Sometimes, this job is a real challenge. When tasked with looking at all the AR calibers out there, I went through all my fingers and toes—six times—to get a final count. Yup, people have cobbled up AR-type rifles in about 125 different calibers. Some of those don’t really count, because they are single-shot only, so they’re about as useful as Grecian Nasal Hair Formula. Others aren’t exactly spilling out of the gun racks at local stores. When was the last time you saw a sale on .358 Yeti AR rifles? I’m still waiting.
Anyway, talking about all the ballistics of different AR caliber options is easy. But being Shooting Illustrated, we’re able to go the extra mile. We have the technology and intestinal fortitude to discern the personality characteristics and quirks of all you shooters out there—based simply on your choice of AR caliber. In preparation for this project, not only did we watch reruns of the TV series "Medium" until our eyeballs caught on fire, we finally put to good use that old gift card for Dionne Warwick’s Psychic Friends Network. Yep, we take this stuff that seriously. After all, if we didn’t, what would France think?
While we can’t cover them all, we’ve picked out some of the more-telling caliber choices. One more thing, before we get into this, we’d ask you to only use this information for good. We can’t be responsible if your friends fling micro-aggressions your way over your caliber choices.
Even if you do complain to your buddies incessantly about the fact that .22 LR ammo prices still aren’t back to "normal," you’re the Warren Buffett of ammunition finance. Even at the inflated, price-gouging levels of eight cents a round, you’re saving big bucks compared to those who shoot the loud stuff at 25 cents a pop. Besides, people who shoot noisy centerfire ARs are probably just compensating for something, right?
.223 Rem. / 5.56 NATO While the military keeps changing their mind on what’s the perfect bullet, the basic idea is still simple: a small, light projectile at high velocity. While its bite of 1,300 foot-pounds of kinetic energy is nothing to sneeze at, the bark is bigger. Stated differently, you like making a lot of noise for your size, kind of like Ryan Seacrest and Tom Cruise. No matter what New York Daily News Writer Gersh Kuntzman thinks, recoil is perfectly safe, even for sissies, at just 3.16 foot-pounds when shooting an 8-pound rifle.
Oh, if your rifle has one of those Wylde chambers, which is a cross between .223 Rem. and 5.56 NATO, you have serious commitment issues. Either make a decision, or since you can’t seem to take a stand on one or the other, get a job at the United Nations.
Designed to shoot both supersonic and subsonic .30-caliber projectiles, the Blackout groupies know how cool it is to completely change up ballistic performance by simply swapping magazines. One minute you’re zinging 110 to 125-grain bullets down range at 2,200 to 2,500 feet per second and the next you’re thudding 220-grain hunks of lead at a leisurely 1,000 feet per second. That’s slower than a congressman reaching for the bar tab. Add a suppressor, and you actually remove ambient noise from the environment. No seriously, I have that on good authority from Bill Nye the Science Guy.
You crave adventure and the ability to thumb your nose at physics. Your range won’t know whether you're about to break the sound barrier or just head fake it. It’s my favorite caliber, so if you choose it too, that makes you brilliant, suave and bordering on debonair.
You are considered to be brilliant, charming, and engaging by all who meet you. In a non-related disclaimer, a Smith & Wesson M&P 10 Performance Center chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor is my new favorite testing toy.
But seriously, you like to go all the way. To the end of the range, that is. It’s much easier when your bullet is still humming along at supersonic speeds 1,300 or so yards down range while your buddy’s inferior caliber is rumbling, tumbling, and bumbling through transonic fight a few hundred yards sooner.
6.8 Remington SPC
You’re a prepper. Because 6.8 Remington SPC uses the same bullets as the tried-and-true .270, you never have trouble finding projectiles. Even during the great reloading drought of 20-Obama, you had no trouble finding bullets to feed your 6.8 SPC. On the other hand, your planning skills need some improvement because finding brass is a whole different matter. At least you have good intentions, and we all know what those count for.
You’re also a little bit judgmental about folks who shoot those dinky .223 / 5.56 rifles. Yours delivers 1,500 or so foot-pounds of energy and 40 lbs-ft/sec of momentum—significantly more than the original pea shooter.
So you chose the cartridge designed by the Commies? The same one used in all those AK and SKS rifles? Stop the presses, we just found the real Russian collaborators. Hope you enjoy the hot seat while testifying before Congress. Look at the bright side—at least CNN will idolize you.
Clearly, you have deep-seated childhood issues related to your bullying of smaller kids for their lunch money and Crackerjack toys. As some type of subconscious compensatory self-punishment, you’re now trying to dislocate your own shoulder.
I get it. We like to shoot guns and the bigger, the better. But at six times the recoil energy of a standard AR-15, you have to admit it’s not an everyday plinking caliber. The only psychological explanation for your behavior is that you either like pain or really, really hate pigs.
You might think that folks who choose to stick a 12-gauge upper on an AR-10 lower receiver are just preparing to make a B-grade action movie. Even though Schwarzenegger is retired (I think) from such ventures, the 12-gauge ARs keep coming.
OK smartypants. What are you going to do when the Canada Geese invade? Ever thought about that? 12-gauge AR-15 owners have, and they’re ready to protect your sorry butt when that time comes.
Nothing is ever enough for you. While you could launch just 12,000 foot-pounds of energy downrange, no, that’s not good enough for you because you really want 13,000. So, you have to go on and stick a 50 BMG upper on your puny little AR lower receiver.
This is ‘Murica, so if you want to turn your AR rifle into a bolt-action, 50-BMG bunker-buster, you go right on ahead.