It’s 223 Day! – 223 Remington
Today, February 23rd, 2021 is an exciting excuse to view one of the most popular and even most controversial cartridges in North America. The .223 Remington cartridge was developed back in 1957. This lovable 22-caliber round is a regular staple whether it’s used for varmint hunting like coyotes for prairie dogs, or even as a valuable asset in a prepper’s ammunition supply. Regardless of how you feel about the well-respected .223 Remington today, we at AllOutdoor.com thought it would be an excellent reason to shed some light on history and some facts about the good old .223 Remington. Happy 223 Day! Let’s dive right in!
Happy 223 Day: The .223 Remington Origin Story
Understanding .223 Remington’s origins can be difficult as it was more or less part of a larger group working towards a military contract with a new rifle and cartridge. The .223 was designed in 1957 and opened to the public. To understand this we should start with two things: how the United States felt after the end of the Korean War, and the AR10 rifle designed by Eugene Stoner.
Early ArmaLite AR10. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
As early as the 1940s, the United States began to feel concerned about keeping military equipment up-to-date and being effective in ever-evolving wars. After the Korean War, which ended in 1953, the United States became concerned about its currently outdated weapons on the battlefields. They had firearms like the M1 Garand, the M1 Carbine and especially in Korea the fully automatic version of the M1 Carbine called the M2. Although the carbine was light, had a slight recoil, and was an overall comfortable and simple weapon, the cartridge was considered inefficient for the needs of the military. The 30-carbine cartridge was practically a pistol cartridge. It was slow and big. The US military took that and flipped it over to look for something high speed and small.
5.56 x 45 mm NATO and 30-06 M2 ball
Step inside Engine Stoner, ArmaLite’s chief designer. ArmaLite was a small subsidiary of Fairchild Aircraft that existed from 1956 to 1983 and was recently revived in the 1990s. One of the many great minds in weapon design history, Eugene Stoner has given so much more than the AR15. A little more background information can be found in Curious Relics # 003. After a series of drafts, he first developed the AR10, a semi-automatic sporting rifle from the year 308. The military asked manufacturers to provide them with a new rifle and cartridge in the mid-1950s to hand over Eugene Stoner answered this call along with Remington.
Example for M16A1. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
The United States had the M1 Garand, a semi-iauto .30-06 sprg beast of a rifle that was too heavy and aggressive, and they also had the M1 and M2 carbines (and an M3) that did the slow and somewhat fainted 30-carbine chambered cartridge. They placed demands on both new rifles, which they hoped would be selectively fired, and a new cartridge. The military requirements for a new cartridge were as follows:
- .22 caliber
- Can exceed supersonic speed at 500 yards
- Can penetrate a US steel helmet on one side at a distance of 500 meters
- Can penetrate a .135 ″ steel plate at a distance of 500 meters
- Accuracy and ballistics equal to or greater than M2 ball ammunition (30-06 for the M1 Garand)
At this point, Eugene Stoner was making small, scaled-down changes to his AR10 design, creating the AR15 for Remington’s redesigned .223 Remington cartridge. The new cartridge was based on the very similar and popular .222 Remington cartridge. Often overshadowed by its earlier rifle counterpart, the 223 was never used by the military! The United States would adopt the Select Fire M16 rifle based on the AR15 sporting rifle design introduced by ArmaLite. ArmaLite sold the rights to Colt in 1959 when the military adopted the M16 and its redesigned 5.56 x 45mm NATO.
Happy 223 Day: The .223 Remington Specs
The .223 Remington doesn’t get enough love as it lives in the shadow of its little brother, the 5.56 x 45 mm NATO. What made it so special was that it was a streamlined design that has erupted over the past 60 years. It is in everyone’s vocabulary and is known as the standard among Varmint hunters. Let’s examine what makes the .223 Remington tick!
- Designed: 1957
- Parent cartridge: .222 Remington
- Open to the public: 1962 at the Remington 760 Pump Action Rifle
- Cartridge housing: Bottleneck and borderless
- Bullet diameter: .224 in
- Primer type: Small gun
- Usual grain weight range: 36gr – 77gr
- Origin / Variants: 5.56 x 45 mm NATO, .223 Ackley Improved, .17 Remington, 204 Ruger, and the list really goes on!
.223 Remington Dimension Blueprint. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Happy 223 Day: The .223 Remington vs. 5.56x45mm NATO Controversy
I think since it’s so hard to talk about .223 Remington without mentioning the 5.56 x 45mm NATO, should we go over the obvious, are they the same? No! They aren’t, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking that way since they are so very alike. Aside from brass thickness and powder charges, there are two main factors that separate these cartridges from each other and are forever bonded together. Their housing dimensions and their chamber dimensions.
The cases have very small, subtle differences like the 5.56x45mm NATO is longer. NATO’s 5.56 x 45 mm chamber has a 0.050 inch freewheel length to accommodate a slightly longer cartridge. The .223 Remington has a freebore length of only .025 ″. Freebore is the space the bullet itself bounces through just before it hits the rifle. This significant difference means that when a 5.56 is placed in a .223 chamber, it has the very real chance of generating unsafe pressures that can result in damage to the weapon, reduced barrel life and even damage to the shooter. The long and short of it is that it is perfectly safe and acceptable to shoot .223 in a 5.56 chamber and not the other way around.
5.56 (left) .223 (right)
I hope this article was informative on 02/23/2021 and that you all enjoyed it. Happy 223 day! As always, thank you for reading AllOutdoor.com! Be safe out there, have fun shooting and see you next time! Also, let us know your thoughts in the comments below! We always look forward to your feedback.
Further information on .223 Remington: