Suppressive fire and the 5.56 for civilian defense
I have been pondering the popularity of 5.56mm rifles for civilian defensive and "SHTF" scenarios. While the rifles are bound to be adequate for the majority of defensive situations a civilian is going to find themselves in, I can't help but wonder how many are confused about the tactics likely to be employed in these scenarios, esp with regard to cover or suppressive fire.
Consider that the 5.56x45 makes it as a combat round due to the tactics and military doctrine that it is employed with and the support that is available--none of which is applicable or available to civilian defense or social disorder.
The round's greatest advantages are in many cases barely even appreciable to civilian use.
For example, the low weight of ammo and of rifles so chambered allowing more ammo to be carried. And the low recoil impulse allowing greater controllability on full auto. The chances of a civilian being put in a position where he/she is actively patrolling a dangerous area on foot are virtually non-existent. In nearly any conceivable situation, by the time things are escalated to violence, the average civilian is probably better off posting up in a defensible position. The amount of ammo and to a certain extent, even the weapon weight is almost completely irrelevant, as ammo can be stockpiled in doors, and the practical differences between an 8 pound 5.56 and a 12 pound 7.62 is hardly worth noting to any decently fit adult.
Furthermore, the tactics employed with the round on the battlefield are 100% completely inapplicable to civilian defensive strategy. First of all, these tactics involve multiple trained operators getting on line with a hostile contact and suppressing it. Once the contact has been suppressed, one unit flanks the position while the other continues to suppress it. A single person can not provide effective suppressive fire and move. These tactics are ineffective with only one person. Likewise, civilians are unlikely to have the weapons and equipment necessary to be truly effective in this role. In the military, the FN M249 Squad Automatic Weapon provides somewhere around 70% of the fire team's firepower and is the primary weapon used to suppress the enemy. However, even with a small group of properly trained people, say you and some buddies from the Army, the tactics still have no use in civilian applications.
As a civilian, you are, one way or another, going to be held accountable for every single round that you fire. Barring the apocalypse, and a complete breakdown of government on all levels, suppressive fire is reckless, irresponsible, and both legally and morally unjustifiable. It's not collateral damage in the civilian world. It's murder.
Finally, the success of the 5.56 as a modern infantry cartridge relies heavily on the presence of heavier support weapons, which, again, are unlikely to be present in any civilian scenario. Civilians aren't going to have access to M2BHs, Mk 19s, M240B/G, M203s, or to Strikers and Cobra gunships.
As a civilian, nearly all entertain-able scenarios are going to rely on sound, applicable tactics and planning. While this may vary depending on your location and the exact situation, most are going to require you make the most with what you got, and get more done with less. This is why I am an advocate of 7.62mm rifles for civilian defense. They give the civilian more bang for the buck. And since all the reasons for the 7.62 being eclipsed as a standard issue infantry round are largely or completely inapplicable to civilian defense, a 7.62mm rifle like the FAL or M1A, or even a good bolt action, makes a lot more sense for the majority of civilians. A 168 gr OTM or Hornady TAP is going to provide better terminal ballistics at all ranges than any 5.56 load. This means it is much more likely to disable a hostile target with fewer rounds. Fewer rounds, especially when aimed, means less chance of harming an innocent 3rd party. The 7.62, so loaded for such an effect, is also going to be more effective at disabling vehicles or personnel with body armor. Basically, a good 7.62mm rifle represents the largest amount of firepower, of bang for the buck, available to the civilian. It can provide 70% of the tissue damage done by a 12 gauge buckshot load up close and it can provide nearly twice the effective range of 5.56mm rifles.
"...nothing says 'I WILL shoot every last one of you before you have time to reconsider your poor choices in life' like an AK."