223 Velocity Experiment from Guns & Ammo

| November 21, 2017 | 3 Comments

Barrel length has a severe impact on .223 velocity. Make sure your ammunition reliably expands when shot from your vSBR / PDW at the distances you intend to shoot. You might be surprised at how low the FPS need to be to expand.

Guns & Ammo ran an experiment where they started with a 26″ barreled SBR .223 AR15 and cut it down to a 7″ barrel, one inch at a time.

The article suffers greatly from too much lead-in and has a popup that I couldn’t dismiss without using my Escape key, so here’s the data, embedded directly from Guns & Ammo. If you’re interested in the testing protocols and conditions you may read the full article.

Think and Test For Yourself

Before you decide what to shoot in your very short barreled rifle (vSBR) or personal defense weapon (PDW) AR15 in .223, you need to answer these three questions:

  1. What is the manufacturer’s minimum FPS requirement for expansion?
  2. At what range do you expect to fire your vSBR/PDW?
  3. Is there enough velocity at your expected range to expand the projectile?

You may be surprised that there is a lot of ammunition that will perform acceptably in your AR15.

While I appreciate Guns & Ammo testing a lot of common hunting ammunition, they didn’t test some of the cartridges specifically made for shorter barreled AR15, or claimed to do well in SBRs by the manufacturer. The Noveske ammunition made by Nosler, Corbon’s DPX, and Federal’s Fusion were not tested. There are also smaller-scale manufacturers (such as ASYM Precision) that offer special cartridges for vSBRs.

I am glad they tested the Black Hills cartridge loaded with the 62-gr Barnes TSX projectile. That is a full copper bullet, and at the weight (62-77 gr) recommended for SBRs by Nosler, Barnes, and Corbon when we talked to them at SHOT Show in 2015.

The Black Hills 62gr had 2,220 FPS through the 7″ barrel. That’s a huge drop from the peak at 3,126 FPS. However, the 62gr TSX requires around 1,900FPS for expansion.

You might think, “that’s enough, right?”

Maybe, maybe not. The velocities in the Guns & Ammo experiment were from the muzzle. You need to make sure your projectile of choice expands at ranges you expect to shoot. I couldn’t find Black Hills’ performance data at different ranges, so you might be below your personal threshold.

According to Federal, their Fusion round loses about 300FPS at 100 yards, and about 550FPS at 200 yards. The lighter 35gr Hornady NTX projectile (one tested by G&A) loses 650FPS in the first 100 yards, and nearly 1200FPS at 200 yards.

We defined our maximum effect range to be 150 yards — and that’s probably a stretch. At 150 yards it may be difficult to fulfill the legal requirements for deadly force. At about 100 yards, the red dot on our optics will occlude a 12″ x 20″ steel target, so that’s an additional factor of effectiveness and accuracy.

We expect any civilian engagement with a vSBR to be within 40 yards or less.

If a projectile can reliably expand at 200 yards with a very short barreled rifle, you’re probably okay.

What’s the barrel length on your SBR / PDW, and what do you load in it?

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

3 Comments on "223 Velocity Experiment from Guns & Ammo"

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  1. CR Williams says:

    The ‘Ballistics by the Inch’ website, http://ballisticsbytheinch.com/, offers some additional information and tests more calibers. The tests for each caliber are, however, more limited as to number of ammunition brands tested. I can be useful to get an idea of what to expect from your gun and ammunition, however.

  2. bryce davies says:

    I have a 8.5 inch 5.56 barrel. I use Federal Fusion MSR 62 grain, Winchester ranger 64 grain RA556B, and Black hills 69 grain TMK.

    The muzzle velocities are
    Fusion MSR 2250 fps
    Winchester ranger 2320 fps
    Black hills 69 grain TMK 2370 fps.

    all of those rounds will expand reliably at 150yds plus from that barrel length

  3. A person could take those muzzle velocities and plug them into gundata.org and calculate what velocities those projectiles have at any given distance. Combine that with the minimum velocity needed to expand, and you have a great idea as to what you can expect out of your rile + cartridge system.

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