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Brian Zerbian Jan 24 2023 8 min read

.223 vs. 5.56 NATO vs. .223 Wylde: The Best of Both Worlds

Introduction

.223 vs. 5.56 vs. .223 Wylde, why should you know the differences as an AR-15 owner? Maybe you should give it a try and see for yourself. The next time you’re at the gun store, ask for a box of .223 Wylde and give it a shot.

Just kidding, don’t do that.

Two of these are actual rounds. The other is a chamber created by engineer and gunsmith Bill Wylde that allows a .223 chamber to run both 5.56 and .223 rounds without sacrificing accuracy or reliability.

The following guide may have a bunch of numbers in it. But, dear reader, you’re smarter than me.

Overview of .223 Remington

Winchester ammo

What is .223 Remington?

223_Remington
.223 Remington cartridges in comparison with a .308 Winchester cartridge (right)

The .223 Remington cartridge was created to replace the 7.62 after General Wyman, Commander of the U.S. Continental Army Command, requested a new small-caliber, high-velocity firearm to be built for the modern battlefield.

The .223 was designed to be the round that would accompany the new firearm built to satisfy CONARC’s request. What was initially known as the .222, the cartridge was renamed the .223 by SAAMI after receiving many .222 caliber entries. But, you and I know it as the .223 Remington.  

Overview of 5.56 NATO

5.56 ammo box

What is 5.56 NATO?

5.56 ammo

Ahh, the beautiful 5.56 is the current caliber used by the U.S. Military and other NATO countries worldwide (despite different rifles being used).

The 5.56 shares all of its dimensions with the .223 Remington but has a slightly thicker shell casing to accommodate the higher pressures that come with the 5.56 cartridge.

The 5.56 saw its maiden voyage in Vietnam, being shot from the M16, and since then has been the cartridge of choice for our ground forces.

Almost 58 years later, the 5.56 is still running strong.

Overview of .223 Wylde

223 wylde

What is .223 Wylde?

.223 Wylde is not a round. But it would be funny to send a buddy to the gun store to ask for some.

You can shoot .223 out of a 5.56 barrel, but many would advise against shooting a 5.56 out of a .223 barrel due to the specifications the .223 barrel is built around.

Thus, Bill Wylde (where the name comes from) sat his beer down and got to work. In 1995, Mr. Wylde built a chamber allowing the shooter to fire the higher pressured 5.56 from a .223 barrel without worrying about over-pressuring the barrel or losing function.

Key Differences Between 5.56 NATO, .223, and .223 Wylde

556 vs 223
.223 Chamber5.56 NATO Chamber.223 Wylde Chamber
.223 RemingtonCompatibleCompatibleCompatible
5.56 NATONOT CompatibleCompatibleCompatible

There are not many differences to note between the 5.56 and the .223 Remington besides the pressure. The .223 Remington is rated at 55,000psi, whereas the 5.56 is rated at 58,000psi with the NATO cartridge.

This becomes a problem when shooters believe they can shoot 5.56 out of a barrel rated for .223.

Since the 5.56 round produces significantly more amounts of pressure, it will put excess wear and tear on the internals of the rifle and cause risk for both the rifle and the shooter.

It goes both ways; when firing a .223 out of a barrel rated for 5.56, you can see problems with cycling due to the loss of pressure you get when firing a .223 vs. a 5.56.

It’s best to use the round stamped onto the magazine well.

Where .223 Wylde Comes In

Since the problem with firing a 5.56 cartridge out of a .223 barrel lies in over-pressurizing the chamber, Bill Wylde created the .223 Wylde to afford the accuracy of a .223 Remington barrel with the reliability that has kept the 5.56 in business for so many years.

WARNING: We are about to start doing numbers and engineer terminology.

The .223 Wylde chamber borrows external dimensions and lead angles in the 5.56 NATO round and the 0.2240 freebore diameter seen in civilian variants of the .223 Remington round.

The leade (the tapered section between freebore and rifling in the barrel) on .223 Wylde barrels is longer when compared to 5.56 barrels to allow for the extra gas produced when firing the 5.56 cartridge.

At the same time, the freebore diameter remains the same to keep the round from losing the accuracy that a .223 Remington barrel is known for.

This eliminates the need to worry about over-pressurizing the chamber when shooting 5.56 NATO out of a .223 Remington barrel while still giving you the luxury of .223 accuracy and 5.56 reliability.

556 vs 223 rem
Image from AR-15.com

What’s Best for Your Build?

I wanted to talk about this briefly to let you know that although .223 Wylde is cool and all, what’s best for what you are currently building is based on what you will use your rifle for.

For those building a rifle for combat or duty use, you are better off with a heavier 5.56 barrel that can withstand the beatings that may come from being in that field of work.

If you are building a rifle for recreation and all that fun stuff, feel free to make your next build a .223 Wylde build. If you want to shoot both rounds from your rifle, it is best to go with a chamber designed to make the best out of both .223 and 5.56.

.223 Wylde builds can also be pricier when compared to an entry-level AR-15 chambered in 5.56.

Should You Start a .223 Wylde Build?

Almost every shooter who owns a .223 Wylde build would argue that there are no downsides to .223 Wylde. Especially if you want to save money by shooting .223 for fun while still having the capabilities of 5.56 NATO should things get frisky out there.

They are a bit more costly when building one since everyone is learning about how versatile these barrels are and how much money you save in the long run by utilizing the .223 effectively, compared to just shooting the round out of a 5.56 barrel.

Which sacrifices some qualities of the .223 Remington cartridge.

Why not build one? If you love the 5.56 and .223 for their qualities, it would be silly not to build a rifle with a chamber that can handle and bring out the best of both rounds.

Don’t be silly; build a .223 Wylde.

.223 Remington Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Cheaper than 5.56
  • Perfect for varmint and small game 
  • Effective up to 400-600 yards
Cons
  • Not as accurate when fired from 5.56 barrel
  • May cause issues with cycling when fired from 5.56 barrel
  • Lacks against larger game

 5.56 Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Effective up to 500-600 yards. 
  • Greater accuracy at further distances
  • Built for the battlefield
Cons
  • Light weight affects distance when shooting
  • Stopping power is not as great as some may say
  • Costly unless bought in bulk

Advantages of Using .223 Wylde

  • Allows for .223 accuracy and 5.56 reliability
  • Shooter saves money when using .223
  • Pulls the best out of both rounds

FAQs

Is it worth getting .223 Wylde?

Yes. Unless you require the heft of the 5.56 barrel, the .223 Wylde chamber will allow you to shoot both .223 and 5.56 out of the same barrel and heed the advantages of both the reliability of the 5.56 and accuracy of the .223 Remington.

How long does a .223 Wylde barrel last?

As long as any barrel will usually last. I’ve read online that 3 gun competitors usually change their .223 Wylde barrels every 17,000-19,000 rounds. But that is due to the accuracy they want to maintain when shooting during competition.

Can you hunt deer with .223 Wylde?

You absolutely can hunt deer with .223 Wylde. Remember, there are many hunters who use .223/5.56 when hunting deer and other game. It is best to go with a larger caliber when hunting deer so you can be more forgiving with your shot placement.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it.

If you have been looking for a sign to build a .223 Wylde rifle, this is it. Being able to go between .223 Remington and 5.56 NATO will give you the option to have it and not need it vs. need it and not have it.

Always best to stay on the safe side, so get yourself a .223 Wylde barrel and build.

Before you show your buddies this article, send them to the store for some .223 Wylde ammo, though.

As the great John Wayne said, “talk low, talk slow, and don’t say too much.”

Written by Brian Zerbian
Brian is a USMC Veteran and avid gun enthusiast from New Jersey who loves to spend his time shooting, writing, listening to classic rock, and learning new things. His goal is to help new gun owners and people who are getting into guns get all the best knowledge in the simplest ways. With no technical jargon and seasoned with fun.

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