With numerous types of AR-15 ammunition available in the market nowadays, what makes the .223 Remington ammo still at the top of the game? Being the original cartridge for this rifle, why is it still the best option, despite the fact that there are now more specific and innovative cartridges manufactured recently.
In recent years, we have tried every rifle ammo there is and, let me tell you, this .223 caliber truly hits different (pun intended). If you are reading this, you are either a newbie in the world of firearms, likely trying to figure out if this is the right caliber for you, or someone with experience looking for more cartridge options. Either way, you have come to the right place. We will share with you everything you need to know about .223 ammo. As an overview, here are the top .223 cartridges that made it on my list:
- Gold Medal Sierra MatchKing .223 Rem 69gr: One of my top choices for target shooting because of its outstanding suitability for long ranges. However, it is a bit on the pricier side.
- Wolf Gold .223 Remington Ammo 55gr: My favorite cost-efficient option for practice shooting and training as it is very affordable without compromising the quality.
- PMC Bronze .223 Rem Ammunition 55gr: Another affordable practice round if you need an alternative to the Wolf Gold .223.
- Tula .223 Rem 55gr: Steel-cased ammunition that is suitable for plinking and recreational shooting. With the low price, you get to enjoy long hours of shooting.
- Hornady Critical Defense .223 Remington FTX 55gr: Its deep-penetrating and quick-expanding FTX bullet makes it at the top of my list of self-defense ammunition. Although it is an expensive round, its overall performance doesn’t disappoint and can surely incapacitate your attacker.
- Federal American Eagle .223 Remington 55gr: An excellent value-for-money ammunition that can elevate your target shooting experience but at a fraction of the price.
- Black Hills .223 Rem 62-grain Barnes TSX: Most suitable for varmint hunting because of its deep penetration and ethical and clean burns.
- Winchester Ballistic Silvertip .223 Ammo 55gr: A .223 round that can do it all ― hunting, self-defense, target shooting. This makes it the best overall .223 cartridges on my list.
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A Brief History of the .223 Remington
When talking about the .223 Remington, there is no way we can skip through the story of how it truly started.
The creation of the .223 caliber ammo started with the desire of the major military forces from several countries that are members of NATO to create a universal rifle and cartridge. They wanted a lightweight firearm with a small caliber and high velocity, allowing the infantry members to move faster and carry more ammunition. The vision was rooted in the breakthrough and success of the scaled-down German MP43 assault rifle used during World War II.
The Continental Army Command (CONARC) in the United States initiated and developed the project in 1957. They gathered several firearm manufacturers and requested them to create rifles and cartridges that will meet specific qualifications. For the cartridge, it has to be a .22 caliber and with a projectile that can stay above the supersonic speed and penetrate steel at 500 yards. Meanwhile, the rifle has to be 6 pounds and has a magazine capacity of 20 rounds. It also needed to surpass the standards of a scaled-down version of the .30-06 rifle.
After a series of discussions and trials and errors, Eugene Stoner from ArmaLite was able to create a scaled-down version of the AR-10, which they called the AR-15. Unfortunately, ArmaLite had to sell the rights to Colt because of financial constraints.
However, the development of the cartridge had to go through several tests. It is to determine the appropriate bullet weight and powder load to achieve the set criteria. They started with the .222 Remington cartridge. Through calculations, they found out that a 55-grain bullet would reach the 500-yard mark successfully. And, it effectively pierces through a steel helmet if fired at 3,300 ft/s. Robert Hutton then started to develop the appropriate powder load to achieve this and used DuPont IMR4198, IMR3031, and Olin powder. After another round of test shots, only a few revisions were required. In the end, Remington was able to provide a type of ammo based on the 222 but with a larger cartridge to increase the case capacity and DuPont IMR4475 powder, and that is how .223 Remington came to be.
By 1963, .223 Remington was accepted and, in 1964, AR-15 was adopted by the U.S. Army ― the two of them making it one of the most popular firearms and ammo combinations since then. Additionally, the .223 ammo was also approved by the Sporting Arms and Ammunitions Manufacturers, Inc. (SAAMI).
Common Bullet Types for .223 Ammo
Full Metal Jacket
Full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets are the most common type of ammo. It has a soft core that is fully enclosed with a harder type of metal like gilding metal, cupronickel, or steel alloy. FMJ bullets are more affordable than other types of ammunition and are best used for plinking and target shooting.
Although full-metal jackets can wound an attacker effectively, it has the potential to over-penetrate. Thus, it may possibly hit someone you do not intend to shoot, which makes it not advisable for self-defense. It is also considered illegal to use for hunting. FMJ for .223 ammo can be either 55 or 62 grains.
If you are looking for the best self-defense type of ammunition, your best bet would be hollow point (HP) bullets. Hollow points are more common for handgun ammo, but they are still available for rifles.
At first look, the main difference that you will notice between HP and FMJ is that the former has a hollow pit-looking tip. The hollow feature allows this specific type of ammo to expand once it hits the target. Due to the expansion, the bullet has more stopping power and causes detrimental damage to the target. It will also not create any exit wounds, unlike FMJs, which means it will remain inside the person’s body.
When it comes to costs, an HP bullet is significantly more expensive than an FMJ, making them impractical to use for plinking.
Soft points are semi-jacketed bullets. The jacket, either made out of copper or brass, doesn’t cover the nose fully. Instead, it leaves part of the lead inside exposed. This feature allows the bullet to expand, just like hollow points. The only difference between them is that the expansion is much slower with soft points, causing deeper penetration, while hollow bullets are the opposite. Because of this, they are the more preferred choice of ammo for hunting, especially for larger games. If you are looking for .223 soft point bullets, you’ll find that you have a wide selection to choose from in the market.
.223 Remington vs. 5.56 NATO: Similarities and Differences
When talking about the .223 Remington, it is almost impossible not to mention its military round counterpart, the 5.56x45mm NATO ammunition. These two are pretty similar, given that the 5.56 was driven from .223 Rem itself. However, they still have distinct differences, which should always be considered as these two should never be mixed up ― no matter how similar they are.
For you to fully and easily comprehend how these two AR-15 ammunitions are similar and different from each other, I took it upon myself to draft the table below:
|Case Dimensions||.223 Remington||5.56x45mm NATO|
|Case Length||1.76 inches||1.76 inches|
|Rim Diameter||0.378 inches||0.378 inches|
|Rim Thickness||0.045 inches||0.045 inches|
|Bullet Diameter||0.224 inches||0.224 inches|
|Neck Diameter||0.253 inches||0.253 inches|
|Shoulder Diameter||0.354 inches||0.354 inches|
|Base Diameter||0.376 inches||0.377 inches|
|Overall Length||2.26 inches||2.26 inches|
|Case Capacity||28.8 gr H2O||28.5 gr H2O|
|Bullet Weight||36 gr to 112 gr||40 gr to 112 gr|
|Pressure Limits||55,000 pounds per square inch (psi)||58,000 psi|
Looking at the table and the actual .223 Rem and 5.56 NATO ammo, you can see how they are similar when it comes to exterior dimensions that you cannot tell apart, except maybe when you look at their headstamps.
Because the 5.56x45mm NATO was created as a military round, it was improved to be loaded with much higher pressure for higher velocity, which they found necessary to boost the troops’ performance.
The significant difference between the two, and the most important to keep in mind, is that 5.56 is held to a higher pressure limit, about 58,000 psi. This is around 3,000 psi higher than the .223 Rem, which is only at 55,000 psi.
The leade or the throat of the 5.56mm chamber is also longer by .125 inches than the .223 rem, allowing additional grains of load into the ammo, then causing a better and more powerful shot. The difference in leade is what causes the 5.56 chamber to withstand the higher pressure of the cartridge.
So, what do these all mean?
Ultimately, it only means that you should not load a .223 Rem chamber with 5.56mm NATO ammo. It is because the .223 chambers cannot resist the pressure released in firing with 5.56 ammo, which can cause potential problems and danger to both the rifle and the shooter.
Meanwhile, it is possible to fire a 5.56 chamber with .223 ammo, most of the time. So, if you want to experience firing both cartridges, purchase an AR-15 with the said chamber.
.The bottom line is always to be mindful of the features of your firearm and only use the appropriate type of cartridges to avoid any safety issues. For example, in the case of the .223 Remington and 5.56mm NATO, which are practically identical, always read the headstamps and don’t attempt ever interchanging them to achieve the best performance from your firearm.
Ammo Shortage During the 2020 Pandemic
2020 can be considered a significant turning point even in the gun community ― not only because of the pandemic but also the series of events that occurred during that year involving firearms. These events gradually resulted in a shortage of ammunition starting mid-2020, which is still alarmingly ongoing even a year later.
As of July 2021, demand for ammo remains high, but there are no indications that the situation is getting better.
Factors to Consider When Purchasing Ammo Online
Now that the gun community is experiencing an ammunition shortage, enthusiasts are likely to scour brick-and-mortar and online shops to find supplies. However, if this is your first time purchasing online or buying ammo in general, you may want to take some precautions.
These rounds are not cheap, and one order can cost a great deal of money. You don’t want to buy the wrong type. Additionally, you should avoid fraud shops, scammers, and horrible customer service experiences as much as possible. To help, we have listed below the most important factors to keep in mind when purchasing your rounds.
Once you have read our buying guide below, you’ll soon realize that there is particular ammo suitable for every type of gun use. For example, if you are looking for ammo to utilize during practice shooting or plinking, consider purchasing cheaper rounds. If you are in the range that often, buy in bulk since you can get discounts when purchasing large quantities. Read our guide below to know which .223 ammo is best for your use.
Rounds of ammo vary in price, depending on the quality, specifications, and brand. If you want the best of the best, you will need to extend your budget and pay more.
Owning firearms, especially as a hobby, can be very expensive. But this should not discourage you from continuing it. However, be practical and stick to your budget.
Current Price in the Market
It will help you find great deals if you have an idea of how much ammo costs on average. Having this knowledge is crucial so you can avoid overpaying for a box of cartridges that you could have bought for a lower price.
The most important thing that you have to keep in mind while looking for ammunition to purchase are specifications like caliber, bullet type, and grain weight. Read listings and descriptions of the items carefully, especially for multiple ammo that are virtually similar and are easy to interchange.
Shop’s Customer Service and Policies
Remember to only purchase from reliable firearm shops ― both online and offline. For online stores, review their return policy. As long as the store has a solid return policy, then it’s OK to take some risks. However, when you purchase the wrong products, you should be able to return them without any stress.
In addition, gauge their customer service. You want an online store you can contact quickly in case you have questions or concerns regarding your purchase. A reliable shop will be able to address your issues and resolve them immediately.
Keeping all these factors in mind while purchasing your first or next batch of ammo will help you save more money, find the most suitable cartridges for you, and make it so that you get the best deals.
Best AR-15 .223 Ammo Guide
Now it is time to look at our choices of the best .223 ammo:
|Bullet Type||Muzzle Velocity|
|Case Type||Price |
(per 20 rounds)
|Gold Medal Sierra MatchKing .223 Rem||69||HP, Boat Tail||2950||Brass||$32.99|
|Wolf Gold .223 Remington||55||FMJ||3250||Brass||$11.10|
|PMC Bronze .223 Rem Ammunition||55||FMJ, Boat Tail||3200||Brass||$13.89|
|Tula .223 Remington Ammunition||55||FMJ||3241||Steel||$11.99|
|Hornady Critical Defense .223 Remington FTX||55||Flex Tip, HP||3240||Brass||$29.99|
|Federal American Eagle .223 Remington||55||FMJ, Boat Tail||3240||Brass||$19.99|
|Black Hills .223 Rem 62-grain Barnes TSX||62||HP||3100||Brass||$33.60|
|Winchester Ballistic Silvertip .223 Ammo||55||Polymer Tip||3240||Brass||$36.99|
Best Ammo for Target Shooting
Gold Medal Sierra MatchKing .223 Rem 69gr
Federal Premium has been a popular ammunition manufacturer for almost a century now. Known as one of the top manufacturers of a wide selection of ammo, including rimfires and centerfires, they take pride in producing high-quality and accurate rounds. These characteristics are undoubtedly reflected in their .223 Remington 69gr ammo.
It has a ballistic coefficient of .301 and a muzzle velocity of 2,950fps, making it an ideal choice for long-range and competitive shooting. Its boat tail design helps maintain that high ballistic coefficient and accuracy. This 69gr brass-cased.223 cartridge is highly recommended to use in faster barrel twists like the 1:9.5 and below.
Its price point is on the expensive side, which is why it is not a practical choice for the usual target practice and plinking. However, if you are looking for an accurate and robust ammo option for competitive target shooting, this is on top of our list.
- High muzzle velocity suitable for long-range shooting
- Better accuracy for precision shooting
- Better wind resistance
- Boat tail design for increased ballistic coefficient and accuracy
- It is a bit expensive
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Best Ammos for Practice and Training
Wolf Gold .223 Remington Ammo 55gr
Wolf Gold is a line of rounds manufactured by Wolf Performance Ammunition. This manufacturer is relatively newer compared to others covered in this article. Founded in 2005, Wolf’s headquarters are based in the U.S. However, the Wolf Gold line is being manufactured in Taiwan, separate from most of their rounds produced in Russia.
When looking for rounds for training, it is always the most practical to go for the cheapest option in the market ― and that already gives the Wolf Gold .223 the plus point. It is the most affordable brass-cased ammo right now, making it an excellent alternative for those looking for reloadable cartridges and those who don’t prefer steel-cased ones.
However, what convinced us further that it is one of the frontrunners for practice rounds is its high-quality build and reliability with a copper-jacketed bullet and muzzle velocity of 3250 fps. Its performance and accuracy are also comparable to other high-end 55-grain FMJ .223. All in all, we can say that this .223 Rem from Wolf Gold is a steal and a great bang for your buck.
- The most affordable brass-cased ammo
- Reloadable cartridges
- Accurate performance
- Very reliable for practice shooting
- There are better options but at a higher price
PMC Bronze .223 Rem Ammunition 55gr
We are giving you another reliable ammo for practice shooting as we know options and varieties are necessary. PMC, which stands for Precision Made Cartridges, is based in South Korea. They are the primary source of ammo of the South Korean military, which made them set a high standard for quality and performance.
PMC Bronze .223 Rem has a brass casing, just like the Wolf Gold. However, the former’s muzzle velocity is at 3,200 feet per second (fps), only 50 fps slower than the latter. This may not be an issue to some, but it is just important to take note. It is also reloadable and buying it in bulk is a great bargain because of the low price point, making it an affordable and suitable option for training.
It has a boat tail FMJ bullet, which helps in improving accuracy and maintaining stability against the wind. Like most of the .223 ammo in our list, PMC Bronze weighs 55 grains. Its overall performance is impressive, especially for its price.
- Very affordable
- Excellent accuracy and overall performance
- Reloadable cartridges
- High-quality ammo
- Resellers take advantage of the demand by hiking up the price
- Occasional double-feeds
Best Cheap Ammo for Plinking
Tula .223 Rem Ammo 55gr
When it comes to plinking or leisure shooting, steel-cased cartridges are recommended because of the very affordable price point. When talking about steel ammo, one famous manufacturer you may hear often is Tula. Its cartridges are produced in Tula Cartridge Works, a plant located in Tula, Russia. Founded in 1880, they have already established a reputation as the largest manufacturer of ammo in the whole world.
Their .223 Rem cartridge is steel-cased with an FMJ bullet. Although it may be a bit risky as some AR-15s are not compatible with steel casings, trying it out will all be worth it once your rifle performs well with it. With a muzzle velocity of 3,241 fps, its performance is decent and accurate enough to let you enjoy your recreational shooting.
Shooters choose steel-cased ammo for plinking because they are cheap, especially in bulk, which allows them to enjoy shooting leisurely longer than pricier brass cartridges. With the Tula .223 Remington, you get what you pay for.
- Cheap alternative
- Good option for recreational outdoor shooting
- Decent performance, especially with the price
- Not reloadable
- Less accurate than others
Best 223 Ammunition for Home Defense
Hornady Critical Defense .223 Remington FTX 55gr
Most gun owners consider their self-defense ammo the most important rounds that they own, so they often invest in high-performing ammo regardless of price. Of course, if you are going to rely on it to save your life at some point, you have to have the best. And Hornady kept this in mind while designing their Critical Defense line ― a series of ammunition specially built for personal defense.
The line includes a caliber .223 Remington ammunition, in 55 and 73 grains. It has the signature Flex-Tip (FTX) bullets that are meant to be a step up to your usual hollow points. It allows the bullet to expand immediately at any rate of velocity while causing deep penetration even in any type of clothing and maximizing stopping power. Its brass case is also plated with silver nickel, which allows it to be seen easily in the chamber even at night. With 3,240 fps muzzle velocity, there is nothing more you can ask for.
The overall performance of this Hornady Critical Defense .223 Rem is quite impressive, and reports on issues encountered with this round are little to none. Of course, high-quality cartridges come with a hefty price. But if you are looking for a reliable self-defense round, this one is worth the price.
- Deep-penetrating bullet for self-defense
- Quick expanding projectile
- Reliable performance and accuracy
- It is expensive
Good Value for Money .223 Ammunition
Federal American Eagle .223 Remington 55-Grain
If you are looking for high-performing ammo for target shooting, competition, as well as recreational shooting, but you are still constrained by your budget, these .223 rounds from Federal American Eagle have proved to be a good value for money. Known for high-quality but affordable ammo, Federal American Eagle came through with their caliber .223 Rem cartridge.
It is an FMJ boat tail ammo with a muzzle velocity of 3,240 fps. With 55 grains, it’s a lightweight round with highly accurate shots and overall decent performance. Especially with the low price point, I cannot help but be impressed with this round.
All in all, this is excellent ammo for target shooting. You can expect to get your money’s worth as you enjoy shooting more high-quality ammo but at a fraction of a price.
- Very affordable
- High-quality ammo
- Accurate shooting
- Suitable for practice, plinking, and competition
- Needs to check for compatibility with other AR
Best Hunting .223 Ammo
Black Hills .223 Rem 62-grain Barnes TSX
For years and years, Black Hills has been known to be one of the leading manufacturers that produce high-quality ammunition for long-range shooting, which makes their .223 Remington cartridge a great contender for hunting.
Their 62-grain .223 Rem has been a choice for shooters who prefer heavier loads, though it is also available in 55-grain. It has been proven to be devastating on big games. In addition, it is an all-copper projectile, which means it is lead-free, and non-lead bullets are known to cause better and deeper penetration since they retain more than 98% of their weight. Not only does lead-free ammo result in an overall improvement to the shooter’s hunting performance, but it also causes a positive impact on the environment.
For varmint hunters who prefer ethical harvesting or those living in states where hunting with leaded bullets is illegal, they can rely on this .223 round from Barnes as it is fast, very accurate, and creates clean burns.
- Great for ethical and clean hunting
- Deeper penetration
- Lead-free ammo
- Accurate performance
- A bit on the expensive end
Overall Best .223 Ammunition
Winchester Ballistic Silvertip .223 Ammo 55gr
Winchester is among the most reliable companies when it comes to manufacturing ammo. It was one of the ammo companies invited to help develop the scaled-down firearm and ammo in 1957, which we all now know as the AR-15 and the .223 Remington. So, there is no surprise that they were able to develop their own version eventually.
What made this Winchester Ballistic Silvertip .223 ammo our overall winner is the fact that it is a jack of all trades. It’s excellent for hunting, target shooting, and home defense with exceptional stopping power. In addition, the polymer tip and boat tail base help maintain the flight of the bullet and avoid any wind drift, making it suitable for long-range shooting.
It also has a copper jacket and lead core that effectively enhances the retention of the bullet’s weight and improves penetration, resulting in a deeper wound. Its bullet is also coated with the specialized Lubalox coating that helps reduce fouling. So, if you are looking for a .223 ammo that does it all, Winchester Ballistic Silvertip .223 is your best bet.
- Perfect for target shooting, hunting, and home defense
- It has a polymer tip and boat tail base for flight retention
- It has excellent stopping power
- Copper jacket for deeper penetration
- With Lubalox bullet coating
- May not be suitable for short-range shooting
Ultimately, choosing the best .223 ammunition for your AR-15 depends on your purpose. Of course, if you need an all-around ammo, I cannot recommend the Winchester Ballistic Silvertip at 55gr enough. Although you may need a larger budget, you can ensure that the investment is worth it. But if your budget is tight, the .223 Rem from Federal AE, is a good option for target shooting. You can enjoy the pleasure of shooting high-quality cartridges without breaking the bank.
In the end, your ammo can make or break your shooting experience. You would not want to waste your money on rounds that can cause your firearm issues or put your life in danger. Make sure to invest in reliable cartridges.