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.223 Rifles: 10 Solid Picks for Varmint Hunting, Defense and More

.223 Rifles
Ruger/Savage Arms

These are our choices for rifles in .223 Remington.

The iconic .223 Remington is one of most popular centerfire rifle calibers here in the United States. The .223 Rem is capable of blistering muzzle velocities over 3,200 feet per second depending on the types of bullet used. The .223 is a smaller round, so it is suited more for varmints and predators like coyotes than big game. One of the major arguments on the Internet is .308 Winchester vs .223 Remington. We won't get into that today, although it is worth noting that some hunters swear by .223 for deer.

However, the .223 is also popular as a home defense option since the round lends itself well to AR-15 rifles and similar platforms. The recoil of the round is also light, which makes it a good weapon to train a new shooter in the basics of firearms handling. Especially younger shooters with smaller frames.

Today we'll look at a variety of different styles of rifle in .223 to suit a variety of practical uses. You're sure to find something you'll like on this list.

Ruger American Rifle Predator

.223 Ri
Ruger

If you are looking for a solid bolt action rifle for coyotes and other small predators, the Ruger is a gun to consider. The company sells a complete hunting package with this gun that includes a Vortex Crossfire II 4-12x44 scope. Just head to the range, sight it in, and you're ready to start hunting. Ruger also makes an un-scoped version if you already have an optic choice in mind. This rifle has a synthetic stock that will help stand up to the elements and the 1:8 rate of twist and 22-inch barrel length will help with the accuracy on long range shots. This would be a solid option for younger hunters just learning the ropes. The nice recoil pad will soak up what little kick this gun has and will allow newer shooters to gain confidence before they head into the field for the first time. Ruger also makes left handed versions of this gun for all the lefties who may feel left out on other offerings that seem to cater only to right-handed shooters. 

Smith & Wesson M&P 15 M-LOK

.223 Rifles
Smith & Wesson

For shooters looking for a gas operated semi-automatic .223, it's hard to go wrong with a name like Smith & Wesson. These sporting rifles are infinitely customizable and come with a ton of great features to start. As you can guess from the name, this gun comes with two M-LOK aluminum picatinny rails already included. It has a carbine-length handguard, a picatinny top rail just waiting for a red dot or other optic. It also has an adjustable front post and folding Magpul rear sight. This rifle also features six-position adjustable stock to help you adjust the fit. This gun takes 30-round magazines, although Smith & Wesson do make California compliant models. The 16-inch barrel has a 1:8 rate of twist.

Savage Axis XP

.223 Rifles
Savage Arms

For anyone looking for a solid first gun for a young hunter or simply anyone looking for a solid .223 on a budget, the Savage Arms Axis XP is a great option. The price comes in under $400. Savage's XP packages come with a 3-9x40mm Weaver scope already mounted and bore sighted at the factory, saving you some time. If you're looking for a slightly better optic, consider the Savage Axis II, which comes with a Bushnell scope. The II is also available in a camo finish. Regardless of which you choose, the .223 Rem version of the Axis has a four round magazine capacity and comes with a 22-inch barrel with a 1:9 rate of twist. The receiver and barrel are carbon steel with a matte black finish. Savage also makes a stainless version for hunters looking for something that will stand up to the elements a little better. The stock is synthetic and for a budget rifle, the weight isn't bad either at a little over seven pounds. Overall, it's an accurate hunting rifle package that won't break the bank the way some other .223s will.

Windham Weaponry Varmint Exterminator

.223 Rifles
Sportsman's Warehouse,

Looking for a semi-automatic rifle for some serious predator hunting? Well, this rifle may be just what you're looking for. Windham Weaponry's Varmint Exterminator uses a gas impingement system to cycle rounds quickly for fast follow-ups. If features a 7076 T6 aluminum receiver and a black hard coat anodized finish to protect against the elements. It has a Hogue rubber molded pistol grip for additional ergonomics. The barrel is 20 inches long and is made of 416R stainless steel. It is also fluted. The magazine holds five rounds. Windham Weaponry includes a sling and hard plastic carrying case standard. It's a nice little bonus that just saves a little extra money on the upfront costs of a new gun.

Bushmaster XM-15

.223 Rifles
Sportsman's Warehouse

This is a solid option for anyone who likes the classic stylings of a military or law enforcement M-16. It's not surprising that Remington makes two versions of this rifle. One in .223, but also another chambered for 5.56 Nato. We recommend choosing the latter if you want the versatility of shooting two types of ammo. Just remember that you can shoot .223 out of a 5.56, but not the other way around. The .223 version has a 16-inch barrel. It has the fixed carry handle and M-16 bolt carrier some U.S. Servicemen and women will be familiar with. It also has the classic ribbed hand guards and simple front post and adjustable rear sights. The magazine holds 30 rounds. This rifle also comes with a hard case and sling standard, adding even more value to the package.

Sig Sauer M400 Elite

.223 Rifles
Sportsman's Warehouse

For sporting rifle platforms, it's hard to go wrong with a name like Sig Sauer. The M400 Elite semi-automatic rifles offers a bevy for features for the price. These rifles features a free-floating M-LOK handguard ready for accessories, a six-position adjustable stock, and a Romeo 5 red dot sight already installed. The .223 version of this rifle has a black nitride finish and a 16-inch nitride barrel with a 1:7 rate of twist. The magazine holds 30 rounds and an enhanced Sig trigger. Somehow Sig added lots of features straight out of the box, but still managed to keep the weight down to just 7.3 pounds. The M400 Elite has proven incredibly popular and hard to find at times, but if you can get your hands on one, you'll be getting a quality, accurate rifle that you'll be using for years to come.

Weatherby Vanguard H-Bar

.223 Rifles
Weatherby

The Weatherby name is trusted by some of the most die-hard hunters on the planet and this gun is built for accuracy straight out of the box. This rifle has proven incredibly popular for other rounds like 6.5 Creedmoor, but the .223 version should be a deadly accurate varmint and predator rifle. In fact, Weatherby makes a three round, sub-MOA group guarantee at 100 yards using Weatherby or premium ammo. Pretty bold move. The gun features a two-stage trigger, a fluted bolt body and a contour heavy barrel. The barrel length is 22 inches, helping you get those tiny groups at a distance. This rifle features a tactical grey Cerakote finish that is built to take a beating from the elements. The receiver is drilled and tapped for a scope mount. This rifle holds 5+1 rounds. We were surprised to learn it's only $600. This rifle has a ton of great features for that price. It's a gun you'll be dropping coyotes with for years to come.

Henry The Long Ranger Rifle

.223 Rifles
Sportsman's Warehouse

A lever action offering in .223? Why not? Henry makes some of the best lever action guns on the planet and the Long Ranger would make for an excellent brush gun if you live in an area with a lot of coyotes. It has that classic Henry look with walnut for the stock and forend and blued steel for the barrel. Speaking of the barrel, it's 20 inches long and has a 1:09 rate of twist. The reciever is drilled and tapped for hunters who want optics. This rifle has a five round capacity and a black recoil pad to soak up what little kick there is with this gun. It's one of the more unusual .223s on the market, but an incredibly useful and reliable gun just the same.

Remington 700 5R

.223 Rifles
Sportsman's Warehouse

The legendary, buttery-smooth action of the Remington Model 700 is always worth considering with any new hunting rifle. The 700 5R is so named because the 27-inch cold hammer forged barrel has 5R rifling. The company says this increases the barrel life. To help protect the barrel even more, both barrel and action have a Cerkote finish. This rifle also has Remington's signature X-Mark Pro Trigger that lets you adjust the weight of the trigger pull. It has a 5+1 capacity. It does come in a little heavy for a .223 at 8.31 pounds, but this is a tough rifle that should stand up to the elements of a long hunt quite nicely.

CZ-USA 527 Carbine

.223 Rifles
Sportsman's Warehouse

While most people who buy this gun get it in 7.62x39, it is little-known that CZ-USA also offers it in .223 Remington. This gun has a great look thanks to the Turkish walnut stock. It has a cold hammer forged barrel that is 18.5 inches and has a 1:9 rate of twist. The magazine holds five rounds. Somehow CZ-USA impressively got the weight of this gun down under six pounds. That should make it a breeze for younger hunters to handle. CZ has a great reputation for reliable guns and the 527 should last for years of hunting adventures.

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels

NEXT: THE AXIS DEER AND HOW THEY'RE IMPACTING PARTS OF THE UNITED STATES

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.223 Rifles: 10 Solid Picks for Varmint Hunting, Defense and More