Best weight 223 bullet?


May 8, 2005, 01:00 PM
What bullet weight is, in your opinion, the best for general purpose defense out of a 20" 1:9 twist bbl.? What are the advantages of a 62 grn bullet opposed to a 55 grn? Thanks!

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May 8, 2005, 01:18 PM
From the AR15 Ammo Oracle

1x9 - good all around twist ratio. Best suited for 52-69 gr, but either end of the envelope will be questionable.

Q. What ammunition does Troy recommend for self-defense, storage, plinking, training and match use?

Self-defense ammo: Self-defense/home-defense ammo should be selected to match your individual situation. For example, you might compromise penetration a bit if you live in an apartment and have little control over what happens on the other side of an interior wall.

Special needs aside, I would recommend using the load that will give you the best terminal ballistics available out of your rifle. You probably don't need thousands of rounds of this ammo, but at least 80-90 rounds (four 20-round mags or three 30-round mags full) is a good idea. You must consider the barrel length and twist rate of your "go-to" rifle as well.

As I have 1:7 barrels available and have access to Black Hill's "Mk262 Mod1" loads (77gr Nosler or Sierra), that is my first choice. I can also handload these bullets for practice, allowing me to have some training with this load at a lower cost. An excellent alternative would be either Mk262 Mod0 or the nearly identical Hornady TAP load, both featuring Hornady's 75gr OTM bullet.

For 1:9-twist rifles that have at least 14.5" of barrel, the best performing loads use either Hornady's 68gr OTM or Sierra's 69gr OTM bullet. Loads are available from Hornady and Federal respectively, as well as from Black Hills. I prefer the superior terminal ballistics of the Hornady bullet over the slightly better accuracy that's often found in the Sierra bullet.

For an older 1:12-twist rifle, M193-class ammo is the way to go. And if you can't afford or obtain one of the more expensive loads above, M193 will serve you well in any barrel twist.

Plinking ammo: Plinking is supposed to be fun, and give you time behind the trigger. As such, any ammo that works reliably in my rifles is fine for plinking, and the cheaper, the better. My rifles don't have a problem with Wolf ammo, so I use that sometimes, but I often use my own reloads or inexpensive surplus ammo.

Training ammo: Real training is ideally done with your carry ammo, but for most folks, myself included, this would be prohibitively expensive. Thus, I generally use M193-class ammo for training, since it at least is a hot load that gives realistic recoil and muzzle blast. I try to use surplus ammo with Berdan-primed brass on ranges where I won't be able to retrieve the cases. It's a reloader thing...

Storage ammo: By definition, this is duty ammo that you're buying now, in the event that it won't be available in the future, for whatever reason. This ammo should be top-quality ammo (and if it isn't, replace it with better ammo as you can), and it should be ammo that gives good terminal ballistic performance. While I have a supply of my preferred "heavy match" duty ammo, I also have M193 and M855 ammo stored. You should always test your storage ammo in your rifles first, then store them in ammo cans and LEAVE THEM SHUT. Keep the cans cool, and it will out-last you.

Match ammo: I load my own, primarily using Hornady 68 and 75gr bullets, since I also use these for my training ammo. Match loads are typically only loaded to 90-95% of max pressures, as maximum loads tend to suffer in the accuracy department. If I didn't load my own ammo, I would shoot Black Hills loads.

Q. What ammunition does Derek F. recommend for self-defense, storage, plinking, training and match use?

Self-defense ammo: It all depends on the rifle I pick up. With a 1/7 twist rifle, I’m a fan of the Nosler 77gr., which I handload myself as close to NATO pressures as possible. With a 1/9 twist rifle, the 68gr Hornady gets my nod, which I also handload. With either of these rounds, I expect to be able to defend myself out to a distance of approximately 200 yards and no farther. Anything beyond that distance and I’d rather retreat/evade. I have no idea what kind of weapon I will be facing, and I’d rather not take the chance of engaging a scoped rifle with iron sights at long range. I try to cycle through this ammo as quickly as possible, so long term storage is not a concern for me with my defensive ammo.

Plinking ammo: I’ll shoot just about anything…as long as it is relatively accurate, goes boom each time and cycles reliably. I’ll use this ammo for hitting reactive targets out to 300yds such as fruits, steel plates and propane tanks. Basically, if it goes “clang” or explodes, I consider it plinking.

Training ammo: I alternate between Q3131A and XM193. I don’t really have a preference as far as accuracy/reliability are concerned, however Q3131A is easy to find locally, thus it is the slight favorite. For training ammo, I want the utmost in reliability and accuracy while still keeping M193 spec. This is probably the most common ammo that I will find in a SHTF situation, so it is what I train to use.

Storage ammo: When it comes to storage, I'm more packrat than human. I currently have in
excess of 20k rounds of Q3131A and XM193 stored on stripper clips in bandoliers in both .30 cal and .50 cal ammo cans. Each ammo can contains 2 stripper clip spoons for ease of loading along with a pack or 2 of desiccant. I rarely drop below the 10k mark, and when I do I make sure to pick up another case or two. My BoB consists of 1000 rounds of Q3131A in 20 round mags and on strippers."

Match ammo: I don’t do much match shooting, but when it comes to absolute accuracy, I usually go with the Sierra 77gr MatchKing in the Federal Gold Medal Match loading. With this round, I am able to get sub-MOA groups out to 300yds using a 16” M4 barrel.

Q. What ammunition does Tatjana recommend for self-defense, storage, plinking, training and match use?

Self Defense: My self-defense ammo selection is driven by several requirements.

1. My rifle (16" Bushmaster 1:9) is my primary self-defense weapon. My pistol is used to fight my way to my rifle.
2. I doubt I will ever be in a situation where I have to engage anything beyond 200 meters. Even 200 meters is hard to see happening.
3. Because terminal performance is critical to me a short neck and severe fragmentation is important in gel testing.
4. I need a round that will be available in enough bulk to practice with. Cheap would be nice, but I'm not all that concerned with price for this stuff since I only really need around 500-1000 rounds for long term use. My self-defense round is used to augment my M193 stores and for home defense. 5 or 6 twenty round magazines are near the rifle at any time.

Given my requirements above. For self-defense I have moved from the 69 grain Sierra Match King to the 77 grain Nosler NATO loading from Black Hills. These rounds meet all my needs particularly in terminal performance. They are expensive but I think them worth it. I have two rifles in which the 77 grain Nosler works well out to at least 150 meters, both of which, ironically, are 1:9. I intend to switch my home defense weapon to a 1:7 barrel as soon as I can get my hands on one. That will make me even more sure of my 77 grain loadings.

Plinking ammo: I usually use plinking as an excuse to burn off old M193 stores. Q3131a and XM193 figure prominently in my plinking use. I don't shoot Wolf.

Training ammo: I don't distinguish much between plinking and training. Accordingly, I tend to use NATO loadings for training. Usually this is a mix of M193 and Nosler 77 grain. "Train like you fight," is an important concept for me so I take it to heart and use the ammo I am mostly likely to have to fight with when I go to the range or when I'm just plinking. M193's cost (or lack thereof) makes this work well.

Storage ammo: My circumstances are somewhat unique so I store more than 5000 rounds of XM193 or Q3131a (though I prefer XM193) at any given time. As soon as I get close to coming under the 5000 mark (rare) I buy more M193. I cycle out the old ammo with the new so at any given time my storage ammo is as recent as it can be. One exception is the emergency "bug out" pack I keep of 1000 rounds. I don't ever break into that unless I have another prepared pack to replace it with before I open the first.

I don't store Nosler 77 grain since it pretty much sits out ready to go all the time. My M193 stores are on strippers, in 7 pocket bandoleers stacked in ammo cans. I use the dry ice method to purge air from my cans and then use a moisture absorbing pack to finish them up before I seal them.

Match ammo: I am a big fan of Swiss GP90 for military or service rifle match ammo. It has the disadvantage of being a horrible terminal performer though so I don't keep much of it around. For more serious match ammo I am partial to 69 grain Sierra Match King and 77 grain Sierra Match King.

1911 guy
May 8, 2005, 01:36 PM
on the situation is that with a 1:9 twist you can shoot almost any bullet weight that will fit in your magazine. The 62 gr has a velocity retention bonus based on inertia, muzzle velocity is fast with either 55 or 62, if you're talking M855 or SS109 ammo don't sweat the difference. If you use a lighter bullet, say 40 or 45 gr you may notice a slight spread in group size. Probably still stay within 2-2 1/2 in. at 100yd. Personally, I've got my iron sighted with M855 and my optics with 45 gr H.P.'s for woodchucks. Same rifle, a 1:9 twist AR.

May 8, 2005, 03:06 PM
What are the advantages of a 62 grn bullet opposed to a 55 grn? Thanks!
M855 62gr. ammo was designed to penetrate. Good for shooting through light cover, but this is not what you want in a personal defense round. IMO, 62gr. offers no advantages and only dissadvantages for civilian defensive use.

There are four types of terminal results from a bullet hit:

- A bullet that "icepicks" straight through your target. In essence drilling a .223 hole in this case. This is never good in any caliber.

- A a bullet that mushrooms. Hollow point handgun ammo and large caliber soft point rifle ammo relies on this. Being light and small caliber, .223 doesn't have the best performance with SP ammo. Semi automatic typically do not like SP ammo anyway as it can cause feed problems occasionally.

- A bullet that tumbles. Most military FMJ ammo relies on this. A pointed FMJ bullet is light in the tip and heavy in the back. When it hits a semi-solid medium, it will try to flip end over end. The problem is, how deep will the bullet penetrate before this happens? It may go straight through and start flipping after it exits. In that case, you have the first result. This is the problem with most 62gr. 5.56 ammo at mid to longer ranges.

- A bullet that tumbles then fragments explosively. Do some research on the fragmentation ability of various .223/5.56 rounds. The theory is, that with such a small bullet, you want to take advantage of this effect. The lightweight 55gr. M193 spec bullet has decent fragmentation performance due to it's thin jacket and high velocity. A lighter bullet such as a 40gr. will fragment, but too shallow (good for stopping woodchucks, not anything bigger).

Note that not all 55gr. .223 is M193 and won't have the same fragmentation performance. Most commercial 55gr. either doesn't have enough velocity, has a projectile too tough to fragment, or both.

In commercial ammo, take a look at 68gr, 69gr. and 75gr. Open Tip Match (OTM) ammo. The military has been doing some testing with 77gr. OTM in combat and it's faired well. However, 77gr. may not stabilize in your 1/9 twist. The slightly lighter 75gr. may, 68gr. and 69gr. certainly should.

Hornady has a new line of 75gr. OTM out called TAP FPD (For Personal Defense). It's a little pricy though. I'd recommend either it or Black Hills 75gr. OTM if your barrel will stabilize it (shoot some and test for accuracy). If it won't stabilize the 75gr. try some Black Hills 68gr.(try and get a recent lot, they changed it a bit recently for better accuracy) or Federal 69gr. match as a last choice. The nice thing about the Black Hills ammo is you can get the Blue Box stuff a bit cheaper since it uses once fired brass (technically reloads, but it's made the same as their Red Box stuff). It also comes in 50 round boxes so keep that in mind when comparing prices.

For cheaper ammo, get Winchester 55gr. Q3131A (M193 made in Israel by IMI for Winchester), or 55gr. Federal XM193 (not XM193PD, which are rejects).

May 8, 2005, 03:54 PM
From what I read above I take that the 69gr Sierra MK HPBT is more than acceptable for defensive use (overpenetration maybe put aside). So my instinctive choice wasn't that bad (PMC with 69gr SMK). ;)

How about the 55gr large hollow point GameKing bullets?

May 8, 2005, 05:22 PM
This is not complex. Use true M193 in WW Q3131A,Federal XM193 or LC M193.
As a youing man of 20, I was a grunt in Nam with the 4Th INF DIV 68-69.The M193 is very lethal and creates wounds you cannot understand.I make this observation based upon almost one year in heavy combat. Byron

May 8, 2005, 10:45 PM
I'd go with 55's for general defensive purposes, but my mini-14 is currently loaded with 40-gr JHP's to reduce wall penetration.

El Rojo
May 8, 2005, 11:17 PM
Ok, realistically, lets look at this thing. What is the most likely self-defense scenario you are going to run into with your AR-15? I would say home-defense. So you are in your house and you want to shoot a bad guy. I don't think it is going to matter what you are using because the maximum engagement distance in probably most THR members houses would be 20-30 yards. Shoot what you want, it is going to hit something 20-30 yards away. I would even think you should just load up some V-max or other varmint bullet in order to reduce the odds of over penetrating your target or a possible miss. Hit a guy center mass a couple of times with a v-max, they are going to die and probably quickly. Or just whatever you think you are most comfortable with. Honestly, does it matter in your house?

Now what about the unlikely scenario that you are engaging self-defense targets outside of the home at anything over 50 yards? The odds are probably pretty astronomically slim. Again, find what you shoot best and use that. Whether it is 55 or 62 grain, there is something better you could be using if you wanted to kill someone. Some people will say only 150 grains or more is best. Some will say 230 grains and others might think 600 grains is the minimum they would want to use to ensure a quick kill. I personally think anything less than a 155 mm gun is taking chances. The only thing that really matters is shot placement. Hit what you are aiming at and it might die, that is if you win the lottery of self-defense scenarios and you suddenly are engaging home invaders 200-300 yards away. :rolleyes:

So get some 55 grain bullets and some 62 grain bullets. Whatever shoots best out of your 20" 1:9 twist AR, use those. If you hit someone in the head with one and they are still moving, then shoot them again. I mean seriously, what could you have done differently as far as ammo choice if you shoot someone in the chest with a .223 and they are still capable of shooting at you? Just find what is most accurate out of your gun and practice with that ammo as much as you can.

May 9, 2005, 01:26 PM
Do you think something like the Winchester Ballistic Silvertip ammo would make a good personal defense round. Would it be better than some Q3131A, or some XM193?

May 9, 2005, 02:10 PM
Anybody got any information on the number of times, say, in the last ten years, that anybody's used an AR to defend his/her home? I'd hazard a guess that it's happened just a tad more frequently than those who've used RPGs to defend their homes.

Any home defense is more likely to be @ 20' or less, not 20-30 yds. Just about anything close-at-hand that you have available will do the job in REAL-WORLD home defense situations.

May 9, 2005, 03:09 PM
Rockstar,Good point. Byron

El Rojo
May 9, 2005, 03:38 PM
Any home defense is more likely to be @ 20' or less, not 20-30 yds.Note I said maximum distance. Think of the longest possible space you have in your house to shoot across. For me it is from the end of my hallway to the far end of my living room. Probably about 15-20 yards. More likely the bad guy will be closer than that.

pete f
May 10, 2005, 03:37 AM
be wary of the varmint grade bullets, these are meant to literally dismember small (cat sized or smaller) varmints by near explosive expansion. These used on deer sized game have proven to no penetrate deep enough to reach the important bits. I saw some pictures at a DNR exihibit that showed the result of the wrong bullets on deer and one had no skin left over its ribs, but was still walking after getting shot with a 223 with a 52 gr SX bullet. Another had most of the skin misssing on the skull of the deer after a 50 gr tnt failed to penetrate. This is not the bullets fault but rather the fault of the person selecting improper bullets for deer. I do believe that if you are not constrained by legal convention, then one of the new good hunting bullets like the nosler or the CT or the barnes X would work well. My AR just loved the remington SP 55 grainer I would buy bulk from midway. But as a defensive bullet, I would not feel as comfortable as I would with one of hte above mentioned bullets

February 27, 2007, 01:19 AM
short distance defence short bbl fast twist 75-77 gr HP handloads

February 27, 2007, 01:37 AM
55 gr fmjbt's but the real deal is if you think it might come down to being real close as above nothing beats a 12 ga:) .
I just finished these up tonight.they make good holes in coyotes.
55 gr fmj

Don't Tread On Me
February 27, 2007, 09:38 AM
What bullet weight is, in your opinion, the best for general purpose defense out of a 20" 1:9 twist bbl.? What are the advantages of a 62 grn bullet opposed to a 55 grn? Thanks!

Since you ask for the best, it will not be the 55gr nor 62gr bullets. But more on that later...

For a 1/9 twist barrel that is 20" long, I would look at the following:

75gr Hornady BTHP. This is loaded by Hornady as TAP and as their Match ammo, and also by Black Hills.

After that, it would be the 68gr Hornady BTHP and the 69gr Sierra Match King. The 68 is loaded by Black Hills and the 69 is loaded by a few others, Federal Gold Medal uses it for example.

Those are your best choices. 77gr might be too heavy for your twist rate. 75gr might be too heavy too. In 1/9 barrels measuring 16", it is quite iffy whether or not it will stabilize the 75gr. Some do, most don't. However, and this is critical - even if it does stabilize it, it is on the edge of stabilization. That means, at greater ranges or in COLD weather - you will not be able to stabilize that bullet. You have a slight advantage though, being that you have a 20" barrel, the greater barrel length translates to greater bullet velocity within the barrel which means a greater amount of RPM's is imparted onto the bullet. In short, a longer barrel (due to velocity) puts more spin on a bullet than a shorter barrel. So you might be 100% fine with the 75gr bullet. Just test at a range to make sure. For example, I don't know anyone with a 24" 1/9 barrel that failed to stabilize the 75 hornady.

Now, if you want to guarantee stability at all ranges, all weather conditions and not bother testing it in your barrel - go with either the 68 or 69. They are not slouches by any standard.

Getting back to the military loads. If you're going to buy a military style bullet, then there is very little difference between the 55gr and the 62gr. Most people prefer the 55gr because it has greater initial velocity which translates to a more dramatic and complete fragmentation. It also has a slightly greater fragmentation range too. The 62gr isn't bad at all either, but the 55 edges it out for that use. The 62gr shines when it comes to penetration and maintaining ballistics at greater range. It is heavier, and it is longer so it sails better. The mild-steel penetrator works better on harder targets at greater range. At short ranges (self defense) it will still fragment quite well. You're not undergunned with either, and these in an AR-15 are superior to using a pistol or shotgun.

No matter what, the Hornady, Nosler, Sierra 68,69,75,77gr loads will all out perform any standard military FMJ by far. They will fragment more reliably due to their very uniform and thin jackets; whereas the military FMJ's sometimes do not fragment (people often forget this, it isn't a guaranteed effect).

So all of this is basically a discussion of whether or not you're interested in really getting the best.

February 27, 2007, 10:33 AM
62 is 7 more than 55, that is basically 15% heavier than the 55's. I would get bullets from 65 to 75 grains, and see which shoot most accurate out of your bbl. now if this is for just home def, nothing over 50 yds, get the ones that are heaviest, that cycle, and that hit man targets out to 50 yds.

June 30, 2008, 10:19 PM
Don't Tread On Me,

First of all, salient and accurate post. One question from your last post (near the bottom of the post)...

"At short ranges (self defense) it will still fragment quite well. You're not undergunned with either, and these in an AR-15 are superior to using a pistol or shotgun."

Now, I'm definitely not a wound ballistics expert, but I'm under the impression that a shotgun will create much more horrific results at close ranges. I mean, maybe I'm wrong, but I'd elect to take a .223 at close range (no matter what the grain) over a full load of 00 Buck or HP Slug.

To be fair, we're talking about a .223 not a 45-70 here... I think the round has to be a little more high powered to outweigh the shotty. But, then again, I'm no expert. If I'm wrong, I wanna know!

After that, I think the posts that recommend stopping power at close range are more relevant to this gentleman's question. 10-20 yards is about the furthest I would expect to have to shoot at someone in/around my home.

Great thread and informative read. Thanks guys!

June 30, 2008, 10:25 PM
Been shooting the .223 for nearly 45 years. IMO: The best bullet weight for all around use is the 55 grain.

June 30, 2008, 11:47 PM
Well, 53 grn Barnes TSX work awfully well on deer out of a 16 inch AR.

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