The AR15.Com Ammo Oracle

History and Basic Design of .223 and 5.56 Ammunition.

Performance of .223 and 5.56 Ammunition.

Terminal Performance of .223 and 5.56 Ammunition.

.223 and 5.56 Ammunition Testing

Selection of .223 and 5.56 Ammunition.

Ammunition recommendations from the authors of the AR15.com Ammo-Oracle.

Purchase and Storage of .223 and 5.56 Ammunition.

Legal questions.

Miscellaneous .223, 5.56 and Other Ammunition Questions.

Ammo Oracle

Q. What ammunition does Troy recommend for self-defense, storage, plinking, training and match use?

Self-defense ammo: Self-defense/home-defense ammo should be selected to match your individual situation. For example, you might compromise penetration a bit if you live in an apartment and have little control over what happens on the other side of an interior wall.

Special needs aside, I would recommend using the load that will give you the best terminal ballistics available out of your rifle. You probably don't need thousands of rounds of this ammo, but at least 80-90 rounds (four 20-round mags or three 30-round mags full) is a good idea. You must consider the barrel length and twist rate of your "go-to" rifle as well.

As I have 1:7 barrels available and have access to Black Hill's "Mk262 Mod1" loads (77gr Nosler or Sierra), that is my first choice. I can also handload these bullets for practice, allowing me to have some training with this load at a lower cost. An excellent alternative would be either Mk262 Mod0 or the nearly identical Hornady TAP load, both featuring Hornady's 75gr OTM bullet.

For 1:9-twist rifles that have at least 14.5" of barrel, the best performing loads use either Hornady's 68gr OTM or Sierra's 69gr OTM bullet. Loads are available from Hornady and Federal respectively, as well as from Black Hills. I prefer the superior terminal ballistics of the Hornady bullet over the slightly better accuracy that's often found in the Sierra bullet.

For an older 1:12-twist rifle, M193-class ammo is the way to go. And if you can't afford or obtain one of the more expensive loads above, M193 will serve you well in any barrel twist.

Plinking ammo: Plinking is supposed to be fun, and give you time behind the trigger. As such, any ammo that works reliably in my rifles is fine for plinking, and the cheaper, the better. My rifles don't have a problem with Wolf ammo, so I use that sometimes, but I often use my own reloads or inexpensive surplus ammo.

Training ammo: Real training is ideally done with your carry ammo, but for most folks, myself included, this would be prohibitively expensive. Thus, I generally use M193-class ammo for training, since it at least is a hot load that gives realistic recoil and muzzle blast. I try to use surplus ammo with Berdan-primed brass on ranges where I won't be able to retrieve the cases. It's a reloader thing...

Storage ammo: By definition, this is duty ammo that you're buying now, in the event that it won't be available in the future, for whatever reason. This ammo should be top-quality ammo (and if it isn't, replace it with better ammo as you can), and it should be ammo that gives good terminal ballistic performance. While I have a supply of my preferred "heavy match" duty ammo, I also have M193 and M855 ammo stored. You should always test your storage ammo in your rifles first, then store them in ammo cans and LEAVE THEM SHUT. Keep the cans cool, and it will out-last you.

Match ammo: I load my own, primarily using Hornady 68 and 75gr bullets, since I also use these for my training ammo. Match loads are typically only loaded to 90-95% of max pressures, as maximum loads tend to suffer in the accuracy department. If I didn't load my own ammo, I would shoot Black Hills loads.