Some cartridges exemplify a certain type of design. The .223 Remington is basically the highpoint of minimalism in all aspects.
Originally, Gene Stoner’s M-16 was chambered for the then immensely popular .222 Remington, but somebody in the Army didn’t think the .222 had sufficient downrange oomph.
To get a military contract, the rifle’s projectile had to still be traveling at over 1000 fps at 500 yards. To achieve this effect, Stoner got together with a gun writer named Robert Hutton and they proceeded to lengthen the case of .222 rounds until they achieved sufficient powder capacity to hit their goal with a 55gr bullet.
Load Up on Ammo
The result was to be one of the most popular cartridges in history. Bolt guns, pump actions, single-shots and the now the omnipresent AR-15 have all been offered on the commercial market for varmint hunting or just plain old plinking, putting the .223 Remington in the same league, popularity-wise, as the good old 30-06.
To see the selection of .223 Remington ammunition in our web shop, click here.
Naturally, as an improved version of the .222, the .223 makes for an excellent varmint round. It produces extremely low recoil and is every bit as capable of hairsplitting accuracy as its parent case.
That being said, the popularity of the .223 might be based a bit more on who it knows than what it does, and there are a few current considerations you should take into account before picking up a .223 for varmint shooting purposes.
To begin with, most of the varmint hunters who fell in love with the .223 started their romance in the years between the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War. These folks were running their varmint guns on brass and ammo straight out of US armories.
This fodder was basically free, and it doesn’t take much to get gun enthusiasts to like free ammo.
During a long stretch of relative peace, most of the Armed Forces didn’t really care much about their ammo stash. Usable 5.56×45 NATO rounds, the military designation for the .223, practically fell from the sky.
Sure, there was a difference in throat diameter, but nobody really cared because it was so cheap.
When Uncle Sam needed bullets again, this supply dried up. The military began getting a lot stingier with their brass and the “good old boy” ammo supply disappeared as well.
In the last few years, I’ve actually had people offer to pay me for the old ammo cans of 5.56 NATO brass that were given to me years ago by a fellow who ran out of storage space. How times can change.
The big problem the .223 is currently experiencing is the fact that too many people like it. Target shooters, competition shooters and home defense folks are all gobbling up .223 stuff when it hits the market.
This has made brass and other components that were once as common as rocks hard to find most of the time.
There is no question that the .223 Remington can play the role of a varmint cartridge very well, but it might not be the best time to choose one for that job.
There are a lot of other cartridges out there that can keep pace with the .223 in a prairie dog town, and a less popular cartridge might prove easier to find when there is a 3 gun competition in town.