Which Guns Use .223 Ammo?
When shopping for ammunition, you might have noticed there are a lot of options for purchasing .223 Remington. This is because many manufacturers make .223 ammunition, and with good reason: It's one of the most popular rifle cartridges in the United States, if not the world.
History of .223
Time for a small history lesson — because you can't really talk about the .223 cartridge without it.
The .223 cartridge was originally developed in the 1960's by Remington Arms, hence the name .223 Remington. The round was developed at the behest of the United States Continental Army Command (CONARC) as they sought to field a new small-caliber high velocity weapon system.
The Army needed its soldiers to be able to carry more ammunition so they wouldn't run out during battles, and in order for them to carry more rounds, the rounds needed to be smaller. Simply carrying more of the currently existing larger-size rounds would exhaust the soldiers, wearing them out before they could fight.
To solve this issue, the CONARC put out a request from manufacturers to develop a round that met certain criteria. In addition to needing to be small, it needed to be able to pierce steel at 500 yards. On top of that, the rifle that fired it couldn't weigh more than 6 pounds, and it needed to be as accurate as — and have a similar ballistic profile to — the existing .30-06 ammunition the Army was using. After some development by numerous manufacturers, the .223 Remington was born.
Interestingly, so was the AR platform. The AR-15, designed by Eugene Stoner and manufactured by Armalite Rifle, was developed to fire this new cartridge. Over time, this dynamic duo has grown to be the most popular firearm and round combination in America.
Why the .223?
As mentioned earlier, the .223 Remington is a small-caliber, high-velocity round. To translate that into actual English, it means the cartridge contains a small bullet that is packed with a whole bunch of gunpowder. This allows the tiny projectile to travel farther and still strike with enough velocity on the target to do the job it was fired to do. Whether that's to pierce steel at 500 yards or eliminate a varmint, the .223 delivers.
Many people compare the .223 to the 7.62mm round favored by the AK-47. This is because the .223 round was eventually developed into the 5.56 round chambered by NATO while the 7.62 was chambered by everyone from the Soviets in the Cold War to the Taliban in Afghanistan. It's a battle for military supremacy, and in all honesty, is probably just as hotly contested as the 9mm versus .45 ACP debate is. But in reality, these two competing rounds are not the same. Each was created to meet specific criteria, and while the arguing might be fun, it's really an apples-to-oranges comparison.
The simple truth is that the .223 Remington is a battle-proven, time-tested round that's inherently accurate and maintains its energy over distances — which is exactly what it was designed to do. That's why it's so popular.
Another reason for its popularity is that it's an excellent option for self-defense. Having proved itself worthy in every military action since the Vietnam War, this cartridge is more than capable of performing for home and family defense. Whether in urban settings or in wide open spaces like plains and deserts, the .223 Remington performs. In long-range shots as well as close-quarters interior defense, this round has proven to be the go-to choice for many.
What Guns Shoot .223?
The ATF classification on pistols notwithstanding, the .223 Remington is a rifle round. There are a variety of rifle manufacturers producing guns chambered in this venerable cartridge, including everything from the AR platform to bolt action rifles. There are even cowboy-style lever action rifles chambered in .223 Remington.
Here's a look at a few.
Without a doubt, the AR is the most common rifle to find chambered in this caliber, which is no surprise, given that the .223 Remington was developed in conjunction with the AR-15. Many other manufacturers have now jumped onto the AR manufacturer train since its original Armalite days, and you can now buy an AR from such manufacturers as:
- Smith and Wesson
- Heckler and Koch
- Sig Sauer
- Daniel Defense
- LaRue Tactical
Broadly speaking, if a company makes a rifle in the AR style, it will likely be found in .223 Remington.
Speaking of the AR platform: keep in mind that the 5.56 NATO round was developed out of the .223 Remington cartridge, so if the rifle shoots 5.56 NATO, it will shoot the .223 Remington. Interestingly, this cannot be done the other way around; the 5.56 NATO round has too much pressure to be fired by a gun designed specifically for .223, so keep that in mind as well.
The bolt action rifle is traditionally thought of as a hunting rifle in the United States. Conversely, the .223 Remington round is not a hunting round. In more than a few places, it's actually too small to legally use to hunt. Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Virginia, Ohio, New Jersey, Washington and West Virginia all forbid hunting with the .223 round.
However, that doesn't mean there aren't numerous bolt action .223 rifles throughout the U.S., both outside those states and within. Even if your state doesn't allow hunting with .223, you can still use it for precision shooting or freeing your property from rodents. There are many firearm companies that make bolt-action .223 rifles, including:
Just as with the AR, if the company is making a bolt action rifle, you can probably find it in .223.
The lever action, despite seeming antiquated, is still a popular firearm format today. And as with the other styles, that means you can find it in .223 Remington. Manufacturers making these types of guns include:
This is an interesting subset of guns that are chambered in .223 Remington. They resemble the AR rifle, but due to the way the ATF classifies firearms, they're considered pistols. These are ARs that have barrels under 16 inches.
There are additional regulations that come with guns from this category, such as the fact that you cannot have a buttstock or foregrip on them, and that you must use a pistol brace and a handstop. And though these guns are considered pistols legally, they can still be found in .223 despite it being a rifle caliber. In most cases, these pistols are built by the individuals who purchase them. They can be kits or simply complete uppers and lowers that the buyer chooses separately and puts together.
It's clear that the .223 Remington is a popular cartridge, and with good reason. It delivers on expectations, making it a round to rely on. Do some research and look around to find a style of rifle, or "pistol," that suits you. If you're looking to get it in .223, you will no doubt find one.
Whether you choose a bolt action rifle for hunting, an AR for sport or self-defense or a lever action simply because you like it, you can find it in .223 Remington. This cartridge is the "just right" Goldilocks cartridge for millions of shooters — if you choose to use it, you've made a good decision.