Ammo Forum Rules & FAQs

BEFORE POSTING IN THIS FORUM, PLEASE READ THE AR15.COM AMMO ORACLE. IT CONTAINS A WEALTH OF INFORMATION WHICH WILL HELP YOU AVOID ASKING QUESTIONS WHICH ARE ALREADY COVERED. It contains sections on the history, basic design and performance of .223 ammunition.

There is also a downloadble PDF version of the Ammo Oracle for those who would like to save a copy or read it off-line.

90+% of the time, the answers to your questions can be found in the Ammo Oracle or the FAQ entries below, and folks have worked hard to compile this information for you. Also, scan the topics on the first couple of pages, because someone else might have had the same question recently, and the answer to your question may be in that earlier thread. If you've made an attempt to find the information but can't, then post away....

Even if someone posts a question which might seem redundant to you, we will not tolerate people "stomping newbies." If you see someone who hasn't followed the guidelines and are tempted to respond with a personal attack, then just don't. Leave it be. You're going to attract negative attention from the moderators by doing so. If you feel compelled to respond, let it be a simple "This information is already covered in the FAQ/whatever. Please read the tack at the top of the page" and provide a link to the topic.

Furthermore - this is a TECHNICAL FORUM, not General Discussion. The management has set forth a higher standard to be upheld here than in GD. If the original post is questionable to you, IM one of the moderators and alert them. DO NOT troll other people's posts who annoy you. You're not doing anyone a favor and will probably get in trouble yourself.

NO FOR SALE/WANT TO BUY ADS, OR RELOADING QUESTIONS IN THIS FORUM! There are dedicated forums for reloading and selling ammo. Posting topics of this nature will probably cause your post to be moved or locked without warning.

AR15 Ammo FAQ

  1. Ammunition review and reference. Refer to this post for information about commercially available ammo. Reviews are generated by readers, and a ranking is provided to help you pick out the wheat from the chaff. By clicking on the link for each reviewed ammo type, you can read the reviews and find out the good and bad points that have been reported.
  2. Best choices for self defense ammo. This is hopefully going to answer all your questions about what ammunition to pick for your rifle, pistol, or shotgun. Lists of well-performing ammunition are provided.
  3. ComBloc ammo FAQ - All you need to know about steel-case ammo, including "Is Wolf Ammo OK to shoot in my rifle?"
  4. What ammo can I shoot in my Bushmaster/Colt/Armalite/Rock River/etc. rifle?
  5. What bullet weight can I shoot in my (1/7, 1/8, 1/9, etc.) rifle?
  6. What's the most accurate ammo for my rifle?
  7. Collected posts by MOLON - Arfcom member Molon has authored some incredibly informative posts about all kinds of ammo with detailed information about accuracy, velocity, etc.
  8. Exotic Ammo FAQ - answers your questions about ammo such as Extreme Shock, Glaser, RBCD, etc.
  9. Wound Ballistics - research papers that provide a wealth of information about bullet terminal performance.
  10. Ballistic gelatin experiments - data about the performance in ballistic gelatin for various types of ammo.
  11. The Box O'Truth - Arfcom's own Old_Painless's website. Practical information for what happens when you shoot various things with different bullets. A very informative website - please make sure to check it out.
  12. Factory load velocity data - database of factory load chrono results for many popular types of ammo
  13. Headstamp IDs - how to identify the ammunition manufacturer based on headstamp codes
  14. Fragmentation charts - created by MaverickMkii. It's a collection of charts that shows the fragmentation thresholds for various bullets fired from rifles with varying barrel lengths.
  15. Ammunition vendors - list of dealers selling ammunition on the internet.
  16. AR Variants Section - forum for questions referring to AR's in calibers other than 5.56/.223
  17. How to pack ammo on stripper clips in bandoleers into a .50 caliber ammo can - provided by Gloftoe
  18. SHOTGUN AMMO FAQ - Written by Old_Painless, and contains the most important information about what shot works best for self-defense.

 

If you discover a common question that isn't answered by this FAQ, please contact myself or the other authors so that we can get that information added.

bullet IM brouhaha
bullet IM Zhukov
bullet IM Troy

 

 

 

What ammo can I shoot in my rifle?

One of the most common questions is "What ammo is OK to shoot shoot in my XYZ AR-15?" Well, the answer is, we don't know. What do you want the ammo to do exactly? How much are you willing to pay for it? There are too many variables to take into consideration, and there's no way to answer that question without more info. In general, your Colt won't have any different ammo requirements than a Bushmaster or whatever; brand doesn't really matter.

I suggest the following guidelines for looking at ammo:

bulletGood  - the ammo generally works well across many rifles
bulletMarginal - the ammo usually works, but has some problems with feeding/extracting (Wolf, for example)
bulletDangerous - this ammo could damage my rifle (AMERC, for example)

Use the Ammunition Review and Reference post to see a comparative ranking of many different kinds of ammunition. Clink on each link for ammo you're interested in to read people's comments. You may decide that you'd like to have "good" ammo, but you've decided that you're willing to take a chance with the occasional stoppage by buying "marginal" ammo and save money. If in doubt, buy a small amount of ammo and run it in your rifle to make sure it works before buying a whole case.

Next you'll have to ask yourself about the intended use. Plinking? I'd suggest the cheapest ammo that runs reliably in your rifle. Informal target shooting? Maybe something a little more expensive. Nothing but the best accuracy? Federal Gold Medal Match or similar high-quality (and expensive) ammo. Self defense? Refer to Best Choices for Self Defense Ammo. Then you have to take into consideration the price of the ammo involved. You may have started out wanting premium match ammo, but decided that $0.50/round is too much. Every person is different.

If you feel like this doesn't answer your question, feel free to post in the ammo forum, but BE SPECIFIC about explaining your requirements.

 

 

 

What bullet weight can I shoot in my (1/9, 1/8, 1/7, etc.) rifle?

This is undoubtedly one of the questions that is asked the most. The answer depends on many things, but here are some rough guidelines for those that don't care about the details:

1-in-14" 55gr or less
1-in-12" 35gr up to 55-60gr
1-in-9" 45gr-75gr, possibly up to 77 if you're lucky
1-in-8", 1-in-7" 45gr - 80+gr

To find out for sure if your bullet will stabilize a given bullet which is on the fringe, you'll have to try it out in YOUR rifle. Some people's 1/9 can't stabilize 75gr bullets, while others can get away with 77gr bullets in theirs. Technically, it isn't about the WEIGHT, but the LENGTH of the bullet, as well as air density and velocity. A simplified method for determining the minimum rifling twist rate for a given length of bullet is given by the Greenhill formula. A Google search will show many sources for those interested in a more in-depth discussion. If you have the length of your bullet, and just want a look-up table to see what twist rate you need, refer to this page. If you really enjoy the in-depth mathematical treatment of the subject, check out these pages.

 

 

What ammo is the most accurate for my rifle?

Not to be cheeky, but the answer is "it depends". Are you looking for a hyper-accurate round, or just something off the shelf that shoots well? People's definition of "accurate" varies quite a bit. Some people would call a 1.5" round at 100 yards accurate, while others wouldn't be happy with anything larger than 0.5" at the same distance. To obtain the absolute best in accuracy, you'll have to try it in your rifle and experiment. If you're just interested in some loads that others have been happy with, then here's some recommendations. The list is not all-inclusive by any stretch of the imagination, but should give you a starting point:

TWIST RATE RIFLE AMMO RESULTS
1:7 Bushmaster M4A3 (EOTech 511) Mk262 Mod1 1.25"
  CMMG 20", scoped XM193 1"
  LMT M4 14.5 1/7 twist Aimpoint ML2 Black Hill Blue box 77gr  
  Global Tactical Recon bbl Mk262, Federal GMM 77gr, BHBB 75gr, TAP 5.56 75gr All 4 loads will go sub MOA anyday. The Gold Metal Match has the tightest groups at around .7" at 100 yards
  WOA 18" SPR barrel Mk262 1.65" at 200 yards
       
1:8 RRA 16in SS mid-length Hand-loaded 77gr Nosler < 1/2MOA
  RRA Predator Pursuit Black Hills Red Box 77 grain HP, CorBon 69 grain HP, and Hornady 5.56mm 75 grain TAP All shot 1/2" groups at 100 yards
  MSTN Recce Mod1 16" Lilja SS, Mid gas, 3 groove, 1:8 twist Mk262 Mod1 (Black Hills 5.56 77gr Seconds) 1/2 MOA
       
1:9 Bushmaster varminter, 24" barrel Winchester white box 45gr JHP Several 1/2 or less 3hot groups @ 100 yards
  Stag 16in carbine Federal 50gr JHP sold @ Wal Mart Consistently less than 1 MOA
  Bushmaster XM15 16", ACOG TA-33R-8 Federal Gold Medal Match, 69gr SMK 1.15"
  RRA A4 Midlength, chrome lined, non free float on Stag Lower Black Hills Blue Box 52gr match 1/2" 5 shot group at 100 yards
  RRA A4 Midlength, chrome lined, non free float on Stag Lower Black Hills Factory Seconds 75 gr Match 0.65" 5 shot group at 100 yards
  Bushmaster 16inch Federal American Eagle 62gr FMJ 1" @ 100 yards

As you can see, there are a lot of different ammo types that people have good results with. To reiterate: To find the absolute best, you have to experiment to find out what works best for you. If you're a reloader, you should already know that. One additional note: While 1:9 barrels usually can shoot 75gr bullets, they're only marginally stable and you will probably find that they won't shoot very accurately out of these barrels.

 

 

Ammunition shortages/high prices

As you have probably noticed, the supply of ammunition, especially for self defense - has drastically gone down and up in price. Please read this article Troy has written in regards to the current ammunition supply woes.

A note about SURPLUS ammo: While Troy's post mostly discusses the availability of 5.56/223 ammo during the WoT, I thought I should add a mention about the supply of surplus ammo as well. The most famous example of surplus was the South African 5.56 battlepacks. During their day, they were the cheapest stuff around and people did not figure it would ever run out. Well, we all know how that ended. Remember cheap Portugese .308 a couple of years ago? The same thing applies to the current batch of South African .308. When you think about the meaning of SURPLUS, it should be immediately obvious that it's a limited supply. Governments get rid of a finite amount of "stuff" they don't need anymore. There might be some more at an indeterminate amount of time in the future, or there might not. Another country may step up to the plate, or maybe not. The latter is especially difficult to predict, as more countries sign on the UN arms non-proliferation treaties. This warning applies to ALL calibers that you can think of. 7.62x54R (Czech, Hungarian, Polish, etc.), 8mm (Turk, Yugo, etc.), .223 (Radway Green, South African battlepacks, Guatemalan, etc.), and many others. Finally - when talking about the price of ammo - let's not forget that we live in a capitalist society. SUPPLY and DEMAND should be simple enough for everyone to understand. Ammo prices have been going up a lot, and the reasons really aren't important. Supply certainly appears to be part of the equation, and dealers are simply charging what the market will bear.

 

 

Wound Ballistics

For more background about wound ballistics in particular, please note that there is some excellent background reading you can do. I strongly suggest you educate yourself on the merits of why bullets work the way they do if you plan on using a firearm in a defensive situation.

  1. Theodore Kocher and the Scientific Foundation of Wound Ballistics (1.3M)
  2. Ordnance Gelatin for Ballistic Studies (170K)
  3. Bullet Fragmentation: A Major Cause of Tissue Disruption (1.6M)
  4. Effects of Small Arms on the Human Body (608K)
  5. Wounding Mechanism of Projectiles Striking at More than 1.5km/sec (1.5M)
  6. A reconsideration of the Wounding Mechanism of Very High Velocity Projectiles - Importance of Projectile Shape" (1.4M)
  7. Wounding patterns of military rifle bullets (4.9M)
  8. Wounding Potential of the Russian AK-74 Assault Rifle (606K)
  9. Ballistic Injury (390K)
  10. The ideal police bullet (376K)
  11. Applied Wound Ballistics: What's New and What's True (436K)
  12. Performance of the Winchester 9mm 147 Grain Subsonic JHP Bullet in Human Tissue and Tissue Simulant (2.9M)
  13. The Shockwave Myth (1.4M)
  14. What's Wrong With The Wound Ballistics Literature, And Why (hosted at www.rkba.org)

A note about file sizes: Some articles had to be scanned grayscale, and the size ballooned up quite a bit. I tried scanning in B&W as much as possible, but some pages needed the detail of grayscale. JPG's would have been smaller, but I would have had individual files for all pages, and that was too much of a hassle for me. The quality of the material varies. Some were original articles, other were copies made by Dr. Fackler before sending them on to me - sorry that they don't look nicer.

For a medical view on the subject you can check out an online version of the textbook Conventional Warfare: Ballistic, Blast and Burn Injuries. It is a textbook of military medicine series on combat casualty, published by the office Department of the Army.

Federal has also published PDFs of several wound ballistics workshops they have run, primarily to show off the HST and Gold Dot handgun rounds. They do show a wealth of data for all FBI protocols.

 

 

Ballistic gelatin experiments

The following links are experiments performed by brouhaha and tatjana at great cost and lots of time:

  1. Multiple round, high velocity 5.56, 55 grain M193 fragmentation sensitivity in bare gel
  2. High Velocity 5.56mm 55 grain 'Wolf' performance in bare gelatin
  3. High Velocity 5.56mm 63 grain 'GP90' performance in bare gelatin
  4. Multiple round, high velocity 5.56 100 grain performance in bare gel
  5. Multiple round, high velocity 5.56 75 grain Hornady BTHP vs 77 grain Nosler BTHP performance in bare gel
  6. Multiple Round, High Velocity (NATO Pressure) 5.56mm 77 grain OTM (Mk262 Mod 1) performance in bare gel
  7. Multiple round, high velocity 5.56 61.7 grain Tracer (M856) performance in bare gel
  8. High Velocity (NATO Pressure) 5.56mm 77 grain OTM performance versus NIJ Level IIIa body armor

An excellent source for data for many other types of bullets, including handgun, rifles, and shotguns can be found at BRASSFETCHER.COM. This person has dedicated a lot of time, effort, and especially money to run a ton of experiments across a lot of different calibers and is sharing them free of charge. I applaud his efforts in making a treasure trove of excellent information available for everyone to peruse.

 

 

Ammunition vendors

bulletAIM Surplus
bulletAmmunition To Go
bulletThe Armory
bulletBass Pro Shops
bulletCabela's
bulletCenterfire Systems
bulletCentury Arms
bulletCheaper Than Dirt
bulletCougar Ridge
bulletFulton Armory
bulletGeorgia Arms
bulletJ&G Sales
bulletKY Imports
bulletMidway USA
bulletMirage Technologies
bulletNatchez Shooters Supplies
bulletNorthwest Loading Supply
bulletOutdoor Marksman
bulletSouthern Ohio Gun
bulletSportsman's Guide
bulletStreicher's Police Supply
bulletWholesale Hunter
bulletWidener's

 

 

 

Revision history

5/7/2008 Rewrite in HTML.
5/12/2008 Create dedicated steel case ammo FAQ, adjust links.
6/18/2008 Added link to Conventional Warfare: Ballistic, Blast and Burn Injuries book
6/26/2008 Added section for "What ammo is the most accurate?"
6/30/2008 Added section for ammunition vendors
10/29/2008 Improved section on "what ammo can I shoot in my rifle?"
11/20/2008 Added links to Federal's wound ballistics workshops
12/8/2008 Added link to TBOT website
4/2/2010 Replaced hard links to Federal wound ballistics workshops with link to other web page which already had these links.
4/4/2010 Added link to Molon's collected posts