300 Blackout vs 5.56: A Comprehensive Comparison


When it comes to choosing the right caliber for your firearms, there are various factors to consider. Among the popular choices for rifle rounds are the 300 blackout vs 556′

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. These two calibers have distinct characteristics that make them suitable for different purposes. In this article, we will delve into the details of the 300 Blackout and the 5.56, highlighting their similarities, differences, and the ideal scenarios for their usage.

Table of Contents

  1. What is the 300 Blackout?
  2. What is the 5.56?
  3. Ballistics and Performance Comparison
  4. Terminal Performance and Stopping Power
  5. Supersonic vs. Subsonic
  6. Ammunition Availability and Cost
  7. Magazine Compatibility
  8. Range and Accuracy
  9. Home Defense and Personal Defense
  10. Hunting Applications
  11. Military and Law Enforcement Usage
  12. Suppressors and Silencers
  13. Recoil and Shootability
  14. Reloading Considerations
  15. Conclusion
  16. FAQs

1. What is the 300 Blackout?

The 300 Blackout, also known as the 300 AAC Blackout or 7.62x35mm, was developed to provide a reliable and versatile round that could be fired from AR-15 platforms. It was designed specifically to offer enhanced performance in short-barreled rifles and suppressed firearms.

2. What is the 5.56?

The 5.56x45mm NATO, commonly referred to as the 5.56, is a military cartridge that was adopted by the United States in the 1960s. It is derived from the civilian .223 Remington and is widely used in military and civilian AR-15 rifles.

3. Ballistics and Performance Comparison

When comparing the ballistics and performance of the 300 Blackout and the 5.56, several key differences emerge. The 300 Blackout excels in short-barreled rifles due to its ability to efficiently burn powder in a shorter barrel length. It offers excellent performance in close-quarter engagements and provides better penetration and terminal ballistics than the 5.56.

On the other hand, the 5.56 is known for its flatter trajectory and longer effective range. It is optimized for longer-barreled rifles and offers superior velocity and accuracy at extended distances.

4. Terminal Performance and Stopping Power

In terms of terminal performance and stopping power, the 300 Blackout has an advantage, particularly when firing subsonic rounds. The larger bullet diameter and heavier weight of the 300 Blackout bullets contribute to increased energy transfer upon impact, making it more effective for self-defense or hunting scenarios where maximum stopping power is desired.

However, when it comes to supersonic rounds, the 5.56 provides better fragmentation and temporary wound cavity due to its higher velocity. This makes it more effective in causing rapid incapacitation of the target.

5. Supersonic vs. Subsonic

One significant advantage of the 300 Blackout is its ability to utilize both supersonic and subsonic ammunition. Subsonic rounds are particularly useful in situations that require reduced noise and recoil, such as home defense or tactical operations where stealth is crucial. On the other hand, the 5.56 is primarily used with supersonic ammunition.

6. Ammunition Availability and Cost

When it comes to ammunition availability and cost, the 5.56 has a clear advantage. It is one of the most widely produced rifle cartridges in the world, readily available in both military surplus and commercial variants. The 5.56 ammunition can be found in various bullet weights and configurations, making it easy to find and purchase.

On the other hand, the 300 Blackout, although gaining popularity, has a more limited availability compared to the 5.56. It may be a bit harder to find in certain areas, and the variety of loads and manufacturers might be more limited. Additionally, due to its specialized design and components, the 300 Blackout ammunition tends to be more expensive compared to the 5.56.

  1. Magazine Compatibility

One advantage of the 300 Blackout is its compatibility with standard AR-15 magazines. Since the 300 Blackout was designed to function in AR-15 platforms, it can be used with the same magazines as the 5.56, with no modifications required. This allows for easy interchangeability and flexibility when transitioning between calibers.

  1. Range and Accuracy

In terms of range and accuracy, the 5.56 has the edge. Its flatter trajectory and higher velocity make it more suitable for longer-distance engagements. The 5.56 is commonly used in competitions and precision shooting due to its inherent accuracy and consistency.

While the 300 Blackout can still be accurate, especially within its intended effective range, it generally falls short when compared to the 5.56 in terms of long-range performance. It is better suited for close to intermediate ranges, where its terminal ballistics can shine.

  1. Home Defense and Personal Defense

Both the 300 Blackout and the 5.56 can be viable options for home defense and personal defense scenarios. The 300 Blackout, especially when using subsonic ammunition, offers reduced recoil and noise, making it more manageable in close-quarters situations. The larger bullet diameter also enhances its potential stopping power.

The 5.56, on the other hand, offers higher capacity magazines and a flatter trajectory, allowing for quick follow-up shots and effective engagement at longer distances. Its fragmentation and temporary wound cavity can be advantageous in stopping threats rapidly.

  1. Hunting Applications

When it comes to hunting, the 300 Blackout shines in certain situations. With its heavier and larger diameter bullets, it is well-suited for hunting medium-sized game at close to moderate distances. The subsonic rounds are particularly useful for hunting with suppressed firearms, reducing noise and muzzle blast.

The 5.56 is more commonly used for varmint hunting and smaller game due to its high velocity and fragmentation characteristics. It may lack the necessary energy and penetration for larger game animals.

  1. Military and Law Enforcement Usage

The 5.56 has been the standard cartridge for military and law enforcement agencies for several decades. Its lightweight design, high velocity, and effectiveness at intermediate distances make it an excellent choice for combat scenarios and urban environments. The abundance of surplus military ammunition and spare parts also contributes to its popularity in these fields.

While the 300 Blackout has seen some limited adoption in specialized military and law enforcement units, its usage is not as widespread as the 5.56. Its benefits, such as compatibility with existing platforms and suppressor use, may be attractive to certain units with specific requirements.

  1. Suppressors and Silencers

Both the 300 Blackout and the 5.56 can be effectively used with suppressors or silencers. However, the 300 Blackout is particularly advantageous in this regard. When fired with subsonic ammunition, it offers quiet operation and reduced recoil, making it an excellent choice for suppressed firearms.

The 5.56, while compatible with suppressors, doesn’t provide the same level of noise reduction as the 300 Blackout when using subsonic rounds. However, it still offers some benefits in terms of reducing muzzle blast and recoil, making it more manageable in suppressed configurations.

  1. Recoil and Shootability

In terms of recoil, the 300 Blackout generally has slightly more recoil compared to the 5.56, especially when using supersonic ammunition. The heavier bullets and larger powder charges contribute to a bit more felt recoil. However, it is still manageable for most shooters, and the recoil can be mitigated by using appropriate firearm accessories and techniques.

The 5.56, known for its light recoil, offers a more comfortable shooting experience. This makes it easier for shooters, especially those with less experience, to control and stay on target for follow-up shots.

  1. Reloading Considerations

Both the 300 Blackout and the 5.56 can be reloaded by handloaders. However, the 300 Blackout requires more specific attention due to its unique case design. It involves converting .223 or 5.56 brass by resizing and trimming, or purchasing dedicated 300 Blackout brass. Reloading for the 300 Blackout allows for customization and tuning loads for specific purposes, providing greater versatility.

On the other hand, reloading for the 5.56 is relatively straightforward, as it uses commonly available .223 Remington or 5.56 brass. The abundance of load data and components makes it easier for reloaders to experiment and tailor their ammunition to their specific needs.

  1. Conclusion

In conclusion, the choice between the 300 Blackout and the 5.56 depends on your specific requirements and intended usage. The 300 Blackout excels in short-barreled rifles, suppressed firearms, and situations that prioritize close-quarter engagements and maximum stopping power. It offers versatility with the ability to shoot both supersonic and subsonic ammunition.

The 5.56, on the other hand, is a widely used and readily available cartridge that offers flatter trajectory, longer effective range, and superior accuracy at extended distances. It is suitable for various applications, including home defense, personal defense, hunting smaller game, and military/law enforcement usage.

Ultimately, understanding your needs, considering factors such as ballistics, magazine compatibility, ammunition availability, and recoil will help you make an informed decision when choosing between the 300 Blackout and the 5.56.

300 blackout vs 556  Terminal Ballistics

To dive further into 300 blackout vs 556, we have to look at terminal ballistics. Terminal ballistics is the behavior and effects of the projectile when it transfers its energy to the target.

The study of terminal ballistics includes factors such as penetration, fragmentation, and density.

Power (ft-lbs) isn’t everything when it comes to terminal ballistics range; impact and bullet drop are important factors. Even though the 5.56mm bullet diameter is smaller, its speed and fragmentation at the moment of impact make it a favorable candidate for lethal purposes. In some cases, the 5.56mm bullet can pierce through armor, but that needs some extra amplification.

The .300 BLK, on the other hand, is a larger diameter round that is often slower but hits with more ft-lbs on target. The 300 blackout is also a much better round when it comes to suppressing. Let’s talk about super and subsonic ammo.

300 blackout vs 556 Power and Range

Both 5.56 and 300 blackout have been extensively tested. What testing has found is that 5.56mm at 500 yards had a high-velocity thanks to the lower weight of the 5.56mm NATO bullet. The round can cover more yards and keep velocity better than its heavier counterpart.

In testing fired from a 16″ barrel, it was shown that 300 blackout had nearly double the ft-lbs on the impact that a 5.56 round had 200 yards and 300 yards. The bullet drop becomes much more substantial at range with the .300 blackout round.

On the other hand, where .300 blackout really shines is out of a short barrel. Testing a 9″ barrel with .300 blkout 125 gr round had 993 ft-lbs at 100 yards. The 5.56mm 55 gr round had 191 ft-lbs at the same yardage.

There is a 1,000 feet per second discrepancy in the two rounds, but that’s expected with such a large grain weight difference.

Here’s a small table that compares the ballistic performance of 5.56mm NATO and .300 AAC Blackout in a standard 16″ barrel.


  1. Is the 300 Blackout more powerful than the 5.56?
    • The 300 Blackout, particularly when using subsonic ammunition, offers greater stopping power due to its larger bullet diameter and heavier weight. However, the 5.56 provides better fragmentation and temporary wound cavity with its higher velocity.
  2. Can I use 5.56 ammunition in a 300 Blackout rifle?
    • No, using 5.56 ammunition in a 300 Blackout rifle is dangerous and should be avoided. The 300 Blackout and 5.56 have different chamber specifications and pressures, and firing the wrong ammunition can lead to malfunctions or catastrophic failures.
  3. Which caliber is better for home defense?
    • Both the 300 Blackout and the 5.56 can be suitable for home defense, depending on your specific needs and preferences. The 300 Blackout offers reduced recoil and noise with subsonic ammunition, while the 5.56 provides high capacity and effective engagement at longer distances.
  4. Can I hunt with a 300 Blackout?
    • Yes, the 300 Blackout is a viable option for hunting medium-sized game at close to moderate