They say it’s the bullet that kills, not the gun. And today, we’re going to tackle two cartridges that are not often compared, but there’s something that brings these two cartridges together. The 5.56 is one of the most used cartridges out there especially with its use with the M16 Rifle and M4 Carbine. But, the 5.56 has one problem, it is not efficient enough for some operations as it doesn’t have enough power. And to solve that, in the year 2000, Teppo Jutsu designed a larger and more powerful cartridge which has been dubbed as the .458 Socom. Let’s discuss the two and compare them further. 

458 Socom vs 556: Overview

458 SOCOM VS 556 NATO: COMPARISON
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As I said with the little history lesson at the intro, the .458 Socom was made to solve the claims against the 5.56 cartridge not being efficient enough to incapacitate targets in one shot. But, let me tell you something, this bullet is ridiculous and even overkill in some cases. They were not kidding with getting cartridges stronger than the 5.56 as the .458 Socom is seven times larger than the 5.56 NATO cartridge! And fun fact, The .458 Socom is derived and inspired by the .50 AE cartridge which is famous for its use with the iconic Dessert Eagle handgun. The .50 AE cartridge brings powerful punches instead of focusing on a more extended range and faster velocity. Another direct competitor of the .458 Socom is the .50 Beowulf which is also a cartridge derived from the .50 AE cartridge, and it delivers similar statistics and performance. 

One of the more obvious downside with a larger, more massive, and round-shaped bullet is the effect it brings to the speed and overall range. The effective range of the .458 Socom is around 140-150 yards, which is significantly less than the effective range of the 5.56 NATO which is about 218-273 yards. The .458 Socom is ideal for close-range use since it doesn’t matter if a bullet is larger and more powerful if it can’t hit your target at its full power.

458 SOCOM VS 556 NATO: COMPARISON
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However, are there any guns that support the .458 cartridge? The simple answer is that the number of firearms chambered in .458 Socom is growing in numbers every day. And converting rifles that are chambered in 5.56 such as M4 Carbine and the M16 rifle has never been easier and cheaper than they are now. You only need to replace the barrel and the bolt carrier group. But, back then you have to change the complete upper assembly since individual parts are harder to find and often more expensive at the time.

The .458 Socom has tons of downsides and advantages. First off, the .458 Socom is truly powerful, which is an excellent benefit in close-quarter combat and for other situations like hunting and for efficiently incapacitating targets. While it can also be impractical for non-lethal uses as it may be too powerful. Another downside of the .458 Socom is its slow speed due to its large bullet. When compared to the 5.56 cartridge, the .458 Socom is over 60 yards less effective making it less versatile on battlefields. 

Everything comes at a price, and that also applies with the .458 Socom bullet. The first expense is the rifle or conversion kits which are more pricey than other guns and parts that are used for widely used cartridges. And the cost of the bullet itself is also significantly more expensive, which is ranging from $1.70-$3.50 per round.

There are tons of variation with .458 Socom cartridges. The lightest .458 Socom bullet you can get are the 250-grain bullets which are pretty standard. On the other end of the spectrum, you can get 500-grain bullets which are great for hunting down large animals. There are also tons of bullet shape, design, and material; you can get a Full Metal Jacket, Jacketed Soft Points, Tracers, and Hollow Points. At the same time, there are also bullets such as Solid Copper, Lead Core, and Solid Brass.

Overall, the .458 Socom might not be for everyone, especially for its low versatility, lower velocity, and high costs. But, it does the job it’s made for, which is incapacitating targets in one shot. Besides, the experience of firing one is somewhat exhilarating, give it a try for yourself. 

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Cons:

5.56 NATO

The 5.56 NATO is one of the most used rifle cartridges in the world. It is well known for its use with tons of assault rifles, sniper rifles, light machine guns, and bullpup rifles. The 5.56 NATO is well known for its extremely versatile form factor and performance. It performs well in all critical aspects that a cartridge should perform, for instance, it has a broad effective range, it is also fast and has sufficient power to take down targets with 1 or 2 rounds. But, as I mentioned at the introduction, the 5.56 NATO cartridge has a problem of not being efficient enough to take down targets in one shot. 

Like other cartridges, the 5.56 NATO is created to solve a problem that previous ammunitions have, in this case, it is meant to replace the 7.62 NATO cartridge, which at the time performs well and is powerful and accurate enough to take down targets efficiently. But, as time passed, modern combat required a faster automatic rate of fire in which the 7.62 NATO cartridge’s recoil power didn’t allow for a rapid rate of fire. 

Now, let’s discuss every feature that the 5.56 have. First off, we have the effective range of the 5.56, which is around 200-250 meters or 213-273 yards. And at the time when everyone is strengthening their armies after decades of war, developing a long-range rifle and ammunition can mean a lot between winning and losing a battle. Other than that, with a speed of 2,700-3110ft/s, the 5.56 NATO is also faster than its heavier brother the 7.62 NATO. 

Although with a lighter bullet, the 5.56 NATO cartridge is significantly weaker and has a lot less take down power compared to the 7.62 NATO. Although as I said, the development of the 5.56 is focused on faster firing rate. 

The 5.56 is so successful to the point that the most in-demand rifles in the US alone are all mostly chambered in 5.56 NATO cartridges. One example is the enthusiast favorite, the AR-15 which has tons of varieties from tons of manufacturers. Other than that, armies from around the world also use the 5.56 cartridge in rifles like the M4 Carbine, M249 Light Machinegun, and the M16 Rifle. And this only means one thing…

… and that is lower costs per round. Due to the tons of firearms that use the 5.56 cartridge, 5.56 NATO cartridges are being sold and manufactured everywhere. You can quickly get a pack of 5.56 NATO that costs $0.50-$2.50 per round. And if there’s ever a problem with your 5.56 chambered rifle, chances are, there are tons of cheap parts and assemblies everywhere. So, owning a firearm that uses 5.56 cartridges are more cost-effective than most rifles In circulation. 

In terms of 5.56 cartridge varieties, there are limitless options. There are the usual Full Metal Jacket Bullets, Tracers, Dim Tracer, Armor Piercing, Hollow Point, and Jacketed Soft Point bullets. With the materials used, there are the usual Lead Core bullets, as well as Solid Brass, Solid Copper, and there are also practice plastic bullets. You can also get a dummy and blank cartridges. And some blank 5.56 cartridges are also used to power grenade launchers. 

Overall, the 5.56 cartridge is used and produced everywhere for a reason; it is cheap, in-demand, versatile, and accurate. That’s why criticisms about the “underpowered” 5.56 round don’t matter that much. If you’re a shooter, then it’s likely that you’ve already experienced firing a 5.56 chambered firearm. 

Pros:

Cons:

458 SOCOM VS 556 NATO: COMPARISON
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Which is The One for You?

If you look at the pros and cons, you can see that the 5.56 cartridge undeniably has more pros than the .458 Socom has. It is more widely used, more trusted, more accurate, much more effective on long-range, and finally, it is much cheaper per round. If you’re a beginner at shooting, then you should try the 5.56 round and get a 5.56 chambered rifle first.

If your trigger finger is itching for some more power and more fun, then you should try the .458 Socom round as it has more power and the larger bullet causes more destruction to your targets. It may be more expensive to use and maintain .458 Socom, but for the amount of fun this cartridge brings, it’s something worth to give a try.

FAQ: Frequently Asked


🏆 What's covered?

.458 SOCOM vs 5.56 NATO?

🔍 How did we come to the conclusion?

We analyzed 17 forum threads, researched 16 sources, evaluated 122 reviews and spent 13+ hours on our analysis.

🤔 Summary

If you look at the pros and cons, you can see that the 5.56 cartridge undeniably has more pros than..