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7.62X39 VS 5.56

7.62×39 vs 5.56

The Debate Between 5.56 NATO & 7.62X39mm

The debate between the 5.56 NATO and 7.62x39mm cartridges is one that has raged on for years.

No two rifle cartridges demand comparison more than 7.62×39 & 5.56. Both rounds have been sculpted

from the battles in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Those events have created these two prominent rounds

to be the most popular in the world. Almost every military on earth uses one of these two rounds for their primary

battle rifles for good reasons! Their terminal ballistics and effectiveness in close quarters battle (CQB) are second to none.

Both cartridges have their pros and cons, and the choice between the two ultimately depends on your specific needs.

Let’s dive into the details on America’s favorite AR-15 rifle cartridge and Russia’s pride and joy.


5.56 NATO

The 5.56 NATO cartridge was first introduced in the 1960s as the standard cartridge for the M16

rifle. After the Korean War, the U.S. Military started designing a new rifle cartridge for

its frontline rifles. And in 1954, the 308 Winchester (7.62x51mm NATO) was adopted to fill those

shoes. However, after early engagement in Vietnam, the U.S. Army wanted a new rifle that fired a

lighter intermediate cartridge similar to the AK-47. That was the beginning of the .223 Remington.

The .223 Remington M193 cartridge served the U.S. Army all the way through Vietnam, but in 1980,

FN Herstal changed the game. In 1980, the Belgian firearms and ammo manufacturer Fabrique

Nationale (FN) submitted their designs for the SS109 5.56X45MM cartridge to NATO for approval. The

U.S. Military designation for the 5.56mm NATO SS109 is the M855.

The 5.56 NATO round is a high-velocity, small-caliber cartridge that is known for its accuracy, low recoil, and

flat trajectory. The 5.56 NATO cartridge is typically used in military/law enforcement applications and

sport shooting but has seen limited use in hunting as well. The 5.56 NATO cartridge typically fires a

projectile weighing between 55 and 77 grains at a muzzle velocity between 2,700 and 3,300 fps,

resulting in a flatter trajectory and a low susceptibility to wind drift and bullet drop over longer

distances. The 5.56 NATO produces a muzzle energy of approximately 1,200 to 1,800 ft-lbs. which is

slightly lower than the7.62x39mm cartridge.


On top of the aforementioned ballistics, the low recoil of the cartridge makes it easier to shoot

accurately, especially for those who are new to shooting or have limited experience. The smaller

size of the round makes it easier to transport and lighter in a loaded mag. The high velocity of the

round means that it creates an expanded wound channel which is effective against human targets.

The 5.56 NATO cartridge is also widely available and relatively inexpensive, making it popular

option for many shooters. You can order some today for only $0.45 a round here. You can buy

5.56x455mm NATO round in FMJ and JHP which ever one is preferred.


However, the 5.56 NATO cartridge does have some drawbacks. The downside of that high

velocity is that it can cause over-penetration, which can be dangerous in certain situations or

cause it to be less effective. There is even debate on the ethics of using 5.56 for hunting with some

states outlawing its use for that purpose. Make sure to check your local laws.


Green Tip

Another prominent round that has been controversial throughout the 5.56x45mm cartridge history is

the M855 / SS109, which is commonly known as “green tip”. This round is designed for the AR-15

platform in the popular caliber of 5.56. This is a 62 grain cartridge with the tip being painted green.

This is because at the time of the green tip being introduced, it helped the troops to tell the

difference between the new cartridge and the old M193 rounds. With some

manufactures not having a green tip on their 62 grain cartridges, this causes confusion for some

people buying the cartridge. This popular 5.56 cartridge is also referred to as a “penetrator round”

due to its 62 grain projectile, steel core, and enhanced ability to punch through hard materials.


5.56x45mm Green Tip
5.56x45mm Green Tip

The famous 5.56 green tip round was originally named SS109 when it was introduced in the 1970s.

The Belgian made SS109 round was entered into NATO’s standardization trials and won them all with

flying colors. The trials were held because NATO at the time did not have an official 5.56 round at the

time. The United States Military adopted the SS109 to replace their M193 5.56 ammo in the early

1980s. It was renamed M855, and the tips were painted green.


If you’re looking for accuracy at distances and your assault rifle has the appropriate twist rate, then

keep some 62 grain green tips by your side. Being capable to punch through a barrier without

needing a larger cartridge does have its advantages. The 5.56 green tip round is a quality round that

fires reliably and will not cause excess carbon build-up in your rifle like other poorly made ammo



Need bulk 5.56 ammo? Here at True Shot, we have a great variety of 5.56x45mm ammunition

options from different manufacturers.



The 7.62x39mm cartridge was originally developed by the Soviet Union in the early 1940s for use in

the RPK and the SKS rifle. The cartridge was designed by a committee in conjunction with the Soviet

Union’s top weapons designers. By December 1943, the 7.62×41, the forerunner of the 7.62×39,

began production. In March of 1944, the first 7.62x39s rolled off the line for action. Soon after

development, the entry of the iconic AK-47 came into the Soviet Military, which insured that the

7.62×39 would have a place for many years to come.


It is a medium-caliber cartridge that is known for its reliability and stopping power. The 7.62x39mm

cartridge is typically used for, sport shooting, and tactical applications but has also seen limited use

in hunting.


7.62x39mm Steel Ammo


The 7.62×39 typically fires a bullet with a weight between 122 and 154 grains at a muzzle

velocity of around 2,100 to 2,400 feet per second (fps), depending on the specific load. The

cartridge produces a muzzle energy of approximately 1,300 to 1,800 foot-pounds (ft-lbs).

One of the main upsides of the 7.62x39mm cartridge is its stopping power, which makes it

effective for taking down larger game and penetrating barriers. Additionally, the affordability and

availability of the cartridge made it popular in the past but unfortunately recent events have made

7.62×39 harder to get in the western world but it is expected that prices will eventually drop.


The 7.62x39mm cartridge does have some drawbacks. Due to its larger size and heavier recoil, it

can be more difficult to shoot accurately, especially for those who are new to shooting or have

limited experience. The large size of the projectile and its poor aerodynamics makes 7.62×39

susceptible to windrift and poor performance at longer ranges.


Is 7.62x39mm Ammo Corrosive?

While not all 7.62x39mm ammunition is corrosive, some is. Usually, if the ammo is in question before

or after purchase, the commercial ammo made for the civilian market should be non-corrosive. On

the other hand, if its military surplus ammo, then it is almost always corrosive. If you want to make

sure your 7.62×39 ammo is not corrosive, check the ammo’s primer. If it’s a Berdan primer, the ammo

is corrosive while boxer primer ammo will be non-corrosive.


Need bulk 7.62×39 ammo? Here at True Shot, we have a great variety of 7.62x39mm ammunition

options from different manufacturers for steel and brass cases.


Should I Get 7.62 or 5.56?

When it comes to these two calibers, it’s very unlikely that either rifle round will ever be crowned the

king and victor. Furthermore, the choice between the 5.56 NATO and 7.62x39mm cartridges

ultimately depends on the specific needs and preferences of the shooter. The 5.56 NATO is a high

velocity, small-caliber cartridge that is known for its accuracy and low recoil, while the 7.62x39mm is

a medium-caliber cartridge that is known for its stopping power. Both cartridges have their pros and

cons, and the best one for you depends on what you plan to use it for.


7.62x39 vs 5.56
7.62x39mm & 5.56x45mm NATO


Your shooting style and the type of weapon system you prefer plays a big part in this decision. In most recent times, the

Russian ammo ban has closed the price gap between the 5.56 and the 7.62 considerably which is another factor to think



Furthermore, if you like the rugged and tough durability of an AK-47, or the feel of an SKS, then go

with the classic 7.62×39 round. However, if you prefer a long-range accuracy, lower recoil and the

custom modularity of the AR-15 platform, then go for the 5.56x45mm NATO round.


Need bulk ammo? At True Shot Ammo, we have 5.56 ammo and 7.62×39 ammo available to

purchase. Please visit our website at trueshotammo.com, call us at (888) 736-6587 or, you can

email us at [email protected] for more rifle ammo options.

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