Loading heavy bullets in the .223/5.56


December 20, 2009, 10:41 AM
I have recently become fascinated with the performance of small caliber bullets with long shanks and good BC's. I started down this road by accident while looking for a deer gun that didn't kick the crap out of me when sighting in and that I would actually enjoy shooting a bit at paper in the off season. This lead me to the 6.5x55 Swede. Like many changes that come to us, this change opened my eyes to a world that had always been there but that I had left unexplored.

This lead me to consider whether the beneficial aspects of of the high BC, long shank, great terminal performance, long range accuracy and low recoil bullets could be applied to the AR-15 to mitigate the common complaint of underwhelming performance. Like most people I am operating on a budget so I cannot run out and buy a new gun or barrel to obtain the 1/7 twist. I have read that many people have apparently lucked out in that their 1/9 will stabilize a heavier grain bullet say 68-75 grains. My eventual goal is to use my AR for deer hunting in 2010. Furthermore I have colorblindness working against me, (red-green tracking is really challenging), so I really prefer to drop the animals quickly with one clean shot. My typical hunting shot in Minnesota is between 50-125 yards.

Although the ability of the 1/9 twist to stabilize the heavier bullets seems to be somewhat random, I own a Bushmaster Carbine, pre-ban with the heavy barrel, ( as in factory machine gun heavy not target bull), with a 1/9 twist and a chrome bore.
Have any of you played in this arena? Have you any recommendations for powder or bullets that have worked or perhaps have not worked? Have you any pet loads you can share, (I will apply the usual cautions of backing off the powder load and working up etc..). A good starting point could save me several cans of powder and several boxes of bullets. A tip from a 6.5 Swede hunter lead me quickly to the Nosler Accubond in 140 grain on top of 46 grains of RL22. This little recipe produced 5/8 groups out of my new Tikka-(the first factory ammo had yielded a depressing 3.5 to 5 inch groups). The bonus was I had the good fortune of taking two deer with this load this year..one shot each.

Thanks a bunch.

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December 20, 2009, 12:20 PM
My 223 has a 1:9 twist but it is a bolt gun, not an AR. It seems I have rediscovered the same good knowledge and eye opening experiece you have. Some of the "classic" cartridges prior to magnumitus really have a lot to offer. As to the 223, Speer makes a super 70 grain Round Nose bullet that works well with a number of powders, Varget, H-4895, IMR 4895, and BL-C(2). CCI 400 primers do just fine for these powders. My go-to powder for this bullet is BL-C(2) because my gun has a short throat and I have to seat the bullet pretty deep in the case. BL-C(2) runs at a bit higher pressure than the others I listed.

December 20, 2009, 12:48 PM
Your limitation in AR will probably be magazine length. Most magazines only take cartridges 2.260" long, more or less.

Those "high BC, long shank, great terminal performance, long range accuracy and low recoil bullets" are generally 75, 77 or 80 grains in .224". To get them to 2.260" OAL you have to seat them really, really deep in the brass. In many cases, this adds to frustrating performance along with 1/9 twist.

On the other hand, many of us use 69 grain bullets loaded to magazine OAL in our 1/9 AR rifles with great performance. Maybe you can try those first. Varget tends to work well. H335. Look for accuracy loads listed in Lyman and Nosler and other sources.

December 20, 2009, 01:06 PM
80g and 90g SMK are the only ones you can't seat to magazine length. 69-77g are no prob

December 20, 2009, 01:20 PM
Sierra GameKing #1395 65 gr. SBT, H335 powder- 22.5 gr. http://www.6mmbr.com/223Rem.html

December 20, 2009, 07:23 PM
Thanks for the help. I already own H335 and the SMK but in match which is of course not my end game but fun none the less.

Is there any appreciable difference between H4895 and IMR 4895? I have been told they are "copies" of each other 'though I do not know whom copied whom. Anyway the 4895 's seem to pop up for recommended powder for the 223 rounds quite a bit ansd is cheaper and more available than is Varget. My reloader store owner however decries the use of the 4895's for the 223 claiming it is simply "wrong" for the 223. Seems like a bit of bluster to me.

December 20, 2009, 08:02 PM
H4895 and IMR 4895 are not the same powders and do have minute differences in burn rate.
My 14" 223 T.Contender shoots tiny groups using 26.5gr of H4895 and Nosler 52gr Custom Competition bullets. Velocity average is 2850fps for that load.
H4895 has become a favorite of mine because it is versatile and works well in many different calibers.


December 20, 2009, 08:18 PM
Check out Barnes X Bullets in 70gr. H4895 or RE-15will propel it downrange quite nicely. bullet seats deep inthe case crunching the powder, but will give you magazine seating depth quite easily. i just ran some through mine today that gave me MOA with sand bags. with a real rest, it would have been nice to see just how accurate they were. 14.5" pinned bbl 1:7" twist and no chrono but it gave same POA as my 55gr FMJ that i use to sight in and plink with.

70gr Barnes TSX
24gr RE-15 (max for this powder is 24.5gr)
Remington virgin brass
COAL of 2.25

December 21, 2009, 01:37 AM
My reloader store owner however decries the use of the 4895's for the 223 claiming it is simply "wrong" for the 223.

I have not used either H4895 or IMR4895 in 223 but I know there are some loads and it reportably shoots very well.

You can use IMR4895 data with H4895 but not H4895 data with IMR4895. The IMR is a little faster burning.

In the heavy 233 bullets, I use RE-15 with great results.

December 21, 2009, 01:49 AM
Both 4895 powders work perfectly well in 223/5.56, and have been used successfully for decades. You need to use appropriate load data for each.

I once read an interview with one of the Hodgdon sons, where he described the difference between similar powders by two manufacturers (like H4985 vs. IMR4895). Powder labels like Hodgdon, IMR, Accurate and the others don't just go down to the railroad station and buy a car load of powder that says 4895 on the bill of lading. They order it from the powder mill with the specific characteristics they want. So a powder mill may make the same powder for three different labels, but one label likes it slightly more dense, another label likes it cut shorter, and another lilkes it with slightly more thermal energy per gram. The powder mill can adjust it one way or the other to suit the purchase order.

Thus, the same 4895 powder must be considered different when it is labelled H4895 compared to IMR4895. That's why you need to use appropriate load data. Because what we don't know can truly hurt us.

I've used both H- and IMR- 4895 in 223 and find that it performs virtually the same in my rifles. Still, I log and chrono the data for each and I treat them as two different non-interchangeable powders.

Jim Watson
December 21, 2009, 09:06 AM
Actually, IMR 4895 is made in Canada, H4895 in Australia.

Hodgdon started out selling WWII surplus IMR 4895 with their label. Only later did DuPont offer IMR 4895 on the retail market. When surplus stocks ran out, Hodgdon had clone powders made, first in Scotland, now Australia. Hodgdon's blend of surplus lots and their clones are not exactly what DuPont chose to release as a cannister grade, so load data differs slightly. One source says Canadian IMR powders are not quite the same as US IMR powders were, either.

Business changes over the years, IMR powders are now made in Canada in a mill owned, the last I looked, by General Dynamics. Hodgdon bought out the New York distributor and now packs and ships both brands.

December 21, 2009, 10:42 AM
IMR 4895 is made in Canada, H4895 in Australia as said above. The H4895 for the USA has been made darker looking compare to what is sold to other countries. The business of making and selling gunpowder is confusing to most reloaders. Only two companies, Alliant and St. Marks Powder actually manufacture smokeless propellents in the United States. Since DuPont got out of the powder business decades ago, IMR powders have been made in Canada by Expro Tech and simply distributed by IMR Powder Co. Hodgdon's powders with the same numbers are made in Australia by Australian Defense Industries (ADI). AR2206H was released into the North American market in 1999, and is distributed by the Hodgdon Powder Co. under the brand name H4895. http://www.thalesgroup.com.au/handloaders-guide/news.asp

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