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Old July 3, 2012, 03:36 PM   #1
Blackthunder
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.308 vs. 5.56 for self-defense. Please help.

Hello,

What is your preferred caliber for home defense. .308Win/7.62Nato vs. less powerful calibers such as 223REM, 5.54*39, 5.56Nato Etc.

My Situation is that I live on a ranch and will be reaching out to 300 meters max but of course most engagements will take place at much closer ranges.

Please take in mind that is for civilian self-defense NOT for military offense.

1. Unlike the Military I do not go on long patrols with tons of gear. The weight of the .308 is therefore not too much of a concern.

2. Unlike the Military I can use modern expanding ammo.

3. In the Army wounding an opponent is often seen as better than killing him. Because the wounded opponent takes up resources that the dead one does not.

4. I of course do not have access to burst fire / fully automatic firearms.

5. I will most likely operate alone not as part of a team.

So what is your choice; the power of the .308 with modern expanding bullets? Or do you prefer something lighter with a higher magazine capacity and with faster follow up shots?

Do any of you any real life experience with these rounds that you are willing to share?

Thank you for your replies.
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Old July 3, 2012, 03:45 PM   #2
ScottRiqui
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I suspect you're going to have a hard time justifying a "defensive" shooting at any distance where a .308 is going to have a significant advantage over a 5.56, so I'd personally go with the lighter rifle/more ammo combination.
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Old July 3, 2012, 04:07 PM   #3
Crow Hunter
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Quote:
So what is your choice; the power of the .308 with modern expanding bullets? Or do you prefer something lighter with a higher magazine capacity and with faster follow up shots?
Short answer after asking myself and others the same thing and much other research, as well as buying and selling rifles and accessories. ($)

5.56 in AR format with a good light, sling and an Aimpoint RDS attached.

Longer answer:

Quote:
1. Unlike the Military I do not go on long patrols with tons of gear. The weight of the .308 is therefore not too much of a concern.
Try carrying 6 magazines of .308 versus 6 magazines of 5.56. It is a BIG difference. Especially if you are hoofing it on foot. I have tried both. 5.56 is MUCH easier to carry, plus you will have 180 rounds on tap versus 120. Even just walking through the woods can be quite tiring carrying that much ammo and a rifle.

Quote:
2. Unlike the Military I can use modern expanding ammo.
Make sure that the ammo you are speaking about will feed and won't damage the rifle you are thinking about getting. Some .308 rifles (like the M1A) are very specific in the pressure/weight of the rounds that you can safely shoot without damaging the firearm unless you change out specific parts. You will also need to buy enough rounds to check for functioning and feeding in all your magazines. (200 rounds plus)

Quote:
3. In the Army wounding an opponent is often seen as better than killing him. Because the wounded opponent takes up resources that the dead one does not.
This is a myth. The 5.56 in both the M193 and M855 is actually more lethal than the M80 within the 300 yard enevelope, particularly at close range. Past 300 yards is where the M80 jumps ahead of the 5.56.

Quote:
4. I of course do not have access to burst fire / fully automatic firearms.
Most of us are in the same boat.

Having played with them a lot, they have very limited real world use. (They are loads of fun though, especially when you are shooting someone else's ammo.)

Quote:
5. I will most likely operate alone not as part of a team.
Chances are you will die if faced with multiple attackers using well coordinated tactics against you no matter what type of weapon that you have. You can't see or shoot or cover 360 degrees. Your mindset, tactics, and skill will be more important that the rifle you are using.

Buying a rifle that you can afford to shoot often and train with is very an important factor that many people forget. Training helps develop your tactics and skill. Ammo cost is a VERY important part of this, unless you have A LOT of money to spend.

Another alternative that I like to use is a .22 caliber training rifle that is identical to the "real" rifle so that you can use the same manual of arms and sights. I use a M&P 15-22 but others use .22 caliber conversions or whole .22 caliber uppers. These aren't available for all types of rifles out there.

Quote:
Do any of you any real life experience with these rounds that you are willing to share?
I don't, but I know where to go look for people who shoot smelly bearded men in man dresses for a living.

Get an account at Lightfighter.net and see what they have to say. (DON'T ask this question there, just search and read.)
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Old July 3, 2012, 04:08 PM   #4
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Personally, I'd choose the .308 for man-sized targets. 20 round capacity should be more than sufficient. If you really need more, then invest in one of those new 50 round .308 drums....or an extra couple of 20 round magazines. I could never justify 5.56 over .308 in a semi-auto carbine/rifle where weight isn't a huge concern.
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Old July 3, 2012, 04:10 PM   #5
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Scott has a good point, but I would strongly recommend using a shotgun for defense. Neither the 5.56 or the 7.62x51 are made for "defending". They were made more for offense. It is hard to beat a shotgun with an 18.5" barrel loaded with 00 buck. I would chose a pistol or a carbine if I was dead set on something other than a shotgun for self defense.
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Old July 3, 2012, 04:13 PM   #6
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Personally, I'd choose the .308 for man-sized targets. 20 round capacity should be more than sufficient. If you really need more, then invest in one of those new 50 round .308 drums....or an extra couple of 20 round magazines. I could never justify 5.56 over .308 in a semi-auto carbine/rifle where weight isn't a huge concern.
20+ rounds of .308 for self defense against a man sized target...are we talking about if ironman breaks down the door?

Last edited by FrosSsT; July 5, 2012 at 12:30 PM.
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Old July 3, 2012, 04:17 PM   #7
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What are we really talking about here? I mean really, the only situation where a rifle is used for defense is when you are fending off a combat unit. However, if you are talking about a SHTF situation then a rifle could come in handy. You could also just want a fun gun. In either case I would say get the 5.56, Primarily because the ammo is less expensive so you can shoot it more. But personally, if you really want a defense weapon, I still say a shotgun pistol combo is the best route. Kel-tek's ksg would be a great choice, it has two separate internal mags which would allow you to switch between rifled slugs for range and buck shot for up close quickly.
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Old July 3, 2012, 04:18 PM   #8
Edward429451
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Out to 300 yards for your use, it's preference. The 308 has more penetration which could be useful dependant on cicumstances, however, the 223 would generally serve you well with the plethora of good projectiles for it.

Personally, I chose the 223 for this role. If you were to go beyond that distance to any significant degree the 308 starts to make better sense.

My theory is three 223s for every 308. The 223s provide security for the DM with the 308 and give him time to work.
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Old July 3, 2012, 04:37 PM   #9
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IMHO it depends on how and against what you want to defend. The 308 is more of an all around cartridge IMHO, good against 2 legged threats, 4 legged ones, vehicles, some barricades and covered positions, the 5.56 OK against 2 legged threats, iffy againsy many 4 legged ones, not against vehicles, etc.
Both will do as far as neutralizing a threat. A self defense situation versus a social breakdown situation calls for different tactics. If you are in a static situation-defending your home, e.g.-the weight of the firearms and ammunition is not that much of a consideration.
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Old July 3, 2012, 06:12 PM   #10
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It's personal preference and it might behoove you to have a selection but also be aware of limitations. An M1a as someone pointed out is limited to military level loadings which generally means mild 150gr loadings. AR15s are reportedly not fond of soft point ammo but I haven't personally tested that rumor. A Mini-14 reliable 2-3MOA rifle that will eat SP all day rifle and is a decent choice with iron sights or when paired with a good quality very-low powered optic. A 12ga is great at 20 feet but less so when the guy shooting at you is 100yds away and 00 buck is heavy.

Another consideration is cost. You need to train and the cost of mil-spec 308 has gone through the roof ($700+/1000rds) when you can find it. On the other hand you can substitute a Mini-14 for drills and take advantage of cheaper 5.56 ammo ($400/1000rds for FMJ, $1/rd for SP). A 10/22 can stand in for a Mini, and likewise an M&P15-22 can stand-in for an AR15, especially if you use similar sights. After all you'll have a tough time explaining shooting an attacker that's much over 50yds away much less shooting someone 100yds away, and at 300yds you'd best have lots of bullet holes in the house from the attacker's incoming rounds to point to as why you had to shoot.

For what's it's worth I keep all of the above handy.
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Old July 3, 2012, 06:39 PM   #11
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Unless you sold out some organized criminal group to the FBI, or ran off with some mobster's girlfriend, or in some other way identified yourself for "special treatment" by some gruesome individual, I could never get behind the idea of rifles for home defense.

The reason why is simple. Try carrying a rifle with you around your house, everywhere you go, everything you do, for one full day. Make coffee in the AM, work in the garage, hit the bathroom, do a little yard work, all wearing a slung rifle.

90% of the time, a rifle in a home defense mode is going to be leaning against a wall "over there" somewhere.

It ISN'T going to be on your person, or even in your immediate vicinity most of the time, because toting a rifle around with you everywhere you go is a PITA. (Guys in the infantry learn this really well.) If the day ever comes that you need it, it's going to be leaning against a wall somewhere you aren't - upstairs if you're downstairs, or out in the garage if you're in the kitchen.

What you'll have with you when the moment comes is a pistol.....

And as was said above, you'd have a hard time explaining to the gendarmes why you initiated deadly force in self defense from 300 yards....

That said, if you're absolutely focused on toting a rifle around for home defense, I'd go with the lightest rifle and the most rounds available. A 5.56mm rifle, preferably a SBR if they are legal where you live, is a good weapon to resolve interpersonal disagreements, its fairly lightweight, and it offers 30 rounds or so of a relatively well-proven round.

I love .308s for other scenarios, but for totin' around the ranch day in and day out, something short, lightweight, and handy is probably a better selection.

Just MHO. YMMV.
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Old July 3, 2012, 07:10 PM   #12
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A 308 will generate about 15-16 ft lbs of recoil. A 5.56 around 3.5 ft lbs of recoil. At ranges inside 100 yards no human you ever shoot will know the difference. The 5.56/223 has proven to be very effective when used within it's limitations. If you plan on shooting at 500+ yards then the 308 offers an advantage.
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Old July 3, 2012, 08:35 PM   #13
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I see no reason to single out and dwell on any one specific caliber, unless you are budget bound or the significant other restricts the count of how many you can have (boy, that would stink) If they made a rifle that was perfect for every situation, we would all already have it.

For the folks that think a rifle for a defensive situation is not "doable", take a practical rifle course (typically done with an AR-15 or AK-45 or similar due to ammo cost but not always) from a good instructor....then state that a rifle for defense isn't a good choice. If the instructor delivers the training you paid for, you'll be training from bad-breath distance out to what ever the range supports...hopefully a minimum of 200 yds. While your rifle (or shotgun) may not be where you need it, which would be a problem, that is still no reason to shun it as a defensive weapon. Since you wear a handgun, use it while you navigate/fight your way back to your long gun. Some of us live at the end of long driveways.....hearing/seeing someone approaching doesn't have to be surprise. A good dog worth his keep will make certain of that....a really good dog will fetch it for you.

I hope I never find myself in a situation where I have for the above to be a concern. But if I do, I'll not be running around with just a handgun hoping I had something a lot bigger.

That being said, I have two favorite semi-auto rifles.....and I get to pick which one for what.

FNH FNAR (7.62x51) 10 or 20 round mags


M&P15 (5.56x45)
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Old July 3, 2012, 09:20 PM   #14
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I have a couple of comments and observations. Shooting 300 yards is not a trivial task. I shoot tactical precision rifle and a 300 yard prone shot is relatively easy with a bipod, same from a bench. When you get into standing, kneeling, sitting, or from a rooftop (we have several at the range) - that's a whole different problem.

I've done 400 yard shots with a .223 - in a gusty cross wind with a bipod. However, to be competetive, you have to shoot .308, Creedmor, 6.8 SPC etc.

But, I would question a 300 yard shot as "self defense" - unless it includes zombies. Long range shooting is premeditated as you really have to work at the shot to make it happen - that's an offensive shot, not defensive. So unless the drug cartel is coming to collect, or drug deals are being done regularly on your property with armed participants - I really have to question the need to make an over 50 foot shot, much less 300 yards.

I also agree with the use of pistol first, and if you want a rifle - my suggestion is a .223. Unless your .308 is heavy and has a muzzle brake, follow up shots are not quick. My .308 weighs 14.5 pounds with a magazine and scope - my .223 weighs 8.5 pounds with a magazine and scope. Which one do you think is easier to hand hold, or shoot from a less than optimal position? Never mind carrying it around WITH loaded magazines.
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Old July 3, 2012, 09:28 PM   #15
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If the wind is going to push a 75 hpbt out of the way it is going to push a 175 hpbt out of the way. Shooting in the wind is more about skill than caliber.

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Old July 3, 2012, 09:32 PM   #16
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But, I would question a 300 yard shot as "self defense" - unless it includes zombies. Long range shooting is premeditated as you really have to work at the shot to make it happen - that's an offensive shot, not defensive. So unless the drug cartel is coming to collect, or drug deals are being done regularly on your property with armed participants - I really have to question the need to make an over 50 foot shot, much less 300 yards.
If someone is shooting at you from 300 yards away, shooting back is defense. Where I live there is no 300 yard shot in any direction but up, but you may live out in the country where the treeline is a quarter mile or more from the house. (My parents live a couple of hundred yards back from the road.)
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Old July 3, 2012, 11:26 PM   #17
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Good luck defending in court that you shot a man in self defense at 300yards.

Even if you do find yourself in that situation, the gunman isn't going to wait for you to go inside and get your SD rifle so you have a fighting chance.

And to think that you want a rifle that's going to kill not just wound,
I don't think a gunman is going to continue shooting at you if he has just been shot, so that's not really worth considering.

Plus 223 is going to do the job out to 300yards just fine when compared to 308, and it will be less likely to over penetrate and kill your family if they are inside your house.

If you want a SHTF rifle then 223 will do the job fine too, in what survival situation are you going to need to shoot people at over 300yards.
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Old July 3, 2012, 11:49 PM   #18
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Within self defense distances there isn't much difference between any centerfire cartridge. Heck 204ruger at 20yds would put serious holes in someone.
I'd opt for a shotgun.
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Old July 4, 2012, 12:32 AM   #19
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Forget defending your life, you're going to have a heck of a time defending your freedom if you are shooting people at over 300 yards away in the CONUS. It would be pretty hard to articulate how your life was in danger when the threat was 3 foot ball fields away unless they had similar artillery with CLEAR intentions.
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Old July 4, 2012, 01:09 AM   #20
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Why choose? Get a Colt 901.
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Old July 4, 2012, 01:23 AM   #21
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I like .223/5.56. - very easy to control and still devastating compared to almost any handgun round. Oh, and you get 30 rounds, and 30 more with a quick swap.
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Old July 4, 2012, 01:31 AM   #22
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Home defense preference

I think it all depends on where you live, that you need to defend. I live in a medium size town in Texas, single family homes, wood siding and sheetrock walls. I wouldnt want some one in the neighborhood 'defending' their home with something as powerful as a .308 in the short ranges encountered in most neighborhoods, and I wouldnt do the same either.

Now, my wife suffers with rheumatoid arthritis and therefore cannot handle a large pistol or rifle very well as a result. After a lot of consideration and thought, I pulled my fathers old CMP M1 carbine out of the stash and taught her how to use it. Even with a loaded 15 rd mag, it is not too heavy for her, nor is the recoil unacceptable. Penetration of 110gr semi jacketed round nose is not great enough to seriously worry about outside the walls of my home, but would be plenty sufficient at 'indoor, household' range against an intruder. And with either the 15 or 30 round magazine, a first round miss or light wound is really not a problem as there are more 'on the way' just behind it.

Just my 2cents

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Old July 4, 2012, 04:05 AM   #23
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Own them & like them both 20'' 556 AR & 16'' AK 308.the 308 is alittle harded to control in shooting fast, but not bad with some practice.
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Old July 4, 2012, 04:44 AM   #24
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I solved that problem by having more than one rifle in each caliber. My .308s are ideal for long range shots at critters to feed the family. The AR15s are much better at close up work and use in situations that I'm concerned about over penetration. I have both bolt action and semi autos in both calibers.
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Old July 4, 2012, 05:59 AM   #25
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What is your preferred caliber for home defense. .308Win/7.62Nato vs. less powerful calibers such as 223REM, 5.54*39, 5.56Nato Etc.
A shot gun, preferably a 12ga with at least a six to eight round capacity.

If I had to use a rifle for home defense I would use my 10" AR in 5.56.
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