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How Far Can a 5.56 Bullet Travel & Effective Range

L.p. Brezny | Updated February 22, 2024 | Why You Should Trust Us | How We Earn Money
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While most bullets are tiny objects, they pack so much energy that they can travel quite far. In this article, we’ll be looking at the 5.56 bullet and how far it can travel so you know its limits and where it works best.

After reading this, take a look at our article on the top lower receivers for the money.

How Far Can a 5.56 Bullet Travel

To effectively answer the question of “how far can a 5.56 bullet travel,” you first have to determine if you’re talking about the maximum or effective range.

When it comes to maximum distance, the bullet can travel up to about 4300 yards, but when it comes to effective range, it’s about 875 yards. (Reference 1: How far a bullet can travel)

5.56 Effective Range: Is It Different?


The maximum range is defined as the total distance a bullet is expected to travel before it hits the ground. In contrast, the effective range is the longest distance at which a bullet is expected to hit a target and deliver the desired results, such as killing or injuring the target.

During military campaigns, an effective range is defined as the bullet’s ability to wound an enemy in combat severely. But when your only aim is to hit a paper target, the 5.56 effective range can be over 1000 yards.

Still, to be able to hit a target that far, you need effective ammo, and the weather conditions have to be almost perfect. That is almost impossible if this is your first time using a rifle.

It’s also important to note that various things determine how far the 5.56 bullet can travel.

According to the technical manual of the US Army, when used with a carbine, the point target range of 5.56 is up to 547 yards, with the target area range being 602 yards. When used with a rifle, the target area is up to 875 yards, and the point target range is about 602 yards.

Factors That Affect the Maximum Range of a 5.56 Bullet?

There are a few factors that determine the maximum range of this bullet, such as velocity, trajectory, and atmospheric conditions. You have to take all these factors into account to calculate the maximum range of this bullet accurately.

Let’s start with velocity. A higher velocity means the bullet will travel farther. More speed means encountering less resistance on the way to the target.

That said, velocity affects a bullet’s trajectory because the faster it moves, the more it’s affected by wind drag and gravity.

A trajectory is another factor to keep in mind when determining the maximum range of this bullet. The angle at which you fire your 5.56 bullet and other external forces, such as air resistance and wind, will determine a bullet’s trajectory.

If you fire this bullet from a steep angle, it will have a short range, while a flatter angle will lead to a longer range.

Lastly, the atmospheric conditions at the time you’re firing the bullet will also determine the maximum range of 5.56. If you fire a bullet during calm weather, it will travel farther than if you fire it during windy or rainy conditions. (Reference 2: 5.56)

What Is the 5.56 Good for?

Coyote walking on rocks

A 5.56 bullet is decent for varmint hunting. It was intended for shooting pests such as ground squirrels, crows, gophers, woodchucks, and coyotes. Some people use them for hunting deer and antelope, but it’s not powerful enough.

And if it’s not powerful enough for deer, then this is certainly not suitable ammunition for bear hunting. It lacks enough kinetic energy to drop a bear. You would need to be very accurate for that to work. 

But to be on the safe side, look for other ammunition intended for big game hunting.

For more reading see what calibers can be used on a 5.56 lower.


  1. Brandon Bates, Expert: ‘The average person doesn’t realize how far a bullet from a gun travels’. Retrieved from https://www.wbir.com/article/news/expert-the-average-person-doesnt-realize-how-far-a-bullet-from-a-gun-travels/51-f188eea5-8a8c-4a87-8f86-2cb9ee728275
  2. Bryce M. Towsley, .223 Remington Vs. 5.56: What’s in a Name? Retrieved from https://www.americanrifleman.org/articles/2013/3/4/223-remington-vs-556-whats-in-a-name/

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