyone really win the debate, because each person has to decide for themselves which tool works best for their particular situation.
Still despite facts being the facts, trying to realistically compare the battle proven .223/5.56 against the venerable .308 Winchester/7.62 is much like throwing out bowls of vanilla and chocolate ice cream to argue which is best. I mean, somebody in the crowd is going to want strawberry. And I really like that toffee ice cream.
So, preppers, survivalists, bug out security teams, and home bound protectionists need to study both rounds to determine which one fits best for which application needed. The debate also needs to consider the overall rifle platforms, rifle brands, styles, accessories, optics, electronic sight options, slings and carry, ammo availability, and cost of ammunition.
Other factors to consider in the platform/cartridge selection are the handling characteristics, rifle weight, shooting ease, compatibility to the shooter(s), compactness, muzzle flash, recoil, and muzzle noise, among other considerations.
Also think about ammo handling, storage, weight, ease of transport, magazine loading, and cases or pouches for ammo and/or magazines. All these points factor into which cartridge base you pick.
As to performance, let’s look at some basic ballistics of each. The standard .223 or 5.56mm uses a 55-grain bullet usually a full metal jacket, or some other hunting style bullet. These rounds generate a bullet velocity at a range of 100 yards of 2855 feet per second. At that range the foot pounds of impact energy is roughly 995 foot pounds of whack. Less range, more impact power.
By comparison the .308 Winchester or 7.62mm uses a standard 150 grain bullet, though of course others are available, including the popular 180 grain or some in the 160 grain range. The 150s in a soft point or like bullet kick out about 2601 feet per second velocity at 100 yards. That heavier bullet smacks at 2253 foot pounds at 100 yards. Vanilla or chocolate?
After you finish the campfire debate and the fire dies down, then maybe you’ll realize you might need both. They are both good at what they do, so why settle on just one?
As with so many prepper debates, most of the controversy is actually generated not by the specifics of one caliber or the other, but by the artificial “if you could only pick one” way that the debate is framed. Fighting men (and women) in all eras have trained with and carried more than one tool for the job, so the obvious answer is: pick both. In a survival situation, variety is more than just the spice of life. It may be the difference between life and death. Don’t limit yourself if you don’t have to.