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Best 223 Ammo for All Applications

Best 223 Ammo for All Applications

You're here for the best 223 ammo, but a disclaimer needs to be made because many will argue that .223 Remington and 5.56 Nato are the same.

They are NOT the same despite having the exact external cartridge dimensions.

You should NOT load 5.56mm NATO ammo into a .223 Remington chamber because it will cause higher chamber pressures when fired. The higher pressure can hurt the shooter and damage the rifle.

However, shooting .223 Rem ammunition in a 5.56mm NATO chamber is safe. Still, you will sacrifice some performance because of the difference in distance between the case mouth and the barrel rifling.

With that out of the way, let's load up on some of the best .223 ammo for every shooter.

If you can't wait, the best 223 ammo is Federal American Eagle 223 Rem 55-Grain FMJ-BT because it's reasonably priced and made by a well-known ammo manufacturer.

  1. Wolf 223 Rem 55 Grain FMJ - Best Plinking Round
  2. Federal American Eagle 223 Rem 55 Grain FMJ-BT - Best AR15 Ammo
  3. Winchester Deer Season XP 223 64 Grain Extreme Point - Best Deer Hunting Round
  4. Hornady 223 Rem 55gr V-MAX Ammunition - Best 223 Varmint Round
  5. Remington 223 Rem 77 Grain HPBT - Best Self-Defense Round
  6. Winchester 223 Rem 69 Grain HPBT - Best Hollow Point
  7. TulAmmo 223 Rem 55 Grain FMJ - Cheap .223 Ammo

Best 223 Target Ammo

The best target ammo depends on your preferences. If you intend to have a fun day of plinking, then you'll want cheap .223 ammo.

However, suppose you're competitively target shooting. In that case, you'll likely need to handload your rounds to dial them in perfectly for your gun's barrel twist rate, or you can use match-grade ammo that is more consistent than inexpensive rounds, but you give up the control to craft the perfect round.

Wolf 223 Rem 55-Grain FMJ

Specs

  • Casing: Steel
  • Bullet Type: Full Metal Jacket
  • Bullet Weight: 55-grain
  • Muzzle Velocity: N/A
  • Muzzle Energy: N/A

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Non-Corrosive

Cons

  • Some shooters prefer a brass case over a steel case

Why We Chose It

These Wolf Ammo rounds are a happy compromise between price and reliability, which is why I consider them one of the best for plinking. While most shooters prefer a brass case, these rounds are steel cased, which has its pros and cons.

Steel-cased ammo is cheaper but tougher on your rifle. Steel cases are also more difficult to reload, so if you plan to reload, this probably isn't the ammo for you.

Though 55gr rounds typically have a higher velocity, they're not always the ideal bullet weight, especially when shooting long distances.

Wolf ammo is for the budget-minded shooter who doesn't have the time to reload.

Honorable Mentions

If you want an inexpensive brass casing for target shooting, the PMC 223 55 Grain FMJ-BT is the way to go, but be aware you will pay a little extra for the brass casing.

The Federal Premium 223 Rem 42 Grain Frang. rounds are intended for close-range target shooting and law enforcement training situations. The frangible bullets are much less likely to ricochet when they hit a steel target because they are designed to disintegrate on impact.

Suppose you're running low on hand-loaded rounds and must practice for a long-range competitive shooting match. In that case, the Remington Premier 223 Rem 55 Grain AccuTip-V rounds are a viable option based on their ballistics.

Best AR 15 Ammo

Federal American Eagle 223 Rem 55-Grain FMJ-BT

Specs

  • Casing: Brass
  • Bullet Type: Full Metal Jacket Boat Tail
  • Bullet Weight: 55-grain
  • Muzzle Velocity: 3,240 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 1,282 ft-lbs

Pros

  • Trusted brand
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Not the best self-defense round

Why We Chose It

You can burn through a lot of 223 Remington ammo when shooting an AR, so you don't want high-end expensive ammo, but you need a reliable round that will allow your firearm to operate smoothly.

That's where this 55gr bullet in a brass case perfectly fits. It's not the most expensive, so it's not terrible on your wallet, but also dependable for target shooting.

However, this would not be my first choice for home defense because the Federal .223 Rem 55 Grain FMJ-BT is a full metal jacket bullet instead of a hollow point bullet.

This 55-grain bullet has a decent velocity, but the lightweight bullet will be affected more by the wind as your distance to the target increases.

Honorable Mention

The Wolf WPA Military Classic 223 Rem 55 Grain FMJ was designed for mass production for military use, so it's inexpensive and relatively reliable. The significant downside is that these are steel cartridges instead of brass.

Best 223 Hunting Ammo

The 223 is not the most popular hunting round because it lacks the power to harvest big game ethically. However, in some states, you can use a .223 Rem for deer hunting, and it is a solid varmint round.

Winchester Deer Season XP 223 64-Grain Extreme Point Ammunition

Specs

  • Casing: Brass
  • Bullet Type: XP (Extreme Point)
  • Bullet Weight: 64gr
  • Muzzle Velocity: 3,020 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 1,296 ft-lbs

Pros

  • Designed for deer hunting
  • It packs a punch for a medium-weight 223 bullet
  • Trusted brand

Cons

Why We Chose It

It's unlikely you'll shoot an entire box of ammo for deer season, so the price per round is less of a concern. The most important things you need from your .223 ammo for deer hunting are reliability, consistency, and stopping power which Winchester Deer Season XP 223 64gr can offer hunters.

The 223 Remington is not known for its stopping power, which is why most deer hunters use larger calibers, and it's banned in some states. However, increasing the bullet weight will aid in upping the stopping power to a point.

The heavier 64gr bullet is slower than the other lighter bullets, but it's needed to increase the stopping power.

Even though it's designed for deer hunting, it's effective in other hunting situations.

Honorable Mention

The Federal 223 Rem 62 Grain Fusion has a little lighter bullet that you'd expect to travel faster than the Winchester Deer Season XP; however, that's not the case. The main advantage this bonded soft point bullet has is the price. It's much cheaper than the Winchester Deer Season XP, so you can practice with it more without breaking the bank.

Best Varmint 223 Round

Hornady 223 Rem 55gr V-MAX Ammunition

Specs

  • Casing: Brass
  • Bullet Type: V-Max
  • Bullet Weight: 55-grain
  • Muzzle Velocity: 3,240 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 1,282 ft-lbs

Pros

  • Fast
  • Trusted brand

Cons

  • Can get expensive

Why We Chose It

Varmint hunting typically involves shooting much more often than deer hunting, so having a dependable round, reasonably priced, is critical. Varmints are generally smaller animals, so the knockdown power doesn't have to be as much as when hunting big game.

Because they're lightweight, fast-traveling bullets, 223 bullets are a solid choice for hunting coyotes, prairie dogs, and other varmints, and the Hornady 55gr V-MAX is no exception.

The 3,240 fps of this Varmint Express round is the high average for most 55gr bullets, which is expected from Hornady. They're one of the leading ammo manufacturers and trusted by many shooters and hunters because of the dependability of their ammunition.

Honorable Mention

The Sierra Prairie Enemy 223 55 Grain BlitzKing has lower muzzle velocity and muzzle energy, and it's more expensive than the Hornady 55-grain bullet, but some rifles are more accurate with this round.

Best Home Defense Round

AR-15s excel in urban combat areas; however, that doesn't mean they're the best home defense weapon.

That title belongs to the shotgun because projectiles from a shotgun are less likely to over-penetrate.

However, if all you have is a 223 rifle, then, by all means, use it to defend yourself using some of the ammo choices below.

Remington 223 Rem 77-Grain HPBT

Specs

  • Casing: Brass
  • Bullet Type: Hollow Point Boat Tail
  • Bullet Weight: 77-grain
  • Muzzle Velocity: 2,790 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 1,331 ft-lbs

Pros

  • Trusted brand
  • High muzzle energy
  • A heavier bullet means more knockdown power

Cons

  • Lower muzzle velocity
  • Not cheap

Why We Chose It

Though it's not the fastest, it's one of the heaviest 223 hollow point bullets available, so it will pack more of a punch to the threat, hence the higher muzzle energy.

Since Remington is in the name of the 223, we should expect them to make the best 223 ammo on the market, and they are a trusted brand in the ammo space, though some Remington firearms have seen a decline in quality.

Be prepared to spend more for this and other home defense rounds. This is partly due to the specialized bullets used in defense rounds.

Despite being slower than lighter bullets, the muzzle velocity is still plenty fast. An intruder won't notice the difference in speed if you're forced to use it to defend your family and yourself.

Honorable Mentions

The Federal LE Tactical TRU 223 Rem 55 Grain Nosler Ballistic Tip Ammunition offers a lighter bullet, which means less recoil, not that a 223 has much recoil anyways, and it also travels faster. However, this means you're giving up some stopping power, but you're saving a little money.

The most expensive self-defense round we will mention today is the Winchester Silvertip 223 Rem 64 Grain Defense Tip. Ballistically speaking, it sits in the middle, primarily because the bullet weight is between the other two rounds previously mentioned.

Best Hollow Point 223

Winchester 223 Rem 69-Grain HPBT

Specs

  • Casing: Brass
  • Bullet Type: Hollow Point Boat Tail
  • Bullet Weight: 69-grain
  • Muzzle Velocity: 3,060 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 1,434 ft-lbs

Pros

  • Trusted brand
  • Reasonably priced
  • Solid ballistics

Cons

  • Not the fastest
  • Not the cheapest

Why We Chose It

The Winchester .223 Rem 69gr hollow point boat tail bullets might not be the cheapest or the fastest, but they pack more of a punch than the lighter hollow points, and they're not overpriced despite being manufactured by a trusted brand.

The ballistics won't blow anyone away, but considering the bullet weight, these rounds hold their own.

These 69gr hollow points offer shooters a higher velocity and muzzle energy than other heavier bullets, so maybe you can have your cake and eat it too.

I wouldn't hesitate to use Winchester 223 Rem 69-Grain HPBT in a home defense situation plus; they're not so expensive you can't afford to practice with them at times.

Honorable Mention

TulAmmo 223 Rem 55 Grain HP are much cheaper than the Winchester 69gr HPBT, and they're faster thanks to the lighter bullet, which also means less recoil. However, the cartridges are steel instead of brass.

Cheapest 223 Ammo

TulAmmo 223 Rem 55-Grain FMJ

Specs

  • Casing: Steel
  • Bullet Type: Full Metal Jacket
  • Bullet Weight: 55-grain
  • Muzzle Velocity: 3,241 fps
  • Muzzle Energy: 1,283 ft-lbs

Pros

  • Cheap
  • High muzzle velocity

Cons

  • Steel casing
  • Cheap ammo is less dependable

Why We Chose It

If you want cheap 223 ammo, this is it. It's a third of the price of most 223 Rem hunting and self-defense ammo, so if you take it to the range, you'll be able to stay longer because you're not spending your paycheck on ammo for target practice.

The reason it's so cheap is that it's steel-cased ammunition. This means it'll be more challenging to reload and a little tougher on your firearm.

Despite being cheap, TulAmmo 223 Rem 55-Grain FMJ offers shooters comparable ballistics to more expensive 55gr ammo, which means you can train with it and get similar results as the costly ammunition.

Honorable Mention

Though Wolf 223 Rem 55 Grain FMJ is slightly more expensive than the Tula ammo mentioned above, sometimes you can find it in Wolf Gold, which means it is a brass case instead of a steel case.

How to Choose the Best 223 Ammo Based on Your Needs

When purchasing ammunition, you're typically compromising because there's no perfect ammunition. There are always several considerations that you need to make.

Budget

The primary consideration for the average firearms enthusiast is the budget.

How much are you able to spend on ammo?

My personal preference is to shoot for somewhere in the middle; however, there were times when I was pinching every penny, so I was only concerned with the cheapest ammo I could find.

Remember that cheaper ammo tends to be less reliable than more expensive ammunition.

Reliability

The reliability of the ammo is critical, especially if it's self-defense ammo. You need to know that the round will fire when you pull the trigger.

I've purchased ammunition that regularly didn't fire, despite seeing an indention on the primer. This was very frustrating when shooting at the range, but it could have resulted in severe harm had I needed it during a defensive situation.

I tend to stick with well-known brands, but sometimes the reliability of the ammo also depends on your firearm.

Some guns function better with specific ammunition brands. This means you'll need to test several brands to determine which one your weapon likes best.

Ballistics

The ballistics you need out of the ammo will depend on what application for which you're using it. If you're plinking at the range, the ballistics don't matter as much as when you're shooting in a competition.

For a competition, typically, a fast medium-weight bullet works best, but once again, it will depend on what your gun likes. Sometimes the lighter, faster bullets work best, and sometimes the heavier bullets work best.

I prefer to stick with medium-weight bullets that still pack a punch for hunting and self-defense. The muzzle velocity is less important but still relevant in hunting situations.

How to Save Money On Ammo

As ammo demand and prices continue only to increase, as shooting enthusiasts, we're always looking for ways to save a little money so that we can visit the gun range more often.

Here are a few recommendations I have for saving money on 223 ammo.

Buying in Bulk

When you buy bulk 223 ammo, the manufacturer and retailer give you a slight discount per round. While it might only be a few cents per round, those cents add up quickly when you're shooting a few hundred rounds or more on every visit to the gun range.

The worst part about buying bulk ammo is the initial cost. You have to spend several hundred dollars to get significant savings.

However, ammunition lasts for a long time when properly stored, so you can stock up while prices are as low as they'll ever be and not be in a rush to shoot it.

Reloading

Reloading or handloading is another way to save money on factory ammo. You can use spent brass and reload it by cleaning the brass, punching out the used primer, inserting a new one, pouring in gunpowder, and inserting a new bullet.

Obviously, this is an oversimplified explanation, but that's the basic idea.

This saves money in the long run and gives you more control over the process so you can craft the perfect bullet for your gun, whether that's an AR-15 rifle or a trusty bolt-action hunting rifle.

Reloading has the same problem as buying bulk because it's a significant investment upfront that pays itself off over the long run.

If you're really crazy, like most of us firearms enthusiasts, you'll do both, buy in bulk and reload to save even more money!

Common 223 Bullet Types

There's not a wide variety of 223 bullets, but there are a few you should be aware of and understand which one works best in what situations.

FMJ

The most common 223 bullets are FMJs or Full Metal Jackets. They're usually the least expensive. They're not the best for home defense because they tend to over-penetrate the target and walls.

FMJs are suitable for target practice; however, I don't recommend shooting steel targets with FMJs within 100 yards. I have had the metal jacket come back and cut my cheek when shooting metal targets at 75 yards with a buddy.

HPBT

Hollow Point Boat Tail Bullets or HPBT are common hunting and self-defense rounds. The hollow point expands on impact, which reduces its ability to penetrate but, upon entrance, causes more damage.

The Boat Tail refers to the aerodynamic shape of the bottom of the bullet. The base is tapered to improve accuracy at long distances.

SP

The Soft Point bullets, designated by SP, expand less on impact than hollow point bullets, so they get better penetration yet expand more than an FMJ. So you can have a happy medium between the two bullet types.

To achieve this, these bullets are made from a softer lead than the typical bullet. They are most popular amongst big game hunters, where hollow point bullets are banned. However, they don't have the stopping power that hollow points typically do because of the reduction in expansion.

Ballistic Tip

The Ballistic Tip is Nosler's name for their hunting ammunition with a plastic tip on a hollow point bullet. The polymer tip helps with aerodynamics and allows the hollow point uniformly expand.

Be sure to check your local hunting regulations, as Ballistic Tipped bullets are banned in some areas.

Green Tip

Green Tip ammo is most often found in 5.56 NATO rounds because it's designed for the military as a penetrator round. Instead of a lead core bullet, it has a steel rod inside that can better penetrate the target when closer than 100 yards.

However, some ranges don't allow green tip ammo, so if you choose to go this route, don't be surprised if your local gun range doesn't allow you to bring it in.

Parting Shots

The best 223 ammo for you will depend on your gun and the circumstances in which you intend to use it.

For hunting, that will likely be Winchester Deer Season XP 223 64gr.

While if you plan to use it for home defense, I recommend Remington 223 Rem 77-Grain HPBT because the hollow point bullet is less likely to over-penetrate.

Lastly, for target shooting, I recommend Wolf 223 Rem 55-Grain FMJ because it's inexpensive.

Wes Littlefield
Written by
Wes Littlefield