.223 Remington

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".223" redirects here. For other uses, see .223 (disambiguation).
.223 Remington
223 Remington.jpg
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.
Type Rifle/varmint
Place of origin United States
Production history
Designer Remington Arms
Designed 1964
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
Ballistic performance
Bullet weight/type Velocity Energy
36 gr (2 g) JHP 3,750 ft/s (1,140 m/s) 1,124 ft·lbf (1,524 J)
55 (3.5 g) Nosler ballistic tip 3,240 ft/s (990 m/s) 1,282 ft·lbf (1,738 J)
60 (3.9 g) Nosler partition 3,160 ft/s (960 m/s) 1,330 ft·lbf (1,800 J)
69 (4.48 g) BTHP 2,950 ft/s (900 m/s) 1,333 ft·lbf (1,807 J)
77 (5 g) BTHP 2,750 ft/s (840 m/s) 1,293 ft·lbf (1,753 J)
Test barrel length: 24 inches (61 cm)
Source(s): Federal Cartridge[1]

The .223 Remington is a cartridge with almost the same external dimensions as the 5.56×45mm NATO military cartridge. The name is commonly pronounced either two-two-three or two-twenty-three. It is loaded with a 0.224-inch (5.7 mm) diameter jacketed bullet, with weights ranging from 40 to 90 grains (2.6 to 5.8 g),[citation needed] though the most common loading by far is 55 grains (3.6 g).[citation needed]

While the external case dimensions are very similar, the .223 Remington and 5.56×45mm differ in both maximum pressure and chamber shape. The maximum and mean pressures for some varieties of the 5.56 (different cartridge designations have different standards) exceed the SAAMI maximum for the .223 Remington, and the methods for measuring pressures differ between NATO and SAAMI.[2] The 5.56 chamber specification has also changed since its adoption, as the current military loading (NATO SS-109 or US M855) uses longer, heavier bullets than the original loading. This has resulted in a lengthening of the throat in the 5.56 chamber. Thus, while .223 Remington ammunition can be safely fired in a rifle chambered for 5.56×45mm NATO, firing 5.56 ammunition in a .223 Remington chamber may produce pressures in excess of even the 5.56 specifications due to the shorter throat.[3]


The .223 Remington (5.56×45mm) is a cartridge that is ballistically in between its predecessors, the .222 Remington, and the .222 Remington Magnum. The .223/5.56 was developed to fit the action length of the new M16 service rifle. The .223/5.56 quickly became popular as a civilian cartridge because of the availability of brass, and the chambering of commercial varmint rifles in that caliber. Shortly after military acceptance of the M16, the semi-automatic version, the AR-15 became available, making the .223 cartridge even more popular.

Cartridge dimensions[edit]

The .223 Remington has 28.8 grains (1.87 ml H2O) cartridge case capacity.[4]

.223 Remington.jpg

.223 Remington maximum C.I.P. cartridge dimensions. All sizes in millimeters (mm).[5]

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 Commission Internationale Permanente pour l'Epreuve des Armes à Feu Portatives (C.I.P.) guidelines the .223 Remington case can handle up to 430 MPa (62,366 psi) piezo pressure.[6] 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 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.[7]


The .223 Remington is one of the most common rifle cartridges in use in the United States, being widely used in two types of rifles: (1) varmint rifles, most of which are bolt action and commonly have 1-in-12 rifling twist suitable for bullets between 38 to 55 grains (2.5 to 3.6 g), and (2) semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 and the Ruger Mini-14, which are commonly found to have twist rates of 1-in-7, 1-in-9, or 1-in-8. (Most modern AR-15s use 1-in-9 which is suitable for bullets up to 69 grains or 4.5 grams or 1-in-7 which is suitable for slightly heavier bullets, but older M16's used 1-in-12 twist rates, making them suitable for use with bullets of 55 grains or 3.6 grams.) The semi-automatic rifle category is often used by law enforcement, for home defense, and for varmint hunting. Among the many popular modern centerfire rifle cartridges, .223 Remington ammunition is among the least expensive and is often used by a wide range of target shooters, particularly in the "service rifle" category or 3 gun matches. The .223 is also used in survival rifles.

.223 Remington versus 5.56×45mm NATO[edit]

Size comparison between .222 (left), .223 (center) and .222 Magnum (right)

The .223 Remington and 5.56×45mm NATO cartridges and chamberings are similar but not identical.[8] While the cartridges are identical other than powder load, the chamber leade, i.e. distance from the projectile while seated in the case to the rifling 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 when fired from a short-leade .223 Remington chamber. This is a heavily debated issue among shooters and reloaders, but there has been very little actual research done to determine the actual ramifications of firing 5.56 NATO in rifles chambered for .223.[citation needed]

Firearms sold in most countries are required to pass certain safety tests, particularly a proof test consisting of firing a special high pressure round (proof load) which far exceeds the European C.I.P.[9] or U.S. SAAMI[10] pressure maximum for the round (see internal ballistics).

Brass Case[edit]

The dimensional specifications of 5.56 NATO and .223 Remington commercial 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 pressure ratings and in chamber leade length, not in the shape or thickness of the brass.[11][12]


C.I.P. defines the maximum service and proof test pressures of the .223 Remington cartridge equal to the 5.56×45mm NATO, at 430 MPa (62,366 psi). This differs from the SAAMI maximum pressure specification for .223 Remington of 380 MPa (55,114 psi), due to CIP test protocols measuring pressure using a drilled case, rather than an intact case with a conformal piston, along with other differences.[13] NATO uses NATO EPVAT pressure test protocols for their small arms ammunition specifications.

Because of these differences in methodology, the C.I.P. pressure of 430 MPa (62,366 psi) is the same as a SAAMI pressure of 380 MPa (55,114 psi), which is reflected in US Military specifications for 5.56×45mm NATO, which call for a mean maximum pressure of 55,000 PSI (when measured using a protocol similar to SAAMI).[14]

These pressures are generated and measured using a chamber cut to 5.56×45mm NATO specifications, including the longer leade. Firing 5.56×45mm NATO from a chamber with a shorter .223 Remington leade can generate pressures in excess of SAAMI maximums.


The 5.56×45mm NATO chambering, known as a NATO or mil-spec chamber, has a longer leade (free bore), which is the distance between the mouth of the cartridge and the point at which the rifling engages the bullet. The .223 Remington 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)[15] or the ArmaLite chamber, which are designed to handle both 5.56×45mm NATO and .223 Remington equally well. The dimensions and leade of the .223 Remington minimum C.I.P. chamber also differ from the 5.56×45mm NATO chamber specification.

Using commercial .223 Remington cartridges in a 5.56×45mm NATO chambered rifle should work reliably, but until recently, it was believed this was less accurate than when fired from a .223 Remington chambered gun due to the longer leade.[16] Although that may have been true in the early 1960s when the two rounds were developed, recent testing has shown that with today's ammunition, rifles chambered in 5.56 can also fire .223 ammunition every bit as accurately as rifles chambered in .223 Remington, and the 5.56 chamber has the additional advantage of being able to safely fire both calibers.[17] Using 5.56×45mm NATO mil-spec cartridges (such as the M855) in a .223 Remington chambered rifle can lead to excessive wear and stress on the rifle and even be unsafe, and SAAMI recommends against the practice.[18][19] Some commercial rifles marked as ".223 Remington" are in fact suited for 5.56×45mm NATO, such as many commercial AR-15 variants and the Ruger Mini-14 (marked ".223 cal"), 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 5.56×45mm NATO ammunition.[20]

It should also be noted that the upper receiver (to which the barrel with its chamber are attached) and the lower receiver are entirely separate parts in AR-15 style rifles. If the lower receiver has either .223 or 5.56 stamped on it, it does not guarantee the upper assembly is rated for the same caliber, because the upper and the lower receiver in the same rifle can, and frequently do, come from different manufacturers – particularly with rifles sold to civilians or second-hand rifles. On the other hand the lower receiver is not subject to the majority of the stresses of firing, so the construction of it is significantly less important compared to the upper receiver.

In more practical terms, as of 2010 most AR-15 parts suppliers engineer their complete upper assemblies (not to be confused with stripped uppers where the barrel is not included) to support both chamberings in order to satisfy market demand and prevent any potential problems.

Effects of barrel length on velocity[edit]

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. In the case of the 5.56 NATO, M193 ammunition loses or gains approximately 25.7 feet-per-second for each inch of barrel length, while M855 loses or gains 30.3 feet-per-second per inch of barrel length.[21]

Related cartridges[edit]

P.O. Ackley created an improved version of this cartridge, called the .223 Ackley Improved.[22] It has the straight sides and steep shoulder, typical of the Ackley design improvements, yielding about 5% extra case volume. This, in turn, provides longer case life, less stretching, and up to 100 ft/s (30 m/s) faster velocities.[citation needed]

Wildcat cartridge developers have for a long time necked this cartridge up to create the 6mm/223 or 6×45mm. At one time this round was very popular for varminting and competition, but has been replaced by current popular competition cartridges using short, fat cases, such as the 6 mm PPC and the 6mm Norma BR.[citation needed]

The Thompson/Center Ugalde family of wildcat cartridges are also made by necking up .223 Remington cases, for use in the Thompson/Center Contender target pistol.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Federal Cartridge Co. ballistics page". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-25. 
  2. ^ "Miscellaneous Questions 4". 
  3. ^ ".223 Remington" (PDF). AccuratePowder.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 17, 2009. 
  4. ^ "223 Rem + 223 AI Cartridge Guide". 6mmbr.com. 
  5. ^ C.I.P. decisions, texts and tables free current C.I.P. CD-ROM version download (ZIP and RAR format)
  6. ^ "223 Rem." (PDF). C.I.P. Archived from the original on 2013-07-05. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  7. ^ "SAAMI Pressures". Archived from the original on 14 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-29. 
  8. ^ .223 Remington and 5.56×45mm NATO Chamber dimensions differences
  9. ^ 9×19mm Parabellum/9mm Luger C.I.P. TDCC datasheet
  10. ^ "Cartridge Pressure Standards". Retrieved June 14, 2013. 
  11. ^ 6mmbr.com. "223 Rem + 223 AI Cartridge Guide". 
  12. ^ "5.56 vs .223 – What You Know May Be Wrong". Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
  13. ^ "Cartridge Pressure Standards". Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  14. ^ US Mil-spec MIL-C-9963F, MIL-C-9963G, and MIL-C-63989A(AR)
  15. ^ Rock River Arms
  16. ^ News and Press Releases: .223 Rem VS 5.56mm, winchester.com, 5/4/2001
  17. ^ Patrick Sweeney, "Chamber Reality Check", Peterson's Rifle Shooter, Volume 16, Issue 2, March/April 2013, pp. 32–36.
  18. ^ "Unsafe Arms and Ammunition Combinations" at SAAMI web site
  19. ^ SAAMI on 5.56 v. .223 Remington. The Gun Zone. Retrieved on 2011-01-08.
  20. ^ TECHNICAL NOTE 45: 5.56 NATO vs SAAMI .223 REMINGTON CHAMBERS, armalite.com, December 4, 2002
  21. ^ 223 Remington/5.56 NATO, velocity versus barrel length: A man, his chop box and his friend’s rifle | Rifleshooter.com
  22. ^ Anderson, Dave (April 2003). "Pumping up the .223: experiments with a self-loading .223 Ackley Improved". Guns Magazine. Archived from the original on 14 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-10. 

External links[edit]