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Improving Accuracy of .223 Loads?

Discussion in 'Handloading and Reloading' started by Grump, Apr 18, 2007.

  1. Grump

    Grump Well-Known Member

    I was ready to say the barrel was CRAP when I test-fired some factory loads with [Sierra? Nosler?] 69-gr HPBT Match bullets. Group size went down by half at 200 yds!

    Okay, so I'm thinking maybe it's harder to find an *accurate* load in .223 than it was with .30-06 or .308. With those, almost anything with a match bullet would do 2 MOA guaranteed, and 1 MOA or under with 5 or fewer test loads.

    It's NOT working for .223. I'm seeing no difference other than $1-$3/100 in price between various hunting bullets and Nosler, Hornady and Sierra match bullets, 52-gr match OR hunting, 53-gr match OR hunting, 55-gr SPBTs, 69-gr HPBT Match, and 77-gr HPBT Match. All but one are all shooting between 2-3 MOA!:cuss: The best I've had was a recent 1.5 MOA pair of 5-round groups with 24.5 of Varget under the Nosler 77-gr., which may or may not repeat on the next shooting session.

    CCI, Winchester and Federal Primers don't seem to make a difference. All brass is sorted by headstamp, usually using LC NATO brass (as opposed to my older LC M193 brass), which was more uniform in weight than S&B import or WCC M193 stuff.

    I'm wondering if the Dillon spray lube should be scrupulously kept out of the case necks. That's the only variable I can think of now, other than firing 100 test rounds per bullet/powder combo to try to hit some elusive sweet spot.

    I'm wondering if my shooting ability has declined, then I shoot the .308 and I shoot the factory 69-gr loads and group sizes get back to what I'm expecting.

    The offending rifle is a Colt HBAR 1:7, chromoly bore, less than 3,000 rounds of all sorts downrange. Shooting technique is good, other rifles shot the same way do better.
  2. JackOfAllTradesMasterAtNone

    JackOfAllTradesMasterAtNone Well-Known Member

    Yes, keep the spray lube out of the case necks.
    Trim length is very important.
    Only expect best results from fireformed brass.

    Pull one bullet from that factory lot that are shooting better then yours. Verify the bullet. Verify the case dimensions and set your die accordingly.

    Only neck size if you can.
    Experament with OAL and set headspace correctly.
    Experament with a different powder/s /charge weights.
    Just choose a primer and stick with it.

    Every barrel has a load it likes best. And some like certain loads a lot less. Other barrels are more forgiving.

    -You've got some reloadin & shootin to do.

  3. Clark

    Clark Well-Known Member

    In .223 and 257RAI, I seem to get better accuracy with lighter bullets.
  4. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Well-Known Member

    Are those other rifles of AR design? It is not easy to bench an AR without free-float tube. I have tried resting them on the handguard at the very rear and shooting single shot with them supported on the magazine well.
  5. RecoilRob

    RecoilRob Well-Known Member

    The 1in7 twist barrels sometimes don't like the light bullets at all. I'd stick to the 69 Sierra at first to eliminate that variable. It is a great bullet and the rifle should shoot it. It is not the problem.

    I have friends that use Varget with modest success. All did better with H-335 for reasons I don't understand. But, I use 335 for my .223's and they shoot well.

    Before you go off the deep end, please try a short ladder with some 335 and I'll bet the rifle starts to behave.
  6. redneck2

    redneck2 Well-Known Member

    One of my friends does real well at Perry in High Power. His "go to" load is 26.0 Varget, WW cases, 55 grain bullet.

    My accuracy load is 26.0 Varget, 50 Nosler BT, Federal match primers, WW cases, set out to mag length. Shoots way under an inch in my Bushie Varminter. The .223 actually seems to be way easy to load for in most rifles.

    Varget actually should be a little slow for light bullets in the .223, but it works for me so I see no need to change. H-335 should be better.
  7. dmftoy1

    dmftoy1 Well-Known Member

    What COL are you using?

    I've had really good luck with those bullets with 23 -23.5 grains of H335 loaded until the tips of the bullets will barely fit inside a standard GI 20 round magazine. No special prep on the LC brass I'm using other than trim/chamfer and sorted by headstamp. FWIW
  8. Grump

    Grump Well-Known Member

    Following up:

    COL for just about everything except the 55-gr FMJBTs has been between 2.24 and 2.26, not much difference but out as far as I can mag-feed them, on the theory that closer to the throat is better. Yes, I have confirmed that NONE of the loads jammed ogives into the lands.

    All cases have been FL resized. During the first few years, I was getting 3%broken cases at about reload #3, usually with cases that had also been fired in another .223 with a wider but not really longer chamber, but with VIOLENT extraction. Wilson gage sez all those "crush the bottom of the sizer die" loads were truly at min headspace. I tried some with the shoulder set back at max headspace (a few even over max and an interference fit in that chamber).

    No change in accuracy.

    All cases have been trimmed for the past year.

    No change in accuracy.

    I've tried up to four different charge weights with a few of the bullets. The changes in accuracy have been from the worst at 4 MOA to the best at 2.5 MOA. This range has included 55-gr FMJBTs from Winchester and Hornady, and the hunting and match bullets mentioned in my first post.

    Powders have been H335, W-748, AA-2230C, WC844, 4064, and Varget. NOT all of them with every bullet, but every one except 4064 has been tried with the hunting bullets. Match bullets have been over H335, AA-2230C, 4064 and Varget.

    My first disappointment with this rifle was with 69-gr Sierras and 748. The load was fairly light and never got below the magic inch at 100 yards. I don't like paying that much Moolah$$ for 2 MOA.

    Yes, its the only AR I've shot for accuracy. The better performance with those factory 69-gr bullets, for EVERY 5-round group, tells me there is hope for the rifle, and perhaps problems with the ammo that I've NEVER had in any other caliber. Heck, I can get 2 MOA out of a box-stock M1 CARBINE shooting my own cast lead gascheck bullets with homemade half ALOX/half moly grease bullets, all without wandering zeros!

    After I get done with the large primer stuff, I will try some follow-up loads, 77-gr and 24.5 Varget, degreased case necks and keeping my bullet hand clean from caselube, and see if that helps. Years ago, I actually tried to get a uniform coat of spray lube inside one half of the necks (the stuff seemed to migrate all the way around), and that seemed to have no effect on the .308s I was loading at the time. My cheap bullets loaded that way shot better than the match bullets are shooting out of this AR.
  9. DWARREN123

    DWARREN123 Well-Known Member

    Go with a heavier bullet with the 1 in 7 twist, maybe 77 gr.
  10. Grump

    Grump Well-Known Member

    Been there, still doing that. See end of 3rd paragraph, original post.

    Local supply finally stocked Federal GMM, will try the 69-gr loads tomorrow if I'm lucky.
  11. dmftoy1

    dmftoy1 Well-Known Member

    I wish you were closer . .I'd bring over one of my rifles and we'd shoot some of your ammo . . .it sounds to me like you're doing everything ok. I've been using Hornady One-Shot and I don't even bother cleaning it off and I've had no problems. All of my loading has been with H335 though. I did have crap accuracy with the cheap Winchester 55 FMJ (2-3 MOA) but the minute I swapped to Hornady 68's or Sierra 69's things got drastically better. I can easily shoot under 1 inch at 100 yards off the bench. (outside to outside)
  12. redneck2

    redneck2 Well-Known Member

    Before I spent a lot of time checking other stuff, I'd try the loads in another .223. Try to figure out whether it's the rifle or ammo.

    As above....If you were in my area, I'd give you 10 rounds of mine. If they don't go into less than 3/4" at 100, your rifle is bad. If they do, it's your ammo.
  13. snuffy

    snuffy Well-Known Member

    What sights are you using?? Scope? Where is it/how is it mounted? My bushy H-BAR has the removable handle with the pic. rail on top of the upper. Mounted directly to the top, a scope is too low, the front sight is in the way. With a one inch rizer, it clears the front sight. Now, with an after market gas block, I can again get the scope all-the-way-down. But it's too low, my old neck won't bend that far, so I'm back to a 1" rizer.

    I can get under 1" @/100 with most handloads. An ocasional 3/4 or 5/8 inch group with carefully assembled 69 gr. match bullets. When I kick the dillon into gear with bulk WW-55 sp and WC-844 powder, I can still stay at 1 inch/100. 60 grain V-max and 60 hornady HP will also go into an inch. Mines a 1-9 twist, 20" BBL.
  14. Bullet

    Bullet Well-Known Member

    With the rifle your shooting this might be as good as it gets. I don’t think the Colt’s were made to be target rifles. I believe these are for combat, 2MOA is plenty good for this. Their triggers sure aren’t match grade.
  15. Grump

    Grump Well-Known Member

    Well, it's a Colt HBAR Match Sporter, Sporter Match, whatever.

    Marketed as an out-of-the-box target gun. No bayonet lug. No chrome bore. Was made back when "they" all said that putting chrome in a good sub-MOA bore would make it into a 2 MOA gun.
  16. mc223

    mc223 Well-Known Member

    My tried and true load for the 69 is 25.3g Varget in a LC case with a Rem 7-1/2 or Fed 205 with a 1 in 9 twist.
    The 69s did not perform very well in my long throated 1 in 7.
    For my 1 in 7, I use the 75 Berger or 75 A-Max loaded .010 off the lands and single fed. The 77 did not perform as well as I wanted to see and the 80s, well I guess I just didnt take the time to develop a good load.
    Realisticaly A 60 or 62 should shoot good from the 1 in 7 and I have had pretty good result with the 60 V-Max. I Moly coat all my bullets so my charges may not make the load manuals. I have used most of the common ball powders and N-140, N540 and N-550, Varget is still my go to powder.
  17. Bullet

    Bullet Well-Known Member

    I’ve had a couple of Colt Match Target Competition HBAR’s (still have one) and I didn’t get any better results than your getting. I sold my first one (2MOA, 20 inch 1/7 twist barrel) and kept one with a 16 inch 1/9 twist barrel. I really haven’t tried to see how accurate this one will shoot. Have it around for when the SHTF. If you want a Colt that should shoot better you might check out the Colt Accurized rifle -



    Or for the price check out the RRA Varminters. Mine (20 inch 1/8 twist barrel) will shoot 2 inch groups at 330 yards (300 Meters).


    If you want one of the best shooting AR rifles look here –


    What velocity are you getting with this load?
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2007
  18. Zeke Menuar

    Zeke Menuar Well-Known Member

    I think I'd try a cut and target crown

    Then a FF handguard.

    My CMMG 20" govt profile barrel has the 11 degree recessed target crown and FF handguard and I can shoot pennies and aspirin at 100 yards with 55gr UMC ammo( most of the time).

    From what I've read, this sounds like something other then ammo.

  19. Urbana John

    Urbana John Well-Known Member

    Colt HBAR

    My AR is a Colt HBAR with a 24" SS barrel and I can "consently" hit golf balls at 150 yards with it off a bench rest.

    My "loads" are Sierra 52 gr. HPBT on top of 24 grs. of IMR 3031 with a CCI 400 primer.

    Nothing fancy, but works well for me!
  20. mc223

    mc223 Well-Known Member


    My tried and true load for the 69 is 25.3g Varget in a LC case with a Rem 7-1/2 or Fed 205 with a 1 in 9 twist.

    Right around 2800.

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