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223 Barrel Length, Barrel Twist Rates and Bullet Size/Type

Old 11-30-2013, 10:56 AM
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Default 223 Barrel Length, Barrel Twist Rates and Bullet Size/Type

The members of this forum have a ton of really useful experience and knowledge with predator hunting, rifles, reloading, etc. and that is what this reference sub-forum is all about--sharing the knowledge and experience.

Edit--There are now over 200 views of this topic so one can see that it generates a lot of interest. Thanks to the guys who are sharing the knowledge and experience.

The 223 is a versatile caliber for varmint and predator hunting with lots of choices by ammo manufacturers and even more options if you reload. Bullet weights can run from 30-something grains all the way up to 90 grains or more (manufacturers seem to keep bringing out bigger/longer bullets). Gun makers sell bolt 223's with twist rates from 1:9 (1 twist in 9") all the way up to 1:14. Most AR15 type rifles have faster twist rates of 1:7 or 1:8.

There's a lot of information on the net about how barrel length and twist rates can determine which bullet weights will work best in a 223 barrel. There's some information that suggests the length of the bullet determines which bullets work best in which twist rate and barrel length. Some people suggest the bullet's core (copper, lead, steel or a combination) helps determine which barrel and twist rate works best.

For the sake of hunters getting into predator hunting with a 223 and helping them not over-think rifle, barrel length and barrel twist rate choices, what is your PERSONAL experience with different 223 guns, barrel lengths, twist rates and bullet weights/types? Your personal experience will be invaluable in helping new predator hunters make these choices.

Personally, I don't own a 223 bolt rifle yet (hope to remedy that soon) but I do own or have owned and shot several AR15's in 223 and M-16's in 5.56mm. The Ar15's had 1:7 twist in 20" and 12.5" barrels and a 1:9 in a 16" barrel. They were tack drivers with manufacturers' 55 grn FMJ ammo (usually 1 MOA with a 4X scope) and did similar with 62 and 69 grain FMJ bullets. I tried Winchester 55 grn soft point ammo in my Colt HBar (20" barrel with 1:7 twist) but that ammo widened a 100-yard group to 2-4". All target punching, no predators. All 125 yards or less (with the exception of M-16's).

In passing that hard earned knowledge (aka experience) along to newer predator hunters, what individual rifles, barrel lengths and twist rates, bullet sizes/types/lengths, etc. have you used and how well has it worked? If you were going to buy a new 223 rifle for predator hunting, what would you recommend for a hunter who does reload and for one who doesn't?

Last edited by CalHunter; 12-22-2013 at 10:08 PM. Reason: Add edit note
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Old 12-01-2013, 08:21 PM
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Originally Posted by CalHunter View Post
If you were going to buy a new 223 rifle for predator hunting, what would you recommend for a hunter who does reload and for one who doesn't?
Short Version:

AR-15 of reputable build, EOP or flattop, with a 4-16x50mm side focus scope with turrets, 20-22" barrel, mid-weight to heavy barrel in 1:8" or 1:9", well fit stock (CHEEK WELD!!!!), 50grn Hornady V-max's. For non-reloaders, there’s no need to pay the premium up-charge for Hornady "Super Performance" ammo, but either ‘standard’ or “Super Performance are very accurate, and plenty of punch to kill coyotes.

Long Version:

The bullet: Any time I look at a new rifle for a certain purpose, I start with the bullet and the speed I want it running. For predator hunting, it's very hard to beat a 50 or 55grn V-max. Again, I prefer the 50grn boattail V-max over the flat base 55grn V-max. The 53grn boattail V-max is a fine choice as well. I also shoot 50grn Combined Technology (Nosler and Winchester) Ballistic Silvertips, factory loaded as Winchester Supreme Ballistic Silver Tips, and have been very happy with them. Bullets heavier than 50grns often start doing too much pelt damage for me. Under 200yrds, I almost always get small exit wounds with the V-max, longer range might not exit, but still gives quick drops. Heavier bullets that I have used, up in the 69-73grn ball park tend to leave a lot bigger mess. These bullets would be great for summer time when I wasn’t picking up hides.

Originally Posted by CalHunter View Post
Some people suggest the bullet's core (copper, lead, steel or a combination) helps determine which barrel and twist rate works best.
If you are playing at the ragged edge of your stabilization spin rate, then the sectional density (SD) of your bullet will really come into play. SD effects the bullets ballistic coefficient, as well as its moment of inertia, which is the stabilizing force created by the spin. Lead cores help keep the weight near the center of the bullet, so it takes a bit extra spin to stabilize a copper solid.

Speed: Moving from there, a .223rem should push that 50grn pill anywhere from 2900-3400fps, give or take, depending upon barrel length and twist rate. Since calling coyotes can be a test of shooting skill as much or more than any hunting, I like to have as much speed as I can get to flatten out the trajectory, extending my Maximum Point Blank Range. When a double comes in, the second dog I shoot at will always be on the run, so I want to minimize my ‘figuring on the fly’ to dope the running shot at range. Heavier bullets will be slower, dropping down to between 2500-2900fps ballpark for 69-75grn pills, again, depending on barrel length, which makes my dope on the run a bit more difficult.

The Barrel:

Twist rate: Another benefit of 50grn pills is that a 1:9” twist will stabilized almost any barrel length from 16-26”. For shooters looking at heavier bullets: 16-18” 1:7” or 1:8” will get you up to 75grns, 20-22” can run a 1:8-1:9” to get up to 75grns. 24-26” will do fine with a 1:9” for up to 75grn bullets. I haven’t been satisfied with 1:9” 16” barrels with anything over 69grns. I’ll assume anyone running 90grn pills out of a 223rem will know they need a 1:7” and enough length to get the speed they need.

Originally Posted by CalHunter View Post
There's some information that suggests the length of the bullet determines which bullets work best in which twist rate and barrel length.
I’ll throw out some info here about VLD bullets as well. VLD (very low drag) bullets are longer than traditional profile bullets, so again, they need a special consideration. A 1:9” 24” barrel might shoot one 75grn bullet well, but then not stabilize a 75grn VLD because of the extra length, especially if it has a lower SD. You also have to consider seating depth and throat jump effect of a VLD. The 'flat side' of these are generally shorter, so you're limited to a more specific range of COALs than with some other bullets. The longer profile tends to move the start of the ogive farther from the tip, so your throat jump can become excessive and actually hurt your accuracy. If you're building a rifle and want to shoot VLD's, have your chamber cut to suit that dimension - but it might preclude you from using other 'standard' bullets in the future.I have never seen a need to shoot anything heavier than 69grns for coyotes in a 223rem, so I’m content with my 1:9” barrels, but I’d consider that 1:8” is probably the most versatile twist for a 223rem.

Length: There are two things to consider here, velocity and handling. I’m still spry enough that I don’t worry much about barrel weight for carry, and I generally shoot off sticks, so I focus more on velocity. A short barrel might be easier handling, but as I’ve addressed above, it sacrifices a lot of velocity. I run the same 50grn V-max load in a 16” AR-15 and a 26” Savage bolt rifle, I’m getting 3420fps out of the long barrel, 2980fps out of the short barrel. The variance between barrel lengths over 22” becomes pretty small, so 20-22” is the best balance of velocity and rifle weight and length. This length preserves the velocity for heavier bullets too for those that choose to shoot them.

So now the rifle:

An AR-15, where legal, is my heavily favored rifle preference for predator calling. Bolt guns are fine for it (my wife runs a bolt gun), but an accurate semi-auto is well worth the extra cost, and carrying the extra weight. Watching a dog run across open ground in plain sight as you’re cycling your bolt gun is STRONG motivation to move to a semi-auto rifle. On the AR-15, the A2 carry handle sucks for a scope (even though the A2 iron sights are favorable to the A3 detachable carry handle sights), so a flat top upper receiver, or an Elevated Optics Platform (EOP) upper is the route to go. With a flat top, you’ll end up adding ring risers, or tall 1pc mounts, so the EOP is handy. I’m not into quad rails, but it’s nice to have either a single rail, or an extra stud on the fore-end to mount a bipod.

Scope: I’ll start with the objective diameter. Coyote calling “prime time” is dusk and dawn, so the improved light gathering of a 50mm objective really pays for itself in the long run over a 40mm glass. 50mm scopes also have a wider FOV, which is beneficial if you’re picking up a double, or need to anchor a running dog. Most guys will never need more than a 3-9x scope for their shooting, but for guys that want a bit more range, it’s nice to have a bit more magnification. 6-18x, 6.5-20x, or 6-24x can be a bit too much zoom for close in shots, so something in a 4-16x, 4-12x, 4.5-14x, 5.5-22x are fantastic options. Bushnell makes “Elite 6500” scopes in 2.5-16x50mm and 4.5-30x50mm that are GREAT options. The speed of side focus parallax adjustment is valuable while coyote hunting.

Ultimately, that’s how it all shakes out for me.

Last edited by Nomercy448; 11-07-2014 at 07:50 AM.
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Old 12-02-2013, 06:27 PM
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"The speed of side focus parallax adjustment is valuable while coyote hunting." NoMercy


..............and so it has been said (the KISS principle) !


Now, there is some info that will help you put more fur in the dirt !!!

Last edited by Sheridan; 12-03-2013 at 08:51 AM.
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Old 12-03-2013, 01:32 AM
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I shoot 223's twisted 8,9, 10, and 12, thee bulk of my shooting is with plain vanilla 55 gr sp's, bought by the case and ran in all the above barrels. experimented for a load for each rifle for years and finaly just settled on the reman ammo to keep things simple.
reguardless what some folks think, as long as the speed and spin of the bullet does not compromise the jacket of said bullet you will not overstabilize it enough to ruin accuracy, my 8 twist 24" barreled RRA will shoot the ultramax 55 gr sp's better than anything I have, the other barrels vary from factory Remington tubes up to lothar walther stainless match bull barrels. The RRA just stacks them well enough, often enough that I call it a 1/4 moa rifle. the others run from 5/8's to around 1 moa.
everything I've put in the 8 twist has given satisfactory results from 52 gr up to 75 gr so I agree that the 8 twist is the best all around for hunting, I'm still looking for one of the discontinued bushy VLD mags to see how the RRA will run 75 gr Amax's loaded longer than standard mag length.
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Old 12-07-2013, 07:14 PM
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I also ran across this unusual test of 223 velocity in different barrel lengths (see link below).


http://www.accuratereloading.com/223sb.html
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Old 11-11-2014, 08:32 AM
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CAUTION: Nerd talk ahead! Sorry fellas, sometimes I can't help myself!

Originally Posted by CalHunter View Post
I also ran across this unusual test of 223 velocity in different barrel lengths (see link below).


http://www.accuratereloading.com/223sb.html
I had seen data from BBTI.com before, but had not seen this one. After reading through it a bit and considering their numbers, I'm somewhat compelled to try to replicate their results!

I had a bit of free time this weekend so I did a quick plot and regression on the data from this link, and found the results rather surprising.



The charts show the different charge weights of each powder and resultant velocity for each barrel length with that charge. The trendlines show the average FPS change for each load and the regression fit - they're almost perfectly linear!

For the same barrel getting cut down one inch at a time, these 3 powders (4198, 322, and N135) for 3-6 charge weights show almost perfectly linear relationship between velocity and barrel length from 10" to 22". H322 has some funky stuff going on with the 18" for a couple charge weights, and the VV powder must have some charge density complication between 25.7 and 26.4grn but overall, the relationship for a given load is pretty linear. H4198 loses 42-49 fps, H322 loses 41-49fps per inch, and N135 loses 40-47fps per inch.

My experience with different rifles has been a trend more like the 25.0grn VV N135 load, where it's more flat at the long lengths, then progressively worsens as you shorten barrels. I only have 4 barrel lengths right now, and of course some are in DI AR's and some are in bolt guns, so it might not be relevant, but I'd love to spend time generating this type of data to explore longer than 22" barrels and other powders/loads.
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Old 12-19-2014, 02:21 PM
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Here is a good chart. Personally you can't go wrong with a 1X9 for 223/5.56
Attached Thumbnails 223 Barrel Length, Barrel Twist Rates and Bullet Size/Type-venn.jpg  
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Old 12-19-2014, 06:11 PM
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I think so too - 50-55gr. fragmenting bullets............... good for coyotes (even in the wind) !
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Old 12-21-2014, 09:28 AM
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I agree with all above. Im not tech savy as NM, but my RRA custom with Bart Baldwin custom 20" heavy barrels and brakes in 8,9 and 10 twist all shooting Horn V-Max 50-55grn both flat base and boattail in the neighbor hood of 3255-3400fps and just .05-.010 off the lands all produce groups sub 1 moa to sub 1/2" moa all day. And as RR and NM said, the SD really makes the bullet perform to optimal performance.
I have ran upto the 69-73grn bullet range, but just have not found the reason to for the added cost and extra consideration of the loading needed when I can just grab my dies set for 55 V-Max and stomp'em out with out a thought. Coyotes never seemed to notice the difference!!!!
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Old 01-16-2015, 04:06 AM
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This is a great reference thread. I just built an AR with a heavy stainless 16" barrel, 1:9 twist with a muzzlebrake. I've only put 60 rounds of American Eagle FMJ through it so far and am very interested in seeing what rounds will turn it into a good coyote rifle.
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