(TFC Opinion) — Yesterday, an article titled “Wounds From Military-Style Rifles? ‘A Ghastly Thing to See‘” graced The New York Times. The article detailed the differences between wounds caused by .223 Remington or 5.56mm NATO rounds, the most common types of ammunition fired from an AR-15, and the wounds caused by handgun ammunition. The problem with the article is that neither type of ammunition is mentioned. The article is written as if the rifle design itself is responsible for the wounds. It appears deliberately misleading, to the point of quoting medical professionals about the damage caused by the rifles.
“Surgeons say the weapons produce the same sort of horrific injuries seen on battlefields,” the article reads. If those surgeons mean that rifles produce rifle wounds, they are correct. If they mean a bullet fired from an AR-15 is somehow magically more horrific than one fired from a bolt-action rifle, they are incorrect. Here’s a catalog with more than 100 bolt-action rifles firing the exact same type of ammunition typically fired by the AR-15. The action of the rifle, whether it be semi-automatic, fully-automatic, bolt-action, lever-action, or any other method of cycling to the next round has no impact on the severity of the wound. None. The “style” of the rifle also has none.
The article glosses over some of the factors that create wounds:
“Many factors determine the severity of a wound, including a bullet’s mass, velocity and composition, and where it strikes. The AR-15, like the M4 and M16 rifles issued to American soldiers, shoots lightweight, high-speed bullets that can cause grievous bone and soft tissue wounds, in part by turning sideways, or “yawing,” when they hit a person.”
What the article omits, after acknowledging this, is that when the .223 round is compared using these factors via the Killing Power Score (KPS), it has the lowest killing power of any of the rifle cartridges compared. The .30-06, a standard hunting cartridge, carries a score of 49.2. The “horrific” .223 carries a score of 6.3. It should be noted, the KPS is a guideline. Beyond the above, there are many factors that create a lethal bullet. The creator of the KPS even says it shouldn’t become shooting dogma, but the reader would have a difficult time finding shooting experts who disagree with the scale.
It may seem counter-intuitive to believe the US Army would choose anything less than the most lethal ammunition for its rifle. The Army didn’t choose it. The ammunition type was forced on them. The Army disagreed with adopting the ammo so much, it is rumored to have falsified data to sway the selection process in favor of a larger, more lethal round. The adoption of the 5.56mm round was forced by the McNamara Defense Department. To this day, the Army still wants a replacement. In fact, even the original prototype of the now famous M16 wasn’t chambered in 5.56mm. It was called the AR-10 and chambered in 7.62mm.
So why did the McNamara Defense Department want the smaller, less lethal bullet? Like everything with the “whiz kid”, it was math. The smaller bullets meant soldiers could carry more bullets while humping through the jungles of Southeast Asia. Smaller, lighter bullets also meant the receiver (the main part of a rifle) could be lighter. The smaller diameter meant more bullets could fit into a magazine. Therefore more shots could be fired between magazine changes. To the number crunchers, this meant the soldier would be in the fight for a longer period of time and therefore achieve a higher “kill ratio.”
Of course, all of this relied on every bullet being fired with optimal shot placement. If every shot fired entered the brain or heart of the target, all of the above math would be correct, but that isn’t what happens. In Iraq and Afghanistan, it took an average of roughly 250,000 bullets to kill a single insurgent. If it takes twice as many shots to kill the enemy, it doesn’t really matter if the ammo weighs half as much. The Parkland shooter himself proved magazine capacity means little, as he used 10-round magazines instead of standard capacity 30-round magazines.
This type of emotionally charged rhetoric from one of the nation’s leading papers is dangerous. As the call to ban the AR-15 goes out, we must consider what will replace it. If the AR-15, chambered in a small round with a lethality rating so low, is removed from the school shooter’s hands, will it be replaced with a .30-06? Will the American people be so led astray by propaganda that they unwittingly make school shootings more lethal? To the medical professionals quoted in this article, I challenge you to answer a single question. Federal Premium Ammunition says it’s top three best-selling rifle cartridges are ..223, .308, and .30-06. Of those three, which would you rather have a family member shot with?
When compared to the likely alternatives, suddenly AR-15’s .223 doesn’t seem so bad. For those who aren’t familiar with weapons and wounds, the next two best-selling types of ammunition carry double the energy. Even widening the options to the top ten, it’s doubtful these wound specialists would select any of the other rounds.
We’ve been very lucky that most active shooters have simply chosen the most popular rifle in the United States rather than a more powerful one. Perhaps these medical professionals and The New York Times simply believe the .223 round is cursed or possessed by demons and causing angry young men to open fire on crowds. The more likely scenario is that body counts from the shootings aren’t high enough to push newspaper sales and The New York Times is doing its part to make the next shooting more lethal.
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