Pitting .22 vs. .223 is not a small task. There are many different loadings of both. Regardless, they share plenty of similarities. One is the diameter of the round itself.
Basically, the .223 is the .22 on steroids, but not as versatile. But we’ll cross that bridge in a minute.
We’ll discuss other similarities, differences, and the intended uses for each cartridge.
I don’t want to bore you, so let’s get into this battle between these two distant cousin rounds.
Overview of .22
History Of The .22 Caliber
The .22 Caliber, of which there are many variants, has been around since 1857 in the form of .22 Short, a black powder load. It wouldn’t be until later in 1887 when the .22 Long Rifle that we all know and love would come about.
.22 rimfire cartridges have been a long-time favorite for putting food on the table to some plain old fun shooting tin cans. Commonly, it was used for the former. It was the common enemy of many cottontail rabbits and other varmint.
It was even used in schools and scout camps when they taught about firearms. The .22 rimfire is an American classic for learning and shooting low-dollar rounds.
.22 Long Rifle is the more common variant, but there is also .22 Short, .22 Long, .22 Extra Long, .22 Magnum, .22 Hornet, etc.
The list doesn’t stop. For the sake of conversation, I’ll use the .22 Long Rifle when referring to .22.
Overview Of .223
History Of The .223
The .223 Remington cartridge was a product of the U.S. military and its need for a new round to replace the 7.62x51mm.
It takes the case of the .222 Remington but has a recessed shoulder and neck area. The .223 Remington often uses a 55-grain bullet, but you can find it in lower and, more commonly, higher grain weights these days.
It was designed to work in the new AR-15/M16 platform Eugene Stoner built in the early 1960s. Before the Vietnam War had started, high-ranking officers came together and commissioned Eugene Stoner to scale down the AR-10 introduced in 1955.
The .223 Remington was intended to be a small caliber, high-velocity round that could perform exceptionally at 500 yards. It eventually became the longest service round in American history.
.223 Remington also has variants, most notable being the 5.56x45mm that has been the round of choice by Americans for defense. 5.56x45mm and .223 Remington share almost all the same traits except for chamber pressure.
That’s where .223 Wylde comes in, but that’s a story for another day.
As we get into the specifications below, it is important to note that the .223 and .22 share almost the exact bullet dimensions. .22 can often be fired from a .223 barrel with a conversion kit.
Specification Chart for .22 Long Rifle and .223 Remington
|Specifications||.22 LR||.223 Remington|
|Parent Case||.22 Long||.222 Remington|
|Maximum Pressure||24,000 PSI||55,000 PSI (SAAMI)|
|Bullet Diameter||.223 inches||0.224 inches|
|Neck Diameter||.226 inches||0.253 inches|
|Base Diameter||.226 inches||0.376 inches|
|Case Length||.613 inches||1.76 inches|
|Overall Length||1.00 inches||2.26 inches|
|Manufacturer||Stevens Arms & Tool Company||Remington|
Key Differences Between .22 and .223 Remington
As I’ve mentioned above, these cartridges have their respective uses.
You can use .22 for pretty much anything short of taking down medium to large game. Trust me, the .22 may not get a lot of good words thrown its way, but it is a very capable round.
.22LR is meant for keeping varmints at bay or putting small game on the table.
Then let’s look at the .22 Magnum (WMR). The muzzle energy on the .22 WMR is twice that of the .22 LR, almost reaching 9mm energy levels, making it an excellent option for survival.
My grandfather often told me about his days of carrying .22 WMR in the Adirondacks with his Winchester 9422. He would take squirrels and raccoons all day long while camping for days at a time.
Then he ran into a moose near Tupper Lake. Let’s just say Pappy moved up a caliber or a few. He kept that 9422 to teach his grandkids how to shoot, though. Then he told us to go with .308 for good measure.
Still, .22 rimfire cartridges can handle most situations you need for survival. Whether gathering food or splitting the cartridge and using the powder to start a fire to ward off uninvited guests, it comes in handy.
The .223 Remington round is meant for combat. That’s why it was developed, and that’s why it’s been in service for the past 58 years. Many would say that the .223 Remington is a very capable and solid round, but not everyone.
It has always been a rocky road with the efficacy of the .223 Remington round against human targets. I’ve heard horror stories of how ill the round does against combatants high on drugs in the desert. IraqVeteran8888 talked about this not too long ago.
When hunting medium and large game, shot placement becomes extremely important. Not only do you want to take the prey down with one shot for a clean kill, but they can scurry away if you hit a fatty area.
With the .223 Remington round having lower energy and lighter weight, hitting the preferred shot placement in windy conditions or at long distances can be challenging. I know they’ll die eventually, but good hunters get the job done right the first time.
Side Note: If you didn’t know, .223 Remington and 5.56×45 are virtually the same round. 5.56×45 is just loaded hotter, which means more pressure in the chamber.
Which Round Does Its Job Better?
As far as versatility goes, I would give my vote to the .22 rimfire cartridge. Remember, we’re talking about many load offerings from the .22. With the variety of loads; you can handle most I-need-a-gun-for-this situations that arise.
.223 Remington is a great round, don’t get me wrong, but there have been many advancements in intermediate cartridges over the years. So, the .223 Remington is getting phased out across the board.
When dealing with combatants, you should train for placing multiple shots on target. .223 Remington isn’t a one-shot round unless your placement is dead-on and your adversary isn’t hopped up on anything.
Pros & Cons of .22
- It can be used in a variety of roles
- Low recoil makes it easy to shoot
- Low price per round
- Not ideal for taking down attackers and larger game
Pros & Cons of .223 Remington
- Usable in defense and hunting
- Relatively low price per round
- Ideal for those sensitive to recoil
- Low over-penetration concern
- It may take a few rounds to take down attackers
- Not ideal for taking down larger game
- Shot placement can be detrimental to medium-sized game
Can .22 Be Lethal?
.22 can definitely be lethal, especially with a .22 Magnum at close distances. It’s not ideal for going through clothes and materials, but it will still get the job done. I don’t recommend it, though.
Why Is .223 Not Good For Hunting
.223 Remington is good for varmint hunting, but it doesn’t do well against larger game unless you can be dead-on with your shot placement every time. If you want an ethical kill, it’s wise to go with a bigger round, to be sure.
Can A .22 Go Through Your Skull?
A .22 can go through your skull, but you’d have to be reasonably close for it to accomplish complete penetration.
As I said before, pitting .22 vs. .223 is no small task, and there isn’t a clear winner. The variety of cartridges on the market for each round almost becomes a conversation of, “Which round does their intended job better?”
But if I’m being honest, I would opt for .22 in a survival situation. It’s more versatile, it’s light, and has minimal recoil.
What would you take in a survival situation?
Take it easy and be good.