I’ve got a long time friend John who’s gotten major into all kinds of manly stuff including guns. He’s also started a blog Stuff From Hsoi and probably has as many posts in a couple of months as I have in 5 years. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but he’s very prolific. Go check it out.

I sent him an email yesterday about Neil Strauss’ new book Emergency, which is about becoming self-sufficient. I can’t wait for the book.

We got to trading emails and he’s been sending me links to “cheap” ammo for my AR-15, the discussion naturally we got to talking about ammo. As part of the email he said this:

The thing is, all .223/5.56 ammo is NOT built the same. Ignoring the .223
vs. 5.56 issues themselves, the big thing is terminal effectiveness with
this ammo. You need at least about 2500-2700 fps (depending who you ask)
for best terminal effectiveness, so that means 5.56 rounds, which are loaded
hotter, are going to do better there. Then the bullet itself needs to be
“thin walled” and with a canelure (sp?) to help um… “minimize structural
integrity” of the bullet itself (so to speak) so that upon impact it
fragments… which leads to greater tissue damage but also can improve
issues of overpenetration. You gotta look at the bullet you’re using to
determine this, and XM193’s are known to do this. Others such as Hornady TAP
are designed for this too.

reprinted with permission

Frankly a lot of that went over my head. I’m a geek, but I haven’t put that much geek into my gun knowledge in awhile. But I replied with this.

When I read something like this my first question is “What is the percentage difference?” How much better a round is the XM193 and even say the Wolf target ammo you use? By better I mean stopping power on a human target given the same round placement. 1%? 10% 50%

To me that makes a big difference in whether you should invest in the more expensive round. I’d pretty much link effectiveness to price. If the price increases 30% to get a 2% increase in effectiveness its not really worth it.

Of course there are a lot of other factors, but for ammo of the same caliber that’s what I think.

There are always trade offs, including price and some of the stuff you mentioned like over penetration.

For instance when people bitch about the army using a varmit round in the M16 they miss the point. They didn’t pick that round because of its stopping power – or IMHO because of politics as is often pointed out – but because a solider could carry more rounds while rucking through the battlefield. Weight makes a big difference. That’s probably why they carry 9MM instead of 45. (Or it could be because of gun capacity, especially vs the 1911).

I think part of my thoughts here are that we all only have so much time for study on this and we only have so many resources for purchases. So is the trade off of “expensive” ammo worth it? You tell me.

But John and I both agree that training trumps gear all the time.