Probably 1:9, but it depends on what kind of bullets you intend to shoot.
Special purpose rifles often have uncommon twist rates. For example, if you are building a varmint rifle and want to shoot the short 35 grain, 40 grain, and 50 grain bullets, a 1:12, or even 1:14 twist would be best. On the other hand, long range High Power shooters often select 1:8, 1:7.7, 1:7, or 1:6.5-twist barrels to stabilize the long 77, 80 and even 90 grain bullets used for 1,000 yard competition. Additionally, new testing of heavier rounds (68-77 grains) seems to show that they perform very well in simulated tissue and may be a better defensive choice than 55 grain or 62 grain rounds. The majority of shooters, though, typically shoot bullets of 50 to 69 grains in weight (note that the 62gr SS-109/M855 bullet is as long as a 71 grain lead core bullet) and should select 1:9 twist barrels. At typical .223 velocities, a 1:9 twist will stabilize bullet lengths equivalent to lead-core bullets of 40 to 73 grains in weight.
1:12 twist rifles cannot stabilize SS-109/M855 bullets and 1:7 twist rifles are slightly less accurate with lighter bullets and will often blow apart the thin jackets of lightweight varmint bullets. The 1:7 twist is used by the military to stabilize the super-long L-110/M856 tracer bullet out to 800 yards, but unless your plans include shooting a significant amount of M856, the 1:9 twist rate is better suited for general use.
There is, of course, an exception: if you want to use loads utilizing the heavier, 75-77 grain match bullets currently used by Spec-Ops troops and other selected shooters, you'll want either a 1:8 or 1:7 twist barrel. Although military loadings using these bullets are expensive and hard to get, some persistent folks have managed to obtain a supply, and will need the proper barrel twist to use them. Anyone who foresees a need to shoot this ammo should consider a minimum 1:8 or 1:7 twist barrel.
Opinions (Pro and Con):
1:9 is best.
Why? Flexibility. It doesn't seem to have any problems throwing M856 tracers around, unless it gets really cold, it wears better than 1:7 and it stabilizes more rounds than 1:12. Additionally, 1:9 rifles, even Mil-Spec chrome chambered and barreled, can attain 1.0-2.0 MOA out to 300+ meters.
No, 1:7 and 1:8 are the best.
Why? Accuracy. For heavier and longer rounds during competition shooting, 1:8 and 1:7 twists are the best for heavy 77-80 grain rounds that I use to shoot competitively at 500-1000 meters. Who needs to shoot tracers anyhow? More importantly, heavier rounds are showing very good results in terminal testing and are proving to be much better defensive rounds.
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