Is the 223/5.56 Losing AR Ground?
Dr. John Woods 06.29.20
Since the dawn of the now famous AR rifle or Armalite Rifle it was chambered for the 5.56 round commonly known as its shadow the 223 Remington. When the automatic version the M-16 went to war in Southeast Asia we know as Vietnam, the AR fully deployed the 5.56.
Initially the M-16 and the 5.56 caught hell on the battle field because of a myriad of issues mainly solved by better cleaning and maintenance procedures as well as some adjustments to the ammunition. Since those issues were worked out, the 5.56/223 has become the standard bearer of the AR rifles to date.
However, those folks loving to tinker with things that aren’t broke but might could be improved have dreamed up and brought to fruition a number of new or remodeled cartridges to function in the AR-15 carriage. The list is rather long now and continues to grow. This is in fact testimony to the success and functionality of the AR platform. Otherwise why bother?
One has to view these cartridge developments for the standard AR rifle platform not as a threat to the boiler room 223/5.56, but as additional opportunities to enhance the AR you may already have in the gun safe. Several of the new cartridge developments only involve the upper unit. This means the barrel, bolt carrier unit, and other parts are only altered in the upper side unit. Install the new chambered upper on your lower, use the same or different magazines, and start shooting. This gives the AR owner/shooter additional rifles with only one lower unit.
In some cases though a whole new rifle had to be built around the AR configuration in order to accommodate the new cartridge especially the magazine well and magazine. This is a rather standard course of action so it is not surprising that in some cases to acquire the use of a new cartridge development, a new rifle is required.
The current list of AR cartridges available among some others includes the 6.8 SPC, 300 Blackout, 6.5 Grendel, 5.45×39, 7.62×39, 224 Valkyrie, 22 Nosler, 450 Bushmaster, 458 SOCOM and the 50 Beowulf. Some of the newest like the 224 Valkyrie and the 22 Nosler are causing quite the stir among shooters and hunters. More are likely to come.
So, will these new rounds eventually displace the 223/5.56? I doubt it. The proprietary AR round is well ingrained. It has earned its place in history both on the battle field as well as in law enforcement, personal protection, and hunting. The 223/5.56 is here to stay, but enjoy the other flavors, too.