Picture this: It’s a sunny summer afternoon and you’re headed outside to do some yard work and check on your garden. What you find is that some varmint has chewed a hole in your fence and eaten half of your vegetables. You race back into the house and grab your .223 to show him who’s boss. Or, it’s that same sunny afternoon and you’re headed to the range to sharpen your skills for next week’s target shooting competition. You reach for the same gun, but with decidedly different intent.

When facing down the varmints in your yard, why pick a .223 instead of something with more firepower? Why not pack more heat at the range? Basically, it’s just not necessary. Ruger has a catalog full of rifles that will fit the bill nicely, from bolt-action Americans to autoloading tactical rifles. There are also quite a few distributor exclusives that do the job with a few extras.

Important Differences in AR Ammo

One of the most important things to know right out of the gate is that there are two types of ammo for an AR-15 rifle –  the 5.56 NATO cartridge and .223 Remington ammo. Selecting the right ammo is dependent upon the type of chamber in your rifle. For example, if your rifle is manufactured to chamber the .223 Remington, then that is the ammo you must use. If the rifle is chambered for the 5.56 NATO, then your rifle will accept both types of ammo. While the size is the same, the 5.56 NATO has higher pressure, something that a rifle chambered solely for the .223 can’t safely handle.

Both rounds of AR-15 ammo are excellent for varmint hunting and target shooting. Both are highly accurate at long ranges.

In 1964, the .223 Remington cartridge was introduced to the general public for hunting varmints and predators. One month later, the United States Air Force chose the ammunition in the form of the 5.56x45mm cartridge to be used in their new M-16 rifles.

Due to its mild recoil, the .223 Remington cartridge experienced popularity across many different shooting platforms with the majority of the buyers being varmint hunters and those seeking to rid their territory of predators. It was used effectively against small vermin such as rodents and medium-sized predators like coyotes. It should be noted that the .223 Remington is not suitable for deer hunting and is illegal in some jurisdictions.

Law enforcement agencies tend to rely on the .223 Remington as part of their arsenal. It often rides along in patrol cars, at times replacing the 12-gauge shotgun when more precision is required.

The .223 Remington has become one of the most sought-after cartridges in the United States, which explains why firearms manufacturers continue to expand and refine their products, including bulk packaging.

Varmints

Bullet types and weights

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ)

The Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) is the most common type of ammo because it’s easier to manufacture and less expensive than other rounds. Standard bullet weights of FMJ ammo in .223/5.56 NATO are 55 and 62 grain.

Ammo with lighter grain bullets work best with higher barrel twist rate like 1:8 and 1:9. The lowest common twist rate is 1:7, which is commonly used with a 62 grain bullet.

Hollow Points (HP)

Hollow Point (HP) ammunition is most often related to personal and home defense. The cost of a hollow point is higher than an FMJ but is more effective for defense.  The ballistics of an HP are similar to an FMJ, only lighter.

Soft Points (SP)

Soft Points (SP) are a popular hunting cartridge, but still popular for

AR-15 owners. The expansion of an SP is superior to an FMJ but has more control than the HP. The ballistics of SP ammo are excellent, particularly when paired with a boat-tail design.

M855 “Green Tip”

M855 ammo is often referred to as “green tip” because of its appearance. The round has a bad reputation with some factions as it is considered an armor piercing round. The White House claims that the round and its lethal abilities should be banned from the public. People may be misled by the development of this round. It is not new by any means and has been used in warfare for decades. The main difference is that the M855 uses a steel core rather than a soft lead core, allowing it to penetrate through steel and armor.

Boat-Tail

Boat-tail is a feature often seen in FMJ ammo. It refers to the hard metal casing around the bullet which looks like a boat. The main benefit to using a boat-tail for an AR is the easy assembly and protection against damage that could affect long range performance.

The biggest disadvantage to a boat-tail is the ability to over penetrate, causing collateral damage.

 

AR-15 at the Range

Best .223 Home Defense Ammo

Federal Ammunition: LE Tactical TRU 55 Grain SP

Federal LE Tactical TRU is a Soft Point round with the expansion capabilities of a Hollow Point (HP). This ammo was developed specifically for semi-automatics include the AR-15. The soft point offers excellent weight retention and penetration. It is ideal for home and personal protection. It is also an excellent choice for those on patrol.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3,241 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 55 Grain
  • Soft Point
  • Steel Casing
  • Berdan Primer

Prvi Partizan Ammunition: 55 Grain Soft Point

Prvi Partizan produces is 400 types of ammunition, making it one of the biggest ammunition manufacturers in the world. The company is known for manufacturing high quality cartridges for military and civilian use. They specialize in rare and unusual ammo.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3,248 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 1,283 ft lbs Muzzle Energy
  • 55 Grain
  • SP Bullet
  • Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer

Remington Ammunition: JHP Cartridge 45 Grain JHP

Remington .223 ammo is a versatile round that serves well as part of your varmint hunting arsenal. The brass casing has non-corrosive characteristics which allows you to spend time stalking your pesky prey without fear of damaging the ammo or your weapon. The JHP offers reliable expansion, accuracy, and a flat trajectory.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3550 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 45 Grain
  • JHP Bullet
  • Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 1259 ft lbs Muzzle Energy

Federal Ammunition: Premium 165 Grain Nosler Ballistic Tip

Federal Premium tops our list for the best .223 ammo for varmint hunting. This new production ammo is designed for maximum reliability and performance. Hunters have been using Nosler Ballistic Tip Hunting bullets for nearly 25 years. These bullets are precision-made to provide the utmost quality and accuracy with every shot. The heavy jacket and polycarbonate tip prevent bullets from deformation during firing and remain intact at extreme velocities. Simply put, this is one hard hitting round that will get the job done.

Ballistic Info:

  • 3240 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 55 Grain
  • Nosler Ballistic Tip Bullet
  • Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 1282 ft lbs Muzzle Energy

Best .223 Varmint Hunting Ammo

“Varmints” or critters are simply small animals that make pests of themselves, often destroying property. These may include rabbits, gophers, rats and other rodents, weasels, groundhogs, etc. Because the animals are small, a great deal of power is not necessary. Medium-sized varmints and predators require more stopping power. These include coyotes, raccoons, skunks, opossums, feral dogs and cats.

Winchester Ammunition: Ballistic Silvertip 55 Grain Polymer-Tipped

The Ballistic Silvertip .223 ammo from Winchester has a polymer-tipped projectile. This is designed to prevent the bullet from deforming and allowing it to fragment for a quick expansion upon impact. This is especially important when taking down medium sized varmints and predators from a long distance.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3,240 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 1,282 ft-lbs Muzzle Energy
  • 55 Grain
  • Polymer Tipped Bullet
  • Nickel-Plated Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer

Wolf Ammunition: Performance Gold 55 Grain FMJ

A reloadable brass casing makes this all-purpose affordable and ideal for getting rid of pesky varmints.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3,250 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 1,290 ft-lbs Muzzle Energy
  • 55 Grain
  • FMJ Bullet
  • Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer

Remington Ammunition: JHP Cartridge 45 Grain JHP

Remington .223 ammo is a versatile round that serves well as part of your varmint hunting arsenal. The brass casing has non-corrosive characteristics which allows you to spend time stalking your pesky prey without fear of damaging the ammo or your weapon. The Jacketed Hollow Point offers reliable expansion, accuracy, and a flat trajectory.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3,550 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 45 Grain
  • JHP Bullet
  • Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 1259 ft-lbs Muzzle Energy

Federal Ammunition: Premium 165 Grain Nosler Ballistic Tip

Federal Premium tops our list for the best .223 Remington ammo for varmint hunting. This new production ammo is designed for maximum reliability and performance. Hunters have been using Nosler Ballistic Tip Hunting bullets for nearly 25 years. These bullets are precision-made to provide the utmost quality and accuracy with every shot. The heavy jacket and polycarbonate tip prevent bullets from deformation during firing and remain intact at extreme velocities. Simply put, this is one hard hitting round that will get the job done.

Ballistic Info:

  • 3,240 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 55 Grain
  • Nosler Ballistic Tip Bullet
  • Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer
  • 1282 ft-lbs Muzzle Energy

Hornady Ammunition: Varmint Express Ammo 55 Grain V-MAX

You can’t get more specific than Hornady’s Varmint Express when it comes to getting rid of the critters around your property. HornadyV-Max ammo works well at short or long range. Hornady eqips this cartridge with a solid polymer tip designed to deliver rapid expansion as well as a thick jacket that fragments upon impact.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3,240 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 1,282 ft-lbs Muzzle Energy
  • 55 Grain
  • V-MAX Bullet
  • Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer

Federal Ammunition: Fusion Bonded BT

Shooters rate Federal Fusion as one of the best for varmint/game hunting ammunition. The reloadable rounds have a bonded core and offer high terminal performance down range. The heavier bullet weight and boat-tail design give excellent aerodynamics and allows for radiated shock upon impact.

Ballistic Info:

  • 3,000 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 1,239 ft-lbs Muzzle Energy
  • 62 Grain
  • FMJ Bullet
  • Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer

Best .223 Range Training Ammo

The top two things to look for when choosing the best range training ammo is low price and accuracy. Each of these choices offers that plus smooth feeding, eliminating jams and failures. Our top choices include:

Wolf Ammunition: Performance Gold 55 Grain FMJ

Manufactured with brass casing and Boxer priming, this all-purpose round is affordable and reloadable.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3,250 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 1,290 ft-lbs Muzzle Energy
  • 55 Grain
  • FMJ Bullet
  • Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer

Federal Ammunition: XM193 Tactical Rifle Ammunition 55 Grain FMJ-BT

Federal American Eagle NATO Tactical Rifle Ammunition is ideal for sports shooting and range training. This tactical-grade ammo uses high quality and promises excellent accuracy and reliability. The boat-tail design offers great aerodynamics.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3,240 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 55 Grain
  • FMJ Boat-Tail
  • Steel Casing
  • Berdan Primer

Prvi Partizan Ammunition: 55 Grain Soft Point

Also reloadable, this round is affordable and available in bulk.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3,248 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 1,283 ft-lbs Muzzle Energy
  • 55 Grain
  • SP Bullet
  • Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer

Tula Ammunition: 55 Grain FMJ

This .223 ammo is made using a steel casing and Berdan primer.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3,241 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 55 Grain
  • FMJ Bullet
  • Steel Casing
  • Berdan Primer

Federal Ammunition: Fusion Bonded BT

Federal Fusion is one of the highest rated brands of varmint/game hunting ammunition. The reloadable rounds have a bonded core and offer high terminal performance down range. The boat-tail design has excellent aerodynamics and allows for radiated shock upon impact.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3,000 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 1,239 Muzzle Energy
  • 62 Grain
  • FMJ Bullet
  • Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer

Fiocchi Ammo: 55 Grain FMJ

Fiocchi is well-known for highly accurate, precision ammo. They use cleaning burning powder and Berdan primer. The Boat-tail design offers excellent aerodynamics and accuracy.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3,240 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 1,281 ft-lbs Muzzle Energy
  • 55 Grain
  • FMJ Boat-Tail
  • Steel Casing
  • Berdan Primer

Federal American Eagle Ammo: 55 Grain FMJ-BT

American Eagle is at the top of the list with their lightweight Full Metal Jacket Boat-Tail ammo. The rounds are accurate at various distances. This ammo is ideal for range training, competition, and plinking.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3,240 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 55 Grain
  • FMJ Boat-Tail
  • Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer

Federal Ammunition: Black Pack 223/5.56mm Ammo 55 Grain FMJ 

Federal Black Pack 223/5.56mm Ammo 55 Grain ammunition offers the precision, reliability and accuracy customers have come to expect. Federal Black Pack 223/5.56 is a new production, re-loadable ammunition with boxer primers and brass casing.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3,240 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 55 Grain
  • FMJ Bullet
  • Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer

PMC Ammo: Bronze 55 Grain FMJ-BT

Precision Made Cartridges (PMC) is a South Korean manufacturer well-known for maintaining high manufacturing standards. The company makes all its components, ensuring that there is never a breakdown in quality. Additionally, this affordable ammunition doesn’t skimp on quality. The boat-tail design gives high velocity and accuracy.

Ballistics Info:

  • 3,200 FPS Muzzle Velocity
  • 1,250 Muzzle Energy
  • 55 Grain
  • FMJ Boat-Tail
  • Brass Casing
  • Boxer Primer

Conclusion

The .223 Remington is a versatile, adaptable and accurate caliber. It comes in various types and weights, covering a wide range of applications. This ammo is used for varmint control, small to medium game hunting, range training, target shooting and home and personal defense. Law Enforcement uses this ammo on patrol in urban areas for its stopping power. Additionally, the ammo is cheap, easy to use and can be found even in times of a shortage.  

 


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