5.56x45mm NATO -.223 Remington

Back in the early days of sniper development and use for the law enforcement community the 223 Rem was fairly popular because of the fear of over penetration from the 308 Win as well as some other concerns and considerations. But as the limitations of the cartridge itself started to become known though documented engagements and other ballistic evaluations, the 223 lost favor as a sniper round. There are still cases where the .223 is used but it tends to be more as a complementary cartridge and and secondary rifle instead of being used in place of a .308 or other cartridge. The small and fragile .223 bullets, not including FMJ bullets found in most military ammunition, generally splinter on impact allowing almost no excess penetration that could possibly hit innocents, such as hostages. But with this fragmentation and lack of penetration comes a necessity for more precise shot placement and concern for insufficient penetration, leaving almost no room for error. The .223 has a small temporary wound channel (Stretch cavity), requiring almost a direct hit on the spinal stem in order to get “lights out” on a target. The lighter .223 bullet, with its low ballistic coefficient, is very susceptible to the effects of wind and loses velocity fast, which really limits its long range potential. While it is possible to achieve acceptable accuracy at 600 meters on a calm day, it is too risky on the windy days to really consider this round for military sniping purposes. Due to the lack of penetration and lack of energy, the .223 should only be used in very rare circumstances and only on head shots. There is more then one instance when a target has been shot with a perfectly placed center mass shot, and it failed to incapacitate the target. The very heavy .223 bullets (75gr +) are becoming more popular in long range shooting, but the special barrels and rifles required to shoot these high BC bullets are not available as standard sniper rifles to everyday snipers.

On the military side, the small FMJ bullets of the 223/5.56 have had their share of problems in terms of lethality. The small bullets in a full metal jacket have shown to have a tendency to pass right through their targets without doing much damage or tendency all of their energy to the target. As such the .223 has not garnered much support as a sniping caliber. But where the .223 has been fairly popular is with the Designated Marksman or Squad Advanced Marksman. These rifles tend to be similar in the standard issue battle rifles and as such the 223 is a good choice.

Note: In order to stabilize the 69-gr. Bullets and heavier, the twist on the rifle barrel needs to be at least 1:8″, if you are going with 75 – 80 gr bullets you will even need a faster rate of twist such as 1:7″

Recommendation: only use the .223 within fairly short range, 100-300 meters and only take head shots if at all possible. If the .223 is all that your unit has in the way of a sniper rifle, be sure to keep in mind the limitations of the round and choose your ammunition carefully.

Military Applications:

NOTE: I have chosen the new Federal 77gr Gold Medal Match ammo, which has decent 1000 yard ballistics, but they are still not as good as the other common sniping rounds, and arrive with very little energy. The sierra match king has been approved for combat duty as well (at least in the M118LR ammo. Also, be aware that the 77gr will require at LEAST a 1:7 twist. You will need to verify. This round was designed for the increased popularity of the .223 in 600 yard shooting competitions (Service Rifle) not for sniping or DMR work.

  • Federal Gold Medal match – 5.56x45mm NATO (.223) 77gr 2750fps

Bullet Drop (Inches)

+17.7 +31.3 +38.1 +36.6 +24.7 Zero -40.9 -101.9 -187.4 -302.1

Energy – (Muzzle: 1295 ft-lbs.)

1070 880 715 580 465 370 295 240 205 180

Wind Drift (Inches) – 10mph Crosswind

.9 3.9 9.2 17.2 28.4 43.2 61.9 85.0 112.2 143.1

Law Enforcement Applications:

NOTE: I have chosen the Federal 55gr Sierra Gameking round, which provides okay expansion, with okay penetration. Federal also makes a 55gr Trophy Bonded Bear Claw which might also warrent a look. Like all my suggestions, your own tests will need to be conducted to verify your OWN data. Some others to consider might be the HSM 55gr VMax for immediate expansion and energy release.

  • Federal Premium – 55gr Sierra Gameking BTHP 3240fps

Bullet Drop (Inches)

50y/46m 100y/91m 200y/183m 300y/275m
-0.3 Zero -2.7 -10.8

Energy – (Muzzle: 1280 ft-lbs.)

N/A 935 670 465

Wind Drift (Inches) – 10mph Crosswind

N/A 1.3 5.8 14.2