The M4 Carbine at 750 Yards and Beyond: Three Simple Things to Know

View through a riflescope

We took our 14.5-inch BCM M4 carbine upper to the Best of the West shooting range in Liberty Hill, Texas, to try our skill (and luck!) on their long-range, reactive steel targets. It may seem completely counterintuitive to all common knowledge on the Internet to take a non-free floated, 14.5-inch barreled 5.56 NATO with a mil-spec trigger out to 1,000 yards, but we live in the real world, with people crazy enough to try it.

And here are our three main conclusions after an incredibly fun day at the range.

Your rifle doesn’t really matter

A standard AR-15 with a non-free floated barrel is far more accurate than many shooters think, and it makes sense if we consider how an AR-15 is built.

It doesn’t have a complex, multi-faceted action to bed, operating rod or finicky top handguard like other military rifles (we’re looking at you, M14 and M1A). In theory, the AR-15 is actually configured more like a standard bolt-action rifle in terms of how the barrel is mounted to the receiver and how the handguards interact with it: straight in, with consistent outside influence. This makes the overall design inherently accurate, and the fact that an AR-15 doesn’t need bedding helps as well.

While our little gun isn’t an M4 carbine in the purest sense—it lacks a full-auto capable lower—the upper half is true to form, right down to the side-mounted sling swivel. It also has an extended and pinned flash hider, to comply with arbitrary federal barrel length laws.

The gun was configured with a standard, single-stage AR-15 trigger housed in a Rock River Arms lower. While having a crisp, lightweight, two-stage match trigger like a CMC would certainly help, it’s not a requirement to get good hits on practical targets. After all, ample practice with a standard trigger beats no practice with a match-grade unit every day of the week.

We’re not going to be shy: shooting an AR-15 without a free-floating barrel at long distance isn’t easy, even off the nice concrete shooting benches at Best of The West. It takes practice, practice, and more practice. But with that practice comes ability, and the AR-15 is more than capable enough for the job… as long as the shooter is.

Your ammunition does matter

Quality ammunition will make a bigger difference at 750 yards than a match-grade rifle will. Take an off-the-rack M4 carbine to the range with excellent ammunition, and you’ll likely see better results than you would with a custom-grade rifle shooting crummy ammo.

We originally started out with standard, non-match PMC XP193 ammunition, which shoots a 55-grain ball projectile at around 2900 feet per second out of a 14.5-inch barrel. This round perfectly mimics the old military-issue M193 load, right down to the tar sealant on the case neck.

Unfortunately, making contact with the steel targets at 500 yards and further was difficult at best. The bullet simply isn’t heavy enough, and velocities aren’t consistent enough to produce a consistent group. Additionally, the light bullet doesn’t fare well in the wind. It’s just not very ballistically efficient, which, incidentally, is a big reason the military switched to the heavier 62-grain M855 round.

That being said, the XPM193 performed very well on 10-inch steel plates out to 250 yards. Missing was pretty much impossible at these close ranges; point and click accuracy was the norm. It’s still fantastic, clean ammunition for stockpiling and general target shooting.

Thankfully, we had brought the “big guns” for everything past 250 yards: Reloads carefully crafted with Hornady 75-grain BTHP bullets and a stiff charge of Varget powder, as well as factory Hornady steel match, also in a 75-grain flavor.

Switching to the higher quality bullet and hand-weighed powder charges made a night and day difference. We went from occasional hits at 500 yards to consistent performance all the way out to 750 yards.

With high-quality ammo, making contact with the 18-inch x 24-inch steel plate at 750 yards was simply a matter of calling the gusting winds correctly. The 10-inch plates were slightly more difficult, and required a precise elevation hold and exact wind call.

Your optics matter

Right after good ammo, you need to have good glass on your rifle. It’s certainly possible to hit what you’re aiming at with iron sights, but it’s going to be incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to call wind corrections without some kind of optic.

We were shooting the excellent Vortex Razor HD Gen II 1-6×24, and were clearly able to see 5.56 impacts at 1,000 yards. Much like the idea that a standard rifle is good enough to make hits, this is another slightly counterintuitive principle: more magnification isn’t a good thing unless the quality is there.

I would readily choose a 6x riflescope with the quality of the Razor HD series over a 25 power optic of lesser repute. Magnification isn’t everything.

No doubt, the Vortex Razor HD II 1-6 has the resolution needed to shoot past 500 yards. It also has an appropriate reticle.

Thanks to free ballistic programs and apps, figuring out your bullet’s exact rainbow-like trajectory at extended ranges is no longer guesswork. Furthermore, this drop can be expressed in useful angular measurements like milliradians (mils) and minutes of angle.

Conveniently, the Vortex Razor HD Gen II reticle has seven mils of drop built right in, represented by hashmarks along the vertical stadia line. This made it easy to look up on a computer-generated ballistics table how many mils the bullet dropped at a given distance, and hold over at the proper mark.

Once that was accomplished, it was a simple matter to favor left or right of the target depending on how far the wind pushed the bullet. The day we went, wind holds were typically one to two target widths left.

Most of our time was spent on the 750 yard targets, with only a handful of shots taken at 1,000 yards. Winds were fluctuating wildly, and our heavy 75-grain bullets had definitely crossed the sub-sonic threshold at that distance.

It’s not that the 1,000 yard targets were impossible to hit; they were merely improbable. Lighter weight match bullets in the 62-69 grain range would probably help this.

It was far more fun to shoot at 750 yards with reliable results, so that’s what we did most of the time.

Give it a try!

The 5.56×45 cartridge should definitely not be your first choice if you’re going to be shooting at long distances, especially at the reduced velocities that a compact 14.5-inch barrel brings. There are far too many ballistically superior chamberings currently available if your primary goal is hitting tiny targets ten football fields away.

That being said don’t stay home from the range if you don’t have a fancy match-grade rifle or a non-free floating barrel. Load up some quality ammo from Hornady, Winchester or Prvi Partisan, grab the gun you already own and get out there!

What’s the furthest shot you’ve ever taken with a .223 Remington or 5.56 NATO? Tell us your stories below!

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (95)

  1. While the AR15 has many uses, long range shooting just isn’t one of them. The AR10 or other rifles chambered in 762/308 are far better suited for that purpose. The M14 was and is the best all purpose battle rifle by far in my opinion. I would have given my eye-teeth for one in Viet Nam. I’m sure many other vets would agree…it does everything well.

  2. @ Larry:
    You’re absolutely correct. At that distance, especially with a twist of 1in12″ or less, the bullet should be unstable enough to tumble upon contact, and cause severe damage. Much as the original twist of 1-14″ caused the 55gr FMJ in the M-16 to effect such damage….Until they screwed up and tightened the twist for more stabilization, then it was a more through-and-through wound channel, with less effectiveness.
    You can’t beat the .308 cal. in the battle arena.


    1. Thanks, Will…as I said….Many of my brothers at arms would still be alive today if the 30 cal stayed in service in SE Asia instead of the experimental M16 Mistake.

  3. I joined the Marine Corps in 1984, and was issued an XM-15 in Officer Candidate School. I managed to qualify as an “expert” on the range, but my appreciation for the accuracy of the M-16 did not materialize for a few years. I later joined my Battalion’s Intramural Shooting Team at Camp Pendleton, where we shot the M-16A2. The fully adjustable rear peep sights were a welcome relief from the A1, and adjusting your “dope” between courses of fire was greatly simplified.The A2, did however, have an uneven semi-automatic trigger pull, because of the three-round-burst feature in what used to be fully-automatic mode. It became standard practice on the team to drop the magazine and dry-fire twice between shots during the slow courses of fire, in order to get a consistent trigger pull. Nevertheless, with a good coach to judge the wind, I could hit the 10-ring all day long at 500 meters, from a prone position using a tight sling, and a neck hold on the target. Mind you, I was using a standard A2, standard ammo, and standard peep sights. It was then that I became a believer in the accuracy of the M-16.

  4. The Barrel is a Mil-Spec. Mil-B-11595E (Resulfurized) No. 4050 Commercial Grade Steel with a Carbon Rating of ~41% to ~49%. With Chrome Moly Vanadium added. It’s NOT “Chrome Moly”. At temperatures of ~+1,000F, Fracture Lines will appear on the Barrel Surface. At temperatures exceeding ~+1,100F, the Barrel can actually “Explode”. If “Fully-Automatic” Capabilities, a Cooling Cycle should be employed after ~400 rounds fired. The Army Ordnance Handbook of 7 June 1988, Doesn’t Recommend using “Wildcat” Ammunition. Barrel is Rated a 70,000psi. Also, ~300-meters Minimum to a ~600-meters Maximum. Some I’ve talked to Doubt the 750-meter range claim. And there Nothing Online to support that claim either…

  5. used to competition shoot in the 80’s. I totally understand and agree with retired75th. I would also like to thank you for serving our great country. My 3 sons and I plan to keep this country a great place to live. The only great place left to enjoy.

  6. @ Kurtz: Re:. .22 hits @ 650 yds. (etc)….They have better eyesight than I do. As far as the head shots…..When I got to Ft. Benning and fired on the Malone Complex ranges, I stayed with the 3″ high zero. In-line sils @200&300Meters and 150@350 Meters could be dropped with one shot if hit in the head on the nearest sil. Aiming at the chin/neck area on the nearest target resulted in torso hits on the farthest sil. My Lt. didn’t believe it could be done until he had the Sr. R.O. clear the range and tape a sheet of paper to the nearest sils’ heads. and some paper to the torso(s) of the rear sils. and aimed where I showed him. Once he did it with my ’16 set up with the cardboard shim, he did his the same. That was in ’75 and most of the platoon ended up doing the same. Been 40yrs.but still clear as day one in my mind. But seeing .22 cal. holes @ 650 yds? Even with 6X scopes? Damn sure better vision than I ever hoped to have.


  7. I while the writer provided many of the rifle specs, he did not share the barrel twist rate. Since they were shooting heavier grain bullets, I’d be interested in knowing the twist rate.

  8. Using hand loaded 62 gr fmj out of an 18 inch 223 wylde barrel, I was able to consistently hit steel target at 600 yards, even with a gusty crosswind.

  9. Sure platform will do it if ultra tuned up, many expensive upgrades and gadgets applied/installed and shooter uses a bench with rail or shooting jacket and special sling, has years of experience, lots of ammo, and no consequences for a miss…
    But what’s the point? None of it is practical, it’s a game paper-punchers and at the Master/High Master level is just a gadget game and wind calling exercise. Unlimited sighters before shot for record… Gimme a break, been there, done that.

    1. Maybe because it’s fun? If you haven’t done long distance shooting, it’s pretty cool. Even better if you can do it with fairly basic equipment and reasonably priced ammo. I’ve found developing good bench rest shooting makes you a better off-hand shooter.

      Nobody is forcing you to do it.

  10. I was hitting half meter plates easily at 950 meters using 69gr Serria Matchking in .223. This was at the German Army range in Baumholder Germany. If you’re lucky enough to ever get invited, don’t skip out.

  11. NRA HP Rifle Master-Classified shooter: Match & Service Rifles, open sights with 75 & 80 grain Hornady A-Max bullets (single-load, too long for magazines), prone out to 600 yards. I average >94% on 12″ 10/X-ring.

    Personal record on prairie dog: 485+ yards (ran further back after missing first two shots because of wind), third shot flipped the rodent over. Shot with a 55-grain Hornady Soft Point out of CZ 527. My 24″-barreled varmint AR-15 shoots as well as the CZ (sub-0.5 MoA).

    1. @Spacegunner:

      Thanks for being honest and admitting that your 600 yard accuracy is from single loads, but people don’t buy AR’s for single loads.

    2. I shoot HPR because it teaches all-around shooting discipline. It is fun, challenging, builds camaraderie, and prepares me for other rifle shooting with precision AND accuracy (i.e. CONSISTENTLY hitting what I am INTENDING to hit). We shoot single-load for safety, discipline & skill, plus that is the rule of the sport; rapid-fire, including magazine changes, for the same reasons, but to also develop the skill to shoot quick follow-up shots.

      We shoot multiple-round, magazine-fed strings along with the single-load shots with our AR’s, M14’s, bolt-rifles because we can, and we do it very well. I invite any/everyone with an AR (especially with the new 2016 HPR rules) to come out & shoot a match with us. You will immediately be hooked, and be part of the team/family regardless of how well you shoot. We will coach, mentor & lead you to become better rifle shooters.

      Yes, we are paper-punchers at 200 (offhand slow-fire & sitting rapid-fire), 300 (prone rapid-fire), & 600 (prone slow-fire). (Just seeing a puff of dust is just wrong!) My other AR-15 configurations are used for tactical, plinking, varminting, & just plain having fun – developing a great rifles with great loads, to develop the skill-set to shoot whatever I want within the limitations of the .223/5.56 cartridge and the various bullets/loads available.

      One target (at a time), one shot, one kill. Other than being due to weather conditions, additional shots, to me, are “spray & pray”. No matter how or what I shoot, I want every shot to go where I intend it to go whether single-load or rapid-fire.

    3. @Spacegunner:

      Thanks for explaining. Sounds like a great program you have there. I’m assuming it’s not in Arizona, where I live.

    4. SS1 – There should be groups of NRA HPR shooters in just about every metropolitan area of Arizona. The Ben Avery range outside of Phoenix is one of the best ranges around ( I know Tucson has a range west of town. Start with Ben Avery. They could give you information on clubs/shooters in your particular area. The CMP can also provide a great deal of information on HPR shooting & ranges.

      I shoot in the Northern Colorado / Southern Wyoming area. Four full Across-the-Course (200, 300, 600) ranges, and at least three 200-yard ranges that hold reduced-course matches.

  12. I qualified sharpshooter in 1980 at Ft. McCellan, AL we were hitting targets @ 600 yards with iron sights. I agree practice is what makes good shots.

  13. Title of the article was meant to get your interest, to suck you in IMHO. Nothing serious. Author betrayed the title by making the case that a 5.56 at 750 or more yards is actually a joke. There is something called terminal ballistics which was not really mentioned in the article. Why? Because of the limitations of the 5.56 itself. These weapons are meant for killing, and lobbing rounds in at 750 yds like a 60mm mortar is obviously not “effective”. I did 32 months in Vietnam and I can assure you the 5.56 is “challenged” if you try to get thru thick brush. Not the case for a 7.62. All vets know there is a big difference between max range and max effective range. The max effective range for a 5.56 in Vietnam when establishing a defensive position was 300 yds for a good reason. Another words when the bad guys are 300 yds out that is when the 5.56 rifleman engaged them. Current issue ammo has greater reach, true, but not much. Before I retired the need for an effective round for ranges greater than that of a 5.56 was focussed on. You saw that going back to desert storm 1. You also see more and more heavy calibers using the AR4 (16) platform. 5.56 is limited, its like comparing 9mm to a 45ACP. So running 5.56 out to 750 yds – well, what is the point other than fun.

    1. @retired75th:

      After reading so many unusual replies to this article, I agree with your reply and your feelings about 5.56.

    2. @ the forum i had the misfortune of using the m4 carbine in first gulf @ 750 yards or even past 500 yards or meters the 5.56 does not have the energy to do any damage much at all in fact the low powered 5.56 nato rounds we were issued never dropped the target at most any range unless we went for a direct head shot or used half a mag in 1 target we nco’s and jr officers got called into battalion for a too many head shots scolding the roe’s were ridiculous we responded with give us a weapon gets the job done we we wont need head shots this was a prob in second iraq theatre as well as the afghan theatre too many head shots well we wanted to eliminate the target with 1 round or 3 not 20 when they were right on top of us in force with 30 cal ak 47 rifles or the wicked wound channel ak74’s some were issued as insurgents in both theatres i do not think in my opinion after 2 deployments using this very round and platform it is enough rifle for the job .I think a mid range 30 cal similar to the 7.62 soviet round should be developed why all the old M14’S were pulled out of mothballs in second gulf war . They got the job done at ranges the 5.56 was useless at .JMHO after using it in combat .

  14. I regularly get sub MOA out to 200 yeards with my mid-length PSA build AR. It does have a 1 in 7″ twist and I use 77gr Berger bullets (longest that will fit in the mag) with H335 powder; it has a P223 Nikon scope on it. I would love to try it out to 500 or even 1000 yards some time. I did learn to shoot long ago–on the high school rifle team!

    1. Those were the days, huh! High schools had rifle teams. Now most are sitting duck, gun free zones.

    2. @ JeffState.

      Novel Concept, “Gun Free Zones”. Is that like “Drug Free Zones” or “Alcohol Free Zones” or even “Smoking Free Zones”. I’ve seen the Sign’s, but NEVER Actually Experienced One…

  15. Although the rest of the military seems stuck on the maximum range for the military issue M16 being 460 yards, the Marines never subscribed to that self-set limitation. (Mind that I’ve been retired since 1997, and weapons and their aiming devices have improved considerably.) I have no idea if the qualification course has changed for the Marines, but all Marines must qualify every year with their rifle. The range had three known distances; 200, 300 and 500 meters. All ranges were fired with open iron sights, and the 500 meter line consisted of 10 rounds while prone. This was the last set during qualification. Most Marines considered the 500 meter line the “cake” line since, with practice and good “dope” (proper sight settings) on your rifle you could easily get ten bullseye shots at the 500 line. On qualification days many Marines, should there be some cross wind, usually just used a modified aiming point rather than adjusting their sights.

  16. During my 26 year military career we qualified on standard issue M16’s out to 300 meters. Can’t civilians shoot using iron sights? hahaha

    1. Yes, civilians can shoot with iron sights but they are slower than just about any optic outside of high mag narrow field of view stuff. Shot against AF PJs with their M4s and “our” civilian team with just dot optics consistently hit the targets sooner and more accurately than the PJs at any distance but particularly at any distance beyond 100M. The right 1×6 can be shot with both eyes open at 1x too which speeds target acquisition and situation awareness which is what the Dot does when properly used. Having both an expert rating with rifle and pistol using iron sights I’m not going to give the other guy a 20% faster lock time because I think qualifying with an AR at 300 meters with iron sights has any real world application most of the time.

    2. MadMike, And the military still does qualify out to 300M, at least the Air Force does. 5 rounds in each yardage, 50M, 100M, 150M, 200M, 250M, 300M. and this is standard for all career fields.

      Problem with civilians, its called gratification. today we need instant gratification, and if we take a class that we have to qualify out to 300M, most of the class isn’t going to hit out to 300M. Then the question is asked what am I paying for?

      If I bring the class in less than 25 yards with an AR, then the shooter can see instant gratification…..NOW money well spent….Is what the shooter thinks….

  17. Vortex Razor HD Gen II 1-6×24 at $1400-$1600 is worth more than the rifle itself. It must be nice to have unlimited funds to spend on this stuff.
    I cringe at the thought of mounting a $300 optic on my AR.

  18. It is awesome to be able to reach out and touch someone at that distance (600 yards+, etc). But if you are buying a Personal Defense Weapon of choice (whether it be an AR, an AK, and FN/FAL, and HK-91, etc, etc) defending your home and family won’t require that kind of distance shooting. Statistics show most gun fights are going to be within 50-feet (or so). Plus, if you shoot someone for home defense reasons at a distance of (say) 100+ yards, you’re probably gonna get major heat concerning lethal force laws. The typical question, if you shoot somebody that far away and your intent was to “protect my family” the law enforcement response is most likely going to be “at 100 yards, how was this person still a threat, and why did you not run instead of taking this shot?” — But at 50-feet, any weapon that gives me an advantage to protect my life is fair game. Even if the first weapon I can get to is a Barret 50-cal… the bad guy just picked the wrong house to intrude.

    1. This article is about having fun with long range plinking, nothing more. Discussing guns, ammo, and shooting doesn’t always have to devolve into home defense and lethality.

  19. Just because “it can be done,” doesn’t mean it should be, except for “fun,” as noted! I can ‘reliably’ plunk close hits out to 200-300 yds with my G29 iron sights and 180 SGDHP(1250fps) – more easily with my BarSto 6″ rig (1420fps) w/Vortex red dot sight – am I going to shoot any ‘breathing’ thing out there, likely not. Coyote @110 – done that w/one shot.

    Said all that to let all know that to generate a lethal wound channel, the M855 projectile must have a velocity of at least 2,500 ft/sec on impact with the target. Below that critical velocity, the M855 bullet simply drills a 1/4 inch hole in the target, which too frequently is not lethal unless it passes through a vital structure. That pretty much renders the M4 w/14.5″ barrel length a ‘very’ short range proposition, especially with the heavier weight bullets (2500 fps @ muzzle).

    Given the “long range” parameters represented here, that 75 gr Hornady HPBT, with a “stiff charge of Varget powder, the Hornady manual shows w/a max charge of Varget you should see around 2800 fps out of a 20” barrel. Barrel length reduction tests have shown that figure to fall to about 2525 fps “at the muzzle” of the 14.5″ M4 with the 75 Hornady!

    750 yards? MV-1254; ME-262(less than the ‘old’ 38 spcl); Elevation adjustment: 17 ft; “light steady” 5mph cross wind will have you guessing over about a 3 ft correction – gusting winds – lol! @1,000 yds you are now compensating for an almost 41 foot drop while retaining the ME just over the 22LR @ the muzzle!

    As noted by the author, there are way better ‘long range’ vehicles out there – but like some of the silhouette shooters, in the early days, taking on the rams @ 200 yds with their trusty 1911’s – Fun, yea, productive, not so much!

    Enjoyed the article, and also enjoy testing the ability to “reach out and touch someone.” 😉



  21. 750 yards with 5.56 NATO, very impressive, since most consider it to be a 350 yrd. and under round, especially out of an AR-15 platform. Weapon, ammo and optics are all very important, but more important is the shooter. An excellent marksman can make good shots with an off-the-rack rifle and ammunition, but a poor marksman can’t make good shots with the best of rifles and ammunition. Too, match grade ammo will improve the performance of a poor rifle, while poor ammo will affect, adversely, the performance of a match grade rifle. But after all is said and done, it’s the man behind the trigger that makes the difference, good or not so good rifle and ammo.

    1. “…. it’s the man behind the trigger….”

      I thought it is more like “the jerk on the trigger?” 😉

  22. As a Drill Instructor at Ft Jackson, SC. I made a 550 yd. shot on a moving target, from left to right. I used a private’s rifle and issue ammo. The AR platform in any configuration can achieve what the shooter is capable of, within the ballistics limitations of the round. Good fundamentals of shooting will create better results than all the bells and whistles used improperly. Heck Miculek hits a steel plate at 1,000 yds. with a 9mm pistol. Focus more on proper breathing and trigger control and less on gear.

    1. Cheers Sarge! This article isnt about terminal ballistics at 750 yards or the application of an AR as a sniper rifle. It’s about some boys going to the range and saying ” I bet you cant…..” and its also a slap on the face of Internet experts that say the AR can’t do great things.

    2. Ft. Jackson, SC. Ahh those were the days – my dad’s last station – my last year at Dentsville HS. Good days!

      You failed to note the ‘special’ capabilities of our friend Jerry. Very few pistoleros out there with Jerry’s skill set, with much of anything, let alone speed with a revolver! He ‘only’ holds 20 world records. At the age of 61 won the unlimited class in a recent three gun competition!

      I would win a lot of bets that there are not many ‘competitive shooters’ out there that could beat his wife or daughter!! 😉

      Just didn’t want folks thinking that plinking something at 1,000 yards with a 9mm is a skill reachable by the average pistol packer….

  23. YAWN – Talk about Bait & Switch headlines — So we discovered that a rifle similar to an M4, with ammo that no M4 has, using sights no M4 has, would be able to hit targets at ranges that 99% of M4 shooters can’t even see.

  24. Really? Tracer rnds have a different weight and ballistic coefficent than ball (not ro mention the weight decreases as the tracer material burns in flight, so I’m thinking you are talking relatively short range…certainly not 750 yd range that started this conversation.

  25. off topic, but have picked up 900 yard open sight trophies (No Scopes or optics allowed) using military ammo (cordite) with 303 SMLE on 18 inch targets out of Lismore New South Wales, Australia Large Bore Rifle Range. considering the SMLE was developed as a Bayonet Tool – not bad if I do say so myself. Preference is the SMLE with 7.62 NATO Lithgow Barrel Glass Bedded, with a one inch elevated stock for prone shooting. Sweetest action I ever used was a 30 40 Krag Johnson with side load. Smooth as silk and now so very rare to find. Stay on Target.

  26. Tell it to the Marines we’ve been shooting out to 500 yards with anything we’re handed since to Springfield 03.

  27. Just so the folks wearing the uniform don’t get the wrong idea, you can wind up in serious trouble using handloads in a military rifle in a war zone, and it doesn’t matter what caliber it is. Some guys in the 10th SF Group came really close to a court martial when somebody found out they were using handloads in their 308’s and 300 WM’s.

    Ammunition coming from the military supply system is always suspect, even the match grade stuff. Change lots and velocities change and so does your zero. Then there is the Battalion S-4, asking us if we can use de linked M240 machine gun ammo instead of the match grade stuff. The taxpayers and the soldiers, sailors, airment and Marines are getting screwed.

    Just my two cents.

  28. We play a game called “Rifle Golf” where one shoots steel animail targets out to 1200 Ft .. I used a Rock River M-4 16″ Bar. Shooting a Mil surplus 5.56 62 Gr. ( Surpressed ) so we could hear the reports .. 90% Reports out to 1000 yrs past that ,not good

  29. As a Marine (66-76) I qualified at the rifle range with both a M14 (7.62) and a M15 (5.56) and both to 500m without a problem using open iron sights.

    I had the ‘luxury’ of first carrying a M14 in the bush before the M15’s became available to us. Since both were accurate at 500m I opted for the M15 ’cause it, and the ammo, were lighter and the rifle was quicker to field strip and clean.

  30. I joined the Marines in 73 and was issued the XM15 rifle. One of the first with the forward assist in the upper. These were also Army hand me downs. I could literally take the upper and lower in hand and rattle them due to bad fit and wear. Yet on the range at Pendleton I could consistently score center mass body shots out to 600 yards. This with a 20 inch barrel and 1 in 11 inch twist with 55 grain FMJ.

    1. David, I am surprised the 55 gr would do so well (not doubting you, just surprised). About 5 years ago (before I destroyed right leg), I drove from CA to my original home 24 miles east of Colorado Springs and fired 2500 rounds shooting prairie dogs using a Remington 700 police special with a 6-24 X 40 scope and a bipod and the slightest breeze would walk that 55gr VMAX off target at 150 yards.

  31. After my Nam time I came home and bought a Remington scoped 270 as a hunter, my old levers for under 300 yards were saved for the brush, the Rem for 400–500 shots in WA. STATE clearcuts.
    Then I got the nam trots and bought what was called an M15 and began trotting all over the ridges and roadless areas where packing full length rifles was a chore and in rough country scopes for civies were not tough.
    So I went down below 250yard range for accuracy and oomph on target.
    ( late 60’s223 was crapand my colts twist rate realy sucked.
    In two years of my and buddies handloads we finally got 4″ @ 300 .
    Today same barrell that rifle is still not moa with commercial ammo but close so wether it was the gun or the ammo dumped to our troops by profit hungry producers who knows.
    You can take damn near any of todays out of box mid to high level hunting riflesr and with good optics and select ammo with a better than half assed shooter and ring 12-16inch gongs at 1200.
    WHY shouldn’t the m4 be capable( but ned not be practicle), after all it and its ammo are together s worlds best developed platforms for war.

  32. Optics and any other factor is a non issue when you use tracers.
    Give me 1 shot to see where they are landing, one more to get the windage and drop into the neighborhood and they better be under cover after that because I will be hitting DANGER CLOSE!

    1. One thing about tracers, your target also knows where you are shooting from….

      And most targets do not stand still; based on your technique, you’ll be hoping the target stands still long enough to get your third shot off. Every time the target moves, you are back to square one.

    2. Tracers are great for spotting trajectory and hits, no doubt about that. However, if you are hunting something that shoots back, Tracers work both ways. You can see where your shots got, and they can see where they came from. Better to have quality optics and ammo, and the skill to use them properly, along with good cover and concealment, than to broadcast your position.

    3. @ David:
      I’m with you on the rattle-trap ARs (mine was the M-16). When I went back through [Minute-Man] in ’74 at Ft. Polk, I used half a flap from a pack of paper matches wedged between the upper/lower to take up the slack. Accuracy was instantly improved to the point of [head shots] out to 350 meters.
      Never used the (long-range) sights….Just zeroed 3″ high @100 and held to the neck and head up at anything over 350 M on the silhouettes: Body hits in the chest were common when did my part.
      Today, my Mini-14 SS Ranch/Laminate does all I ask of it.(5 rds. INTO a nickel @75yds–open sights— Damn what anyone says about the Mini’s accuracy( or lack of it). And the IR equipment takes care of any varmint–either two, or four legged, which dares to intrude upon my privacy uninvited when the sun goes down.

      WILL 12B40

    4. Yo Will, I was at Ft. Polk (Puke) for Basic and Infantry AIT early 75′. Being lost in those swamps, in June weather, at night, with those big ass spiders hanging between trees will always be part of my fondest memories. It’s probably age, but my problem with this article is these guys saying they can see their .22 hits with a 6X scope @ 750 yds. Anyone else have a problem with that?

    5. Maybe they were using marking style targets? But if my memory serves they mentioned the range being set up with reactive steel. A hit is easy to register when your target drops on impact.
      Just my $0.02.

  33. I have two ARs one in 7.62×39 and an ATI with .22 and 5.56 conversions, I might reach out with the higher velocity 7.62, anyway just wanted to throw out a Semper Fi to all my jarhead brothers.

  34. 18″ x 24″ target at 750 yards is a huge target. Minute-of-angle is what long range shooting is all about, and that aint it.

  35. My 16″ barrel AR is reliably accurate out to 500 yards when shooting hand loads topped with 71 grain bergers. I didn’t have the range to push it farther. I suppose that’s fine for target shooting and it definitely is fun. However, I don’t think such a short barrel and long distances is conducive to dropping a bigger target. I’ve been looking at building a light weight 14.5″ barreled AR to pack in along with the 700 to nail targets 350 yards and in. Should be totally acceptable as a fighting rifle, for varmint, and closer in target shooting for those ranges. The 700 can handle 350 and farther. What it boils down to for me is looking at the ballistics data and finding a load to carry enough energy out to a given distance to be effective to drop what ever you’re looking to drop.

  36. ***
    The WW1 era Springfield 03A3–.30-06 FMJ boattail bullet!–had a tip up ladder sight marked with ranges out to 1600 yards IIRC. No need for mildot scopes or ballistic tables for the extreme long range bullet drop holdoff. Cross winds–another problem!

    1. The 03A3 was not WWI era. It was WWII. The 1903 WWI era Springfield rifle had the flip up ladder sight.

      The different .30 Cal. Ball cartridges were the M1906 Ball 150 Gr. FMJ Flat Base (1906), .30 M1 Ball 173 Gr. FMJBT (1926) and the .30 M2 Ball 152 Gr. FMJ Flat Base (1938).

  37. ANY Marine will tell you that hitting your target at 500 yards with an AR15/M16 is not only possible, but mandatory! All recruits in boot camp and every Marine regardless of MOS for their annual rifle qualification. Tough in my days and prior, we did it with iron sights, I believe they use a red dot. Sound training, practical application, sight alignment, good sight picture, breath control and trigger control. All this capibility without a customized rifle or match grade ammo.

  38. @750 yards it would only be usefull against varmint sized critters not enough energy left to do much damage even a head shot would not penetrate military issue kevlar at that range if you are going to shoot fasrther than 450 meters go with a .308 /7.63 nato or bigger wont be much good for anything else i do not see the point of even bothering with it unless you just want to say i can shoot 750 with a 5.56 M16A2, an M4 i doubt like i carried in gulf and bosnia would not do 750 yards no way i buy it even if will not be fatal on a human sized target just wasting ammo to me .JMHO after qualfying with the M16A2 and the M4. in Iraq we snipers used a 7.62 nato or a .50 barrett no point with anything else at that range .dumb thread you ask me .JMHO.

    1. @Damian:

      I’m posting a quick note just so I can get in on the notifications for this interesting M4 topic.

      But I also wanted to tell YOU that everything you said about the smoothness and easy shooting with the Desert Eagle 44 magnum barrel was correct. I really like it, and the 44 magnum barrel is now the primary (attached) barrel on my Desert Eagle day to day….but the 50 barrel is always close by, in my Desert Eagle ammo/accessory bag. Thank you Damian!

    2. @SS1
      I told ya my brother now you know why i went with the 44 mag instead of the .50 AE i made sure i ran both through the gauntlet before buying mine and i may get a .50 AE barrel just to have for the novelty of owning it but it in no way comnpares to the 44 at all in real life usage way easier to control and shoots way farther and way more accurate and a lot easier to handle and control .44 mag ammo is easily found in almost any ammo or sporting goods store the .50 AE DE is cool but just not practical as much as the M4 at 750 yards is totally pointless and useless againt any man sized target especially wearing kevlar at that range you need at least a 270 cal or 30 cal or bigger just not any practical use for shooting at 750 yrds with any 5.56 round. You are very welcome and i knew you would agree once you fired both the 44 mag and 50 AE i think they should make a 45 win mag version or barrel or even the 44 auto mag that would be way more practical than the 50 AE .Just my opinion after working on and using firearms most all my life glad you like it brother . hHAGN SS1 and thanx for getting back to me on it i was anxious to hear what you really thought once you tried the 44 DE .

    3. A man hit in the torso will be very sick in short order. Unless proper field medicine and a short trip to a better surgery chances are that person will die. Using a 5.56 is not ideal for long range, but any hit on a muj is a good hit. Certainly a 7.62mm NATO or .300 WM has a better chance at doing greater damage. Personally I find those that put down the 5.56 as being mouse guns, just do not understand the medical impact on the target.

    4. I understand perfectly well a gut shot with a 5.56 will more than likely be fatal without proper treatment. That is exactly what one of the arguments “For” the smaller, less lethal round I have heard…ie… A wounded combatant would require one or two of his buddies to get the wounded individual out of harm’s way…meaning…two to three enemy firearms taken out of the fight while dealing with the wounded. You have just reaffirmed what I believe was one of the reasons the smaller round was introduced.

    5. I totally agree with your statement concerning the wound/combatants ratio. The logic is sound, as most rational human beings will tend to their wounded brethren given the opportunity, thereby eliminating at least one other shooter from the firefight.
      My only exception to this is that given the limited wounding potential of the 5.56 (which is my primary round just to clarify), it’s limitations are exponentially exasperated at ranges beyond 600m. Surely a good shooter, with decent equipment and ammo, CAN makes hits beyond that range but as has been mentioned they will have very little energy left at those extreme (for caliber) ranges.
      That being the case, the odds that an opponent struck at an extended range (say 600m+), without it being instantly fatal or crippling, stands a good chance at remaining combat effective until they bleed out. Far too many cases have been documented of this sort of result from the most usages of 5.56×45 in combat. Targets are hit, and wounded, yet retain the ability to return fire.
      As a side note to this I’d like to remind everyone of the American units in Iraq accused of executing Iraqi soldiers due the high preponderance of head shots inflicted. The end of that court martial investigation determined that the Soldiers in question were simply aiming for head shots because of the certainty of death upon a solid hit. Most of those shots were being taken at ranges from 400-700 yards. Our riflemen are well trained, and well equipped, and they have overcome the limitation in Foot pounds of energy, by greatly improving accuracy at long range.
      So while I have zero plans to ever be using my AR-15 beyond around 350 yards (As I use a 2 M.O.A. Red Dot zeroed at 36/300), if I can hit my target cleanly and in the head (read as ‘face’ considering that is all you see of a prone opponent) I feel comfortable that said target will be destroyed, even at the extreme ranges discussed here.

    6. Well spoken and I agree a head shot is 99.9% fatal and that our troops are, for the most part, well trained with their issued firearm. With all due respect, I will, however stand by my assertion, in a combat or hunting application at virtually any range, the 30 cal projectile is far superior. I have a 22, and it shoots just fine at a cost of @
      $.01 per round and just as lethal out to @ 250 yds. With my M1A or my Garand, at 600-1000yds, if I make them bleed the individual, more than likely, is out of the fight.

    7. First of all there not talking about killing anything at range other than paper pay attention to the thread. Just a lotta fun listening to hits on steel at 750 yds. An on a second note I seriously doubt you were a sniper you can’t even spell correctly takes more than great eyes and trigger finger it takes whit quit poseing an get back to halo.

  39. I commend the author for his steadfastness and expertise. The only issue I have with the 5.56/223 round from the time I received my first and only M16 was and is still today….It is still and always will be “22 caliber”. I, for one, believe in my heart, If the military had stayed with the proven 30 caliber battle rifle instead of the M16 experiment in S.E. Asia, many of my brothers at arms would still be alive today. Not only from a reliability standpoint of the platform, but also from a lethality standpoint of the heavier (2-3 time heavier projectile) against enemy combatants. I have heard many if not all of the arguments concerning why the M16 was such a complete failure at the cost of our soldiers lives.
    I do not now, nor will I ever own a 5.56/223 rifle.
    This article backs me when I say….With standard military issue 7.62X51 I shot Expert everytime I went to the range with my M14. When and where can anyone state, on any battlefield, “Hand Loaded Ammunition Was Used”?
    That said, The AR family has come a long way from it’s M16 roots, but, with “Off the Shelf” ammunition it can never match the 30 cal.

    1. ARs can nowadays be bought or built in 7.62 NATO, Larry, so why don’t you give them a try? The ammo is available at most WalMarts for about 75 cents to $1 a bang, and you then have quality reloadable brass to tinker with while snowed-in. THEN, you can say you used your hand-loaded ammo on the SHTF end-of-life-as-we-now-know-it battlefield (aka your front yard).

    2. Thanks Leon….My brother has an AR10….It is without question a Very Fine rifle. It cost a couple hundred bucks less than my M1A and we share the same ammunition. My concerns in my post directly relate to the 5.56/223.

    3. BTW Leon….I have reloaded my own ammunition sense I got out of the Marines (over 40 yrs. ago) as you can probably discern from my post.

    4. I concur, while in basic training we had a number of NG’s and reserve recruits..they had to qualify with the venerable m-14, as acting platoon leader i got to accompany them to range when they shot the m-14…after qualifying on m-16…Wow! what a rifle!…m-16 max range to qualify was 300 yds. with m-14 that extended to 400…open sites, put top of post on base of man target head and squeeze trigger….center shot every time, I was hooked, when i got out in 72, first rifle i bought was a bolt action .308…now that m1a1’s are available i have one of those….30 caliber, what else is there?

    5. My firing lines were….200yd standing offhand, one, upper half man target – 10 rounds.
      300yds sitting and kneeling 10 rounds rapid, 10 rounds slow, each, fired on three half full size man targets. One sliced in half shoulder to waste, one top to bottom middle, one simular to offhand target. 500yd, 10 rounds slow fire on two full size man targets.
      Expert every time.

    6. US adopted 5.56mm round about the same time they (exception being USMC) decided to stop spending time teaching troops marksmanship in basic training. From what I understand, the thought by bean-counters and other pogues was if an average troop can carry 300 rnds of cheaper 5.56 it is better than 80 rnds of 30 cal ammo, hense the “Spray and prey” methodology to marksmanship in recent history…(remember being taught to “keep up the volume of fire” in training rather than hit what you’re shooting at? There is no comparison, combat effectiveness wise, between 5.56 and 7.62 ammo for a vareity of reasons. 7.62 simply smokes 5.56, especially at longer ranges where you have to deliver energy to work (BTW punching through a kevlar helmet is a silly test standard, ever see a bad-guy wearing one?). Superior ballistics and weightXspeed are what matters at long range, period.

    7. As far as I am concerned, My basic field pack contained 10, 20 round mags with another 10, 20 round mags of 7.62 on my Web gear. Weight was never an issue…staying alive was vitally important. Where you got the 80 round max carry, I have no clue.

    8. Today soldiers often have high quality, match grade ammo available. Even the M855A1 is more capable than M193. M193 is not issued, so everyone has at least a step up. Now with over 50 years of M16 and a staggering amount of rifles from other nations being used around the globe, we can say the 5.56 works.
      The author is right, good optics make a huge difference. I added Geissele SSA trigger to my rifles. Doing so gave me a sub MOA rifle using M193.
      Wind is a major issue. I have never been good at doping the wind. But in clam air, the little M4 or M16A1 will amaze most shooters.

    9. You are absolutely correct. As I said, the AR has come a long way from its M16 roots. Cheap to shoot, accurate to a point, lethal to a point (one shot, one kill)…but still a 22.

  40. Fun article.

    Unlike a lot of other people on these sorts of blogs, I really like the AR15/M4 type weapons. I’ve been shooting them since the 1970s and have never found a reason to complain overall. I do admit that the Bushmaster SBR my second employer issued me in Iraq wouldn’t cycle reliably, and the DPMS weapons I have owned have not had reliable extractors, but the weapons issued to me in the Army, the Colt I used throughout my last two years in Iraq and the M&P that is my favorite AR now all work great. And the DPMS cleaned up their act after I installed a Buffer Tech extractor upgrade.

    BUT . . and here’s the but . . . while the M4 is capable of hitting accurately out to 400+ meters, it is never going to be in the same class as an M14/M1A or a Garand. They are simply a very different kind of weapon.

    While, IMHO, M4s are a superior weapon to the highly vaunted AK pattern. And I used AKs in Iraq, and own a WASR, so this isn’t just M4 snobbishness. They are a lighter, (again IMHO) more accurate, and better designed. Yes, AKs work . . most of the time, (I’ve had a couple issued to me that were utterly useless) because they were designed to be used by uneducated Russian potato farmers with a minimum of training and skills.

    Still, while you might get 750 meter shots with an M4 under very controlled conditions with premium ammo, my M4s are for closer work. I have an M1A, Garand and Moisin so that I can reach out and touch whoever I want to with.

    1. !0-4 on reaching out to touch someone with the Mosin, 1000 yds while I take a nap. Keep an old (1916) 8mm Gerwher 98.

  41. I was a sharpshooter in Nam (we didn’t like “sniper” back then) and tried everything available – only the M14/M21 or the Browning 700 (in all its military versions) were worth using for long range accuracy and kill power. The lighter weight of the other rifles and bullets and the short barrels made for a much less accurate shot beyond 300 feet. 500 to 750 yds were common in my group and we all had kill shots beyond that.

    The newest incarnations of these weapons are even better. A .223 or a 5,56 can’t compete with a 30 cal bullet at over 3,000 fps.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit exceeded. Please click the reload button and complete the captcha once again.

Your discussions, feedback and comments are welcome here as long as they are relevant and insightful. Please be respectful of others. We reserve the right to edit as appropriate, delete profane, harassing, abusive and spam comments or posts, and block repeat offenders. All comments are held for moderation and will appear after approval.