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.223 Remington Rifles: 6 Incredible Picks for Varmint Hunting and Target Shooting

Whether it's for hunting or target shooting, the .223 rifle can do it all.

The .223 Remington is one of the most popular rounds in America. Hunters and target shooters hold it in high regard because of its versatility, incredible short and long-range performance, wide availability, and affordability.

To complement this cartridge's vast array of usefulness, firearm manufacturers have gotten creative when designing rifles chambered in .223. This chambering is available in almost any rifle action type, including bolt action, break, semi-automatic, and even lever-action. Formats might feature wood, synthetic, or even carbon fiber stocks. Various barrel lengths, twist rates, rifling styles, lengths of pulls, overall weights, and round capacities exist on the market, which means there's a .223 rifle for everyone, whether they hunt or competitively target shoot.

The seemingly unlimited options for .223 rifles is overwhelming. To help make your search for the perfect .223 easier, we've assembled six awesome rifles chambered in .223 Remington below. Whether you're leaning towards a semi-auto with a large round capacity or a bolt-action rifle destined for varmint hunting, there's a .223 rifle out there for you.

The 6 Best .223 Rifles for Varmint Hunting and Target Shooting

Best Overall Rifle Chambered in .223 Remington

Sig Sauer M400 Tread Predator .223 Rifle

Sig Sauer

Top Pick: Sig Sauer M400 Tread Predator

Weight: 7.4 lbs | Action Type: Semi-Auto | Overall Length: 34.5 inches | Barrel Length: 16 inches | Length of Pull: Adjustable | Capacity: 5+1 rounds

The M400 Tread Predator is brought to you by Sig Sauer. A world-renowned manufacturer, Sig is known for its highly accurate, precise, and tough firearm systems. Its preference for system-based products allows its offerings to be adaptive, customizable, and adjustable. The M400 Tread Predator platform is no exception.

The M400 Tread is a semi-automatic precision rifle. An included 5-round detachable box magazine feeds it. The fully adjustable Magpul PRS Lite Stock allows the length of pull and comb height to be adjusted to fit any shooter. The aluminum rail, upper receiver, lower receiver, and receiver extension are anodized, which is one of the most durable metal finishes available, as it increases corrosion and scratch resistance, and hardness. As an additional layer of protection and camouflage, the rail is treated with jungle green Cerakote. This treatment is a nice touch because, traditionally, Cerakote is reserved for ultra-high-end rifles. Thankfully, it's present on this mid-range semi-auto.

The stainless steel barrel is free-floated. As a result, it's a highly accurate rifle that places no pressure on the barrel and maintains its accuracy even when it is hot. The 1:8 twist rate allows shooters to load a diverse array of .223 and 5.56 ammunition into this rifle, including popular 77-grain long-range rounds. It also has protected threads, so the muzzle comes flash or sound-suppressor ready.

The M-Lok accessory rail allows users to attach almost anything to this rifle. Lights, laser sights, bipods, and more can easily be mounted onto this rail. M400 Tread Predator owners can add practically any attachment they'd like, depending on whether they aim to hunt coyotes or practice precision shooting at the range.

The M400 Tread Predator also has an ambidextrous safety and magazine release. The rubber overmold grip has a more vertical angle than other standard rifle configurations, which lets users maintain a natural wrist position while shooting. This intuitive wrist position makes lining your finger up on the 2-stage Matchlite Duo trigger natural and easy.

Sig Sauer's M400 Tread Predator offers every feature a hunter and target shooter looks for in a mid-range rifle chambered in .223 Remington. Sig sacrificed nothing when designing this rifle, and it shows.

  • Just about the most versatile and adaptable hunting and target shooting .223 rifle available
  • Adjustable length of pull allows this rifle to fit small, average, and large-framed users
  • Picatinny rail is ready for a scope
  • Adjustable comb optimizes rifle fit
  • M-Lok rail allows users to attach bipods, grips, and more
  • Barrel is stainless steel, free-floated, threaded, and has a 1:8 twist rate
  • Semi-automatic action offers the fastest reloading time
  • Anodized and Cerakoted exterior is remarkably tough and weather, scratch, corrosion, and rust resistant
  • Two-stage trigger encourages intentional shooting

  • The trigger pull weight is 8.4 pounds, which is quite heavy. Before taking this gun hunting, practice pulling the trigger at the range

Sig Sauer M400 Tread Predator - $1,000


Best Single Shot Rifle Chambered in .223 Remington

Henry Single Shot .223 Remington Rifle


Top Pick: Henry Single Shot Rifle

Weight: 7.18 lbs | Action Type: Break | Overall Length: 37.5 inches | Barrel Length: 22 inches | Length of Pull: 14 inches | Capacity: 1 round

Since they're American-made, you can expect the highest quality when hunting with a Henry rifle. Although it's not a lever action, Henry's single-shot break-action gun chambered in .223 Remington is an awesome little firearm. Its timeless look, exceptional quality, and simple design will impress novice and experienced hunters and target shooters.

This Henry rifle has a blued steel barrel measuring 22 inches in length. The rate of twist is 1:9, which is effective at stabilizing bullets weighing 40 to 62 grains. This gun has extractors, not ejectors, so removing your spent casing from the barrel and putting it in your pocket is easy.

The front sight on this rifle is a brass bead, and the folding leaf rear sight is fully adjustable. Just be sure to take it to the range and sight it in before going hunting. If you hope to put a scope on this gun, you're in luck; it's already drilled and tapped.

At 7.18 pounds, this gun's weight balances maneuverability and stability. It's not so heavy that you won't want to carry it, and the weight will help with recoil management. Plus, the black rubber recoil pad on the end of the buttstock will absorb recoil, too.

Henry included three additional safety features in the design of this single-shot firearm. First, the rebounding hammer won't touch the firing pin unless the trigger is pulled. Second, the barrel won't open if the hammer is cocked, and third, the barrel won't close if the hammer's cocked while it was open. These features help avoid accidental discharges while handling the firearm.

Overall, this Henry rifle is safe and easy to operate, is a blast to shoot, and is effective for hunting and target shooting. At under $600, this rifle is a steal for anyone hunting for a classy, high-quality .223.

Henry Single Shot Rifle in .223 Remington - $500

Best Compact .223 Remington Rifle

Savage Axis II Compact in .223 Remington

Savage Arms

Top Pick: Savage Axis II Compact

Weight: 6.25 lbs | Action Type: Bolt | Overall Length: 39.5 inches | Barrel Length: 20 inches | Length of Pull: 12.75 inches | Magazine Capacity: 4+1 rounds

Regarding fixed-length compact rifles, the Savage Arms Axis II Compact chambered in .223 Remington is a great, wallet-friendly rifle. This compact rifle is specifically designed for smaller-framed shooters like women and kids. The length of pull is 12.75 inches, one full inch shorter than the average length of pull on mass-produced rifles. Savage also recently redesigned this stock to be more ergonomic and better-fit shooters smaller than 5 feet 10 inches.

In addition to fitting small frames like a glove, this solid, affordable .223 is rugged enough to withstand most hunting conditions. The synthetic stock is both lightweight and weather and scratch-resistant. However, the barrel and receiver are made of carbon steel, which is weaker and less heat-resistant than stainless steel. If you plan on shooting a lot, this may be a dealbreaker.

It's good to mention that the rifle barrel is button-rifled, not cold hammer forged. Button-rifling performs better than cold hammer forging when shooting only a few rounds and giving your barrel adequate time to cool down between shots. However, cold-hammer forged rifled barrels are more accurate regarding high-volume shooting through hot barrels. They're also tougher than button-rifled barrels and, therefore, last longer. This isn't necessarily a dealbreaker. However, if you plan on sending dozens of hot rounds downrange, you might prefer a cold hammer forged barrel.

Like all Savage rifles, this one features its trademarked Accutrigger. The trigger weight is adjustable and easily done at home without a gunsmith. The weight of this gun, combined with the recoil pad and small caliber, means shooters will experience very little recoil. This is a good entry-level firearm for small shooters looking to add a .223 to the gun cabinet.

  • Compact size fits female and youth shooters well
  • Light weight is easy to carry while still offering some recoil absorption
  • Accutrigger allows users to adjust the trigger pull weight at home
  • Scope and sling ready
  • Synthetic stock is light and durable

  • Not available in a left-handed configuration
  • Barrel and receiver are carbon steel, not stainless steel
  • Barrel is button-rifled, not cold hammer forged, which is less precise when shooting many subsequent rounds without giving the barrel time to cool

Savage Arms Axis II Compact - $430

Best Lever Action Rifle Chambered in .223 Remington

Henry Long Ranger Rifle in .223 Rem


Top Pick: Henry Long Ranger Rifle

Weight: 7 lbs | Action Type: Lever| Overall Length: 40.5 | Barrel Length: 20 inches | Length of Pull: 14 inches | Magazine Capacity: 5+1 rounds

Suckers for lever-actions and close-range hunting will love this .223 rifle offered by Henry. Henry is the most popular lever-action manufacturer in America and for great reasons. Their high-quality products are accurate, reliable, and incredibly fun to shoot.

Henry did some nifty engineering to create a lever-action .223. Because .223 ammo cannot be safely stored in a tubular magazine, Henry uses a geared action, a bolt with a 6-lug rotary head, and a detachable magazine. So, when the user moves the lever to work the action, the bolt moves backward, picking up a cartridge from the magazine on its forward stroke, and pushes the cartridge into the chamber. When the bolt is completely forward, the lugs lock it into place. This keeps the gun from exploding when the trigger is pulled.

This unique firearm features more common specifications, too. It comes drilled and tapped for mounting a scope, sling swivel studs, a rubber recoil pad, and a 5-round capacity detachable magazine. Like other Henry rifles, there isn't a manual safety button. Instead, it uses a transfer bar which makes the firearm easier to operate with gloves.

The Long Ranger's eye-catching oiled wooden stock is constructed out of American walnut. It has laser-cut checkering, too. This unique and timeless .223 rifle would be a lovely addition to any hunter's gun collection.

  • Lever action is an uncommon and unique configuration to shoot a .223 Remington with
  • Henry is well-known for manufacturing high-quality lever actions that are built to last
  • Weight is very appropriate when considering this rifle's purpose
  • Comes drilled, tapped, and ready for a scope
  • Stock is made of beautiful American walnut
  • Free-floated barrel ensures accuracy
  • Spare magazines are available for purchase to ensure fast reloads

  • The length of pull is slightly longer than average at 14 inches, so it may not fit small-framed shooters well
  • Does not come with front and rear iron sights; users must attach a scope to this firearm
  • Blued steel barrel may be susceptible to rust
  • Wood stock is not scratch and weather-resistant

Henry Long Ranger in .223 Remington - $1,070

Best Weather-Resistant .223 Rifle

Remington 700 Alpha 1 Black Bolt Action Rifle - 223 Remington - 22in


Top Pick: Remington Model 700 Alpha 1

Weight: 7.4 lbs | Action Type: Bolt | Overall Length: 41.75 inches | Barrel Length: 22 inches| Length of Pull: 13.37 inches | Magazine Capacity: 5+1 rounds

For those who hunt whenever they can, rain or shine, a weather-resistant rifle is a must. Hunters searching for a tough, durable .223 without a budget should consider Remington's Model 700 Alpha 1. This rifle's many rugged features make it a great all-weather option.

The grey speckled AG composite carbon fiber stock is rugged, lightweight, and durable enough to withstand all outdoor conditions. It also has a Pachmyer recoil pad on it to help decrease the kick to your shoulder. The Picatinny rail on top is ready for your favorite scope, too.

Not only is the stock durable, but the barrel is as well. Because it's treated with Cerakote, this Remington's barrel is weather, corrosion, and rust-resistant. The Cerakote finish also hardens the barrel. The muzzle is threaded, meaning you can add a suppressor or other barrel attachments you may be interested in.

Lastly, Remington-specific details like the 5R barrel fluting and Elite Hunter Timney straight trigger are the icing on the cake. The 5R barrel is a five-groove style of barrel rifling that reduces the chances that bullets will deform inside the barrel and is easy to clean. The Alpha's rifling twist rate is 1:8, the most versatile for various .223 bullet weights. The 3-pound Timney straight trigger has no creep and a crisp break, helping you take stable, accurate shots.

Given this rifle's high level of durability and toughness, the Remington Model 700 Alpha 1 is one of the most weather-resistant .223 rifles on the market.

  • Carbon fiber-based stock is lightweight and incredibly tough
  • Barrel is treated with Cerakote
  • Disassembling the firing pin doesn't require extra tools
  • Picatinny rail is ready for a scope
  • Threaded muzzle is suppressor-ready
  • Twist rate is optimized for a variety of .223 bullet weights

  • $1,700 price tag isn't super wallet-friendly. However, it's more affordable than its carbon fiber competitors

Remington Model 700 Alpha 1 - $1,760

Best Semi-Automatic .223 Rifle

Ruger Mini-14 Ranch .223 Rifle


Top Pick: Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle

Weight: 7 lbs | Action Type: Semi-Auto | Overall Length: 38 inches | Barrel Length: <18.5 inches | Length of Pull: 13.5 inches | Magazine Capacity: 5+1 rounds

Ruger is a household name for anyone familiar with firearms, and Ruger has earned this status for good reasons. It makes a wide array of popular firearms, but the Mini-14 Ranch Rifle is arguably one of the coolest guns it manufactures.

Finding a semi-auto .223 platform without an Armalite rifle silhouette is relatively uncommon, but Ruger offers one, and it's awesome. The Mini-14 features a classic hardwood stock and blued, 18.5-inch barrel with a 1:9 rate of twist and six rifling grooves. The barrel is made of cold-hammer forged steel, which keeps it accurate when shooting many rounds through a hot barrel. This barrel has been designed to optimize maneuverability with accuracy and precision; its slightly shorter length makes it easy to carry through dense woods, and the twist rate is great for sending slightly heavier bullets downrange.

In addition to this .223 rifle's great features, Ruger threw in a few bonuses with a Mini-14 purchase. The Mini-14 Ranch Rifle comes with a Picatinny rail that's easily installed since the receiver is already drilled and tapped for it. On that note, the receiver also has integrated scope mounts so you can put a scope directly on the receiver. Mounting your scope to the receiver eliminates any chances of looseness, inaccuracy, and mount failures in the field. Included scope mounting rings for the integrated receiver mounts add to the ease of putting a scope on this rifle. The Mini-14 also comes with an extra magazine, which reduces the time you spend reloading in the field and at the range.

This gas-operated, self-cleaning semi-automatic rifle is very reliable in harsh shooting conditions.This action type, combined with the 7-pound weight of this rifle and the small diameter of the .223 round, significantly aids with recoil management. As a result, shooters can expect to experience almost no recoil when shooting the Mini-14. It has a rubber recoil pad on the buttstock that absorbs any remaining kick.

The Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle is both cool and highly effective. Chambered in .223, any target shooter or hunter will have a fantastic time using this slick rifle in the field shooting paper or coyotes. I sure have.

  • Semi-auto action offers fast reloading times and quick follow-up shots
  • Can mount a scope to the receiver
  • Self-cleaning cylinder offers incredible reliability in harsh conditions
  • Gas operated
  • Comes with a Picatinny rail, scope mounting rings, and two magazines
  • Users experience very little recoil

  • Hardwood stock will get scratched if you use this rifle as it's intended
  • Blued barrel is susceptible to rusting if not kept oiled

Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle - $1,000

What to Look For When Buying a .223 Rifle

If you're looking for a rifle chambered in .223, it's important to consider a few factors while you're shopping. This includes your intended purpose for purchasing this rifle as well as the rifle's durability, action type, and price.

Rifles chambered in .223 Remington are incredibly popular for hunting and target shooting. Before purchasing a .223, decide your primary use for that rifle. Suppose you're looking for a fancy precision rifle to use at the shooting range. In that case, your needs will be different than someone shopping for their kid's first affordable, low-recoil rifle or someone planning to decrease the coyote population on their farm. 

Target shooters might splurge on a more adaptable, customizable rifle. Varmint hunters may be looking for the most durable and reliable .223. Make a list of the features that best fit your future .223's intended purpose.

Some materials are tougher than others. Synthetic stocks are inherently more weather- and scratch-resistant than wooden stocks. However, wood stocks look classier and are typically heavier. If you're looking to optimize steadiness, consider rifles with wooden stocks. If you plan on carrying your .223 through the woods in all kinds of weather, maybe lean into the synthetic stock world.

Recall your rifle's intended use. Will you send hundreds of rounds into the berm at your local shooting range, or are you looking to pick off prairie dogs as you run into them? If increased ammunition storage and fast reload times are your thing, a semi-auto .223 rifle may be for you. However, if you plan on using it for hunting, single-shot, bolt-action, or even lever-action rifles might work better for you. These actions are more durable, lighter, and more common for hunting.

Consider how much you are willing to spend on your new .223 rifle. It's easy to drop thousands of bucks on the newest Armalite rifle platform with all the bells and whistles, but is that necessary if you'll only be shooting prairie dogs with it? Those looking for a plinking or varmint rifle might not want to venture into the $1,000+ range, but competitive target shooters might start shopping at that price. In short, rifles chambered in .223 are offered in various price ranges; don't spend more than you need to.

Your Questions, Answered

Yes. However, you should never shoot 5.56 ammo through a .223. The 5.56 cartridge creates more pressure in the chamber upon ignition. This added pressure could significantly damage your rifle's chamber or force the barrel to explode altogether.

.223 rifles are renowned for their versatility. They specialize in shooting small-diameter bullets downrange on flat trajectories for hundreds of yards. As a result, they are hugely popular for target shooting and are the most popular competitive target shooting round. Additionally, they're popular for varmint hunting, but this cartridge is just a little too small for taking big game like deer.

Editor's Note: Our editors independently select products featured on Wide Open Spaces. However, we may earn a commission when you buy something through our links.