Welcome back to another edition of TFB’s Round Table sponsored by Ammunition To Go! For those who are first joining us, this is a multi-part series where TFB will discuss the characteristics of great ammunition for specific applications. This could vary from big game hunting, plinking, precision rifle matches, small game hunting, or even pistol competitions. Chances are there is someone here at TFB who can offer you advice on buying the right round for your task at hand. This week I will offer up some tips on picking the best .223 Rem hunting ammunition for your rifle.
TFB ROUND TABLE: PICKING THE BEST .223 rem HUNTING AMMUNITION
If you are in the game of hunting with the .223 Remington cartridge (or nearly identical 5.56x45mm NATO round), it likely is either perfect or a far stretch depending on the application. If you are looking to varmint hunt something like prairie dogs or even larger varmints like coyotes, the .223 Rem is quite popular and more than adequate. However, if your chosen game is something larger like a hog or whitetail deer, the .223 Rem can get the job done, but you will need to be much more mindful of shot placement, bullet type, Ft-Lbs of energy, and grain weight of your bullet. While there are a lot of variables to consider, this should not deter you from hunting even if some say you are using the “perfect” cartridge or not. Simply, be mindful of your game, your rifle, and what the end goal is. Let’s dive in!
VELOCITY – HOW FAR YOU GONNA SEND IT?
Everybody presumably knows that the .223 Rem cartridge has a decent amount of zip to it. That is why it is a favorite to begin with among varmint shooting circles. The .223 Rem cartridge though can be very diverse when it comes to off-the-shelf ammunition. There are common loads available in sub-sonic (1,125 FPS or less), reduced recoil loads for hunting, and what you might call traditional velocity or as the cartridge was intended: FULL POW-AH!!! So with 3 different potential velocity ranges, you might stumble across, when should you be using each of them?
With sub-sonic .223 Rem loads, there are a couple reasons you may want to use them while hunting. You do not necessarily need to dispatch prairie dogs suppressed with subsonic loads, but you might want to be quieter while hunting fox or coyote. Often times if you are hunting over a bait pile or are using calls, you can get multiple coyotes to approach at once. Shooting sub-sonic .223 Rem ammo, with or without a silencer, could allow for you to get a “double;” two coyotes in one instance. It also helps by not scaring away every other coyote in the county. Subsonic .223 Rem ammunition is not really recommended for larger game like hogs or whitetail deer because you are going to want as much velocity; thus, Ft-Lbs of energy possible.
The middle velocity range you could encounter of reduced recoil loads – something above sub-sonic, but not your full expected velocity – is a bit of a touchy area. These ammo offerings, although few, do exist. They should only really be used by people who have physical impairments/limitations in their upper body (hands, arms, shoulders, thoracic, etc) or those who are really sensitive to recoil. If somebody is dead-set on hunting medium-sized game, has fully committed to using a .223 Rem, and they have a physical impairment, by all means, get out there and enjoy the sport of hunting! The other reason to hunt down some reduced recoil loads in .223 Rem might be for a new shooter who is incredibly shy of recoil. If that is the case, do not tell someone to suck it up and ruin someone’s potential love of firearms and hunting forever. That would be a colossal dink move. Instead, try to be accommodating so they might hunt, grow to like it, and slowly work their way up in caliber.
Your final and most common velocity range is your meat ‘n potatoes… the real deal… da way it was meant to be! With full velocity loads, you can vaporize a prairie dog like it’s the 4th of July or you could throw a 77 Grain pill in a pig’s boiler room and collect yourself some bacon. All in all, the .223 Rem cartridge can be very serviceable when it’s trucking along at 2,700 FPS or faster.
BARREL – WHY TWIST RATES, BARREL LENGTH & BULLET WEIGHT MATTER
With the .223 Rem round, you could see barrels in a dainty 5″ length in an AR-15 pistol or as long as a 28″ heavy barrel bolt-action rifle. While both examples rest on opposite ends of the spectrum and there are oodles of iterations in between, they all have good utility for specific purposes. You just need to identify what you are hunting and the best way to successfully fill your tag.
When hunting with a .223 Rem and concerning yourself with barrel length, the big questions you need to answer for yourself are: how far do I intend to shoot and how maneuverable do I need to be? For something like close-quarters pig or whitetail hunting, a diminutive AR pistol or rifle with a short barrel would be fine. The close shooting proximity and less-than-average barrel length will work out just fine to execute a humane shot on game. If you are hunting in thick foliage which is part of the reason why you cannot shoot far you will also appreciate the maneuverability of a shorter barreled .223 Rem firearm.
Conversely, if you are looking to connect on a varmint like a fox, coyote, or prairie dog and are looking to phone in some long-distance shots, then a longer and heavier barrel will serve you best. In a controlled situation where you are shooting longer distances possibly prone, from a bench, or a stand it is OK to have a heavy and less wieldy firearm because you will want to utilize all of the barrel length to achieve maximum velocity, powder burn, and in turn accuracy.
Your next consideration should be your bullet weight. This ties into the twist rate of any given rifle as well. Often times the size of your game dictates the size of the bullet you need. This is not pure science, but a good loose rule to keep in mind. Varmints like gophers and prairie dogs can be dispatched with light bullets in the range of 35 – 55 Grains. You can use larger bullets if it trips your trigger, but it just is not necessary. With slightly larger varmints like fox and coyote, you would be better suited creeping up a bit in the 50 – 69 Grain ballpark. Finally, if you really are looking to top off your freezer in pursuit of hogs or whitetail deer, lean on some heavier 69 – 77 Grain bullets.
In regards to twist rate, while you need to match innumerable things up to the game you are hunting – bullet type, grain weight, velocity, etc – all of that scheming can be thrown out the window if your twist rate does not support it and bullets tumble downrange. So what is a “twist rate” anyways? A rifle’s twist rate is… the distance a bullet travels down a barrel to make one full revolution or spin due to the rifling. Your bread ‘n butter twist rate in a .223 Rem is typically a 1 in 9″ twist (every 9″ the bullet travels down a barrel it makes one full revolution).
Lighter bullets can stabilize and fly true to their path with a slower twist rate (Example – 1 in 9″, 1 in 10″, etc). Heavier bullets conversely need a faster twist rate to stabilize (Example – 1 in 8″, 1 in 7″, etc). If the idea of a twist rate is still a fuzzy idea, imagine a football. A small child’s football could rotate slowly through the air and reach it’s intended target. A large NFL football will require a much faster spin or spiral to guide its path.
BULLET TYPE – KNOWING WHEN TO FALL APART OR KEEP IT ALL TOGETHER
The reason why there is a varietal buffet of bullets on the market is every one is meant to accomplish something specific for us. Some are great for lacing holes in paper, others perfect for disintegrating on impact, and some steam roll everything they touch like a bowling ball. While all of them can be accurate in a rifle you own that does not mean you should top off your magazine and head out hunting with them.
For smaller varmints like gophers and prairie dogs, you will want something that likely explodes on impact like a hollow-point (HP). No one shoots prairie dogs to eat the meat (that I am aware of?) so you essentially are disposing of an invasive varmint; not intending to keep it for its meat or as a wall hanging trophy.
With slightly larger varmints like foxes and coyotes, you could use an HP if you have the train of thought that you are dispatching nuisance critters. If you are harvesting them for their pelt or fur, you may want to use a jacketed soft point (JSP). With a JSP or regular soft point (SP) the bullet will deform on impact, but should hopefully not pass through the other side. A pelt with only one hole as opposed to two is more valuable.
Finally, with medium-size game like hogs and whitetail deer, you would want something all copper or at least a bonded bullet. This will afford the shooter the ability to crush bone on its path to more vital areas like the heart or lungs. You also do not want your bullet to fragment and end up in your meat. This will be a very unpleasant surprise.
WRAP UP – THE BEST .223 rem HUNTING AMMUNITION
When you are picking out hunting ammunition do not buy the cheapest stuff possible. You are likely spending a lot of money on a multitude of other facets of your hunt and the ammo could define your success or failure. So here are your cliff notes for choosing the best .223 Rem hunting ammunition:
- Velocity – Choose the game you are going to hunt & choose the speed to accomplish the job
- Barrel – Know your twist rate, the barrel length you want to carry & will need to hit your mark
- Bullet – Pick an appropriate grain weight & bullet type to accomplish your hunt
As always, thank you for reading TFB! Be safe out there, have fun while hunting, and we will see you next time for TFB’s Round Table brought to you by Ammunition to Go! Also, let us know what you think in the Comments below! We always appreciate your feedback.
TFB’S ROUND TABLE IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY AMMOTOGO.COM
This is 223 Fiocchi 40gr V-Max Polymer Tip. This ammo is non corrosive, boxer primed and brass cased. This ammo is loaded with a Hornady V-Max Polymer Tip projectile. This ammo comes in 50rd boxes, 1000rds to a case.
This 223 Rem cartridge by Prvi Partizan features a 55 grain soft point projectile. It’s more economical than a polymer tipped bullet, but thanks to the exposed bit of lead core at its tip it’s still able to reliably and devastatingly deform as it penetrates its target. You’ll find this round is as capable of dropping medium-sized game as it is an unwelcome presence in your home late at night, making an investment in 1,000 of them a versatile one for your rifle. This round’s even fit for training thanks to its agreeable price tag!
Prvi Partizan is based in Serbia, where their state of the art factory makes a startlingly diverse array of ammunition for every conceivable purpose throughout the world. This round offers a new and totally reloadable brass casing, sensitive Boxer primer, and clean burning propellant. You can trust that each component came together seamlessly thanks to Prvi Partizan’s meticulous quality assurance protocol.
This 223 Rem cartridge from Winchester’s USA Ready line of ammunition has been optimized from nose to toes to give your AR the best accuracy out of any other at the range. It does this primarily with its 62 grain projectile, which has an aerodynamic profile that enhances its ballistic coefficient, thick jacket with unerringly uniform wall concentricity, and flat base with highly consistent dimensions. This is an open tip projectile, with a hollow meplat that provided entry to its lead core while still molten. Because it was poured into place it possesses no deviations in its weight distribution, so it exhibits excellent rotational stability. Your groupings will be so tight you’ll swear you only fired one shot.
Winchester crafted this round’s match grade primer to exacting specifications to guarantee each shot will behave in the same fashion as one another. This round’s clean burning propellant is similarly standardized, and its first rate brass casing has got the uniformly concentric wall it takes to make each shot fly true.
This is 223 Federal Power-Shok 55gr. Soft Point Ammo. Power-Shok ammo is just what you need to take your trophy and have a few bucks left to haul it to the taxidermist. All of Federal’s “Classic” rifle options are now exclusively available under the Power-Shok name with the most popular big game cartridges featuring the Grand Slam soft point bullet from Speer. The unique jacket profile and fluted tip of the Grand Slam bullet ensures reliable expansion over a wide velocity range. Whatever your pursuit, Federal has you covered with Power-Shok Ammo. This ammo is packed in 20rd. boxes.
This is .223 Remington Express 55gr. Pointed Soft Point Ammo. The bullet in this ammo has a Spitzer shape profile for improved velocity and flatter trajectory. The Bullet core is mechanically locked in place to provide deep penetration and the jackets are designed to give you progressive, reliable expansion everytime. The expansion will be almost twice the original diameter of the bullet. This ammo comes packed in 20rd. boxes, 10 boxes per case.
Ring steel from afar and punch perfect, ragged hole groups with these premium .223 Remington rounds from Hornady’s BLACK line. The BLACK brand of ammunition was created by Hornady as an easily recognizable symbol of excellent ammo that specifically intended for use in America’s favorite firearms. As such, rifle shooters can trust this ammo for match grade performance in custom AR-15s and bolt-action rifles. Their precision is attributed to Hornady’s diehard production model, their stringent inspection process, and high-quality component selection. Each cartridge is assembled using a fresh, reloadable brass casing fitted with a clean-igniting Boxer primer. The propellant Hornady uses is designed to consume wholly when burned and leaves very little residue behind in chambers or cases.
The round is topped off with a 75-grain boat tail hollow point (BTHP) match bullet which possesses a lead core of uniform density surrounded by Hornady’s AMP jacket. This style of copper jacket bears no variance in wall thickness or dimensions and further enhances the accuracy of these rounds. A curved, secant ogive and tapered boat tail rear grant the round extreme drag resistance in flight. The heavy weight is a common choice in .223 match ammunition as it carries a high ballistic coefficient and maintains its energy out to great distances. Hornady’s ammunition is produced in Nebraska and is backed by nearly seven decades of experience in caliber creation and specialized projectile design.
This is .223 Black Hills 36gr. Remanufactured Varmint Grenade Hollow Point Ammo. Black Hills Ammunition is highly respected all over the country. Black Hills supplies all five US military branches with ammunition. There are many Law Enforcement Agencies using Black Hills nationwide. They only use the best components available. This factory new remanufactured ammo is very accurate, dependable, 100% non-corrosive, boxer primed and reloadable. This ammo comes packed in 50rd. boxes.
These impressive .223 Remington rounds from PMC are built with long-range precision and competitive events in mind! As part of the “Match” line, this cartridge profile is assembled from quality components which includes reloadable brass casings, clean-igniting Boxer primers, and heavyweight Sierra MatchKing (SMK) projectiles. The SMK design comprises the lead core, gilding metal jacket, pronounced boat tail rear, and hollow-point meplat of most open-tip match (OTM) designs. Sierra does not suggest this bullet for hunting purposes as its hollow tip is the byproduct of lead-wire feeding which is used to guarantee a core of consistent density and weight as opposed to fragmentation.
At 77 grains, these SMKs are very similar to the venerable Mk. 262 Mod 1 cartridge which is issued to U.S. military sharpshooters in a 5.56mm NATO format. With or without the military-requested cannelure, the rounds are well-known for steady drag resistance and tight parameters which contribute to deadly accuracy at extreme distances with a high ballistic coefficient. PMC is headquartered in South Korea and derives its work ethic and designs from a self-sufficient military ammunition program that controls all component quality on site. While they were once known as high quality import in the United States, they now produce many of their cartridges in Texas using locally sourced materials and expertise.
Due to the heavy projectile weight of 77 grains, it is recommended that these rounds be used with a barrel twist rate of 1:8 or faster.