An amazing review of the ammunition to use with the AR-15 made by Taras Oleinik. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.
PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – A few years ago, it was decided to heatedly argue about what type of self-loading carbines in our country are most popular with civilian shooters – “arches” or “Kalashi”? Now this question is no longer standing: a huge selection of AR-15 for any wallet, as well as an impressive variety of cartridges for them, including very affordable ones, have done their job.
It remains only to choose the ammunition that best suits your version of the AR-15 carbine. But how to do that? Not all amateur shooters have the opportunity to simply buy cartridges of all types that are on sale and shoot them at the shooting range – not to mention the fact that the results obtained need to be generalized, systematized and comprehended somehow.
Therefore, we decided to help our readers in this difficult issue – and did this work for them. This article presents the results of a test shoot of two dozen varieties of .223 Remington / 5.56 × 45 rounds.
This was not the easiest task, but it seems to us that, based on its results, it is possible to draw quite objective (and, most importantly, practically useful!) Conclusions. We will be glad if our work helps you decide on the choice of your favorite cartridge, whatever it may be.
But before starting the study of the test participants, let’s look at a number of more general weapons issues, the discussion of which has not stopped for decades.
.223 or 5.56?
The debate about whether it is possible to put an equal sign between the 5.56 NATO (5.56 × 45) and .223 Remington calibers arose with the advent of the calibers themselves and has not subsided so far. We will try to summarize our knowledge and experience in this matter to a few facts that are easy to remember. The .223 Rem and 5.56 NATO gauges are really slightly different: the .223 Remington chamber has a shorter bullet entrance, and 5.56 NATO cartridges have a thicker sleeve and develop higher pressure when fired.
However, from the point of view of practice, we can state the following postulates:
- the vast majority of AR-15 carbines can successfully shoot both .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO rounds;
- in weapons of other systems, designed for .223 Remington cartridge, the use of 5.56 NATO cartridge is not recommended, and sometimes completely prohibited. Most AR-15 carbines can fire both .223 Rem and 5.56 NATO rounds
The answer is simple: most manufacturers of the AR-15 are well aware that sooner or later their owners will shoot 5.56 NATO with their rifle. And for the weapon to work reliably, it must be counted on for this more “hot” cartridge. But what exactly is indicated on the barrel in this case is a “political” issue, since in some countries the sale of weapons under the 5.56 NATO cartridge is prohibited. They get out of the situation by marking such carbines with the stigma .223 Wylde, or .223-5.56, or in some other way. The bottom line is simple: you can shoot from such an AR-15 with almost any cartridge! If on your AR-15 the caliber .223 Rem is indicated, then it makes sense to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to clarify all the details.
At the same time, the chambers of .223 Remington bolt and tipping carbines are most often manufactured in strict accordance with this standard – in order to provide weapons with a higher accuracy of fire. And just in them something to charge the more “hot” 5.56 NATO cartridges is no longer worth it! With a single shot, nothing terrible is likely to happen; however, excess of the pressure of the powder gases above the nominal can complicate the operation of the shutter, and in the future, if abused, lead to the failure of such weapons. However, today we are talking specifically about the AR-15 – which means that this issue can be considered discussed and closed.
Some arrows, when choosing a weapon and cartridge, pay increased attention to the question of the pitch of the rifling in the trunks. On the one hand, this is correct: the better the length (in combination with mass) of the bullet and the pitch of the rifling of the barrel fit together, the better results can be expected when shooting. On the other hand, very many do not realize that this problem should worry more high-precision shooters than, say, lovers of dynamic shooting.
We will explain. It is believed that the pitch of the rifling of the barrel (in conjunction with the initial speed) should give the pool a rotation speed necessary and sufficient for its gyroscopic stabilization on departure from the barrel. This seems to be understandable, but further questions begin.
What happens if the rifling pitch is insufficient to stabilize a long and heavy bullet, and its FGS (gyroscopic stability factor) is less than unity? Nothing good! The bullet will fly somersaults, and on the targets there will be characteristic “irons” from the arrival of bullets in them sideways. In this case, there is no need to talk about any accuracy of fire. These bullets categorically do not fit such a barrel!
And what happens if the rifling pitch of the barrel, on the contrary, is excessively steep for a relatively short bullet, and its FGS significantly exceeds the value corresponding to full stabilization (it is assumed that this occurs with FGS = 1.5)? Nothing too bad!
If the match bullet is made in good conscience, its shell is characterized by concentricity close to ideal, and the lead core is pressed into it strictly coaxially and has no voids, then even a significant increase in the angular velocity of its rotation will not significantly affect the accuracy.
If shooting is carried out by gross cartridges with conventional shell bullets that are not distinguished by ultra-high workmanship, then excessive FGS does lead to a slight increase in dispersion – however, against the background of the not-so-perfect accuracy of such bullets, you are unlikely to notice this deterioration either (and completely just do not notice when shooting without focus and in dynamics).
From a practical point of view, this suggests that most shooters from the AR-15 do not need to chase the perfect fit of the rifling pitch to the length and weight of the bullet. For bullets weighing 55-62 grains, a twist 1: 9 ”is optimal, for 62-75 grains – 1: 8”, and for the heaviest 69-77 grains – 1: 7 ”.
At the same time, trunks with a rifling pitch of 1: 7 ”and 1: 8” are capable, if necessary, of wonderful firing even with bullets weighing 55 grains – and the author’s practical experience confirms this many times. But there is no point in specifically “chasing” steep “military” twists when choosing a carbine – even 1: 9 ”works fine in most cases.
We did not find lighter and heavier bullets in testing – as well as other rifling steps for modern AR-15. Therefore, in your “arch” you can safely try cartridges with any mass of bullets. The result on targets in 99% of cases will be determined not by the barrel twist, but by completely different factors: the geometry of the chamber and the barrel, the quality of the cartridge and the bullet, and, of course, your shooting skills.
Well, now you can proceed with a light heart to the study of the studied cartridges.
This may seem surprising, but the products of the Barnaul cartridge plant are still found on the Ukrainian market. These cartridges are known to all experienced shooters: a green lacquered steel sleeve, a bimetallic (in a steel shell coated with a thin layer of copper alloy) bullet weighing 55 grains, a very low price, dirty gunpowder and aggressive capsule composition, quick barrel wear and a high probability of problem work (especially in carbines with tight chamber). The people for their “quality” they received the capacious name “g-cartridges” – and in many respects deservedly. However, everyone excuses their price – the lowest on the market.
BPZ cartridges are sold in paper packages, vacuum plastic. The vacuum of the packages is easily broken, but this does not affect the performance of the cartridge. The package contains basic information in English, which suggests that we are dealing with an export batch of these cartridges that came to Ukraine from English-speaking countries.
Interestingly, the manufacturer equips his cartridges with a bullet like HP, not FMJ – apparently, for him they are equivalent. Bullets do not have transverse flutes, however, for better fixation in the sleeve, they are slightly crimped and sealed. Used capsule type “Berdan” is not crimped, but also sealed with varnish. The steel lacquered sleeves of these cartridges are disposable and completely unsuitable for reloading. However, the extremely low price of this munition makes reloading for this caliber generally not economically feasible.
By the way, during the shooting try not to keep these cartridges for a long time in the hot chamber – the varnish that the steel sleeve is coated with is quite capable of “sticking” to its walls, which will make removing the cartridge case automatic, if at all possible.
The Geco brand belongs to RUAG, the largest European producer of cartridges for both civilian and military purposes. The most popular and well-proven in our market are Geco Target ammunition with a bullet weighing 55 grains, packed in red-black boxes of 50 pcs.
Cartridges are planted in plastic clips of 10 pcs. each equipped with bullets such as FMJ Target classic form. This gives hope for good accuracy from a wide range of weapon models. At the same time, the bullet has a flute, but is weakly crimped in the sleeve. The sleeves look quality, the trace from the annealing zone is barely noticeable. The capsule is punctured in three places and sealed with black varnish. On the bottom of the sleeve marked GECO 223 Rem.
On the box with cartridges with German pedantry, the necessary data are indicated, except perhaps for the ballistic coefficient. But there is a bullet speed, energy, an excess of the trajectory over the aiming line – at ranges up to 300 m inclusive – and in addition, the recommended shooting distance is 198 m. It is also indicated here that these data were obtained when shooting from a 23.6 ”barrel (600 mm ) Finally, from the inscription on the box you can find out that the cartridges themselves are made in Switzerland and are mainly offered for target shooting.
But the Geco cartridges with an Express bullet weighing 56 grains are intended, judging by the image of the chanterelle on a red-black pack, primarily for hunting. They are packaged in 20 pieces. in original plastic bandoliers, which are divided into sections of five nests. The design is quite interesting, and some shooters continue to use these bandoliers even after the “native” cartridges in them have long ended.
An Express bullet weighing 56 grains is a sophisticated design with a thin brass shell, a lead core, and a plastic ballistic tip that enhances expansiveness. The shape of the bullet is classic, but the exact assembly of its components is expensive, so the cost of such cartridges is much higher than the cartridges with conventional FMJ bullets. However, hunters don’t shoot much (and if they shoot, they prefer simpler cartridges for training). The image of the bullet section is given on the back of the package.
Curiously, the capsule in the cartridge case is not crimped or sealed. The bullet was also put into the sleeve without a pronounced crimp dulza.
As in the previous case, the package shows the main ballistic characteristics, including the recommended shooting distance of 192 m. It is also interesting that this time the place of production is Germany.
This cartridge should show itself well, first of all, on the hunt, and its potential prey is depicted on the pack: fox and roe deer. The boar image shown here is clearly related to this pool in larger calibers.
The products of the Lithuanian state-owned enterprise GGG are already familiar to our shooters. For testing, we selected two types of cartridges: with an FMJ bullet weighing 55 grains and with a Sierra MatchKing HPBT 69 grains bullet.
Cartridges with a bullet FMJ 55 gran packaged in a pack of 50 pcs. On the packaging and on the sleeve the caliber is indicated: .223 Rem. The capsule is crimped, but the bullet has a transverse flute, but there are no traces of the crimp on the barrel of the cartridge case. On high-quality sleeves, an escape from annealing at the final stage of their production is clearly visible. This is one of the longest rounds in the test – which is surprising, given the small mass of its bullet.
Cartridges with a bullet SMK HPBT (Hollow Point Boat Tail) weighing 69 grains are packed in 20 pieces. On the sleeve noticeable runaway from annealing, which reaches almost the middle of the sleeve – a kind of record. Bullets do not have flutes and are not crimped – and this, given their match mission, is welcome. The Sierra MatchKing bullet is a living legend in the world of precision shooting and has proven itself over the years.
It is important to note that the bullet FMJ 55 grains and Sierra HPBT 69 grains have a classic shape came to life – the so-called tangential. This form of bullet works great in barrels with a variety of internal geometries, which allows us to hope for good compatibility with most models of weapons in this caliber.
To the manufacturer’s honor, on the cartridges of GGG cartridges their full technical characteristics are indicated: starting from the ballistic coefficient (it is indicated even for the FMJ bullet!) And continuing with the speed, trajectory and muzzle energy of the bullet at distances from 100 to 500 m. This approach can only be welcomed. since it helps the shooters to perform an accurate shot not only at short, but also at more distant distances.
The Frontier range from one of the largest US ammunition manufacturers represents the most affordable ammunition in .223 Remington and 5.56×45 calibres. Its appearance was a forced response to the embargo imposed on trade with Russian cartridge plants. Five years ago, in the Hornady line-up, inexpensive ammunition was found in familiar green steel sleeves. Today they are already gone, and not foreseen; and we need a cheap cartridge – both for us and the Americans.
The Frontier line of cartridge cartridges bear the characteristic prints of mass budget production – discrepancies from annealing the necks, blots and scratches on the body from moving along the conveyor, dried spots of washing solution, etc. However, these cosmetic traces only indicate that the manufacturer reduced the cost of the cartridge, saving only on the final polishing of the cartridge case. And for a certain category of customers, this is the main argument! Such ammunition in the AR-15 rifles usually works quite reliably – no complaints have been received yet.
The range of Frontier is quite wide. The simplest ones are packed in cardboard boxes of 1000 pcs., So do not be surprised if they will be sold “in bulk” in a plastic bag to the store. These cartridges are equipped with classic HP bullets weighing 55 grains and FMJ weighing 62 grains (articles FR246 and FR266), and they are usually the most popular for dynamic training and recreational shooting. The shells of both ammunition are marked with the Frontier 5.56 mm mark and characteristic round dies, by which those who know will immediately understand where they are made (more on this below).
Curiously, the most affordable Frontier cartridges with an HP 55 gran bullet bear the Match mark – apparently thanks to the Hornady Hollow Point type bullet. Bullets of this type, due to more careful manufacturing and better shape, usually have a higher accuracy than bullets like Full Metal Jacket. This allows us to hope for good results of their shooting – although the shape came to life of this bullet secant, and a deep transverse flute was made on the body. But in Frontier with a FMJ bullet weighing 62 grains, the shape of the bullet is more classic.
Also, the affordable Frontier cartridge with the SP 55 gran bullet is definitely worth considering. It is sold in cartons of 150 pieces. and is equipped with a pointed Hornady Spire Point bullet with an open lead nose. Such bullets have a good combination of penetrative ability and expansiveness, and are also quite accurate – therefore, not only amateur shooters, but also hunters will like it. They differ from the classic Soft Point in a more pointed form that came to life, which guarantees a reliable supply to the chamber in the case of semi-automatic weapons – including, of course, the AR-15. The bottom of the sleeve is marked with the brand Frontier 223 Rem.
Crowns the Frontier line with a 68-grain Hornady BTHP Match cartridge, designed for high-precision shooting. Its cost is much lower than that of Hornady match cartridges of other ranges, which allows us to hope for good accuracy at a reasonable price. The bullet has a secant shape and a deep transverse flute. The sleeve of this cartridge also visually differs from other samples of the line; the bottom is marked with Frontier 223 Rem.
All Frontier cartridges are labeled Military Grade, and this is true. These ammunition is equipped according to military standards on shells manufactured by LCAAP (Lake City Army Ammunition Plant) – the state cartridge plant in Independence, Missouri, which is the main supplier of cartridges for the US Armed Forces (the thick dots on the bottom of the shells are just a sign of the Lake plant City). Frontier ammo capsule and bullets are crimped.
High-quality cartridges of the American manufacturer, designed primarily for high-precision shooting and equipped with bullets such as BTHP (Boat Tail Hollow Point) weighing 68 and 75 grains. Packed in colored cardboard packs of 20 pcs. Hornady sleeves, white capsule.
The packs contain data on the muzzle velocity of the cartridge and its trajectory at distances up to 500 yards. Blindly believe such information should not be: for sure the parameters of your trunk will differ markedly from the test. On the pack of cartridges with a bullet BTHP 75 grains there is an inscription “for use with a rifling pitch of 1: 9” or steeper. It is interesting to note that a bullet weighing 75 grains with external similarity has a slightly more classical shape than a BTHP bullet weighing 68 grains, which is more cone-shaped. This allows us to predict the different behavior of these bullets in trunks with different geometries. Both bullets do not have flutes.
Ballistic coefficients of bullets on packs are not indicated – this information will have to be found on the manufacturer’s website. We decided to simplify the life of our readers and presented these data in a general table for all the cartridges under study. It is worth noting that individual manufacturers in their promises of a ballistic coefficient may be noticeably more optimistic than they should. So trust, but verify!
These ammunition is advertised by the manufacturer as having a much higher initial speed compared to similar ones at 50-60 m / s. This is achieved by the use of special powders that provide longer burning at the peak of pressure, which allows to accelerate the bullet more, not exceeding the limits set by standards. Fans of flat calibers will be pleased!
Interestingly, the 5.56 NATO caliber is indicated on the box with Superformance, and there is even a corresponding note: “Do not use Remington !223 in chambers.” However, the AR-15 owners should not worry about this – the vast majority of these carbines are designed for the use of 5.56×45 cartridges, and they will not have problems with Superformance.
The Superformance ammunition we selected for the test was equipped with BTHP match bullets weighing 75 grains, which made it possible to predict their scope in high-precision shooting, including long-range shooting. The bullets are secant, have a pronounced transition from the body to the body, but their shape is noticeably different from other bullets like BTHP from Hornady. The ballistic coefficient on the pack is not indicated, but on the manufacturer’s website it is promised 0.395 (according to the G1 model) – for .223 Rem caliber it is a very high value.
The picture is only darkened by the rather high cost of Superformance cartridges – although these are not the most expensive ammunition in our review.
The cartridges are delivered in a high-quality glossy box, on which their scope of application is directly indicated – target shooting. Packing – 20 pcs. The capsule cartridges are crimped and labeled with red varnish. The shell bottoms are marked with the Hornady 5.56 NATO stigma. The packaging shows the estimated initial velocity and trajectory of the bullet up to 500 yards, while there is a note “the shooting was carried out from the barrel with a length of 20”. It is also curious that the manufacturer recommends performing target shooting with this cartridge at a distance of 200 yards instead of the traditional 100.
Hornady law enforcement
The range of cartridges produced by Hornady for the police and special law enforcement units, which is not available in the US market for ordinary civilians. But the company sends them for export without any problems, which allowed our shooters to try them out.
It is curious that in the Law Enforcement line, Hornady produces similar cartridges separately of .223 Remington caliber and separately of 5.56×45 NATO. We got the last ones – equipped with heavy 75-grain bullets and designed to fire from short compact carbines with a barrel length of 10-12 ”(the so-called SBR, or Short Barreled Rifles).
Ammunition between SBR Training (article number 81292) and TAP SBR (81295) are distinguished by both packaging and bullets. The first are packed in 50 pieces. in boxes of red (in the new lines – white) colors, the second – 20 pcs. in red boxes with the TAP (Tactical Application Police) emblem. But they have the same shells – produced by Hornady, labeled Hornady 5.56 NATO. The light colored capsule is crimped and sealed with red varnish.
If we are already familiar with the BTHP 75 grains bullet equipped with SBR Training cartridges, then the TAP SBR ammunition bullet of the same mass should be considered in more detail – it belongs to the Soft Point type and is specially designed for this line to most fully meet the FBI penetration requirements and expansiveness. Its characteristic features are a rather wide lead nose, a double flute on the body plus a special girdle closer to the bottom. This is done for the controlled deformation of the bullet when hit in a variety of obstacles. By the way, according to our observations, this is the heaviest semi-shell bullet in this caliber, which can be very interesting for hunters!
In general, from the point of view of marketing, the Law Enforcement line of cartridges should differ markedly from the usual. The TAP SBR description says: “… provides excellent performance in short carbines, both equipped with a silencer and without it. Muzzle flash and pollution are practically absent. These cartridges are distinguished by a reduced sound signature, do not pollute or overheat the silencers, and give a controlled rate of fire in automatic platforms. ” Our test does not involve the study of these issues, but they should be considered when choosing ammunition for short carbines and critical applications.
A few years ago, when, under the embargo, foreign suppliers suddenly stopped supplying ammunition to Ukrainian distributors, the products of the Polish state concern Mesko simply saved the domestic market. The author still remembers the times when on the shelves of weapons stores all ammunition of the most popular calibers ran out – and clever businessmen put a double, or even triple, price on the rest of the parties. It’s good that these times are already in the past!
Mesko 5.56 × 45 cartridges are supplied pre-packed in 20 pieces. in minimalistic cardboard boxes. They are equipped with an FMJ bullet weighing 55 grains – in fact, the most popular bullet for the AR-15. These cartridges are produced by the leading Polish cartridge factory, the production lines of which are certified according to NATO standards – therefore it is not surprising that both the marking and the characteristics of this cartridge are painfully similar to the NATO M193. Bullets – a classic form, with a flute.
Over the past years, Ukrainian shooters have tried them and still shoot them with pleasure – since they are among the most affordable. The experience accumulated during this time calls for using this ammunition with caution in carbines of the domestic manufacturer Zbroyar, since on hot summer days there were signs of excess pressure during firing – until the capsule took off from the capsule nest. At the same time, most AR-15 carbines of American (and Chinese) production shoot them without any problems.
Nexus Ammunition is part of Strategic Armory Corps, which also includes Armalite, McMillan Firearms and Surgeon Rifles. This already allows us to hope for high quality – especially since the gray-black boxes with a sniper in the photo hide match cartridges with a Sierra Match King HPBT bullet weighing 77 grains.
Cartridges in a pack are in paper honeycombs. They are assembled on sleeves manufactured by Federal, as evidenced by the stigma on the bottom of the FC 13 223 REM (FC stands for Federal Cartridge). The capsule is crimped and sealed with black varnish. The Sierra MatchKing bullet weighing 77 grains has a high ballistic coefficient of 0.372 according to the G1 model (however, this is not a record). It only bothers a little that bullets with flutes, which are crimped in cartridges, were taken to equip cartridges. This is not the best approach from the point of view of ensuring accuracy, although it allows you to make a very reliable cartridge.
The packaging shows the initial speed, a trajectory of up to 300 yards and nothing more. At the same time, the cost of a cartridge is quite high – and all hope is only for its outstanding ballistic performance. Indeed, the advertising slogan of this line sounds like that – Ballistic Superiority, that is, “ballistic superiority”.
The cartridges of the oldest American manufacturer, Remington Arms, are not in high demand in our country, but are presented in assortment. In particular, in .223 Rem caliber, these are UMC cartridges with a Metal Case bullet weighing 55 grains – in fact, the same good old FMJ of classical form, which is written on the box.
Cartridge shells bear the traces of budget mass production – dents, scratches and specks. It would not hurt to polish them, but the manufacturer saved on this. Bullets are very tightly crimped in sleeves, which could potentially negatively affect accuracy. The capsule is not crimped or sealed. In one pack, cartridges with capsules, the cups of which have a different shade, can come across.
All in all, a good example of a traditional American approach to a budget cartridge. But only in our market its cost is much higher than we would like.
Another brand of concern RUAG, but more expensive. This is a premium range of hunting cartridges, and only one of them is involved in our test: with a Teilmantel Spitz (TMS) bullet weighing 55 grains.
The TMS bullet is a classic “half-shell”, but it has a slightly sharper lead nose. On the packaging with cartridges a section of the bullet is shown and its design is demonstrated, as well as a photograph of the bullet, which is fully opened when it enters the bio-target. Ammo packaged in 20 pieces. in black boxes with a transparent window. Inside they are enclosed in the same plastic bandoliers as the Geco Express – but this time in black and with the inscription RWS.
The RWS cartridge sleeve is well polished and has no annealing marks. The bullet and capsule are not crimped, and there are no signs of sealing either.
Ballistic data are indicated on a reclining card, which you can tear off from the pack and take it with you on the hunt. As in previous cases, the information is given for distances up to 300 m. This is explained by the fact that in Germany civilians do not have access to shooting ranges with long distances, and practically do not shoot at such distances when hunting.
If you believe the image on the pack, the optimal prey for this cartridge is a fox and a roe deer. Its cost is quite high, but the quality of RUAG RWS has become legendary, and for good reason.
Sellier & Bellot
The well-known Czech ammunition manufacturer is represented in our testing by two types of ammunition. The first, and most popular – with a bullet FMJ Target 55 gran, packaged in 140 pieces. in cardboard boxes. Interestingly, the manufacturer points to the packaging both calibers – and .223 Remington, and 5.56×45. And also without further ado, he immediately writes the military nomenclature: M193. However, the sleeve still indicates S&B 223 Rem.
The FMJ Target bullet has a bimetallic shell, as evidenced by pronounced magnetic properties. In the barrel of the cartridge case, this bullet sits with a crimp, for which a transverse flute is provided on it. The sleeve is well polished and looks quite high quality. The manufacturer does not provide any ballistic data. The cartridge is known in our market for a long time.
The hunting range Sellier & Bellot .223 Rem caliber is represented by a cartridge with a 55-grain SP-type bullet (it already has a brass shell). The black and gold pack contains 20 rounds. The sleeve is very similar to the previous one and is also marked with the S&B 223 Rem brand, but the other capsule is light. The bullet is crimped in the barrel of the cartridge case, but has no flute. The box contains data on speed and energy up to 300 m, and also the recommended shooting distance is 193 m.
From theory to practice
It was decided to shoot cartridges as quickly as possible and without stretching this pleasure for too long. Let’s start with weapons: we used two AR-15 models as test models, which have now gained considerable popularity in the circles of both shooting athletes and just weapon lovers.
The DPMS 3G1 is a “sports car out of the box” —that is, a carbine originally designed for shooting sports. This is confirmed by an 18-inch stainless steel match barrel (rifling pitch 1: 8 ”), an efficient three-chamber DTK (developed by the legendary Jerry Michulek), a rifle gas vent system, a V-Tac Free Float long cantilever forearm, a convenient ergonomic handle and stock , and a great trigger from JP Firearms.
The DPMS carbine came to the test almost new – it shot at the beginning of the test was no more than 200 rounds. Harris bipods were mounted on the foregrip and the Nightforce ATACR 7-35 × 56 F1 high-precision optical sight on the bracket on the receiver on the Spuhr QDP quick-mount mount. This combination made it possible to eliminate any aiming errors, since with such a sight it was possible to carefully study the ideality of the bullet holes in paper targets without leaving the shooting place.
The second carbine is a completely different story. The short piston “arch” manufactured by Patriot Ordnance Factory USA, model P-415, is an excellent example of a compact carbine for short and medium distances. Characteristic features are a piston (gas piston) reloading system, proprietary technology for cooling the chamber with a barrel nut with a radiator, a forend fixed on the receiver using the Picatinny top plate, low friction coating of the bolt group.
Barrel POF-USA P-415 has a length of 14.5 “, made of” black “steel with a protective coating Melonite (carbonitriding). It is worth noting that this rifle has a three-chamber DTK pinned, and the pin is tacked by electric welding. This is done to comply with American law, according to which any weapon with a butt must have a barrel no shorter than 16 ”- so as not to be considered a gun or, in general, what’s good, a sawn-off shotgun.
It is also extremely important to note that the barrel on this carbine has already “lived” – several thousand rounds of ammunition were shot from it in “very field” conditions, and with very conditional departure. Therefore, counting on high accuracy was not necessary initially. Nevertheless, it was very interesting to find out what the real difference in bullet speeds would be with such a difference in barrel lengths, and what the preferences of two different rifles over ammunition would be. From the very beginning, we were sure that their “tastes” would differ markedly – and were not mistaken.
As it turned out during practical shooting, the rammer on the AR-15 is not an unnecessary detail!
The bipods on the P-415 are mounted on the integrated forearm Picatinny rail, so we had to use TipTop bipods with the appropriate mount. It turned out a little higher than I wanted, but it was stable. But with an emphasis on the butt, it was more difficult – the MFT butt, with which the carbine from POF-USA was equipped, had a L-shaped. In the end, we had to take a big bag and put it under the recoil pipe and the horizontal part of the butt.
We also installed the Nightforce ATACR 5-25 × 56 F1 optical sight on this “carbine” on the Spuhr “quick detachment”. This combination has long proved its worth in shooting high-precision “boltoviks” that we regularly arrange.
As for the shooting itself, the shooting was conducted at a distance of 100 m, sitting from the table, from the bipod and the back bag, at a brisk pace, in groups of 2×5 shots. Thus, the second group fired already through a thoroughly warmed barrel. Between the groups, the sight was sometimes adjusted – to move the second closer to the center of the sheet, if necessary.
Intermediate cleaning of weapons was carried out by us once every 30 shots and was carried out, in fact, more “for show”. Many athletes involved in dynamic types of shooting clean their trunks, to put it mildly, not according to the canons of “high precision” – therefore, we did not particularly zealous. Fifty passes with a ruff, a dozen patches with a cleaner – and shoot further!
But as for cleaning in terms of the reliability of the weapons, this is a completely different matter. On one of the rifles, we very quickly encountered a situation that vividly reminded us that the rammer on the AR-15 was not at all superfluous. Without it, when sending the cartridges of one of the manufacturers into the chamber, the carbine shutter did not close completely – and when you press the trigger, a misfire occurred!
To fix this problem, we needed a jar of oil and a brush to clean the chamber. Without these accessories, it was very difficult to continue shooting normally, and this was a good lesson for us. So we highly recommend that all AR-15 owners take advantage of our experience and find a useful habit to always keep at hand the three most necessary items:
2) an oiler;
3) a brush for cleaning the chamber.
It should be noted that the trunks we chose for shooting, despite the same rifling pitch, differed markedly from each other in internal geometry. This was felt even at the stage of cleaning – already by the effort with which patches and a bronze ruff passed along the trunk. It was also clearly visible in the borescope. It is this, and the different geometry of the chamber, in our opinion, that explains the different behavior of the two systems on the same cartridges – up to the complete lack of accuracy of one rifle with a relatively acceptable “heap” of the other!
According to the results of the shooting, we do not accept any claims to our ability to shoot or to the hands of a shooter. Although more than once and not two received groups (if you could call it scattered on a half-sheet of A4 hit) made me wonder: is everything okay with weapons, optics and a shooter? But it was worth replacing the cartridge with another, and everything immediately returned to normal – the rifle began to shoot in the region of 1 MOA, and in some cases even better!
Nevertheless, when consolidating the results, we decided to reduce the influence of random factors, therefore, as the main indicator, we selected the average accuracy of four out of five shots in each group (that is, eight out of ten shots in the overall classification). Thus, explicit single divisions and their excessive influence on the overall result were excluded. However, the accuracy indicators for five shots in each of the two groups are also included in the table, and if desired, they can be separately analyzed independently.
Also, during the shooting, we took measurements of the speed of the bullet’s departure, using for this one of the most advanced instruments available to ordinary mortals today – Labradar. The device is a Doppler radar operating in the centimeter range and measuring the speed of a bullet by the phase shift of the direct and reflected signals from it. Such devices are characterized by extremely high measurement accuracy, and are also able to automatically calculate the most interesting parameters in a series of shots, namely: minimum and maximum speeds; average speed in a series; extreme divergence; standard deviation.
The last two indicators that came to us from mathematical statistics should be clarified further. Extreme Spread (ES) is the arithmetic difference between the maximum and minimum speeds in a series, and the standard deviation (SD) is a term that shows the dispersion of the analyzed results relative to their average value (with the so-called normal distribution). In a word, the smaller the standard deviation, the more stable the average bullet speed of these bullets in a series of shots is held.
Looking ahead, we immediately note that the difference between the average speeds of the same cartridges from an 18-inch DPMS 3G1 barrel and a 14.5-inch POF-USA P-415 barrel was from 30 to 80 (!) M / s. The average value of the difference in speeds for all types of cartridges turned out to be 43.6 m / s for these two carbines. Whether it is a lot or a little is up to you. However, the difference in the dimensions of carbines, in our opinion, is very, very noticeable.
Results and Reflections
First of all, I want to note that any owner of the AR-15 may have their own understanding of which cartridge can be considered the best. For some, this is simply the cheapest cartridge available on the market, since it allows you to maintain shooting skills at very low cost. For this, cheap ammunition is forgiven for everything: poor accuracy, low speed, wide speed dispersion and even unreliable weapon operation. For example, I know shooters who, in the regular fight against malfunctions caused by well-known “g-cartridges” in a green sleeve, see the necessary element of their own shooting training!
Other owners of weapons treat their own weapons much more scrupulously and try to use only cartridges in brass shells, equipped exclusively with bullets in a brass shell. They can be confused even by such a seemingly insignificant nuance as the smell of burnt gunpowder, which differs from other cartridges. Also, demanding users often pay attention to the degree of contamination of the rifle after shooting ammunition of a particular brand and try to select the most “clean” ones. I must say right away that our study did not suggest such a test.
Another story is hunters. Given the very small weight and diameter of the .223 Rem cartridge, for reliable game production, it must be opened effectively. Therefore, experienced hunters immediately bypass side bullets like FMJ and HPBT / BTHP, and look towards the classic SP and other designs that have a pronounced expansive effect. As for the price indicators, hunters, as a rule, do not pay attention to this – since in comparison with the cost of a shooting license or the size of the penalty for lost wounded, the cost of cartridges is much smaller.
Finally, many serious athletes are willing to pay simply for the most stable and well-working cartridge – especially in the case of crucial matches, when you need to shoot a lot and hit targets at various distances. They will be most interested in the best accuracy and the most stable initial velocity of cartridges.
Fans of dynamic shooting at the hardware, who have to deal with heavy steel targets-poppers, pass a separate column here. To confidently roll over such targets, it is necessary to use heavier bullets – from 62 to 77 grains inclusive.
And, of course, one cannot fail to mention those involved in precision shooting. In addition to the requirements of the best accuracy and the highest stability of the initial speed, their requests also include the highest ballistic coefficient of the used bullets – for guaranteed hits when firing at a distance longer than 300 m for small targets.
Is it possible for all of these AR-15 applications to choose one, the “best,” cartridge? Obviously not. Therefore, we will try to satisfy everyone and everyone, but individually.
For starters – the most affordable. We don’t recommend anyone to feed the carbines with green “r-cartridges” of a well-known manufacturer – although it is still quite possible to find them on the market. In our opinion, it is a dubious pleasure to shoot such ammunition a lot – with a steel sleeve capable of “sticking” to the walls of a hot chamber, dirty gunpowder, aggressive capsule composition and a bimetallic bullet causing increased barrel wear – only owners of AR-15 carbines with hard chrome barrel and chamber. And there are few of those on the market.
The accuracy of this cartridge corresponds to its bargain value, and I don’t even want to write about the number of problems that many (though not all) shooters have with it. In a word, if the budget allows, it is better to simply forget such cartridges like a nightmare.
The most affordable cartridges of acceptable quality for regular training are at the time of publication 16 UAH apiece. These are typical 55-gang FMJs produced by Mesko and GGG. Both, like similar products from other manufacturers, are, in fact, a copy of the American military cartridge M193 – since its bullet does not contain a steel core, it is also allowed for sale on the civilian market.
The results of the firing of these cartridges are so similar that it remains only a miracle. Identical averaged values of accuracy; very similar average speeds … The GGG cartridge shows a slightly more stable speed, however, Mesko is a little faster and literally a little more iota. How to choose here? Yes, it’s very simple: buy 100-200 pcs. of each species, shoot the first, clean the carabiner, then shoot the second, clean the carabiner again … And in the future, continue to acquire the one that, according to the results of all this, was liked more. That’s all.
The most affordable cartridges of acceptable quality for regular training cost 16 UAH apiece
Here is the time to recall that at a price of only 0.5-1 UAH more expensive we are offered several more varieties of cartridges. This is the Hornady Frontier HP Match 55 grains and Sellier & Bellot FMJ 55 grains. Both have a higher initial speed from both rifles (compared to the GGG and Mesko), but the results on the targets are also different! Particularly surprising is the behavior of Sellier & Bellot – the accuracy of our trunks was frankly unsatisfactory. At the same time, the munitions of this manufacturer worked very badly in the POF-USA P-415 carbine — almost everyone had to “finish” the chamber, so there was also mechanical incompatibility.
As for the results of the shooting of the Hornady Frontier HP Match 55 gran, this ammunition surprised me with significantly better results from the POF-USA P-415 than from the DPMS 3G1. Most often on other cartridges, the situation was exactly the opposite. Moreover, this is one of the best accuracy results for the POF carbine — I believe that this fact will be interesting to the owners of these “arches”. However, ahead of us are waiting for even more interesting and productive instances.
Sports dynamic shooting
At a price of only 1.5 UAH more expensive than the most affordable offers, you can buy a cartridge, the quality and stability of which for several years has become the standard for this class of ammunition. This is RUAG Geco USA with a bullet FMJ 55 gran in red packets of 50 pcs. The ammunition shows excellent accuracy with a record-breaking, but quite decent initial speed. At the same time, shooting them from DPMS 3G1 gives sub-minute groups, and from POF-USA P-415 – in the region of 1 MOA or a little more. But most importantly – the shooters’ reviews indicate that this cartridge works very reliably and cleanly. This means that it will completely satisfy the carabiner athletes.
Meanwhile, more recently, another representative of the Hornady Frontier line was added to the company of affordable cartridges for AR-15 – with an FMJ bullet weighing 62 grains. It is interesting first of all to owners of sports carbines with barrels with a rifling pitch of 1: 8 ”and 1: 7”, since a slightly heavier bullet sometimes “flies” out of them more closely. Indeed, the accuracy of this ammunition is one of the best in our testing! Also, this cartridge has a high initial speed, more characteristic of 55-grain bullets and, in addition, good speed stability in a series of shots.
One of the features of the Frontier line revealed during the shooting was a very noticeable muzzle flash – especially in combination with the effective DTKs that our rifles were equipped with. This should be considered when shooting at dusk and at night.
An even heavier (and more expensive) version of the Hornady Frontier with a BTHP 68 gran bullet showed good accuracy in firing from a DPMS 3G1 carbine, but mediocre ones from a POF-USA carbine; at the same time, both were combined with very good initial velocity stability. This cartridge makes sense to apply in situations where accuracy at medium and long distances can play a key role – and also, quite possibly, for training in precision shooting.
Hornady ammunition of the Law Enforcement line with TAP SBR and BTHP bullets weighing 75 grains was not liked by our carbines – their accuracy is poor. It is possible that the best results with these cartridges can be obtained from weapons with a rifling pitch of 1: 7 ”; it is worth considering the very good stability of their initial speed.
Finally, getting close to the psychological threshold of 30 UAH per shot, we have a GGG cartridge with a 69 gran Sierra MatchKing bullet. He showed just the same record accuracy from the DPMS 3G1 carbine – however, only average results from the POF-USA P-415. The stability of the initial speed is not bad, although not a record one, which allows you to recommend it for firing “far away” – of course, if its accuracy is as good as that of your DPMS 3G1 rifle.
All other cartridges cost more than 30 UAH, and they are rarely purchased by dynamic shooting enthusiasts.
Of the most affordable hunting cartridges for the AR-15, the Hornady Frontier with the SP 55 gran bullet is a very attractive proposition. Satisfactory accuracy, good stability, reliable operation and an expansive bullet of a classic design – what is not a bestselling recipe? The closest competitors of this ammunition cost 35-41 UAH, so for a hunter who likes to shoot a lot, this is really just a find. Moreover, sportsmen with arrows also shoot with pleasure with this cartridge!
Of the more expensive ammunition for hunting use, we liked the RUAG Geco Express with a bullet with a “red nose” – sorry, a plastic ballistic tip. Excellent stability of the initial speed and very good accuracy from both trunks (and from the POF-USA P-415 it is a record). Choosing it, you can be sure that there is something to pay for a little more expensive. If you do not spend packs on hunting cartridges, then this is a very good option.
The Sellier & Bellot cartridge with the SP 55 gran bullet pleased with a very high initial speed – more than 970 m / s for the 18-inch DPMS 3G1 barrel! This is a test record, and it is a really high value. It is even more encouraging that the accuracy of the cartridge in this weapon was at a good level, and the stability of the initial speed was quite acceptable. The right choice for those who value perseverance! You just need to make sure that your carbine is “friendly” with this munition not only ballistically, but also mechanically – for example, this will not work about our POF-USA P-415.
Finally, it is worth mentioning once again that the Hornady Law Enforcement TAP SBR is equipped with the heaviest of all bullets in testing – a semi-shell SBR weighing 75 grains, which was created for very efficient expansiveness and penetration. It is likely that this will also interest hunters.
A lot of high-precision shooters in the West have long been using .223 Remington rifles as a training weapon – after all, the cost of a shot in this caliber can be several times lower than in the new-fashioned 6.5 mm Creedmoor, and practice shooting from unstable positions at distances up to 300-400 m it allows quite.
In our case, the cost of precision munitions was comparable with that for other calibers. So, we will consider them from the point of view of the owner of the AR-15, who would like to shoot far and accurately. And by the way, here we will only take into account the results of DPMS 3G1, since POF-USA P-415 with a short 14.5-inch (37 cm) barrel and piston design simply cannot be considered as a high-precision weapon.
The best cartridge for accurate use should be recognized Nexus with a Sierra MatchKing HPBT bullet weighing 77 grains. Excellent accuracy, high initial velocity stability, a very high ballistic coefficient for a given caliber – all this allows you to make a long-range shot really accurate! The picture is only darkened by the considerable price of such ammunition – this is the most expensive in testing.
Very close to it is the already mentioned GGG cartridge with a Sierra MatchKing HPBT 69 gran bullet. Great accuracy at a price almost half the price! The stability of the initial speed, however, is slightly worse than that of the Nexus, as well as the ballistic performance of the bullet. He also showed a noticeably worse accuracy from the POF-USA P-415, which forces a reservation: it may not be suitable for all trunks.
For those who always seek to squeeze the most out of their weapons, we recommend paying attention to the Hornady Superformance line. A heavy 75-grain bullet is fired by these cartridges with an initial speed of 50-60 m / s more than the nearest analogues! At the same time, the stability of the initial speed remains very good, and a very, very decent accuracy was demonstrated. In some cases, a higher initial velocity plays a significant role. Sorry, Hornady Superformance is a little expensive for ongoing workouts.
On the other side of the price range, we have a Hornady Frontier cartridge with a BTHP Match 68 gran bullet. Decent accuracy, excellent stability of the initial speed, and most importantly – the price! It is noticeably cheaper than other high-precision options – with very decent results.
Also, for accurate close range shooting, it is quite possible to consider bullets with bullets weighing 55 grains. This, for example, Geco FMJ Target 55 gran and, oddly enough, Mesko FMJ 55 gran. Very close to them are the GGG FMJ 55 gran and the Hornady Frontier HP Match 55 gran. All of them demonstrate very good value for money. However, for shooting at a distance of more than 100-150 m, it makes sense to choose heavier and more ballistic perfect bullets.
The overall result
As we initially expected, two test rifles prefer different cartridges. However, I would like to draw a more or less unambiguous result of our testing, so we decided to derive a rather unusual indicator, by which we conduct the ranking of test participants.
The formula of the indicator: “cartridge price * average accuracy in mm * standard deviation (speed dispersion).” It is desirable to have all three parameters minimal, therefore the ammunition that will show the minimum value of their product can be recommended as optimal.
The calculation results are shown in the diagrams. Not surprisingly, for test rifles, these figures look somewhat different. However, there are cartridges, which in both cases entered the top ten. We list them:
– Hornady Frontier FMJ 62 grains
– GGG FMJ 55 gran
– Geco FMJ Target 55 Gran
– Mesko FMJ 55 gran
– Hornady Frontier HP Match 55 gran.
We dare to hope that when choosing any of the listed ammunition, the shooters will be satisfied with the results they receive. We can only wish everyone successful shots.
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