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On the 223 Remington’s suitability for deer hunting… Davy Crockett is reported to have killed one hundred and five Tennessee black bear over a period of seven months. At the time, Crockett’s firearm was not Ol’ Betsy, but rather a .48 Caliber flintlock. With a forty six inch barrel, shooting 165 grain lead balls with a ballistic coefficient of 0.068 at 1,500 fps, muzzle energy was 824 ft-lbs. At 200 yards, velocity of the ball diminished to 770 fps, kinetic energy fell to 217 ft-lbs and projectile drop was -36″. Ballistic gel penetration for this type of projectile, moving at this velocity is in the neighborhood of 22″.

A typical 62 grain 223 Remington factory load bullet leaves a rifle’s muzzle at 3,100 fps muzzle velocity, generating 1,323 ft-lbs of muzzle energy. At 200 yards, the bullet would still be traveling 2,428 fps, retaining 811 ft-lbs of energy. With a 200 yard zero, 250 yards would be the point blank range. Gel block penetration would be between 22″ and 30″, dependent upon bullet construction. So the question is, are the the problems associated with deer hunting with the 223 Remington related to cartridge or hunter?

The Ruger AR-556 MPR struck me as a possible fall deer rifle because of the increase in barrel length over the standard model. The 223 Remington is very much dependent upon velocity to do the job, to the extent the difference between a successful hunt or failure may very well be the ballistic difference between a 16″ and 18″ barrel firearm. Yes, there are folks with exceptional marksmanship skills that could kill a deer with a can of tuna, but my comments are directed to the average hunter and not Davy Crockett.

A trifecta of bullet possibilities…

The three bullets selected for the handloads that follow are the lightest rated for medium game; coyote to deer. At 60 grains, the Nosler is the lightest of the three bullets and probably the best performer. Its threshold for proper expansion is only 1,800 fps. While the nose provides controlled expansion, the shank holds the bullet together to guard against fragmentation. My hesitation in saying this is THE one is Nosler packing 50 bullets in boxes intended for 100 count and then filling the rest of the box with Styrofoam. At 51¢ per bullet; over twice the price of the other exceptional bullets, the performance difference may not equal the premium plus cost.

Next on deck is the 64 grain Winchester Power Point. It is the same bullet assembled in Winchester 223 Remington 64 grain Super-X that Winchester recommends for… coyote and deer. It is a toughly constructed 0.224″ bullet with a soft nose for proper expansion in the 223 Remington and flat based to take up less powder capacity. At 22¢ per, it is an OK priced product and not as a compromise in performance.

The 65 grain Sierra GameKing which is the only 0.224″ Sierra bullet that is not labeled for varmint work or match work. Spire tipped and boat tailed, it seems a bit pretentious for a bullet that will see only moderate distances. Yeah, I know the 22-250 Rem and 220 Swift might push the GameKing to long distances at elevated velocities, but most of those have lazy 1:14″ twist rates where 1:10″ is the slowest to stabilize these bullets. It would be nice if Sierra had a flat base Pro-Hunter bullet in this caliber and weight.

All of the handloads received a crimp from a Lee Factory Crimp Die. I realize some component companies (Who said Sierra?) demonize this tool and its use on non-cannelure bullets, but I cannot see the sense in the related statements. Factory ammo has utilized stab crimps on plain shank bullets for a very long time, which is no different than the collet crimp that results from the Lee die. If one was to be worried about the Lee Precision tool deforming bullets, cannelures in traditional lead core, copper jacketed bullets are formed to much greater bullet deformation. Finally, for folks concerned with delicate bullet deformation, bullets are clearly not treated respectfully when jammed through rifling.

Cartridge: 223 Remington

 Firearm: Ruger AR-556 MPR
 Max COL: 2.125″ – 2.260″
 Bullet Diameter: 0.224″ -0.003″/+0.000″  Primer: CCI 450
 Barrel: 18″  Reloading Dies: RCBS
 Case length: 1.760″ +0.000″/-0.030″  Groups: 3 Shots – 100 Yard
Bullet Bullet
Type
Bullet
Grains
C.O.L.” Powder
Type
Charge
Grains
Muzzle
Velocity
FPS
Muzzle
Energy
Ft-Lbs
100 Yd
3 Shot
Group “
Nosler Partition SPFB 60 2.260 CFE223 27.0 3099  1280 0.9
Nosler Partition SPFB 60 2.260 AR-Comp 24.0 2944  1155 0.9
Winchester Power Point SPFB 64 2.260 CFE223 27.0 2834  1142 0.7
Winchester Power Point SPFB 64 2.260 AR-Comp 24.0 2853 1157 0.8
Sierra GameKing SPBT 65 2.260 CFE223 26.5 2846 1151  0.5
Sierra GameKing SPBT 65 2.260 AR-Comp 23.5 2902  1197  0.7

Conclusions?

Considering only two powder types were used in developing loads for the Ruger AR-556 MPR, I would saythe results left us in pretty good shape. Accuracy is very good, reach is within goal and both summer time living and handloading are easy. No, I don’t know if Billie Holiday was a handloader. Anyway… The most accurate of the bunch looks like this over a span of 200 yards.

 Yards  0 50 100 150 200
Velocity FPS  2902  2748 2599 2456 2317
Energy Ft-Lbs 1215 1090 975 870 774
Trajectory – Inches -1.5 0.8 1.8 1.6 0

The Ruger AR-556 MPR feels about as comfortable to carry as a compact lever action carbine. With the absence of Picatinny rails sticking out all over the handguard, it can be grabbed most anywhere. It is truly light so carried in the crook of an arm, over the shoulder, hanging from a sling, it is barely noticeable when navigating through dense brush and climbing grades.

Recoil is of no significance and muzzle blast is mild so the full concentration goes to the target, not the rifle and even a busy range day is pleasant. Twist on a silencer and it only gets better, along with the bonus of not driving game into the next county as a consequence of a missed shot. The fact that ammo, factory and handloads, is very inexpensive and easy on the rifle’s barrel means more shooting and less spending.

The finish is durable and the Ruger AR-556 wipes down and bore cleans without a lot of effort. Shooting suppressed does what would be expected, a good deal of soot is deposited in the upper and lower receivers and all over shot brass, but even then clean up is easy. Bounding through the woods, getting smacked by branches, skiing down leaf covered trails set into steep hill, the ARA-556 came out without a scratch. Impressive little rifle and a solid consideration for deer season.