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Real World .223 Testing

.223 / 5.56 Penetration Tests vs.

.40 S&W and 12 ga. Slug 

Overview
The research on the penetration of .223 ammunition has been completed. In an effort to make research more meaningful, testing consisted of handgun and shotgun ammunition in the same testing medium. The final results were that the .223 demonstrated less penetration capability than the 12 gauge slug and the .40S&W [handgun round].

Testing Medium
Type 250A Ordnance Gelatin was cast into blocks, 6"x6"x16". The process used is that which is recommended by Col. M. Fackler, Director of the US Army Wound Ballistics Laboratory. This is a 10% mixture, 1Kg of gelatin to 9000ml of H2O. This type of gelatin accurately simulates human body tissue in terms of bullet penetration.

A small piece of wall was constructed to duplicate the standard exterior walls found in [the Pacific Northwest] area. This piece of wall was sheeted with ½" wafer board, covered with a 2nd piece of ½" wafer board to simulate siding. This wall was built using a 2x4 frame and finished on the inside with ½" sheet rock. The interior [of the wall] was lined with fiberglass insulation.

Weapons Used
CAR-15, cal .223 Rem./5.56x45mm with a 16" barrel.
Glock M22, cal .40S&W.
Remington 870, 12 ga.

Ammunition Used
Federal .223 Remington, 55 grain HP.
Winchester .40S&W, 180 grain HP.
Federal 12 ga., 2 ¾", rifled slug.

Procedure
All rounds were fired from a distance of 12 feet. After each round was fired, its penetration was recorded and bullet performance noted. After a bullet was fired into the [bare] gelatin, another bullet of the same type was fired through the section of wall and into the gelatin. This was done in order to determine its penetration potential in the event a stray round were to hit the wall of a building.

Results

Caliber Testing medium Penetration Condition of bullet
.223 Rem. gelatin only 9.5" two pieces
.223 Rem. wall & gelatin 5.5" * fragmented
.40S&W gelatin only 13.5" mushroomed
.40S&W wall & gelatin 22" * no deformation
.40S&W wall & gelatin 22" * no deformation
.40S&W wall & gelatin 19.5" * slight deformation
12 ga. wall & gelatin 27.5" mushroomed
* these measurements do not include penetration of the 6" wall.
CCI Gold Dot.

Summary
The 55 grain HP .223 has less penetration than any of the other ammunition tested. Based on the results of this testing, there appears to be no basis for concern regarding the over penetration of the .223 [HP] round. In fact, it seems even safer in this regard than .40 S&W handgun ammunition.

The hollow point cavity in the .40S&W round filled with material when shot through the wall. This caused [these bullets] to fail to expand when they entered the gelatin. As a result, they penetrated 8.5" farther than when shot directly into the gelatin.

When the .223 [HP] was shot through he wall it began to fragment and as a result penetrated the gelatin only 5.5".

Because the .223 [HP] begins to break up on impact, it has less potential for damage or injury than the 12 ga. in the event of a ricochet. The .223 [HP] is obviously safer in an urban environment than the 12 ga. with slugs or buckshot.

Additional testing conducted proved that the .223 would penetrate a car door or glass. The .223 rounds fired into windshields began to break up after entering the glass and did not retain much energy. In most cases these rounds split in two.


The Call-Out Bag

by Gunsite Training Center Staff


A Comparison of .223 Penetration vs. Handgun Calibers

The .223 shoulder-fired weapon systems (e.g., AUG, CAR) have received some recent interest as indoor tactical weapons for special operations teams. increased power, longer effective distances, and greater tactical flexibility have been cited as positive factors of the .223 systems over 9me SMG-type weapon systems. Other authors (Fackler, et all) have postulated greater capability for tissue damage and incapacitation of the .223 rifle cartridge over the 9mm projectile fired from handguns or SMGs. Negative considerations for the indoor use of the .223 weapon systems focus on over-penetration of projectiles and possible subsequent liability.

Our effort was made to compare the penetration characteristics of various .223 bullets to various handgun bullets fired into test barriers representing indoor and outdoor building walls. We felt that the following test might mimic shots fired from inside a building, through the internal rooms, out the exterior wall, and into another similar building nearby. A comparison of wall penetration effects by a variety of handgun calibers versus the effects of .223 FMJ ball, .223 SP, and .223 HP, under these same conditions, was expected to substantiate other findings reported or provide new information to those interested in this area of ballistics.

Two interior test walls were constructed using a wood 2x4 frame with standard drywall board attached to both sides. Two exterior test walls were made using wooden frames with drywall board attached to one side and exterior grade T1-11 wooden siding attached on the other (exterior) side. R-19 fiberglass insulation batting (Dow Coming) was stapled inside the two exterior test wails. To maintain test medium consistency, no wooden cross beams, electrical fixtures, conduits, or electrical wiring were placed in any of the test walls.

The test walls were placed in the following sequence to mimic shots fired from. inside a building, through two internal rooms, out the building, and into another similarly constructed building:

A. Interior wall #1 was placed 8 feet from the shooting position.

B. Interior wail #2 was placed 8 feet beyond interior wall #1.

C. Exterior wall #1 was placed 8 feet beyond interior wail #2. (Exterior side facing away from the shooter.)

D. Exterior wall #2 was placed 15 feet beyond exterior wall #1. (Exterior side facing toward the shooter.)

All calibers tested were fired from a position 8 feet in front of interior wall #l, so the bullet trajectory would travel in sequence through each of the succeeding test walls. Each caliber tested was chronographed and all firing results were videotaped for archive files.

The following results were obtained:

  1. All handgun calibers exited exterior wall #1. This means they exited the "house" after passing through two interior "rooms," then entered another "house" to impact into the berm. The handgun caliber which demonstrated the least penetration was .22 LR Lightning.
  2. The only calibers which did NOT exit the "house" were .223 (5.56) soft point and hollow point loaded bullets.
  3. All projectiles demonstrated directional changes in their trajectory after passing through the first interior wall. The greatest directional changes (10 inches+ yaw) were shown by 9mm and .40 S&W projectiles.
  4. Directional changes in bullet trajectory appeared to increase in magnitude with each test wall the projectile passed through.

The penetration characteristics of projectiles have long been believed to be primarily determined by a relationship of bullet mass, bullet shape, bullet velocity, and bullet construction. The penetration differences of .223 soft point and hollow point projectiles versus the effects from .223 full metal jacket may be due to differences in bullet construction. The differential effects on penetration due to bullet construction shown with the .223 are different and appear greater in magnitude than those encountered when handgun bullet construction is modified. Since .223 projectile velocities are threefold greater than those of handgun projectiles, the increased magnitude of bullet velocity might account for the differences in bullet trajectory and penetration distance. The deviated trajectory of hollow point handgun projectiles was also greater than the deviation found with full metal jacketed handgun bullets; again, possibly due to contact point deformation. The preceding study more than ever identifies the need for a personal emphasis of marksmanship and tactical fundamentals. The shooter is responsible for the bullets that go downrange. Practice, be aware, manage your trigger, and watch your front sight!

Many thanks to Jack Furr, Ron Benson, Pete Wright, and Seth NadeI, U.S. Customs, for conducting and reporting this test.

.22 LR 40 gr Lightning 899 fps Captured in exterior wall #2
9mm 147gr Win JHP 948 fps Captured in exterior wall #2
9mm 147 gr Win JHP 1004 fps Exited exterior wall #2
.40 S&W 180 gr FMJ 941 fps Exited exterior wall #2
.40 S&W 180 gr Black Talon JHP 981 fps Exited exterior wall #2
.45 ACP 230 gr Win FMJ ball 867 fps Captured in exterior wall #2
.45 ACP 230 gr HydraShok JHP 851 fps Exited exterior wall #2
.223 (5.56) 55 gr Fed FMJ ball 2956 fps Exited exterior wall #2
.223 (5.56) 55 gr Rem SP 3019 fps Captured in exterior wall #2
.223 (5.56) 55 gr Fed JHP 3012 fps Captured in exterior wall #2

ALL OF THE INFORMATION IN THIS ARTICLE IS BASED UPON THE PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF INDIVIDUALS WHO MAY BE USING SPECIAL TOOLS, PRODUCTS, EQUIPMENT AND COMPONENTS UNDER PARTICULAR CONDITIONS AND CIRCUMSTANCES, SOME OR ALL OF WHICH MAY NOT BE REPORTED, NOR OTHERWISE VERIFIED IN THIS ARTICLE. NOTHING HEREIN IS INTENDED TO CONSTITUTE A MANUAL FOR THE USE OF ANY PRODUCT OR THE CARRYING OUT OF ANY PROCEDURE OR PROCESS. THE WRITERS, EDITORS, AND PUBLISHERS OF THIS ARTICLE ACCEPT NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY LIABILITY, INJURIES OR DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF ANY PERSON’S ATTEMPT TO RELY UPON ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN.

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