A variety of .223 Remington cartridges and a .308 Winchester (right) for comparison. Bullets in .223 cartridges (left to right): Montana Gold 55 grain full metal jacket, Sierra 55 grain Spitzer boat tail, Nosler/Winchester 55 grain combined technology, Hornady 60 grain V-Max, Barnes 62 grain Tipped Triple-Shock X, Nosler 69 grain hollow point boat tail, Swift 75 grain Scirocco II.
|Place of origin||United States|
|Variants||.223 Ackley Improved, 5.56×45mm NATO|
|Parent case||.222 Remington|
|Case type||Rimless, bottleneck|
|Bullet diameter||0.224 in (5.7 mm)|
|Neck diameter||0.253 in (6.4 mm)|
|Shoulder diameter||0.354 in (9.0 mm)|
|Base diameter||0.376 in (9.6 mm)|
|Rim diameter||0.378 in (9.6 mm)|
|Rim thickness||0.045 in (1.1 mm)|
|Case length||1.76 in (45 mm)|
|Overall length||2.26 in (57 mm)|
|Rifling twist||1 in 12 inch (military style rifles use 1:7 to 1:10 to stabilize longer bullets)|
|Primer type||Small rifle|
|Maximum pressure (SAAMI)||55,000 psi (380 MPa)|
|Maximum pressure (CIP)||62,366 psi (430.00 MPa)|
|Maximum CUP||52000 CUP|
|Test barrel length: 24 inches (61 cm)|
The .223 Remington (a.k.a.: 5.56×45mm or M193) is a rifle cartridge developed in 1957, for the ArmaLite AR-15. In 1964, the ArmaLite AR-15 was adopted by the United States Army as the M16 rifle and it would later become the standard U.S. Military rifle. The military version of the cartridge uses a 55 gr full metal jacket bullet and was designated M193. In 1980, the .223 Remington was transformed into a new cartridge, a 62 gr full metal jacket bullet with a seven grain steel core for better penetration and designated 5.56×45mm NATO (a.k.a.: SS109 or M855).
The development of the cartridge which eventually became the .223 Remington was intrinsically linked to the development of a new lightweight combat rifle. The cartridge and rifle were developed by Fairchild Industries, Remington Arms and several engineers working toward a goal developed by U.S. Continental Army Command (CONARC). Early development work began in 1957. A project to create a small caliber high velocity (SCHV) firearm was created. Eugene Stoner of ArmaLite was invited to scale down the AR-10 (7.62×51mm NATO) design. Winchester was also invited to participate. The parameters requested by CONARC were:
- .22 caliber
- Bullet exceeding supersonic speed at 500 yards 
- Rifle weight 6 lbs
- Magazine capacity of 20 rounds
- Select fire for both semi-automatic and fully automatic use
- Penetration of US steel helmet one side, at 500 yards
- Penetration of .135" steel plate at 500 yards
- Accuracy and ballistics equal to M2 ball ammunition (.30-06 M1 Garand)
- Wounding ability equal to the M1 Carbine
Springfield Armory's Earle Harvey lengthened the .222 Remington cartridge case to meet the requirements. It was then known as the .224 Springfield. Concurrently with the SCHV project Springfield armory was developing a 7.62 mm rifle. Harvey was ordered to cease all work on the SCHV to avoid any competition of resources.
Eugene Stoner of ArmaLite (a division of Fairchild Industries) had been advised to produce a scaled down version of the 7.62×51mm NATO AR-10 design. In May 1957 Stoner gave a live fire demonstration of the prototype of the ArmaLite AR-15 for General Wyman. As a result, CONARC ordered rifles to test. Stoner and Sierra Bullet's Frank Snow began work on the .222 Remington cartridge. Using a ballistic calculator they determined that a 55 grain bullet would have to be fired at 3,300 ft/s to achieve the 500 yard performance necessary.
Robert Hutton (technical editor of Guns and Ammo magazine) started development of a powder load to reach the 3,300 ft/s goal. He used DuPont IMR4198, IMR3031 and an Olin powder to work up loads. Testing was done with a Remington 722 rifle with a 22" Apex barrel. During a public demonstration the round successfully penetrated the US steel helmet as required, but testing showed chamber pressures to be excessively high.
Stoner contacted both Winchester and Remington about increasing the case capacity. Remington created a larger cartridge called the .222 Special. This cartridge is loaded with DuPont IMR4475 powder.
During parallel testing of the T44E4 (future M14) and the ArmaLite AR-15 in 1958 the T44E4 experienced 16 failures per 1,000 rounds fired compared to 6.1 for the ArmaLite AR-15. Because of several different .222 caliber cartridges which were being developed for the SCHV project, the .222 Special was renamed .223 Remington. In May 1959 a report was produced stating that five to seven man squads armed with ArmaLite AR-15 rifles have a higher hit probability than 11 man squads armed with the M-14 rifle. At an Independence Day picnic air force general Curtis Le May tested the ArmaLite AR-15 and was very impressed with it. He ordered a number of them to replace M2 carbines that were in use by the air force. In November of that year, testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground showed the ArmaLite AR-15 failure rate had declined to 2.5/1,000, resulting in the ArmaLite AR-15 being approved for air force trials.
In 1961 a marksmanship testing compared the AR-15 and M-14. 43 % of ArmaLite AR-15 shooters achieved Expert while only 22 % of M-14 rifle shooters did. Le May ordered 80,000 rifles. In July 1962, operational testing ended with a recommendation for adoption of the ArmaLite AR-15 rifle chambered in .223 Remington. In September 1963 the .223 Remington cartridge was officially accepted and named "Cartridge, 5.56 mm ball, M193". The following year, the ArmaLite AR-15 was adopted by the United States Army as the M16 rifle and it would later become the standard U.S. Military rifle. The specification included a Remington-designed bullet and the use of IMR4475 powder which resulted in a muzzle velocity of 3,250 ft/s and a chamber pressure of 52,000psi.
In the spring of 1962 Remington submitted the specifications of the .223 Remington to the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI). In December 1963, Remington introduced its first rifle chambered for .223 Remnington a Model 760 rifle.
Americans would define the shoulder angle at alpha/2 = 23 degrees. The common rifling twist rate for this cartridge is 305 mm (1 in 12 in), 6 grooves, Ø lands = 5.56 millimetres (0.219 in), Ø grooves = 5.69 millimetres (0.224 in), land width = 1.88 millimetres (0.074 in) and the primer type is small rifle.
According to the official C.I.P. (Commission Internationale Permanente pour l'Epreuve des Armes à Feu Portatives) rulings the .223 Remington can handle up to 430.00 MPa (62,366 psi) Pmax piezo pressure. In C.I.P. regulated countries every rifle cartridge combo has to be proofed at 125% of this maximum C.I.P. pressure to certify for sale to consumers. This means that .223 Remington chambered arms in C.I.P. regulated countries are currently (2016) proof tested at 537.50 MPa (77,958 psi) PE piezo pressure. This is equal to the NATO maximum service pressure guideline for the 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge.
The SAAMI pressure limit for the .223 Remington is set at 379.212 MPa (55,000 psi), piezo pressure. Remington submitted .223 Remington specifications to SAAMI in 1964. The original diagrams use English Inch measurements.
.223 Remington vs. 5.56×45mm NATO
In 1980, the .223 Remington was transformed into a new cartridge and designated 5.56×45mm NATO (a.k.a.: SS109 or M855). This new round uses a 62 gr full metal jacket bullet with a seven grain steel core for better penetration against lightly armored targets, specifically to meet the NATO requirement that the bullet be able to penetrate through one side of a WWII U.S. M1 helmet at 800 meters (which was also the requirement for the 7.62mm NATO). It had a slightly lower muzzle velocity than its predecessor, but better long-range performance due to higher sectional density and a superior drag coefficient. This requirement made the 5.56mm NATO round less capable of fragmentation than the .223 Remington and was considered more humane.
The external dimensional specifications of .223 Remington and 5.56×45mm NATO brass cases are identical. The cases tend to have similar case capacity when measured, with variations chiefly due to brand, not 5.56 vs .223 designation. The result of this is that there is no such thing as "5.56 brass" or ".223 brass", the differences in the cartridges lie in powder loads which are affected by variations in case capacity. Brass for the 5.56 mm tends to be thicker. When handloaded, care is taken to look for pressure signs as 5.56 mm cases may produce higher pressures with the same type of powder and bullet as compared to .223 Remington cases. Case capacities have been observed to vary by as much as 2.6 grains. Sierra provides separate loading sections for .223 Remington and 5.56×45mm NATO and also recommends different loads for bolt action rifles as compared to semi-automatic rifles.
Rifling is expressed as a ratio. A 1 in 12" ratio means that rifling is cut so that the bullet rotates 360° after having traveled 12". This is expressed as 1:12 spoken as 1 in 12 inches. Rifling must match the bullet design (length, weight and projectile shape) which a shooter intends to use in order to maintain accuracy.
Many AR (Armalite) type rifles use 1:9, which is suitable for bullets up to 69 grains or 4.5 grams or 1:7, which is suitable for bullets up to 85 grains or 5.5 grams. Many AR rifle owners choose to build their own rifles, which is facilitated by a huge variety of barrels and other components. The custom built AR may have a barrel from 7.5" (which may be classed as a pistol, if lacking a stock) to as long as 24" used in varmint rifles primarily, often with Wylde or Noveske chambering.
The Sturm, Ruger & Co. AR-556 has rifling at 1:8. Their Mini-14 rifles have rates of 1:9. Ruger's American rifle bolt action is also in 1:8. Smith and Wesson in their M&P15 also uses 1:7. The 5.56 mm NATO chamber will shoot either 5.56×45mm NATO or .223 Remington and is used by most makers of complete rifles and components.
The .223 Remington and 5.56×45mm NATO barrel chamberings are not the same. While the cartridges are identical other than powder load, bullet weight, and chamber pressure, a significant difference is in barrel of the rifle to be used, not in the cartridge. The chamber leades (throating) of the barrels of these rifles differ between designs.
The leade is the distance from the projectile while seated in the case to the rifling, which is typically shorter in .223 Remington commercial chambers. Because of this, a cartridge loaded to generate 5.56×45mm NATO pressures in a 5.56×45mm NATO chamber may develop pressures that exceed SAAMI limits for .223 Remington when fired from a short-leade .223 Remington chamber.
The throating issue exists because in the US it has been traditional to have short chambers so that the bullet is being engaged at the moment of insertion. European practice has more of a forcing cone construction which can, by itself, allow significantly higher chamber pressure. All Sig-Sauer handguns (for example) have European throating and all are certified to fire +P ammunition. Short throating and unnoticed bullet setback can easily increase chamber pressures by more than 10,000 psi.
It has been observed that 5.56×45mm NATO ammunition is not as accurate as .223 Remington in many of the AR type rifles extant even with the same bullet weight. A solution to the problem has been developed by Bill Wylde and it bears his name. .223 Wylde is not a cartridge, it is a barrel chamber specification - with the external dimensions and lead angle as found in the military 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge and the 0.224 inch freebore diameter as found in the civilian SAAMI .223 Remington cartridge - that was designed to increase the accuracy of 5.56×45mm NATO ammunition to that of .223 Remington. The Noveske company also has a chamber design which increases 5.56mm NATO accuracy.
Remington submitted the specifications for the .223 Remington cartridge in 1964 to SAAMI. The original pressure for the .223 Remington was 52,000 psi with DuPont IMR Powder. The current pressure of 55,000 psi (379 MPa) resulted from the change from IMR to Olin Ball powder. The official name for .223 Remington in the US Army is cartridge 5.56 x 45mm ball, M193. If a 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge is loaded into a chamber intended to use .223 Remington the bullet will be in contact with the rifling and the forcing cone is very tight. This generates a much higher pressure than .223 chambers are designed for. NATO chose a 178 mm (1-in-7") rifling twist rate for the 5.56×45mm NATO chambering. The SS109/M855 5.56×45mm NATO ball cartridge requires a 228 mm (1-in-9") twist rate, while adequately stabilizing the longer NATO L110/M856 5.56×45mm NATO tracer projectile requires an even faster 178 mm (1-in-7") twist rate.
The table contains some estimated pressures based on normal proofing practice and on the known increases in pressure caused by bullet setback (which is a similar occurrence with regard to pressure). The proof pressure of M197 is 70,000 psi.
|Cartridge||US designation||NATO designation||Bullet||Rifling||Throat||Pressure in NATO chamber||in .223 SAAMI chamber||Safe sustained|
|.223 Remington||.223 Rem||55gr FMJ||1:14||tight||52,000 psi (359 MPa)||52,000 psi (359 MPa)||Yes|
|.223 Remington||M193||5.56×45mm||55gr FMJ||1:12||tight||55,000 psi (379 MPa)||55,000 psi (379 MPa)||Yes|
|.223 Remington||M197||C10524197-56-2||1:12||tight||70,000 psi (483 MPa)||70,000 psi (483 MPa)||One time only|
|5.56×45 mm NATO||M855||SS109||62 gr ball||1:7||long||62,366 psi (430 MPa) EPVAT||over 70,000 psi (483 MPa)||No|
|5.56×45 mm NATO||M856||L110||77gr Tracer||1:7||long||62,366 psi (430 MPa) EPVAT||over 70,000 psi (483 MPa)||No|
|5.56×45 mm NATO||M857||SS111||Tungsten carbide||1:7||long||62,366 psi (430 MPa) EPVAT||over 70,000 psi (483 MPa)||No|
|5.56×45 mm NATO||Proof||Proof||unknown||1:7||long||77,958 psi (538 MPa) EPVAT||82,250 psi (567 MPa) estimated||No|
Effects of barrel length on velocity
Barrel length helps determine a specific cartridge's muzzle velocity. A longer barrel will typically yield a greater muzzle velocity, while a short barrel will yield a lower one. The first AR-15 rifles used a barrel length of 20". In the case of the .223 Remington (M193) ammunition loses or gains approximately 25.7 feet-per-second for each inch of barrel length, while 5.56×45 mm NATO (M855) loses or gains 30.3 feet-per-second per inch of barrel length.
Usage and commercial offerings
The .223 Remington has become one of the most popular cartridges and is currently used in a wide range of semi-automatic and manual action rifles and even handguns; such as the Colt AR-15, Ruger Mini-14, Remington Model 700, Remington XP-100, etc. The popularity of .223 Remington is so great, that in the US it virtually eliminated all other similar .22 caliber center-fire varmint rifle cartridges.
It is commercially loaded with 0.224 inch (5.7 mm) diameter jacketed bullets, with weights ranging from 35 to 85 grains (2.27 g to 5.8 g), with the most common loading by far being 55 grains (3.6 g). Ninety and ninety-five grain Sierra Matchking bullets are available for reloaders.
- .30 RAR
- 5 mm caliber
- Delta L problem
- List of rifle cartridges
- Sectional density
- Table of handgun and rifle cartridges
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