Best All-Around 5.56 Cartridge

Expert trainer Kyle Defoor recently traveled South Dakota to teach a class, and along the way he stopped to visit Jeff Hoffman, the founder of Black Hills Ammunition. While there, he had a specific question: What’s the best all-around 5.56mm cartridge for the AR platform?

“I have fired them all, from green-tip 55-grain rounds to much heavier 77-grain OTMs,” Defoor said. “I wanted some testing and data to back up what we were seeing in the field. Students always want one bullet, one knife or one rifle, which is unrealistic, but it’s worth thinking through what’s currently available and has the broadest utility.”

A two-hour conversation ensued. Hoffman and Black Hills have produced ammunition for civilian and government customers for more than 20 years, so he had a lot to say, and field and lab tests to back it up. The pair examined accuracy tests, ballistic gelatin, cycling reliability, fragmentation, penetration through various media and other factors. For example, Hoffman uses more than a dozen gels tests per load to get a consistent data set before he reaches conclusions.

5.56mm Cartridge Verdict

The Black Hills load using Barnes’ 62-grain TSX bullets was the all-around winner. Why? It yaws 0.5 to 1 inch early upon entry, immediately creating a broadening wound cavity. The copper-jacketed bullet also performs consistently through various mediums, such as brick, glass and sheet wood.

“It also cycles well in every platform I have run it in and is super accurate inside 200 yards and very good out to 300 yards,” Defoor said. “I can also switch between the 62- and 77-grain ammo with less than a 1-inch change in zero. The two are largely interchangeable. Even at 200 yards, there’s still little variance.”

For more information, visit

This article is from the 2019 issue of Stealth magazine. Grab your copy at

Up Next

Savage Releases MSR 10 Precision Rifle in Three Calibers

With a heavy-contour barrel, two-stage trigger and several aftermarket component upgrades, the Savage Arms...