Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Great .223-5.56 Debate

What’s the difference between civilian round Remington .223 and the military NATO 5.56mm? This is a question that has been asked many times. Sadly, many “facts” out there are not facts at all. There’s a lot of inaccurate information out there.

I’ve taken my information from an article written by Andrew from Lucky Gunner. Here’s the full article.
After reading his article I researched my own to find out if his information went along with mine. By and large our information supports each other though Andrew went into a lot more detail than I have.
His information will be summarized here:

“My findings, and the opinions of many experts in the industry who deal with the topic every day, were not exactly what some might expect. In fact, many of them had already discovered what I am reporting, although my research was conducted independently.

This article is not a recitation of previously existing information. It is quite long and complicated; if you don’t have the time or inclination to read everything, a (bold ) summary may be found at the end of most sections. However, I attempted to write it in a manner which should be easily understood by all – so if you want to read the whole thing, you will come away with a more complete understanding.”

I will reprint his summaries and then comment myself.

“Summary: While .223 Remington chamber dimensions and maximum pressures have been standardized by SAAMI, 5.56mm NATO dimensions and pressures have not. Partially because of this, ammunition pressures are measured differently between the two, and cannot be easily compared. Still, it is generally agreed upon that 5.56mm ammunition may be loaded to higher pressures.”

I believe this to be true in my own experience. In reloading terms we call a higher pressure load as a “hot” load. 5.56 is generally hotter than .223.

“Summary: Velocities and pressures for 5.56 ammunition in a .223 barrel were not significantly higher than the same ammunition in a 5.56 barrel; in fact, they were in between the two 5.56 barrels. This doesn’t mean that your barrel will have the same results, and you should always be aware of pressure signs when holding metal objects containing 50-60,000psi of pressure only a few inches away from your face.”

“Summary: The majority of the experts I consulted over the course of my research did not feel that there was a major difference between .223 and 5.56 chambers in terms of pressure.”

My findings matched his in this area too. I only talked to two gunsmiths that shoot a lot and have extensive gun collections.

“Summary: Hammer forging chambers can help ensure that they are dimensionally correct, but so can a skilled and careful machinist with a reamer.”

“Summary: Buy a well-made rifle with the chamber you want based on your needs, shoot the right ammo in it, and have fun. For most people, especially those not sure of what type of shooting they’ll be doing, a 5.56mm chamber is the best all-around choice. It is my fervent hope that this article has helped you better understand the topic at hand.”

At last…

It is safe to fire a .223 round from most 5.56 mm firearms, but it is not safe to fire 5.56 mm rounds from a .223 firearm. Because these two rounds look very similar and have the same size case, always check the head stamping on your ammunition before loading your firearm just to be safe.
There are all sorts of considerations that go into deciding what caliber of firearm to purchase. Your shooting style, what type of shooting you prefer and many other variables will impact the decision about which caliber is right for you.
Be careful shooting. The act of shooting is dangerous enough, when you throw in various ammo and reloading you add other dangers. Be smart and don’t do stupid things with dangerous things.
Semper Paratus
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