At a Glance: Best .223 and 5.56 Ammo for Your AR-15
Comparison of Best .223 and 5.56 Ammo for Your AR-15
Our Top Pick
|Federal American Eagle tactical ammo 223 Remington 55gr FMJ-BT||
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Our Top Pick
|American Eagle XM193 5.56x45mm nato 55gr ammo||
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Our Top Pick
|Federal Varmint and Predator 40GR V-Max .223 REM Ammo||
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As you probably know, the most common round for an AR15 is the 5.56mm and the almost identical .223 Remington. However, you may be unaware of the differences between the two, and how these differences can determine which cartridge type will suit you best.
In this article, I’ll go over the key differences between these rounds as well as the different styles and designs you’ll find among them. I’ll explain how you can match your ammo to your shooting purposes and the factors to consider before making your purchase.
So, if you’re unsure of whether to go for the 5.56mm or the .223 Remington or which specific ammo to choose, this article will bring you ample clarity in that area.
Our guide to the 7 best .223 And 5.56 AR15 ammo
To help you understand what the best .223 And 5.56 ammo for your AR15 is, I’ve tested and reviewed the top 7 products on the market. I’ve weighed up the pros and cons of each product to give a fair and complete review from all aspects.
Federal American Eagle tactical ammo 223 Remington 55gr FMJ-BT
Federal’s American Eagle .223 Remington features a full metal jacketed and boat-tailed projectile. In short, it gives an outstanding performance at an economical price. Thanks to its great consistency, you’ll be able to practice with the same-strength loads on the range or in competition.
The American Eagle .223 Remington ensures your gun shoots the same in all situations whether you’re punching paper, shooting in the field, or in competition. Because of its boat tail design, the bullets give impressive stability, accuracy, and ballistic performance.
The bullets have corrosion-resistant brass casings which keep your rifle as clean as a whistle. These high-quality cases can be used for reloading too! The muzzle energy these bullets create is 1282 and the muzzle velocity is 3240 FPS.
The bullets weigh in at 55 grains each. You can purchase this round in different package sizes from 20 up to 1000 rounds. For the best value for money, I usually opt for the bigger packs.
Despite its cheap price, I found this ammunition to be super reliable and a top choice for range practice and target shooting. When testing, I found they passed right through the target and caused minimal damage. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend them for hunting or self-defense use.
- High quality, high-performance bullets
- Extremely reliable
- Corrosion-resistant brass casing
- Great value for money
- Top choice for plinking, practice and target shooting
- Not the right choice for hunting or self-defense
American Eagle XM193 5.56x45mm nato 55gr ammo
The XM193 is a well-respected bullet choice that has been proven to be reliable and consistent. This makes it the go-to ammo for many AR15 shooters, myself included. The full metal jacket boat-tailed 5.56 mm NATO will give you precision with every shot.
The muzzle energy of this reputable bullet is 1223 and the muzzle velocity is 3165. It features a durable brass casing keeping your rifle clean and mess-free. The 55-grain projectile will function in most twist rates for AR15s but is most efficient in the mid-range twist rate of 1:8 and up to 1:10.
This option will give you premium rounds at a budget price. They give a supreme performance from 75 yards to about 400 yards and can easily be used beyond that range if needed. The XM193 will perform well in target use, training, and home defense purposes.
- Premium quality and performance
- Durable and clean brass casing
- Affordable price
- Good for multiple uses but especially target shooting
Federal Varmint and Predator 40GR V-Max .223 REM Ammo
Federal Varmint and Predator 40GR V-Max .223 REM Ammo line offers a dependable bullet for a decent price. This makes it ideal for shooters who practice regularly. Despite this being remanufactured ammo, it’s built with the same commitment to performance and reliability as Black Hills factory new products.
These brass-cased bullets weigh 40 grains. They feature 1151 muzzle energy and 3600 muzzle velocity. You can purchase this ammunition as a box of 50, or in bulk, as a box of 1000.
The bullets feature a ballistic polymer tip that enhances accuracy and promotes devastating expansion. The tip raises the ballistic coefficient for faster velocity but acts as a wedge too, which initiates bullet expansion. Furthermore, the flat base creates in-flight stability for long-range shooting.
Interestingly, the U.S. military recognized the outstanding quality of Black Hills ammunition and contracted them to produce both its competition 5.56mm ammo and high-accuracy specialty rounds. These are to be used by military units engaged in combat. Therefore, purchasing your ammo from Black Hills promises top of the range quality and performance.
These non-corrosive, primed, reloadable brass cases are a great choice for serious shooters looking to use their AR15 for target practice, home defense, and even hunting.
- Ballistic tip for enhanced accuracy and expansion
- In-flight stability
- Reputable and trusted brand
- Non-corrosive, primed brass
- Great value for money
- Not brand new ammo
Lapua Scenar-L ammo 223 Remington 69gr HP
Lapua is a well-known ammunition manufacturer all over the world. They have produced ammo for many top shooting competitions and championships. With the Scenar-L, Lapua has combined their experience with their state of the art manufacturing capabilities to further refine their tolerances. This has resulted in a match-winning .223 Remington bullet.
To create the Scenar-L ammo, Lapua drew tighter standards of jacket wall concentricity, weight variation, and dimensional uniformity. This makes it the perfect match bullet, and the one favored by many competition shooters. Additionally, the Scenar-L works well for practice shooting and small game hunting too.
The 69-grain brass-cased bullet has a hollow point, boat-tail style. This makes it quick and easy to assemble and helps it maintain stability when shooting long distances. Furthermore, it has an 1143 muzzle energy and 2723 muzzle velocity.
This bullet is of the highest qualities out there, and the high price tag reflects it. If you’re willing to splash out a little, you’ll find the Scenar-L to be the best .223 and 5.56 ammo for your AR15.
- Extremely tight tolerances
- Supreme quality and performance
- Maintains stability with long distances
- Top choice for match/competition shooting
- Expensive compared to others on this list
- Not the best option for beginners or casual shooters
Black Hills 223 Remington 36gr Varmint grenade ammo
Another bullet from Black Hills is the 223 Remington 36gr Varmint grenade. This is the ultimate ammo for varmint hunting and target shooting. It’s also a popular ammo choice within the police force and military.
The Varmint grenade is a 36 gram .223 Remington that works best with a 1:7 barrel twist rate. It’s a factory new ammo that’s made with reloadable boxer primed brass. The muzzle energy is 1124 and the muzzle velocity is 3750.
Varmint Grenade bullets are built with a copper and tin core and a durable brass casing. They boast extreme accuracy. They can be driven at the highest velocities without coming apart, yet will explode upon impact.
For hunters, you’ll find these bullets perfect for squirrels and prairie dogs. They’re also a feasible choice for larger animals because they create little to no exit wound, leaving the pelt practically undamaged.
These bullets are available as a box of 50, or in bulk as a box of 1000. This state of the art ammo is pretty pricey, as you would expect. Even so, the Varmint grenade is sought after ammo among passionate hunters and target shooters alike.
- Exceptional accuracy
- Creates a minimal exit wound upon impact
- A top choice for hunters – for both small and large animals
- Corrosion resist brass
- Reloadable casing
- One of the most expensive options
- They could perform better vs wind drift on long shots
Federal Lake City 5.56x45mm 62gr XM855 W/MTM ammo
The Federal Lake City 5.56x45mm NATO ammo is a 62-grain SS109 bullet. It has a green-painted steel “penetrator” tip over a lead core with a partial jacket. The brass case is finished with a water-resistant lacquer-sealed primer.
During manufacturing, the boxer-primed, reloadable brass case is stamped with the Federal symbol and date of manufacture. Every cartridge is then visually inspected before packing. The ammo comes in a can of 500 bullets which are all in perfect condition, with no warped or dented casings.
Federal’s 5.56 ammo works flawlessly and gives great accuracy. It’s best suited for competitive shooting, target practice, and also home protection because of their incredible target precision. The muzzle energy of the XM855 W/MTM ammo is 1256 while the muzzle velocity is 3020.
In terms of price, this ammo is good value for money. Although the bulk buy may initially seem like a bit of an investment, the cost per bullet is very affordable.
- Amazing target precision
- Flawless operation
- Each cartridge is visually inspected to ensure high quality
- A great option for competitions, target practice, and self-defense
Winchester Super-X ammo 223 Remington 64gr power-point
Winchesters Super-X ammunition is famous for its dependable knock-down power and affordable price. The first version of Super-X was manufactured way back in 1922. Today, the line is made using the latest manufacturing processes and top-notch components. The result of this is a highly consistent, dependable bullet that’s perfect for hunters.
As well as its proven accuracy, the Super-X 223 Remington power-point presents high velocity, maximum impact, and rapid controlled expansion. This ultimate hunting bullet suits all hunting types but performs best when hunting big game and predators.
The power-point style bullets are made from a lead composition and a brass casing. The muzzle energy is 1296 and the muzzle velocity is 3020. Furthermore, the bullets have a ballistic coefficient of 0.257.
These 64-grain bullets feature a unique, exposed soft nose jacketed bullet design that delivers maximum energy when hitting your target. The strategically placed notches around the jacket mouth ensure uniform expansion for tremendous energy release.
In terms of price, it’s not the cheapest, nor the most expensive ammunition. If you use your rifle for hunting this could easily be the best .223 and 5.56 ammo for your AR15. Winchesters Super-X is bound to give you the most dependable knockdown power for every type of hunt.
- Rates high for consistency and dependability
- Proven track record with accuracy
- A unique bullet design for delivering maximum impact
- Features high velocity and rapid controlled expansion
- Great for all types of hunts
.223 vs. 5.56mm ammo: Which should you choose?
Firstly, it’s important to note that firearms chambered in 5.56mm NATO can safely shoot both 5.56 and .223. However, firearms chambered in .223 will only safely shoot .223 Remington.
Both .223 and 5.56mm ammunition look quite similar in terms of shape and size. However, the two cartridges have many differences. Here are some of the main contrasts between them.
- The .223 Remington has a free bore diameter of .224 inches and a length of .025 inches.
- The 5.56mm NATO features a .226 inches free bore diameter and a .059 inch length.
- The throat angle of the .223 is around 3 degrees, while the 5.56 is 1 degree.
The 5.56 is packed with far more pressure than the .223. This is largely because the 5.56 is designed to NATO standards while the .223 is designed to SAAMI standards. Generally, the 5.56 operates about 55k psi and the .223 operates at 48k psi.
The 5.56 ammo is known to create more recoil than a .223 cartridge. This is because the 5.56 needs more pressure to fire, which produces more recoil. As long as your gas system and buffer tube are tuned, the recoil of either will be negligible.
- The 5.56 has an initially high velocity, but it starts to decline as soon as it is fired.
- The .223 has a much more consistent velocity. It does not decline anywhere near as quickly as the 5.56.
- Despite this, the 5.56 will still cover a longer distance than the .223. This is because the initial muzzle velocity of the 5.56 is higher, due to the higher pressure it has.
Full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets
A full metal jacket bullet consists of a softcore that is often lead. This is encased in an outer shell (known as a jacket) made from harder metal, usually gilding metal or cupronickel.
- FMJ bullets maintain their composure and trajectory better than other types and give a cleaner shot too.
- They are incredibly strong bullets that have greater penetration capacity but less expansion than other ammo styles.
- They are one of the most common and most affordable bullet types.
Hollow points and soft points
Both hollow points and soft points are types of bullets that inflict increased damage to your target by offering greater expansion on impact.
- A soft point bullet is designed with the shell/jacket open at the front, exposing some lead core. This design encourages the bullet to “mushroom” upon impact.
- A hollow-point bullet has the jacket open at the front and a hollow at the back.
- Soft points are primarily used for hunting purposes. The deformation of the nose creates a slower expansion and a greater penetration than a hollow point of the same caliber.
- Hollow points are quick-expanding bullets. This means they make a bigger hole but may not necessarily penetrate as deeply as soft points.
- Hollow-points are also more effective at quickly stopping an attack, so you do not need to fire as many rounds for self-defense.
Despite their benefits, both hollow points and soft points are more costly than FMJ bullets.
Matching your ammo to your shooting application
Because different bullet types can work better with certain styles of shooting, you should consider your shooting application when deciding on which ammunition to use.
- Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) bullets do not expand upon hitting their target. They are clean and strong bullets that pose somewhat greater risk of unintended impact further down range. This makes them best-suited to target shooting and range use.
- FMJ bullets should not be used in hunting as they will most likely penetrate straight through the animal, without generating enough damage to humanely kill it.
- FMJ ammo is also not often used in self-defense situations. This is because there is a risk of the bullet striking an unintended target through over-penetration.
- Hollow points (HP/JHP) and soft points (SP) are an excellent choice for hunting and self-defense. This is because they inflict increased damage to the target by creating great expansion on impact.
Boat-tailed vs. non boat-tail ammo
You will find AR15 ammunition typically comes in two styles. These are known as a boat-tailed design and a non boat-tailed design.
- The boat-tailed design is a feature of a full metal casing such as brass or copper. This casing tends to give it the shape of a boat, hence the name.
- Boat-tailed ammo is popular in competition shooting because it is quick and easy to manufacture.
- They are generally more stable at a long distance, very accurate, and generate better ballistic performance than non boat-tail ammo.
- One downfall of this style is the tendency to over-penetrate. This happens because the bullets fast velocity results in cutting through the target. This can often result in collateral damage.
- Non boat-tail bullets give a more gentle penetration into the target. This makes them a better choice for hunting and self-defense.
- They are usually less accurate than boat-tailed bullets though, and their ballistic performance is not as good.
Factors to consider when choosing the best ammo for AR15
Here are some key factors to think about when deciding which ammo to use.
As already discussed, your shooting purposes will largely determine which ammo to use. So first of all, think about what you’re going to use the ammo for. Plinking, hunting, long-range shooting, or self-defense?
Once you have determined your purpose, you can then choose between hollow point and full metal jacket bullets. The HP expands and penetrates the target, making it a top choice for hunting. The FJM however, is cheaper and performs well for practicing and target shooting.
Number of Rounds
If you’re using your rifle for target practice, or you frequently shoot for any purpose, it may be worth buying your ammo in bulk. In most instances, it’s best to choose a pack that has a minimum of 20 rounds.
It’s worth noting that steel-cased bullets can sometimes make your gun dirty and hard to clean. Therefore, choosing a cartridge that remains clean is another thing that should be considered.
Bullet weight and barrel twist rate
What is barrel twist rate and why is it important?
- Barrel twist rate is the distance it takes for the rifling to make a complete 360-degree revolution.
- Your barrel must have an adequate twist rate to stabilize the bullets you’re shooting.
- The twist rate is measured in inches and displayed as a ratio of 1 revolution to the number of inches. For example, if the twist rate is 1:7, it means it makes a full revolution every 7 inches.
- Most barrels will have a twist rate from 1:7 to 1:9, with the most popular being 1:9.
- You can determine the best barrel twist rate based on the bullet’s length, diameter, and weight.
How does the barrel twist rate relate to the bullet weight of AR15 ammo?
Well, with both 5.56 and .223 ammo, the bullet weight is the easiest way to determine what the optimal twist rate is. Below is a chart showing the ideal twist rate for each AR15 bullet weight.
Bullet weight to twist rate
- 40-grain – 1:12
- 55-grain – 1:9
- 62-grain – 1:8 or 1:7
- 77-grain – 1:7 or 1:8
- 80-grain – 1:7
Steel vs brass casings
The casing of a round is usually steel or brass. Which material your bullet casing is made from will make a difference to your shooting experience. Therefore, this is another factor to be considered.
Steel is a popular material choice for the military, but presents problems for the civilian shooter.
- Steel cased ammo is usually cheaper than brass ammo.
- The downside is that it’s likely to cause more wear and tear on your rifle. That being said, most shooters don’t fire enough rounds to see these effects.
- Steel casing is known to be less reliable in AR15s. Steel ammo is often covered in a thick lacquer or protective grease to protect it from decay and corrosion. However, this can leave dirty residue behind in the barrel, which can increase the chance of malfunction.
- Steel is not very malleable and is unable to expand. This results in a poorer seal which could potentially cause more internal damage to the rifle when leaving the barrel.
Brass is considered to offer better overall performance than steel for several reasons:
- Brass casings give a cleaner burn and are less likely to malfunction.
- Brass is a more malleable metal. This means it responds better to the pressure put on the case when the gunpowder expands.
- Unlike steel, brass expands along with the gunpowder to create a better pressure seal against the chamber. This prevents gas from being wasted or redirected, preventing the possibility of excess blowback.
- Brass oxidizes at a much slower rate than steel, so it’s naturally more resistant to corrosion.
Summary – What is the best .223 and 5.56 ammo for your AR15?
As you’ll know by now, the best ammo for your AR15 will depend on what you use your rifle for. Therefore, there is no ‘ultimate ammo’ for all shooters.
From my reviewing process, I have to say that for hunters, the best .223 or 5.56 ammo for your AR15 has to be the Winchester Super-X 223 Remington 64gr power-point ammo. These reputable rounds were made for all types of hunting. They offer maximum accuracy, consistency, and dependability in every round.
If you use your rifle more for practice, target shooting, or even home defense, the American Eagle XM193 5.56x45mm nato 55gr ammo will be your best bet. You can’t go wrong with these bullets. They give the utmost reliability and consistency in performance, but for an extremely affordable price. This also makes them a top choice for beginners.
All of the ammunition that made it to the list is proven to be a reliable and consistent product. Therefore, whichever one you choose, it will impress you with its quality and performance.
I hope this article has deepened your knowledge of .223 and 5.56 ammo and helped you understand the different styles and designs you will find. With this guide, you’ll be more clued up in which factors to consider and what to look for when determining the AR15 ammo that will work best for you and your shooting purposes. Happy shooting!