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5.56 NATO vs .223 Remington

Discussion in 'Competitive Shooting' started by Ridge Runner, Jul 20, 2009.

  1. Ridge Runner

    Ridge Runner Buckley, WA New Member

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    I am itching to get a rifle set up Varmint / Long Range / Practical.

    I have a tight ammo budget and do not have any desire to handload my ammunition.

    I do not have such a tight Rifle Budget.

    Looking at trajectory data I conclude the .204 wins at <600 yards. I want more energy though.

    Looking at heavier rounds I am pretty much impressed with the .260/6.5mm offerings. However, they run $1.30+ per round. A bit out of my price range.

    5.45x39 is available for $0.16 a round but it has steel components and corrosive powder. Both rule out features.

    .223 Remington seems to be available at $0.26+ a round and is common in target/varmint rifles. It seems to be a great cartridge. Match ammo is $0.80 or so.

    5.56 NATO seems to be available at $0.39+ a round. 5.45mm has noticeably better external ballistic performance than .223 Remington. Bit it is NOT common in target/varmint rifles. It seems to be a great cartridge.

    I think I really want a Bolt action Target/Varmint rifle chambered in 5.45mm NATO.

    I think such a rifle could be as accurate as a .223 and push bullets 500 fps faster. I also think I can use cheap .223 ammo in this gun for plinking.

    I worry the increased barrel leade will cause accuracy degradation as compared to the .223.

    Savage Arms has indicated they can build me a Model 12BTCSS chambered in 5.56mm for about $60 more than the standard priced rifle.

    Opinions?
     
  2. the4thshake

    the4thshake Portland Active Member

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    I wouldn't worry about being able to shoot 5.56 ammo if you are concerned with accuracy. The majority if not all of commercialy loaded 5.56 ammo isn't "target/varmint" accurate. If you want to shoot out to 600 yards you are gonna need a 75 or 77 grain bullet.
     
  3. speelyei

    speelyei Willamette Valley Active Member

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    I'd handload no matter what the caliber.

    as for suggestions, this coming from a guy with a .223 and a .308, I'd go with 6.5mm
     
  4. wichaka

    wichaka Wa State Well-Known Member

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    They are 2 different cartridges, with different chamber requirements and pressure.
     
  5. Ridge Runner

    Ridge Runner Buckley, WA New Member

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    The greater internal pressure and typical leade depth are the only significant differences.

    Of course the 5.56 shell casing is also thicker walled with room for less powder. Reloaders may consider this a disadvantage. Since there is plenty of room for enough powder to overpressure a .223 breach, I choose to consider the thicker walls a benefit with increased durability.

    All 5.56 can shoot .223 safely. However, because of the longer leade, they shoot .223 slightly less accurately than the same rifle chambered in .223 would.

    Since Savage Arms has quoted me a 5.56 / .223 chambered rifle I will accept the idea that the system would meet safety and performance requirements.

    My concern is primarily keeping ammunition choices open with a 5.56 pressure rated firearm while maintaining .223 accuracy.

    Match ammo is readily available in 77 grain.

    I have the option of a 1 in 9 or a 1 in 7 twist the latter should stabilize any commercially available projectile.

    Finally, this link may help with ubnderstand the subtelty of the differences. http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/5.56x45mm_NATO

    5.56 mm NATO versus .223 Remington
    While the 5.56 mm and .223 cartridges are very similar, they are not identical. Military cases are generally made from thicker brass than commercial cases; this reduces the powder capacity (an important consideration for handloaders), and the NATO specification allows a higher chamber pressure. Test barrels made for 5.56 mm NATO measure chamber pressure at a the case mouth, as opposed to the SAAMI location. This difference accounts for upwards of 20,000 psi (140 MPa) difference in pressure measurements. That means that advertised pressure of 58,000 psi (400 MPa) for 5.56 mm NATO, is around 78,000 psi (540 MPa) tested in .223 Rem test barrels. The 5.56 mm chambering, known as a NATO or mil-spec chambers, have a longer leade, which is the distance between the mouth of the cartridge and the point at which the rifling engages the bullet. The .223 chambering, known as SAAMI chamber, is allowed to have a shorter leade, and is only required to be proof tested to the lower SAAMI chamber pressure. To address these issues, various proprietary chambers exist, such as the Wylde chamber (Rock River Arms) or the Armalite chamber, which are designed to handle both 5.56 mm and .223 equally well.
    Using commercial .223 cartridges in a 5.56-chambered rifle should work reliably, but generally will not be as accurate as when fired from a .223-chambered gun due to the longer leade. Using 5.56 mil-spec cartridges (such as the M855) in a .223-chambered rifle can lead to excessive wear and stress on the rifle and even be unsafe, and the SAAMI recommends against the practice. Some commercial rifles marked as ".223 Remington" are in fact suited for 5.56 mm, such as many commercial AR-15 variants and the Ruger Mini-14, but the manufacturer should always be consulted to verify that this is acceptable before attempting it, and signs of excessive pressure (such as flattening or gas staining of the primers) should be looked for in the initial testing with 5.56 mm ammunition.



    If I did not understand they are different cartridges I would just have started running Milspec 5.56 ammo through a standard .223 like the hundreds of people already doing so at tremendous personal risk of exploding their gun in their face.
     
  6. odiesplace97301

    odiesplace97301 silverton area Member

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    Find a good riflesmith and go over all the options like bbl length, chambers, ect. Then decide what you want from your rifle. I know the army guys are shoot at 1000 with 556 at the matches. They make a palma match chamber ream in 556, you can get the range.
     
  7. Grizzly_A

    Grizzly_A Portland Metro Area Member

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    If Savage will do it for an additonal $60, go for it. They make some superb varmint guns right out of the box. Their actions are strong and very accurate.

    I believe that the higher pressures of 5.56 is due to "most" rifles being chambered as semi-automatics, and the higher pressures gives near the same velocity because the gas-operated action bleeds off some of the pressure to cycle the action. The hotter the round, the better chance that there will be enough juice to cycle any AR in battle conditions.

    If you wanted to shoot either, then you could get a Wylde chamber or an armalite chamber, or another one of the chambers that are halfway between 5.56 and .223 rem.
     
  8. Grizzly_A

    Grizzly_A Portland Metro Area Member

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    Nevermind Wrong thread
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2009
  9. Riot

    Riot Benton County, Washington Well-Known Member

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    If you want match-grade like accuracy out of the box in a small calliber, why not look at the 22-250?
     
  10. Scott

    Scott Battle Ground Well-Known Member

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    I want to know where you are finding .223 for $0.26 a round. That is like $130 for 500 rounds. I want some of that and not Wolf is even that cheap.
     
  11. HappyRoman

    HappyRoman Sherwood Forest Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    Look at the 220 Swift for 500+ yds,, Handload, and enjoy take several K of ammo when chasing the varmits
     
  12. Chris Ohland

    Chris Ohland Beaverton, Oregon New Member

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    You could probably use the same rifle for "Varmint/Long Range", but not for Practical rifle.

    I have a Savage 10FLP in .223 that works very well with the 69-grain bullet out to 300 yards, but it has a 1:9" barrel. Beyond that you're going to need a 77- or 80-grain bullet with a 1:8" or 1:7" twist barrel in anything but ideal (no wind) conditions. Sierra recommends the faster twist barrel for the heavier bullets, so this is not hearsay. At 100 yards this rifle will put three rounds into a half-inch group, easily. It is superbly accurate right out of the box.

    I've never seen anyone using a bolt action rifle in Practical rifle, except in the annual historical (I forget the exact term) match, where you see all kinds of old military bolts. The usual rifle is an AR-15 with some sort of illuminated reticle optics, magnification between 1x-4x, carbine stock. The common thread in Practical Rifle seems to the the AR-15 because it's available, ammo is reasonably priced and available, and it works at the relatively short ranges we shoot, out to maybe 200 yards. Practical rifle isn't a pinpoint accuracy game, you just have to hit the target and make it go "ding". Lots of fun. Not for bolt action rifles, though.

    Some points to consider in your choice. And by the way, the AR-15 with a 1:8" barrel is regularly used in NRA and CMP High Power competition, where one of the stages is 600 yards prone. It's all open sights. The AR just plain works.
     
  13. the4thshake

    the4thshake Portland Active Member

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    I shoot 69 grain bullets out of my 1-8 twist AR at 300 yards just fine. They still maintain the same 1/2 MOA accuracy they do at 100 yards. Wind drift is minimal. At 600 yards they do alright but the 77 grain bullets buck the wind better.
     
  14. PfcSalt

    PfcSalt Oregon New Member

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    I was amazed by the Savage accu-trigger. It is safe, breaks clean with good feel and minimal creep. It will assist you in becoming a better marksman. IMHO Savage makes the best trigger manufactured by any firearms manufacturer. You can dial it down to under two lbs, and still be more safe from unintentional discharges than any after-market custom trigger I know of.
     
  15. onearmedswordsman

    onearmedswordsman Hillsboro, OR Member

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    +1 - Own a .223 and a .308. A 6.5mm will be my next bolt.
     
  16. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    One more vote for an AR-15. I have the Del-Ton like Coctailer has been selling for $749. It's chambered 5.56 and will shoot MOA with 5.56 mil spec or .223 Win.

    It's also very versatile in so many other ways than a bolt. I never see a zombie when I have it with me. :laugh:
     
  17. Chris Ohland

    Chris Ohland Beaverton, Oregon New Member

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    Shake;

    I agree with you completely, the AR works very well all the way out to 600 with the right ammunition.

    The point I was trying to make (but failed) is that an out-of-the-box garden variety AR-15, with a 1:9" barrel, shooting plain old 55-grain UMC ammo from Bi-Mart (or your favorite store) is a good tool for Practical Rifle.

    Chris
     
  18. NoOne

    NoOne Puget Sound Active Member

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    I have 223, 308, and now 6.5 Grendel. My 223 is OK at 600 yards, the 308 is far better. The 223 works much harder to get to 600 yards with reasonable results. The heavier bullets mentioned (75-77) really do help at 600 yards, but they require use of a 1-7 twist, and that twist rate wears out much faster. Plus, you usually have to single load the cartridges so that the bullet can be seated long. The bullet needs to be seated long so that it doesn't intrude into the powder capacity of the case.

    An excellent solution is the 6.5 Grendel. It fits into an AR15 size rifle, and has superior ballistic coefficient over either the 223, or 308. Velocity is reasonable, and barrel life is very good. The primary downside I can see is that brass is more expensive than with the more common rounds. About the cheapest I have found Lapua brass is $77 per 100.

    But, with the 123 grain Lapua scenar bullet, the Grendel easily goes to 600, and even 1000 yards before going subsonic. Accuracy is nothing short of superb.

    It is just another rifle to consider. I started with a 24 inch Alexander Arms overwatch model, and then build an 18 inch barreled Lothar Walther 6.5 CSS. (There are proprietary issues that preclude Walther from calling their cartridge a 6.5 Grendel, although both rifles shoot the same ammo).

    An excellent source of information about this round is 6.5grendel.com
     
  19. Gunner3456

    Gunner3456 Salem Well-Known Member

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    Good points. I still have a nagging feeling which causes me to stick with NATO calibers for my if the SHTF stash. If the grid and commerce as we know it ever shut down as they did in Venezuela about 8 years ago, they might be the calibers you could scrounge.

    Venezuela still hasn't really recovered and Buenos Aires is a shadow of what it was.

    Maybe I'm wrong, but that's what I'm most comfortable with.
     
  20. NoOne

    NoOne Puget Sound Active Member

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    If SHTF is a consideration, then I agree that sticking with either the cartridges of our forces (5.56x45/7.62x51) or those of the other potential combatant so scrounging ammo could help out. I guess it depends on how far we want to go down that road (scrounging) we want to go. It is conceivable that repair parts would also be necessary, in which case the initial firearm itself should be one used by one of the combatants, not a highly customized one like a piston AR. But I think that gets into an entire other thread.

    Certainly, staying with either 5.56x45 or 7.62x51 would make things easier. And the 5.56x45 military ammo will make it to 600 yards, just not with much r power in the 5.56, and military ball isn't known for terrific accuracy in either cartridge....sniper ammo excluded.